Fail in Dire Maul

| Tuesday, January 31, 2012
After my mage had a disappointingly boring Mana Tombs run I figured the only thing to do was to disappoint myself even more. I'd heard that Dire Maul had been changed, so I figured I'd go check it out.

Well on the bright side, the druid at the door reports the concept of the tribute run: minimize casualties to maximize rewards. It went downhill from there.

The doors are all unlocked. That means no need to carefully time when the second boss wanders away (Or is it third? Does the drunk one count?) to grab the key for the door. It also means no need for seaforium charges or the old kill guard, zone out and reset trick. But finally I killed the king, unsure of whether I needed an ogre suit for the last guard; at 80, before he was deleveled, he'd aggro if I tried to sneak around, but at 85 with him dropped by at least 10 levels, no reaction from him. Running back out, I talked to the guard, who said that maybe I could get the gloves from the weird elf. Except apparently now an ogre has them, meaning that not only did they remove the need to go to DM west and back, but now the chat text is wrong.

But the worst was when I tried to go to the ogre for the gloves. On my way into the king's area I'd hit the door, twice, which shut it. And it doesn't open. So I was stuck in there and ended up going to Area 52, directly of course, because I'm an engineer and that's awesome.

None of this should surprise me. Running to DM West and back to DM North is going to DM North a second time. And probably DM West a second time too. That is obviously unacceptable. If it isn't a random heroic, we are meant to run it once and only once. If it is a random heroic, we are meant to run it endlessly.

The Nazis have won the vote

Is excessive hyperbole killing democracy?
11 (26%)
3 (7%)
27 (65%)

Votes so far: 41
Poll close

Apparently 11 people think that overblown speech is a problem, but the even greater threat is that of the Nazis. Obviously this means that we should continue to call people Nazis, in order to counter the greater threat, and later on we can worry about whether this is destroying democracy .

WoWing around again: Everything

Tesh had a time card. Tesh owed me gaming. So now I have a time card code. Or I did. Now I have a month to play WoW.

I did the logical thing: Jumped on my bank alt. I have no clue what I was planning to do there. My mail had bounced back to where it came from, and then vanished from those places as well, months ago. Blizzard says my time had run out in mid-March, but I know I'd left at least a few weeks before then. So yea, that stuff was long gone. Couldn't have been very important. (Good thing I can't mail legendaries)

Then I logged in to my paladin, stared at my abilities for a second, got mad that they changed the icon for divine shield, and then queued for a random.


In summary: everyone was nice, no one seemed incompetent, someone was new so we had a few wipes, there were multiple DCs and afk-kicks, and eventually Vanessa died. I got some DPS shoulders that might be better. Or maybe not. I have no clue what stats do these days. For all I know spirit is now our primary DPS stat. But probably not, because they usually do those random stat reworkings on the patch before an expansion.

Oh, and I had a blast. Everything came right back, except for where my res key was located (right side bar, a little bit up from the middle). I got some sort of points, but I don't know the point of them. Halfway in I decided I should go to Molten Core, but didn't, because I had an instance to finish.

I then went off to the transmogrification people and was angered that I could not do anything with thunderfury. And then just to make it worse, my tanking weapon is a mace, so I cannot even use any of the cool old weapons I kept around, obviously just for this. I've been waiting a long time... After I converted my tanking set to Soulforge I stuck that in void storage, because my bank was so filled with crap that I had overflow into my bags.

Oops, just did Sethekk Halls not on heroic. Go through again... what the hell is Anzu doing here? They eliminated most of the trash past him, I guess so we can more safely pull him. Smart move there, but I think I'd feel a bit cheated if I was a druid. Then I realized I'd already gotten the item from there. To Hellfire!

I joined a group that was running Black Temple, so I could get a mace that doesn't look ridiculous. If only I could use swords for transmogrification! I have so many awesome 1h swords. It was fun, though I still don't like BT much. But I did get another polearm. I'm currently using the Blood Elf starting area weapon, which matches Judgement, and I think is funny to have Alliance-side.

Then a few of us went to Hyjal and cleared that with three people. The warlock and I both get two or three of the set pieces. They kept dropping in pairs, so we didn't need to compete. Now I have 5/8 Lightbringer.

Someone in trade chat complained about being bored. I suggested leaving for a year. They thought I was being sarcastic...

My plan now is to first go to the old vanilla instances and see what terrible things have happened to them. Then I'll putter around. Before the month is up I want to try LFR and maybe even a real raid. Also those troll places. And MC of course.

Random impressions:

2.5g is not worth losing my keys. What the fuck was wrong with keys?

Noticed that randoms are 7x weekly rather than 1x daily. I like that a lot. Great change there.

15 minute hearthstone? Holy hell, that's short.

What can we do with all this stuff we have laying around?

| Monday, January 30, 2012
If you've wasted any amount of time reading about PC gaming, you've probably read at least something about this or that game having old code and content, not active, but left in the game. Half of it doesn't work and never will because it's incomplete. But sometimes there are useful bits left in there. Modders love this stuff, because it's a jump-start on being able to add new content. Re-enable a disabled enemy type, give it some spawn points, fix the hit box, and bam, you've got more content. I've not yet tried it, but KOTOR2 had a lot of this stuff left over, cut by a rushed schedule, leaving modders with a lot of material to work with. How glad we should be that they didn't prune it!

WoW had this as well. As expansions accumulated, so did the random stuff with no apparent purpose. Quest chains that seemed to end too soon. Ominous bosses. Factions which increased, but for no apparent benefit. Nooks and crannies in instances. Why was it there? For some grand plan? Were they setting it up for a Soviet-style five year plan to use it in five years and then send it to a work camp? I doubt it, and not just because of the image of a Blue sending a cut troll boss to Siberia.

Instead, I think they were just being thorough and sloppy. Why did Shendrelar have a reputation? Maybe it adds some sense of consistency, of "thanks for bringing us books, bring a hundred more for a discount on things you'll never buy*". It was consistent in the way that slapping a reputation on everything is consistent. And utterly nonsensical. The result was a faction that existed for basically no point at all.

Ravenholdt Manor was similar. Rogues needed some place for a class quest, so they got it. And then for no apparent reason, the guards there were a faction. Maybe it's a coding thing, that guards need a faction to properly kill you for misclicking on a PvP server. Or it's just insanity, a theory which is supported by the existence of not one, but two grinds for increasing reputation, both based on rogues, and none of them giving any material benefit. Though the guards are nicer.

WoW ended up with a lot of shit laying around.

If they were truly polishing everything, they'd get rid of it. What is it doing? Taking up space? Wasting space in the intertubes for one more mob, one more zone, one more pixel of pointless existence. These are all shit left around by developers who clearly could not be bothered to go back and clean up the mess they left.

And good thing they didn't!

Going back to Insane in the Membrane, what was that achievement? It was the cobbled-together pack of utterly pointless reputations along with one essential one for the well-dressed pirate. Can you imagine trying to create that these days? There just aren't enough useless, left-over, backwater nothing factions to work with. There are no bits of scrap laying around for the found art project which is this achievement.

But that's not all!

Reduce (didn't happen), reuse (coming to that), recycle (lol, every boss in MC).

Blizzard was a strong practitioner of the Reuse model. They created the Dungeon 2 set, which all the cool people called tier .5, since of course the dungeon set was tier 0. If you're unsure what I'm talking about, imagine if the set pieces that you normally purchases from vendors in Stormwind (which is so annoying for Horde characters needing to run all the way over) were instead random drops, and they came from bosses in instances, scattered all over the place, so that running the same place a million times wouldn't get you a full set. Instead you'd need to run a dozen places a million times, because some jackass ninjaed your set piece. I also once got an epic staff on my warlock, which the nice priest passed on, thanks to my cunning plan of not ninjaing his drop earlier in the run, and then I got called a ninja for having it. Apparently I should have forced the priest to take it. But I have once again rambled on about something entirely unrelated. Maybe after a few dozen years and a touch of dementia this will be understandable behavior.

Okay, tier .5, what would you do if you wanted to add a bunch of new content and a quest chain that tells a neat story and upgrades a set of gear? Okay yes, you could tell people to run heroic ICC and trade in their tier pieces, but that doesn't have a different story and dear god, I cannot believe anyone willingly ran that place again after killing Arthas Mc Jackass the first time.

Or, you could go with the slightly less lazy route and tell a story we've never heard before. In this story a set of adventurers went off and got something awesome, then promptly found themselves cursed by how awesome it was, before finally it destroyed everything they had ever held dear to them. I think it was supposed to teach us a lesson about legendary items and guilds. These adventurers met terrible fates in the very same instances you'd farmed mere hours before. So of course you have to go back and kill them, because that's how we solve problems. Anyway, they went back through the instances and added in strange new boss fights with strange new gear. Imagine if mages and warlocks got a special set, a set whose special qualities included extra armor and basically nothing else. And it was awesome. But that's exactly what I'm trying to get at: when they needed more content, they already had all this places, some unused, some slightly used, like stuff from your garage that you'd sell on ebay, and they stitched it all together into a very nice quilt.

I'm not adequately explaining what a nice quilt this way. Across the story they manage to draw in other stories, everything from demons to undead to angry dwarves to not-entirely-mentally-stable elves. Remember those utterly pointless Shendrelar? Well there you go: They're being used again (technically the Insane used them second, but I like to tell my stories out of order). It's like a web of conspiracy we'd ask Glenn Beck to create, showing how the Argent Dawn, Orgrimmar, Silithus, Dark Iron dwarves, demons, and a whole pile of gold out of your pockets are all connected. DON'T YOU SEE? AM I JUST CRAZY OR IS IT JUST ME!?

Unfortunately, Burning Crusade failed to create quite so much random crap to work with, leaving the developers with no choice but to create new content. It was a terrible shame. Wrath of the Lich King did even worse, creating a nice clean continent with only a few stray dragon portals to tie in to. Then the Cataclysm came and all the useless crap was swept away, never to be seen again, and that made me a bit sad.

A highly polished experience is a good thing to have in a game. But a highly polished world, not so much. If we wander off the tracks and go poking around, we should find something dirty. Think of the stories. In one story the world is a perfect mess with grime everywhere. In another, the world appear perfectly clean, but if you go behind the wrong door you will find the horrifying mess. But in the most terrifying world, everything is clean everywhere, and that's how you know it's a nightmare which you cannot ever escape.

I agree, all the liberals should be deported

| Sunday, January 29, 2012
We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, (audience boos) and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain't on the table," West said. "Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America. - Rep. Allen West

I think this is a great idea. Not the bottom of the sea part, but the not in America part. America has been called "The Great Experiment", well this can be "The Even Bigger Experiment". Put all the leftists in Europe, all the conservatives in America, and whoever is left over can wander the earth forever with a candle in a turnip.

This would truly be a grand experiment. Finally we can properly test socialism and capitalism, with each run by ideologically pure people. In America there would be no socialism at all while in Europe there would be no capitalism at all.

Here's the practical implementation:
Create a $10,000 per year "liberal tax", which liberals must pay. This is retroactive to all years as a liberal, though much like parking garages, if you cannot prove your time as a liberal, then you must pay the full lifetime fee. This is only reasonable, because those old liberals have been taking social security for a long time. The immediate effects would be two-fold: first, about 20% of the debt would be paid off instantly and second, the liberals would leave America. It's not all stick. As a farewell present there would be one last socialist program: free plane rides to Europe.

Then America can finally be pure and free to prosper. Meanwhile, Europe can see how it is having a horde of uncultured immigrants who don't speak the language. And finally, President Gingrich can sign legislation outlawing the existence of Mexico, thereby fixing all problems, forever.

I'd rather have bots

| Friday, January 27, 2012
When I make friends in a game, I want to play with them. If they're not on, but I still want to progress, what should I do?

I could hope that enough people are online on my server so I can form a group. This used to be the method, but was rejected.

I could play with people from other servers who I will never see again. This is the current method.

I could play with bots, which, if we given them a slightly randomized AI and name generation are functionally identical in all positive aspects to the people from other servers. I will never play with them again. I will develop no ties to them, because I will never see them again.

There is a benefit to bots. A social benefit, in fact. Since I likely have no concern for the random players, I am likely to treat them worse than I would friends or same-server players. Not with cruelty, but you cannot expect generosity in this situation. I have every incentive to take all I can, without regard for their needs or desires.

If they are already dehumanized, why not replace them with non-humans and minimize the damage inflicted upon the helpless other?

P.S. I'd rather play with the friends I made from the first scenario.

New Blog Appearance

| Thursday, January 26, 2012
I changed a few things around here. Deleted some clutter. Changed some color. Got a new template which also knocked out my google code, so I missed several days of seeing how many of you came here looking for Skyrim porn. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? What part of "troll racials are overpowered" sounds like a porn site? Though incidentally, I recall a study (I'm using the term loosely) which found that, contrary to blood elves being 'gay', trolls actually were depicted more often in gay warcraft art, though I don't recall if they had done anything to compensate for trolls being out longer (zing). I have no idea why I remember that. But while we're on the subject, I also recall a study that found that children of gay parents were slightly happier than straight parents. I can only assume this is because of a total lack of moral standards, since as any Puritan could tell you, "A Penny Saved is a Penny Burned," referring to their practice of burning children who might become witches, often refereed to as "pennies".

Anyway, does anyone have any thoughts on the appearance? Better? Worse?

It's like my parents always told me: "If you don't have anything nice to say, it's because you're surrounded by losers. Point that out."

P.S. "alexstrasza porno picture"? Also, why did someone have to specify "free skyrim porn"? Was he finding nothing but pay sites? Should I be terrified by the possibility that premium skyrim porn is a potentially commercially viable enterprise?

A rep grind by any other name...

Back in the dark ages, before I met other smart people in high school, before I had a PC in college, I had a Mac and not many games to play. But I had a few and a few good ones. One of those was Escape Velocity, a 2D game of space exploration, trade, and combat. It was a glorious game with many quests and stories to find and a great deal of flexibility. I'd almost call it a sandbox. I'm pretty sure it is still available to pay for (it's shareware). The first in the set was a solid bit of fun, though the mechanics of it meant that even if you'd helped one faction or another win, the galaxy didn't change very much. The second fixed this by adding a neat scripting system which could change planets based on certain mission results and ended up being, in my opinion, the best of the three. Finally the third added a ton of cool mechanics which made combat more interesting and had some pretty awesome storylines, but seemed to have gotten too big and too complex, in addition to having a strange method for picking a faction. Strange as in, oops, I seem to be a pirate now, or oops I seem to be a telepath who has been enslaved by the government and can only break free and play the game normally by going really far along the mission string. It was still a great game, just not quite as good as the second. But that's way more introduction than I intended.

The game had the option to demand tribute from planets. At first they'd just laugh at you and maybe get a bit mad too. But, if you had a dangerous enough reputation, they'd send out their defense fleet. Kill it all and they'd pay tribute every day. This was a handy way to be able to land on planets that sold cool stuff or were convenient save points (saving was done by landing on a planet, which made some exploration especially risky) even if the government of it was hostile, maybe because you'd been pirating their shipping for a few months.

The problem was that the combat rating system was... let's go with stupid. It was based on the number of kills you had, modified by the strength of the ships. This was a sum, rather than expression of the actual difficulty of any particular fight. Conceivably one could gain the highest combat reputation just by killing shuttles, the beginner ship which is more or less helpless. Conversely, destroying the most powerful ships around did not mean you'd have a high combat rating. It was a grind.

And it was as stupid in appearance as most rep grinds and their associated quests. "We'd love for you to save our town, you certainly look capable, and all those other people like you, but first, we need you to kill a hundred boar, so we know we can trust you enough to tell you to kill a hundred elves." Similarly, you could be flying a powerful ship, captured by your previous slightly less powerful ship, and still have a low combat rating. "Normally we'd kill you, but look at you, a Confederate Cruiser with added photon turrets, another neutron cannon, and improved shields and armor? Really? Come back after you've killed a few shuttles, and maybe we'll be impressed."

I'm not really opposed to rep grinds or requirements, but sometimes it seems sensible to have the game recognize that the player isn't random scum off the street, but is instead very well armed lowly scum off the street who will do anything for some money and doesn't care who ends up dead.

Thinking back on Insanity

| Wednesday, January 25, 2012
In a few months it will have been two years since Blizzard officially recognized my insanity.

Insane in the Membrane
Bloodsail Buccaneers (Honored)
Everlook (Exalted)
Ratchet (Exalted)
Booty Bay (Exalted)
Gadgetzan (Exalted)
Ravenholdt (Exalted)
Darkmoon Faire (Exalted)
And when I did it, also required Shen'dralar (Exalted), a faction which is no longer available due to how Cataclysm cataclymized everything. This makes it a bit easier (a lot easier, but taking a billion away from infinity doesn't do much overall), but also means it is still possible (I'm not a fan of people losing to deadlines). I think it was a good change, since it's not as if it's suddenly trivial.

The first requires destroying reputation with the next four. Which then need to be fixed. The easy way is to destroy the first. I did it the hard way and didn't. The next requires a rogue and the last is expensive.

The other week when I was visiting some friends, and possibly violating the ToS by playing her account for an hour or two (scandal!) the subject of this particular achievement came up. I imagine I was waxing nostalgic about everything before [current expansion].

This is the best achievement in the game.

It's actually an achievement (to the degree that anything in a game is), rather than just another something that you happen to get. You won't accidentally get this. You won't get this by someone carrying you. You won't get this by wandering over to somewhere and maybe see what happens. This is something you choose to do, actively, and with some concept that it is a completely absurd goal.

It takes a literal fuckton of time. Note that in modern language, "literal" has degraded to just mean "metaphorically with a lot of emphasis", or in this case "ten times as much", which means approximately a skrillion hours (same amount Ron Paul will cut from the deficit).

I liked this. It kept me entertained for a long time. Was this high-intensity screaming with joy fun? No. It was not fully voiced, fully animated, or even fully scripted to tell a complex and engaging story. But it did send me all over the place to find what I needed at whatever pace and in whatever order I wanted (with some accounting for optimization within the strange reputation system), something sadly absent in these highly-scripted, linear times.

It rewarded innovation. By which I mean it rewarded me for being an engineer. My mailboxes saved me a ton of time and gold. And I got ogre suits out of the deal. But it did reward innovation. Sure, the easy path was to go kill pirates and fix my Booty Bay reputation. But screw that, I'm playing both sides! I learned about Dire Maul and how it, this strange far-off instance in the middle of nowhere, could give a big piece of goblin reputation without destroying my Bloodsail reputation as well. I found myself with a lot of old junk, and turned it into even more gold. Turns out there was a market for cloth and old enchanting materials, both in low supply thanks to Burning Crusade pulling players out of Azeroth too soon to hear too soon.

"Gordok Ogre Suit, 40g, will make you look thinner in comparison!"

Maybe by now you're wondering, "but would you do it again?"

Maybe. I originally had a paragraph here about context and content and changes in the game, but in short: maybe, it depends on what the game is in which the achievement is embedded.

I liked having long-term goals, particularly those which did not require speculating on whether a raid group would get it's shit together or not.

My Civilization State of the Union Address

| Tuesday, January 24, 2012
America, I have reigned unchallenged over this nation for thousands of years. I have seen it grow from a single city to an empire as big as any other. I have grown it, but not without your help. You ate a lot of food, but here we are, with large, prosperous cities that can churn out military might, science, and gold.

We have needed all three of those. In our years we have suffered many unprovoked invasions. New York even fell to Russia. But we did not waver. We drew on our gold and we pushed them back. When the Romans attacked their first, second, and third times, we did not yield an inch of territory. They retreated, and with generous peace terms. When the Iroqouis, once our friends, launched a surprise attack, killing many of our brave men and women, we did not waver. Instead, we took the fight to them, seizing lands that they had stolen from Rome and from Greece and we took their capital, forcing them to submit to our desire for peace. But we are not conquerors and oppressors! From these lands we rebuilt the shattered Greek civilization, freeing ourselves from administrative burden and creating a buffer from the warmongering of Rome and Osininka.

Even in our darkest hour, we did not back down. Nation, you remember this. Some do not. Some did not survive to remember. In an unprovoked attack, Russia, our former trade and scientific partner, invaded our southern holdings, threatened New York again, and in an unspeakable atrocity, use three nuclear weapons against Washington, killing millions and crippling the heart of our great civilization.

But we did not waver.

With your help and support, I rallied our troops. We were caught off guard, but we did not stay in retreat. We regrouped and took the offensive. I am proud to announce that we have achieved total sea and land superiority. Our troops are approaching Moscow, to prove to the world that no matter the blow we are dealt, we will always stay standing and never leave justice undone.

I would like to thank the workers from all over the empire, including immigrants from Rome, Greece, Russia, and Iroqouisstanstan, who came to Washington, risking fallout and further attack, to clean and rebuild the land. Your selfless, tireless dedication to doing exactly what I tell you to do is the foundation of this great empire.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that we've almost developed the B52 bomber, which will, thanks to our excellent training facilities, be able to bomb you twice per turn, right off the factory line. So don't mess with us again. If that doesn't convince you, rocket artillery are close behind and I already have several double-striking artillery, even one with increased range. Barring those, we now have secured the Russian uranium deposits and will soon be able to use them to similar effect.

Have a nice day.

I danced in the morning, when the world was begun

And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

In the morning...

The raid dancing is not new.

Before I get into things, I want to note that I am using the term "bad player". I mean this in a very broad sense of "players who do not contribute to the death of the boss". That could mean slow reflexes, ignorance of fight mechanics, inexperience, poor gear, etc. It's not a value judgement or a measure of intelligence. I'm not using it as such and frankly, people shouldn't. But people who extrapolate from game skill to real life qualities are a topic for another day.

Let's go with the danciest of the dances, the Heigan dance. The floor explodes in a pattern, so you move with it. Such a terrible Lich King-era fight. Except it was recycled content from vanilla. But late vanilla, let's use that excuse, and only have earlier fights count. In that case, let's try Ossirian the Unscarred in the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, where the raid was constantly moving to keep away from tornadoes and get the boss to the next available crystal, and clump up for meterors on the trash before him. Too late? Then let's go to Zul'Gurub and make sure everyone moves at the right time for bats and gets in the poison cloud just in time for Hakkar to drain them. It's still too late? Fine. We'll go to the very first raid and collapse for sons on Ragnaros, make our pretty ring of groups for Shazzrah, and get out of the fire from Gehennas. Alright fine, we'll go earlier, to Stratholme where you'd better get over here so we can AoE the skeletons and if you want something more dynamic we can go to BRD and better keep moving because these dwarves will respawn behind us in about 15 seconds, so stick to the clock and do not fall behind.

The dance has been there. But maybe the dance has changed. Maybe it's a dancier dance. A costlier dance. Ah... let's try that.

Failing to collapse for Sons of Ragnaros would likely get you killed or at least OOM and in a lot of pain, as well as putting one out of position for the AoE. Not a raid-wiper. Be out of position on Arthas and a Val'kyr will drop you off the side and a puddlefire is going to kill everyone. Dying as one of 40 makes you look like an ass, but is it the end of the attempt? No. Dying as one of 25 and killing everyone else is the end of the attempt. There's the change: the cost of failure has gone up.

Tobold had a useful classification which I can't find, but it roughly divided raids into three types: One stressed a few pre-selected players (Garr banishers, jugglers in ICC), another stresses the average (any DPS check), while the last stresses the worst players (puddlefire on Arthas). The first allows for good players to carry the raid, whether with good or bad players, meaning that if you can find a few solid players, they aren't likely to leave because the raids are succeeding. The second allows good players to carry bad players, but they must make an extra effort (or tuning must be low enough), so that they may down the boss but still feel cheated. Finally the last encourages serial dumping of the lowest players because no one can help them and even gear may not fix the problem.

I think WoW has been shifting from the second category (average) with some use of superstars (seriously, I was awesome at banishing, I even figured out how to make it something worth bragging about because I was so awesome) to ever more of the third type.

This doesn't make fights harder for people who need harder fights. It just makes failure more likely.

A good player isn't pushed any harder when the rest of the raid can screw things up for him. A bad player possibly cannot get better, being at some limit of reflexes or how much they care to learn or practice (everyone has their limit, but of course anyone lower than you is lazy). There may be some who are able to be good but have not yet been challenged, possibly quite a lot of them. In that case, the second category is a way to challenge them without making their lower performance the death of the raid. But for players who aren't very good and aren't going to be better, putting burdens on them is utterly pointless, worsening the game for both bad players (who now wipe) and good players (who wipe or have to waste time finding new players).

Ironically, as addons have gotten better at tracking DPS, DPS has become less important. Reverse that damnable trend! Have more DPS fights and yes, the much-maligned tank-and-spank. This allow the best players to prove their mastery of their classes (or badge grinds) without shoving everyone else out of the raiding scene. Have more fights where a few good players can carry the tricky parts, so they can shine without having to kick the duller players. Better and worse players can coexist, but the raid design puts them into competition rather than cooperation.

And let me put my banish key to work again, with a curse ticking on the boss and my healer bored with no damage to heal. Just don't ask me to move out of the puddles.

Proof that science is smarter than religion

| Monday, January 23, 2012
Ask a priest a question for which he has no real answer and he'll answer "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

Ask a scientist a question for which he has no real answer and he'll start writing grant proposals.

The Vatican might be pretty neat, but it has no particle accelerators.

In unrelated news, classes start today.

Equality of Opportunity, Equality of Outcome, Equality of Nothing

| Sunday, January 22, 2012
In my left hand is a very valuable thing, it's a card, much like the Monopoly "get out of jail free" card, except it's a "have a job all your life" card. Get this card and you will never be unemployed unless you quit your job. Come rain or recession, you will have work.

In my right hand is a six billion sided die. It is a fair die. You all have your number, so when I roll it, you know who comes out on top. The winner gets the card.

Good luck, everyone.


And there we go, 67923 has won! Congratulations!

Quit whining, the rest of you. There was equality of opportunity.

Is excessive use of hyperbole killing democracy?

Dunno, vote on it.

Minecraft: For kids whose mothers didn't get them a soldering iron for Christmas

| Friday, January 20, 2012
I'm finally playing Minecraft with friends, rather than alone. It's a lot more fun that one, with people to show off to. Inevitably, I found myself tinkering with redstone, because there's so much cool stuff to do with it. Of course it's a bit expensive to do too much tinkering on a live server, so I made my own little sandbox where I can figure out the general concepts. I'll still have to work out how to fit everything into the space I have.

Space is limited, obviously, because I'm trying to put hidden doors and tunnels everywhere I can, particularly within the castle we're building. My attempts to use paintings didn't work because we don't all have exactly the same textures and even the perfect painting won't cover perfectly. That leaves me trying to use redstone and sticky pistons, with the slight problem that I have never seen a slime.

In the meantime I built most of a theater. It also houses the Center for Advanced Door Research, where I will eventually design the doors of the future. The door to the Center is, of course, not a simple wooden door. Sadly, I have not yet had time to add the full security such an important facility would require, such as combination locks, lava traps, and obsidian walls. The local tyrant is unlikely to provide sufficient resources.

Over in my own sandbox I tinkered a bit, creating a few creations. Most notable are the elevator, an incomplete proof-of-concept, and a pulse-cutter. The pulse cutter does what it sounds like: it cuts pulses. A normal button press creates a long signal. This cuts it off partially, creating a smaller pulse. I think it could be useful for regulating the elevator pistons. More importantly, I think it would make for a better input signal when lighting a dance floor, which I hope to add to the lower level of the theater, once I have... 1452 redstone ore for the diodes, plus more for the wiring, which will be at least another 80. Maybe the floor doesn't need to be the full 20x20 (the circuit is bigger than the visible floor).


The screen (still needs a screen)

The seats (I'm refusing to put in red velvet)

Lower Grand Room (see why I'd need a lot of redstone?)

Center for Advanced Door Research (ooh, secret inside shot! Those are the circuits for the door)

The snow is due to a snow golem wandering around. At least I think I got rid of most of the chickens.

The Diplomatic AI in Civ V is Random, Stupid, and Great

| Thursday, January 19, 2012
Ai in Civilization IV was a nice set of visible equations and with a bit of math you could get along quite nicely. Civ V introduced a new mechanic: random dickishness. Are you five turns in and getting denounced for "trying to win the game the same way"? Or maybe the previously friendly civilization has suddenly turned on you? Maybe you're on your march to victory when suddenly the entire world turns on you.

Sucks, doesn't it?

I think it's great. Let's face it, the world is not run by Kissinger clones who carefully balance practicality with bombing Cambodia for no apparent reason. Instead it is run by people. People get mad and paranoid. They lash out for nothing. They attack when they cannot win and surrender when they could win. They are irrational and random.

The AI system in Civilization captures this very nicely. Is it annoying to get invaded by your friend? Well sure. But you know who hated getting invaded by his best friend? Stalin. By the analogy this makes the AI Hitler, which is why it's okay to kill them.

In RPG terms, the AI lost its aggro table. You can't tank it easily with bribes and religion, though I do miss religion. Instead it attacks, not quite at random, but close enough that you'd better bring some disc priests, which I'm pretty sure means having the Great Wall and a lot of crossbowmen.

Pirate This Post

| Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Apparently today is the day when everyone goes silent to protest SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Well, I don't know how to do that. I mean both in the technical sense that I don't know how to take this blog down for a day (maybe I could make it private, but that wouldn't say why) but also that I'm not very good at shutting up.

I believe government has a very important role to play on the internet. In fact, I believe that there should be a regulation enforced by any means necessary, and I mean any means. Violate this regulation and I believe the government should get to blow you up with a drone.

The Regulation:
No one gets to regulate the internet. No governments. No corporations. No person. No organization.

The internet is the closest thing the world has ever gotten to a truly free market. It is an engine of innovation and communication. Some powers don't like that innovation or that communication, so they try to stop it. They hate the free market because it threatens them. Free markets are unstable, just like democracies. Powers rise and they distort the system in their favor. It is necessary to counter them, put them back in their place. This is one of those times.

Piracy is bad. But overreaction and overreach are at least as bad.

It's a bit of a shame that Wikipedia is going dark, because without it, how will anyone know why it is down?

Maybe xkcd will be up. Maybe not. Either way, I think this comic fits.
Yea, just the link. I'd hate to accidentally pirate it. Maybe on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

I want to shoot him. Let me shoot him.

| Tuesday, January 17, 2012
ESRB Warning: Any sense of choice is merely an illusion.

Welcome to Star Wars: The Old Republic. It has some great story-telling.

Meet Tyresius Lokai, a slimy rodent who I really want to kill. I think they did a masterful job with this guy. He's a serial scammer who has managed to piss off pretty much everyone. Bounty hunters are sent to go kill him. And off they set, guns ready, and hoping to catch the previous guy who failed to do the job. Well, we meet him, and guess what: he's been bought off. Sold his ship and now hangs out with sexy twi'lek babes, doing what anyone else would do if loaded with credits. He's not the first to get bought off, since Mr. Slimerat got pretty damn rich with his tricks.

Finally though, I have him. It's been a long chase, but his droid is dead and my gun is ready. He offers to buy me off, throwing me what I think was a box of credits. I'm immoral, but that doesn't mean I'm unethical. This guy is going down. Beside, he's annoying. Whoever wrote this quest chain did a masterful job of making me hate him. I refuse the offer and he sets dogs on me.

But he's out of time and space. His ship isn't ready to take off and my blaster is ready. Time to get paid.

By him.

Even if I really want to kill him, even if I have already rejected his offer in order to kill him, I cannot kill him. Nope. I am magically compelled to take him on as a companion. That makes perfect sense! Why wouldn't I suddenly drop all my hatred and take on a huge risk like that?

Of course the game won't let me break my story. I mean, their story. That's fine. But is this really the only possible way? Did no one suggest the option to shoot him and as part of my reward I get to hire (for free) a companion which is exactly the same as him? It felt like I'd been playing a racing game and suddenly they replaced the finish line with a wall.

Not happy.

I'm looking forward to the trial or f2p.

Picking your resource pool

| Monday, January 16, 2012
Why am I predicting that my paladin in Skyrim won't work well? Resources. I need to divide my levels between health, magicka, and stamina.

The paladin would use melee attacks for most damage with strong healing to keep him alive as he wades into large groups of enemies. Melee attacks drain stamina. Healing uses magicka. Getting punched in the face uses health. That means I have to keep all three fairly high, or else I'll find myself lacking in damage, healing (health), or health, one of which contributes to enemies being alive, which means that indirectly, all three are factors in whether I die, which is usually a bad thing.

It's not really the base pool that concerns me. A bit extra or lacking here or there isn't my concern. Instead it is the regeneration that worries me. If I increase my magicka regen, that only affects half my resource pools (I'm dropping the concept of health as a resource). My melee is not helped. Or on the other side, more stamina regeneration does nothing for my healing. This means that I must balance my gear for two pools, always risking depleting one or the other too soon, with no ability to correct the problem.

Contrast this with a mage whose damage uses magicka and whose healing also uses magicka, so that the single stat is perfectly flexible. A shortage of damage can be made up for by risking lower health, while a lack of healing means a temporary reduction in damage.

It doesn't help that caster gear tends to be robes rather than heavy plate. Enchanting can help with this, so I'll leave it as a "player problem" rather than a "developer problem".

The Solution
Allow players to pick which pools are consumed by resources.

Change my physical attacks so that they use magicka. We can pretend that I'm not swinging my arms and sword with muscles, but magic, making it a sort of short-range telekinesis. A wizard did it!

For casters, allow destruction spells to consume health. This creates an interesting scenario where their health rapidly fluctuates, with enemy damage and destruction spells hurting them, interrupted for the magicka-using heals to renew it. Or they use the magicka for alteration and conjuration, supplementing their offense even more, but at a terrible cost. This would be a great setup for a warlock.

The Libertarian LFD Plot to Murder You

| Saturday, January 14, 2012
Nation, we all know that this nation was founded based on a recognition of equality, namely, fuck that, why would we give the vote to poor people and women? We called it liberty and it was great. But, ever since that Big Government anti-liberty Jew* named Abraham Lincoln came in, I've lost my right to private property, by which I of course mean Negros.

* He had a beard and was named Abraham, so I'm pretty sure he was Jewish. Not that there's anything wrong with them. I have no problem with shadowy empires of wealth controlling the world.

But I wanted to talk to you about Looking for Groups, Dungeons, Raids, and how I get to murder you if I feel like it. So let's get right to that.

As we all know, I am the only one that matters. I know this because I said it's true and I'm the one that matters. Or maybe I read it in a book by some Russian Hollywood type, and you know how they are, and have been mindlessly parroting it ever since. Anyway, I matter and you don't. So when I go into groups, I look out for me, as number one, and everyone else can worry about themselves, though frankly I can't decide if they're too pitiful to worry about or too pitiful to be worth being worried about by. It's sort of like the question of whether God can make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it, except it's more like whether the rest of you scum are so scummy as to not even be worth your own existence. Because you're not me.

My point is this: Cheating you is not wrong, because it benefits me, and as we all know, the ideal is for everyone to look out for themselves. This is the foundation of capitalism, which has brought prosperity that those backward people of the past could never imagine, because they were too busy imagining silly concepts like whether anyone else matters. You see, it is just basic economics that if everyone looks out for themselves, a term known as rational self-interest, everyone them makes mutually beneficial transaction that make everyone better off.

Obviously that's a stupid idea. Why would I, looking out for myself, worry about whether we are better off overall? That's the job of socialists. I'm concerned about myself. So, with this in mind, I am going to take all I can for myself and if I'm feeling generous, hire someone to shoot you if you get uppity, rather than doing it myself. See, I'm a job creator. The deal is simple, help me keep down the rest of the rabble and I'll let you live. That sort of free enterprise entrepreneurship is the foundation of a healty economy. Note that I said a healthy economy, not a healthy you, so quit whining about the carcinogens.

Speaking of carcinogens: I get to poison you. It's very simple. First, I open a factory that emits toxic fumes and dumps whatever is left over in the water. I can do this because I employ a few people, which makes it job creation, and therefore okay. Then I realize that my scheme was flawed, so I sell it off to a firm that can cut costs and turn a profit. Being a job creator, I start my own firm and bring in investors. By investors I of course mean the money from the pension that I'd promised to workers of my factory. I use that money to buy my factory from myself, making me rich, and giving the workers' pension a worthless asset, which I then buy from them cheaply when the company is liquidated. Of course to cut costs I laid off those workers and with all the paperwork they'd have been unable to collect the pension anyway, so it's not like they lost anything. Now I have a giant building that puts toxic waste into the air and water, slowly poisoning you to death. You can't do anything about it because I am, theoretically, a job creator.

Or I could just cut out the middle man and start burning bricks of sulfur on my front lawn while children are walking to their socialist public school. If you complain by ringing my doorbell, I will take that as a sign of aggressive trespassing, a clear violation of my few remaining rights to property and privacy, and get to shoot you. That's the beauty of libertarianism, it gives me the right to poison children and murder you if you say anything about it.

You may wonder how this is relevant to LFD. That's because you haven't been paying attention.

What we're seeing here is a concept known as an externality, which is, roughly speaking, when an interaction has effects on individuals beyond those directly involved in the interaction. Think of it like if I am in a gunfight with a Negro and he misses, because they hold their guns weird, so the bullet that was supposed to hit me instead hits an innocent bystander. Notice how despite both of us aiming at each other, a third party was still hurt. Now we could point out that the problem is that a Negro has a gun, a set of perfectly acceptable state-level laws which should have never been repealed, but that's just the limit of the analogy. The problem is that everything has effects beyond the one single interaction, such sulfur dioxide or flammable drinking water.

If people focus solely on their own well-being, then they will fail to account for externalities. I obviously won't, because being able to pollute makes my operations cheaper. You won't because I've lied to you for years about how the unregulated market is perfect and thanks to a terrible education system mixed with just enough racism, you believe it and think that getting strange forms of cancer at age 35 is either normal or caused by gay people, depending on whether we're having our two minute hate, also known as a Santorum rally.

Within the context of LFD or LFR, this means that, contrary to the supposed goals of individualism, no one will take any personal responsibility, but will instead look out for themselves by heaping as much blame and pain on others as is possible. That's the great irony of hyper-individualism, by promoting total disregard for others, it ignores any personal responsibility. Why would I take the blame for my own problems when I can blame you and put the cost on you? I will ninja all I want and it will be your problem, not mine. I will wipe us and blame you. I will ditch the group if I perceive the slightest possible upset and won't care, because all the cost of that action is borne by you, not me. With no system to hold me accountable, I certainly won't, and you won't be able to.

And that's why I'm a libertarian in LFD.

I can hear you now, screaming that I'm just a strawman libertarian, that real libertarians would never poison children for personal gain, that they take responsibility for what they say and do. And I laugh. Please, tell me, if we're all going to be free, who can tell me to do anything else? Not government, of course, that would be excessive regulation, which which I mean any regulation. Not society, because you're all just a bunch of rabble who, of you had any actual power, would be here with me, defending it.

I want to share with you what I call the Flower of Liberty.

No, you're not the flower. You're in the middle and the petals are all my private property, which you don't get to cross. You are, of course, free from any government rules, taxes, or regulation. But don't cross my property lines.

Be free, little one. And hold your breath if the wind shifts; the southern flowers have the sulfur burners.

Virtual Materialism

| Friday, January 13, 2012
If I can buy it, it's worthless.

I had too far to walk, so I did my usual thing, thinking too much. Along the way I wandered back to WoW and my abandoned banks and bags. Filled. With what? Gold? Certainly some. Herbs and ores and badge loot? Some as well. Generic things. Commodities.

I started thinking of my own material situation, or of hypothetical situations. What if I had a million dollars? I'm not sure what I'd buy. Certainly I'd buy an end table and some pictures for my sparse walls, not to suggest that the end table is for the walls. I'd buy a very nice computer. Maybe even a TV. Maybe not the TV, seems pointless. And then what?

Maybe I could consume. Not buy, but consume, like real Americans do. I could buy shoes to not wear and cars to sit in traffic. For what?

Symbolism. These things are not all that great, but they symbolize wealth. I guess that's nice for some people. For me, I think a bank balance makes a good symbol of wealth. But then why is my long-lost paladin decked out in Judgement and wielding a Thunderfury and who knows what silly other items?

They are not wealth! They symbolize something different. They symbolize experiences. Thunderfury is time in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, a reminder of times I enjoyed. The armor as well. Somewhere a scepter is waiting as the last step to opening Ahn'Qiraj, a useless item these days, but a reminder of the quest chain, one of the longest ever. A reminder of time and experience.

No badges can buy that. And similarly, what can money buy? I cannot think of what money would buy to remind me of anything. It would have none of me in it. I suppose we could draw on Marx and his thoughts on how workers have become separated from the product of their labor. I work one job and buy something else; entirely disconnected. Or I farm randoms for badges, like an assembly line putting in a rivet all day every day, and I get back something in which I had no part in the creation. None of what I have is unique, but it is mine, by my creation, by my action, so it is bound to me. It gives a new meaning to items being soulbound.

Maybe someday I will build my own house, or at least remodel it. I've done that a lot, but almost never where I live. So there are dozens of houses with me in them. My brother's house as well; wood I stained and a very nice ceiling design that I installed. I was relieved when they decided not to move just yet, because they could not have bought that house.

There's a new way to look at the evolution of WoW, from the cottage industry of little loot tables to the factory of badges. I suppose I'm just a Luddite.

Blizzard announces plans for new Warcraft-themed MMORPG

| Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I don't normally do news, because for the most part "news" just means a copy-paste of whatever someone said followed by some pointless commentary from the supposed journalist topped off with a request for comments, all of which end up somewhere between "best new game ever" and "that's so stupid", with a swirl of Nazis and at some point someone spells Microsoft with a dollar sign instead of an S. Speaking of which, did you ever realize that 75% of the letters in Nazi are also present in Blizzard? And if you consider that r looks a little bit like n, that pushes it up to at least 90%. Just saying. Anyway, "journalism" in the form of out-of-context quotes, commence:

"If there is one thing we've learned from WoW, it is that there is a lot of demand for the Warcraft IP, especially in a persistent online environment."

"The Warcraft missions gave a lot of action, but it often felt like the story was put to the side. We want to really show the players what they are fighting for by getting them personally involved in the story and battles."

"The bit of branching in Starcraft turned out to be popular, so we're taking it to the next step in this new MMO, allowing players to not just pick a different order to do quests, but letting them even just wander this vast world of Azeroth and see what they find."

"Customizing the hero units in Warcraft 3, finding the obscure trinkets from demonic portals hidden away from the narrow path, people really enjoyed that a lot. We want to bring that to this game, the ability to customize to fit how you want to play, and to find something new and interesting when you go off the path a bit."

And of course some ignorant asshole from marketing: "This is the time of the franchises and spin-offs. The Old Republic is capitalizing on Star Wars, Lord of the Rings Online is building off the success of putting a bunch of hot guys and elves in the same movie, and of course EVE online is striking a chord with the Christian crowd."

I was most encouraged by this last quote: "We all still remember NGE and you can trust us that we're not going to radically alter the game to bring in a few more subscribers."

Wrath of the Lich King killed Wrath of the Lich King

| Tuesday, January 10, 2012
When I think back on my raiding experience in Burning Crusade, I also think back to my raiding experience in vanilla. There was much I didn't finish in vanilla, or didn't even start, and BC gave me another shot at it. With ten levels and a few tiers of gear inflation, I could go back for another crack at it. Certainly it was not the original experience, an inevitable thing given that we were acting as 10 or so people taking the place of 40, with new class mechanics breaking all sorts of old rules. But it was something, to intentionally misquote an old towel advertisement, almost, but not quite, entirely like the raids.

Treadmills don't give much sense of progress. We gain more levels and gear, and so do our AI enemies. So where are we now? Nowhere new. But we can get a sense of progress when we walk backward off the treadmill, thereby gaining a greater sense of our gain in power as well as the way this metaphor has gone off track. In BC I was stronger than in vanilla and I knew this because in BC I could solo Garr and a few other bosses, where once I could not even glance the wrong way at a trash mob. And in Wrath of the Lich King I knew I was stronger because I could solo Karazhan and bring small groups to other places as well.

The sense of being incomplete was part of what drove me. I'd tried and failed and now I would try again. There were bosses I'd not killed, interesting drops I'd not gotten, quests left undone, AQ gates, anyone? One could say that this is evidence of an elitist, overly restrictive game design. I don't think so. I much preferred to have something left over.

At the least it was a radical change of scenery and way of playing. Having raid content when I'm supposed to do that raid content is nice, but it gets to be the same thing over again, the same cruel loot tables, the same distribution problems, the same shortage of the same class or role, the same thing just in a differently painted room. Old raids offer something different. It's not quite trivial, it's not quite new and not quite old, it's entirely useless and yet, through that uselessness, entirely liberated. When the loot becomes a toy rather than a deserved, demanded reward, people are nicer about it. It's simply a different experience, raiding old raids, than anything else in the game. Raid old raids is a form of content, accidentally created with the Burning Crusade expansion.

But Lich King killed that. The rolling nature meant that I'd done all of the raids, except some of Ulduar which I was sick of anyway and that one place they added near the end that no one did. There was no sense of incompleteness. I felt as if I was done. Bosses dead, badges farmed. There was nothing I'd want to go back for, except maybe Shadowmourne, but by the end I'd grown to hate Icecrown Citadel. Too many months in the same place, farming the same badges, off the same bosses, with the most miserable architecture imaginable. Blue and grey are sorrowful, while at least the red and oranges of vanilla and BC had some fire to them, some happiness or at least rage.

When I felt stalled before, I could go back and progress in the past, going backward for another path forward. Lich King used up all the forward. So when I stalled in Cataclysm, I had nowhere to go back to, nowhere else to go forward, and so I left.

Skyrim gets rogues right

| Monday, January 9, 2012
This cannot possibly go badly.

I was expecting to get one decent hit, and then promptly get flattened.

Instead, my rogue was fast. Very fast. He got off a solid hit, then followed it up with a slash and a finisher, with the giant dead before it could respond.

He's certainly squishier than the paladin I hope to make someday, for which I have low expectations (melee and healing don't seem to mix well, ever). While he has more armor than my mage, he's stuck in melee for damage and is less mobile (no fast bow movement yet), with pitiful healing as well. It's not all bad news. Shields seem to actually do something, not just blocking, since the bash ability has many uses, from interrupt to set-up for counter-attack.

It's the stealth that ruins rogues. In WoW it is the absurdity of combat, that strangest of mechanics which gives mobs the amazing ability to always know my exact location, regardless of line of sight, light, and noise. Once in combat it is often impossible to get out until one side is entirely dead. Being in combat negates stealth and sneaking. If you're not sneaking, why are you a rogue?

Skyrim actually pulled it off. Enemies may be alerted, without being omniscient, though I have noticed that they are sometimes at the opposite extreme, searching in the exact wrong direction: "I think I saw something! Over here in this brightly lit corner behind me, nowhere near those suspiciously well-placed shadows where if I squint I can just barely make out the silhouette of an elf." Even if they spot me they are not permanently on my tail. But I might question why, if someone next to them just died to an arrow to the chest, they would ever revert to a fully relaxed state. I'm not saying they would be permanently hunting for me, but the order of events should never go like this:

1 - Fellow bandit dies to arrow in the chest (knee wounds, while notoriously debilitating, also also rarely fatal)
2 - "What was that?"
3 - NYD bandit wanders around a bit, looking for something.
4 - NYD bandit returns to corpse of dead fellow bandit
5 - "I guess it was nothing."

My rogue feels right. He can sneak around and pick of targets here and there. He avoids groups when possible, waiting for wandering members to be isolated. He can, if things get really bad, go toe-to-toe with enemies, but it is not a pretty process. When fighting wolves, one of the finishing moves is to kick them before stabbing them. It really helps reinforce the idea that my character is a huge jerk.

This one time, he killed an entire instance full of bandits, except one guy, patrolling near the middle. Now he can finish his patrol and know that not only is everyone dead, but that he's surrounded by the corpses, and surrounded by his own failure as a guard. I'm imagining him as an utterly broken man. Or, if he's like me, he's looting their corpses and throwing out the bits that have a low value/weight ratio. I hope he's not like me. I frighten myself. It's pretty hit or miss if I kill everyone in a place or if I only kill the one and only one target, leaving all the rest leaderless and shocked. I killed a woman at her wedding. Then I stole her wedding dress. My first ever murder was a bard who charged too much for his awful singing. When told to pick who should die in order to join the Dark Brotherhood I killed all three of them, but picked the woman with the family first. Sometimes I beat rabbits to death to steal their souls, in order to recharge my mace that steals souls, which was gifted to me by a definitely evil demon prince.

Oh yea, screw stealth, what's the point of being a rogue if you can't be an utterly evil person? Maybe I should try this Star Wars game; I've heard it has some unsavory classes.

I thought I was bored with dragons

| Friday, January 6, 2012
But these people showed me a whole new level of indifference.

Afterward their only remark was "ooh, shiny" as I healed myself up a bit.

In related news, I love the random killing blow animations. With that demonic mace I'm using they look especially effective. It's quite a fun weapon to use, nice and solid with enough spiky bits to make it clear that whoever just got hit is, at best, in crippling pain. My favorite part is when they are almost dead and stagger a bit saying how they give up, and then I beat them again and see their soul get torn out.

My 5-5-5 Plan

| Thursday, January 5, 2012
What I'm currently playing: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Civilization V, and Poker Night at the Inventory, which has five players and is only here so I could get a third five.

Here and there I read annoyance or anger over the habit of publishers to stick to just a few franchises and slightly tweak them over and over for massive profits. I think that's not at all the problem.

Here I am playing the fifth in two series, after having played the fourth, and in the case of Civilization, the third (I won't count my brief time with Civ II). I like these series. Are they just incremental steps in the series rather than innovative new games breaking new ground? Well, yes. What's wrong with that?

The Civilization series has it's formula: build cities, kill everyone else, rule the world, using a mix of city management and planning as well as military strategy and tactics. Until V it didn't have any major deviations from this formula. Sure, IV added some features and the expansions added more and we got more nuances to the civilizations, but ultimately it was the same general game. V brought the biggest change with the wargame-like combat, for which it ended up receiving criticism. Maybe it wasn't innovation, but it certainly ended up being an argument against change. People knew what Civilization was and that's what they wanted. And there's the whole reason for the franchises, at least on the consumer side: we know what we're getting. I know that some companies consistently make good games and some series are consistently good.

Similarly, as I see it, Skyrim is a much prettier Oblivion with some nice added mechanics, but it is essentially the same game. I don't mind this at all. Oblivion was a fantastic game for me and so far, Skyrim is performing well. The fact that it was not a dramatically different game was what sold me on it: I knew what I was getting and I knew that was a gameplay and type of story that I enjoyed.

I think the true problem is this: first person shooters and sports games. They're stagnant. I believe that they are doomed to be stagnant, at least until something changes dramatically. "Shoot guys in this hallway" has its limits. Crysis pushed this out by often giving an island rather than a hallway, and I commend it for that, but that's a harder model to go with and I don't think it is going to catch on. Open areas are harder on the game, harder on the AI, and frankly, I think many people don't even want that much flexibility. I know I played the Halo demo for a long time because it offered convenient point and click violence, without much need for planning or any thought at all.

I do like the shooting people gameplay, but the typical hallway shooting just doesn't do much for me. It's too scripted, too restricted, and in general, lasts only a few hours. I don't see much sense in paying $50 for an afternoon or two. Maybe I'm just spoiled by too much WoW, which as linear as it has become, is still a wide-open sandbox compared to 99% of FPS. Maybe that's why I enjoyed the Stalker games so much, for their combination of shooting people and sandbox.

I don't like sports games much because unless they go in the silly direction, such as anything featuring Mario or that one NBA game we played back on the N64 (Hang Time?), they just seem stupid. This is of course, my opinion, which is how we know it is correct.

You probably noticed that I'm leaving out that all-important multi-player experience. No one is paying $50 for a few hours of scripted AI. They're paying $50 for months or years of online play with friends and enemies. That's great, but it's not for me. So for me, a single-player player, they aren't worthwhile.

We've now established that franchises are good, except when they make games I don't like. Why would anyone make these bad franchises and why would anyone buy them? Well obviously, they make them because people buy them, like in the classic movie: "if they come, you will build it." So why buy them? If the previous game was playable and fun, why buy the new one if it is only incrementally better? Slightly better for a few hours of single-player isn't worth it, but slightly better over months or years of play, now that is worth it.

But why not make a much better game? Because that's harder! And riskier. Franchises are safe. Customers know what they are getting and companies know what to make. New ideas might not work. Putting major changes into an existing franchise risks its security. Putting them into a new title risks a lot of money, and who will be the customers except the people already buying the incremental upgrade? It's risk with little reward.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go back to Skyrim and ponder why the Dwemer ruins remind me of a combination of Gnomeregan and Titan ruins, complete with their own degenerate race that breaks through walls to kill everyone, which look like exceptionally ugly elves.

Zero Means Zero

| Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Microwave, World of Warcraft, please, sit. I want to talk to you about a problem we've been having. Maybe we need some historical context for this, you know, for perspective.


Where do I even begin? Okay, here's roughly how I remember it, and not directly copied from Wikipedia.

"By the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, the Babylonian mathematics had a sophisticated sexagesimal positional numeral system. The lack of a positional value (or zero) was indicated by a space between sexagesimal numerals. By 300 BC, a punctuation symbol (two slanted wedges) was co-opted as a placeholder in the same Babylonian system. In a tablet unearthed at Kish (dating from about 700 BC), the scribe Bêl-bân-aplu wrote his zeros with three hooks, rather than two slanted wedges."

"Records show that the ancient Greeks seemed unsure about the status of zero as a number. They asked themselves, "How can nothing be something?", leading to philosophical and, by the Medieval period, religious arguments about the nature and existence of zero and the vacuum. The paradoxes of Zeno of Elea depend in large part on the uncertain interpretation of zero."

See that's where I think it came from. You're like the Greeks. Except not quite. Maybe you're like... Anyway, my point is that you're stupid.

Counting goes 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on. Counting down goes toward zero and... Okay imagine that you're running a race and there is a countdown so it goes 3, 2, 1, GO! What? No. No that's just stupid. I have never ever run a race that went 3, 2, 1, 0, GO!

Look, let me just say my bit and you can go back to being stupid.

If the timer is at 0, that should mean you turn off, not beep a bunch and keep rotating the food for a few more seconds. And if fear is at 0 seconds that means it is DONE. I am SICK and TIRED of getting KILLED because you think that ZERO LASTS TEN SECONDS!


Well yes, thank you for joining me here today.

Skyrim: Porn Edition

| Monday, January 2, 2012
Add a second to the tally of lonely women living in the middle of nowhere who suggest staying a while and complaining that the guards never give any alone time.

Skyrim has made quests a bit more interesting, even more so than they were in Oblivion, relative to choiceless quests so often found in extremely popular MMORPGs. I first heard this in relation to the Dark Brotherhood line, which didn't surprise me, since the quests in Oblivion were some of the best in the game, competing only with the Thief's Guild for general awesomeness. Let me put it this way, when dealing with chaotic, but not necessarily evil demons, it is very hard to actually anger them, so feel free to follow your own path.

Crafting is now done with equipment at locations, such as forges, cooking pots, and alchemy tables. Also, there is not crafting that does not involve turning corn and rice into stamina potions. I don't know yet if I will care much about the expanded crafting system, but I suspect I'll learn more when I make my second character. At some point I hope to make a rogue sort of evil guy, who follows the right path overall (saves the world) but in the wrong way (kills half of it for fun).

I forgot to mention the assistant at the inn in Falkreath. She's very friendly. Friendly. You know what I mean. The first lonely woman I ran into seemed fine. Family got killed, she killed the killer, so now she lives in the woods, surviving despite people trying to kill her. Strong. It seems perfectly reasonable that she'd be a bit lonely, given her years of isolation excluding bandits. If this was a party-based game like Dragon Age, that seems like a set-up to recruit a party member. Then I ran into the inn assistant who insisted on pointing out what a big strong man I am. Maybe that's her job. She seemed to be wearing a strange mix of warm clothes and exposed legs and cleavage that made me suspect that it is her job to flirt with customers while not freezing to death. Then there was the woman at the inn, who wanted me to stay a while, despite not renting any rooms.

I'm not sure what to make of the politics in Falkreath. On one hand, the new Jarl seems like the corrupt type to push out his uncle to be the big fish. On the other hand, the uncle also seems a bit paranoid, so maybe it was a legitimate move to remove him. There does seem to be a lot of imperial activity, understandable given the rebellion, and with a rebellion, it seems like a good idea to install puppets.

Speaking of rebellions, I don't think there are quite enough to keep track of. We've got the Talos agitators, the Forsworn who are whining about being conquered thousands of years ago, the Stormcloaks who want independence, but are also enemies of the Forsworn, the corrupt Silver-Bloods who make the Koch brothers look like upstanding citizens, and of course, rumors of a dragonborn, which mostly means the guards ask me to stop shouting so much. Yea, they want me to stop shouting. Once right after I killed the dragon that would have turned their little town to ashes.

I think I've been playing WoW too long, because I figured, if guy tells you to join in the prison escape, you join in the prison escape. I didn't recognize that I could stab him during the process. So now there's some crazed racist guy running around worshipping demons. At least most of his friends seem to have died and I didn't get blamed for the three guards I killed or the dozen or so people I was framed for killing, or in a dozen or so cases, actually killed. What I'm trying to say is that all the killing was justified and the only unjustified one was a frame. I had nothing to do with it! Honest!

Speaking of hijinks ensuing, I got into a drinking contest. I figured it would be like the punching contests, but with alcohol. Instead I woke up finding that I had trashed a temple and fondled their statues. And at some point I kidnapped a goat and sold it to a giant. Sanguine's Rose was a much more interesting weapon in Oblivion.

So yadda yadda killing thousands of more people, next thing I know I'm a thane or two and I've got this woman following me around carrying stuff when I ask. I figured I should visit the mage college and along the way got attacked by a dragon. Somehow this particular fight didn't go very well. I found myself caught in a full blast staying alive with heals, but without the mana to retaliate safely. Then it died. I had some running to do, on account of not wanting to get hit by the giant either.

Between feeling lazy over the holidays and playing Skyrim for the majority of the hours in the day, I'm probably going to be posting infrequently still. Maybe Wednesday I'll try to find all the things Skyrim does better than Oblivion and see if I can find anything it does worse. Before I forget: merchants having limited gold available makes a lot more sense than the Oblivion model of limited gold per transaction, but it sure is annoying at some times, especially early on when I found myself stuck in some little nothing town. That's what I get for wandering off the first chance I got. Maybe that's why the start of the game has me literally tied up; it was the only way to ensure I'd do at least something when I was supposed to.
Powered by Blogger.