The weakness of Minecraft as an explorer game

| Friday, September 30, 2011
Minecraft has one really big advantage over any other game for explorers: no one can spoil it for you. No one can pressure you to spoil it for yourself either. Everything is yours to find.

But what is there to find?

Obviously there are minerals and a few neat places. And the edge of the world where everything goes crazy.

Beside that, what is there to find?

I think the fun of exploration comes from three areas. First is uniqueness: what we find is different from what we have seen, and as an added bonus we may feel that we are one of only a few to have seen it. Second is beauty: the place we find, perhaps a view, is beautiful. Third is humanity: A pile of rocks and ancient ruins are different because of the human element, even if both are essentially just piles of rocks.

Minecraft locations lack a significant sense of uniqueness. While they are all different, most places of the same biosphere look essentially the same. Only rarely will anything really strange appear. Maybe that's actually a strength. Beyond this, the "no one else has seen this" element is missing, because while no one else has seen it, much of it isn't worth seeing, and that condition applies equally to everything from the first tree you see to the very furthest edge of the world.

Minecraft doesn't do beauty. This isn't a knock on the graphics; it just isn't a game that generates beautiful places.

There are no people in Minecraft. There are none before you and none after you. What you find is the result of chaos and is meaningless.

P.S. You might have noticed that this is the second post today and the first one has mysteriously vanished along with Kring's comment. The first post had some excessively large inaccuracies, so it may come back later after I fix it.

Bethesda knows how to play the game

| Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I finally get it and it is fucking BRILLIANT.

Short version: Notch of Minecraft fame is making or doing something with a game called Scrolls and also Penny Arcade guy is involved, so I'm guessing this will be somewhere between the best game ever and even better than that. Bethesda is the maker of the Elder Scrolls series, or as I refer to it "Oblivion plus those other games that I didn't play." Bethesda is suing Notch or Mojang or maybe the pigmen in Minecraft, claiming that "scrolls" is copywritten because they have a copywrite on "elder scrolls" and obviously when we think "scrolls" we think "elder scrolls".

Except we don't. I mean sure, if you give me a while with a piece of paper and a word association exercise I'll get there eventually. But frankly, I'd get there a lot faster with "awesome game" than with "scrolls", because as Penny Arcade pointed out, scrolls aren't really the defining feature of the series, seeing as they are featured in Oblivion approximately once, in a side quest. Yea, the all-important scrolls aren't even part of the main plot line, but are instead relegated to an awesome, but negative karma side quest line involving stealing everything.

But games are what they make and games are what they play, and Bethesda is playing a damn smart game here.

After all this nonsense about scrolls, they have managed to shift my association. Yes, I now have a strong mental link between Elder Scrolls and scrolls. They have succeeded in manufacturing a reality.

They've also created links between "scrolls" and "frivolous lawsuits" and have reinforced my link between "corporate lawyers" and "people who should have been executed in Georgia rather than a quite possibly innocent man."

Scrolls is a god damn word. A word. Ooh, maybe I should get a copywrite on "word", and then sue anyone who ever tries to use word. Maybe I could sue Blizzard because "world" looks a bit like "word" and maybe when people are trying to buy my game Word they'll accidentally buy World of Warcraft. But with the way copywrite law works, I'd probably get sued instead, with some lawyer pretending that people bought Word when they meant to buy World of Warcraft. Meanwhile Microsoft would sit on the sidelines waiting to swoop in at the last minute and sue both of us.

People can buy free-range chickens and baby bottles with no carcinogens. I want to buy games without lawyers.

WoWing Around Again: Orcs

Grogthar sounded too much like an ogre, so I went with Grokthar.

Let's get right into it: kill boars. And so the ABOMINATIONS begin. They moved the boars. That's right, the once-convenient boar-killing area is now overrun with... a level one hare and humans with really awful stealth skill. It appears that all the boars are in someone's farm. Yea, my second quest, right after "talk to this guy", is "kill some peasant's means of survival."

The general goods vendor does a sexy dance on the cooking fire. A quest giver describes it as "embarrassing".

The level 2 rogues have fan of knives. And don't react when I kill their friends. The first part is blatantly ridiculous, but I do like that they captured the every-man-for-himself essence of the class, along with their utter refusal to initiate combat with a player at greater than 50% health.

Highforsure whined in general chat about getting dismounted. I tried to make fun of him, but was informed by the game that I do not have permission to speak. Ouch.

I hope I get to punch the lazy peons.


However, the sound is all screwed up. It's like a drum. It used to be a painful-sounding smack, like something important had gotten crushed and possibly some veins were setting free their long-imprisoned blood.

Did the scorpids always drop a tail? That seems wrong. What's the point of an MMO if animals always have the desired body part?

And then the zone ended.

Okay there was a bit between that, during which I attacked non-hostile demons and a big scorpion, all of which seemed to be exactly the same as before. It looks like Blizzard ran out of time, because it looks as if they did a slight rearranging of some mob locations and rewrote some quests slightly, but left most of it unchanged. Maybe the orc/troll zone was the one place that didn't suffer the 70% failure rate.

Early Durotar was about the same. Kill humans in the keep, pick up tools, kill warlocks in a cave, kill quillboar, get sent to the Barrens before you're anywhere close to done, get sent to the other cave up north while simultaneously being sent to the tower to the west. I don't mean to sound as if I am complaining. I had a good bit of fun in the area. The helping quests had that old style feel to them, by which I mean they were randomly scattered and did not at all stack up to a smooth flow from one to the next. And I accidentally killed my quest boss early because I thought it was a rare spawn. Clearly wasn't rare, since it respawned pretty quickly.

Grokthar is a protection warrior. It's not so much the protecting part that he cares about, he just likes hitting people with shields and it's an excuse to start fights. He's a blacksmith and was angry to find that he needed to fly all the way to Ogrimmar just for fine thread for some fancy copper pants. The new Orgrimmar is way too big to travel without a mount. They should add an in-city flight system. While I was in there, I wasted some time doing the fishing daily in the wrong pool. I probably should have tried to stop that kid with the balloons. His adventure cannot end well. This isn't a Pixar movie!

"Kill 12 Durotar Harpies. Any type of harpy will suffice." Way to rub it in, Blizzard. Oh yea, you know what you wrote. "Ha ha, fuckers, you spent 15 minutes in those damn canyons trying to get a respawn of the type that someone else killed first and you've gotten NONE but all you find are the type you don't need." Three times I leveled from finding chests, including one in the valley of the harpies.

Running past Brewfest, I did a few of the quests. The keg pony looked neat, so I thought I might try for that, but then I got lost trying to find the keg-thrower and remembered that I don't like the ram-racing anyway and why waste time collecting shinies on a throwaway account? This is something interesting that I've found: since this account is highly unlikely to become a full account, these characters have limits and are likely to be completely abandoned before long. Now my goal isn't racing to 85 or raiding, but to 15 and grouping. That's my primary interest now: seeing what the low-level grouping is like these days.

I did a trio of fighting quests for a guy with the title, the actual, Blizzard-given title of , helping him test his new gladiator slaves. For the record, one of them had rowed a canoe from Northrend to Azshara.

Prettier, but not better

| Tuesday, September 27, 2011
My video card took up archaeology again, by which I mean it started displaying artifacts. I decided not to try baking it this time, because I didn't trust it anymore. So I bought a new one. My more-knowledgeable friend convinced me to buy a 1gb card that cost around $120. I had been leaning toward that $40 ones, but he used a very convincing argument, answering "yes" when I asked "if I bought this would you think I am stupid?" So now I have what may or may not be a totally badass video card. I'm leaning toward "sorta cool, but let's not get too excited about it" range. But it's still significantly better than the 256mb 8600 gts I was using before it got baked.

I did the only logical thing: I started up the games I've been playing lately, Civ V and Fallout 3, and jacked up the graphics to maximum. Everything is so damn pretty. It should be bursting into song, it looks so good. I cannot believe how good the water looks, how the light and shadows interact to produce works of art, shifting as I walk, shimmering in the smoke and flames. It is a sight to behold.

I can't honestly say it's all that much more fun. It looks nicer, but the gameplay is unchanged. The annoying bits are still annoying and the fun bits are as fun as they were before.

Only on occasion does the game change substantially, in low-light areas in which a loss of detail can mean a total loss of vision, unless of course I bump up the brightness. Atmospherically I can't say it's all that much better, except possibly in the case of Stalker, in which I'd turned off all grass and turned down the visual distance. Ironically, that may have been the better setting, since now the ground is covered in grass. It doesn't feel quite so much like a dead and twisted landscape, seeming more like a run-down neighborhood on a flat land, with slightly more guns than I'm used to. In other words, it went from post-apocalyptic Ukraine to Texas. Though the Ukrainian accent is easier to understand.

The lack of effect is even more noticeable in WoW, which was never known for it's high-end graphics, and which seems to just gain slightly prettier grass and surprisingly good water effects. But at the risk of repeating myself, this is a good thing for WoW. Hardware accessibility is underrated.

WoWing Around Again: Trolls

| Monday, September 26, 2011
Let's see... troll time. Oh, gotta make that a shaman! And if I'm making a troll shaman, well, it must be named Klepsacovic.

Except some jackass TOOK MY NAME. Who the hell would do that?

*checks server*

Oh. Ner'zhul. Huh. Yep, that's where I last played, so that jackass? Me.

The place looks cool. I thought it was neat that some other initiate seemed to be coming with and then going to his own trainer. I wonder if we're going to be teamed up later.

If you're going to have non-hostile mobs, tiki target dummies are a pretty good one. Hungry cats, not quite as good. But... The damn Naga was described as WANTING TO KILL ME and what does he do? Wanders out of his cage and waits for a lightning bolt to the face to attack. Ugh. Why is it not hostile? It's a mob that stays in a cage until I specifically ask for it to come out. This is one mob that is absolutely completely 100% totally justified as a hostile mob and being described in a repetitive and redundant manner.

It seemed strange to start with mace and shield, and then my very first shaman quest reward is a staff. I feel like that would send mixed messages.

Why am I being sent to Vol'jin already? And why has everyone been talking about me? I have been here a few minutes and my total achievement is: I killed some cats who, as the quest trainer herself said, we most at risk of scratching my ankles.

After that I get two quests, with map markets on different coasts, one for crabs, the other to talk to someone. But the crabs are also right near the talking quest, so the marker is just sending people running all around. Maybe it is to ensure that I complete and turn in the quest before I run off to another island.

Capturing Swiftclaw was fun and a nice followup and route back after swimming over for the other raptors.

I got two whispers about guilds within a few minutes. None as a gnome. Racists.

I SAW ANOTHER PLAYER! She was a druid with heirlooms. She started the boss event before me. I shot a couple lightning bolts and got quest credit. It didn't make much sense. So I abandoned and started over again.

THRALL! THRALL DEFENDING GARROSH BEING A DOUCHE! *sigh* Of course this is no problem for a new player, since they won't remember Thrall being awesome and until they GO BACK IN TIME to Northrend won't know quite much of an ass Garrosh is. Or before that, aka FURTHER BACK IN TIME, in Outland, when he's a whiny crybaby.

So that's the end of the troll area. My opinion of WoW has gone all the way up to "I'd play it for free."

Coming up next, an orc mage. Seriously? An orc mage? WTF is that? Fuck it, warrior.

WoWing Around Again: Gnomes

| Friday, September 23, 2011
This post is a bit of a play by play reaction. It is not short. You have been warned.

I started with gnomes. I'm not sure why. But we can't erase the mistakes of the past.

Majalah the gnome priest. I don't remember the server. It put me somewhere and I don't really care. Maybe it's a special server for people they hate for not paying them.

It's a new account because I couldn't figure out a way to use my old account. Maybe I can't. I don't care. I figure if I create a character and get really attached to it, I can remake it. If I find it too horrible to redo a mere 20 levels, that is not a good sign.

It's not off to a good start.

I'm supposedly in the middle of a very dangerous battle in Gnomeregionanon but it doesn't feel very dangerous. Anything hostile is busy fighting an NPC and the NPC doesn't seem to have much trouble. I don't think I should truly be in danger, since this is a starting area after all, but maybe at the very least, I should get attacked. Of course with all the crazed gnomes milling about (I was going to say running, but it's really more of a milling) it would be a bit too dangerous if they were all hostile. So why not make them hostile but have fewer of them? That way I get attacked without being likely to die. There we go, some illusion of danger without enough danger to quite scare anyone away, though if a tiny bit of danger is enough to scare them away, I doubt that person is going to be a contribution to the raiding game, or anything else.

Then I did a dangerous retreat to safer place, which looks equally unsafe, by which I mean not at all unsafe, just like where I started, so I don't see the need for me to have run over here, through the mulling hordes of neutral mobs.

I couldn't find the decontamination bot. I think it should have been an automatic process: run into decontamination room and the bot grabs the gnome, possibly while shouting at it for attempting to bypass decontamination protocols. After that I was told to talk to some guy for a teleport to the surface. I figured the important part was the "get to the surface", but the elevator did not complete the quest. Simple place for a minor choice and somehow Blizzard avoids it. Maybe a new new player would follow the rules and just talk to the teleporter gnome.

I seem to be a hero already. I'm not quite sure why. The S.A.F.E. Guide ran off before I could finish reading the quest.

I did like that the priest trainer told me that memory loss is a common problem after time in Gnomeland. It's just a line or two of quest text, but that's the sort of thing that can efficiently hand-wave away so many problems, such as why I have a backstory and don't know it.

The history of the Gnomerland invasion operation on the holotablepad was pretty funny. Or I'm a sucker for Star Wars references and excessively calm computers announcing doom.

I just noticed that the minimap has a marker for the current target. That's a nice touch. Maybe it's "dumbing it down", but I can't say I ever had a much fun trying to find something that I could target, but not quite see in the crowd.

Rare spawn! Gibblewilt had a bag. And a mean fireball... the guy took off almost half my health! The help feature told me that if I run out of health I'll die. The quests around the pools make a bit more sense, though I wish the living contamination was hostile. Bags auto-equip. I liked the fun of equipping bags. I don't know why, but I preferred that.

"You need to see a medic!"
"Make that a rocket scientist!"
Well done, Blizzard. This is what you do well: silliness.

The troggs are hostile. I got attacked by two at once. I wasn't likely to die, but it was still better than single-pulling neutral mobs. Someone whined in general about everyone else fucking up the daily for them.

Great Father Artcius killed me. AWESOME! Guy hits hard, easily half my health per swing. Second time around I was more careful with my health. He died. I got a bag. Woo! The respawn time on the NPCs seems a bit fast, since I think I'm the only person around.

The Paintinator has too short of a range. How does it make any sense to disable the sentry if I've already gotten close enough to aggro it and even get hit?

The battle with evil gnome wasn't all that impressive. It got worse when I saw that all the sentry bots were back. The celebration seemed lame. The music felt out of place.

Then it was off to Dun Morogh proper for the final disappointment. There are three gnomes pushing carts of rockets. Somehow, against all odds and all sense, they made it all the way to the gate without anyone exploding. Then they despawned. So much lost potential.

The first few quests were absolute garbage. Then they got better and turned into a good bit of fun, with a bit of gnomish silliness here and there, as is appropriate and expected. The big event of the area was a stunning disappointment.

So there's the gnome-specific content. It took a bit under two hours and got me about halfway to level 7. It doesn't actually take that long, but I kept tabbing out to write this and at some point, make lunch. I will use that as my measurement. I ate lunch late. So there we go, the gnome campaign was good enough to keep me playing through a bit of hunger. Not a ton, but a bit. I think that qualifies it for a thumbs-up.

Maybe this weekend I will get him up to level 20 and can tell a bit what the very early game priest experience is like. But that is for later.

What would get me to resub to WoW: Part 2

| Thursday, September 22, 2011
Before I say "I'll start off with", I want to start off by apologizing for the links. Blogger and Firefox are having some sort of problem together, so when I use the tool to add links it ends up deleting text and in the wrong spot. So I'm sorry about the potential need to select, copy, and paste into a new tab. Please accept my apologies and I hope to not have this problem again, as it is entirely unacceptable to demand such requirements.

I'll start off with a some assumptions, which are quite possibly wrong! The first is that I could play again, which covers both time and whatever mental state one needs to have to enjoy an MMO of the WoW-sort. Second is that my apartment will have working internet this Wednesday. On a side note, AT&T, if someone cancels because you can't activate for another month, and then you have room on the calender to activate sooner, wouldn't it be a good sales idea to call them rather than wait around on the off chance that they'll give you another chance because your competitor in the area is even worse?

This is a surprisingly difficult post to write. Maybe my assumption of the mental state is more wrong than I suspect. Too much seems to have, what's the opposite of rose-colored glasses?

Meaningful 5-mans
What the hell does that mean? I'll try out the word legitimacy. Are 5-mans legitimate content, somewhere players are supposed to be? Currently they are the equivalent of teenage summer jobs. Sure, go there for a little while, but only to save up for college or a car or because you parents won't stop nagging you otherwise. If you're not in high school, or at least college, if you are somehow a 40-year-old man with a family and you are still working at McDonalds or the local park district, something is wrong. That's what 5-mans are currently. You are expected to do them, but also to be done with them and if you have to go back, it is not a nice feeling.

In a past post I suggested that having sets from 5-mans confers legitimacy.
Blue sets, what? BC had blue-quality late-game sets. They were not fantastic at all. But some pieces were okay. My paladin used a couple pieces for a while. Other classes had similar experiences. These were not amazing sets, but sets give some sense of legitimacy, they say that this tier is one that is okay to be at. Sets indicate that the devs think you will be here a while and are okay with rewarding that. LK had no instance sets, nor did Cataclysm. It says something: don't stick around and do not, under any circumstances, feel like anything you got here is worth remembering or keeping.

Not everyone is expected to, or expects to, raid
This does not mean that raiding should be some closed, elite club. It does mean that people who like playing in huge groups play in huge groups and people who do not, don't. Some of it may take the form of arbitrary barriers, using them as filtering mechanisms.

I wish I could find the source, it was recently in the WoW blogosphere, something tot he effect of: "making an undesirable activity easier does not make it more fun." Nerfing raids that people don't want to do so people who don't want to raid can raid more successfully doesn't make much sense. This ties into another aspect, the expectation that everyone can and must raid. When raids are nerfed more and more, whether directly to the bosses or indirectly through gear (currently implemented with the justice points system, badges in LK), players are sent the message that they are expected to do them. And they lose more and more excuses not to. Somehow the "I don't enjoy it" reason gets side-lined, perhaps ignored, because raids are where the gear is, and the more people get driven into them, the more friends are in them, and the more pressure to follow.

Everything became about raiding. Now certainly vanilla and BC had a lot of raiding going on and a lot of raiding content. But there was not an expectation that everyone would raid or must raid. Both had players who wanted to raid but could not due to this or that problem unrelated to skill, and so changes were almost certainly to their benefit. But I suspect that a lot of players who did not particularly want to raid were driven into it by the structure of the game. Late-game (not end-game) content was thinner, in favor of fast gearing to get people into raids. This causes all sorts of problems, such as players who lack internal motivation to raid and who must instead be driven purely by loot or social pressure, neither of which are long-term formulas for fun.

Fewer Dailies
WoW has an exceptionally screwed up monetary system. Rather than a central authority that can decided whatever it wants for the money supply (there are some constitutional limits to printing money, but let's set those aside for now), meaning that it can inflate or deflate as desired (it's not a precise thing). WoW instead has a system in which every single person can print money. Imagine if everyone in the world had a printing press for $100 bills and if legally, none of them were counterfeit. Oh right, inflation! And then of course, we'd need to print even more bills to keep up. Rather than take away the printing presses, or at lest limit them to $100, the government instead releases a press for a $1000 bill. Woo, dailies!

I'll admit that vanilla had way too little gold. The ratio of vendor price + deposit to the market price needs to be fairly low (meaning an inflated market) for it to be worth the risk. Initially there was an inflation spree when they added the xp->gold conversion when doing quests at the level cap. This didn't get too far, since there are only so many quests in the world. BC brought in dailies. And then more dailies. Initially I think they were good, adding some needed liquidity, but eventually they become a self-reinforcing problem: players can't afford anything, so they do more dailies, which inflates prices more, and so on. LK and Cataclysm took the daily model to its logically destructive conclusion.

On top of that, dailies take the place of farming, driving up material prices, which is not inflation itself (if you're making a list of things that the Chicago school of economics doesn't get wrong, put this at one and we'll see if we find anything else), but it encourages it, as players do more dailies to compensate. I'll write about this specific economic behavior later. Beside the economic effects, dailies just aren't much fun. They are in a dead zone between exciting and perfectly mindless. Farming can be mindless and that has its place.

Bring back spirit plate
I don't mean for paladin healers. I mean for warriors. Once upon a time plate had spirit on it and thanks to the Regeneration troll racial, they could regenerate health, at 10% of the out-of-combat rate, while in combat. This was absolutely amazing. Just think of the healing output of that over a long fight. With the removal of spirit plate, troll tanks became harder to heal. Is it any wonder that Horde raiding guilds have been plummeting since the end of vanilla? Note: that last claim is a complete fabrication. I was just trying to get in a reference to my blog title.

But seriously, bring back spirit plate
Worthless stats are a great way to counter stat inflation. Sure, the next tier is 10% higher item level, as it needs to be to attract the loot whores, but 10% of those stats are completely useless.

Resistances were great at this as well. Fire resist would get you through a couple raids. Then it became useless. This meant that gear could progress without actually increasing in ilevel. In vanilla this took the form of nature resist for AQ and frost for Naxx. I'm not claiming that Blizzard actually took advantage of this, they didn't, as gear inflation was still happening at a significant pace in vanilla.
This needs updating for Cataclysm.

Long but transient content
Go read Rohan on transient vs. extended content
I liked spending a few hours in an instance. I also like having some short instances of only a half hour or so. I believe these can coexist, that Blizzard does not need to make only long instances or only short instances. The rewards would need to be tuned carefully, to ensure that players can generally do the type of content they enjoy. That means that a particular faction should not come only from long or short instances, but from either, nor should either be specifically required for advancement, either by quest chains or raiding, except as one-time requirements. That means that an attunement could run through a long instance, but overall, a player who does not enjoy long instances shouldn't feel compelled to do one more than once, maybe twice.

Also, do the same for BGs. More specifically, bring back the old AV. If you don't know what that means, picture this: at the end of a BG there is a display of the length of the BG. My very first AV, which incidentally the Horde won (go Horde!), had lasted 25 hours. That was a short game. Yes, the more than one day, literally, was a short game. I loved that. Jump in, jump out, it was still there, with something going on. It allowed for players to play a little or a lot. In my case, a lot, with the better part of a weekend spent in that BG, often without it ending. Then someone complained about the inability to get the token for that BG and they gutted it.

Bring back the world
Did you know that there are entrances to the battle grounds? Probably not. In fact, since BC they stopped adding them. The three vanilla BGs have entrances and once upon a time you needed to physically go to them, much like with instances. Eventually Blizzard decided this was too inconvenient, and was almost certainly keeping players away who would have liked to PvP, so they added warmasters, NPCs who would allow you to queue for a BG from cities. Now we can queue from anywhere, for anything. One one hand, these promote a sense of world because they allow us to go out and see it at a lower cost. I can go farm and quest and explore without having to give up BGs and instances. On the other hand, they make some areas, such as the entrances, obsolete and add a sense of disconnection.

Farming is also important. Teleporting from one daily quest hub to another doesn't give a sense of scale or uniqueness to any place. But farming can do two things. First, it isn't structured. A player has to choose what to farm and know where it is, choose a path to get there, a path within he farming area. If I am crafting devilsaur gear, I will go somewhere different than if I'm crafting something with silithid scales, different from black dragonscales. Leatherworking is the most extreme example of this, but even herbalism and mining show some amount of specificity. Dark iron ore is only in one instance and two zones near it, so players will go somewhere different when they want that, or not.

Getting players out of the cities and into the world is most important for one class in particular: rogues. This class thrives on world. It isn't alone, of course. Any class can know the thrill of catching an enemy unaware, while they are distracted, and getting an easy kill. Or sometimes, being the one who appears distracted, but is in fact fully aware and ready to kill you. That may or may not have been me, back when warlocks had a plethora of CC effects and shamans were totally badass.

This post is long enough already and I'm not quite sure of what Blizzard can do. I've had ideas, but I don't know if they'd actually do anything anymore. Once norms are established they are very hard to change and I suspect that the needed changes would just drive away a lot of people.

Retrying WoW
Earlier I said I planned to jump into the free pre-20 to see what that is like. That plan is still planned, but only yesterday did I finally get internet and for some reason, graduate school requires a lot of time, so I doubt I'll be starting anytime sooner than Friday evening. Thankfully, having no social life gives me plenty of free time.

Single-Payer Tax System

| Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich. This isn't going to work. The problem isn't with "taxing the job creators", but with the fact that the rich are extremely good at not paying taxes. They will evade them.

This is why I propose a simpler system: a "single payer system" The name is slightly misleading, as there may be multiple players, but the goal is to keep down the total number of payers.

Here's how it works:

All federal taxes are abolished, everything from tariffs to social security taxes. In their place is the single-payer system. Under this system, near the end of the fiscal year Congress adds up how much it has spent, plus 10% to account for them being terrible at math, and then seeks to get revenues to cover it.

The revenue-gathering process is a two-step process. First step, all people in the world with incomes greater than $1 million, or USD equivalent annually or assets greater than $50 million, with corporations counted as people, are placed into an ordered list. Second step, IRS agents go down the list, taking whatever they feel like, until the spending has been paid off. In some cases, a "one point five" step may be needed: auctioning off assets which are too hard to liquidate on current markets, such as houses, cars, and the rights to ghost-write the autobiographies of taxpayers.

The FBI and CIA would be removed from the Department of Homeland Security and placed under the control of the IRS, because we're going to need a lot of intel and covert-ops capability.

The income and asset thresholds would be linked to inflation, so they will slowly rise over time.

Take note of the many benefits over the current system.
- Impossible to evade: Even if you try to hide assets the IRS will just take them anyway.
- Simplifies taxes: You never need to fill out a federal tax form ever again.
- Ensures a balanced budget: Revenues automatically rise to meet spending.
- Removes the market-distorting effects of variable taxation: capital gains, salaries, wages, and side benefits can all be confiscated equally.
- Finally validates Ron Paul's desk sign: "Don't steal, the IRS hates competition."
- Is unlikely to take my money, or yours, or that of anyone you know.
- High likelihood of taking more money from foreigner citizens than from Americans, which is like taking money from people who don't know, but even more patriotic.

Due to no longer being "internal" to the United States, the IRS would be renamed the Revenue Service.

The only possible downsides come from the Foreign Revenue Service division, which might violate international law, but with an automatically balancing budget, we will be able to afford whatever military expenditures are needed to fix this problem.

P.S. Confession: I'd meant to finish part 2 of what would get me to play WoW again, but I somehow got distracted by my education. So I hope you like tax policy. Maybe tomorrow I will have it ready. It would be easier if I just stuck to simple, worthless claims, such as "remove all the dumbing down", which is obviously completely nonsensical and imprecise.

What would get me to resub to WoW: Part 1

| Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Part 2 is a work in progress. Or more of an essay in progress. Maybe essay is too short and suggests coherence. War and Peace. Working title: Warcraft and Peace.

One of the conditions I'd figured out has been met: a free trial. Not merely a two week, minus download time, trial, but a whopping 20 levels. This just screams "play all the cool new starting zones and then leave before the not-quite-as-impressive later levels". So, once I get intertubes (Wednesday!), I'm going to give it a try.

My goal is to evaluate it from two perspectives. First, I will try to approach it with an open mind, as a new player, just seeing what this "world of warcraft" thing is all about. It is possible that I will be unable to do this. Second, which I should note that these are not in any particular order, hopefully they will be simultaneous, will be my current perspective. By which I mean, cynical and jaded, filled with nerdrage and nostalgia, seething at the very idea of this abomination that they pretend to call an expansion. These two perspectives have very little overlap, so I expect it will create a broad picture.

First up will be the Goblins with their love of bombs and forced heterosexuality (little Republicans?). Last will be the Forsaken, which I expect to be the most fun. I've already played the human and dwarf starting areas. That leaves, in possibly this order: gnomes, orcs, trolls. Or perhaps gnomes, trolls, orcs works better. I'd flip a coin, but that doesn't work as well with three possibilities because then I have to use multiple flips linked to a formula to push the overall probabilities toward 33% each, which isn't exact and requires a lot of flips to be anywhere close to a decent approximation.

I'm scared. What if I like WoW? Or worse, what if I log in and a GM is like "hey, we were trying to contact you to hire you but you don't check that email account, so we were waiting for you, but then you didn't log in for months and we gave your job to some guy we found spamming in trade." That would be awful!

Blizzard surprises world by announcing release of latest WoW expansion is in five minutes

| Monday, September 19, 2011
You heard it first here, folks, the next expansion is in 5 minutes. They haven't yet announced the theme or any new content of any sort, but they say it will be really awesome.

Are you going to buy it?

Germ theory and idolatry

| Friday, September 16, 2011
I can't walk five feet without running into a hand sanitizer dispenser. I can't even go to the bathroom without seeing a wall of sinks. What is all this for? I'll tell you: unproven theory and pagan ritual.

We used to have a moral foundation to science. We knew that disease came from demons or punishment from god. Maybe witches too, but they work with demons, so I wouldn't put that in a different category. The Muslims knew this, and early on they did a lot of science guided by their faith, and it worked well. While Europe was busy getting drunk and letting monks suggest that human inheritance was the same as peas, they were praying and learning. Of course it didn't last forever, because at some point God got sick of their misguided worship of a false prophet and Europe turned back to God. Then we had the Crusades and scientific knowledge exploded.

The so-called Germ Theory of Disease is just that, a theory. It is based on the idea that really tiny living things get inside you and make you sick. You know what that sounds like? An attempt to discourage pregnancy! Yep, it's birth control at the level of mass psychological manipulation. Let me ask you, what makes more sense, that we get sick because of the wages of Sin and Satan, or because some invisible bits of dust are actually alive? I thought so.

Take note of how it gets worse every year. Why? Pagan ritual. We should be praying to God to cure us. Instead, we perform these false rituals before unblessed altars: sinks and dispensers. We are taught this ritual obsession with the hand, as if the body part that builds and writes and shapes the world is somehow the dirtiest thing imaginable.

It's time to reject the harmful germ theory of disease and turn to the fundamental source of truth: The Bible, in which we learn about Sin and Demons, rather than ridiculous claims based on things that we can't even see!

1% may or may not be accessible

| Thursday, September 15, 2011
Why did only 1% of people see old Naxx in vanilla? Is it that 99% of players were directly barred from entering? No.

There was an attunement, and that attunement could be either a time sink or a gold sink. I'd done it both ways. Neither was enough to explain 99% rejection.

Was it too hard? Hm... Well let's see, we could look at the new Naxx, which is in many ways the same, and see how that went. The 99% appears to be flipped, without the fights being totally gutted. But... gear requirements.

Aha, here we go now. What time does it take to get the needed frost resistance and general gear levels for that raid? That's a tricky question, due to being a long time ago and no longer accessible. I may or may not be still mad about this. Flip a coin.

It's the linear progression that did it. It is theoretically possible that Naxx could have been a walk in the park: zone in with the right gear level and Kel'Thuzad falls over dead and Atiesh is placed in the bags of one random caster, and under these conditions it would still only be completed by 1% of players.

It is Ahn'Qiraj that mattered. And just how many people saw that? I have no clue, because it was more than 1%, and so not as fun of a number to throw around when complaining about inaccessible raids. But how many were in AQ? I already asked that. Why less than 100%?

I blame BWL. And why do I blame BWL? Because it is MC's fault! Now why did no one do MC? I blame warriors. Not for any particular reason, but just because I hated warriors back in vanilla, because at least 99% of them were total douchebags.

As the hippies would say: "It's the system, man. And then I'd tell them to get a damn haircut and they'd call me a hypocrite and they would be right.

Inverted Sets

| Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Scrusi is unhappy with sets. They are too easily just a pile of math.

I have an easily solution for that: Make them piles of EVIL MATH.

That's right, sets that harm you. Want a collection of armor that looks good together and synergizes for a greater bonus? Great! This does that, except the bonus is a bonus of pain. Let's consider a full set of tier 50, which I assume that will be out within an expansion or two, in this case being the extra-heroic 25-man achievement set awarded when running with 20 people on an odd day of the week, with no higher than 5423 average item level. This set shouldn't grant +672 attack power. Instead, it should grant a 1% reduction in damage output.

You might say "but isn't this still just a pile of math, comparing the a full set with most of a set plus non-set gear?" And I say NO. Because you used the word "just a pile of math."

First off, imagine the theorycraft potential for picking which piece of the set you won't use. Imagine if somehow the entire set is still better; it will be no time at all before you get an upgrade, such as anything other piece in the game.

Second, this set finally has a negative effect. It has been far too long since WoW used negative stat modifiers. Vanilla, being the most sadistic of the flavors of WoW, had them all over the place. There was an awesome sword with -stamina, which also happened to be hard to get in a place that was hard to get to, from a boss event that was hard to beat, needing a class mix that was hard to make, wearing gear that was hard to get. This sword knew evil. It was a crowning achievement and it was NOT GOOD. Other items included a cloth chest, presumably for a caster, which if I remember correctly, had a big chunk of negative spirit on it. That just screams evil. Oh a cloth robe, you think this is for you, a cloth-wearing class? WELL HOW DO YOU LIKE THIS NOW!?

Finally, and possibly most importantly, it punishes people for trying to look cool. Vanity, aka pride, is one of the seven deadly sins, and while those are bad enough in the real world where some people, such as myself, are truly awesome, in a virtual world it just screams "nerd who is going to burn in hell forever; see Dante's Inferno for more information, which of course being a nerd, he probably has somewhere, downloaded illegally to his e-reader which isn't a Kindle because Amazon only sells Kindles to cool people." My point is that games have strayed from a strong moral foundation, with too much emphasis on killing and self-gratification, when they should instead be about humility and causing non-fatal harm to non-believers.

Only lazy sissy noobs want a challenge

| Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tesh tweeted this twixt today and two Tagen past.
If you sorted out the butchered grammar and theft of German, you'll find that what I was trying to say, before being captivated by alliteration, is that Tesh sent a tweet that said the following:

"There's something deeply ironic in players whining that #WoW is too easy, but they want challenge handed to them on a golden platter."

Challenge is not in a vacuum, nor is it desired as such.

First off, players may not want challenges as much as they want things that other people will fail at. These serve the dual purposes of sorting and superiority mechanisms. They assist people in forming tribes and feeling superior to the people in the other tribes.

Second, they may want challenges, but they want challenges that they can brag about. This is when obscurity and balance come into play. First off, the challenge cannot be obscure. Imagine trying to brag about something in a game to somehow who has never played a videogame before. See how the audience needs context and a sense of the scale of the challenge? So saying "I soloed X" piece of content, if few people have done that content, or only did it at much higher levels, or anything else that would prevent them from recognizing the challenge and how it has been overcome, with be ineffective.

Balance matters as well. If I beat the challenge and so did you, then we should each be above the same benchmark of performance. If I beat it and you don't, it means I am above and you are below. Imagine if the challenge was not balance, so that my paladin can beat the supposed challenge with ease, while your hunter has to be played perfectly to beat it. Now the challenge is non-existent for me, while for you it is hard to brag about, because for any non-hunter, it seems trivial. Sometimes there can be a "as a hunter" modifier, but those are not perfect. Then there is the scenario in which it is hard for a paladin and harder for a hunter, so in theory both of us can brag, but I can't brag around you because of the imbalance.

Then there is the issue of whether it is even worth trying. This is a progression problem. I could seek out challenges on my own. So I go out and as a level 20 I decide to solo Ulduman. It won't work, no matter how awesome I am. When can I come back and expect a challenge? Am I supposed to come back every couple levels and bash my head against the wall until I have beaten it? When I cannot yet beat it, do I need more practice or more levels? Notice how none of that was about challenge itself, instead the activity described was merely frustrating repetitive failure, with a high possibility of the impossibility of success.

Maybe I could construct challenge more easily, or maybe conveniently is the better word, by leveling up to where I need to be (oops, how am I determining this? I guess I'll be lazy and try quest color), and then taking off gear, retrying each time I succeed, until I fail, at which point I will define one piece of gear higher to be the point of challenge. That sounds like a pretty stupid idea to me.

There's nothing contradictory about wanting challenge "handed to you on a silver platter." It is sensible. It is a way of knowing if an activity can be expected to be challenging and therefore worth doing for the challenge-seeker, or whether it should be bypassed. Being directed to the challenges does not remove challenge derived from the search, since there is none, only time-wasting repetition that gets in the way of the desired content: challenge.

So in fact the true contradiction is Tesh's, with his dislike of time-wasting, pointless content gates, and his apparent belief that we're supposed to be wandering the world hoping to stumble across a challenge, without any "silver platters."

Finally, beside all that, if a game is meant to be challenging, it is my assumption, and probably that of most gamers, that it will readily provide challenge, rather than an amalgam of NPCs, mechanics, levels, and loot, which will, under certain circumstances and when combined in certain ways, yield a challenge. That would be like if TOR marketed itself a story-driven MMO, and then turned out to be a reskin of SWG, a sandbox, and we were told "go find your own stories!" Actually that could work, so maybe I picked a bad example. How about a box of scissors that you need a pair of scissors to open? Even worse, and totally non-analogous, but I like the imagery.

NPCs, it's okay to not be gay

| Monday, September 12, 2011
Jonnie of MMO Melting Pot seems to be unhappy about the absolute heterosexuality of virtual worlds of Warcraft and Star Wars.
Blogger and my laptop are disagreeing about how to add links, so I hope you don't mind a bit of copy-paste.

Let's try the usual disclaimers to start off: I'm not gay and I'm not homophobic. But despite being called a fag more than a few times, I clearly do not have an insider's perspective, so maybe I just "don't get it."

That said, who cares? I think we may be making too much of this. By we I don't mean myself, since I disagree with him, and I can't speak for you, the reader, so it appears that we was a terrible word choice.

Azeroth is a fantasy world. This is important is several ways.

First off, the cultures and views within it are not necessarily those of the creators. Second, these are not necessarily idealized cultures. In fact, I'd say that the portrayal of every major race in WoW has gotten progressively less rosy. All of the races have major flaws, with only the tauren, in my opinion, being able to truly say that the evil is isolated to one group, the Grimtotem. In other words, this isn't a perfect world, made so by the lack of homosexuality. Not much is said on it one way or another, beside "me not that kind of orc." It's not shunned or accepted, just not there at all.

Why should it be? From what I can tell of the science, homosexuality is not a choice, but a matter of brain chemistry. Yea, I'm trying to tip-toe there, because "brain condition" and "mental state" all make it sound like something is wrong. Maybe in Azeroth the genetics and brains just don't work out in such a way that homosexual behavior or desire exists. Is this so different from how there don't seem to be dark-skinned humans or white orcs? It's all just biochemistry and it would be strange to claim that an alien universe should work the same way as ours.

Of course it would be equally strange to claim that an alien universe shouldn't work the same way as ours, given the fact that we (useless we, once again) created it. The writers could have decided that the chemistry exists to create black humans and white orcs (they come in several colors already, what is one more?). But why would they? Do these things add to the universe? Do they make the stories any better?

Potentially, yes. It could be interesting to see how various sexual or romantic attractions could change the sub-plots in a game like WoW. Variety can spawn variety. Maybe the tendency to not read quests could be fixed by a bit of gayness. After all, nothing quite catches the attention like an unexpectedly bit of tauren uh, beef.

I'm going to leave that aside for now, since I don't thin I'm getting anywhere on that path. Instead, let's think about how there came to be a lack of homosexuality.

Maybe the writers just never even thought of it. This seems unlikely. So then we have to wonder, if it came up, where did it go? I'm picturing a committee sitting around working out some quest chains.
"Alright, dragons captured his friend and he wants us to go free him. Anything to add to that?"
"Why not make it his boyfriend?"
"Make them gay?"

Why not? Maybe they don't want to anger the people who would be angered by that sort of thing. Maybe it feels forced to them. These are things I could understand. WoW seems to be aimed at a very wide population. Some of that population includes people who think that rescuing a girlfriend is romantic and heartwarming, while rescuing a boyfriend means that Azeroth Jesus is crying. As for the second, when does a gay character appear? I mean, when is it a natural part of the story for someone to be gay, rather than being a forced "hey look guys, we added a gay character for you, aren't you happy yet?" It's the paralysis of not wanting to do something wrong, so doing nothing at all.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the most double-standards of all?
I'm trying to imagine if WoW had been made by a majority gay development team and they acted the same way, creating a world in which everyone is gay. Would I play this game and think "oh yea, sure, everyone is gay, so what? Just coincidence and dev habit, not like it matters." I doubt it. I'd probably think it was a little strange. I mean, an entire world in which everyone is gay? How obviously forced! So maybe the reverse is the same.

But that's silly. Let's face it: an entirely gay universe would need some other means of reproduction, meaning that homosexuality wouldn't be the same. In the real universe, homosexuality is not "normal", is is the exception, not the rule. It is unusual. But that doesn't mean it is wrong. Somehow this distinction fails to sink in for many people, that different is not wrong. But by the same token, not wrong doesn't mean typical.

Games could benefit from a bit more gayness, not because it is politically correct or polite, but because it would allow for more variety in story-telling. And that's the key, it should be for the story, it should add to it, rather than being forced in. If it is going to be forced in, then it is just as ridiculous as the crusades of homophobes, who might be all in favor of gay relationships in TOR, as long as they gave dark side points.

In conclusion, I have no conclusion.

P.S. Upon a second reading, I noticed this phrase "When a personal choice is singled out" Why would anyone ever choose to be gay? It sounds pretty stupid, if you ask me. Who in their right mind would choose to be hated and discriminated against? Doesn't sound like much of a choice to me. Maybe the underlying self isn't a choice.

People Falling

| Sunday, September 11, 2011
Who fucking cares that the towers fell? It's this image drilled into our minds that this is something terrible. We see it over and over, a plane fly into a building, a massive explosion, and fast forward to metal weakening and collapsing. So what?

That is the wrong image. We should not mourn a couple buildings. It's actually a bit awe-inspiring. The reshaping of the world so dramatically.

I've not yet found the image that we should all see instead. It is three thousand people standing in the air, a human tower stretching up to the sky. And then more people run into them. And they all fall down. People falling. That is the horror.

A bit of metal falling down is an economic waste, but we can deal with that easily enough. We can rebuild it. It's the human tower that we cannot rebuild. It is the human tower falling, two two human towers falling that is the true loss.

Sometimes I think we lose sight of that. We hear about thousand of people and it is a statistic. We see a building fall and it looks not much different than the controlled demolitions we sometimes see on local news*. But one person falling from the sky, a thousand times over, and again and again, that is something different. I'm sure we've all fallen and presumably all of us landed on something soft enough that we didn't die. But on the way down, we felt that fear, that abrupt change, a primal fear, the animal part of the brain surging up to tell us that something is very wrong. We were lucky enough to stop gently enough. If we instead were in the sky, standing higher than we ever have, and then we fell...

I wish just a couple buildings had fallen down, ten years ago.

Quote of the Interval of Time

| Friday, September 9, 2011
I think that sometimes these books are almost a little too long to the point where the filler distracts us from the story itself. -Syp

This is all too true, not just for LOTRO or WoW, but for about any quest-based game I've ever played. We're supposed to be saving the world and somehow, we still find ourselves interrupted to dig some semi-digested cherries out of deer poop.

This doesn't mean that all side quests are bad. In WoW I would say that from level 1 to around 50 it makes sense. We're not yet heroes, but merely adventurers wandering from one adventure to the next. It isn't until the late game that we are given the "if you don't do this the world ends" goals. I meant that in the pre-Cataclysm context, when level 60 was the time of fighting the Scourge, evil dragons, and evil bugs. After that when we first cross into Outland we've dealt with the previous world-ending evils. Now we're again in search of a purpose. But again, when we get to the higher levels, we have purpose and should no longer be sent off on random tangents. But in LK I don't think this applied. We went north to deal with the Scourge and anything else was a distraction. Except maybe the little tiny matter of an old god. post-80 Cataclysm seemed to be more focused, dealing with the Twilight and Dragons, without constant side-tracking, except maybe in Uldum, which almost felt like the entire place was a side-quest.

Side quests aren't merely a dilution of the main theme. They are a distraction. Even worse,t hey break it up. Imagine trying to watch a great movie, such as any Star Wars that did not include child Anakin, but every five minutes it was interrupted by scenes from Titanic and Battlestar Galactica. Would you find it a big harder to follow the story? And would then Cloud City make very little sense, with suddenly everyone is on a mining outpost with seemingly nothing to do with the main story of becoming a Jedi and hiding after Hoth? Cloud City was a side-quest in a way, branching off the main story, rather than being a completely unrelated interruption. But would we pick that up and be able to tie it in if it was given in the context of everything being a random interruption? Many quests which seem like side-quests, unrelated to the main story, may be entirely relevant, but when we're constantly distracted, we lose track of the connecting threads, and everything falls apart.

Escapism vs. Additionism

| Thursday, September 8, 2011
I don't like escapism. I mean the word and the meaning given to it. Escapism is a bad thing. It is fleeing from reality rather than addressing it. It is fleeing from life rather than addressing it. As I see it, escapism is essentially procrastination for existence itself.

But there is a lot that we call escapism which is not. These things or activities are not real life, nor do they change the physical world much, but they are not mere temporary diversions. These are Additionism.

Imagine a sport. Will your sport make you do your job any better? Unless it's a physical job, probably not. So is the game of basketball mere escapism, a temporary distraction from the pain of a dead-end job? It could be. But it could also be additionism. It could form new friendships, improve your physical self, and from the two of these, mental state as well. These aren't fixing the life problem of a bad job, but they are adding something to life, not merely escaping it.

Why can gaming not follow a similar pattern? Done poorly, it is escapism. Done well, it is additionism.

And that is my made-up word for the week. Next week, Exceptionasticism!

It's the arbitrary sorting mechanisms, stupid

| Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I think I've figured it out, what went wrong in WoW. It was the arbitrary sorting mechanisms. The arbitrary barriers and filters. No no no, not that there were too many. There were too few!

Imagine that you're in a random group. You have never met these people. What can you expect from them? Skill and persistence are things that you cannot measure at all, just by inspecting them, unless maybe they're in whatever the latest and greatest hardest gear is at the time, in which case you can expect a boring, trivialized run. Unless they're a DPS and you're the tank, in which case you can spend the entire time feeling inadequate at your inability to hold aggro. Unless you're playing post-Viagra patch in which tanks can always keep up their aggro, regardless of experience or interest. Ahem.

How can we sort out these people a bit? Simple: Make them run through some hoops. Make it take time, for no apparent reason, to get to the instance. In other words, remove teleports. Now if you're in a group you can at least know that the people you're with care enough to run over. The exact amount of time is up for debate, but for a start, I think we can mostly agree that going from Ironforge to Zul'Farrak was a bit ridiculous, so less than that.

But maybe this isn't enough. Add more arbitrary problems. For one, remove the "tank, healer, three DPS" auto-formation system. Instead, put players in a giant pool and let them sort it out. If somehow they end up with a shaman or warlock tank (I've been both) and stick around, then they are either so ignorant that they see no problem or they can handle a bit of challenge in their day. In my experience, groups that did not instantly disband under circumstances like this tended to be the most fun. They were not particularly efficient in terms of gathering gear, but if the ultimate goal is fun, why not cut out the middle man?

While we're at it, bring back attunements. Not crazy attunements like Black Temple, which were less of a burden on an individual as on an entire guild/raid. But Karazhan, that was a good one. Perhaps a bit long for the very first raid (the attunement, not the raid).

Is this elitist? Hardly. It's kindness. Let's all think of who we want in our groups, pretending that friends don't count, because that's cheating. Do you want someone who has acted before this very moment to prepare for the activity, or do you want someone who randomly got the idea to join a group, not really caring where? Consider who is going to drop group the moment anything goes wrong. The first person is more invested, not merely by time, but by motivation. They chose to be there.

It's also about managing expectations and counter-intuitively, saving time. The player who leaves at the first sign of trouble will have had some sort of expectations, which are then crushed when they wipe on the first boss. He will have wasted his time as well. If he were instead to leave right after group formation, then he would save his time, and that of the group.

There is a glaring flaw, of course: by-the-book groups will still be formed most of the time and these will do no filtering. People may queue for instances right next door to their questing, and will not be filtered. In other words, this does not catch all the impatient people. And there is the question of where they go. Even if I don't want to group with them, I don't particularly want them to quit either, so they must find groups, assuming they want to. But the only groups that are suitable are the well-formed, smoothly-running groups.

Those would be guild runs. Organized groups. 'Bad' players should be in guilds while good players should be in the chaos of the PUG. But this is the opposite of what happens. Guilds try to keep out the bad players while good players avoid PUGs. Good and bad aren't really the terms I want here. Maybe adventurous and patient vs. conservative would be better. But those don't quite work either. Well, the point remains, the players best-suited to handling the chaos of randomly-formed groups are the least likely to be in them.

I suspect I am the exception, in that even when I was in guilds, I tended to run with PUGs. Part of it was that the LFG tool made it easier to just click a button than ask people. But part of it was that I liked seeing what I'd find. PUGs were how I found guilds and guild members.

To conclude: This entire post is useless, because the sorting mechanisms of arbitrary barriers to content will be overshadowed by the social sorting mechanisms.

But they should still bring back the attunements for Onyxia.

If a raid falls in a forest and only 1% hear it, does it make a subscriber?

| Tuesday, September 6, 2011
If a raid is only attempted, let alone completed, by a small portion of the population, can it still be worth it?

Let's start with an assumption: players who are in a raid are still playing because of that raid. This is obviously a terrible assumption, but if the physicists get to assume a spherical cow in a uniform magnetic field, then I get to assume this. Based on this, a raid that is only seen by 1% of players is only retaining 1% of players. But I doubt that is the entirety of the effect.

There can be the opposite effect, if an inaccessible raid driving players away. This is not the effect of them running out of content or burning out, but of them receiving a message, real or not, that they are not wanted. While otherwise happy with the game, they get the idea that the game is not for them, and they are driven away by it.

Even that effect may be opposed as well, with players who, while they do not, and possibly will not, see the 1% content, are motivated by it. They keep playing because of it, to get to it, even if they do not actually get to it.

The second and third groups are what I'm interested in. They are both groups which do not directly experience content, but are nevertheless affected by it, psychologically. Between the two of them, plus the direct 1%, is there a net gain of subscribers?

There is another factor that I've left out, the budget, which could shift the equation. If the 1% content is consuming too many resources, it may deprive the second group of content, making real their belief that the game is not for them.

It is a simple fact, that "x% of players did y content", but by itself it is not particularly useful. We would also need to know, if players stay despite not using that content, because of the content, or if even more leave because of not using that content.

Whining about whiners

| Monday, September 5, 2011
Raise your hand if you're sick of seeing posts about people sick about seeing posts about people sick of WoW and are quitting.

You can put your hands down now. I can't actually see you.

I can't quite remember the first angry ranting quitting WoW sucks post I saw. But it was not recent. It was not this year. Or last year. Or even the year before. Hm... angry quitters, as far as I can tell, seem to have been around since WoW began. I remember in vanilla when Blizzard was going through a series of much-needed class balancing and tuning patches, changes on a scale you'd normally expect for expansions, or that recent kerfuffel over aggro. Every single one of this patches was destroying WoW. Every class that had a patch was ruined. Every other class was ruined as well. They were dark times, a sure sign that WoW had fallen from the Golden Days of, let's say, two months before any given time.

My point is this: angry whiny veterans being angry and whiny about WoW are not new. Sometimes they have something worth saying. Sometimes they don't. But I am certain of one thing: they aren't going to stop any time soon, whether you scold them or not.

It's a bit of a mirror situation, I believe. The angry whiners write angry whiny posts and other angry and whiny people rally around them to be angrily whine. The loyalist tells them to shut up and quit if they're so angry and whiny, which in many cases they have done already, and a lot of other loyalists rally around expressing loyalty. It is ultimately just an arbitrary tribal activity. For the King! Or God! My God, to be specific, not yours, because my god is better than your god because mine is God! Also, shut up or be burned at the stake.

Yes, I am suggesting that people who criticize the endless angry whining are the same as the Spanish Inquisition, except more expected.

But dammit, what am I doing, except whining about the whining about whiners? Does that merely loop back around and put me on the enemy-of-enemy side and make me a whiner or am I a meta-whiner? I'm not sure I object to whining as a general principle, but maybe only in these specific cases. Except even then, I'm not sure I have a problem with the original whining, perhaps only the whining about whining. In that case, maybe it is the hypocrisy that bothers me? But who am I to criticize hypocrisy when I am so often myself? That would be hypocritical. About itself.

My head hurts now.

I demand numbers!

| Sunday, September 4, 2011
Recent comments and posts have gotten me thinking about BC again. Specifically, what content were people seeing? My sense was always that just about everyone who had the slightest desire to do so had done some heroics. Similar for a place like Karazhan, especially when the attunement requirement was removed. After that, I feel like the numbers dropped off by a lot.

I wish I knew for certain, because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that my sense of things is not a particularly accurate measure of the overall situation. Hell, in vanilla I thought that raiding, at least at the Molten Core and 20-man level was accessible. But supposedly not everyone had done MC. I say supposedly because I don't remember what the numbers were on that, or whether I even saw them ever.

I'm sure Blizzard has these numbers. I want them! More specifically, here's a breakdown of what I'd like to compare.

Class distribution for each expansion
% of characters at max level and % of accounts with a max level character
How many people regularly ran the high-level dungeons in vanilla, comparing these with heroics in BC, LK, and Cataclysm
How many people killed a boss in any raid in each expansion

Wandering off from this, I wonder how much accessibility really matters. If content is made easier/simpler to get to, but not necessarily to beat, do more players do the content? Or are those who are driven off by an attunement not particularly interested in it, and would quit it soon anyway? Could barriers to entry actually be doing people a favor, by keeping them out of content that they would not enjoy enough anyway? I wonder who has more fun and is a more stable subscriber, the former raider or the non-raider.

Quote of the Interval of Time

| Saturday, September 3, 2011
Of course the people who are enjoying the game now don’t want to hear other people having problems with the game. Perhaps out of fear that devs will listen and those people will ‘lose’ what they had started having fun with, while some older heads want the game they DID have fun with back.

I'm reminded of a quotation, the source of which I forgot: "The biggest conservative is yesterday's revolutionary."

I can just imagine it now, the grand leader in the palace, the floor still sticky with the blood of the loyalists, shouting from the balcony: "We had the revolution! Everything is fine now! Please go back to your homes!"

I do the advertising here

Now and then I get a polite email about this or that post and some suggestion regarding advertising. Sometimes this involves me potentially getting money.

The Point:

I despise advertising. The theory of it, that it spreads information and by showing desirable products to consumers allows them to buy said products, is great. Information is a good thing. But advertising isn't about information, it is about manipulation, sometimes even outright deception. I want nothing to do with this.

But I'm not adverse to linking what I find interesting. And that's about it. I don't link for money, never have, never will. Maybe this is stupid, that I could get a decent bit of money from handing out a link here and there. Maybe no one would even notice. But just because you don't notice a leech doesn't mean it isn't there. I don't like leeches.

"I am not the target audience" is an uncomfortable thought

| Friday, September 2, 2011
Before you read this, go read Syl's thoughts on not quite the same subject.

Back in Chicago they have a really great public radio station, WBEZ. It has a lot of different programming, mostly news and interviews about any subject imaginable. But mostly news. I liked that. Up in Madison they have WPR which has some news, but is mostly classical music. It's pretty good music and nice to listen to, but not something I want all day.

I am not the target audience.

This is my conclusion with WoW as well. It has good and bad points, but for me, the most relevant aspect is that it is not for me. If they are making focus groups to see what customers want, I am not in those groups. I'm not quite sure who is, but it's definitely not me. This means that WoW is not a game for me anymore. I suspect it wasn't for a long time, but I kept hoping, rejecting the trend even as I whined about it here.

I am not the target audience.

Explicitly expressed, this is an arrogant statement: should I expect a multi-million dollar game to be created to match exactly what I want? I might be pushing the limits when I ask them to not fill my overpriced iced coffee with 90% ice, but an entire game? Of course not! It's not just for me. Other people play or played WoW or other MMOs and liked what once was. Maybe it was novelty or low standards, but those are the easy, lazy explanations, as useless as "they are stupid" is for explaining human behavior.

WoW isn't for me. But what is? Well now that I have no internet for my desktop, single-player games are where it is at. I'm having a blast in Dragon Age: Origins. I might write about that, as part of my continuing series on reviewing and talking about games that you stopped caring about years ago.
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