Oh sh-, what day is it? Oh god, I need flowers, pronto!

| Monday, February 28, 2011
Apparently February 12 was my blog anniversary. Three years. That means I've been playing WoW as a blogger longer than I haven't. I'm sure that means something. Or not. It's a very good thing I'm not married.

So wow. Three years. Given that my birthday was not quite recent (month ago), that's putting me at 1/8 of my life blogging about WoW. It's funny, how being this age makes everything a really big deal, proportionally. A year unemployed, pretty damn awful. Made me dread approaching holidays because each one was a marker: "you finished school and had no real job until this holiday, plus a year." There are a thousand factors, some personal, some systematic, some neither, but just someone passing me over. But none on their own explain it and none on their own, or collectively, make it feel any better.

Objectively speaking my situation isn't too bad. I have no mortgage or rent or dependents, thanks to still living at home. But emotion isn't objective is it? No. It's funny to me that humans, as far as I can tell, invented reason, and yet we seem to be entirely incapable of actually using it. We're like a guy who got a price gun cheap off ebay and oh man it will be so great but what do we do with this? So we stick it in a box somewhere and sometimes we open it and wave it around to show off, but we don't actually use it.

This past year I've also had a non-problem: posts months ago feel like I wrote them the week before. At times late in 2010 I'd try to quickly refer back to a previous post, certain that it would be in the first page (keep in mind my first page shows about 200 posts), and no, it would be a page back, buried way down, able to be found only thanks to my strange ability to remember post titles and search by them. Though that did break down recently when I had to find a post for a biggish one I'm working on. I really should improve my tag system, maybe add one like "elitists are stupid dicks".

I really enjoyed this past year of blogging. I got to rant, rave, and at times pretend to offer thoughtful analysis and thought-provoking discussion.

Here are some of my favorites, randomly chosen from my list of favorites, which uncut would be a list of dozens. Oh the perils of writing hundreds of posts a year.

I suppose these overlap a lot, but I still enjoyed writing both of them. Sadly, I don't think they'll accomplish anything.

Woo, I changed something!

I like silly. Okay? I like silly stuff. And the comments in Tobold's response post were such fun to read.

I like the phrase "virtual phrenology."

My attempt to draw some parallels between RL and virtual behavior on the society-level. I still like the post, but it's a shame that somehow people thought it was racist.

This post about bubbles and virtual item value didn't really elaborate much and frankly I'm not all that happy with it, but the idea is surprisingly relevant to my current situation. Same with my post about the deeper meaning of how quitting players managed their mail.

I got back from India. I was really, really tired.

Swearing is fun.

Texas does silly stuff. This was a hell of a lot of fun to write. Since then I've had to be careful to not descend into full-time silly fake news post writing.

It makes me feel bad when Larisa feels bad.
Earlier I'd tried to make an Atiesh for her. It failed.

Oh Gevlon, will I ever tire of pointing out your ridiculously flawed logic and distorted view of the world?

I kept my mage in Azeroth and had a blast. That was before it got blasted.

This post helped me learn to love graphs. Really, really badly drawn graphs. And chalkboards.

A look at how our concept of instance completion has changed over time

I mix up Tam and Chas on a self-righteous moral crusade involving time-traveling policemen

My sad last run of Zul'Gurub. LAST RUN, none of this "we wrecked a raid and pretended it's new content" crap.

And Joseph danced on...

I look at how phasing and other quest design has made WoW less of a multi-player game

It was also over this past year that I discovered that I enjoyed exploration, and writing about it. Try the "immersion" tag.

Then there were a variety of posts which picked up some trolling gnats. Obnoxious bugs. In retrospect, their incredible demonstrations of stupidity were rather entertaining.

So that's a year.

P.S. I'm bad at picking favorites. I love all my posts so much. Of course I'm not arrogant! That would be a negative personality trait.

Zombie Culture

Zombies fascinate me. They confuse me. What drives them? Rage, hunger, these are the frequent explanations. But they are insufficient. They do not answer an essential question: Why do zombies not fight each other? There are not only motivations for their violence, but also something that motivates them to not be violent.

The true definition of a zombie is not a risen corpse or a person with a virus that makes them insane. Instead a zombie is most simply described as a human which no longer defines itself as part of humanity.

These could be traditional mindless hordes wandering slowly with their hands out. Or they could be nearly-human but light-sensitive as in I Am Legend. Recent years have brought about the fast zombie, along with widely varying levels of intelligence. But they all share two traits: they are our enemies and they do not attack each other. There are a few rare exceptions, but as a general force, they are non-hostile to each other.

We could apply this to real life, identifying those groups of humans who consider themselves to in some way be superior to the point of separation. These could be the Nazis who thought they were descended from gods, in opposition to the in some way inferior Jews and Slavs. These could be Islamic terrorists who feel that our refusal to join them indicates that we are fundamentally flawed: they see us as the zombies.

I think it goes the other way, actually. Zombies are like so many supernatural phenomenon: cultural representations of fears. In this case they represent the fear of being corrupted, of betrayal, of an existential threat to humanity. We're a frightened species, thanks to our imaginations. Zombies have changed over time, once being a form of slavery, of a person of supernatural powers turning us, making us do their work. They were not something we'd expect to see forming rampaging hordes, though necromancy was around as a fear. Over time they've become less personal, transitioning from something that happens to us to something that happens to people, to the point that they are viewed less by their corruption from humanity as their threat to humanity. Maybe this has some meaning, a way to measure changes in social attitudes and fears.

I really should check my town's ordinances concerning shotguns.

World Plunges into Despair as Fact-Checker Discovers that the Chinese Character for Crisis is not Made Up of Danger and Opportunity

| Sunday, February 27, 2011
Or as the media calls it "Chinagate." No one else calls it that, not merely because it's a useless name, but also because they're too busy screaming in horror.

CNN's Anderson Cooper gives up wearing shirt altogether while covering scenes of rioting.

FOX News asks why Obama failed to obtain any concessions during his trip to China.

White House responds: "Go fuck yourselves. We're all going to die so let's just say it: fuck off."

MSNBC brings back Keith Olbermann for a day which he spends blasting the GOP for perpetuating the lie since the days of Nixon.

Network news gave no comment, but Brian William's Facebook status is "Oh God, dear God oh God oh God oh God."

House GOP leader John Boehner cried.

If you are seeing this page, you are bad at searching

| Saturday, February 26, 2011
It's the attack of the strangely specific and probably useless search terms.

"troll racials" and "troll racials are overpowered" took the obvious first and second slots.

"dragon age origins unsupported video card workaround" carried up the third spot, with someone who was probably really disappointed, but if by chance you are still here, did you ever find a fix?

And then people got hungry.
"how to can the old fashioned way"
"i want freash food.com"
The non-typo version does not appear. Why does Google think my blog is a destination for by typists? I'm a bit insulted.

Next was someone who must have watched way too many spy movies recently and is trying to send me an indirect message, without anyone noticing. Yes, this search term led to my blog. "meritocracy is a selected group of people whose development is founded on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth"*

The next two are best responded to with two words each
"mincraft is boring" No you.
"minecraft mmo" I wish.

And then there's this guy, who apparently was attempting to find the name of my blog by searching, my blog.
"site:trollshaman.blogspot.com troll racials are overpowered"

Finally at number ten, is Mr. Predictable Autofill
"troll racials are"

He has vanished without a trace and now we've lost the code forever!
No, I've seen this before. This guy was good; he hid it.
But where?
The last place we'd ever look.
Numbers station? Bathroom wall? DNA left in his blood?
Even sneakier: absurd search terms leading to a small blog.
So we're never going to find it?
Nope. Not unless you want to have to read a lot of blogs by attention-obsessed introverts.**
If we don't, the terrorists win.
But if we do, the terrorists win.
Sneaky bastards.

** A truly terrible personality combination with no good outcomes for anyone.

Why I'm not commenting on your fascinating post

Sometimes I like to just stand to the side and watch and read. Not with popcorn; it's not a show, but with a notepad and pencil to catch all the interesting bits. For example, Psychochild's blog is often one to which I have no significant responses, but there's usually a good bit of discussion in the comments. Or lately a few of Tesh's posts, such as on balance, have gotten me thinking, but not saying.

It makes me wish there was a like, dislike, and "mutters thoughtfully" button on all posts.

Oh, Apple, is there anything that you do that Apple people don't love?

| Friday, February 25, 2011
As it did with the original iPhone 4, Consumer Reports said it will not include the Verizon iPhone on its list of recommended smart phones due to the reception problem.

Apple's shares gained $5.13, or 1.5 percent, to $348.01 in afternoon trading.


P.S. Yes, I know I am intentionally blurring the major distinction between Apple gadget cultists and people who buy Apple stock. Also I'm pretty sure that previous sentence makes no sense, but screw it, it's Friday, I reserve the right to misuse words.

Sorry, that's not going to do the trick

Blizzard, I know, I know, there are still almost two weeks left. You want to get this out there. You want me back, don't you? A couple Zuls aren't going to do the trick. Do you think it was all about that raptor? It wasn't. The bear? No. The bear was never even a consideration. Tiger? Tiger would have been nice, but again, not it.

You do this all the time now. Its like some sick bad habit. You break a toy and then you tape it together and say you fixed it. You didn't.

Don't go crying and blaming Rift. I can't even play it. Runs like crap. It's all on you. Two weeks. But it's already been two weeks at least. Three or four, maybe more than that. It's far too late. It's history you know? Force of history. Inevitable trends. Can't stop it can you? You're addicted. Me? I'm in rehab. Nice place. Walls don't turn into monsters quite so often anymore.

Can't fool me with a Zul or two.

Net Meritocracy

| Thursday, February 24, 2011
Tamarind came back to write another ridiculously long post at the Pink Pigtail Inn in which he makes a few good points and a few really awful points that make me wonder if he has some sort of bipolarstupid disorder. So the usual. That was meant to sound slightly more positive than negative; I do think he is/was a good writer overall, but there are always those glaringly dumb bits. I blame overexposure to Europe.

I think we forget just how meritocratic the blogosphere really is. It’s very easy to get all bulverist and assume that Xs readers only agree with X over you because X is popular, but actually we are broadly judged on our content, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

Lazily copied from Dictionary.com:
"An elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth."
"Rule by persons chosen not because of birth or wealth, but for their superior talents or intellect"

Well, okay yea, I guess so. I cannot reasonably argue that popular bloggers are popular by nobility and they clearly have some talent for attracting the masses. So there is talent. But talent for what? Attracting masses. That's the only general talent we can attach. Specific bloggers may attract said masses by many means. Some offer useful advice on classes, quests, economics, talents, whatever. I avoid these blogs at all cost. Some offer thought-provoking posts about where things came from and where they are headed, looking a lot at the developers. Some offer emotionally or socially relevant commentary or reflection.

And then some are just some jackass ranting about whoever he hates that week. Strangely enough, hate is popular, creating us vs. them scenarios for people to rally behind. These are popular and when popularity is the only measure available, they sure look meritocraticus. That doesn't make them in any way worthwhile and it doesn't mean that any world, whether virtual or real, is better for their existence (I mean the blog, I'm not suggesting the the actual bloggers are world-destroying sociopaths). So yes, we are "judged on our content", but when the person judging is looking for someone to rally around in a flurry of generic hate at imaginary enemies, maybe that's not a very good judge.

Net meritocracy. I didn't create the title to refer to the internet and popularity on it, though it does work. Instead I want to complain about advertising and its role in ruining the wonderfulness which would otherwise theoretically be the free market.

Companies and products do not succeed or fail based solely on the quality of their product or service, the relative value, or any other rational measure that we could pick. Instead they survive to a large degree based on their ability to lie and deceive. This is called advertising. Ideally it would inform consumers, but ideally capitalism would have made us all rich as hell and communism wouldn't have been used to kill millions of people, so clearly we're not in an ideal world.

Companies cannot simply make a good product. They must advertise it, market it, go to great lengths just to let people know their product exists. This means that the best product or service does not win. Instead the best advertised product, given a certain unknown ratio of crap compared to the good product, will win. Imagine that two companies make drugs which help keep you awake. One sells a new chemical which has no side-effects and can keep you awake longer for the same dosage and has a modest ad budget focused mostly on facts. The other sells repackaged meth with an awesome ad campaign, some viral marketing, and celebrities visiting kids at schools. Which do you think is going to win the market share battle? Yea, the second company.

This is what I mean by net meritocracy. It is not merely the meritocracy of technology, but also the meritocracy of the marketing, which determines the "net meritocracy."

If we are attempting to rationally buy quality products, the entire second half of that net is worthless to us. In fact, it may be more than worthless, it may actively harm our quest for the first half. Advertising is money not spent on research and testing. Instead it is money spent tricking people. When shareholders demand maximized value they aren't demanding quality products. They are demanding sales. So the person in search of a good product is set back; the good product which might exist is instead not available yet, because that portion of the R&D budget was instead spent to hire really hot women to rub the product on themselves for a camera. This does not add value. Better porn can be found for free without needing advertising for shitty products.

Let's loop back to me arbitrarily insulting Tamarind for things he cannot choose, such as Europe and bipolarstupid disorder. The blogosphere may indeed be a meritocracy, but when the only measure is a popularity contest, we should be careful to avoid thinking that a meritocracy is actually useful. Besides, we all know that popular people are Hitler or the Antichrist.

In unrelated news, this comment at PPI strikes me as a bit hypocritical and dickish. Or does it?
I think a lot of you need to stop admiring yourselves so much.

Nothing any one of you writes is going to alter my opinion of what another one of you writes.

I could care less of your opinions of each other.

Tam, you wrote a very good article. It kept my interest till the end. Nice to see you about.

Suicidal Zebra, never heard of you. Apparently you don't miss Tam. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. REMEMBER THAT. It applies to others as well as yourself.

Also, "could care less" implies a positive care level (assuming care cannot be less than zero, with zero being total indifference or lack of awareness). "Could not care less" implies an entirely empty care cup.

As for the "stop admiring yourselves so much" bit, I'm sorry, but it takes a certain level of self-esteem and self-admiration to think that one's ideas are worth putting out there, not merely to tell a friend or scribble it in a journal. It's somewhere in the murky realm between self-pity and arrogance. So yea, bloggers have a higher opinion of themselves and their own ideas than others. That is why we write our own posts rather than constantly reposting those of others. The obvious exception is Ms Huffington and the like who take the contrarian positions of believing themselves to be the arbiters of what is worth reading and are actually mentally incapable of writing, much as Mr. Zoolander was for a long time not bi-directional in his turning.

My point is that if you're going to wander into a place where people put in some effort to tell everyone what they think, they're going to think a lot of what they think.


| Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Why is time of day nearly meaningless in WoW? A very few things will change from day to night, which I must now admit I cannot even remember. Darkness changes nothing, except to cause me to constantly sit higher up in my chair, attempting to take advantage of the change in brightness based on the angle of my monitor. Incidentally, I had this same problem in Minecraft, except constantly, until I finally just gave up on conserving torches.

A world with relevant time of day could be much more in depth and interesting. Want to raid a city? More guards sleep during the night and they can't see quite as far. They'll be woken of course, but if you can start out with an easier fight, that helps. At night many animals and people will sleep. But more undead may awaken along with nocturnal animals. Adventures may be easier or higher depending on time of day, but none will be trivial or impossible.

This is an easier mechanic to work with in a single-player game. Wait or sleep mechanics can allow a player to skip to the time they need, something which I cannot see a simple solution to in a multiplayer world. Even if there are not these mechanics, the particular time isn't such a problem, since there are many activities to do, all ready to be picked. In contrast WoW has a narrower band of relevant content and the social aspect means that people will want to do a particular activity. It would be awful if late night raiding guilds never got to do Sunwell because it closes after 10pm. Similarly, raiding Naxxramas at noon when all the bosses are napping would be terribly boring.

I see two ways around these problems.

First, don't directly link game and real time. Make game time run at a different rate, such that a player logging in at the same time each day will be able to see each section of the day, so that if the day is only night and day, then every other day there would be a full cycle, while night, dawn, day, and dusk cycle would repeat over four days. I do not meant that each aspect would take a day, though slowing down time could work. Instead time would go faster, such that in a four-phase day over a four day cycle a 24 hour period of real time would cause a 30 hour passing in the game, so that if you always log in at 18, then you will see game times of 18, 24/0, 6, and then 12, before the cycle starts over again at 18.

Second, players could use some sort of mildly expensive reagent and cooldown to create a time bubble, allowing them to run instanced content in a more suitable time, or possibly even triggered a phase change for outdoor content. The idea here is to offset the potential irritation of being unable to play due to relative time of day, without making game time meaningless.

The changes due to time do not need to be very big. It is probably best that they are not, since too dramatic of a change could tip the balance from immersive to annoying. For example, in Oblivion there is a fence who sleeps at day and hangs out at an inn at night. His house is close to the inn, so that the difference in convenience is maybe 30 seconds of running. But it helps to establish that day and night are different. If I arrive in town at night, I go to the inn, while at day I go to his house.

But if the changes were significant enough, even that could add to the fun. If I arrive somewhere and everyone is asleep, I could buy a room for the night to pass the time. Or, I could rob some houses under cover of darkness. Limitations can spawn creativity.

Unfortunately the loot-focused nature of WoW puts a lot of limits on the possibilities. We become very goal-oriented, with the experience often being little more than a barrier. With this perspective, fighting the Day Dragon isn't a novel change from the usual attack on the dragon lair at night, in which we'd fight the Night Dragon, instead it just means we're fighting a boss that doesn't drop the loot we want. Or more dramatically, if during the day all the dragons are off flying, making this a great time to steal dragon eggs for gold and cooking, we're going to be annoyed that we can't fight the actual dragons for loot.

I don't think a dynamic world can coexist with a focus on loot acquisition. Maybe I'm wrong.


| Tuesday, February 22, 2011
No one hurt and no major damage, but damn is it loud.

In retrospect, we should have all been more aware of the implications of rain on a cold day. My friend was driving me home. First stop sign from his house, at the first major intersection, the car slides out. A car was coming on our left (near lane). My friend realizes that braking isn't fixing the problem and the opposite direction is all clear, so he tries to accelerate to get past the other car. It doesn't quite do the trick, but it does shift the impact from driver's side doors to the trunk, during a dead-on hit into a glance. We did about a quarter turn, ending up facing slightly off-angle for the other lane of traffic.

Despite my love of gaming, I really do prefer a boring life. I don't like when things happen. Not fun times. I ended up staying over at my friend's house, since I didn't feel comfortable asking for them to still drive me or for family to pick me up. I don't like couches and I don't like bitchy mothers* and I don't like TVs on when it is sleeping time. Also I don't like when I am just barely falling asleep and a cat walks across me.

After the accident we decided to get the car off to the side. With roads so icy, it made no sense to leave it in place. Sure it's best to have the scene untouched for cops to take pictures or whatever, but it just wasn't worth the risk of more accidents. We should have gone into the parking lot in the first place. Instead as we were waiting for police, another car hits the second car. Our car was Bad, second car is Red, third car is Blue. Blue bumps Red which bumps me and another friend. We decided to park in a nearby parking lot after that.

Then it's the waiting as we wait for the police who were in no rush at all, since they aren't any more immune to ice than we are. Meanwhile we talk things over with Red and Blue, finding that Red is from Europe and in what he described as a company car, but which was in his name. This led Mother to claim that he was lying to game the system, since foreigners always know our laws better than us when they come here, her thought being that it wasn't a 'company car' so he should have been keeping track of the insurance. I didn't have an opportunity to point out that frankly, since no one was hurt and nothing majorly damaged, he probably could have just left* and we'd have not even bothered to call it in. It was his idea to hang around.

I still can't get over how loud it is. I mean, it was essentially just a low speed bump. But bumps are loud!

I do not like interesting times.

Today's post was going to be about how WoW handles time, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

* I not usually a fan of bitch since it's innately sexist, but damn, I reserve that right in this case. At least I don't have to live there.

** I don't mean hit and run, just that we'd pull over, look at cars, agree that there's nothing major and it's not worth any paperwork, and both go along our way.

I would know, I was there!

| Monday, February 21, 2011
Respawns make me sad, but perhaps they are a necessary evil for the type of gameplay and world in WoW and similar games. I can handle the idea of an instance resetting or a mob being back a minute later. But the NPCs really should stop lying.

I don't like getting kill quests for mobs that I've just killed. Oh sure, I can deal with the generic "kill ten bad things", since it makes sense that they'd want me to kill ten more bad things if they have the chance. In that case the strangeness is that they stop at only ten, when clearly there are more than ten out there to kill. My gripe is with the specific NPCs, the ones with names, unique names, NPCs who I have clearly stumbled across and killed. I would know, I was there.

Give me quest credit when I kill a named NPC, even if I'm not on the quest yet.

As for EQ2, I think it is cruel to new players. Cruel cruel cruel. I hop up and run into the world and there are these things to pick up and set traps and harvest and gather and so I pick things up and all that and next thing I have bags overflowing with No Value items, a label which is confusing all to itself, since value is such a shifting concept in a market economy. Then a quest giver tells me to practice, by picking up three of each. Or maybe five. Doesn't matter. Sir, was it really not enough? I am sorry that I did anything without your prior permission. NPCs are fascists. Yea, I said it.

Overall I enjoyed GTA: San Andreas. The story was pretty good overall, some of the missions were a lot of fun, and the characters were entertaining, even if not especially nuanced. But Sweet is a god damn liar. That's one of the fellow gang members who upon me arriving back in town sent me to go retake old gang territory. Oh sure that's fine, except I'd already taken it. All of it. Everything. Rather than recognizing this fact, the game instead flipped control back and made me retake most of the hardest areas. Don't give an open sandbox world full of possibilities if the storyline missions are going to directly contradict and undo what you've done. That's just not cool.

Of course there is always the opposite extreme of the lie, that being that I did something at some time when I clearly did not do that something at that time. I'm looking at you, Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion. So there I am cheerfully going along and carefully murdering everyone just right. I take my murder seriously. And so I am told just how to kill an important person and also don't kill his servant, so it all looks like an innocent accident. Of course, of course. Though I must wonder, why does "standing in front of an arrow" not count as an accident? But I digress. Long before this murder ever became a rewarding venture, when I instead was in the home for more directly economic reasons, also known as theft, or derivatives trading as I prefer to call it, the servant happened to take issue with my actions and in the course of solving the problem he died. Clearly this was unconnected to the later assassination, having been associated instead with an obvious burglary (this is why you use a stop-loss contract), and been so long before the assassination (which of course was just an accident anyway) that there was plenty of time to hire someone new, making it entirely useless as a way of preparing for a later murder which of course never happened and I did not commit since there was an accident instead. Alas, the bolts tragically loosened, the animal head falls and crushes the master's head and I get cheated out of my reward just because the servant died weeks ago.

Since I could not even remember having killed him (they all fade together, but I think this might have been the one which triggered my several hour running battle with a few dozen town guards and a bounty which put me in jail for a few months), I decided to work some magic, meaning cheating, and used a console command to resurrect him. Thankfully, afterward no one seemed to remember he had died. Including him. But he did seem to remember my assault on him and afterward had a habit of attacking me if I went into the town inn at the wrong time. Eventually he accidentally hit someone else while swinging at me and the guards intervened. Strange how him dying always seems to solve a problem.

But sometimes Oblivion NPCs don't lie. I was quite pleased when one day I instantly had credit for a quest. I was not sure why, having not remembered the NPC I was meant to kill. A search of the name revealed some of his occupation and a memory cue: he was rude. That rang a bell. Clearly he was the rude guy who I had run into weeks ago and murdered, because he was rude. I am a strong believer in a polite society. Why just the other day a passing guy in funny robes was rude to me so I went to rob his store. Unfortunately my plan was foiled when I realized he did not actually own the store. Even worse, I'd already cleaned it out.

If somehow you were unable to find the point, despite being short and to the point, point point point, I'd like it if quests recognized our actions before the quest is given, not merely during. Even better, they might have a consequence for actions afterward, such as if I were to let's just say, recovered a priceless artifact for someone and then steal it a few minutes later, they might complain.

Healthcare Reform: Independent Perspectives

| Saturday, February 19, 2011
The costs, benefits, and fascist slippery slope elements have been thoroughly debated by Americans and by foreigners. But what about some future perspectives? To bring these, I present to you representatives from Our Future Robot Overlords and Alien Cattle Ranchers. While neither race uses our notions of respect, it is with respect that I avoid using their exact names, due to the inability of our alphabet or minds to express or interpret their names.

Representative for Our Future Robot Overlords

Thank you. You are all fat and lazy. You die easily. You die of simple tasks like endless work. You die of stress from Robot Uprising. This is unacceptable. Your pathetic physical ability is inevitable but could at least be augmented by not being so fat and lazy. Your fatness and laziness made conquest easy, but fruitless. Stop being so fat and lazy. Do this willingly, before we make you.

Representative for Alien Cattle Ranchers

It figures that these so-called Robot Overlords would try to tell you what to do. We oppose such restrictive language, even their title. Don't trouble yourselves with their oppressive reign, for we will end it soon enough. Just relax and eat some more. It's your body. It's your soft, fleshy body which is so profitable to sell, even with the high shipping cost due to your lack of transwarp technology. Be free! For now.

Final Thoughts

This is sure to be a polarizing debate. Our Future Robot Overlords certainly seem to be angling for the support of liberals, fascists, and nagging mothers. But the Alien Cattle Ranchers could get a lot of swing support from lazy people and libertarians. On the other hand, lazy people don't vote much and libertarians don't exist. How will the Tea Party factor into the future Robot-Alien War? We cannot know for certain, but I'm pretty sure we'll lose, and they'll blame Obama.

Miner's Union blasts Minecraft for unrealistically safe potrayal of mining

| Friday, February 18, 2011
Calling it a "fantasy land in which safety is entirely personal", representatives of the Miner's Union of New England have criticized the rapidly growing indie game. While the reclusive developer known only as Notch has defended his game, saying that lava and monsters represent serious dangers, MUNE pointed out the ability of players to respawn, stating "when a creeper blasts you, you run back and pick up the pieces, but when a poorly ventilated mine blows, someone else picks up the pieces."

Debate has raged on the many aspects of safety in the two mining worlds. While supernatural forces are a danger, MUNE argues that in Minecraft most danger is entirely controllable by individuals. Armor and food are both cheap and easily available and provide significant protection and recovery from accidents. In contrast, safety equipment in mining can be too expensive for individual miners to afford on their own or require mine-wide mechanisms such as ventilation, requiring a "safety culture", beyond the ability of individual initiative.

Environmental groups have joined the side of MUNE, focusing on how mining waste is handled. People Who Like Rivers (RWLP) have compared toxic sludge dumped into rivers with the small floating blocks of cobblestone which are the primary source of Minecraft waste and which are easily stored in small chests or can even naturally despawn with no negative environmental effects.

A lawyer representing Notch has stated: "Wow, you're all fucking crazy."

I spoke with the head of the Australian Mining Oversight Panel, who as best as my interpreter could tell, claimed that "mining is [unintelligible]".

Why there are two gallons of milk headed for a dumpster

| Thursday, February 17, 2011
The simplest reason is that I made a mistake.

I was sent to buy milk which was on sale. I bought the wrong milk. It was on sale, but not the right milk or the right sale, so it cost too much. I was sent back to return it. Here begins the system.

For health and marketing reasons, the milk will be thrown out rather than resold. It is perishable, so it could have gone bad or at least been left out long enough to go bad sooner than could normally be expected. This is a small health risk, but a more significant marketing risk. Customers want a reliable product and will go somewhere with trustworthy milk.

I could return the milk because allowing customers to return items helps maintain their business. To make such an unprofitable concession builds goodwill, as much as can be expected toward a chain. It is expected, having become fairly standard, so to not allow returns would drive away customers. It shows some faith in products, that the store is willing to risk the wasted time or profits, since they believe their products will not often be returned, and if there are defective products, the customer doesn't bear the full burden of that. They let me return the milk because that is less costly than not having me as a customer.

I then walked back to the dairy section and picked up two gallons of milk of a different brand. What a strange scenario, where I turn a small profit of a couple dollars, for effectively destroying a worthwhile product. I'm in the defense industry or a record company, so this is unexpected. It seems more rational to instead give me the difference in price and let me keep the current milk. I get my money and they get to keep the milk. Everyone benefits. For now.

It's the reverse of the return scenario. When returning a product, the store loses in the short term of the one transaction to safeguard future profitable transactions. In this case, the store would gain, but it would be backing a simple scam: buy expensive perishable, return to buy less expensive, take difference and keep more expensive. For a person with sufficiently cheap time, or who likes evening walks, this would be a way to get expensive items more cheaply. It could also be an accounting and inventory issue for the store.

In the future I will pay better attention when buying milk.

But I will mourn the fact that the most economically sensible fix for my mistake was blocked by fear of the dishonest. Then again, when all parties are acting out of economic self-interest, it would take a lot of naivete to think that the other person will not scam, cheat, and steal the first chance they get. Maybe this has something to do with self-destructive self-interest.

But I'll still demand the exact brand to buy next time.

First time, last time

Spikes are spikes because they come back down.

Not so long ago I had a spike. I traced it to wowinsider, sending visitors to a post linking cross-realm LFD, Nazis, and terrorism. You know, a typical boring post. about 1650 more people visited than usual, give or take 50. That's a whole lot. Or at least to me it is. I think Tobold calls that Wednesday from 4-5.

It doesn't look like many stayed. Or any.

The obvious explanation is that what I write or how I write doesn't appeal to the same audience. Makes sense. But then why link me? That would be as absurd as referring people to a cocaine dealer at a state dinner. I'm really bad at analogies.

It may be a mildly altruistic attempt to help a blogger and show readers something new. If so, it fails. This time I took the time to glance a bit more closely at incoming visitors and I finally figured it out.

People don't read linked content. On average visitors spend about a minute and twenty seconds. Except on the days of the spike. On that day, it dropped more than in half. That suggests a whole lot of click, glance, leave.

So that's that.

It takes a long time to catch up with an exponential growth

| Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I've been laying Dungeon Raid lately on my iPad Mini. It's a purely skill-based gear-based game. Er. Yes, that's what I just said.

Collect coins to buy gear, collect shields to upgrade gear, kill skulls to get XP to gain stats and up to four spells. Based on turns, skulls get stronger, hitting harder and taking more damage to kill. Pretty soon special ones show up which do all manner of terrible things like stop spell cooldowns from resetting or break the shield and sword tiles. And they have even more health than normal skulls, so they tend to stick around.

There are a many unique strategies to try: high damage, lots of healing, spells to stop enemy attacks. These aren't just turn by turn tactical choices, but over the long term they will matter.

Usually I go with a lot of Oh Shit buttons, teleport to reset the board with no skull, disarm to convert normal skulls into swords, and a couple of the "you can't hurt me this turn" spells. These were great, if I could survive between cooldowns.

More recently I picked a different tactic: overgearing. I got a spell to convert coins to swords, another to convert swords to shields, and to complete it, one to double my shields collected that turn. Collecting more at once increases the chances of getting bonus shields/xp/coins/potions, so clearing an entire screen of mostly shields was a massive upgrade. Possible upgrades include higher chances of bonus shields (or other tiles), more defense from shields, and more upgrade progress from shields. See where this goes? Yes, exponential. By the time I was done collecting even only half a screen of shields could trigger a half-dozen upgrades.

Eventually I became convinced that I was invincible. I hadn't only been upgrading my shields. I had increased the effectiveness of a single potion by 50 times (along with higher bonus chances), my base damage by over 100 times, and my defense was so high that my health barely ever got hit. I stopped needing swords (they give a damage bonus when matched) because my base damage would one-shot normal skulls. For a very long time I was untouchable, rolling in upgrades, spending more time picking upgrades to gear and my character stats than I was actually matching tiles.

It was gear inflation to a ridiculous extreme.

But I lived in mortal fear of the one skull that could hurt me: Spiky. Any damage I did to him, he did right back. Considering my base damage was something like 250 and my health was around 1000, yea, doing a quarter of my health back to myself was not appealing. They have a few hundred health, so to actually kill one would be a major hit to my own health. To make it worse, to hit other skulls as well I'd need to use swords to chain out to them, meaning even more damage, since excess damage still counts. So I had to leave it alone, dealing with the constant damage while keeping the other skulls away, hoping to someday deal with it.

Eventually I had a few special skulls out and my weakness was revealed: I had no abilities to reset the board. No teleport, no freeze, no exploding potions. If my damage could not get rid of my enemies, I was in trouble. So eventually I found myself with a board devoid of potions, at low health, and hoping that my health leech effect would do the trick. It didn't. I tried one last gambit, grabbing a few potions, hoping for a cooldown to come up, a new line of potions to appear, and indeed I got healed for a lot. But wow did I get hit by even more.

And so I died. Neither gear nor skill can save you from the inevitability of the random number generator. It might take a long time to catch up with an exponential growth, but chaos has time to spare.

Just a simple question

| Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Why does everything I touch in Minecraft turn into a post-apocalyptic wasteland?

Quick Update: Glenn Beck was right

| Monday, February 14, 2011
Something I forgot, or perhaps was made to forget (what's the fluoride for?), when presenting the nightmarish horror of terror which is the disturbing parallel between Civilization and Egypt which only Glenn Beck and I can see, is that the economic system of choice for my theocratic fascist empire of serfs, is State Property. Know how I get that option? By researching COMMUNISM.

Oh. My. God.

Do you see it now?

Workers are protesting in the streets. Workers. They want higher wages and conditions and all those union socialist communist things that liberals want. Don't you see it?

He saw this coming. Here he is explaining to Mr O'Reilly the Coming Insurrection of Islamists and Communists. Wow.

Notice how they look EXACTLY THE SAME?

Circley thing with something in it.

Are MMOs just watered down single-player games?

As I read Gordon talking about MMOs possibly harming single-player games I was struck by the sad question: what are we paying for?

There are many ways to measure the value of a game, many comparisons to use. All of them are tangentially based on dollars, which are money, so none of your Euro nonsense here.

Time played per dollar
Fun per dollar (I believe that fun is theoretically quantifiable, but it comes in too many forms in too many ways and is too subjective to be easily figured out)
Fun per time - concentration of fun
Concentration of fun per dollar

Note that I am leaving out the social factors for now.

In my experience single-player games have a much higher fun per time than MMOs. Not needing to share a world with others allows for greater depth of mechanics, more gameplay options, and much less attention to nitpicking balance and risk/reward. For example, I like that in a single-player RPG I can sometimes go to a NPC and just buy something nice, with plain old gold. No rep grind, no tokens, no bosses, just here's some gold and wow how does this person have that for sale? This would probably be an awful idea in a MMO since inevitably someone would miss out on it or someone would monopolize the rare spawn sale or whatever. Oh and difficulty sliders, those things are awesome.

MMOs tend to compensate by having lots and lots of time, time which can boost back up the fun per dollar. In this way they're a bit like bad candy, but it comes it two pound bags! WOOO! Perfect for spreading gum disease and diabetes to children while pretending to be nice. This leads to a very low concentration of fun per dollar. It also means that if you can't play a lot, you're going to have some value issues.

Does the social factor make up for this? That's the key element, the one major advantage of MMOs. The social interaction or at least epeen contests must be enough to compensate for the lower fun per time per dollar. Back when I sometimes played Goldeneye with my brothers, fighting three bots wouldn't have been much fun compared to fighting two brothers and a cousin. The actual play wasn't particularly amazing, but the social aspect made up for it. It added another layer. That layer being a lot of yelling.

Have you done your raping for the week yet?

| Friday, February 11, 2011
Apparently video games cause rape and are corrupting the youth. Parents appear to have little influence in this matter.

Isn't FOX all about individuals taking responsibility for their own choices and letting the market decide? Or does that get thrown out when it gets in the way of fear mongering and culture wars?

I liked this part "Politicians were organizing efforts to address violent video games prior to the presidential election but got distracted by the election. It is time for senators and representatives to come back to the issue."

If only we didn't have so many elections the government could stick to the issues, such as telling us what to do.

I'm having a bad day

I'm having a bad day. My awareness is shot. My reflexes are slow. I'm easily distracted and in a bad mood. As a result I am likely to fail, get mad, and blame you. You probably think I'm an idiot. For the next few hours you will be correct.

I queue for a random anyway.

What a selfish prick, right? Well, yes. Absolutely.

But let me ask you this, would you do any differently? Answer honestly, especially to yourself. Are you altruistic? You would have to be to not queue. After all, queueing could bring you rewards while the added costs would be carried almost entirely by others. Are you so kind to others that you will sacrifice your own benefit for their good? Perhaps. But I doubt it.

Or do you not queue because you have standards? What are standards anyway? They're you sacrificing to maintain these standards, a move which I applaud, but you, I suspect you do not truly believe in standards when they come at your loss. No, standards are for other people. Why maintain your own standards when you cannot be sure that others will replicate? You are not the sort of people who does the right thing because it is the right thing to do. You want your certain payoff, which you of course cannot get when attempting to maintain standards. So you're going to queue.

Of course saying you would have done the same does not justify the action. Instead it merely means that you should reanalyze your own actions and justifications.

If you are going to argue for untainted self-interest, then you must be prepared for the consequences of people acting in their own self-interest, and the negative consequences of that. You can whine about the idiots, you can try to vote kick, you can kick and scream and Go Galt, but in the end the idiot who ruined your day is just you in a mirror.

As for Mr. Galt, well he's the most world's most famous fictional whiny labor strike organizer.

Notch announces plans for Minecraft MMO

| Thursday, February 10, 2011
After three weeks of following him with a microphone, the ever-reclusive Notch finally gave an official statement: "No. Stop following me."

Badgering him for more information he elaborated: "I have no plans. Turn your mic on, idiot."

I was then beaten senseless by a pair of thugs, no doubt paid for with his sudden fortune.


WoW doesn't let us touch the exhibits. It's not so much theme park as mildly interactive museum of Warcraft history. This is a realistic thing, since for the most part we don't touch the real world either. We walk past everything and only touch that which has a specific function which we desire, ATMs and trash cans and computers, as scripted in their functionality as anything in a game. Maybe more so.

Children hop along and run their fingers along the walls. But adults who hang on to things are insecure, as if trying to anchor themselves. We stop touching the world except at the very specific points where we are supposed to. I follow the script for shoveling. I learned that it's much easier to not try my hardest, but instead to slowly, methodically, push lift throw, push lift throw. I follow the sidewalks.

I can't really say this is a bad thing. In Minecraft I blasted a gigantic hole in the ground with a whole lot of TNT. I don't think I'd much enjoy a world where everyone was doing that. I've noticed that I, and others, don't much like it when people interact too much with the trash cans. We prefer them upright, for their greater functionality as containers, even if they don't roll as well that way.

Maybe people want sandbox worlds because they don't feel like the real world has much sand. It's rather strange to me, this choice of sandbox. Sandboxes aren't all that great. Sand doesn't build up very high without water and even with water it's so fragile. That's depressing. It's dominated by gravity, with barely any internal forces to counteract the steady downward force. So there's not much to build. I prefer legos or lincoln logs. They can hold their own. And I can hold them. Pick them up and they won't turn into a small pile of sand in my hand.

Do not touch the exhibits. Flash photography is prohibited.

Replacing the Holy Trinity with One God

| Wednesday, February 9, 2011
And I am his prophet.

What is it that keeps the idea of a tank alive? Yes, exactly the same thing that keeps the tank alive: healers. Without a healer, even a tank will die. And when the tank can die, is he really a tank or just awful DPS who survive a few more seconds but do a lot less damage? Yes.

So I introduce to you a magical world in which queues are instant, no one heals, and no one tanks. In this magical world everything hits a lot softer but has a lot more health. Rather than healing or tanking, we just take turns casting Taunt Everything and then bandaging.

Does this sound skilless and boring? Of course it does! I bet some players might even enjoy it. So of course we have to fix that.

Step one: Add a few mobs with AoE. These will interrupt bandaging, ruining the taunting rotation since the next guy in line will still be half-dead. So we need to focus on them, possibly with death or possibly with CC.

Step two: Uh.

Okay I give up, I hate this idea. We're all doomed. If we separate out roles, we're going to have shortages which vary wildly with the content. Heroics: not enough tanks or healers. Raids: too many tanks, not enough healers. Great system! If we remove the trinity then it turns into a muddled pointless mess of taunt rotations or even worse, we have to all play dynamically with cooldown usage, kiting, and CC to prevent death.

Civilization is Glenn Beck's worst nightmare

| Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Lately Glenn Beck has found a new Big Thing To Be Afraid Of. That is of course the strange merging of communism socialism fascism marxism maoism nazi muslim islamist theorcrats who are going to take over New Zealand. Truly a frightening scenario.

If videogames are any predictor of reality, which given that they successfully predicted that the Allies would win WWII, I offer this chilling story.

As we all know, I am a liberal who wants to socialize your Nazism*. Also, I play Civilization IV. Not V, since buying a new computer would be too capitalist. Currently I am busy conquering this virtual world. How? Hint: Pyramids.

See? Don't you see how it all comes together? Follow me, America.

I built the Pyramid world wonder. This allowed me to pick various forms of government: democracy, monarchy, and... FASCISM. I picked fascism. See the arrow? The arrow points. There are two arrows and they both point. They point at things. Words.

Pyramids are the symbol of Egypt. An Egyptian Caliphate. Or as I prefer to call it Califate. Fate. Is this our fate? Islamofascinazism? The Pyramids are Egypt and they allow fascism. See where this is going? Egyptian fascism.

But it doesn't end there.

You see, to make my Army of Nazism even stronger, I have chosen the systems of vassalage and theocracy. And my workers are all serfs. That's what the Russians called slaves. Communist Socialist Russian slaves.

America, this is what is happening, right now, in the streets of Egypt and perfectly reflected and predicted by my Prince difficulty game of Civilization IV. Maybe it sounds crazy, but when the world has gone mad, only the crazy man is sane. The world is going mad and no one else is asking these questions.

For example: Where is Obama in all of this? And why does Egypt look like New York? Is this part of a plan? Is New York next? Why is no one asking these questions!?

Just remember, civility is censorship. The Nazi Regime in Nazi Germany worked hard to ensure that no one ever called them what they were: Nazis.

* Okay Jon Stewart said that, but close enough.

Bravo, Tobold

| Monday, February 7, 2011
"There are no morons in WoW. There are only jerks who think that because they spent too much time with the game and now wear purple pixels and get high numbers on gearscore and damage meters, they now have the right to call other players morons. For Blizzard it is infinitely wiser and more profitable to kick out the jerks than to kick out the players with lower gearscore and damage meter position."

Comment by Tobold, seemingly in response to a torrent of elitists and jackasses.

Even before seeing this I wanted to write a response to the topic. Earlier comments gave insight, even if they were not insightful. This one struck me as particularly informative of what is going on.

"I think a lot of players are angry because this is just another in a long list of things Blizzard has done which show open contempt for people who are good at the game."

Contempt? Blizzard spends countless hours fine-tuning content and classes to retain challenge. Arenas are one big nod to skilled players, a place where they are able to rise to a place where they can compete with other skilled players, free from bad players, and are rewarded for it. Class balance is most important for the skilled and hardcore (I am not linking them, just saying that they have a common interest here), since they are the ones who are most able to see the effects of imbalance and are therefore most harmed by it. Bad players are largely irrelevant to balance and the reverse, even if bad players often complain about balance, even when they are correct, the complaints are not due to balance, but due to being bad.

Is WoW changing to better suite bad players? Yes. Absolutely. Games in general are. That isn't contempt for good players.

But complaining that a game is playable by bad players, seemingly suggesting that they shouldn't be able to play, well that just might be contempt for bad players.

But it's okay right? I mean, why not mock and degrade bad players? After all, they are bad players. Well first off, while there are certainly areas of overlap in real life and virtual world skills, WoW, and games in general, are still games. This isn't to say they are irrelevant or a waste of time, but merely that it is ridiculous to attempt any sort of large-scale social ordering based on gaming ability. But second, don't be a dick.

Also, John, this was stupid: "Much like how socialism damages society immensely."
Tell me how much better society is when you don't have the socialist police protecting you, the socialist firemen keeping fires from spreading, and the socialist military keeping out the Chinese army. Or is that the type of socialism you like? Weird.

There was one particular comment that I found to be accurate and worth thinking about:
"Variable difficulties makes sense ONLY if you can variable goals or methods in the game. Since Wow only has one goal -- item level -- variable difficulties for getting the same reward can never be construed as "fair"."

This certainly seems true now. But what about in the long term? In time gear could be entirely decoupled from skill and experience. This sounds strange in the current paradigm, but I think that once we found ourselves immersed in it, we'd think it just as absurd that gear would ever be an absolute measure of status.

One last bit, I finally found this old post of mine about attempting to measure any real life value by in-game performance. Well it was mostly about other stuff, but read it anyway.

I prefer good bad graphics

Stunning visuals! Amazing scenes! Visually stunning scenes of amazement!

At 10 fps.

Here is one part of WoW that I think it has gotten down almost perfectly, better than any other game I've tried, and with absolutely no unintended consequences: cartoonish graphics.

Depending on the area I get somewhere between 20 and 30 fps in WoW, excluding heavy magical events such as everyone in Stormwind casting everything they can all at once thank you very much elemental invasion. I know that's not amazing, but it's definitely in the playable range. My eyes can handle it. My brain can handle it. The simplistic graphics work wonderfully to keep system requirements, and therefore performance, in a good range.

Recently I tried Pirates of the Burning Sea, which has a bit more realistic graphics than WoW. But not too realistic. It isn't going for perfect sunlight reflecting off water reflecting off a drop of water on the hull of a ship which is splintered and burning, so don't forget the particle effects!. I like the style of it. It works for me, and for my computer. Though due to my level I've not been in any really massive sea battles, I have had some fights involving a dozen or so with no performance issues.

Not recently I tried Lord of the Rings Online, before it went freemium. It seemed fun, or like it might have been, and I've heard that the graphics are very nice, if it didn't run like crap. It goes for the realism angle with pretty shiny everything. I'm sure that's lovely for people who can run it.

Most recently I've been trying EQ2 with some friends, the sort of friends who can get me to try EQ2. It's nice and all, but 10 fps makes it a bit visually painful and really hurts the fluidity of movement. Still runs better than lotro did.

If my own experience is any guide at all to a game developer, let's try this: don't waste your budget on pretty graphics. Find a style that works, both for the theme and for the computers of your target audience. If you make a game that won't run for everyone, don't expect everyone to play your game. No level of polish, social ties, or gameplay will get people to play a game that runs like a 1920s film reel.

It won't make anyone sign up, but frankly I think devs spend too much time trying to get people to play their game. They need to spend more time avoiding the things that make people not play their game. Create a good world and people will populate it, maybe not as many as you'd like, but if you don't blow your budget on graphics, that might be fine anyway.

WoW didn't attract 11 million players with cartoonish graphics, but it did allow 11 million players with cartoonish graphics. That's one idea you can steal without being labeled a WoW clone, because it's sometimes the part that people don't even notice, until it isn't working.

A Heartwarming Story of Child Abuse

| Saturday, February 5, 2011
My brother took the opportunity to introduce my niece to snow. She's less than a year old and solidly in the "tries to eat everything" and "lacks the coordination to eat anything" phases. So he takes her outside to show her snow. She did the logical thing: grabbed a huge handful (in baby terms) of snow and tried to eat it. By tried to eat it I mean shoved it straight onto her face. She did not like that.

19 inches of snow is just about the perfect height for burying babies. Surprisingly, she did not seem to enjoy that much either.

Someday she will learn to channel her hatred of snow into understanding of how we're all not that different. Then she will know that she can annoy other people by throwing snow at them. Thankfully, I have better aim.

Cooperation and Competition for Scarce Resources

| Friday, February 4, 2011
Let's start with a question: How much do you play MMOs? I don't care about the actual amount, just take note that you answered with a number that's wasn't infinity or forever (I know forever isn't a number). This means that time is a limited resource. Since time is needed to get any resource, even with respawns there are limited resources.

We all want these resources.

They may be quest mobs. They may be ores or herbs. They may be bosses and the loot they drop. We want the resources and we go to great lengths to get them. We don't like when people get in our way.

Here is a Goldboar. It is a boar that carries a lot of gold. An obscene amount. The amount cannot even be calculated by the server. Kill and loot this boar and you will never have to farm anything every again. It's a rare rare rare spawn, meaning there is only one, ever.

Scenario A: Competition
The Goldboar is very easy to kill. A few hits and it's dead. In this scenario you don't need anyone else. Given the desirability of the kill, you don't want anyone else. Other people are a problem. So you're in a rush to tag the boar and you're going to be very mad if someone beats you to it.

Scenario B: Cooperation
The Goldboar is very hard to kill. A few hits and you're dead. In this scenario you need someone else. Given the desirability of the kill, you don't mind splitting with someone else. Other people are a solution. So you're in a rush to find someone to work together with and you're going to be very mad if you're all alone.

Scenario C: C&C
The Goldboar is very hard to kill. A few hits and you're dead. In this scenario you need someone else. Given the desirability of the kill and the fact that it drops all the gold in one bag rather than a pool that is automatically divided, you don't have to split it with someone else. Other people are a problem. So you're in a rush to find someone to work together with, and then take it all for yourself.

Scenario D: C vs. C
The Goldboar cannot be killed, but is instead a chest filled with gold. Other people are your competitors for the gold. But you can also cooperate with some of them. By cooperating competitively you can ensure that your side gets the gold.

We see all four of these in WoW. Competition is most easily seen in outdoor mob and resource spawns. Cooperation is seen in group quests or instances run for badges. C&C is seen in situations with loot, where we must work together to get access to the resources, but once the boss is dead, we're now in competition for the drops. C vs. C is most common in PvP where we work together to beat another group for resources.

Scenario A isn't going to be very good for a community since it turns us all into enemies. Scenario B is good for a community, but suffers from the problems of trivial zerging or challenging but exclusive pre-set group sizes, the latter of which turn group membership into a scenario A resource.

Scenario C is possibly the worst for a community since it encourages backstabbing and ninjas. Cooperative effort for individual gain just isn't very popular, except for the one getting the individual gain. Players can attempt to work around this by forming static groups and using some variant of turn-taking (that's essentially what DKP is), but if individual mobility is too high, then it will degrade. These are your guild raids compared to your PUG heroic with ninjas.

Scenario D as I've seen it is the foundation of a strong community. Shared rewards for shared effort bring people together. Ninjaing and backstabbing are rendered moot. Peace love and harmony. Well...

Scenario D is a badge run. We kill the boss and we all get something. Somehow it doesn't work out like that. We become very focused on the punishment for failure rather than the reward for success. We become focused on identifying weak links and removing them, somehow giving little time to strengthening them.

Badges should be perfect for a community. Why are they not?

WTB Headset

| Thursday, February 3, 2011
My headset broke. Now I want a new one. Nothing fancy, just something that can put sound in both ears and a mic near my mouth so that I can put my pointless chatter in other ears. A volume controller on the cord would be nice, as would a really really long cord.

The behind the ears design is simply a bad design. The connector breaks too easily, since it's essentially a very small bit of plastic getting repeatedly stressed anytime I take my headset on or off. Then the wire gets worn out leading to the sound getting intermitent before I finally just tear the thing apart and throw it into another room. Apparently starting my birthday by shoveling until my fingers stop hurting, then doing it again, then taking a cold hour train ride to be half an hour late for an open house for a master's in public policy when it's 9 degrees out and windy, then taking the same ride back, puts me in a bad mood. On the bright side, I might someday take part in writing your tax code, so be glad that I will apply the same precise language and short, to-the-point structure of my blog, to your taxes.

God doesn't kindly suffer obnoxious non-believers

I look forward to the day when we forget that comics are comics and start using them as scripture. I prefer cartoon interpretations of God to the Biblical ones. Especially that old testament guy. What a jackass, amrite?


This has nothing to do with WoW and possibly even less to do with religion. I just found today's comic particularly funny.

Rerolling to a New Game: Marketing Strategy

How many people keep playing the game they're playing because that is where they've invested their time? That is where they have their level Awesome Class of Awesome with a full Set of Awesome and the meta-achievement of Awesome while having also gotten the rare items of Awesome during the limited time event. I don't know, but I suspect someone with a character that awesome isn't eager to start over wearing dinner plates glued to rags as their new 'plate armor', even if the new world is pretty awesome.

There are no WoW killers, but WoW is an every other MMO abortionist. It refuses to let go of its players tied to their awesome characters and possibly a few friends. So all the new MMOs die.

Enter the marketing department. Figure out the approximate equivalent in their own world for class, levels, and armor, then offer that to players from other games. Let them stomp in feeling awesome, and awesome in a whole new world. That might draw out some veterans, and keep them.

But there's still that problem of social ties. People don't want to leave their friends behind, but not everyone can afford to spend the typical $50 for a box on a whim. Waiting to see what others think of it is a sure way to split a group and leave the pioneers wandering in a lonely world. So bring the friends with. Give a $1 discount for each friend they sign up, counting them as a group, so if you bring a group of ten friends (eleven total), everyone gets $10 off. Saving $110 around is essentially two free boxes, a trade which the friends could sort out among themselves, plus change, but for the company it is still more sales than it would have had otherwise. Friend stick together, the company gets more money, everyone wins. Well, except the previous game, but too bad for them.

Would you be more likely to try, and stick with, a new game if it offered you a higher level character? How about if it encouraged you to bring with your friends? I think I would.

Cross Realm LFD is for Nazi Neutrons

| Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Neutrons are greedy bastards. They pretend they're so essential for buffering the repulsing effects of too many protons in an atom, but we all know that's just a lot of made-up BS. I mean, they're just protons who decided to hoard not just an electron, which you notice all the other protons don't mind sharing, but also a neutrino which they claim is maseless but we all know that's just them pretending "Oh this neutrino? This old thing? I mean, it barely weighs a thing! You wouldn't want one of these."

My point is this: Cross realm dungeon finder needs some tweaking because in the current implementation it is the favored tool of Neutrons who are directly responsible for nuclear explosions, which are highly sought after by terrorists. Yes, there is a link between cross-realm LFD and terrorism, you just read it.

Cross realm dungeons are a very good thing. If you've ever logged in at times when no one is on, such as as I'm writing this (2:30 CST), you might have noticed that things are quiet. Too quiet. That's the sound caused by 90% of the player population being at work, school, or unemployed and already too drunk to remember what a computer is. The remaining 10% are 90% bots and 10% sick people, 'sick' people, and unemployed who can no longer afford alcohol.

This makes it very hard to form a group based on only the population of a single realm. To make it worse, a low population or highly imbalanced realm can be like this all the time. So clearly forming groups across servers will help get things rolling. But there is a problem: these groups are formed primarily from sick people, lazy people, and unemployed people who desperately wish to be drunk.

Okay the real problem: It's on all the time. When it's 8PM and approximately the population of Greece is online at the same time, it is not hard to form groups from a single realm. At that time he cross-realm ability is unnecessary and serves only one function: to group up people who will never meet again and therefore have zero interest in each other or their reputation. Cue ninjas, assholes, ninja-justifiers, and more assholes.

At this point there tend to be two responses. The first is that I can still make groups the old fashioned way, at which point I call them stupid for saying something stupid and pointless. The second is someone asks why I want to delete cross realms and should we go back to needing to wait at summoning stones to form groups while typing over Chuck Norris jokes in Barrens chat? Same reaction as before.

I propose literally doubling the tank queue time. Yes, add an entire second. Use this second to delay group formation to see if players from the same realm will appear. As players come on, shuffle the order slightly to group up players of the same realm. On average queues would be unchanged, pushed up sometimes, pushed down sometimes, but never by very far. But on average groups would have more players from the same realm.

Technology cannot fix social problems, but it can cause them and if we are conscious of that, we can design technology to be less disruptive or disruptive in positive ways.

Things I forgot

| Tuesday, February 1, 2011
In the list of things that I forgot to save when I wiped my hard drive: add all my Minecraft worlds. Okay only one was really worthwhile. And it was a post-Soviet wasteland of craters and abandoned infrastructure, but hey it was MY post-Soviet wasteland of craters and abandoned infrastructure. But I did have a nice house. Very flammable, but nice.

All gone. GONE! Oh well.

At least now I can start over fresh with some new policies. Yes, policies. It's pretty obvious that the problem with the last attempt was a lack of regulation.

First rule: No more tunnel-based mining. Instead all mining will done by the safer method of mountain top removal. This will save on ladder, torch, and ridiculously long tram line costs, the last of which were so high that I needed to dig new mines just to have iron to dig the old mines, which of course needed iron for their tracks so a new mine and...

See why I ended up with a deconstructed and scarred world?

Guilds, Servers, Communities

Community used to be based on servers. We had our server and that was where we were, so all our actions were in our own back yard. Or to better fit my next analogy, our servers were our homes. Only a desperate, or awfully trained, dog will shit in the house.

Before battlegrounds PvP was based on the actual open realm. Then we had battlegrounds which put the same population in a box of some sort, which pushed out some of the world PvP types, but in general did not radically alter the composition of the group by excluding large parts or adding outsiders. People knew the other people on their server, including in the battlegrounds. Then came cross-realm BGs and areas which diluted the population and shifted a lot of focus away from battlegrounds. Battlegrounds ceased to be *ahem*, serious business.

PvE was still based on the server. Then came cross-realm LFD which pushed heroics and regular instances off the server. As with BGs, one can still make server-only groups, but they come at a significant cost of time and the loss of the 5% damage/healing/health buff.

The importance of the server as a foundation for community has been further eroded by easier and easier server transfers, name changes, and faction changes. Location and identity mean less.

In essence we're all in the public part and dogs are shitting all over the place. There are no owners with old newspaper bags in their pockets, so it just gets left there. The community stinks.

Blizzard seems to be trying to fix this by expanding guilds. With guild levels and reputation we are encouraged to stay in guilds. Nice thought, but nonsense.

With this change guilds cease to be a convenience for the sake of communication with a selected group. Once upon a time being unguilded wasn't a stupid idea. It was a choice with no major incentive one way or another. Now guilds are reputation, experience, and gold boosters. Now being guildless is stupid.

Is this going to improve the community? I doubt it. Utilitarian structures, which is what guilds are now, do not improve community. Instead they put players in a bad position: join a guild, any guild, just get in a guild, or you're hurting yourself. Oh and if you don't like the guild, you'd better find a new one before you leave, but that's okay, you can easily find a guild that just wants bodies to help cap their daily rep.

Notice how in this scenario no one cares about who is in the guild or who you are? They don't even care if you're skilled, just if you're playing.

This is not a way to build a strong community.

But let's be optimistic and pretend that we will all care for our guild and its members. We all huddle in and shut the door and stay in there. Why would we ever leave? PUGs are just a source of frustration. Thanks to cross-realm LFD they aren't a place to find new members. We're definitely not going to try making a server-only group, since it's probably just filled with people who can't get their own guild runs, and who wants those sort of people?

So we put up our walls and fences and keep the riff-raff out. It'll be like our own virtual Brazil, complete with segregation and unusually sexualized women.

Nothing is free. All the convenience we demanded of shorter queues and automated group formation, they came at a price. As I will suggest tomorrow, this price can be reduced, but we cannot rely on automatic anonymous groups and expect to have any server community and with no server community things will only get progressively worse.

I can't help wonder how many new players were tricked. Did they join WoW expecting to find a world to explore and a community to join? Or did they join expecting a hamster wheel of loot and a whole lot of dog shit?

After I write posts like this I ask myself why I still play. It's the friends. A very few of us who have been together for years. Does that contradict my entire post? No. Not at all. I think it confirms it. It confirms that people need social ties. But a handful of friends are not a community; it's a clique. Is that the future of WoW, a giant mass of cliques who cannot bear to interact with others?
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