Archive for the “Meta” Category

If you were awake this past weekend, you probably saw the news that in WoD, there are a few design changes that will ultimately culminate in the requirement of a silver medal in the Proving Grounds before you can randomly queue for a Heroic 5-man instance.

That is an outstanding solution for a problem that we don’t actually have.

Let me quantify this with a pie chart. 

Japan

I think I’m turning Japanese

 

Let’s let the blue part of that chart represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was incapable of playing his or her class. Let the red part represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was an asshole.

I think you’re starting to get the picture.

Now, I immediately point out that data is not the plural of anecdote, so my personal experience is not by definition the experience others have. But I will also point out that no man is an island1, and we all share an experience here, so what I hear from other players can be used as a guide to help determine if I’m whistling in the dark here2.

Well, the majority of what I see people complaining about online – other than the forums3 is assholes.  Or, rather, if they’re complaining about the person not performing, it’s because that person is being an asshole. Or otherwise coupled with the person being an asshole, in some way.

Well, assume Blizz is starting small. Let’s have a look at how the poor performers break down.

Japan

Domo Arigato

The red part is people that are complaining about poor performers as an excuse for their groups’ failures.  The blue part is those people which would see improvement in their Heroic5 experience if only a silver medal was required for entry into a random Heroic5.

Okay, I’m full of shit and making those numbers up out of whole cloth, because I really don’t need a formal survey of the forums to form an opinion on this.

Of all the people having problems with randoms of any sort now, performance is rarely given as the cause of the failure. More times than not I’m reading about the seven healers that are left after all the DPS prima donnas left because they felt like effort was something they would like to avoid, and the tanks left out of disgust at that, and the healers are busy discussing who gets to be the biggest martyr this time4.  It wasn’t performance. It was personality.

I really don’t care at the meta level. I’m not running random Heroic 5s, not because I don’t think people know how to play, but because I’m fed up with assholes.  And nothing Blizz is doing here is going to change an asshole’s opportunity to make LFD an unholy shithole of gaming society5.

When Blizz comes up with social controls on trollish behavior, I’ll be more interested. 

Meanwhile, Blizz is wasting time and resources on something that won’t make any difference.  They could have done that on the dance studio and at least made people genuinely happy.


  1. Also, no man is a woman. Whatever either of those mean. []
  2. To continue the folksy idioms – I got a case of ‘em on sale! []
  3. Don’t’ read the forums if you wish to retain your soul. []
  4. I play all three roles, so I don’t wanna hear any sass. []
  5. Still better than forums. []

Comments 12 Comments »

I normally don’t let a false sense of obligation drive my behavior. If I follow you on Twitter, I don’t expect you to reciprocate. Likewise, if you follow me, I don’t feel obligated to return the favor. I’ll have a look, but if it’s mostly Pokemon tweets, I won’t be following your stream, and you should be fine with that. It’s not a contest.

But there is one segment of our community1 that I do feel a bit of guilt towards, because I don’t generally follow them, ever.  That segment is our fine collection of WoW podcasters.

It isn’t that I don’t want to.  I don’t have a thing about this.  But what I DO have is a very bad case of ADHD.  Example: I can listen to someone talk in a podcast, and give it its proper level of attention. Or I can do my work, and do it right.  But not both.  And the only time I have to listen to things on my headphonaPod is when I’m sitting in front of a keyboard, writing software or hacking server configs or writing blog articles and so forth. 

So my moments of opportunity are nil.

The only time I generally listen to a podcast all the way through is (a) when it’s a music podcast (i.e. the "Above and Beyond" podcasts) or when I’m there to listen and nothing else.

Such was the case this past Sunday, as I sat myself down and listened to the Twisted Nether podcast with Alas.  Hey, she was there for me when they were hard up enough to ask me on, so I was going to return the favor.  And while I was there I chatted along with the peeps there, and had a great time!  The fact that I was up until 2AM is irrelevant. It was a blast.

I’ll be doing it again this weekend since they’re having Godmother on, someone that I have great respect and affection for. The poor lady’s going to be up at (mumble mumble add add add) something in between 5 AM and 7AM to do this, there’s just no way I’m not going to show a friendly face after that kind of effort on her part.

But in general, I don’t do podcasts, and it’s nothing personal.  And since I would only recommend something I knew something about, I generally don’t endorse and/or retweet or whatever for podcasters, and that’s again not because I hate the podcasts, but because I’ll never recommend something I know nothing about.  As my author friends will attest, I won’t even recommend their book until I read it!

So there’s my secret podcasty guilt, for all to see. I hope you will understand!


  1. He used that WORD! :-O []

Comments 2 Comments »

An article on WoW Insider takes one of my points about the character boost to 90 issue and expands it way the hells out to a mathematically precise word count of "large".  Anne states far more effectively than I have about one of the unpleasant side effects of the leveling "squish" – the way that the "story" of the game loses its cohesiveness due to the way that people are rushed through levels most expeditiously.

Anne provides a lot of good suggestions to address this self-inflicted wound, though the possible solution that Anne’s article leaves out is this: stop messing with the older levels. Stop messing with the XP scaling, stop messing with XP returns, stop dropping level requirements.

In short, don’t compress the leveling process at lower levels. Anyone that wants to rush through the 1-90 (or whatever) experience can go buy a boost.  This is my primary reason for wanting the boost in the first place. I really don’t give two damns about anything else, I just want to see the lore of the game coupled back with the leveling experience.

Unfortunately, that’ll never happen. The first reason is that Blizz just doesn’t have the PR capacity to handle the negative feedback without making a mess of things. They can’t even announcing an expansion without offending 1/2 the population of the gaming world, so let’s assume they just won’t be able to manage the awareness and deft touch required to make an unpopular decision and then weather the storm.

The other reason is that resources would be required in order to reset the leveling experience back to that which it was in the first place. In the case of the 1-60 process, they don’t even have an "original" setting to go back to, since they were redesigned in the first place to provide an accelerated leveling experience.  The old 1-60 leveling process was eliminated in toto when they were redesigned more or less completely from the ground up.

And those resources are just not going to be provided. They’re already pushing things with something as fundamental as introducing new character models with an expansion based on previously established lore (rewrit). They don’t have the bandwidth to also re-adjust and re-write all the old leveling content. There is no big red lever marked "reset to previous status", and, even so, they’d still need to test it, and they probably don’t have time or resources for that, either.

But Anne’s article truly does illustrate the folly of trying to mask a defect in design with workarounds. Eventually they pile up to the point where you can’t help but notice the flaws, no matter what your skill or perception level is. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that you can get from 1-60 without seeing but 3/4 of a single continent (rather than all of two continents).

Maybe somebody’s watching that will be implementing the next generation MMO that we all go to play, and they’ll not make the same fundamental mistakes that Blizzard has made.  Maybe they’ll offer level boosts to the "threshold" at the very first expansion, rather than five in.

Or, if it’s Blizzard and "Titan", maybe they’ll make all the same mistakes all over again.

Won’t that be fun.

Comments 2 Comments »

I’m not going to say this again1, so pay attention – I’m totally not harshing on any particular people. I have an alternative viewpoint, and I want to share it.

Blogging often introduces us to new people that we really connect with. A lot of times these connections sink in, wrapping you in a cozy blanket of fellowship. I can’t count how many people have wandered into my orbit, or I into theirs, and we found commonality between us.

Belghast would contend that this is not a “community” per se , but something else that just seems like it. These people whith whom I’ve met, formed connections with both on the blog and outside of it, who’s guilds I’ve joined and with whom I’ve slayed internet dragons – this is not, strictly speaking, in his mind, a community.

Now, to be fair, he’s focusing outside of the WoW “community” (I’ll call it that for the sake of argument). And yet things he points out about the larger “MMO community” ring true for the WoW blogging community as well.

One of his first examples focuses on how so many people on Twitter have stopped following him over the years. I have to wonder why they don’t. I also have to wonder why he didn’t follow up on that, if twitter follows are something of importance2.  My point, the unfollows themselves are meaningless without context.

See, the thing that was missing in this case was effort. And no, before anyone thinks it, I’m not dissing Belghast for being lazy3. What I’m saying is that twitter follows are a two-way thing. The person that unfollowed did so for a reason. The person that was unfollowed was unfollowed for a reason. Until those reasons are actually KNOWN, everything else is just empty speculation.

However, Twitter isn’t the best of examples, nor is Facebook or even LiveJournal. What they have in common is a built-in framework that forms a false sense of “community”. You have “followed” ergo you are part of that “community”. The implication here – and an incorrect lesson that many may learn to their misfortune – is that communities are “built” in software and have a tangible “framework” that you can monitor the “health” of. A guild, your follow lists on FB, Twitter, LJ, etc. Your mailing lists. Your PHP-BB site. All of these are constructs that can call themselves “community” by dint of having a “box” within which the “community” is found.

But “community” in the “real world” is a lot harder.

Example.

When you move into a new house, you don’t automatically become friends with the people next door and across the street. You can’t go borrow a fiver from Bob next door on your first day. He won’t let you watch his kids while he and Mrs Bob go out for dinner. No, you have to earn each others’ trust and friendship. Your “community” is only geographical on the first look – after that, it’s a web of trust and caring, battles won and lost together, crises managed and averted, and so forth.

And that’s the proper analogy for blogging communities. We don’t just “fall together” into a box marked “WoW Blogger community”. That’s just our “geographical location” in greater Blogostan and says nothing about the web of trust (or distrust) that we have constructed.

And, unlike Twitter, you have no means to find out who’s “following” you (other than that “follow” thing in Blogger, and that’s hardly universal). So, people that you used to “follow” stop blogging, and unless you make the effort to follow up4, you’ll never know why.

The question becomes, if a person stops blogging, is that person no longer part of your “community”?

The real world analogy is if your neighbor Bob’s kid grows up and he no longer shows up at the Little League games you umpire for, is Bob no longer part of your community? Well, he lives next door, surely not! But if your only interaction with Bob is at those ball games, you may feel estranged.

Now, in the real world, first links (Little League) forge longer chains. Chances are, if you and Bob connected at the games, you’re probably interacting in other areas as well. As persons, you both put effort into forging a friendship. You do so with many people, and the commonality of it is what forms a very real and lasting community.

And that’s the bottom line of the WoW, or even game blog community. It isn’t that we all play a game and blog about it. That is insufficient to form any real community. But a number of people care enough to reach out and interact and get to know each other. Those people then interact in other areas as well, and form real friendships. In fact, I can say that I consider many former WoW bloggers to be friends. I still consider them to be part of the “community” even if the first link in that chain’s now broken. Other links have taken up the slack.

A blogroll is not a community.

A group of blogs is not a community.

Nor is Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or Google Groups.

Even Blog Azeroth is not, strictly speaking, a community on its own.

People are what make a community. Nothing else. The people within those frameworks make it work.

If you’re part of a “community” that started or still orbits around a commonality of blogging, so be it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I like to think communities are an organic thing. You can’t really force them via artificial social networking frameworks. Retweeting your latest blog entry doesn’t enhance anything regarding “community” – that’s just advertising, and that doesn’t help form “communities” either. But it can bring eyes to your site, and that can get the ball rolling.

That’s only the start, of course. Community isn’t a fire-and-forget thing. Your job isn’t done when you hit “publish”. If you have no further interactions, you won’t have a “community”, either.

Belghast may not feel part of a community at this point.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s not automatic, and it can’t be forced.  Sometimes even hard work won’t help.

But it won’t happen if you don’t keep trying, either.  So keep at it.


  1. I’ll probably say it again. []
  2. They aren’t, really, but work with me here. []
  3. See, told ya I’d say it again. []
  4. c wut i did thar []

Comments 5 Comments »

Two years ago today, this little white ball of fur trundled across the parking lot right in front of our car. We stopped and took custody. I named her Jaina in tribute to what I hoped would be the fighting spirit we would see from our own Ms. Proudmoore.  Also the white hair kinda brought her to mind.

So today we celebrate Jaina Finding Day!

Our first day with Jaina

Cold and alone in the word … no more!

We initially had bad news from the vet; they said she had FIP and had weeks to live at most.  We determined that those weeks would have warmth and love in store for her.

She didn’t act like she was dying. Within a short period of time, she was Airborne Kitty, flying through the air to attack what she might consider attackable (such as crotches and fingers), and terrorizing all the other cats.

I hope Mrs. Grimm doesn't mind.

Surprise Finger Noms!

Over time she showed no sign of slowing down, and by the end of the first year she was flourishing.  Her white fur had given way to a more chocolately hue, but it was soft as kitten down still.  And she had plenty of it.

Over time, she’s developed a cuddly side, especially with whoever is on the couch.  The couch is her favorite place.

Old sheets are for collecting cat furs.

We don’t even try to keep her off of it.

Here we are at the end of her second year with us. We know her second birthday was probably around 10 weeks ago, but this is the day we celebrate, because it’s when we found her.

Love those button eyes

Happy 2nd Jaina Finding Day!

Comments 4 Comments »

One of the predictions I made for Blizzcon 2013 was that, yet again, Blizz would do or say something stupid that would offend women, the LGBT community, or some combination thereof.

Unfortunately, they didn’t disappoint.

Actual Search term: "Warlords of Draenor Wankfest"

It was quickly noted by many that Warlords of Draenor appeared to be quite the sausage-fest.  There were one or two obviously female characters depicted in the trailer, but overall it was all about the bros, big hairy-chested man-orcs swinging axes and riding warg.

Given this presentation, it was easy for many in the audience to feel left out.

For sake of Consistency

This is a little difficult to unwind due to the nature of the expansion.

The story is that Garrosh steals Doc Brown’s DeLorean and goes back to Draenor to the point in time before Grommosh Hellscream drinks Fel blood, and somehow prevents that from happening.  Rather than fall into servitude to the Legion, the Horde becomes united as the Iron Horde.  They’re still gonna attack Azeroth, but now it’s at maximum strength.

WoD Warlords


Sidebar

Given the physical modeling of characters in WoW, it’s already established that male or female, Gnome or Orc, if there is a class that interests you, then sky’s the limit.  A female Warrior dual-wielding two giant chunks of iron on sticks – no problem. And thus, there is no physical reason for any of the major characters to be one gender over another.


Except the big "reason".

See, every one of these Orc clan leaders is a figure of Lore. They already ARE.  It’s obvious that Blizz wants to revisit these lore characters, and so "they must exist as they did in lore". And, unfortunately, these characters were created in less progressive times, when the testosterone-fueled character design studio was fixated on the Noble Savage trope1, so we got a big sausage-fest. 

And "we’re stuck with them."

James Cameron calling on Line 2, Mr. Matzen

Give me a break

Actually, that’s a bit of a cop-out. "We already haaaad them, so we’re stuuuuck with them, we can’t chaaaange it, it would be inconsiiiiiistent!", "they" bleat. That’s the easy, cop-out answer. Technically correct, for sure, but it also ignores one whopper of an important factor.

Namely, history has already been changed. Garrosh effectively undid everything from the First War era onward.  And since they are no longer besotted by Fel blood, he has also changed the history of Orcs on Draenor. With that in mind, it is therefore possible that one or more of the Draenic Clans is under new management. If you accept the "Klingon model" for Orc culture2, then this becomes even more likely. Easy to imagine that one of the clan leaders LUCKED OUT with the fel blood thing being the ONLY thing that stopped him being murdered in his sleep by a slightly less macho, but infinitely sneakier, female clan-leader-to-be.

Given all the variables we DO know, it’s laughably easy to come up with viable scenarios for any of the clan leaders to be supplanted to a woman within or outside of his clan.

I hope for your sake you are initiating a mating ritual

So … nope, not buying it.

They’re doing this because those are the characters they want to revisit.  Too bad they can’t own up to it.

The U Factor

All of this is in spite of what we do NOT know about the story of the expansion. We have heard plaintive cries from Blizz HQ that they are indeed cooking up totally awesome female characters that will blow our nipples clean off, from fifty yards even.

And that’s great, but we’ve been promised many things in the last nine years, and not all of them have come to pass, or were even (apparently) worked on in good faith. Faith doesn’t always require deeds, but it can be broken by (mis)deeds or lack of deeds where they are required. We’ve been told "have faith" multiple times and seen that faith not fulfilled almost as often. Not because anyone is being malevolent – I don’t really think so. But because nobody in a position to make a difference actually *cares* enough to enact positive action to make women or other groups – such as the LGBT community – feel like they’re being included or at least not being belittled – as part of the culture of this game.

As one small example. There was a big blow-up at one Blizzcon over the hateful words of a particular death metal "artist". We were told that Mistakes Were Made and that We Will Make This Up To You.  And yet, in Northrend, you can still find Gorge the Corpsegrinder, a clear tribute to this man.  Years after the event, they have done nothing to remove this tribute.  Is it because they just don’t care, or because they feel we’ll overlook this eventually if they just lay low and not make a fuss.

So on one hand we have the Grand Unknown.  A promise, implicit and explicit, that things to come will make things better. On the other hand, we have a track record of failure to meet those promises with deeds.

It’s lonely Out There

There is nothing worse from a social aspect than being among a group of people that have a strong bond that you don’t share.  All the little -isms that pull cliques together also tend to push us apart. And seeing an activity, show, book, story, or game that has nobody that you can relate to only enforces that feeling.

A game that focuses on alien creatures already removes a potential relation that you might have with them based on species alone.  At that point, all we have are the most ambiguous cues – tetrapod construction, bipedal locomotion, two eyes, two ears a face, and gender. And for 50% of the world’s population, they see one less thing to relate to in the WoD reveal.

Mistakes were made

Unlike the Corpsegrinder incident, we don’t even get a mea culpa out of this one. Why is that? Do they feel that they’ve already paid that pound of flesh and shouldn’t have to all over again? Do they feel that the pro-female3 WoW audience just won’t be happy with anything and have given up? Do they feel that siccing one of their female CMs on to the Twitter community will diffuse the situation without having to actually provide substance? Or are they just so tone-deaf to the point that they should be banned from ever having band instruments?

I’m rather fond of that theory myself.  It beggars belief, but I really do think they haven’t ever gone out of their way to do a good PR review of what they’re about to say at a public gathering.   I have strong doubts that anyone at Blizz has ever pursued training in this area. I have strong doubts that they really think they might even need to consider looking into it.

And our fandom feeds any potential arrogance they might have to the point that they don’t see that they NEED that kind of internal support, so they keep doing it over and over again and then sobbing nobody understands us! when the inevitable backlash comes.

I swear by his pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.

So here’s the thing. They can make press releases after the fact saying that they made mistakes and will try harder to not do it gain, but that’s an empty promise with no measurable goals, so job’s not done until they say it’s done.  They like that level of control.

But until they believe it internally and take real, measurable action to correct what I believe are massive internal cultural flaws at Blizzard, they will continue to talk first, think later, and try to ignore the problem.

I’ve reached a crossroad

I love this game, and I love the people I get to play alongside.  I love the dialogs that get opened, I love the characters I meet (NPC and PC), I love the community4, I kinda like the lore, and I like the potential that the game, ever after nine years, offers.

What I do not like is being lied to. I do not like being treated like an idiot that will keep on giving out my money just "Because We’re Activision Fucking Blizzard, that’s who."  I do not like people saying "we will do a thing" and then pretending they didn’t. 

At the end of the day you can piss and moan about lack of Flight until 6.1 and I’m just going to make faces.  But if you choose to short-shrift an entire segment of population based on gender, lie about it, and then barely do just enough to shut "them" up until the next time, time and time again, eventually I’ll run out of patience.  I don’t care if you’re Activision Fucking Blizzard. 

So I am here at the end of PandaLand-point-four watching to see what they do next.  If what they have coming up looks half-assed, begrudging, or an otherwise insincere delivery on the promise they made in Blizzcon’s wake, it will be too much for me to bear anymore.

And, yes, by Mammon, that is a completely unfair and arbitrary standard that I choose.  But here’s the deal, Blizz. You had the chance to set those standards, to provide measurable milestones to show good faith in this, and you blew it. You have hidden behind a pile of bullshit, and have dared us to tell you it smells like bullshit.

So, this is me. Drawing the lines and setting the standards by which I will judge. This is my story to tell.  And I will choose the setting in which to tell it.


  1. Or, "bullshit", if you’re as fed up with it as I am. []
  2. And there certainly are already plenty of cues there. []
  3. Since I don’t meet someone’s "standards" on this, I won’t claim to be "pro-feminist" anymore. []
  4. Implying a consensual collective as opposed to a blanket thrown an unwilling population sample. MR BEAR. []

Comments 14 Comments »

Well, the big Reveal has taken place at Blizzcon, and we now know details of the next expansion.  Hopefully you followed #TeamFaff at Godmother’s liveblog.  I had to bail out right after the reveal because we had our weekly planning meeting at work, and the boss was most unsympathetic to the cause.

Now that the dust has settled, and I’ve had time to breathe, let’s talk about it.

My Scorecard

I made some cheeky predictions, so let’s see how I did!

There will be an expansion announcement and it will be called "Warlords of Draenor"

WoD LogoThat was a pretty easy one, really.  If they didn’t, it would have been ugly. The title this time was given to us by the trademark offices in several countries.  +2 for me.

It will involve a new "lost" continent of Draenor

WoD ZonesIt’s Draenor, Jim, but not as we know it.  Instead of a lost continent floating about in the Twisted Nether, we’re going back to the past. Specifically, Garrosh escapes captivity and through means as of yet unrevealed, journeys back in time to prevent the Old Horde from becoming subjugated by the Burning legion. What we, the denizens of Azeroth, then face is the Iron Horde – the united fury of the Orc clans united and at full strength.

My score: –1 (net total 1)

Alleria and Turalyon will return

No, they won’t. Though, to be fair, the new world of Old Draenor doesn’t have them to begin with. Since the First War didn’t happen, they didn’t get trapped when the Portal was closed.  But THAT is a whole new can of worms, something I’ll exposit in another post.

Score: –1, for a net of 0.

It will involve the Burning Legion

Not so much. While it’s obvious that the Legion will be involved at SOME point, the net effect is that the Orcs turn their backs on the Legion and the power it offers.  But the overall theme of this expansion is All Orc, All the Time.

WoD WarlordsScore: –1, now netting –1.

Ethereals will be the new player race

There will be no new player races.

-1 for me, for a net of –2. Oh dear.

Outland will not get revamped

Technically true, though they do move the door a bit.  Since the history leading to Outland hasn’t happened, Outland becomes an alternate timeline, and thus its entrance is moved to the Caverns of Time.  Which I have to admit, is a pretty good way to deal with it.

I’m going to claim a win, netting me back to –1.

The new level cap will be 100

Got that one right. So we’ll see a realm first Level 100 in 2 days, not 1.1

+1, back to breaking even.

There are no indications of any new classes

Got that one right, too.  This will make WoD the first WoW expansion where neither a new class or race was introduced.

+1, and I’m back in the black.

Release Date: Holidays, 2014

No mention was made of a release date. This is my surprised face.  Though I keep hearing rumors of a Q1/Q2 release timeframe, there is nothing official to back that up that I am aware of.

No points either way.

You face Jaraxxus!

I was close, but he appears in Hearthstone, not WoD.

-1 to zero me out again.

Character remodels

New Female GnomeI totally didn’t call it, but it’s such a big one that I think I deserve to be dinged for missing it. 

And that’s the news: all character races are to get remodels with higher poly counts and a lot of new emotes and expressions. The samples shown – especially for the female Gnome – were amazing.

There IS a tiny bit of drama here, in that it’s stated that there are currently no plans to offer a free appearance change when the changes go into effect. But the door’s been left open just a crack, so let’s wait and see.

-1, putting me back in the red.

Gender Crisis

No WomenEvery Blizzcon, Blizz tends to offend someone, and this year was no exception.  After the buzz died down, people started noting a highly testosterone-driven theme to this expansion.  Female characters, when mentioned at all, were either minor in comparison, or they were told to go home, take care of the baby, and make Thrall a sammich.

I’ll revisit this at some future time.  Other than to say, if you throw your keyboard over this, you know what happens? It breaks, dumbass.  So I guess you showed them.

RedSo I get a point there, bringing me back to even.

The overall results are

As is usually the case with this sort of thing, if you guess wildly the best you can really hope for is 50/50, which I did achieve.  I was wrong as much as I was right.  But I’m not displeased with the result.

And now the other stuff

One of the big things for this expansion seems to be "systems", our friend GhostCrawler’s domain.

There’s a big change to bags and inventory – a lot of items are going account-wide similar to how companion pets are handled now.  This’ll clear up tons of space in our bags. A lot of materials are going from 20 to 100 per stack, freeing more room. And Tabards are a possibility for this, hooray!  Also, quest items, though I’m worried for Archmage Vargoth’s Staff.

Another big "system" change will be "item squish".  Basically, the huge numbers we currently have will be reduced by several orders of magnitude, possibly to double or even single digit values, with some sort of hidden scaling system to keep it manageable.

Related to that, itemization is changing drastically, with most secondary stats like Hit and Expertise going away and primary stats possibly varying by spec, effectively ending the spec-change-shuffle.

Convenience Features

You will be able to bring one character to 90, or "boost", per account.  So if you decide to change to a different raiding main, for example, you won’t have to spend weeks getting up to raiding level. I’ve been pushing for this for a while, because I hate that the lower level zones continue to get gimped in order to make life easier for raiders. Raiding and the leveling game are two different activities, and changes in one should not make life harder or less satisfying for either group.  By allowing a character boost, they provide raiders with what they want without punishing those that are not raiding. Right now, it’s one per account, but I suspect that there will be infrastructure in place to make additional boosts possible as a paid service. And I think that’s a good thing.

This is actually an "in"-convenience feature, but another bit of drama – including threatened or actual sub cancellations – is that flight will not be available in Draenor until at least the 6.1 patch. I’m okay with that. In fact, if they want to get rid of flight completely, I’d be completely behind it.  But a lot of people are NOT thrilled.

Garrisons

WoD GarrisonGarrisons were an unexpected new feature, which more or less amount to a cross between player housing and the Tillers farm. Other trade skills in addition to cooking will be involved, you get minions, and they can do things for you even while you’re offline.  It’s all rather non-specific right now, and it’s hard to get a read on it, but overall it has been well received.

Raiding

WoD RaidsThe big change to raiding is that all levels of raiding will be flex in WoD except the highest form, which will be called Mythic, and serves a step further than Heroic.  The raid difficulty is tuned for 20 players, which Blizz claims is important since tuning at that difficulty will be too complex otherwise.


And that’s a wrap.  I will be revisiting several of these topics in upcoming posts, but I wanted to first set the stage, as it were, for what is to come.  Specifically, I want to discuss the lore, Blizzard’s ongoing PR issues,  the game mechanics that are changing, and probably more lore, because, damn.


  1. Actually, we won’t, because Realm First achievements are being removed from the game. []

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Welp, we enter the week leading up to Blizzcon 2013, and everybody in the twitterverse is all excite. There has been a lot of speculation about what we might see at this fabled gathering this year. Allow me to contribute my hysterical speculations.

What we know

  • 5.4.0 is the final content patch for Mists. What we’re looking at is pretty much as far as this goes for this expansion – it’s the ICC of Pandaria.  Which more or less leaves us to our own devices until the next expansion, which has not been announced at this time. Yes, there is a 5.4.1, for which you have already received a patch (though it doesn’t do much yet). That’s a far cry from more real content though.
  • Ergo if there are any "content" patches beyond 5.4.0, we can probably expect more time-killing activities ala land-of-the-endless-dailies or Timeless Isle (this is more opinion than fact).
  • We also have this roadmap, posted in 2007 and allegedly from 2003 which has proven to be extremely accurate in general terms. You can see all the pieces here, though sometimes they arrive in different order than originally planned. For example, Pandaria was originally going to be a part of a far larger expansion, from the looks of it, which would have included bits of the Cata expansion as well.  I guess what I’m saying here is that looking here for direction is not entirely out of line, based on past experience, but it requires a heavy amount of interpretation.
  • If one goes by that roadmap, we have one major piece not yet addressed – The Burning Legion.

 

Now we Speculate

What follows is a series of thoughts based on what we have seen out in the wider internets. I’m not claiming to know what’s going to happen, but I do reserve the right to crow just a little for each item I get right. :)

There will be an expansion announced

That’s probably obvious to most, but it should be noted that Blizz has not stated that there will be. Reasonably, the announcement will take place on the first day.  What we see is "World of Warcraft: What’s Next" and World of Warcraft: The Adventure Continues" when we look at the Blizzcon schedule.

What we do NOT see is availability of the expansion for playtesting, as we had with MoP.  I do NOT recall if that was actually part of the schedule last time.  It would be helpful to be able to remember.

Given all the above, however, one thing we do know is that we’re done with MoP.  If they don’t announce here, it’ll be at some smaller trade show later on, and I don’t think they’re going to do that to their flagship product.

Ergo, now is the time.

The expansion will involve the Burning Legion.

We don’t have a lot to go on here except for that fabled road map.  Considering its accuracy, I’m inclined to look to it for inspiration.

There is also the fact that many, many of the in-game and out-of-game lore pieces have been very strongly focused on the Legion and things around it.  The adventures of Anduin, for example, as well as Wrathion.  We KNOW the Legion is going to be a huge part of WoW at some point, it’s a confrontation that is being teased in lore and legend and prophesy. Between them and the Old Gods, we’re looking at 80% of what threatens Azeroth. Maybe more.

The expansion will be called "Warlords of Draenor"

I admit this may be premature, in that the trademark was applied for outside the US and only a week before the Con.  However, it does fit in with the story arc we’ve been uncovering.

An alternate, The Dark Below, does have some bearing on the Old Gods thread, but if I remember correctly, that was discredited not long after it appeared in trademark sites.

One should also remember that the same trademark sites have been used for the Warlords title, and take both with a grain of salt.

The expansion will involve a new, "lost" continent of Draenor.

One should remember that Outland was not Draenor, but simply a part of it, one continent on a larger world. Given Blizz’s penchant for pulling entire lost continents out of their electronic butts, doing so on a world about which we know SO LITTLE makes a certain amount of sense.

Also, discovery of this continent leads us to …

Alleria and Turalyon will return

turalalleriaTheory: they found their way onto the lost continent and were either detained or could not find the way back.  After many years of research and hard work, they’ve opened a portal that leads back to the dormant one in Zangarmarsh.  Or maybe Blizz invents some new sort of Twisted Nether transport vehicle similar to a cross between an airship and a sailboat  (The AD&D Astral plane was full of such vehicles, and they were super cool).  After many years and with the assistance of a stranded colony of Ethereals, they have returned in style.

It should be noted that these two have been teased for at least two expansions in the "hints and tips" pane of the loading screen – which is one reason I leave that feature turned on.

EtherealThe Ethereals are a new player race

I’m not sure if they’ll be a new player race similar to the Pandas or not (bi-factional) or if they’ll belong to one faction and some other race fill in for the other.  If the latter, I have no idea who it would be.

It’s all weaksauce regardless. I am basing this on the merest whiff of a hint dropped here and there.

But if they are a new player race, I bet the starting zone is associated with where Alleria and Turalyon were stranded.

Outland will not get a revamp

There was a lot of joyful / hysterical speculation in Twitter especially that Outland would at last get its remodel and quest streamlining.  I doubt this myself because (a) the Cata remodel of Azeroth was not a cracking success and (b) they hate going back to old stuff.

There was the Twitter sub-thread that Outland would be revamped and be NEW content for the new expansion.  I doubt this because then they’d have to fill in the 60-70 leveling gap from bits of Azeroth and/or Northrend, and I doubt they want to do something so complicated.   HOWEVER, I do consider this to be more likely than revamping it "just because". 

The new level cap will be 100

The most blatant clue about this is that several BoA items drop from Garrosh that "require level 90 to 100", which is an odd thing for the tooltip to say if the next expansion is good for only five levels, I think you’d agree.

The less obvious clues are back in that roadmap.  It’s fairly clear from looking at it that bits of Wrath, Cata, and MoP were meant to come together as one large expansion.  For example, Worgen were possibly supposed to be part of the same expansion as Pandarens. And, thus, the remaining pieces do seem to come together as a whole expansion, rather than a mini-expansion such as what we’ve been getting.

There are no indications of any new class

That’s not entirely true.  Consider the Pandaren.  Outside of the roadmap doc, the only reference to Pandaren in game terms was as a practical joke or two. Blizz insisted that there could be no possible way that they’d ever make it into the game as a serious race.

What class has also been likewise the source of jokes and amusement?  Why, the Bard, of course!  So there’s that.

More likely, though, I think we might see another attempt at a Hero Class, this time with less problems than the DK rollout.  Possible candidates: that have been hinted at here and there: Archdruid (from Druid, possibly from Stormrage himself), Archmage (from Mage, possibly from Jaina), Necromancer (Warlock, possibly related to the Green Fire quest line), Ranger (from Hunter, possibly via Alleria), and Vindicator (from Paladin, possibly related to Turalyon)

Since this is such an empty bucket, anything that fills it will be no particular surprise.

Release will be in the Holiday timeframe, 2014

I know, someone once asked me, "surely you can’t expect people to wait 14 months for an expansion?"  This’ll be closer to 12, which is a reasonable cycle but one that is largely devoid of content, nonetheless.

Expect beta testing to be over the summer, with the final polish going on around August.

Will they announce that this is the schedule. Well, they never have before, so I’m doubtful.

YOU FACE JARAXXUS

Crap. Not again.

Seriously, we need the Dance Studio for this one. Obviously.

Anything else?

Probably. I could hope to see things like ink-derived armor dye, but there is no indication. We’ll probably see at least one more trade skill streamlined as Blacksmithing has. But most people will focus on the Big Picture, and who can blame them?

Bottom line is, I have a suspicion about where things will go, but no hard facts to back it up.  Clues are not facts.

I do, however, think this particular story line would be very, very cool.

I’ll be watching this as much as anyone else.  Excite!

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Hi, how ya been? It’s been weeks, I know! But it’s for a really good reasnon … see, Grimmtooth Actual done went and got himself a job, and it’s been keeping him as busy as a Goblin at a bank vault explosion site. It’s been pretty crazy, is what I’m saying. So time to think, compose, write, and otherwise participate in all things bloggy has been in short supply.  There’s also the fact that with my WoW time somewhat reduced, I’ve had a bit less inspiration to write anything, anyway.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT, HIGGLEY PIGGLEY WITHOUT CONSIDERATION FOR ORDER OR PROPRIETY.

FAIRLY WARNED BE YE, SAY I.

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The Godmother mused on anonymity in the game space, and Matty riffed on it some more vis-à-vis our virtual personas.  You should go read them.  Go ahead. I’ll be here.  I’m just a digital amalgam of personality traits and pixels.

… or am I?

An underlying theme of this sort of discussion is that games like WoW affords one anonymity, and they feel emboldened to therefore do many terrible things to people around them.  In short, griefers.

This is well summarized in Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, captured so well on Penny Arcade.

Gabriels Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

I want to focus on that so-called "normal person" for a moment.

What is it about The Internets and a venue that creates this "fuckwad" shell around that person?

If you answered "nothing", you win the prize.

One is never truly anonymous on the internets. One is merely hoping not to be discovered.

In other words, that "normal" person is in fact a total fuckwad, and he just found the means to express himself in a manner that he felt he could get away with.

None of us is truly anonymous.  We can change our names, address, even our appearance, but we are still who we are. If we act up on the internets, well, that’s us.  Pure and simple.

You are everything you do, and that includes the time you were a total douchebag to the loser in the starting zone on the Azuremyst realm.

You may be the greatest raider of all time. You may lead your guild in an exemplary manner and your guildies may gather once a month to sing songs of praise about you. You may write blog posts that make Glenn Greenwald weep with envy. 

But that time you were a dick to a baby space goat … that’s with you for life.

Nobody else may know, but you will.

And it’s not your virtual presentation that gets sullied with this.  No, it’s the real, elemental, essential you that has to carry this around.

The same applies to those griefers out there.

They go day to day being "normal" people, but at night when they think nobody knows them, they’re being total assholes. And that, too, is "normal" for them.

This talk of the duality of the online and offline personality sometimes gets carried away.  At the end of the day, the online personality is actually the offline person, wearing a pixel suit.  I’m not a max-level dwarven hunter.  I’m a middle-aged out of work software tester that also plays several other characters, some of them female, on the same game system.  None of them is me, and yet all of them are within me, come from me, and are expressions of the essential me.

This isn’t a matter of people "becoming" dickwads.  This is a matter of people letting their inner dickwad – the part of them that they were too timid or sensible to let real-life people see – out to play, to be a sadistic, brutish bully.  To be a rat bastard.  To be an illiterate schmuck.

We don’t act this way in real life because we will be held accountable.  Ideas of an improved accountability system should be explored and implemented if we want to see this game improved as a social entity.

[KNOCK AT DOOR]

/Bob opens door.

Man at door: "Are you PunchyBooBoo?"

Bob: "Um …"

MaD: "PunchyBooBoo the warrior?"

BoB: "Um, well, …"

MaD: "PuchyBooBoo the Orc warrior on Medivh realm?"

BoB: "Yes, that’s m –"

/Man at Door punches Bob in the face

MaD: "THAT’S FOR MAKING MY LITTLE SISTER CRY, YOU SADISTIC BASTARD."

 

[A FEW HOURS LATER]

[KNOCK AT DOOR]

/Bob opens door

Another Man at door: Are you PunchyBooBoo the Orc Warrior?

Bob: MOM, IT’S FOR YOU!

Wouldn’t that be grand.

Any time you think you can get away with something awful is a test of your character.  Maybe it’s a twenty dollar bill that dropped from a man’s coat as he rushed past you … you can keep it, he’ll never know.  You found an exploit in the game that lets you use engineer’s grenades as construction devices. Somebody accidentally lists a 10,000 gp staff for 10 gp. You find a lone flagged low-level Hordie in your territory.

This is your time to shine; do the right thing, and all you’ll probably get from it is a sense of accomplishment.  But karmic debt has been repaid, if you believe in such things.

Everything we do in the "real" world and all the "virtual" worlds are just expressions of our true selves. There is no true anonymity.  Just opportunities to temporarily avoid the effects of your actions. Eventually, you must pay the toll.

Exact change, please.

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