Reason to Kick: dc

| Monday, July 30, 2012
A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets...

It was a lie.  I think we all knew that.  But what was I supposed to say?  Time was short and we needed results.  The clock was ticking.  Two clocks, one up, one down.  The count up was to act and the count down was for him to act.  Tick tock.

Combat?  Yes.  Still combat.  Not any more.  Time was short because he was itching to get into it again and if he got it again, we'd be out of time.

I panicked.  I lied.  I acted.  I ain't sayin I was the good guy or even a good guy.  Not then.  No one was then.

But dammit, the tank just would not slow down.  No looting.  Skipping all the quests.  Zone in and off to the races.  Not the listening sort.  We struggled to keep up.  I panicked and talked to the goblin, just in time, because if we didn't blow that door, then it would all come to a grinding halt.

I acted.  I called for a vote kick on the tank.  I said "dc".  We knew it was a lie.  I voted of course.  So did my friend, the healer.  And someone else.  I bet it was the DPS warrior.

All the evidence fit.  Like me, he needed the quests.  He knew we didn't need the spare tank.  He might have been duel-wielding, but he knew what to do.  He knew how to throw heroically.  He let the hunter pull when the pull was a tricky mess waiting to happen.  I'd have invited him to the guild if he weren't a million servers away.  I settled for a compliment on his tanking.

Achievement: Zul'Farak.  And a hunter weapon.

Intellect is not a rogue stat. Did you know that?

| Friday, July 27, 2012
Imagine that in your group there is a rogue in full heirlooms buy whose damage is terrible.  Upon inspection, he is in all caster gear.  An intellect robe drops.  He rolls need.
If you respond by kicking the rogue, then you're looking a lot like the person who was yelling at me (in the original intro, someone yelled at me)(omg beyond the scenes of the making of Troll Racials are Overpowered)(Original name: Lucas Starkiller)

Here's my pet peeve: Not explaining problems.

Let's look at that rogue again.  Is he a noob?  It certainly looks like it.  Note that he is a noob, not a ninja, at least it does not appear so.  Based on the gear he had and the gear he tried to get, it appears that he does not know that intellect is worthless for rogues.

Either that or he's obsessed with style.

Whichever it is, the important thing is to talk to him, rather than just shoving him off into a new group of victims.  Explain, politely, that intellect is worthless to rogues, that agility is a much more useful stat.  If that is unconvincing, invite him to mouse over his character sheet where it describes the primary stats, with emphasis on the part that says "Intellect: Provides no benefit to your class".

Alternatively, if he insists that he needs it for style or transmog, then explain the problems with that. Transmog is obvious: you can't transmog leather for cloth appearance.  Style, well that's trickier.  You'll need to carefully explain that rogues go for a leather-based style with dark colors and maybe knives, rather than flowing robes.  If he insists on dressing in robes, avoid using homophobic slurs (seriously, not cool) and instead use tribalistic cultural appeals, similar to why your company insists on a dress code and you don't let your children get their eyelids pierces.  The important thing is to talk it over first.

The wrong thing to do, and I don't just mean "impractical" wrong but "you're a sociopathic menace to society" wrong, is to simply kick them.  That puts the burden on another group without solving the problem.  Instead the rogue is likely to think that you're an asshole.  And maybe that everyone is an asshole, "Why do people keep kicking me?  This game is filled with assholes.  Well fuck them, I'm ninjaing everything!  I bet that druid won't like it when I take his agility gear!"

Down the the Dictator, but not the extensive bureaucracy that maintains civilization

| Wednesday, July 25, 2012
"There must always be a Lich King."  Lame, right?  Or is it?

The other day I watched Equilibrium, which is basically what would happen if you wanted to make the Matrix but couldn't legally do that, and replaced machine-driven illusion with drugs to block emotion.  For various reasons it irritated me, but one in particular stood out: the downside of ending the regime was never discussed.  The film of V for Vendetta had this same problem.

It might be because I'm a Stalinist*, but I'm not a fan of the pattern of "dictator falls, everyone lives happily ever after."  That's not actually how things happen.  Ever.  I can sense the objection rising up inside you, so I have these two things to note.

*according to my critics

First off, I don't think the downside to the fall of the dictator must necessarily be shown, at least not right away, but there should be at least some notion that something went wrong.  Take Star Wars for example.  After A New Hope we're all happy that the Death Star was destroyed.  Then the Empire strikes back in the appropriately-named The Empire Strikes Back in which the Rebels are stuck on a planet made entirely out of ice and wampas.  In the extended universe we learn about how just because the Emperor eventually died doesn't mean everything is great.  Instead, people go out to celebrate and are gunned down by the millions and a whole new form of civil war breaks out, which as best as I can tell, never ends no matter how many times they kill clones of the Emperor.

Compare this with real life where we celebrate the fall of a dictator, and then all go "so... now what?"  That's when every single suppressed grievance explodes and suddenly people start missing running water and streets paved with something other than unexploded ordinance.

Despite that, there is my Second thing to note: just because there is a downside does not mean it is bad that the evil regime has fallen.  Of course it's bad when the basic infrastructure is wrecked and rule of law breaks down, but that's something to consider when taking down the dictator.  This doesn't mean "oh well, things would be worse without them", but instead "let's have a plan for what happens when the Elite Guard of the Evil Government are all out of work."

The admission of a downside is part of what can make the story complex and interesting.  It makes the enemies, the villains, a little more understandable.  Sure the dictator is bad, but perhaps his supporters are just people who see stability as worth the occasional murder and rampant corruption.  Maybe they think it will be even worse without him.  This makes them people with different philosophical leanings and social predictions, rather than evil people.  That's what the world is filled with: people with different perspectives, who we may still find ourselves in conflict with, but who are not evil faceless goons.  After the rebellion they may even join the winning side, not because they are traitors or flip-floppers, but because they see it as the best way to protect what they value and to continue to do their jobs.

They are the bureaucrats.  They are the police and the army.  The judges and administrators.  Are they on the wrong side?  Perhaps.  But that doesn't mean they cannot be on the right side.  Nor does it mean that they are necessarily evil.

I remember an argument in a Star Wars novel in which the hero is arguing with his future father-in-law about smuggling.  The father was a smuggler, running Imperial blockades and bypassing their customs.  It paid well and seemed to be righteous work, sticking it to The Man.  But the hero points out that while the Empire was evil, those import taxes were what paid for roads and schools and healthcare for children.  So even as it is a blow to the Evil Empire, it is also a blow to those who are subjects of the empire and who have no choice in the matter.

Perhaps the best book I ever read that showed the downside, the cost of victory, the burden of maintaining civilization, was called The Star Conquerors.  It's an old science fiction novel in which humans are gradually getting crushed by an alien empire.  It is approximately a gagillion times bigger, which is not helped by a human population which isn't very interested in paying for the war effort that keeps them from being crushed in a week.  The hero does the sensible thing: rounds up what ships he can and goes flying off to kick some ass, which after a mix of luck and brilliance, results in him capturing the core planets.  The aliens hand over control of the entire empire, about a third of the galaxy.  Cool, right?  USA USA USA!  Er.. TERRAN EMPIRE TERRAN EMPIRE TERRAN EMPIRE!  Except for one problem: Before they leave the aliens explain that now we're responsible for administering it all, of managing the flow of trade, of preventing starvation, of keeping everyone in line so it doesn't all collapse into a giant civil war among the various species.

Should we have just given up and lost?  No.  But knowing that there is something after victory, some burden of leadership, of survival against entropy rather than war, makes the story that much more complete and interesting.

And so, when we hear that there must always be a Lich King, maybe let's go ahead and say that in the literal sense, that sounds ridiculous.  But let's not forget that there are still the Vrykul up there, who are going to wonder what happened to their Death God, who are going to need to be either crushed, assimilated, or some mix of the two, and better hope we don't get that wrong.  There are still Scourge agents, dedicated to various agendas of evil, power, and insanity.  In fact, we run into one in the Eastern Plaguelands, a spider who thinks he's going to start his own Scourge.  A joke, for now.  We should wonder, without the leadership of the Lich King, what will the mindless ones do?  What about the sentient and free agents?  What happens to the Plague?  The diseased and corrupted land?

Perhaps we should even be glad that Deathwing showed up.  Imagine the chaos, the destruction, if the greedy, amoral adventurers with incredible magical and combat powers backed with even greater magical artifacts and armor, found themselves bored.  Perhaps that's what was meant by the Scourge going on an even greater rampage of destruction.  With the Lich King, we had a target and that target was something everyone could agree on.  Without him, then what?  Perhaps he did not actually need to convert or corrupt us, merely step aside and let us do what we do: mass slaughter of anything which might be remotely profitable.

Maybe those daily quest givers aren't so bad after all.  I shudder to think what we'd do otherwise.

An auction house without speculator buyouts

| Monday, July 23, 2012

Annoying, isn't it?  The first person into a forum thread or comments section can completely derail it, ruining it for everyone else, for some personal gain, but a net social loss.

This can happen in the auction house too.  Whoever gets there first, particularly as a buyer, can reshape it dramatically, to the detriment of others.  As an example, I offer this story of my own.

I occasionally engage in speculation, acting somewhat like a futures broker, though without anyone asking me to.  I'll see things which are at absurdly low prices and buy them up, sometimes reposting them all higher, thereby setting the market price at what I want.  Or I may simply hold them.  At the time there may be a glut of supply or a lack of demand.  Reposting later keeps a more consistent price, which helps future sellers, though obviously all of this comes at the expense of buyers.  They do get something for that expense, a more stable supply.  So at times this speculation may be an economically productive activity.

At other times it is little better than theft.  The incident which inspired this post was when I saw moss agate at a mere 3 gold.  I bought it up and feeling unkind, reposted, not at the usual market price of around 15g, but at an outrageous 20g.  One sold a minute later.  Clearly it would be absurd to suggest that I added value here, since it's not as if I have moved them through time, bringing them to the market at a time of a shortage.  If I had arrived a minute later, the buyer would have gotten an item for about 12g under the usual price, rather than 5g over.  In effect, he was 17g worse off and I was 17g better off, not because I added value, but simply because I got there first.  While this clearly was to my benefit, it is still ridiculous.

What would fix this?

Bring the auction, by which I mean bidding, back to auction house.  Either remove the ability to buy out items or add some extra cost to it to make short-term market manipulation significantly less profitable.  If I could not have instantly bought out those moss agate, then all I could have done is placed bids.  In the event that only the one sold, then I'd walk away with cheap gems and the sellers would have had successful auction (if underpriced, but that's purely their own faults.  Reposting would have then meant I was putting them up at a time that they might not have been up otherwise, allowing other players to buy when they otherwise could not.

Removing buyouts entirely would probably be unpopular, since sometimes we're in a rush and just need that flask before the raid.  For this, remove the ability of sellers to set a buyout price and instead make buyouts automatically double the current bid.  That means that if something has been bid up a great deal, it's going to cost a lot to buyout, and if it was bid up so much, it was likely closer to the market price than if it had started off with a buyout near the starting bid.  This removes the profit of short-term speculation without removing the ability to carry out time-based arbitrage or for people to get what they need at the last second.  As a side benefit, it might encourage players to plan ahead more, a useful habit for everything except murder (in that case it's a tradeoff between better planning and an increased sentence if caught).

To clarify, the "double bid price" is not set in stone.  Merely adding 10 or 25% would be enough to entirely stop some speculation and reduce others.  Furthermore, since I know you're thinking "everyone uses buyouts, so if the speculator pays 25% more, they'll just get that back when the end user pays 25% more" the extra buyout fee does not go to the person running the auction, but is instead removed from the game, much as the auction house cut and lost deposits are.

Dear fellow protection paladins,

| Friday, July 20, 2012
I'm leveling another protection paladin.  Early in the day there seems to be a DPS shortage (or maybe it's something with the healers), so I end up in randoms as DPS rather than as a tank.  As a result, I have found myself in several groups with you tanking.  I have been disappointed.

You keep dropping consecration early.  And in the wrong spot.  This makes no sense.  It's not something which follows you.  Where you put it, it stays.  So put it in a useful place, such as in the middle of a pack, rather than where you were standing when you pulled.

Speaking of pulling, throw avenger's shield at casters.  It silences them and bring them close so all the AoEs can hit them.  That also means that you have aggro on them, so they aren't standing off to the side zapping the healer.

You don't have to always use seal of insight.  Especially when DPS are getting aggro because you're so bad.

As for all you retribution paladins, why?  You're above 30, so you can get two specs.  I understand that healing is terrifying (not sarcasm), but why not tank?  Throw on a shield and you are now geared as a tank, since it's not as if avoidance stats become common until much later, and aren't needed until much later anyway.  You can do it!  I have a friend who just started playing and managed to teach her to tank on a druid.  A druid!  Now there's a tricky tanking class, what with not every single ability being an AoE for massive damage.  If some newb can pick up druid tanking (not an expert, but did get a compliment once) in a few days, surely you can do it too.  Just pretend it's DPS and replace crusader strike with hammer of the righteous and you're about halfway there.  It's like I said, tanks are DPS who gave up on aggro management.  Oh, but please do drop consecrate in the right place.  I'm sick of healers getting pissed on.

Finally, why are you such assholes?  I get that tanks are awesome and all, but seriously?  I'll grant that my sample size is small, but I don't want to deal with the assholes rewuired to get a larger sample size.  So with that in mind, one group has the tank ignoring suggestions and then pulling as awkwardly as possible, complete with random pauses in movement and what appeared to be keyboard turning, and then topping it all off with a boss pull that wiped the group and then blaming the healer.  I decided to save us the trouble and just tank the last boss, since we had to kick him after he logged off without dropping group.  After that we had the healer who forgot water, so then everyone had to make up the 99.9999999% of the time useless habit of not auto-looting, the failure of which resulted in the rogue being called a retard.  I pointed out the absurdity of that being the sole qualification for being a retard, resulting in me being called a noob and claims that I was "carried", whatever the hell that means at level 49.

Tanks, we have a heavy burden.  We are the front of the group, the first thing the enemies see, so let's put on a good face.  Set a good pace.  Set a good mood.  As the sniper says: "Be polite, be efficient, have a plan to kill everyone you meet."

Learning to be a Death Knight, at level 1

| Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Is anyone tired of having their DK's leveling narrated by Batman?  It's a great set of quests, but perhaps it has gotten repetitive, particularly given the highly-linear, scripted nature of it.  Beside that, given the small changes that have taken place since Wrath of the Lich King came out, there is justification for a new source of death knights.

That source?  Take your pick.  Warriors or paladins could have a corruption chain which converts them.  Warlocks could take a liking to inch-thick steel.  Alternatively, they could start at level 1.

Like any other class, the death knight would start off as a little nothing nobody.  But they'd learn something else.  Something darker.  Gone would be the scripted DK creation/rebellion sequence.  Instead, they'd play in the same level 1 world as everyone else.

Surely the Knights of the Ebon Blade could feel a similar pressure as the Forsaken, pressure to ensure their survival, both for their own interest as individuals in need of allies and as an organization that doesn't want to see the return of the Scourge.  However, while the Forsaken need abominations and corpses to increase their numbers, Death Knights can be converted, willingly.  The weak would desire such power, though only the strong would survive it.

This could even be beneficial to the player population overall.  Death knights wouldn't be hit with so many ability so quickly, then having barely learned their class (if that), shoved right into the middle of the leveling curve filled with players who expect people to have half a clue.  The outside impression could be improved as well, removing the "you started at level 55" or "you're lazy" element.

Rather than delete the current death knight quests, they would be a class quest chain, starting at level 55.  They would be optional, though I expect that the gear rewards would be a strong draw.  Rather than being directly about breaking away from the Lich King, they would instead be set as a series of challenges, to confront the past history of their class and those who wield such power.  In this form, it could be broken into multiple quest sections, so that players would not need to complete them all at once.  Contrast this with the current quests which essentially imprison the death knight until they are entirely completed.

Would you want to level a death knight from level 1?

Segregating the NPCs

| Monday, July 16, 2012
The static prices of NPCs, unlimited gold of quests, and the dynamic prices of a player-driven economy do not play well together.  A player economy only needs a little bit of gold, enough to act as a medium of exchange.  The NPCs want big piles of gold.  The dailies churn out unlimited amounts.

Taken together, we're left with a problem.  Someone wants a pile of gold to give to the NPC for something cool.  They do dailies to get that pile of gold and give it to the NPC.  No problem yet.  Until someone else shows up who doesn't care about the NPC's cool wares, but can still do the dailies for the pile of gold.  Now where does that pile of gold go?  Rather than being generated and destroyed, it instead goes into the player economy, the player economy which doesn't need much gold, but now has a lot.  Prices rise.  Absent the dailies and cool wares, players would have little need to farm gold, and little ability.  Just a little bit would be enough to keep everything flowing, with gold as a medium rather than a goal.  But now gold is both medium and goal and there is a quest mechanic to fuel the engine of inflation.

My suggestion is to cut the tie between the player and NPC economies.  Make gold non-tradeable.  Now players can do their dailies or not, with no impact on the economy, except to the extent that dailies are done instead of farming materials.  Even then, that is merely a function of how much a player wants something from the NPC will cool wares rather than something from the player economy.

If players want something from NPCs, they'll interact with NPCs.  If they want something from players, they'll interact with players.

As for the auction house, allow players to create trade offers.  Initially this would be chaotic, with a billion linen being asked for a truegold bar.  But eventually, players would settle on some new medium to use.  Perhaps ore or another commonly-used crafting material.  This does allow for inflation, but there would not be any NPC giving innate value to the material.  Elementium ore would be worth only what players think it is worth, based on its ability to be traded for other materials or used itself.  Farming a lot of ore would be pointless, because increasing the supply much faster than it is used would devalue it, driving players toward a different medium of exchange.  Without the distortion of NPCs feeding and taking, the market could better set a value for the 'currency'.

Hoarding would be less useful.  Gold is useful across expansions and having a lot early in an expansion gives an advantage when the crafting rush begins.  Materials would not be, so that the barons of the last expansion are at no great advantage in the next except to the extent that they are good at what they do.  This would also have the benefit of keeping the currency in exchange, rather than stockpiled.

You might have noticed by now that merely making gold non-tradeable would not perfectly sever the economies of players and NPCs.  As I mentioned before, there is still the time cost of one or the other.  That is inevitable.  Vendors could still buy and sell materials, creating an exchange between the economies, though I predict that it would be inefficient and therefore not too common.  The exception would be when the player currency is in transition, with the old currency being vendored in large amounts.  Despite these exceptions, I think the separation could be done without too much leakage.

Commence criticism.

Ergo, engineering ruined WoW

| Saturday, July 14, 2012
Wednesday I suggested that adding gold to quests, and therefore the resulting daily quests, had created all manner of problems for WoW.  Rohan pointed out that there was another area to consider: the relative desirability of crafting and gathering professions.  In short, crafting professions got combat bonuses, making them more desirable for taking on challenges in raiding and PvP.  But two crafting professions are not profitable enough to sustain the player, so dailies were created so that combat bonuses would not ruin the economy and make players sad.  Sadly, dailies ruined the economy instead.

Now you might be wondering why Blizzard added combat bonuses to professions.  The reason: Engineering.  This profession was, and still is, filled with quirky devices that extend the flexibility and effectiveness of a player, assuming they do not backfire.  Long ago, they could use an inexpensive grenade over and over to stun players and deal damage, while moving.  Combined with a variety of useful tricks such as death rays, cloaking devices, and mind-control helmets, engineering was extremely powerful in PvP.  Beyond the usefulness of the devices was the fact that trinkets used to be hard to find and weaker than they are now (with some notable exceptions), and since engineering made a variety of trinkets, it was quite handy.

To balance this, because people whined incessantly, and because engineering never got an EMP to destroy the forums, Blizzard added combat bonuses to other crafting professions.  And also nerfed engineering.  Repeatedly.  This begins Rohan's suggested pattern of combat crafting causing dailies.

Of course gathering professions were then weaker in combat.  Sure they could get gold, but what's the use of gold if you're denied a raid spot for having the wrong profession?  So gathering got buffs too.  But then if those appear to powerful, crafting needs some benefit as well.  And so on and so forth.

My solution: remove all combat bonuses from non-awesome professions.  Bring back mob farming as a way that non-gathering players can contribute needed materials.  Bring back unusual materials and hard to find but powerful crafted items, which are not quickly made obsolete by LFR and badges.  Remove daily quests.  Increase the coin drops from latest-tier raid bosses if raiding drains too much gold.  Remove the many gold sinks which encourage obsessive daily farming.

I don't think it's asking too much that players never feel compelled to log in every day.  They should never feel like they're missing something just because they missed a completely random day, not a raiding day, not a guild event, not a holiday, but just some day, some utterly normal day.  I don't think there is anything wrong with playing every day, unless the player doesn't want to.

P.S. Bring back iron grenades. :P

The way You want to play is Wrong

| Friday, July 13, 2012
I know I'm guilty of this too, but like Jesus said, let he who is without guilt throw the first stone so he can feel bad that he just killed someone in cold blood.  Or something like that.

You might have noticed this trend, of players claiming that something in a game is bad.  Bad?  What is bad?  I mean, the very concept of bad, what does it even mean in this context?

Bad could mean that a mechanic was intended to do X but actually failed to do X (in case I need a classification system, let's call this a Type A Bad: TAB).  It could mean that it was intended to do X, and it did X, but it also did Y and Y caused some sort of problem (let's make this a Type B Bad: TBB).  Objectively, we could look at bugs.  Maybe there is a bug that causes players to randomly dismount in mid-air and fall to their deaths, leading to a surge in the population of druids, paladins, priests, and mages as every other class is wiped out.  To fix this, Blizzard releases a patch and it fails to fix the bug, which is bad.  Or, it releases a patch which fixes the bug, but now has a bug that causes players to randomly explode when riding raptors, which is bad (because it's a bug).

It gets fuzzier when it comes to players rather than bugs.  Maybe they fix the bug by just removing flying.  Is that bad?  Well if there are quests which require flying, then yes, because the fix has broken something else (TBB).  For the record, there are some quests which require flying mounts to reach.  As I discovered one day, most of Storm Peaks and Icecrown can be reached by ground mounts, though some quest NPCs will be out of reach.  But let's imagine that all the NPCs were at ground level.  Now the removal of flying doesn't break any quests, but it does require running some gauntlets which are probably not in the original plan, nor anticipated as problems when the flying bug was 'fixed'.  The quests aren't broken, but the developers have gone against their own plans: they have failed at their goal.  Is that the definition of bad, that the result did not match the plan?  Let's go ahead and say that works, but is it a complete definition or an incomplete one?  If all unintended consequences are bad, then are all intended consequences not bad, perhaps even good?  There is that wonderful phrase, "working as intended" as a response to player complaints.

"Working as intended" suggests a sort of "take it or leave it" mentality, suggesting that as things are is how they are, are meant to be, and will continue to be.  In this context there isn't really a "good" or "bad", but merely "what it is" and whether the players like that or not.  If they don't, they leave (excluding other compensating factors).

That's the key thing that I wanted to get at: If there is not a bug or oversight, then there is no objective good or bad.  Well maybe if all the quest text was excerpts from Mein Kampf that would be a bad thing, but excluding the Hitler Scenario, there isn't a right or wrong, good or bad.

You want to play with 3 friends and someone else wants to play with 50.  Neither is right or wrong.  A game designed for playing with 3 people would better suit the first player than the second, but that doesn't not mean that the game is bad or wrong and it doesn't mean that the first player is bad or wrong either.  If the game were changed to better suit the second player, that is not bad or wrong either.  The first player may complain and may quit, but that's his problem, not a moral failing on the part of the developers.  The second player may be quite happy about the change and will attempt to argue against reverting back to the "play with three friends" format.

The cause of the conflict is completing goals.  50 player guy likes some aspect of the 50 player content.  Maybe the guild size appeals to him.  Maybe the ability to hide among the masses and disguise his failings is what he likes.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The player who likes playing with 3 friends may want to see his individual contribution make a difference or he may not enjoy being in 51 player guilds.

The problem arises when players fail to state these goals.  Instead they jump straight to the method, saying that something is wrong, saying why, but not quite getting at why.  They miss the part where they say "this style of the game does not appeal to me" and instead jump straight into the same rhetoric that we'd use for the Hitler Scenario.  Worse, words and phrases are used, "elitist", "sense of entitlement", "I pay $15 a month too."  All of these fail the "so what?" test, wherein someone responds with "so what?" and the person has to elaborate.

Let's all just be honest: none of us have any better way to play or any worse way.  None of us know which game design will open the gates of Heaven or Hell.  Instead we're all just trying to get games that let us play the way we want to play, and for the sake of convenience we'll tend to argue that the game we are currently playing should be more like what we want to play.  A niche game may be able to simply change to match this with little loss for anyone involved.  A large game with a variety of players will inevitably make someone worse off and that person will logically protest, by which I mean that it is logical that they would protest, not that their methods of protest are necessarily logical.

To bring this to the specific, let's go with attunements.  I enjoyed having attunements.  Some were more fun for me than others.  Some were excessive and I'd have liked to see them toned down.  You might not like attunements.  That's fine.  But cut the crap about nostalgia, rose-colored glasses, and elitism.  I liked something, you did not, that doesn't make you the supreme objective observer of what is good.  It just makes you someone who enjoys a different way of playing.

That isn't any fun though, is it?  "I enjoy this" vs. "I enjoy that" doesn't make for a rousing discussion.  Searching for mutually acceptable middle grounds and areas of non-conflict can get somewhere, but eventually it just comes down to two people having different goals and nary a gun in sight to start a war over it.  So I must bring in something else which I enjoy: blogging, and as part of that, arguing (or maybe it's the other way around), so in light of that, I'm going to disregard the entire previous post and say that the way you play is wrong.  Sometimes the illusion is more fun than reality.

Flame on, noobs.

Gold for Quests: The Beginning of the End

| Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Once upon a time there was not a conversion of xp to gold when a player hit the level cap.  If you were level 60, quests gave whatever the reward was, and that was it.  The xp part just didn't exist anymore.

Imagine the economy without quests, particularly daily quests, giving large amounts of gold.  Instead gold would come from a scant few coins from quest rewards, fewer still from mob kills, and then there was vendor trash.  We needed that stuff badly.  It was the source of gold in the economy.  Nowadays you might throw out those few copper of charred boar glands, but back then, those charred boar glands were good stuff.  Bag space could be an issue but thankfully, no one ever needed more than one set.  That last part was a blatant, ironic lie.

Then one day that changed.  Excess xp, which was of course all of it at 60, turned into gold.  And there was much rejoicing.  Verily, did we prance about Silithus in our clown costumes of non-set green gear of the monkey, and we quested and it was glorious.  Gold, precious gold!  Oh the feeling, as if we'd been in a desert and seen a drop of water.  I suppose I was actually in a desert, so... anyway, it was pretty neat.

Or was it?

Without quests giving gold, the notion of dailies seems a bit ridiculous.  Why would we have these strange quests that are the same, day after day?  For reputation they make no sense, since dungeons give that.  They are bosses, so we can't expect them to give loot.  Aha, gold.  But wait, why would dailies be a way to get gold?  Quests don't give gold.

When quests do give gold, without dailies, they players hit the cap and start racing about to find more quests because that's where gold comes from.  And then they use up all the quests and have run out of sources of inflation.  They could switch to farming to get materials to trade for gold or farm mobs for gold, but the first one doesn't add gold and the second is slower.  They learned to expect inflation and ended up with the strange idea that the way to play was to print money rather than generate actual resources.  In effect, they had learned inflation expectations and then wondered where they printing press had gone.  Dailies came to the rescue, giving a new way to dump more gold into the economy.  In the process, they made it necessary to get even more gold by driving up prices.

The concept of going out and farming the materials can get lost on people.  This isn't helped by the tendency of someone to pop up and say "I farmed it for free", followed by a few dozen people saying that they didn't because nothing is free and ranting about opportunity costs.  That's a useful economic lesson, except when you're dealing with "I farmed it for free", you're also not dealing with people who are applying the minds much (this isn't a judgement, merely a statement; it is a game after all).  After a round of "no you didn't farm it for free" there is a tendency to get the "farming is for idiots" idea instead, which is equally ridiculous.

I don't much like the proliferation of dailies.  A few are good.  But they've become excessive.  Yet scaling them back is difficult.  Now that the economy has adapted, as best it can, to this steady influx of gold, removing that could prove as damaging as adding them.  If no new dailies are added in Mopland, players could feel compelled to run the old dailies, causing them to have less fun.  Or if all were removed, then there would be huge imbalances of wealth which would be semi-permanent.  That's where you get violent revolutions, or worse, customers quitting.

So as is typical, my advice is to make a time machine and go back and make everything right.

Can you keep a secret?

| Monday, July 9, 2012
I know the way around Blackrock Depths.  Not with a map, at least not one on the screen or printed.  Nor do I just know where things are.  I know where they are, how to get there, how to get there from here, or anywhere, where to start and end, and where to do anything.

But can you keep a secret?  I think so.  I've shown dozens of people, maybe hundreds.  Somehow no one ever told.  Maybe they didn't see, despite walking right through.  Maybe that's why: they just walked right through.

I told them there was a ghost and all they had to do was die.  A small price to pay to talk to a ghost, especially when you can come right back.  Only a few listened.  They all came back.  I was glad they did.  Maybe some of them learned.

Yet I never saw them tell.  I showed up they never told.  I told Doone that secrets cannot be kept.  I realized that I was wrong.  I had a secret and I couldn't not keep it.  I tried and tried and no one else got it.

The secret may have died with BRD.  It got chopped up and automated and unlocked and teleported.  There aren't many secrets left.  It wasn't the internet that killed the secret, because it never told.  It wasn't the player either, try as I did.  Instead it was the game designer who killed it.  He made no secrets and he told us them all anyway.  There was nothing left to not tell.

But I still know.

And I'm not telling anymore.  Not to you anyway.

Plausibility vs. Realism

I shoot a fireball out of my hands and it hits a guy in armor.  He is not roasted alive or seemingly impaired in any way.




At this point I am screaming at the sky, on the verge of a complete mental breakdown.  Thankfully, something which is neither a bird, a plane, or Superman appeared.  It was not flying.

Klepsacovic: Oh thank God, it's Realism Man!

Realism Man: You shot fire out of your hands, therefore it's all unrealistic and you're a dork for thinking about it.

Klepsacovic: Fuck you.  Not literally.  I felt the need to point that out.

As we can see, Realism Man is a useless jackass, a walking argument against freedom of speech and probably the guy who Churchill was talking to when he thought of his bit about five minutes with the average voter being the strongest argument against democracy.

Oh look, someone else is walking over.  Now what?

Klepsacovic: It's Plausibility Man.  Please tell me you have something worth saying, because if otherwise, given the fictional environment, I can kill you without consequence though maybe with remorse.

Plausibility Man: There are many reasons why we might see this outcome.  The armor itself could be enchanted to protect the wearer from fire or the wearer could be shielded by active spells from himself or an ally.  The fireball may have been a spell which is only effective against living matter: notice how the ground and structures are rarely effected.  Given the fantasy setting, fire may simply have different rules, so that it can be easily dissipated or the armor itself may have a very high specific heat, meaning that it takes a great deal of energy to raise the temperature of it.  There are many possible reasons.  We'd need to know more about the rules of this fantastical world to determine what happened.  Alternatively, if we knew what happened, we could attempt to deduce the rules of the world.

Klepsacovic: Thanks, Plausibility Man!

Plausibility Man: I'm just doing my job, and remember kids, Plausibility and Realism are not the same thing!

Klepsacovic: I'm not a kid...

Plausibility Man: You interrupted my dramatic exit.  I figured you already knew that, given that you're the one righting this terrible dialogue.
Klepsacovic: You were going to walk away slowly, without even having any explosions behind you.  How is that at all dramatic?  Also, my dialogue gets to the point.  I'm a modern Hemingway, but without shooting fascists in Spain.  Yet.

Plausibility Man: That "yet" made you sound so much less pitiful.  Also, check out the sweet explosion.

Klepsacovic: Woah.

Portal 2 Test Chamber: Don't Stand in the Laser Field

| Friday, July 6, 2012
I wanted to try my hand at making a test chamber.  It stared out simply enough, just a launcher and death, but then I added lasers and more death and other varieties of death.  Then I made it a little less death-inducing because I figured I should be able to beat my own test.

Go do some science.  Feedback appreciated.


P.S. Watch where you stand.  Nothing that is deadly stops being deadly.  As an added bonus, you can die seconds away from the door.  Enjoy. :)

Bad arguments against Attunements

| Thursday, July 5, 2012
WoW Insider is trying to hate attunements. And failing. Take note of the examples.

First there is Onyxia. Okay, I'm convinced on this one. It could have used some serious trimming and not-having-to-find-Rexxaring. And that stuff in BRD that the ALliance had to do which I have apparently suppressed. Either that or I recognized that I players at 60 ran BRD a lot anyway so it's not as if it is some terrible burden to have an attunement that relies on running BRD. Still, the Onyxia attunement took the "fly to random places, and then back to them again" tactic a bit too far.

Then there is the entire Burning Crusade expansion. That one I can accept. Needing every single person to do a particular, and not particularly short chain to get into Kara was a bit much. Needing one person (as it was changed to just be a gate that needed unlocking), not so much. Beside that, the instances were all places that people were going to anyway, since they needed that gear. Unfortunately, that's the extent to which I can claim that the BC attunements were not completely ridiculous. I'm looking at you, every single other raid.

My theory is that BC was intentionally designed this way to be a real strawman extremist as a way to justify going to the opposite extreme. It's a tactic we use in politics: accuse your opponent of being the ridiculous extreme in order to justify going to your own extreme. In the case of Blizzard, someone who hated attunements turned an entire expansion into an argument against them. Note that when I say this is "my theory" what I really mean is "here's a ridiculously insane theory that I doubt is true and yet still insist on taking credit for."

After that we have heroic raids. At that point I don't care. Let players go in at level one or make them do a six-month round of dailies, as a guild. I don't care either way. It's sort of like how when you're trying to get into the Olympics they can force you to spend a week in a cave with no light or food. It sucks, but it's only my fault that I couldn't make it past the third day and it's the Olympics, so they get to make the rules.

Now it's time for the part where I copy out words and insult them.

"Progression raiders do that anyway.  You ran BWD and Bastion, then ran Firelands, and finally ran Dragon Soul. You progressed, mastered the content, moved on.  All that attunements did was force your raiding guild to take a night off and run older content again. We have a new healing paladin joining, he's done everything but Kael'thas because his last guild just couldn't hack it"
Yes, they do, which suggests that they should already have that done.  Oh, but our poor guy is stuck in a guild that can't kill Kael'thas and has to hop up to a better one that is entirely done with Tempest Keep.  Well fuck that guy.  If there is a mechanic that reduces the habit of entitled jerks from hopping a guild the moment it slows down to join one that is further ahead, great.  Add more of that.

"In fact, I never did a single attunement chain in either vanilla or The Burning Crusade that wasn't pointlessly long, full of extraneous steps, or just plain tedious."

Really?  I can't beleive you never did the attunements for BWL or MC.  You know them, the attunements which consisted of "talk to someone" or "loot something and read it" followed by running the instances that you'd be running at that level anyway.  Given that MC is right next to BRD, even if this was somehow something you'd never done, getting players attuned was not a big deal: the portal was a short run away and after that, a few trash packs and some lava swimming are all that stand in the way of the attunement.  The BWL attunement took longer, but given that the quest ended six inches from the tail of the last boss, it wasn't out of the way of someone who had run UBRS once.

"There are the people who just plain don't want the hoi polloi in their heroic raids and will welcome anything that keeps players out to inflate their own sense of accomplishment."
Right, because those inconvenient but entirely-doable and not skill-related quests are such a great barrier.  Also, who the fuck is doing heroic raids where the "hoi polloi" are just wandering in?  Do they not run with guilds, somehow being the sort of elitist who is inclusive enough for a PUG but not inclusive enough for a PUG?  Sorry, but you seem to be making up imaginary people.

"unduly hinder that really excellent rogue who blasts out tons of DPS but has to go to her kid's piano recital"
There is nothing I hate more than musically-talented roguelings.  That is clearly it. You got me.

"Another group seem to believe that the attunement process creates bonds between players and promotes unity. In my experience, it just ended up ticking people off who had to run Steam Vaults again to get Dave's priest attuned for the alt run or forcing us to spend a raid night getting the new feral attuned to Hyjal instead of running Black Temple. They didn't foster a sense of group unity; they hampered it."
If your sense of unity was wrecked by having to help a group member, then you're some pretty disunited people.  Next time, recruit people who have done an instance before and stop poaching from lower-ranked guilds.  The people you get doing that aren't known for their team spirit.

"As for the lore aspect of attunements, I won't lie -- that's valid to some extent. It was usually buried under lots of pointless busywork, but it was there. I did love watching Windsor clean house in Stormwind. I did enjoy some of the AQ opening. Seeing the last of the Highborne inside Naxxramas the first time we zoned in was cool."
None of these are necessarily part of attunements, so they are irrelevant except to the extent that adding them to attunements increases the likelihood that players will see them.

"But ultimately, a lot of these moments were seriously delayed gratification and were at a cost that just shouldn't have been paid. Making cool lore stuff part of a mandatory gateway just takes the shine off of the cool lore, because you're so focused on burning through the attunement as fast as possible you can't take the time to pay attention to it anyway, especially if you have four or more other people there who did it already and are just carrying you through it as fast as possible to get you ready for the raid."
Delayed gratification tends to be the only one there is in these sorts of games.  Beside a few bits of scenery porn, games don't lend themselves to gratification that is quickly or easily gotten.  There must be some barrier, because as in life, it is usually the anticipation that is the greatest.  Scientists proved this with people, and of course monkeys too, because that's the purpose of monkeys: science and strange arguments against evolution.  This barrier could be based on skill, time, or I suppose heredity or money.  I'm guessing those last two would be rather unpopular, though one could argue that money is a barrier if we're not pirating all our games (I'm not, for the record).  That leaves time or skill.  Time is clearly the hated one here, because it delays the efforts of amazing rogues with children who play the piano.  Yet it is the skill one which would truly keep people out, particularly the hoi polloi.

There could of course be no barriers at all to any content, so roll up your character and teleport to Deathwing.  With your 24 friends who you magically found despite having played none of the rest of the game.  There is no time, skill, genetic, or money barrier to fighting Deathwing, but I suspect having heroic Deathwing kill you over and over again isn't the best way to start a game.

Since the name of the game seems to be hyperbolic accusations against imaginary people, I'm going to say that only ghost Communists would want to remove attunements, claiming they are a tool of the oppression of the bourgeoisie. And ghosts love pianos.

Playing Vicariously is the Best

| Wednesday, July 4, 2012
A couple of my friends started playing WoW again.  One is new to the game, though not to MMOs, while the other had played WoW before but obviously was not as awesome as me.  This has resulted in many questions and requests for advice.

Pardon my lack of French to hide the profanity, but fuck yea!

I get to play all the fun parts of WoW.  I get to think about class builds and roles.  I get to join in the trash-talking of noobs in randoms.  I get to strategerize on the auction house and think about farming techniques.  I get to do all the abstract stuff that makes it all so fun.

I don't have to look for a guild, wait for afk players or flight paths, or bleach my brain after 15 seconds of Barrens or trade chat.  No one can ever ninja from me, gank me, or in any way annoy me, unless my friends ask too many dumb questions (for the last time, the bunnies do not feel pain and do not drop leather, so you're wasting your time).  I don't have to worry about how much gold I have, what my reputation is, or how good my gear is.

In short, I get to do all the stuff I enjoy and nothing I don't.

Of course I don't get any of the little rewards such as the little bit of rep from a mob or justice points for slogging through another random.  I don't get any epic loot or achievements.  That may be the best part of all.  There is no temptation, no compulsion to play when it isn't fun.


Though I do miss tanking...

Those were horrible times

| Monday, July 2, 2012
As we all know, people used to be better.  They had values.  For example, there was the Greatest Generation and small towns.  Though slightly before that there was the generation that helped Hitler rise to power and slightly after that there was the generation that invaded Vietnam based on complete lies.  Some things never change.

In that spirit of retro-pessimism or Retrimism, I have some screenshots from vanilla WoW.  You know, the greatest time ever.

Here we have my shaman getting called a loot hogger for rolling need on a dagger he then proceeded to use for quite a while.  I don't think I reported him for calling me a bitch, but I recall being a bit pissed off about being called a ninja for a perfectly legitimate roll.  Uncontested, if I remember correctly.

Later on this is him getting called a fag for getting a shield.  In defense of the homophobic asshole, he was a tank, a shield with fire resistance on it was pretty damn important, and the boss we just killed took a while to get to.  On the other hand, I never in any way indicated that I wanted the shield and master looter was on.  Someone just gave me the shield for no apparent reason.  Perhaps they knew that the other guy was an asshole who blames the wrong people when there's nothing to be done about it.  I did end up using the shield quite a bit, since fire resistance was hard to find.

Coming up next is the amazing interactive experience which is a vanilla paladin.  See that bottom hotkey, fourth one over, with the ten over it?  That's judgement, with a ten second cooldown, and that's all I have.  At a higher level I could get repentance, which is like sap that can be used in combat, but back then only lasted ten seconds with a minute cooldown.  Or maybe it was five.  Pretty sweet, am I right?  I planned to branch out into Holy, so that I could pick up Consecration, you know, that spell that was pretty handy for paladin tanking and AoE DPS in general since, it was an 11 point Holy spell.  Holy Shock was the other controllable damage spell at it was up at 31 points.

 This here is a pretty great moment.  That's right, an epic staff.  A really, really low drop rate epic staff.  This story has a good ending, actually.  Earlier in the run I'd passed on a staff to the priest in the group and he was really excited about it.  He was very insistent that I take this staff, and I did, and I loved it.  So that was pretty awesome.  Oh, and that Scourgestone, that was how you got rep past revered, because mobs actually stopped giving rep after certain points, so I hoped you saved up.  Even better, you couldn't even roll on it if you didn't have a particular trinket equipped, which actually wasn't such a bad trinket, but there was a tendency for there to be a sudden spike in roll competition after the first boss died and everyone remembered to equip them.

This is the boss fight in Stratholme.  The gate can shut, locking out players if they aren't paying attention.  This isn't a new problem; many bosses still do this, so maybe this is more of a "why hasn't this been fixed yet?" type of problem.

You might hear now and then that a particular BG is biased toward one side or another.  Whatever.  Horde had their graveyard camped by boss-level NPCs.  BIAS THAT!

Actually it's just a bug while the mob was resetting, but it made me laugh.

Summoning was super-convenient.

This is me trying to get to Swamp of Sorrows as Horde.  The one path was through a hostile Alliance town.  Which was awesome.
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