The Five Level Problems: Forcing Content

| Monday, April 30, 2012
Changes rarely have single effects.  One little thing, such as the way we count levels, can ripple through a game causing changes far beyond the level cap.

Previously I complained that the expansions had a leveling cutoff: once you reached the cap for that expansion, xp dropped by 90% for the mobs in the area.  It seemed pointless to just cut out content.  Besides, there was already the gear issue: new expansions give much better gear, so there is already a carrot to bring people to the new content, making a stick seemingly redundant.  The gearing was also a stick, since the Cataclysm instances all have ilevel restrictions so that to get in you need to run the new zones anyway.

The problem, as was pointed out by a commenter, was that without the xp depreciation it would be faster to level to 85 using Northrend mobs than the newer and tougher Cataclysm enemies.  I'll leave aside "so what?" as a counter-argument and just run with the assumption that speed-leveling to 85 must happen in the Cataclysm zones.  Here is where we get to one of the Five Level Problems.  With a wider range of levels we'd naturally see a drop-off in the experience from Northrend mobs, which would eventually become grey and not long before that, green.  This would leave a short distance where perhaps Northrend mobs are better, but not far, and attempting to jump ahead with them would leave the player undergeared from lack of quests and instances, slowing them before long (though a player with a great deal of ICC gear would be near the level of Cataclysm gear, so maybe that's not true, at least not for a long time).  At the least, adding ten levels rather than five would reduce the relative speed of Northrend racing (and give more time to switch out ICC gear).
 As we level up and get better gear, mobs level up and get stronger, so once we're in an expansion's gear, until we start running heroics, we're going to stay somewhat on par with mobs.  They get stronger as fast as we do.  With five levels that means we get stronger faster, and so do they.  The result is that small differences in level are more significant.  With ten levels, the small differences are diluted, so if you're off by a few levels you're not going to get rolled over, just suffer a worse attack table.  For players this means more choice.  Sick of Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord?  Jump ahead to Dragonblight and it's not the end of the world.  Back in Burning Crusade some players would skip straight to Zangarmarsh as a way to bypass the crowded Hellfire Peninsula.  For leveling in Azeroth this gives a little more flexibility.  In all cases, the level requirements to pick up quests don't help, locking out zone quests which are still possible for the player.  The quest locking, extended to entire zones, was made worse with only five levels.  There is the second Five Level Problem: if a level is even more significant, then whatever justification is used for the level requirement becomes stronger, so have more gates on content then we would otherwise.

Before I wrap this up, I want to leave a comment for commenters: I know some of you don't like gating or gearing or leveling.  Those are all internally-generated opinions which are not caused by the five or ten levels added by an expansion.  So please, don't comment about how gates are stupid and why can't we all just do the content we want to the instant we get the thought.

I don't know why Blizzard only added five levels.  I'm sure Google could give me some statements from them, but I'm not sure that would actually explain anything.  The fewer levels are consistent with the ever-stronger push to the level cap and away from leveling.  This push is much more insistent, as rather than being an heirloom that you can avoid or excessive quest xp that you can grey out and ignore, having only five levels shoves players right into the level cap.  But, maybe it's not so bad, since after all, so far all these "five level problems" are all leveling problems, not part of the "real game."

Initial Impressions from GW2 Beta

| Friday, April 27, 2012
First impression: Took almost half an hour for Syl to log in because of various crashes and full servers.  She thought the loading screen was very nice and encouraged me to look at it, but I was playing WoW at the time and didn't bother to Google it.

At first it seemed like there would be quite a curve to catch up to, with not just a ton of new skills, but by the time she was online, someone was already level two.  I tried to convince her that she was hopelessly behind the curve, but she didn't heed my warning.

From what I could hear, it seems that her Norn was not just smoking hot, but also scantily clad.  This was either offensive or great.

Performance wasn't great, but let's face it: it's a beta.  That's one of the things to fix.  So no whining about performance!  It should be all uphill from here.

But the gameplay is what matters!  So let's get to that: There are a ton of abilities.  They change with the weapon you have.  It sounded cool.

Unfortunately, the night ended on a low note, with a disconnect, and by then it was past 1am so that was the end of the night.  All in all, it sounds pretty good and I'm looking forward to giving you more early-breaking third-hand information on it.

Class Identity and the Necessity of Balance

Does class balance matter more or less if you're strongly attached to your class?
When I speak of attachment, I mean mentally or emotionally: you like the playstyle, the way it fills its role, the lore, or have gotten the muscle memory firmly embedded and nothing will shake it.  This is not about the convenience of switching classes.

It matters less
If I really enjoy a class for how it plays, then a bit of variance in balance isn't such a problem.  The innate fun of the class acts as a buffer against balance variance.  It's similar to how adding 1 to 10 is 10%, but adding 1 to 100 is only 1%.  People often see the world in percentages, which is why a dollar isn't a dollar, so that for one person a dollar is .004% of a year while for another it is .000001% of a year.  Which person is going to react more to a dollar?  Similarly, if my class loses a bit of damage output, that is a small percentage change in my overall fun.

It matters more
If we're tied to a particular class, then any imbalance is made worse by a reduced ability to adapt, by which I mean switch classes.  In effect, the emotional attachment acts as an anchor, keeping us in place.  It can have the same effect as if it were extremely time-consuming to reroll.  Why would we reroll?  Perhaps we can no longer find groups, so that a small change in class balance forces us out of groups, mandating a reroll, and if we're so tied to a class, then even if the reroll itself had a low cost (let's imagine there are free 85s in full 378 gear), we're still pushed into a lower tier of fun.

Hey, sexism!

| Wednesday, April 25, 2012
This post is being written by someone who has just finished an excessively-important paper about patent law, a subject about which I know little and am not expected to know much, and yet was supposed to improve, which I did because I'm just that awesome.  Also it's a bit late.  And I have an exam tomorrow.  Plus the take-home due the next day.  So why am I writing this?  Because I am vaguely annoyed about an issue and by God, I am going to make you vaguely annoyed as well, if only about the post.

So, the womenfolk have gotten it into their heads that there's some sort of problem with their representation in gaming.  It seems that pretty often, they are presented as sexy, and that's about all they are.  Thin women with big tits and not too much clothing to cloud judgement seems to be the way to go.  By cloud judgement I mean the way clouds obscure vision and make it harder to judge people.  I'd hate to be blind and go through life with that added barrier to objectification.  I'd need to grope women just to get a general idea and they'd just get more angry if I said I was trying to objectify them.  Whiners.

But I was thinking, is it really all that sexy to have these strangely shameless women running about in high heels and a few bits of cloth?  I think I'd find them a bit frightening.  What other social norms are they lacking?  People don't normally dress like that in public or for battle.  If they can do that, maybe they also think fights to the death are the appropriate way to say "good morning", like they do in Japan, as best as I can tell.  Thankfully, I've never been to Japan because then I'd end up dead or aware of my own ignorance and neither of those sound very good.

You know who's sexy?  That Alyx Vance.  She's almost like a person.  She cries when her dad dies, like a person would.  She has an adorable childhood pet robot which can throw armored cars, like an awesome person would.  She made it herself.  She cares about other people, but doesn't get all weepy and break down at the slightest sign of danger.  She's no damsel in distress.  Personally, I find that a bit sexy.  And I'd love to see that more often.

But speaking of seeing that more often, what does she wear?  Jeans, a t-shirt, and a jacket.  Not a lot of skin showing there.  Her hair is short.  This is not to suggest that she is unattractive.  She's thin and has a nice face, to the extent that computer-generated graphics can give the impression of a nice face.  But she's not nothing but that.  Her portrayal in the games and media is what we'd expect of a person who has survived a terrible life: slightly distressed, but determined, and usually pointing a gun at something.

This is the same set of games where the protagonist is a physicist who saves the world with the help of other physicists, a rocket scientist, and a semi-sentient robotic dog.  This is a game which is clearly made for by and about geeks.  If there is any game where attractive women would be expected to be stripping for the hero, this is it.  After all, this is a game where we're the heroes, us socially-withdrawn geeks, and who among us would not opt for the occasional uh.. hero's welcome?  But no, that's not what happens.  Instead the female character has to go and be a person.  It sets a dangerous standard!  If the geeky game for geeks can have female persons, could it spread?

 It would be nice if it did.

I tend to play female characters in WoW.  I prefer the appearance, though it does make it harder to identify as the character.  I don't mind skimpy armor as something which exists.  If someone else wants to play naked Barbie, that's their choice.  I prefer more clothing.  For this, transmogrification has been a boon.

I am tireder now and will leave you with this incomplete post.  But isn't it always incomplete?  Of course.  Only you can add in the misinterpretations and reactionary comments.

[edit] Edited for Alyx

A Sermon

| Monday, April 23, 2012
Stand in the fire.  STAND IN THE FIRE!  In the fire!  Yes I said it and I know they say you shouldn't do it and you shouldn't but this time, this one time, stand in this fire for I have some words for you.

The Jews have their week and the Christian have theirs and we have ours.  We have our Tuesday.  And on that down, server down to server up, we rest.  Yes we rest!  Rest ye weary souls, for the raids are starting again.  Refresh yourselves.  On this day of rest the locks are reset and a new World is opened to you.  Rest well.

But do not grow complacent!  Never!  For you do not know the hour in which the server will return.  No one knows!  Thus it is written upon the forums in the divine text of blue: SOON!  Be ready.

What do we do when we know the servers are going down, as if we did not always know?  What do we do?  We rush.  We try to get it all done.  A long week, too short for our lazy characters.  Valor uncapped, LFR undone, and your guild will not respect your reputation gain when you're so low.  Oh it is the life, the life indeed.  You wait and say you have all week and then the hour is upon ye and you rush to get it all done and do you succeed?  With luck, with the blessing of the random number generator.  But ask not for such such blessing for you have not EARNED it.

They rush to the auction house like hyenas after the scraps, eager for the low bids which will have no competition with a server down.  They are the last rats to jump off the ship, plundering your auctions as they go.  And yet, why?  Why would you do that?  Learn To Auction!  Tuesday afternoon is no time for a 24 hour auction.  Oh no. It is TOO LATE.  And yet, too early.  For the hyena rises early and he will be there when the server returns, waiting to strike.

Hyenas.  And yet it is the LION, the supposedly noble one who steals the kill.  You're a lion and if you say you're not you're lyin'!  The lazy lion you are.  A week?  You failed the week.  But the day, did you fail that too?  Did you do your daily quests?  Did you do your random?  Or did you sit by and say "I have many hours in the day"?  Hours turn to days and days to the week.

Rest your souls.  Unburden yourself of your sins, for while they are of great weight, they are as lost as you.  A new week is upon us and let us celebrate it for the opportunity it brings.



The Five Levels Problems: Introduction

| Friday, April 20, 2012
I kept thinking about how Cataclysm has only five levels.  Was it a good thing?  Bad?  I was leaning towards bad as I kept finding problems and changes that needed to be made to compensate for only having the five levels.  So I decided to really look into it.  I pulled up wowhead and began filtering and running the numbers on the gear between and within expansions to see if I could find something.  I was pretty sure it was there, a problem which would link in to several others.  All of it coming back to the core issue of only having five levels.

Let me assure you, it's a great post.  At least I think so.  I have some good, solid points, some analysis, data to go with it all.

There's one small problem: do absolute changes matter more or less than percentage changes?  50 is more than 25, but 50 more than 200 is less than 25 over 50 (25% vs. 50%).  Absolute terms point in one direction.  Percentage in another.  The argument might be stronger for the percentage, which would seem to go in the opposite direction of my conclusion.  Or does it?

If that made no sense, here's the general idea: there is always inflation between and within expansions: we level up and gear up and before long the gear from the last expansion is obsolete.  Given the goal of the gear reset, Blizzard tries to make it obsolete quickly, so the gear of a previous expansion is pretty much gone by the first new zone.  Then they have to inflate to get rid of that gear too.  The result is that you get some inflation from the start of the expansion to the cap (before instances and raids).  In BC and LK this was 40-50%.  In contrast, in Cataclysm it was around 22%, or roughly half.  Aha!  Half the change for half the levels, a brilliant way to fix inflation and we'd see about the same growth of character power.

However, in absolute terms, Cataclysm was higher, 61 vs. 57, suggesting that Cataclysm was working off the hugely inflated ilevels created by the many tiers and modes of LK.  From this perspective, the half-count of levels weren't any help at all, an accounting trick to paper over the problems created by runaway inflation in LK.  Reducing the leveling gear inflation by reducing the levels would help to reduce the inflation over the expansion as a whole, or give greater room for raid gear inflation.  I've not looked at which of this is the game.

They say there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.  I don't know why someone would lump the science of uncertain results with the art of certain falsehood, but maybe that person was just a liar who didn't like pie charts.

Single-Payer Tax Plan

| Tuesday, April 17, 2012
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. Yes, this is a repost.

Worst Gaydar Ever

| Monday, April 16, 2012
It was a typical weekend. I was tired, bored, and playing WoW. Specifically, running old raids. I went to Ahn'Qiraj, which due to a summoning error started in the usually-soloed AQ20. After that was BWL, but a bugged Rend event mixed with a lack of patience and inability to follow basic directions eventually resulted in only four of us in the raid. Razorgore died. I rushed off to grab the goblins before they could escape with their precious average of .08 elementium ingots.

One of the two mages said something to the effect of "whoever dies is a faggot", in reference to the Burning Adrenaline buff which eventually kills them. I was still chasing goblins and hoping to outrun the boss speech.

I considered explaining that there is no evidence for a link between the buff/debuff and homosexuality, and furthermore that as it is commonly used, faggot is a pegorative term, making it a pointless and unscientific insult against a group that I have yet to see harm me, either collectively or as individuals. Alas, time was short, so I went with "worst gaydar ever".

I'm not actually opposed to the use of the word faggot, but I think it should be restricted to faggots, either bundles of sticks or homosexual men, with it usually referring to the latter unless hobbits are involved and it's not a slashfic. I think it's very important to have the word faggot as a negative reference for gay men. It helps me identify and avoid homophobes. The usage of faggot as generic insult mostly confuses me. Sure, that's what people did in 8th grade. Everyone was a jumbled mess of immaturity and ignorance and the concept of masculinity was poorly understood but understood to be very important, so linking someone to a group often associated with femininity made perfect sense in the strange logic of cruelty. Gay or not, labeling someone gay, or with a gay label, was a useful tool in inflicting social and psychological harm on others. Then at some point I figured people went to high school, spent a few more months using gay or fag as generic insults, and then switched to Shakespearean attacks in an attempt to win points with the English Lit teacher and avoid punishment from authority figures who did not realize that telling someone to "get thee to a nunnery" wasn't a Catholic joke. I generally expect people to grow up.

Boss dies, shaman friend gets shield, and burning adrenaline, and dies. Faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot.

Ah. So now we're past the one-off immature joke. Now he's being insistent. Spamming it. Pardon me a moment.


What the fuck is wrong with people that they think that this is any way remotely acceptable behavior? What circuit is wrong in their heads to think that any spamming is appropriate? Even worse, spamming at someone with a probably-inaccurate and definitely-irrelevant insult? It makes no god damn sense. This isn't a college frat where everyone is drunk and being an immature jackass helps a person fit in. It's a small group in a game. What could possibly be the point of this? Is it some mental disease? Is it contagious? (yes, unlike homosexuality, which is a great irony)

*end rant*

I kicked him in the middle of his spamming. For whatever reason the chat message is "so and so has left the group" rather than "so and so has been removed by irritated raid leader". The shaman friend whispered me, asking if I'd kicked and I said I had.

 But why then? What actually changed from the first mention of faggots to the last? A bit of spam? Surely I can better survive a bit of spam than pointless hate directed at 10% of the population (they're everywhere, look out!) and hitting 100% due to terrible aim.

I've been called a faggot before. There I was riding my back to the high school, not or school, but for summer sports camp when I was going onto 7th or 8th grade. Someone was riding behind me saying "faggot", not close enough or loud enough for me to even realize anyone was saying anything, but eventually I noticed. It was someone my age who caught up and asked where I was going and somehow my school came up, a nearby Catholic school for kindergarten to 8th grade. He called it a fag school. Having been there, I can assure you, there would have been little tolerance for any fagging. This is the Catholic Church we're talking about here. If that's a fag school, then fag is clearly meaningless.

If I woke up tomorrow and fag was universally used as a generic insult, that would be fine. It's not. Instead it's sometimes generic, creating the fag=bad connection, if that hadn't quite been drilled into people yet, and sometimes specific, allowing it to act like one of those parasites that has a dozen stages of life all of which allow it to better survive and infest hosts. If it were generic, it wouldn't be hateful to gays. But as a hybrid, it's hateful to gays, suggesting that they are so bad that even the description of them is bad, and to be described as gay is not merely inaccurate (it usually is), but offensive. That's the key. If someone says fag they aren't saying bad+homosexual, but rather homosexual->bad. If fag was merely pairing two unrelated terms, one neutral and one negative, that would be okay. It instead acts like a very short [il]logical argument: If gay, then bad. I wonder if it's coincidence that one of the first people to explicitly explain to me that gay is bad was also someone who told me to carry a pocket Bible. I think I'd need the word of a deity before I'd start hating people for a behavior which doesn't harm anyone else (not that I'm suggesting it harms them either).

I've never been attacked or significantly harassed (I just have a particularly good memory for bad memories). So then it makes sense. If I've never been hurt by homophobic behavior, then it's no wonder I'd let it slide, at least until they start spamming. That's what is bugging me now, that it was the spamming that got him kicked. But isn't the initial comment the real problem? A bit of spam here and there never hurt anyone. It's the little comments that slide by unchecked, un-fact-checked, un-questioned, which act like little seeds. Call it the "broken windows theory of hate".

Yet if I were to ignore, kick, and report every single hateful comment from the niggs in trade chat to the faggots in a pug raid, where would that leave me? Well thankfully, I'd still have my guild because I can't recall them being hateful assholes. But I'd definitely find myself labeled a nit-picker. "Choose your battles" sounds like common sense, but there is also "death by a thousand cuts", like when in Wyoming two men tortured him most of the way to death and then left him to slowly die tied to a fence. Then people (I'm using the term only in the genetic sense) showed up to protest his funeral. I'm not suggesting that there is a direct link between calling a female shaman in BWL a faggot leads to murdering people. But I am suggesting that a little bit of hate goes a long way. Seeing someone as a little less human makes them a lot less safe. That spreads. Maybe we should be more careful with what we say and how we say it and why we say it.

If you've read The Giver, you might remember a part where the protagonist yells at someone who is playing poorly "You're released!" and is reprimanded by the adults, because "released" isn't just a word for being free to go; it means something very serious and specific in that society.

One little change to loot rules

| Friday, April 13, 2012
People who leave the group automatically pass, even if they have selected something else already.  Dropping group during loot rolls overwrites everything else.

Assassinate Creed

You know that great feeling you get when you've been struggling with a boss and finally get it down?  That's how I felt after this quest.

It's part of the rogue legendary quest chain and is definitely a rogue quest.  You must not only sneak, but sneak well.  And sap too.  Sapping and sneaking and being patient and quick.  Patient and quick, that's a rare thing!

This particular part takes place in Gilneas, sneaking past highly-alert guards to assassinate a black dragon disguised as a human.  It was great to see the city used again, and used well.

It took me four tries, though I don't count one of them because I was just testing the circles.  Tip: the outer circle is the detection one.  The inner circle is... round.

But I triumphed!  Then I cooked some food to help me fight the boss.  And then I forgot to eat it.  But he died and I didn't.  Then they gave me daggers that match T6 quite nicely and sent me to go kill bosses in Dragon Soul and the other place which might be the same place, for a few weeks.

So let's hope I can get into the raids.  Maybe if I kill a guildy.  That's a legitimate rogue tactic, right?  Maybe not funny to joke about after the EVE incident...

Anyway, point remains, bravo, Blizzard, on an amazing quest.

I spent ten thousand hours in LBRS and all I got was this puppy.

Persuasive and Authoritarian Roles in the Holy Trinity

| Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Some people tell you what to do and you have to listen because they're the ones in charge.  They have the law or guns or mind-control.  These are the authoritarians.

Some people convince you to do it by manipulation: bribes and blackmail and friendly smiles with the knife behind their back.  These are the persuasives (not a real word)(or so the authoritarians would say).

Some people don't tell you to do anything, they seem to never order anyone at all, but they are always there, making things happen, invisible and often uncredited, but necessary beyond imagination.  These are the nameless ones, because I can't think of a good label and maybe that works anyway.

Consider control over mobs within WoW.  I think we can map these labels onto the group roles.  Not the holy trinity of tank, healer, DPS, but to tank, crowd control, and healing. 

Tanks hold aggro by mechanic and mind-control.  They use sheer numerical power to force enemies to attack them.  That's what aggro is, a number on a table that tells the mob who to attack, and tanks make very big numbers.  Taunts are the mind-control, forcing them mob, regardless of any other preference (except when specifically disabled) to attack the tank.  Tanks are ultimately about straightforward use of power to force the mob to do what they want.  As WoW tanking has evolved from aggro being difficult to survival being difficult (relatively speaking), this has become even more accurate as an analogy.  Indeed, authoritarians can impose their will, but then people try to kill them, with varying degrees of success.

Crowd control uses tricks.  The crowd control cannot easily tell mobs to attack them, but some classes can tell them to attack others.  They can pin mobs in place, stun them, fear them.  They kite them, using constant effort to make it happen, in contrast with the tank who can more often start off with aggro and keeps it, with little effort.  A kiting hunter cannot ever stand still because the mob is always moving, just as a persuasive leader must constantly counter the intellectual, or blatantly false but nevertheless convincing, attacks against him.  One misstep can be the end.  But the results can be more beautiful to see.  While the power of a tank may be impressive, everyone enjoys a story of intrigue.

And then there are the healers.  They don't tell anyone what to do, not directly.  Without them, everything else falls apart.  They are the bureaucrats and the secretaries, who we may see, but never quite acknowledge as essential, and they may try to keep it that way.  Their bosses are likely to be authoritarian or persuasive and neither likes to have their spotlight stolen.  If we notice an amazing healer, it probably means something went wrong.  They take the heat when someone stands in the fire.

Or if you were expecting this to be about God, then let's say God is the authoritarian, Jesus is the persuasive, and the Holy Spirit is the nameless.  It doesn't even get a name.  Sometimes it's the Holy Ghost, which sounds like the least terrifying Halloween movie ever.  God tends to kill people, the Holy Spirit does something I can't quite remember but is important, and Jesus once crowd-controlled a pack of demons by putting them into sheep and running them off a cliff into the sea.  And then he self-rezed and BAM, casted frost shock.

You must, maybe, be in a raid to enter this isntance

| Monday, April 9, 2012
Why?  And when?

Obviously from a strategic standpoint you're going to need a raid group to get far in a contemporary raid instance.  Just zoning in though, that also requires a 'raid'.  There is this strange requirement that players be in a raid group in order to zone in.  It's an inconsistent requirement.

The raid group does not even need to be a group.  Five players in a group cannot zone in, but hit the convert to raid button and now they can, despite no actual difference in the group composition.  This was a past-time in the past, of completing a BRD run and attuning people and then you'd convert to a raid and gaze in wonder at the Molten Giants that stand near the entrance.  Sometimes we'd pull one, they're linked so we'd get both, and see what happens.  Usually it meant we died.  Sometimes we ran out fast enough.

You don't need 40 people to zone in to a 40-man raid.  You don't need 25 for a 25 or 10 for a 10.  Or even two.  The other person in the 'raid group' can be offline, even on another character, and it still works.  I don't know why the raid group requirement exists.  Maybe it was a way to prevent the generation of hundreds of single-person raids that would destroy the servers back when Blizzard staff wasn't yet swimming in pools of molten gold.  BTW, a very painful process, but they come out very shiny.

The inconsistency goes further.  It seems to me that the raid group check only occurs at instance portals.  That means that if you can get inside without the glowing purple or green wall curtain, you don't need a raid.  There are two raids which have that ability.  It's not coincidence that both are also linked to instances.  Molten Core is linked to Blackrock Depths and has a portal down there, which no one uses (anymore), but also in Blackrock Mountain there is a window which acts like a portal.  The window does the raid check.  But next to it, there is an elf.  He doesn't.  Talk to him and you can get in, even without being in a group, let alone a raid.  Blackwing Lair is linked to Blackrock Spire, and also has a teleport mechanic in Blackrock Mountain, an orb which will put you inside the raid instance, again, without needing to be in a raid group.

I've tried other raid instances, not all, but a decent sample covering both sides of Ahn'Qiraj, Karazhan, Mount Hyjal in the Caverns of Time, Icecrown Citadel, and Ulduar.  All block me, requiring a raid group.  This seems to support my theory that if you can bypass the portal, you can get inside.  But I don't know of any other raids which allow that.  Maybe the legendary staff from old Naxxramas would do that for Karazhan (I don't know where the portal it makes goes, inside or outside), but good luck finding one to test!

BREAKING NEWS: The wasps have armed themselves

| Friday, April 6, 2012


Should LFR form 10-man raids?

| Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Currently, LFR forms 25-man raids. This has benefits and costs. Let's look at those.

Speed of raid formation
We know from random heroics that there is a relative shortage of tanks and healers. In a perfectly balanced system everyone would see approximately the same queue times, slightly above zero and varying with time, due to random variation in the number of tanks, healers, and DPS online at a given time. The average wait time of any role would be the same as any other. Obviously this is not the case.

25-man raids shift the required ratio of tanks, healers, and DPS. While only one or two more tanks may be needed, as well as more healers, the majority of the increase in raid size is from DPS. The overall ratio swings away from tanks+healers toward DPS, which may more closely match the overall population ratio. In contrast, 10-man raiding can simply double the requirements, leaving the general balance approximately the same. This means that we can expect 25-man raids to form more quickly than 10-man raids.

Or can we?

Let's imagine that players queue in at random times, and also randomly fail to accept the created raid (the dreaded red check mark followed by another few minutes of waiting). If two tanks, two healers, and six DPS are queued up, that's a 10-man right there. If we add more DPS, they don't have a group until we've added so many that a 25-man forms. That means waiting, which means more time for people to get bored and drop out, meaning a longer wait to form the raid.

The critical factor here is the size of the queued population. If it is small, then the 10-man raid will form more quickly, while a large queued population will make 25-man raids quicker on average by bringing in more of the overflow of DPS. Note that this does not mean the population that wants to use LFR. Players already in a raid are not queued and are therefore not available to form additional raids.  I'll come back to the logic, or lack thereof, of this later.

 Quality of Experience
I think I might enjoy LFR more if it formed ten-man raids.  With the current 25 it becomes a giant mess of players, crammed into small spaces, lagging out anyone with a low-end computer, and feeling like a zerg-fest rather than a raid.  Switching to a ten-man format could alleviate this problem.  Individuals could feel slightly more accountable and important, but with heavy nerfing they would have to try just as hard to wipe the raid.

On the other hand, that was some terrible math that I didn't do
If the overall population trying to raid is out-of-proportion with the 10-man raid size, there are going to be longer queues, even if each group forms faster, because each group is smaller.  It would be faster movement through a narrower pipe, and a pipe that for some reason blocks half the DPS from entering.

For this, I suggest a hybrid model: Form 10-man raids by default, but if the DPS backlog grows too large, form 25-man raids until it has been reduced.  This would put the average raid size and composition somewhere between 10 and 25, allowing it to more closely match the overall ratio of players.  If there are a lot of DPS one night, it will skew toward 25 to let in more, while if the DPS are lower, it will create 10-man raids.  This wouldn't help much with any imbalance between tanks and healers.

The hybrid model should result in faster queue times for everyone, better matching the requirements of the raids to the available population.  As an added bonus, it could give Blizzard a way to measure how many people actually want to raid in each role.  If the queue times between roles are more similar, then players will be more likely to play the role which is most fun, with less distortion from queue times.  In the future  Blizzard could use that information to form better raid sizes and ratios of tanks, healers, and DPS.  Imagine that, having data on what people want to play based on what they do, rather than what they say they want to do, or what they do when we provide a distorted incentive system.  It's like science!  But sadly, with fewer lasers.

Why you should use a boring mount

| Monday, April 2, 2012
Turning into a dragon is definitely cool.  Carrying friends to great heights and dropping them is cool too.  Having friends is overrated.

What isn't cool, but is definitely valuable, is being able to land.  With the small, boring, basic mounts, landing is easy.  You know right away where the center is, where the feet are.  When you need to land on tiny outcroppings to get minerals, herbs, or just need a good spot from which to rain down terror on soon-to-be terrified enemies, having a small mount helps.

My own experience with landing the big mounts has shown that they are much trickier.  The worst may be the dragons, which always seem to be an inch away from landing but are still insistent on flapping their wings.

There is the option of dismounting before the mount has settled, but if it isn't landing, you're probably going to end up on a steady downward slope.

In most situations this all just means you waste a little bit of time moving around trying to get the unwieldy dragon to land.  But sometimes, it means someone else wins the race, to the ore, the herb, or the rare.  You can't have that.

Don't let vanity stand in the way of the pyrium vein that you've earned by flying in circle for hours!

P.S. I'm re-restarting my political blog over at Delusions of Truth.  This could result in 25% less randomly political posts here.  No promises.
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