Fun with Drivers

| Monday, January 31, 2011
Five and a half years ago I bought this computer and was stunned by its performance, disk space, and all that fun stuff. Then five and a half years passed. Somewhere along the line I decided it needed a fresh install. I then decided that would be a huge inconvenience to reinstall all my programs and games, backing everything up and restoring it, and hoping that my preferences survive. So I didn't do anything. Still, I had the feeling that at any moment my computer could come crashing down into nothing. It didn't have any hardware problems (beside the power supply fan which sometimes rattled and I learned to fix with well-placed blows) and always came up clean on viruses, except one scare, which might have just been some WoW component getting misread anyway. So I put it off.

Disk space was getting tight oh... last year, give or take. Getting Steam didn't help since it brought in more games, but I learned to juggle the downloading and removal of local files. Still, not a fun process.

Then I finally got sick of having no space. I bought an external hard drive. Shifting my music and movies to that would free up a ton of space. Games that I don't play too often could go there as well, along with CDs. I sometimes make isos of my games because I really hate the noise of a CD drive. So yea, those take up a lot of space.

I planned ahead and copied bookmarks and documents. iTunes was backed up, though somehow incorrectly, but all the files are still around and organized properly, so it's just a very slow process of telling it to import the folder. I even had the foresight to copy my WoW folder over, thereby saving me hours or days of redownloading everything since LK.

But where did my CDs go? For five and a half years I'd been carrying around the CDs that came with the computer. The ones with XP and drivers and all that stuff that I need if the computer is going to be more than a heavy box of toxicity. Oh well, I can just use the XP CD for my mom's old computer. Pop it in, load from CD, reformat and reinstall and boom, there we go.

Why the fuck isn't the internet working? ... dot dot dash fuck! Plug and play, PLUGGED IN WHY ARE YOU NOT PLAYING!? Oh, apparently my computer needs these things called "drivers". That explains the lack of internet, awful video performance, and why the external seems to have the same transfer speed as carrier pigeon, and not the one with the flash drive on its leg like they used in South Africa to demonstrate that their web was garbage (true story, the carrier pigeon had a higher transfer speed).

No, I do not want to search the internet for ethernet card drivers. For anyone worried about AI taking over the world: just repeat that previous sentence and know why you have nothing to worry about. At least not from a Windows XP-based AI.

Thankfully Dell has a nicely organized website for downloading drivers. I snagged the ethernet driver using my dad's Mac and thankfully, the USB worked well enough that I could copy it over with a flash drive. Internets! Internet Explorer! Oh thank god, it works! Now go to and go away, forever. Things went uphill from there as I got video drivers, USB drivers, and various drivers for things like "chipsets" and "BIOS". I don't quite know what they do, but I am certain that they are important, since I know that the time I screwed up my BIOS it was bad. This is why I need videogames, if I don't have virtual worlds to explore and break, I explore and break my own computer.

So now things are humming along. WoW is copied back over and running just fine. Anti-virus is installed. NoScript. IM. All is good in the world.

Except for one problem: I haven't gotten a desktop background yet and I have barely any icons now, so I keep thinking my computer is still starting up when it's all ready to go, since I'm expecting a cascade of icons and a draenei shaman.

What would WoW be with no raids?

| Saturday, January 29, 2011
Tobold seems to be suggesting that raids are not as profitable as quests and heroics, due to drawing in a much smaller audience. As my own observation, on top of that raids, since they are intended to be challenging, not just bigger, balance is much more important, requiring that much more effort. Does your average solo questing player care much about class balance? Probably not. But your average raider, they are going to care, they must care.

What would WoW be with no raids?

I have to admit, I can't quite imagine it. Would we have progressively more difficulty 5-mans and heroics? We've never quite seen that. Magister's Terrace and the three sneak attacks on Icecrown Citadel bumped things up but a tier or two, but even Halls of Reflection didn't exactly strike me as content that people would spend much time on. The gear requirements were a bit higher, but only a bit.

On the other hand, it does fit the trend. Raids have gotten progressively smaller. BC took them down to 25. LK made 10 man raids almost an alternative path to 25. Now Cataclysm has made 10 into a small version of the 25, with the same gear and shared lockouts. Could we see raids gone altogether, or dropped down to 10 man and 5 man?

Maybe not. Maybe Cataclysm and the focus on strengthening guilds is an attempt to rebuild the focus on raiding and raid sizes and challenges could even climb again.

On the other hand*, beside changes to raiding there has been the trend of progressive casualization or accessibilityization or whatever other made-up word you can think up to express a poorly-defined concept. This suggests that the trend could continue and that the emphasis on guilds is only to offset the negative side-effects of teaching us to be asocial bastards, with no actual goal.

I'm probably looking at this all wrong, to suggest that with no raids WoW would go on the path of challenging 5-mans. More likely with no raids we'd just see trivial 5-mans, slightly less trivial 5-mans, and a whole lot of very slow grinds, with only the smallest shred of an economy or player community. In other words, pretty much just the current WoW but with no raids.

* This is why President Truman infamously cut off one hand from every economist he hired. The man was brutal.

I don't think we're on the same page here

| Friday, January 28, 2011
Look at this first.
Okay? Did you read it? It's not a quest, so you're allowed to read it. No there is not a quest map icon ....

This one took me a while to figure out. He's going to all this bother and bedevilery to get a game to run when it's already running fine. What is the problem? It runs!

Oh, 22 fps is bad. Got it.

Anyone want to buy a new computer for me?

The Sandbox in Our Heads

As sometimes happens, this is the third version of this post. The first was unbearably shitty while the second suffered from a severe lack of factual accuracy. In retrospect I should have known that study was fake after it claimed a margin of error of only a tenth of a percent when reporting that 95% of people have three or more pounds of sand in their ears from time at the beach.

I was going to write about how the concept of a sandbox is a bit silly, since ultimately the sandboxiness is determined more by our own mentality as players than the actual design of the game, baring extremes such as Minecraft which is a complete sandbox and tic tac toe which contains severe penalties for playing outside the box, such as losing and getting beat up by an enraged second grade student who is stuck inside for recess because it's raining tornadoes.

I had been playing Elder Scrols: Oblivion for the past few days, by which I mean literally multiple contiguous 24 hour cycles, not a few hours a day over multiple days, and during this time my character got very good at jumping, picking locks, and senseless mass murder. Since I had barely any clue how the game worked or what I was doing, I ended up wandering a lot, exploring, and ruining any possibility that the developers would get me to play the game correctly. I felt like I was living in a glorious sandbox entirely in my head.

Then I read wikipedia, which is of course absolutely authoritative on the subjects of video games, cartoons, and advanced physics, due to being edited by obsessive nerds, which reported that Oblivion contains sandbox elements. Incidentally, I am nearly incapable of typing the word "elements" without replacing the s with an a before realizing that I do not mean to type "elementals." There was an unacceptably strong positive correlation between my perception and reality, a truly disturbing fact which could hinder my ability to blog in the future. Thankfully, my impression that WoW is a perfectly on-rails unbreakable rope with not a single frayed end was wrong, so my perception may still be suitably disconnected from reality. Turns out you can pick up story arcs halfway in, a fact which I should have known since I'd experienced it myself, but fortunately even my own experiences were not polluting my perceptions.

In related news, this was supposed to be a serious post but I've failed completely at message control. Maybe watching two hours of Colbert Report before writing doesn't help. Thankfully, no one in the media reads my blog, because otherwise this would turn into a Special Investigative Emergency Report Special about how TV is making us all illiterate.

As I wrote more I had a realization: my earlier realizations were wrong. Sure, a game can give us rails and it can give us a sprawling highway system with poor signage and no maps, but ultimately what I actually do depends on what I decide to do. I knew that there was some very important main story arc which did not require me to commit random acts of murder, theft, and mushroom picking, but I ignored it. In fact I put it off for so long that it has become pretty damn hard to complete since my skills make no sense and I probably could have gotten some better items somewhere along the way, meanwhile the automatically leveling enemies have developed the ability to two-shot the NPCs that I think are supposed to be helping me.

It was my choice that made the game into a sandbox. Sure, it was a sandbox in the first place, but there were trails and rails in that sandbox, rails which I could have followed. But instead, by a combination of self-destructive stubbornness and incredible ignorance, I managed to stay in the sandbox.

It is player mentality which determines the sandboxiness of a game. Game design can push us toward rails or exploration, but ultimately we choose. Thinking back to Halo, there was this one spot where I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be able to get that banshee (alien plane), but I did, and then I used to to shoot things in the wrong order, fly where I wasn't supposed to go, and generally pretend that I didn't have to follow the fascist rules set out by Bungie. Meanwhile in WoW my lack of awareness has caused countless deaths of alts, before I learned where I wasn't supposed to go, so then I prepared better before I went there, and am now able to count high enough to count the number of deaths.

So now I'm left with a mystery: How does a game developer encourage or discourage exploration and wandering behavior? Linear quest design will discourage it, while an open world will encourage it. Abundant information may discourage it, by making there be nothing to discover that isn't already known. Obsession with optimization will initially encourage it, as players seek every possible way, but once known and paired with abundant information, may discourage it.

In the end I can only conclude that we will explore the sandbox when we do not perceive a penalty for doing so greater than the enjoyment we derive from the exploration. From that incredibly generalized statement we can only reach one of two possibilities: either Blizzard really hates exploration, or people who like Cataclysm are really boring.

And that's this morning's semi-sarcastic random insult at possibly everyone.

Coming out as a blogger Part Two: Did you know I'm brilliant?

| Thursday, January 27, 2011
In part one of today's post, you skipped me ranting about writing in high school. In part two, I will discretely mention that I am awesome and also talk about my feelings. Also, I'm awesome.

I recently took this test called the GRE. I think it stands for something, but I didn't care enough to find out what. Yes, I did take a test that I don't know what it means. Hang on, okay the letter that I skipped over to find the numbers says "Graduate Record Examination." That makes no sense at all. What did any of this have to do with my records? Stupid test.

My mom was curious about how I did so well on the written portion, the Analytical Writing section. For the record (aha!), I am better at it than 94% of you. I might be misusing and misinterpreting the statistics, but those in the know just call that "applied statistics." It's sort of like how we don't call it MMDL or Mass Manipulation, Deception, and Lying, instead using the MMDL term "Marketing."

Surprising fact, when taking the test I actually got to a point, sometimes even the same point that I was trying to make.

So my mom wanted to know when I got so good at writing. Well to me it's pretty obvious: I spent 5 years or so in various formats arguing with idiots about video games. It's a lot like leveling up weapon skill before they removed the Servants of Razelikh. Find a target which is immune to all attacks, or in the case of internet forums, facts and logic, and then fire away. You will never accomplish anything, but you'll get very good at it.

Actually I think the real cause was that college writing helped me to practice analysis and get the idea into my head that things can be analyzed. Then I spent what has now been nearly three years writing about WoW and gaming in general. Just about every day, resulting in such a volume of writing that even if not all of it is particularly great, it creates a level of comfort. In high school I was intimidated by writing. Now I am comfortable with it. That removes a barrier, allowing my mind to focus on strange concepts like logic.

I didn't actually say this. Unfortunately, my mom is of the mindset that video games are entirely worthless. To suggest that they have had any positive impact, or really to even bring them up, would be provoking a pointless argument. So this blog into which I've poured much time and mental energy, remains unspoken. I can't quite seem to come out as a blogger.

Coming out as a blogger Part One: High School

This is split into two parts because it got very long. The first part is about why I hated writing. It has little to nothing to do with blogging.

If you're like me, you hated English or Literature or anything which might ever require writing in classes in high school. They inevitably involved writing about subjects which were uninteresting and only slightly less often, unwanted. It was a cruel joke when teachers would offer a selection of topics. This simultaneously gave the false hope of a desired topic and admitting that there are some topics which we enjoy less than others. I wasn't exactly bad at writing. My grades were more than adequate. But I didn't enjoy it in the slightest. Writing meant spending time researching something I didn't care about, writing about something I didn't care about, and then getting criticized by the person who caused this whole problem in the first place. Writing sucked.

The other day I got my GRE scores. They were uh, quite good. The highest in terms of being better than a certain percent: analytical writing. I know, shocking, they think I know how to write analytically. Second highest: verbal. Quantitative wasn't low, but in high school if you asked if I liked math or writing more, I'd have said math. I might have also laughed at the suggestion that writing was even in the running. Writing sucked.

Things got better in college. For one, I no longer had to write about absolutely pointless historical nothings which have been picked over a thousand times before. Oh sorry, history was the least of the problems, at least history had facts and some attempt to find an objective reality. I think the Great Gatsby should be made mandatory reading for everyone and at the end everyone is required to say "That was an interesting story. I wonder if it meant anything else?" And then they must sign legally binding agreements which say "no." Symbolism can be fun. It's a delightful thing to find. Double, triple, even quadruple meanings can be great as a way to add, let's call it reread value. To find something new the second, or tenth, time I read is enjoyable. I like that. Less fun is when the reading isn't actually enjoyable, at least not for a typical, or even atypical high school student, making even the first pass nearly unbearable, but during this being required to find, identify, interpret, and memorize, the dozens, or in the case of the Great Gatsby, hundreds per page, of symbols and analogies and oh for fucks sake there was some term we were always using which I must have blanked out because I was so sick of it.

I don't think people who love literature should be allowed to teach it. They have entirely unreasonable expectations. Their passion is wasted and counter-productive. I think instead literature should be taught by people who have a mild interest in textual analysis and like to read before bed, but aren't particularly wedded to any given interpretation of a text, nor should they have any training whatsoever in activities such as "deconstruction", whatever the hell that means.

What I'm trying to say is that I'd have rather classes included more "have you noticed this?" or "here's a new way to read this", and no hint at all of "if you didn't see this then you are stupid." In related news, my hatred of American Literature class was meant to be an introductory paragraph, not what I'm sure will turn out to be the majority of this post. I'm pretty sure I'd fail if I wrote a paper like this. Well too bad.

On the plus side, one of the girls in front of me in class was pretty hot.

CC that you can't outgear

| Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I have a rapidly growing imaginary list of stupid expectations I had for Cataclysm. One was that we wouldn't be quickly outgearing heroics to the point of forgetting about CC, ever. I thought it would at least take another raid tier, or at least current players being fully geared up in the current. Boy was I wrong.

I was wrong in two parts. First off, I thought that there was any sustained desire on Blizzard's part to make heroics more challenging. Why I would think this I cannot fathom. It goes against the entire trend of what has made WoW so successful. Second, I failed to account for the fact that the current mob abilities don't require CC, our relative power levels do.

If those don't seem any different, try this hypothetical: Raging Boars hit for 500 and the entry level tank has 1000 effective health*. In other words, he can potentially die instantly, given two hits at once or very closely spaced. This is a bad scenario. It is literally a roll of the dice whether the tank lives or not. This can be easily fixed by CCing one of the boars or putting it on another tank. Or, a small health gain will allow him to survive simultaneous hits. In this scenario the power level called for CC or gear.

* Effective Health is essentially health multiplied by mitigation, but excluding avoidance. It is an expression of how much damage you can take before dying. It was the theoretical backing for stam-stacking, while the practical reason was that stamina is an easy way for simple-minded people to pick between tanks.

In the other scenario, there is one Raging Boar and one Boar Trainer. Boar Trainers have Death Aura which causes Raging Boars to hit for 100% of enemy health, one-shotting them. Gear cannot fix this. Instead the only way for the tank to survive is to separate the boar and the trainer. The boar could be CCed and the trainer killed first, the trainer kited out of range of the boar, or possibly the disc priest likes a challenge and uses frequent bubbling to keep the total damage he can take slightly above his health. In all of these scenarios it is player action, not player gear, which make the difference.

Somewhere in the middle, which is more desirable, since for many players the true benefit of gear is the ability to play mindlessly, is the third scenario, in which the challenge can be overgeared, but only at an extreme degree. In this scenario, the trainer's Death Aura only causes a 200% damage increase (1500 damage, exceeding even the 1000 damage of two boars at once), so that the required effective health is doubled when he is near the boars. This means that for most gear levels it will be necessary to use some form of CC, but eventually it may be possible to simple take the full damage and DPS quickly to avoid draining healer mana.

Raging Boars and Boar Trainers would make for a pretty boring instance, even for trash. So here are a few other mechanics which will make CC more desirable, hard to outgear, but not a permanent factor.

Fear: It makes us run into adds that we weren't quite expecting. Can be very bad on healers.

Mana Burn: Can really wreck a healer, both in dealing damage to them, but more importantly, in making a big mana pool and regen that much more important.

Roots and Ranged: This can cause a group to scatter, making control more difficulty, making AoE less effective, and possibly running into adds.

AoE spell reflection: If this mob is not dealt with quickly, casters, including paladins and DKs, are not going to be doing very well. Very quick focus fire with non-casters can also deal with this. The reflect would have to exclude spells or else rogues and hunters could become mandatory, and clearly that's a worst case scenario.

What's Aggro?: This is the simple one: a mob that hits hard and ignores normal aggro tables, encouraging CC, kiting, and focus fire.

To me, abilities with a cast time are desirable because they can allow for a more active, aware response of interrupts and target switching than a fire-and-forget CC. While I like kiting, it requires an instance with plenty of room to move, assuming our goal isn't to kill hunters. I admit, that might be a design goal for some players and developers.

I know that I've been making quite a few negative posts recently. These are not a build-up to some massive rage-quit post. My goal isn't to say that WoW sucks, which it doesn't. Instead my goal is to find ways that WoW can improve, which of course means become more fun for me, without alienating the currently gigantic player base. I have nothing but disdain for the angry posts which boil down to more or less: "WoW sucks and you are all stupid for playing it and someone should make my game with permanent death, xp loss, item loss, nine thousand person raids, and no elves or ponies." Those points accomplish nothing. They give developers nothing useful to go off of. For example, "dumbing down" isn't single, reversible change, nor is it even always bad. Frankly I am very glad that Ulduman has been 'dumbed down' with the addition of a map.

It's impossible to make a world if location is meaningless

| Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Yes the title is an exaggeration of the state of WoW. It's easier to say than "World of Warcraft has progressively reduced the importance of particular locations, whether for farming, PvP, or reputation, rendering the idea of location less meaningful and along with it, the suggesting that there is a world contained in the game World of Warcraft."

I originally wanted to write about the way to set our hearthstones, to pretty much the same place. BC and LK took this to an extreme with both factions even using the same city for their hearth. But even now, why would you set your hearth to somewhere other than Orgrimmar or Stormwind? A few people go with Darnassus for the reduced traffic and general peacefulness, but those are an exception, not an indication of any larger trend. I thought of giving buffs to people based on their hearth location, with a lag time on switches so they constantly change buffs to suit what they're doing that very second. The idea was that, for example Stormwind would be a banking and diplomacy city and would give advantages when dealing with NPCs: a small rep multiplier (think 1%, not 10% of human racial) and a small benefit when buying and selling to NPCs and with AH costs (again, 1% or less). Or Ironforge could be a city for engineering, mining, and blacksmithing where they could get extra ore from smelting or lower material costs. Outside the main cities, working out of goblin towns could help with rep there (more than SW, but only for the four towns), or STV could give bonus damage against beasts and trolls. These would be balance, probably mirrored, between factions. The general idea was that if you're primarily engaged in a few activities you'd pick a hearth to help that, rather than the one that is most convenient and common.

Just to be clear: I like the championing system with tabards. It was annoying to be exalted with the relevant faction and still not have the desired loot from an instance. I'm looking at you, Baron, with your persistent insistence on dropping the wrong pants. And ever notice that more mages than tanks had Suneater? True story.* But at the same time, rep based on location made us care where we were. This would be a bad thing if we were using randoms, but when we picked instances, it made sense that we cared about location. Now I frankly don't give a shit where I end up, except that I don't much like Stonecore. I wonder if it could work to have something in between, such as certain instances giving double rep for certain factions, or rep with a faction in addition to the effect of the tabard. So the Wildhammer would care a lot when we go to Grim Batol, but not as much when we're in Tol'vir.

Does anyone farm mobs anymore? I don't really know. I haven't in quite a long time. Well, okay I lied, the other day my mage flew down to Silithus to farm essence of air. But beside that, do mobs serve any purpose beside cannon fodder for dailies and quests? Mobs used to give reputation and dropped items that were useful for said reputation. Undead and bone fragments in the Plaguelands, Cultists and texts in Silithus, various blood elves and demons in Outland.

Have you ever hunted devilsaur? I have. Those buggers are hard to find! They tend to find you instead. Materials weren't always so... generic. They might come from specific mobs types and certain locations. This wasn't quite so convenient, but it did make a skinner care about something more than half percent differences in leather rates off dragonkin and boars. It made the mob choice matter more, and therefore the part of the world.

Do you care where your character is? Does it make any difference? These days, probably not. Just pick your main city and take the portals where they go.

* It's more of a story with truthiness than truth.

It's not a pet, I just have a very long arm

| Monday, January 24, 2011
I've been having a blast with my frost mage. It reminds me a lot of when I used to play a warlock.

I'm so getting in trouble for that.

No really! What really defined the feeling for me on my warlock was the sense of control from multiple angles. I had fear and death coil. I also had curse of exhaustion, the nerfing of which caused me great sadness. I ran around in PvP with a Nifty Stopwatch and a Heart of Noxxion.

One moment please. I've been reading the comments on wowhead. I need some time to cry. First they nerfed it. Now the quest for it is gone. Anti-fun police, you win this round. And probably the next one too. Dicks. Oh what's that? The other trinket got buffed? OH YEA! WOOOOOOOOOOOO! But seriously, why did you have the destroy the stopwatch? Dicks.

Being able to remove crippling poison and sprint was uh, pretty damn awesome. Then snare the rogue right back and DoT him up! Well, I guess it was just corruption since my curse was taken up by exhaustion. But I had a DoT on him! Glorious days before cloak of might as well be divine shield for how much it wrecks casters. Oh yea, so my warlock always felt in control. Fear, deathcoil, snare, seduce or spell lock or voidwalker bubble, and worst cast scenario, drop an infernal on their head for another stun.

My mage has a similar feeling. I have lots of AoE roots. My main attack is a snare. My secondary attack is instant. My random proc attack is a snare. I even have divine shield. And meanwhile there is my water elemental firing off bolts. But the control part is its frost nova. It's that long arm all over again. I don't have to let enemies get dangerously close as with frost nova and cone of cold. Anywhere: stay there.

I have the keybindings set up so the elemental plays like part of my character, not a separate being. Placing the nova, telling it where to stand, what to attack, these are things that might be viewed as add complexities, pet management. To me, they're just part of my character. It's not a pet, I just have a very long arm.mag

Balancing classes when we bring players, not classes

Tesh is asking dangerous questions about balance, classes, and the holy trinity again. Shun the non-believer!

The issue of balance is an important one. If people have a preferred class or style, if that one is weak, then they may be rejected from groups, making the game less fun for them, so they quit, and now there's less money for the developers to use to snort coke and the players left over will be left with a less interesting world, leading to more quitting, and before long the devs are out on the streets doing horrible things to support their addictions. It's quite terrible. What I'm trying to say is that poor game balance is the root cause of that homeless guy on the train who uh... well anyway, you get the idea.

So we want balanced classes. Note that this is not exclusive to a class system, but that I find it easier to use the word class (because I'm a communist) than to try to get at every intricacy of a class or talent or skill or whatever else based system. So pretend that when I say warlock I mean a chaotic evil caster who specializes in demonic summoning and destruction magic.

As any capitalist can tell you, class warfare is a bad idea. Instead it is better to turn the classes inward against each other. This is why we invented racism. We can apply the same method to classes in MMORPGs, reducing the conflict between classes, presumably by balancing them to be interchangeable, and instead causing players within each class to despise each other for the competition.

So how do we get every class to do the same DPS, healing output, effective health, and mitigation? That's right: we don't. That would be a fruitless endeavor to get them exactly the same. Merely adding mobility elements to a fight will make DoTs and instant cast spells better, while lots of adds favor AoE, quick deaths hurt DoT damage, long fights favor efficiency and regen, and so on. They can be close, but never exactly the same, so don't even bother trying for the last few percent. Or more.

Burning Crusade used a model that fit this. Each class brought its own buff(s): totems, magic or physical damage debuffs, auras, judgements, and most importantly, divine sacrifice to save two repair bills because we died a lot. DPS between classes was not balance. At all. But because each class brought a unique, or at least not commonly shared, buff or debuff, adding another class was usually better than stacking up on a single class, even if it appeared to be more powerful. So a class that did 10% less damage but gave a 2% damage buff to 20 people was still better than the 10% higher damage. This was a great situation for everyone around: developers could casually dismiss DPS meters, bad players could casually dismiss DPS meters, and good players could know that they are awesome, because good players don't need a bunch of numbers to know that. There was one group that got left out, a group which I despise for two reasons: first, they ruin my earlier claim of "a great situation for everyone" and second, because these are the self-centered jackasses who ruin just about everything by obsessing over DPS meters.

For some reason Blizzard decided to cater to this last group. This brought about their concept of "bring the player, not the class", which was nice, in theory. In practice it meant that the small DPS differences were put right back in the center. Pinning the balance of a game on a problem which can never be fixed, and also calling huge amounts of attention to it, is a terrible idea. The ironic result is that when attempting to make us bring players rather than classes, given the impossibility of perfect balance, we were more driven to pick classes. Because there was no longer incentive to diversify, that left only the pure DPS numbers as motivators.

I'm not suggesting that it is better to require one of every class, and in fact that wasn't the case. I've seen firsthand the results of fight-specific mechanics to force raid composition. I might have benefited from those gimmicks, thank you very much, Garr, and your eight identical adds which like to attack healers, thereby giving my warlock a guaranteed raid slot. But there is a middle ground, somewhere between stacking the flavor of the month and canceling the raid because of a lack of mages, and in that middle ground the balance between classes is made easier, small differences papered over and made invisible, also leveling some of the effects of player skill. That last part may be the cause of all this trouble, that something feels instinctively wrong about bringing a lesser player for their passive buffs rather than a better player for their epeen-growing DPS results, but when developer instinct conflicts with player fun, it must be set aside.

Well, unless of course they just enjoy watching flame wars between angered customers.

This Sunday in Politics

| Sunday, January 23, 2011
We've seen a few politicians propose amendments, laws, resolutions, and declarations that would mandate birth certificates be presented before being able to stand for election for the office of President. Some have even suggested Vice President. A few have even been written which do not explicitly cite as justification for the law "Barack Obama."

But these aren't the only laws seeking to amend imaginary problems after the fact. The states of Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have bills slowly moving through their houses which deny witches the ability to stand for statewide office. So far the bills have stalled or been repeatedly sent back for amendments and rewriting and are not expected to even go up for vote within six months.

In a surprising alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and Christine O'Donnell have both come out strongly against the proposed laws. The ACLU argus that they violate the first amendment which establishes the separation of Church and State at the federal level and which has since trickled down to the state, while the former senatorial candidate has given no reason for her opposition.

In unrelated news, state national guard units have begun massing at the Illinois Wisconsin border. Neither state's governor could be reached for comment.

Some good, some bad, what I'm finding while leveling

| Saturday, January 22, 2011
Let's start on a positive note by complaining about things Blizzard intentionally or accidentally ruined, broke, or in some way made less good than they were before. This isn't a complete list, just things that stood out to me.

Bad Things

Lower Blackrock Spire: Unless Blizzard has broken the standard they set, which really would not surprise me, a few quests, and therefore opportunities are missing from LBRS. Warrosh: totally out of luck. Vaelstrasza: no more ring quest, no chance at all that he's going to be making an appearance in UBRS. Bijou appears to no longer give any quests. No more worg pup or spiderling? No more getting milked by a dwarf? None of these are essential, but they provided some tidbits of story and helped fill out the instance. I am not claiming that any of them had reasonable quest mechanics, and I'd definitely say that Bijou's belongings were too hard to find. Also, required quest aspects (mother's milk poison) should not be able to be cleansed.

Stratholme: I mentioned this earlier; the instance has been cut in two, possibly making one boss impossible to summon (within reasonable expectations for a PUG, in other words, don't come it here and claim "it's still possible if you have the entire group run to the other door before it resets" because that's hardly a reasonable expectation) and generally hurting the ability of players to explore a bit.

Scholomance: No longer an opportunity to participate in brotherly murder. Cannot get a new trinket for Caer Darrow.

Blackrock Depths: Too big and complex to be based on the standard "kill last boss and leave" model, so it can be hard to complete quests. Mole machines should be for corpse runs, not for skipping every single quest location. Prisoners don't seem to scream as loudly as they used to. No more Love Potion quest. Emperor no longer calls the Senate to his defense, meaning that groups skip clearing, losing valuable opportunities to be taunted by him.

Good Things

Stratholme: The simple story update explains why nothing really changed without simply being a "they're undead, so they came back." Timmy no longer ambushes your healer after clearing Crusader Square. This might belong in the Bad Things section. Also the quest for him claims that we need to clear Crusader Square to get to him and clearly wasn't updated to reflect his new placement. It's a minor issue, affecting only the fringe minority who read quests. I suppose that belongs in the Bad Things section, but it fit the flow. There is no longer a strangely long delay between the skeleton zerg rush and the door opening.

Scholomance: "Do you have the key? No? Okay, let's duel and hope a Horde kills us near the door," fixed.

Upper Blackrock Spire: Is now a five man, meaning that people can actually queue for it without needing to leave the LFD system and can even get it as random. I was very glad to see that this instance was open to the average player again. Previously I was only able to run it because a random LBRS group didn't know the instance and ran the wrong way, a mistake which I didn't bother to correct. While I am a bit sad to see the only 10-man non-raid instance go, I must admit that it no longer had a function in the new regime.

Scarlet Monastery: Teleport function fixes issue with ridiculously long, linear trash runs respawning when we're trying to get out.

It is a lot harder to get runecloth these days, but a lot easier to get mageweave. The old instance structure was set up for level 60, heavily weighted toward 55+ instances. BRD, LBRS, UBRS, three wings of DM, Scholomance, and two wings of Stratholme added up to a whole lot of places to farm runecloth. It also added up to a whole lot of instances that got skipped on the way to Outland. Even if LFD hadn't excluded them, just the eventual XP gain would mean that players were bound to miss some of them. These have been shifted downward in level, making them more accessible in the leveling game, and pushing several out of the runecloth range.

Overall I'm fairly happy with the level changes. None have been made low level, which I think would have trivialized them, and while clearly none are the same as what they were at 60, they do retain some of their distinctive nature. Given that the level cap is no longer 60, I think Blizzard has done just about they best they could to make these relevant and commonly accessible again. As my Bad Things list shows, not everything is perfect, but even those are problems which could be fixed and are not caused by the level change.

I've not heard of much changing in Outland, but I'll see what I find. At level 59 with a moderately unattractive, but epic, crafted Robe of the Archmage, my mage has left behind Azeroth and ventured out into Outland. Time for a whole new type of boar to kill. Oh what the... seriously? No new spells until 68? Bad Things list, you have a first candidate!

"you can still do things the old fashioned way. Nobody is stopping you."

| Friday, January 21, 2011

This is a stupid thing to say. Yes, in the most literal sense it is true, no one is stopping us. But when 99.99999% of the population is pushed into impersonal cross-faction randoms and have abandoned any general channels because they're overrun with spamming crafters and spamming gold sellers, it's a lot more difficult to form groups "the old fashioned way."

There is no longer a world-wide LFG channel, so if someone isn't in a city, they're out of reach beside the obnoxious method of individual /who and asking anyone in the level range. There is no method to queue for "full runs" rather than "run straight to the random loot bag".

Sometimes on cloudy days I tell people to quit whining about the lack of sun, that it's still there, they just have to go get it. Lazy fuckers clearly don't care enough if they can't rent a plane to fly up above the clouds.

My point is that changing the available tools and social patterns has an impact, even if it isn't "forcing." If you think the new way is better, that's fine. It probably is better, for you, so good for you. But don't pretend that anything is free, that all change is 100% universally good just because it benefited you.

I decided that taking part in a flame war is not proper conduct at a civilized place like the Pink Pigtail Inn. In light of that, I have deleted my comments there and copied them to a post backdated to fall just before this one. Feel free to argue about it there. Oh, but note that I said argue. Being a retarded monkey troll will not be tolerated.

Words of a cranky veteran

I decided that taking part in a flame war is not proper conduct at a civilized place like the Pink Pigtail Inn. In light of that, I have deleted my comments there and copied them to a post backdated to fall just before this one. Feel free to argue about it there. Oh, but note that I said argue. Being a retarded monkey troll will not be tolerated.

Us bitter veterans had completely unreasonable expectations. Cataclysm was perfectly predictable, doing what LK did but more: rep for anything and everything, easy quests, and phasing out the wazoo. To have expected anything else was stupid. I admit it, I was stupid.


@Redbeard: "you can still do things the old fashioned way. Nobody is stopping you."
I made a little post to explain how stupid that was.

@Rilgon Arcsinh: You make a good point. Any dissatisfaction with the current system much mean that I want to slide backward to absurd extremes.


@Redbeard: I'll take it you didn't read it.
The new random anonymous system has pushed most of the population away from any sort of organized group. The ability to make a friends list is not the same as having an available pool of people to put on that list. The people out in a zone are of a much smaller pool than was in a global LFG system and are less likely to be in that zone to find instance groups, after all, they have separated themselves from the larger population of the cities.

So yes, it is a stupid comment, because it completely fails to acknowledge that "able to do something" and "theoretically able to do something but the entire system is set up to discourage it" are different things.


@Redbeard: What part of "the entire system is set up to discourage this behavior" are you not understanding?

How about this, the government wants us to eat more rice, so they put a 100% tax on wheat and corn. We can still eat wheat and corn, but we are paying a much higher cost, a cost which may make wheat and corn no longer worth it, even if we prefer wheat to rice. They didn't ban wheat, but they did make it prohibitively expensive in an attempt to shape consumption. Wheat-eaters would be justifiably upset and saying "it wasn't banned, get a second job and you can afford it" is not any fix at all.

I'm not sure which one Spiritus was aiming at, but he seems to have hit the "if you exaggerate ever it means that the reality is the complete opposite" nail.


We don't seem to be on the same page. I am not, and never have, advocated a return to retail. If I make comparisons between the then and now it is to highlight good and bad points and to show the costs and benefits of changes. I'm not sure why you're putting so much effort into attempting to feel superior to a weeping strawman in your mind, but it's rather disturbing and perhaps you should get some help for that.

As for my "offputting behavior", you have absolutely no clue how I act in game. People who make stuff up are usually called liars.

Pretty Flower

klepsacovic: I was thinking of a new engineering device
klepsacovic: called Pretty Flower
klepsacovic: I want to make a post about it
Iapetes: what would pretty flower do
klepsacovic: more or less the story is I was thinking about how much I hate all the teleportation and quick travel
klepsacovic: but as an engineer I love travel
klepsacovic: and I realized that as an engineer I want to be a unique and beautiful flower
klepsacovic: so the Pretty Flower device creates a random and unique flower pattern
klepsacovic: and then turns the engineer into said flower
klepsacovic: it does nothing else

Google as a bookmarks system

| Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is not a porn blog. Stop looking for porn here. Short perverts.

Also, there are these things called "bookmarks", you can use them to store website locations. You do not need to constantly search for my blog. I doubt Google is getting much ad revenue from that search. Or if you're really fancy, you can use RSS which stands for something. I personally use a "reader", which is an orphan who reads blog posts to me while I read the Wall Street Journal and complain about coal mine over-regulation.

Also, I'm not sure how much word order matters, but I'm pretty sure "naked draenei" and "draenei naked" are going to give about the same results.

Persistent bad quest design

What do you think is the worst quest in WoW, ever? No, it's not that one. Not that either.

I will describe the worst quest ever. Ready?

Okay, first part: this quest is utterly pointless. It contains no story and no reward.

This quest takes up a bag slot for approximately five seconds. This can be a problem since it's in the middle of an instance. Okay, minor inconvenience. I'm keeping it in the list.

This quest is one of those "talk to me, now talk to me again" types. Boring.

I haven't really gotten to the bad part yet. This quest is a pre-req for an escort in an instance. Now do you see the problem?

Once the escort starts no one can pick it up. Not a problem normally since it is shared at the start anyway. Except for this one. The pointless, boring, loreless, lootless pre-req must be done first. Guess at how this plays out in groups.

Yep, one person runs up and starts it early, before others can talk and turn in. That one person in a hurry ruins the chance for the rest of the group. Until the instance resets, they're out of luck.

Heroics may have slowed down and people there have started reading and communicating. But leveling? People rush through. Click click click pull pull pull. So one rushed jackass can easily ruin it for the rest of the group.

We could say that there's nothing actually wrong with the quest. It has no bugs. But content should be designed with the players in mind. If players are rushed, content should either slow them down or keep up with them.

This isn't a new quest. It's years old. How has this managed to avoid being fixed? So many non-problems have been fixed, with a detrimental effect on fun. Yet this remains.

Segregation is Bad

| Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The other day I learned that Stratholme has been completely split in half. There is now a permanently shut gate between live and dead sides.

Bad move, Blizzard.

What benefit does this provide? Were there too many people wandering into the wrong side? Oh god, the horror. Players might complete an instance in a non-optimal manner!

This causes an actual problem even: the random postbox keys for the Postmaster boss can still include the mailbox in dead side. This means that on some runs they will potentially be unable to summon him, since to do so would require manually running in the other side (requeueing will reset the instance), a daunting and time-consuming task given that players could be coming from anywhere. Three keys drop, three are needed, and there are only six boxes. That means a one in six chance that a group cannot summon the boss.

A change that gives no benefit but gives an unreasonably high chance of blocking players from content. An excellent job. Well done. One might say, Mission Accomplished.

The anti-fun team has struck again.

Don't tell, show. Don't show, drag over by the ear and MAKE THEM

My mage was in Stratholme live side. Er. Newly dead side. Scarlet? I never liked that name for some reason. Well anyway, on the side with the Scarlets, demon boss, and no Baron Rivendare.

As luck would have it, the courier and his keys were looted by that warrior. You know the one. The DPS who constantly pulls by accident. Dies a lot. Cannot follow basic directions like "don't release."

I'd managed to get postman's pants earlier, so I had some interest in summoning him again. That 50 armor two piece bonus is just simply awesome. I mean, 50 armor! I know, jaw-dropping.

I'd taken note of the keys he had and managed to steer the group toward The Unforgiven, clearing space around one of the boxes. Somehow I got him to click it despite his protests that he had no keys. One down. We pushed on to the next box, driven by my claims of a boss, which were true, since Hearthsinger Piccolo was over there. I had a leftover key, so I did that box.

Then we somehow got sidetracked by the non-mailbox parts of the instance and I was afraid that all hope was lost. Thankfully the healer DCed and the tank and warrior got themselves killed. We went back to get them, since he was vulnerable to rats and gargoyle spawns. Hope returns! I seized the moment to ask what other keys he had. None. Two. One? What's a key?

Don't tell, show. Don't show, drag over by the ear and MAKE THEM. I decided to try "proof by brute force", a technique most notable for proving something about map coloring, but in my case, to prove that he had at a minimum one key left. So click this mail box. And there we go, a trio of undead with ridiculously high spell resist. The ring dropped, the priest healer won the roll, I felt a bit sad. Then I noticed that she had a really old ring from early Gnomerganan, so then I didn't feel so bad. She told me to wait, informed me that she couldn't use the ring yet due to level, and traded it to me. I thanked her and felt happy again (woo pixels!).

She had to go shortly after. She left too soon for my advice that if her baby had woken that a bit of whiskey could fix that. Either for the baby or her. Cure-all, even if it tastes awful. Seriously, who got the idea of drinking what is essentially rubbing alcohol poured through charcoal? I guess the same people who thought to drink old milk (cheese), spoiled grapes (wine), and grain which has been rotting in standing water (beer).

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink, though you can shove its head under until it gets the idea.

It's not the size that matters, it's also the relative size, color scheme, decorations...

Syl wants to know what makes a boss fight memorable.

I was the only person to have anything close to a scientific answer based on my extensive research in the growing field of "things I sort of remember". In other words, I am an expert Moltencoreologist.

So the answer: Tall bosses. Big rooms.

These are both essential. Short bosses in very big rooms don't work. Those are called gnomes and they are utterly unmemorable except if you kill thousands at a time.

Conversely, big bosses in small rooms don't work. Note that this is relative. While Magtheridon's room is big and he is big, he is too big for the room.

A cluttered room can simulate the effects of a small room. For example, Kel'Thuzad's room is filled up with a giant throne and the walls are filled with hostile undead, reducing the effective space. Furthermore, his small footprint means that melee are packed up, reducing the apparent size for them. That other KT, Kael'thas, has rooms scattered with banners, statues, and strange glowing boxes, which also reduce the perceived size. This is in addition to him ultimately dying in what appeared to be a large storage closet.

We've seen all the negative examples. What about fights that worked?

Raganaros tops the list. He is very tall. And wide. The room he's in is gigantic. The size of the room has the benefit of allowing players to stand far enough back to see his head.

By this point you may be wondering, is this just another silly post? Yes. No. Sort of. I'm trying to find something universal here. Something applicable. Challenging fights are dependent on the skill of the players, their gear, and not getting nerfed two months later. And they can't be replicated. Once you know a fight, you know a fight. Challenge tends to be a brick wall which is suddenly gone, without the slightest hint that it was ever there. It cannot instill feelings if "you weren't there then". Silly fights, such as the pygmy in Lost City, don't retain their value. The joke gets old. But maybe a tall boss in a big room has some lasting power. It is not a brilliant design or a substitute for a fun, challenging fight, but as a general rule, the last boss should be tall and in a big room. A well-decorated room.

Bloggers, is 228 a lot?

| Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I have 228 draft posts. Some are posts that I plan to post. Some are little fragmentary ideas that never got anywhere. Some I wrote and realized made no sense. Or were just plain offensive. Some got pushed back over and over as I got wrapped up in the topic of the month, only to find them weeks later, irrelevant and inaccurate.

I'm trying to delete them, but it's almost like cleaning out a cluttered attic. Maybe I'll want this one later.

Do you also have a lot of draft posts, floating around?

Story as an alternative to gear progression

Tesh and Scrusi have one of those stunningly obvious observations that we never see because it's just that blindingly obvious: we as players are not narrators or writers, we're characters, in the story written by someone else. We don't kill bosses because that fits our own story. We kill bosses because that fits the story that Metzen has written. We're pawns. Heroic pawns, but still pawns. We're driven not by personal motivation, but by relentlessly overpowering plot.

It gets worse when we realize that first off, there are a lot of us, and second, we don't actually get anything done. We're eleven million nameless, faceless, mindless heroes. Kill the enemy. Kill it again! AGAIN! Sisyphus would have despaired in the face of respawns.

We can't change the world because if we did, no one else would have any content. So WoW would be great for give or take 100 players who spend all their time rushing to get the world first, and world last, kill of anything. Lich King or Arugal.

Tesh suggests that games let us play in our own stories. A nice idea, if not for the fact that it doesn't at all fit with current MMOs. So I decided, why not take an unworkable idea and take it a step further?

Make NPCs active participants in the world. And in our stories. My story. Make the Lich King send Scourge minions to attack me, unexpectedly, possibly at the worst possible times. Maybe I'm out on a leisurely daily run around Quel'Danas when all of a sudden a bunch of abominations wander in and flatten everything, including me and the naga who theoretically drop chest keys, so dammit, now I have to wait for respawns because the beach just got cleared out. After this I personally have quite a bit of motivation to go to Northrend and kill Arthas. That fucker ruined my questing.

So I go to Northrend and I battle my way through everything in my way. There might be larger events, but what I care about is getting the damn Scourge to stop attacking me. Have I mentioned that they drop no loot? As I fight my way up and kill bosses the attacks lessen. After all, I'm destroying leaders, necromancers, and constructors. So as I go along killing bosses, life gets easier. Fewer and weaker attacks make my daily life easier just as gear would do. But it happens not by steady inflation of stats, but by steady destruction of enemies. Finally the Lich King is dead and I can go back to killing Naga in peace.

I will gain some items along the way, but the primary motivator, and the primary benefit, is advancement of my own story. In my story there is no longer a Scourge attacking me during dailies. There is no longer a Dark Portal letting demons wander into the Blasted Lands when I'm trying to pick Gromsblood. There is no longer an army of golems and dark iron dwarves getting in my way when I'm trying to farm thorium and dark iron ore.

Of course new enemies will emerge. It would be boring if everything died and died forever. Active NPCs would also have goal-seeking behavior. With the Lich King gone, necromancers would eventually round up leftover undead and make their own little fiefdoms. Not right away, after all, the goal isn't to just endless attacks. But eventually I will feel the need to go topple another self-proclaimed king.

With NPCs who think, players can no inhabit the same world and interact with each other in it. By that I mean, we can all live in a post-Lich King world, even if I didn't kill him, because you felt the need to kill him and got to it first. We're all glad you got that out of the way. And when other enemies rise, we all feel the desire to get rid of them, so we all go to take care of it.

I can already hear the criticism, that over the long term, if enemies keep popping up, we get nowhere anyway. True! But we get nowhere with gear either. My ICC epics are long gone. So are my BC epics. My few few vanilla epics. Even the gear that I thought was so great while leveling is gone, replaced. As I grew stronger so did my enemies. But ultimately, two mountain tops are of irrelevant relative height if they're the same, only the guy at the base sees any difference, and for him, it's only trouble.

Of course toppling an endless series of trivial bosses sounds boring. So make them hard. No scripted Mario-style hop and run fights. Make them random. Maybe this boss will be easy. But that boss, that one spawns adds, has defile, does tons of AoE damage, and has a short-cast heal for half his health that he tries every five seconds. So cut the instance crap and stick them outside and let's bring as many players as we want. Anyone in the raid gets a piece of the pie. So with that you want as few people as possible to maximize the pie you get, but enough to kill, plus maybe some buffer room.

Not everyone will kill every boss. No one will kill every boss. Possibly no one will even see every boss. But they will kill their boss. They will have their story. Their own story.

There are obvious problems here. To fit thousands of players, providing content for all of them when they're constantly 'stealing' kills, without a very high re-emergence rate, you'd need a big world. Big enough for players to spread out and fight for their own spaces. And varied enough that players don't just ignore the hard bosses. Maybe the hard boss is in the area with the highest number pyrium nodes or the only good place to find essence of air. So we want that boss dead and we're going to kill it and it will be our choice as part of our story.

Think of it as a sandbox filled with randomly-generated themeparks, which we get to ride into the ground.

World of Warcraft: Setting the Standard for Terrible Customer Service

| Monday, January 17, 2011
We can think of a guild as a company. That makes officers the managers and members the employees. This leaves customers. Who are the customers? No, not the quest givers. They're an exception, not a standard.

The customers are the raid bosses that we kill only a weekly basis.

Worst customer interaction ever.

Small World, Big Places

| Friday, January 14, 2011
In my continuing saga of possibly pointless comparisons between WoW and Elder Scrolls, I want to look at sense of world size.

Both games use a "discover it to get there" system. Elder Scrolls: Oblivion has a 'fast travel' system where you can just click on a significant location you've discovered and the game will play out as if you'd run there; passing time, moving NPCs, but taking no more time than a loading screen. Similarly, WoW has flight paths, which are slower, but since you can go afk during them, aren't too dissimilar.

Teleports, whether we call them portals in WoW or fast travel in Oblivion, tend to reduce the sense of world size. As humans we unconsciously measure distances in time. This is why walking a mile can seem longer than driving ten miles, even setting aside the physical labor aspect. When travel time goes down, perceived distances goes down as well. Despite being a big world, the outside of Oblivion doesn't seem gigantic. Imperial City and Bruma, despite being several hours away in game time (this would be 10 or 15 minutes in real time running), are a few seconds away to me. I go back and forth between them often.

Beside the outside world, there's also the inside. In these places, Oblivion is much bigger. Recently I carried out the greatest heist of all time. This involved running through all manner of sewers, then crypts, and in and out of buildings. The distance covered was at least as much as that previous 10-15 minute run, spanning the city (which is pretty wide), back and forth (think spiral, not loop), and over it all again. It took much longer than 10-15 minutes, thanks to being filled with enemies. That wasn't what gave the full sense of size.

I kept trying to find my hearthstone. You think I'm kidding? I was carrying tons of armor, really valuable stuff, or at least my noobish self thinks so, but I was running out of strength to carry it, so I'd keep finding a new thing, estimating value/weight ratios, and dropping stuff. I would have loved to hearth out and vendor some of it. Or teleport out of instance. I needed to recharge my dagger too. The enchant ran out way too quickly. And I was low on arrows.

When you're loaded with loot, barely halfway in, your items are breaking, and there's no quick way out, that's when you get a sense of scale. Location mattered. Maybe the dungeon was a lot smaller than I think, but it felt huge.

An Open Letter to Gordon of Stupid Plane Blog

| Thursday, January 13, 2011
Damn you, Gordon! Damn you! I will get a Messerschmidt and shoot down your piddly little Spitfire! Battle at dawn! And watch out for the Red Baron and Snoopy.

You know why.

This Is Too Far or Are You -ing Kidding Me?

Rohan fails to properly express outrage.

This is no mere 17% loss of fun. This is far more than 17%.

Okay Blizzard, I'm going to say something that I think is obvious but you've apparently missed: swinging through the air is fun.

Remember the Sons of Hodir quest when we fly around on dragons fighting? Jumping protodrake to protodrake using a spear and chain was part of the fun.

Or there was the one heroic fight where we swing off an exploding burning ship and then jump back on and get right back into fighting, like total badasses. That one was awesome. Oh yea, heroic deadmines. By far my favorite heroic. And what do you do? YOU RUIN IT!

I'm going to ask this nicely. Are you -ing crazy? Are you -ing stupid? ARE YOU ONE OR BOTH OF THESE? IN OTHER WORDS, CRAZY AND/OR STUPID? I SAY YES.

I'm sorry, but when you remove one rope swing, where do you stop? Do you remove rope bridges? That would make STV pretty damn hard to navigate. Do you remove chains next? Ogrimmar would collapse within the seconds with no chains. Would priests lose the ability to shackle undead? Could that mean paladins losing the ability to turn undead? Could warlock fear by next? Entire removal of CC?

This is a slippery slope, Blizzard. It starts with one rope swing and before long you've eliminated everything. Server shutdown. Game over.

Think more about the unintended but also extremely unlikely consequences of your actions.

There is only one way

Does it ever seem strange that all classes complete quests is pretty much the same way? We all kill someone, loot something, and then run back to get a reward. A priest might use a different method to kill a mob than a warrior would, but ultimately both will be killing, probably looting, and then heading back.

It's perhaps asking a bit much to expect every quest to be flexible, but here and there are places where I think Blizzard could add some flavor, make class matter.

Many of the looting quests are for small items: coins or trinkets. Any sensible rogue would see that it's a lot easier, and safer, to sneak in and pickpocket the item rather than cut a path in and back out again. Of course a warrior would opt for the cutting of paths, and by paths I mean people and by people I mean limbs. A sneaky mage might make a very small portal and drop the item somewhere convenient, such as his own bag.

At times we're sent to beat someone up for information. It makes some sense that in general we'd carry out more or less the same brutally physical torture. But why is a warlock or a priest getting his hands dirty with that? Surely fear is a direct path to the outcome of fear. Similarly, mind flay seems like a convenient way to break a mind, through repeated flaying.

Not to leave warriors out of the fun, why is it so often necessary to kill dozens of enemies to drive them away? Surely the exceptionally bloody dissection by axe of a few visible people would help get the point across. Or the sight of the leader screaming in fear could have a similar effect. Turning him into a sheep might not inspire fear, but surely it would cause a bit of disruption in the chain of command, making the remaining enemies less willing to stick around.

This would surely increase replay value as well, making classes play a bit differently, without requiring entirely separate quests for each class. That sounds like a good idea for a company that wants to keep people around.

The difference between men and women: A statistically useless sample of one

| Wednesday, January 12, 2011
IM status messages of two friends:
Female: Engaged to [male friend]. Best New Year EVER.
Male: Whoo, Hotel Intartubes roulette!

"QQ more, noob" gay?

Tears lower testosterone and sex drive.

What does this mean? Clearly it means that when people say "QQ moar, noob", they are saying something other than their literal words, while also meaning exactly that. Their elitism is actually a plea: "cry so you are less sexually attractive to me." Given that people saying this tend to be males talking to other males, we can only conclude that these rude elitists are actually gay and desperately trying to suppress their barely-contained lust for each other.

So the next time someone is elitist, just call them gay. Science is on your side.

P.S. I don't think gay = bad, but I bet they (the elitists) do, so why not take advantage?

Theme parks in a sandbox

| Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I have decided, and thus it is, that it is okay to have theme park rides in a sandbox, but only on the condition that we get to pour sand in the gearboxes.

Being Evil

| Monday, January 10, 2011
At the suggestion of Iapetes, I recently bought Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's gotten me thinking. Death knights are cuddly bunny teddy bears in comparison to my character.

Oh sure, as a DK I've killed more than a few civilians, spread disease, corrupted who knows how much of everything. But he did all that while enslaved by an evil being. So sure, they did evil things, but not willingly. These used to be heroes, after all.

I made a custom class that acts something like a ranged rogue. I sneak around, steal, and uh... murder. Before I was so good at sneaking I had to be a bit more confrontational, so in the course of what turned out to be a low-profit robbery, I killed a palace guard. That night I was visited by a man who invited by into an organization of evil murderers who worship Nothing.

I recently pretended to be a gift delivery man to get a list of locations, so I could kill a mother and all her children. Before that I murdered a group of party-goers. Oh, and there was the little tiny thing of killing the original group of assassins who took me in. Then this one time I was sent to fake a murder so a guy could escape another assassin, basically stealing the guy's job so the target could escape. But as a guild rule someone has to die, so we killed his mother, at his suggestion. Did I mention that we do contracts for evil people?

But really, is any of this surprising? I got rewards. We're all used to murder for rewards. So I present to you my one crowning act of evil: before I killed that woman and her children, I killed her dog. Yes, in front of her.

My character is in a thieves guild. They have a rule against killing during their quests. I learned to appreciate this rule and stopped killing people when on my own freelance robberies. I didn't do this out of kindness, but because this one time I found that murdering the house servant days before had negative effects on my bonus when I was sent to discretely kill the owner. Also if I kill everyone, who will buy my stolen goods?

He is, of course, in an illegal assassins guild, which worships a personification of Nothing.

Finally he's in the process of joining the Mage Guild. It's not an evil organization. It even banned necromancy. But since I'm a member I can take stuff without penalty and it doesn't count as stolen, so I can sell it to legitimate merchants. Yes, the one legal organization I've joined is so I can rob it and maybe get some more spells along the way.

Why don't we get to be evil in WoW? I don't think my characters have ever broken any laws, at least according to their own faction. They've killed, but have they murdered? I've been playing a good paladin for a long time. I'd like to give evil a shot.

Killing as a political tool or Watering the Tree of Liberty

| Sunday, January 9, 2011
Now and then I hear references to 'watering the tree of liberty with blood', meaning that freedom has a price and we must remove corruption. Exorcise it. It makes me laugh, and sigh, and cry, to hear it.

This was originally a much longer post. I decided to trim most of it and just go with my point, with no distracting tangents, except one that I think must stay, or maybes or well but also thises.

There will always be politicians with whom we disagree, or I disagree, or you disagree. How we handle that inevitability is important.

I'm slowly making a list of factors which make some countries inevitably better than others: richer, more advanced, more free, safer. One of these is treatment of women. As a general rule, the better women are treated, the better a country will be. Any intelligent person whose mind isn't poisoned can see that suppressing 50% of a population doesn't just make us lose potential from them, but from the other 50% as well. Slavery has similar corrupting effects.

Another factor is not killing people with whom we disagree. It sounds almost trivial. What do you mean, we don't kill people just for having other opinions? It sounds like basic civility, doesn't it? Yes! Exactly!

Violence is mutually assured destruction of ideas and civilization. It's not a beautiful idea, but mediocre stability beats anarchy and chaos.

Would you rather live in America or Ivory Coast? Britain or Sudan? Canada or Iraq? There are many factors that separate those countries, but one of the biggest is government stability, and there is no stability when there is murder. Even our chaotic, constantly turning over and flipping Congress and Executive are solid rock compared to the second countries on those lists.

I'm not saying I don't wish that the Hitlers of the world weren't all dead, but we need to recognize that Hitlers are pretty hard to identify. How many people even saw Hitler coming? What we can do is damage control. We can limit power, debate, argue, march, yell and scream and throw back the tear gas canisters, but killing fixes very few problems compared to the number it creates.

Or in short form: Political killing gets us nowhere.

Sandboxes need to be unrealistic

| Friday, January 7, 2011
Sandboxes need builders. With no builders, they may have literally nothing.

In real life it is easy to destroy and hard to build. It can take days to build a simple wood house. A couple minutes with some gas and a match can remove that. Building, we must fight gravity and entropy. Destroying, they are our allies.

So I leave this thought: for a sandbox MMO to be successful on the scale of WoW, building must be faster, easier, and more common than destroying. Note that when I say "on the scale of WoW" I mean millions of subscribers, not necessarily 11 million. Or alternatively, equivalent profits from a freemium system as if it were a million+ subscription.

Minecraft fits somewhat what I mean. Building can be very time-consuming, but getting TNT is a huge pain. With creative use of waterfalls of lava or water there can be a great bit of destruction, but at the same time, creative use of them can protect structures.

Over the long long term, building and destruction should balance out. It would be as absurd to have an infinitely built-up world. Eventually the buildings should fall. And then we build over the ruins, before we create more ruins.

My experience in EVE may influence this. I was a noob, one who farmed poorly and probably didn't have anything right in terms of ship choice, loadout, or character stats. It took a while to get my ship. Farming and finding and then getting it back to where I farmed. Then it went boom in oh... two hits. The second hit was my pod. Destruction took five seconds at most.

Slow to rise, quick to fall, is painful.

Also, read this by Tobold.

Just Pop Grand Crusader

| Thursday, January 6, 2011
I've gotten used to it by now, tanking with the new paladin prot tree, but this one teensy tiny little itsy bitsy problem remains: my interrupt is on the GCD. In practical terms this isn't really a problem. Most casts that I really need to interrupt, I'm thinking of the shock on the one boss in Throne of the Tides, are long enough that I can still get the interrupt. And of course there are so many other classes with interrupts these days, so in theory I never need to interrupt.

But in theory I am perfectly of sound mind. In practice: no. You see, I have ASCS: Avenger's Shield Cooldown Syndrome*. When fighting casters I am nervous. On edge. Twitchy and distracted. Every time I press a button I hesitate, then nervously press it and cringe, because this might be the time that I trigger the GCD when I needed my interrupt.

On average I will have an interrupt very often, thanks to Grand Crusader 2/2 giving a 20% chance on CS or HotR to reset the CD. I should be able to spam away for aggro. But then it might be on cooldown when I need it. Odds are it won't, but odds are if the odds go against me that bad things will happen.

So I cry.

Someday I hope for an answer to the mystery: why does Grand Crusader put a buff on me that does nothing?

Why I Cheated

| Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I've been playing GTA: San Andreas recently. It's fun, as long as you don't take it too seriously. But that's beside the point. Instead I'm thinking about cheating in the game. Specifically why I refused to do it, and then did anyway.

Some parts have been damn hard. Some parts I did ten times over before I got them right. Most commonly these were the strange vehicle fight missions from a nerd known as Zero. Yea, turns out WoW isn't the only game with awkward vehicle fights. And no, I don't mean the usual awkward acceleration and camera angles of driving in general. I mean things like using some weird miniature helicopter to move barrels and drop bombs, or a small red biplane shooting vans. This guy frustrated me, but I stuck with it. Eventually I mastered the miniature helicopter, thanks to a lot of practice with the bigger kind (mostly stolen).

I learned the awkward controls and targeting of the helicopter. This eventually seemed like an entirely pointless training session, since I've so far never needed to fly an attack helicopter, let alone blow up moving trucks with less than two minutes to get them all. That one caused more than one angry quitting. Not quite a ragequit, but close. I learned motorcycles, eventually preferring them to cars, due to fitting in small spaces.

Challenge I could deal with. I enjoyed it after I beat a particularly hard mission. At times I might substitute some preparation for skill, such as using a tank where it probably wasn't intended, but since it was still within the boundaries of the world, it worked for me. Overcoming obstacles by either wit or skill gives a good feeling.

But then I was sent to the airport and told to intercept another plane. No, not with guns or rockets. Instead I had to fly in behind it and jump on it. Simple enough, unless they give me a plane that is slower than the target, meaning that the only possible way to complete the maneuver is to perfectly time a loop which will catch the other plane right on time. This was a stupid idea. Okay I left something out: visibility was crap, both on screen and map. In other words, I have to do this by either guessing or by memorizing cloud patterns. Neither are good design, and incidentally aren't all that dissimilar to many raid mechanics. The mission in general was pretty stupid. Sure the jump looked cool, but it was pointlessly reckless. If I have access to the runway and to rocket launchers, why am I jumping out of a plane? And why, despite having much better weapons, did I suddenly find myself using only a pistol on the plane?

So I cheated. I said "this is stupid" and fixed it. Specifically, I made the other plane slower and my plane faster. Sadly, this turned the mission from stupid to trivial. So that's why I cheated, I saw it as the only readily available fix for what I considered to be bad game design.

In other games I've cheated because I wasn't good enough. The first times I played Half Life 2, I never properly beat them. I just got stuck at places. Since then I have beaten them, but at the time, I was grateful for the chance to shoot some Combine. Oh, and Starcraft. I'm awful at it. So a bit of poweroverwhelming here, a bit there, okay a lot here and there. Cheating acted as a very crude difficulty slider. Or more of a toggle: On and Off.

Sometimes being overpowered is just fun. When a level is supposed to be completed with a pistol, having a machine gun and rocket launcher is pretty sweet. It replaces challenge with silly fun. I think that's a good choice to be able to make.

Of course this falls apart in a multi-player game, where cheating isn't a different way to play, instead it's, well, cheating.

Alternative Sources of Artifacts

| Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I recently realized that digging is a pointlessly inefficient way of gathering artifacts. Or at least the random digging in the middle of nowhere. There are better ways!

For starters, there are more than a few animated fossils in Tanaris. These should be able to be surveyed. Kill them and pick out the bones that look the oldest. Or the ones that best fit your preexisting idea of how the world came to be. Fortunately we don't have carbon-dating, so this method still works. These can be called pre-dug, or self-digging fossils.

But these fossils are dirty. And besides, what if you want something other than fossil artifacts? That doesn't even make sense, since artifacts are artificial. Then again, so are our interpretations of fossils. But I digress. Let's see, where can we find dwarf and fossil artifacts, nicely dug up for us? Ironforge, of course. Yes, I propose that Horde in general, and Alliance rogues in specific, be able to rob the museum of Ironforge. For good measure, the Stormwind library as well.

To keep things balanced, the Alliance will have every opportunity to take any artifacts that the Horde trolls have managed to recover from their more savage cousins.

Of course Outland is a free-for-all of looting gravesites. Why bother with random artifact spawns when you can simply dig up everything and find something?

The night elves should not be left out, so I propose that players be able to simply dig up the many ruins scattered around the everywhere.

But let's face it, these are still all very inefficient. I mean, why wait for artifacts to get old before taking them? We have access to the Caverns of Time. While so far we've only gone as far back as the first invasion of the Orcs, I see no reason that we could not go further back. You might call it time travel and theft, but I call it preemptive archaeology.

Over two god damn hours in a heroic and god knows how much in repairs

| Monday, January 3, 2011
I think I might actually like the new heroics.

Well, I can't say much for the instances themselves. BRC went downhill after the second boss, and not just literally. I suppose I like the lost city. But I can't say I much enjoy the place with all the air elementals and that goddamn windy tornado boss. Perhaps the halls of origination are good. But do not expect me to be eager to run Vash'jir place and the Stonecore can go fuck itself.

I'm trying to say that the new instances just aren't catching my fancy.

Oh but at least they're not short. Not short? Don't we usually want to be done with these awful places quickly? Oh, we must still remember rushing to get the hell out of those bloody awful Lich King instances, which for the most part were alright the first time around, but nothing is so much fun the fifth time in a day. On the other hand, how much of the awfulness of them was not the content itself, but the experience?

It's hard to enjoy a place that you're out of in 15 minutes. It's hard to enjoy a place where you never ever communicate, not even for business. Silent haste is no state for humanity, not even in a virtual world, and least of all in a social game.

The new instances might not be the most fun ever, but at least they're not silent rushes of hastened misery, palatable only for their speed, but done too many times only because of their speed.

Some stupid people thought that Cataclysm would somehow bring back Vanilla. They thought that remaking Azeroth might bring back that spark. I was wrong. I can't say I enjoy Azeroth all that much. Somehow I lost the ability to read quests. I simply did not care enough to bother. This has caused be more than a bit of trouble since quests sometimes contain details like "use this so you don't die" or "don't come back to the quest giver, but go over there instead". I don't much like questing anymore. Except for the Wildhammer dailies, mostly because they give me a good chance to kill Horde. I can't imagine it's quite as much fun for them, first of all because they have to deal with me: even if you do kill me, I am an obnoxious pain in the ass, but be thankful I don't yet have a new rogue! But second, because they don't get to fight alongside the Wildhammer. They're distilled awesome, and not only because they are what they drink.

The instances though, they have something that was lost. They feel more like adventures. I get to stop and look at a pack of enemies and truly think about the best process of killing them. That's something which I enjoy greatly. Of course there is a time for rushing in and grabbing everything, which happens to be my preferred method when doing dailies or clearing miners out of the way while I'm trying to mine in the mine in Twilight Highlands. Speaking of me being a pain in the ass, tanks seem a tiny little bit too powerful, what with their utter refusal to do basic PvP things like "take damage", "die", and "stop hitting your face in for even two seconds". Or that might be the opinion of the shadow priest, ret paladin, and half-dozen poor slave miners. In contrast, as ret I nearly cry at the sight of bears and anyone with a shield.

I didn't make any friends during my random heroics. Not a single one. But I did for a moment think that perhaps if we had not be unceremoniously dumped into a cross-server group, perhaps I might have friended someone or two. Not since BC have I given much thought to who or what was in my group.

It's funny, I don't laugh at the sight of hunters anymore. In fact, I rather appreciate having them around. Their freezing traps are quite handy. Strangely, surprisingly, I find myself not minding much at all that they tend to pull. I let them pull. Makes the trapping much easier, so the healer's job is easier, and I'm willing to put up with a hunter if it will help a healer.

On the subject of healers, do they use mana? I can only conclude the healers do not actually use mana. I base this on repeated observation, that being that healers seem to either have no mana or all mana, and whether I live or die seems unrelated to this. Maybe healing still needs work. No, make that definitely.

I must admit that I have at times not run a heroic because I thought I wouldn't have enough time. Again, that's something I've not really considered in a long time. They were always so short. Is this good or bad? Well if for some reason you never have any significant blocks of time, it is bad. But if you want substantial content, it's good. For Christmas I received the extended edition Lord of the Rings set. It takes what were already long movies and made them so long that they cannot even fit on one DVD, not even counting two more for bonus content, whatever that is. It was a lot of fun to watch. I don't know if I'd have enjoyed it much as a 30 second commercial.

I estimate 450

| Saturday, January 1, 2011
That's my guess at the number of posts I made last year. I'm almost certain that's more than I wrote for anything before high school, during high school, and in college, combined. Not counting my blogging during college. I can't believe I used to hate writing. It's strange what can happen when offered a topic of one's choosing with no pressure of due dates or grades. Or factual accuracy. I like that last one, though as a general rule I just avoid facts, not because I have any dislike of them, but purely due to laziness, since when I am using facts, I prefer to cite them if they're not obvious. Facts are just too much work. Maybe I could get a job in newscasting.

I decided to look back over my posts to find my favorites over the year. That got me very confused, because I scrolled down to the first posts in 2010 and found that I kept thinking I'd posted that just a few months ago. Either I am incredibly repetitive (I am), or I have a very distorted sense of time (I do), or both.

I've had a lot of fun over the year. I got to rant, rave, and generally say whatever I felt like.
I got to draw a funny picture.
I got to make ridiculous claims like "Supposedly blogs are about conversation." Obviously blogs are actually about someone who won't shut up finding a place where no one can make him shut up.
There was guild drama.
I pointed out one drop in the river of Gevlon's moronic ideas. Or I did this a few times, or more, until someone cried for their Beloved Leader.
The mystery of the Cheese Smuggling remains unresolved.
I laughed at the idea of tweeting, which of course I am now doing.
Blizzard finally recognized my insanity, a charge which I contest.
I picked up a troll and got called a fascist. Fun times. Then I tried to offer economic advice to farmers, which was clearly not allowed. And on that subject: To the great confusion of the anthropologists
The mysterious history of Klepsacovic the Troll Shaman was revealed.
I came back from India.
Since making an analogy of racism and private servers was so popular, I decided, why not set up noobs and Mexicans?
Sexism became the hip new thing, prompting some people to counter the counter-culture with a counter-counter-counter culture in which they went on and on about how sexism makes men get raped or something like that. I'm looking at you, Tam, and yes, I am intentionally misinterpreting your posts. So of course someone called me l... you know, that l word.
People believed that Texas was encouraging an abstinence-based approach to internet security.
Marwyn joins the Tea Party was just plain fun to write.
Speaking of fun, I spent more than a trivial amount of time attacking Europeans, in hopes of starting a world war to revitalize our economy.
Then I talked a lot about assholes and elitism.

I learned a bit over the year. I learned that google doesn't give me much in the way of useful information. View and reader counts are pretty much meaningless, telling me more about how many people were reading blogs in general than about the post itself. I saw spikes from links from more popular places, followed by drops, leading me to conclude more or less than anyone who wants to read this blog is and anyone who doesn't, isn't, so unless I plan to entirely change how I write and what I write about, who cares? I learned to write what I enjoy. Those who like it will like it and those who don't, won't. Nothing lost.

Yet I can't pretend that I would enjoy shouting into a vacuum. I like having readers. Even more, I like having commenters. Maybe they support an idea. Maybe they laugh along with me. Or maybe they point out flaws so I can remove them. Thanks to everyone who read and commented. While this blog exists to entertain me, I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy entertaining you as well. Or maybe trolling you.

Happy New Year.
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