Archive for the “Bearwall” Category

Talk about firing up the wayback machine!

I mentioned the torture quest from Borean Tundra yesterday, just as an example, and it brought forth a few comments and a few ideas.

Rohan wrote a post about it years ago that stuck with me, and I think he represents most of the players like me that say, “Hey! My character wouldn’t do that! Screw the Kirin Tor!”

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone come out and say they think it was a good quest from an RP point of view, because your choice is to torture, or walk away and abadon the quest, implying that you left the Kirin Tor to find someone else to torture the guy. There are no real choices involved, the prisoner will still be tortured one way or the other, and you knew about it and did nothing to stop it.

When I mentioned the idea of having raid hard modes represent harder moral choices, the Art of Persuasion quest was one that I still think of as a lost chance at letting the player make a pesonal choice.

To fight and struggle against an implacable foe can seem very heroic on the face of it. Armor plated warrior queen facing off against fire breathing drag0n, you know the battle is either gonna be brutal, or extra crispy.

But when the choice you’re given is to have a target strapped to a chair, people standing all around you, and one of them hands you a knife and says, “Get carving”, that’s not making a choice so much as taking the path of least resistance.

But what about having quests with decision points? A quest that follows a certain chain, and then at a certain critical point offers you two choices, and each choice has a couple different quests that, regardless of which path you choose, rejoin once again into the one chain?

Let’s take “The Art of Persuasion” chain as an example.

You are a hero trying to aid the Kirin Tor out in Borean Tundra. The Mages have a problem, and it’s a big one. Mages are being abducted!

You are first tasked by the quest “Prison Break” with rescuing an abducted Kirin Tor mage. You are sent to where the mage prisons are, tasked with killing a guard to get a prison key and freeing a Mage. Good!

Once you’ve freed the Mage, your are given the “Abduction” quest. Lady Evanor, one of the Dalaran Archmages, was captured and the most likely suspects are these mage hunters and their Beryl Sorcerer allies. Time is of the essence if we are to find and rescue her!

You are to go back down there, subdue a Beryl Sorcerer, chain him up and drag him back in for questioning.

After you have brought back your Beryl Sorcerer prisoner, you are given the quest “The Borean Inquisition”. The prisoner is being prepared for questioning, mostly involving a chair with straps. You are sent to go and be ready to help in the questioning, in case you are needed.

Okay, so far so good, right? Mages are being abducted, you go free one, then word comes down that a senior senator or archmage or some other high muckety-muck just got captured, this is an emergency, we have to act fast to enact a rescue!

So you go and grab a prisoner to bring back for questioning. Since you picked the person to capture and brought them back in chains, the well being of that prisoner is your responsibility. Whatever they were before, they are helpless now in your hands.

Yes, there are questions that need answers. Yes, in the heat of battle they might have died anyway. But this changes the dynamic.

Where is Lady Evanor? What are they planning to do to her? How can we free her from her magical chains? We need answers before it’s too late! But at the same time, the prisoner cannot defend themselves. whatever you do to them is being done to someone as helpless as a babe. How do you feel about that? No worries, who cares, I’d have bathed in his blood anyway, or is it different now that he is utterly helpless and at your mercy?

So you’re sent to the tower, where the prisoner has been strapped helpless in a chair, and there is clearly going to be some torturing for information going on.

It is fortunate you’re here, <race>.

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain ‘extreme’ measures – even in desperate times such as these.

You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

Do what you must. We need to know where Lady Evanor is being held at once!

I’ll just busy myself organizing these shelves here. Oh, and here, perhaps you’ll find this old thing useful….

[You receive  [Neural Needler].]

Now, this is the perfect point where a choice could have been offered. Instead of a single “Accept” button to choose to take the quest as offered, there could have been two lines of text describing your reaction, each leading to one of two branching quests.

The decision point.

One of the lines could have said, <You take the Neural Needler.>, indicating you intend to do exactly as asked, and torture the prisoner. That could have led to the normal two follow up quests, actually performing the torture, and then the follow up of taking your information to Librarian Donathan.

But what if the other line of text read, <No! There has to be another way! Wait, I have an idea.>

By selecting that choice, you could then be sent to talk to Librarian Donathan outside, and complete that quest by saying, “You of the Kirin Tor are powerful mages. Can you make me look like one of the Beryl Sorcerers for a few minutes, make a loud noise to the north and clear your people from the tower?”

The conclusion of that quest could be Librarian Donathan casting an illusion on you to make you look like a Beryl Sorcerer.

The follow up quest? There is a loud “boom!” to the north, a cloud od dust, the tower shakes a little, and you go in the tower, conveniently empty of Kirin Tor, to “break” the prisoner out. As you grab him and do a traditional escort quest to lead him out of the tower, he could let drop pieces of info along the way, such as thanking you, and telling you he’ll meet you on the platform where Lady Evanor is held as soon as he checks in with the person who holds her key, naming him.

That would give you two quests for each decision, but the end result would be the same.

However you got it, you have information to pass on to Librarian Donathan so you know where to go and what to do to free Lady Evanor in the quest chain.

Same quest count, so there is no advantage to one or the other in terms of exploring. And the follow up quests in the chain from that point would be the same. It would all be about which you felt more approapriate to your character.

The point is, for one brief moment lasting two quests long, you could choose whether you were the kind of person who chose expedience, pragmatism, ruthlessness or outride bloodthirstiness as their character personality, or if you were the kind of character that will try to find another way, any other way than torturing a prisoner, even if that means you fail to save someone else.

On a bonus? Screw the kirin Tor and their holier than thou bullshit. How much more fun would it be to listen to them tell you how special and precious their rules make them that they won’t torture the prisoner, tell you that YOU have to get your hands bloody, there is no other way, here is your torture device we just happen to have laying around, and then YOU tell THEM that you refuse and then find a better way that could have been taken all along, if they hadn’t been so quick to decide, in their worry or concern over the fate of Lady Evanor, to jump at torturing the prisoner..

Take your neural needler, shove it up your ass, because maybe it’s time you asked yourselves some pointed questions about how committed you are to the intent behind your rules and not just the letter of the law.

Yes, my description of how to impersonate a Beryl Sorcerer and the odds you’d really get your answers is far-fetched in a real detailed novel, but for a fast-paced quest chain I think it would be satisying. 

You could get the job done, but take one of two drastically different routes to do it, and while your choice would affect nothing but your personal relationship with your character, it would still be a meaningful RP decision. 

Blizzard almost did this later on, with Cataclysm in Mount Hyjal. There is a quest given by Thisalee Crow called ‘A Bird in Hand”.

In it, you are to use a signal fire to draw the attention of Marion Wormwing, and after you distract her by beating on her for a while, Thisalee sneaks up behind her and grapples her.

You then get to do some quick interrogating.

What’s interesting to me with this quest is, you aren’t given a choice of questioning her or not, but once you’ve gotten your info, you ARE given a choice… of whether to let her go, or kill her in cold blood.

Line of text: <Order Thisalee to kill the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re my kind of mage, <name>! We’re finished with this filth.

Line of text: <Ask Thisalee to release the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re a better person than I, <name>. But I suppose the harpies are just pawns here.

As you can see, this is exactly what I was talking about before. You still did the questioning and, yes, torture beforehand, but afterwards you’re given two choices, two lines of text, and what will happen differs depending on what you choose.

I’m suggesting that this same kind of “two options” thing could be used to offer decision points leading to quests, just one or two quests deep, that rejoined the same quest chain when done, but would give you a choice in how your character would approach things.

What do you think? Are there other quests in the game that you think could have a very different emotional impact if you’re just given a small choice?

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Bearwall! Ah, the smell of fresh bear droppings  on a nice clean blog page.

It smells like… oh, damn.

Smelly bear, smelly bear, what have they been feeding you?
Beer and bacon and BBQ beans, that’s what a big butted bear is made of.

Surprise, surprise, I have been playing a little Diablo 3 this week.

I don’t know that my experiences are going to be all that interesting, but my approach to the game has been to ignore it and all related discussions completely until release.

I wouldn’t say I’ve taken pleasure in ignoring the latest details MMO Champion would release during Beta, or in passing by the fevered, frenzied arguments about it’s features that popped up like shrooms all over the blogosphere.

Well, yeah, I guess I would.

I was playing World of Warcraft, and while it’s nice to see what is intended in a beta for a game I’m actively playing, like WoW, I really couldn’t get into following all the details of a game that was unplayable.

Basically, I ask this of a company – if you’re creating a game, give me a video pimping your art design and music to entice my imagination, then give me some gameplay videos showing me what it’s like to actually get embedded into it. That’s it, I’ll take it from there. The more detail you tell me, the less left to my imagination. Give me a good view of the gameplay, I’ll see all I need for a snap judgment.

I played Diablo, Diablo II, and the expansions. I’ve got fond memories of them all, but the gameplay… they are, at their hearts, button mashing hack and slash dungeon crawlers, and there was nothing wrong with that at all. But the tastiest bits of those dungeon crawlers was exploring the world, the lore, and the specifics of the gameplay as it unfolded through the levels, so why would I want to spoil the mysterious bits with spoilers before I even crack the can?

Plus… one of the things I loved about my previous Diablo experiences was how rock-solid polished they were. Shit worked, no bugs. Why spoil by trying them when they’re all buggy?

I wanted to walk into the new game just like I did the old ones, to get immersed in a POLISHED game experience and enjoy my ignorance.

The best reason I could think of to follow the development would be to see if I felt enticed enough to buy it for $60, so as soon as they announced you got the game for free with an Annual Pass in WoW, well, I stopped following the news. Purchase was a done deal, I’ll play it when I get it, and see what it’s like then.

Fast forward to launch week, my friends. Ooh, new game, cool, time to see what all the hype was about. I hope it doesn’t suck!

I’ve been so successful at remaining spoiler free (that sounds better than ignorant, doesn’t it?) that I had to no shit look up how many classes there were and watch the “What the heck does this class do” videos on MMO Champion just to get some idea of which one I might try first.

I didn’t have even the most basic awareness of what was going to happen when I fired it up. Except, like, you know.

Demons and shit.

I watched the Barbarian video, the Demon Hunter and the Monk. I didn’t watch the Witch Doctor because the gameplay description was all “lol pets lol”, and I didn’t watch the Wizard because, well, squishy was my first impression, and squishy is for after you play around with it.

A heavy plate wearing class, a damage sponge, that is just the thing for a training wheels experience.

I didn’t think I’d start with a Barbarian though, because, well, it looked identical to a WoW Warrior, been there done that, I deal with rage issues enough as it is. If I want to deal with rage, I can just catch up on Twitter, plenty of rage to be found there.

I didn’t think I wanted to start with a Demon Hunter because, and this is the only real reason, I didn’t fancy micro-managing traps. Demon Hunter went on my mental “try when I’m bored with my first character, twin crossbows look sweet” list.

So I watched the Monk video, and I thought it looked pretty cool. It is about damn time someone decided that what the world lacked was Hungarian Ninjas, and I for one welcome our new Hungarian Ninja lightning-fisted overlords.

Awesome voice acting on the accents. I started off with a male one, booted through the startup intro and then thought, “Holy crap, this guy is so awesome, what does a female Hungarian Ninja sound like, OMIGOD RUN GO SEE GO SEEEEE”

I do not regret my decision. Sunshatter the female Hungarian Ninja is a lot of fun.

In getting started, the Monk certainly felt powerful, I kicked some skeleton ass. It was pretty cool. Nice effects, a melee class with lots of “get to the bad guy fast” abilities, very nice.

The more things change, though, the more they feel the same.

The first thing that really got into my head like Deja-Diablo-Vue was how like Diablo II the gear situation felt.

One of the things I carried forward from Diablo II was my irritation with their loot system.

Drops were always random, and it was difficult to know what stats you wanted, and if you did know exactly what was optimal, good luck ever finding it.

I only ever played Diablo II single player, and I remember feeling really irritated that they couldn’t have drops that were a little more… focused towards being useful, but in different ways.

I’m a warrior, what do I need Intellect on my plate helm for? Why does my two handed flamberge give me +Arcane Power? WTF?

At the time, I figured it was so that, when playing Diablo II in a group for years, the drop of an actually USEFUL piece of gear would be cause for celebration, acrimonious arguments, and furious dissention. All the stuff that helps bond a group.

So, yeah, when I saw the return of some of the silly stat combinations, it brought me right back.

The reality of Diablo III is better, much better, the new game does not bear any real resemblance to how bad Diablo II gear drop stats were, but the feel is there on each wtf drop.

See, the reason it’s all good is, all that crap gear has a point! You can destroy it for component parts without regret. Plus, and this is amazing, as far as I can see there is NO soulbinding, so you can equip a drop, use it as long as you’d like, and then trade it to someone else.

Oh yeah, did I mention my shock at that change before? There is an Auction House, and you don’t have to decide between equipping an awesome item to level with or selling it. You can do both!

Level with that awesome item, then when you get an upgrade, turn around and break it up into forging mats, or sell it on the AH to someone else. Or stick it in your shared stash for an alt to use someday.

That… that is pretty amazing to me. It seems almost TOO useful, too considerate to players, to be a Blizzard game design decision.

Then again, the Black Market Auction House is coming soon, as well as account-wide shared mounts, and those are a bit of a shocker too. I thought Blizzard wanted us to run things a bazillion times hoping for that rare drop, and then suffer the anguish of the “soulbound on the wrong character that ran it once to help a friend” tragedy.

Your tears nourish the black soul of Blizzard developers, who, or so I’ve heard, are all retired Special Forces E&E Trainer cadre who miss torturing willing participants in a myriad of perfectly legal ways.

My amazement of the transferrable loot system was overshadowed by my annoyance at how confused I feel at Blizzard’s itemization.

Understand, I could answer all of these questions with a 30 second web search. That’s not the point. The point is to have the joy of discovery all on my own, and that joy has to be balanced by my inevitable irritation when I’m ignorant, and can’t figure out a solution quickly.

As much else that I love, I continue to feel confused with armor and weapons.

For example… are there actual armor types?

I look at an item description, and it seems sometimes it says an item is cloth, other times leather, but many other times there is no actual ‘armor class’ or type listed, just an armor value.

Stats are fairly obvious in association, but can my Wizard wear the same types of armor as my Barbarian? There are class-specific items with a class name in some pieces, but in others, it seems pretty shaky.

It’s not quite as obvious as the system that I, as a WoW player, am used to. Such as “You are a Mage, you wear Cloth. Suck it up, silk-boy.” Or “You are a Druid, you can wear Cloth or Leather armor, you have a level 60 Skill that says if you wear all Leather you get stat bonuses so you are intended to wear leather whenever possible, if you don’t like it go stick a feather in your butt and pop flight form, bird-brain.”

Not a big issue, just… ah, the feel of Diablo II in the air. Refreshing!

When I’d played my Monk for a while, I decided I wanted to try a ranged class. I was having fun, but I was curious if a Wizard would feel noticeably squishier, and if so, would that be more challenging? The Monk was feeling a bit too easy mode.

I created a Wizard. A male Wizard. I refrained from making the obvious emo jokes when I saw his default pose, I just named him Unbearable, and really, when you look at his pose, why wouldn’t you? I look at him and I know *I* want to smack that smug know-it-all smirk off his face.

Here is the funny thing.

Because my monk was a melee combatant, I worked hard to get weapon upgrades. More powerful paired Vampiric daggers means more stabby-stab damage, right? Sorta?

But the Wizard is a spell-casting inferno of magical destruction. I am throwing lightning bolts and orbs of arcane might at the bad guys, all doing with the blowing up thing.

What does the DPS of a sword have to do with the damage my fireball does?

Well, it doesn’t, or so I reason out, and off I went through most of the first act ignoring my weapon unless a Wand dropped, since Wands might affect my Magic Missile.

I was having a pretty hard time towards the end, fighting the waves of bad guys in the Cathedral leading up to the Skeleton King. I was getting swamped, and as good as Arcane Orb is, it was taking every bit of skillful use of Frost Nova and that Arcane Explosion thingie AoE and running and gunning to stay alive.

Then, I decided to toss a 14.5 DPS flaming spear into my weapon slot. Just cause, you know. Flaming javelin mages are so the thing, right?

Oh hey, suddenly my Magic Missile is doing HOLY SHIT I BLEW UP THE WHOLE ROOM WITH MY ARCANE ORB OMGWTFBBQFORREALS.

It turns out, and this was a hell of a surprise, it turns out that the higher the DPS rating on my melee weapon, the more powerful my magical spells are.

So… my weapon is a stat stick that has no intuitive link with my magical power, but does anyway. Fair enough, lesson learned, time to toast some Horny Tauren… err, goatmens.

It’s been lots of fun, dungeon crawling has never been more interesting. Learning to hold down the shift button whenever I want to blow stuff up at range (it keeps me from moving when I click), learning that I can click on my Templar companion’s portrait and train his skills and GIVE HIM gear to make him more powerful, there are all sorts of fun little discoveries so far.

And I’ll be honest with you, the fact that I am trying, screwing it up, getting myself in stupid situations and then discovering my error later? That is actually a large part of the fun.

There is something inherently perverse in how I’m playing the game. The moments that stand out for me as the best are the ones where I go “Oh shit! THAT’S what I was supposed to do! Well, duh.”

And yet… it’s been good.

I’ve been thinking, I’m having so much fun and being delighted by wonder and getting surprised by my mistakes and working through them, that I’m thinking I ought to try working ignorance into the rest of my day to day activities.

I’m thinking, from now on, when I’m driving I might want to stop turning my head around to see what is behind me and to the sides before I make a lane change. I think going to that extra effort to actually SEE the blind spots and make sure they’re clear before I change lanes is keeping me from having a certain taste of mystery, of wonder in my life. I think I should cut back on being informed, no turn signals either (why should I prevent other drivers from enjoying their own moment of enjoyable surprise learning experiences) and just glance in the side mirror and pop over in the same movement.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Don’t worry though, I know I’m not the first one to think of this as a way to add a certain flair and excitement to my day. Hell, from what I can see on the road, I’m apparently the last one to realize how fun it must be.

Here’s hoping that you and yours are having a great time in whatever game you may be playing, and I’ll leave you with this tagline:

“Ignorance – It’s not just a playstyle choice, it’s a LIFESTYLE choice.”

Comments 15 Comments »

BEARWALL that has nothing to do with gaming.

Has anyone ever told you this before?

“Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”

Just so you know, that saying is a test.

A lot of things in life are tests, and it can be hard to recognize it when one comes around.

This post is in the way of a public service message for those of you that aren’t all too sure what “a blown fuse” means, and don’t want to look stupid or ignorant when someone tells you this in the future.

From now on, instead of nodding your head and walking away feeling vaguely worried, I’m going to arm you with science so you know what they’re saying… and what pointed questions to ask.

A Firm Grounding

Here’s the deal. If you’re reading this, you’re plenty smart enough and educated enough to understand what a fuse is, and what it means. You might just need a frame of reference.

Don’t panic. This won’t get technical.

You know your electronics runs on a power source we call electricity.

There are lots of technical terms used when discussing electricity, how it’s measured, how to calculate volts and amps, etc.

You don’t need to know any of that to live your life.

What you need to know is, how does it make that iPod spin out music, and can my iPod electrocute me if I drop it in water?

Quick answer: No.

We can functionally describe electricity as being similar to water. Water that is unaffected by gravity… but that loves finding a path to the deep, dark underworld.

What do I mean?

Let’s look at how water functions.

Water, when flowing, pushes things in front of it. The force of water pushing on things in it’s path can be used to get work done. The stronger the flow (or current), the more it can push, the more it can do.

Electricity works much the same way.

Picture a flowing stream or babbling brook. If there is a building on the riverbank, and that building has a waterwheel dipping into the river’s current, the force of the flowing water pushes on the paddles that are at the bottom, moving them forward, turning the wheel so that the next paddle dips into the current, and the rotation of the wheel continues, forever and ever, amen, ’til the river rises and the cows come home.

That waterwheel rotates on a shaft, and the shaft goes into the building, and what you get is a turning shaft inside a big building, powered by the flow of water. You can then attach stuff like gears and things, linkages and doodads, and get working machinery… powered purely by water. Triphammers, mill wheels, saws and drills and all sorts of stuff can be powered in this way.

Well, electricity is the same exact thing.

Except… instead of electricity flowing as water does, pulled down by gravity following the lowest surface it can find, electricity is special water that flows wherever it can find a conductive surface to carry it into the ground.

Electricity always heads for the easiest, simplest, fastest connection to the deep earth it can find. It follows the path of least resistance.

What is a conductive surface? Well, it depends on how strong the current of the electricity is, really.

Things like metal and water can be great conductors. Electricity touching metal will go straight to wherever the metal is touching the ground at the best point.

Rubber and the air can both be very good insulators, blocking the flow of electricity dead in it’s tracks. Plastic is pretty good at that, too.

But the more power, the more force, the more oomph in the electricity, the more resistance (or insulation) the electricity can overcome.

At high enough levels, the electricity can even jump through the air, conducting through the air itself to get to the ground. We call that an arc, and that’s some serious high power fry your ass mojo.

Why, if there is enough current in the electricity, YOU can be a conductor! You are a lot more conductive than the air, by the way. A LOT more conductive than the air.

Safety First

Let’s have a brief experiment to illustrate this point.

Say you take a metal knife, and you stick it in a wall outlet… the electricity will instantly see that if it flows through the metal knife, and then through your body, it can reach the ground through your knees where you’re touching it, and off it goes.

At this point, you will either get blasted away from the outlet because the electricity flowing through your body from your hand to your knees caused your muscles to spasm, OR you will get locked rigidly to that knife, taking the juice constantly, because your muscles all just convulsed and locked up.

This can be a fun experiment, because if your friend or loved one sees you there unmoving or unresponsive, they might run over to grab you and pull you away… and IF they are suddenly a better conductor (say they are in bare feet while you’re wearing jeans) than you are, now the electricity sees a BETTER conductive path of least resistance through them, and BOOM, they get zapped too.

Quick fun fact: In the Marines, when you’re going to work with electricity, we used to make safety devices. What these were, were long wooden sticks covered in rubber, with a metal hook screwed into one end and also covered with rubber. They were for when a Marine grabbed a live wire, convulsed, and you had to get them free without electricuting yourself. You could grab the 8′ long rubber-coated hook off the wall, and either hook them and drag them away or just whack them good with the rubber stick.

Oh no? Oh, hell yes.

Are you paying attention now?

Just to ease your worried mind, you should know that there are two kinds of electricity… direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The kind of electricity in your wall outlets and in your home is all AC, or alternating current. Think of it as special electricity that pulses instead of just staying strong and steady. It pulses so fast you wouldn’t notice it without special gear, but your muscles will know the difference, because if you get zapped by AC, the first pulse may lock your muscles up and cause them to contract but the next pulse will convulse you and blast you free.

Direct Current, now… that shit will lock you up, holmes.

Where do you mostly find DC (Direct Current)? Why you find it INSIDE a lot of pwoerful electronics like TVs, stereos, microwave ovens, motors, air conditioners, all that kind of stuff. AFTER where the AC power cord comes into the gizmo, goes through a transformer and some other stuffs, and gets distributed throughout the thingie as nice, smooth DC voltage.

THIS IS WHY YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO SCREW AROUND INSIDE ELECTRONICS WITHOUT TRAINING. 

So.

Electricity is like water, it pushes stuff in front of it. It is supposed to start at, say, a wall outlet or breaker box. Then it flows through a conductive material, like metal wire, that is covered in a insulating material like rubber to keep it IN the wire, goes into a gizmo, pushes stuff around inside the gizmo to make it move and get work done… and then, believe it or not, goes right back out a second insulated metal wire and back into the wall outlet, return to sender.

It makes a complete circuit.

This is why, if you look at an AC power cord, it is two wires, each wrapped in rubber to isolate them from each other. One is the supply of juice TO teh gizxmo, the other is the return pipe FROM teh gizmo. They are commonly called the ‘Hot” and the “Neutral”, respectively. The hot is usually coated with black rubber, and the neutral is coated with white, when found in American wiring diagrams or inside a junction box.

You often also find a third wire. It is colored green inside gizmos, and it is called the ground wire.

Why? Because the ground wire does NOT carry any juice at all. None. It is dead as a doornail… and it is there to save your life.

The ground wire is attached to the deepest, darkest pit of black underground wetness there is anywhere near your house. It is THE favorite path for current to flow.

The ground wire is plugged into your gear, fixed to metal parts like the case… and is supposed to be a safety. If the hot or the neutral gets cut or shorted, instead of you getting killed by touching the metal case of your stereo, the power goes through the case, to the ground wire, and down to that inky it of blackness where all electricity finds it’s home instead.

It also provides a wonderful way of making sure you don’t get outside sources of electricity, like static electricity, interfering within your delicate electronics like your Xbox 360. If you zap the case, the ground wire bleeds the electricity off to ground so it never zaps the guts of the machine.

But what about fuses, you idiot!

It is normal to put a fuse in the wire at different points.

Breakers in your electrical panel in your house are, essentially, fuses too.

What a fuse is, is a wire designed to melt at a certain temperature, enclosed in a VERY insulative holder. It’s just the same as wire, but if it gets too hot, it melts. 

Fuses melt when they get too hot, and when that happens, no more path for the current to flow. Electricity stops flowing, because the wire just got cut. The gizmo stops working… because the electricity HAS to flow for it to push or otherwise make the gizmo do stuff.

So, if a fuse is designed to melt when it gets too hot, what causes it to heat up?

Electricity does.

More specifically, the amperage in the electricity.

What is amperage? 

You don’t need to know exactly what it is, but it can help to think of it like this.

Now, this is completely and totally wrong, and yet it may help. Professionals, if you think I’ve taken liberties before this, hold onto your hats. It’s all in a good cause.

When you see a sign saying # of volts, # of amps, think of it like this.

The amount of volts is the size of pipe the electricity is traveling in. The more volts, the bigger the flow of electricity can be, the more work it COULD do.

The amount of amps is the actual POWER, the push, the big honking wave that is flowing through the pipe, doing the actual work.

To complete this horrible analogy, the stuff that the electricity is pushing in whatever gizmo you’ve got? That is the resistance. The more it resists the amps trying to push it, the more amps you need to provide to get it to go.

Here is why you should care.

You could have 480 volts on the line, a huge pipe. But if there are only .2 milliamps in the circuit, an itty bitty amount of current, you can grab the bare wire in your hand and only feel a tickle.

If you lick a 9 volt battery, getting your tongue on both prongs at once and feel the electricity flow across your taste buds from one pole to another, it won’t blow your ass up because the amps are very low.

But if you grabbed that same 480 volt wire, and there were 20 or more amps on there… if those 20 amps of force decided to flow through YOU as the fastest way to get to the ground, if YOU became the “path of current flow”, then you can die, cooked from the inside out, with your feet blown off and still steaming in your boots.

I’m not kidding around here.

What makes a fuse melt?

Amps of force performing work, pushing through things that offer resistance, generate heat.

If there is too little wire to handle all the amps flowing through it, that wire will, literally, melt.

The reason you have circuit breakers in your house is to prevent you plugging in too many things on one circuit or loop of wire, drawing a SHOTLOAD of amps through the wires in the walls of your house to power all that crap, melting the wires buried in your walls and setting your house on fire.

The circuit breaker is a fuse, designed to trip out or ‘break’ when it gets too hot… and capable of being reset. It trips when there are more amps flowing through it than the wires attached to it are capable of handling.

Circuit breakers are designed to be reset, on the assumption you know enough to unplug stuff from the appropriate outlet when one pops. Old school power panels had actual fuses that you had to replace… and many skilled and brilliant electricians would replace them, all right. With copper pennies. Sigh.

So, pop quiz because you know the answer now. What does a blown fuse mean?

It means that something got so hot it melted a piece of wire. It melted a piece of wire that was designed to melt for a reason; to protect something else from getting damaged from too much force/amps/electricity/power.

So now we come to the main event.

If a fuse blew, it didn’t do it out of spite, or vindictiveness.

That fuse blew because something somewhere else went wrong, and the fuse melted to protect your valuable shit, or even your life.

Why your life?

Because the most common place to stick a fuse is right where the wire comes into your gizmo from the power cord plugged into the wall. If that fuse melted, something somewhere in your gizmo suddenly decided to suck so much juice out of the wall it melted a wire… melted that wire before it melted something else. Or tripped a breaker in your power panel.

Or shorted right through you, blowing off your feet.

So if someone says to you, “Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”, the very next question you need to ask is, “What caused the fuse to blow?”

That is the test.

To know that a blown fuse is not the problem, a blown fuse PROTECTED you from the problem.

What caused the fuse to blow? Because if all you did was replace the fuse, what the hell is stopping whatever it was from causing it to blow again?

What if the reason the fuse blew, was that there is water somewhere inside the gizmo. Electricity likes to find the easiest path to ground, right? And water makes for a good conductor. the electricity doesn’t want to do work, it doesn’t want to flow through any resistance, it’s always looking for the easiest way out.

So there is water, and sometimes the gizmo moves, the water flows, touches somewhere that has electricity, and the electricity says “Ah HAH! I can bypass almost all this other shit, flow right through the water, take a shortcut, and go through this here control knob, through that person’s hand, down their arm, and ground myself on the metal arm of the chair. YAHOO! FREEDOM AT LAST!”

Kaboom.

Or maybe, and god this is common, maybe you’ve got a motor that is powered by electricity in your gizmo. Like your car. Or your air conditioner. The motor is physically moving, spinning round, from the force of electricity pushing it.

It takes a lot of amps to physically move a motor. Lots more than your iPod needs. Rule of thumb, if the electricity has to get a motor physically moving, it’s got a LOT of juice running through it. Moving parts take power.

The motor has all this power running through it, some insulation starts wearing away, or the bearing that lets the shaft turn nice and smooth starts binding up making the motor use a LOT more power to get that shaft to turn, and the heat from the increased amp draw builds up.

The fuse blows. It gets hot and melts, protecting your motor from turning into slag.

If this is caught right away, the motor can usually be fixed. Maybe by something as simple and easy as putting a bit of grease or oil on the bearing that the shaft turns on, reducing how hard the motor has to work.

But what do I see all the damn time?

“Fuse blew, I replaced it and got the device back in service.”

“What caused it to blow?”

“I dunno, probably just a power spike.”

“Nothing else went down, and the lights didn’t flicker. Go check it out, find out why it blew.”

“Okay.” *very grumpy*

A week passes.

The motor ‘burns out’, from too much heat because instead of greasing the motor bearings, the jackass replaced the fuses and didn’t ‘waste his time ‘troubleshooting the core problem.

I look inside at the fuses, wondering why the $20 fuses did not pop, protecting the $3000 motor from melting by blowing first, like they were designed to.

I see that the fuses, which are supposed to blow if the electrical current flow exceeds 20 amps, have been replaced by 30 amp fuses.

It takes a lot more heat to blow a 30 amp rated fuse than a 20 amp rated fuse. If the amps never rise above 30 amps, the wire inside will never heat up enough to melt.

But that motor sure did love the extra amps that drove it far harder than it was ever designed to, at a temperature it’s wires weren’t designed to handle. Wires melted, or maybe even the motor windings.

Meltdown. $3000 motor burnt to shit. Repairs and rewinding will probably cost about $1200.

Oh wow, but at least those $20 fuses are still in great shape, and the tech that decided to swap 20 amp fuses for 30 amp fuses so he wouldn’t have to keep replacing them when they blew over and over?

Well, at least he had some piece and quiet for that week.

Wrapping this up

Now you know what a blown fuse really means. It means more juice, more power, more amps, more OOMPH just went through the thing than it was designed to safely handle, and the fuse blew before something SERIOUS happened. Read: expensive or dangerous.

If you simply replace the fuse, you are giving whatever it was a chance to do it again, shocking the system and risking damage from the fuse melting too SLOWLY to stop the big jolt of power from going through and doing it’s damage to the sensitive guts of your gear first.

If you replace the fuse with a BIGGER fuse, what you’re doing is saying, “I don’t like to live safely, or to save money. Fuck it, let the motor burn, just as long as it stops bugging me by popping all the time.”

Yes, a spike of power from the source can cause a fuse to blow or breaker to pop. A lightning strike on the main supply coming into your house, etc.

But if it did… you should have seen lights flicker, or had some other indication than just one thing popping a fuse.

At the very least, I hope that now you will feel confident whenever you are talking to someone about your car, or stereo, or air conditioner, or circuit breaker, to call them on the carpet if they feed you that old “It was just a fuse” line.

Today, it was just a fuse. Tomorrow, it’s the water pump, or the fan motor, or the overhead crane drive, or whatever it may be.

Or something compound in your car. I don’t care what it is, if it’s compound, it’s money.

This may not have helped you, but by God I’m glad to get that off my chest. Freaking idiot techs, I swear I’m going to start using the Big Safety Stick™ to give them a current test they won’t soon forget..

Comments 21 Comments »

A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.

The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.

It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.

You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?

You want to go do the fun stuff.

For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.

Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.

Why?

Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.

On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.

Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.

Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?

Absolutely.

But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.

And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.

So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?

Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?

Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.

Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?

I think so.

Look at the facts.

I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.

I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.

When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.

For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.

I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.

I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.

But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?

Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.

In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.

Yet.

I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.

To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.

Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.

A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.

For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.

For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.

Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.

For armor… well, there is the obvious.

My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.

Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.

As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.

There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway. :)

I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.

The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.

What about the Molten Front?

Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.

There are still two things to keep in mind.

First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.

Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?

Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.

No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.

As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.

What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?

Comments 30 Comments »

It’s the little things that really bring a smile to my face.

To follow up from my post on Friday, to me it doesn’t matter how long a game has been out, or how much has been written about it in the past.

What matters to me is playing a game my own way, of finding my own path, without worry that I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or something. I want to have enough options that I can make the game experience my own. I want to step back from the screen for a second, look upon what I have wrought, and think, “Yeah, that’s pretty f’ed up. Sweet!”

Take my new Paladin alt, for example.

I’ve been playing on Azuremyst-US, and I really like it there. The climate on the server is just friendlier than I’m used to seeing elsewhere.

It’s got a kinder, gentler Trade Chat troll. Why, I can’t hardly recall ever seeing [anal] jokes at all! Instead, they go off on [pet type] memes. Hardly any filth at all!

Frankly, it’s a little unnerving. Trade chat on Alliance side without constant foul BS feels like you’re playing on a server of pod people.

I’ve been playing a lot on Azuremyst, the Band of Misfits is just a great group of people, lots of humor, very active, and a bunch of characters. Characters as in kooks, clowns, cavorting karoake carousers, college kids and couples. They are pretty active, too, doing old raids for the Achievements and such. I just took part in downing heroic mode Yogg-Saron last week, and had a blast. We’ve got heroic 25 Lich King tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.

No matter how great things may be in the guild, though, they don’t have a horde side experience. I’ve wanted to play through all the new Cataclysm zone quests and changes on the horde side ever since they came out, but every time I made a horde alt, they leveled too fast to see everything.

Enter the Paladin.

A Tauren, because they’re awesome. Protection specced, since I want to see how Pally tanking really stacks up against the worst the PUG lifestyle has to offer.

And fully decked out in all the plate tanking and associated Heirlooms, because I’ve done the leveling thing the hard way, and I have no problem being ridiculously OP. Especially as the tank.

I almost made a critical error in playing the Paladin.

I leveled to 13 in Mulgore, did the whole zone for the second time, and it was quite fun. Things flow very well, and Paladins get lots of good tools for smacking things upside the head.

From Mulgore, I went directly to Silverpine Forest. I have heard a lot from Cassie about how awesome the questlines are in Silverpine, how cool it is to see the Banshee Queen in the aftermath of the fall of Arthas.

She was right, of course. With the Banshee Queen free of Arthas and the breaching of Greymane’s Wall giving access to Gilneas, Silverpine is transformed and has a great story to it.

Early on questing, everything was great. Then I dinged 15, and queued for randoms as a tank.

Stupid, stupid bear.

The random PUGs were fine, I dominated with Spear, er I mean Shield and Magic Helllllllllmut, but after just a handful of runs, I went back to Silverpine disgruntled to find I’d leveled past the damn zone already.

All the mobs were gray to me, and I could walk past everything without aggroing. That is SO irritating when you want to feel immersed. Whack, dead. Whack, dead. What, can’t you see me slaughtering your entire Gilnean Resistance Front? Whack, dead. C’mon, notice me, damn your eyes! I’m a skinner! I’m skinning wolves, and I’m /emoting skinning YOU! Did I just skin your cousin? I bet I did! After all, I got your whole village piled up back there in the cart, I bet he’s there somewhere!

Sigh.

So I had to swear off pugs and focus on questing through the gray zone. I dinged 25 last night, but at least I made it to the end of Silverpine without outleveling it TOO bad… and I logged out with a certain quest in my log.

A quest that promises to make me a quest giver, if only for a little while. Sitting on a horse, golden exclamation point overhead, the whole bit.

I’ve heard a lot about that quest, I intend to savor it slowly. :)

It’s the little things about the game, making it your own. Like having a huge, looming badass Tauren Paladin, rocking the spiky shoulders and helm. A Tauren whose very name proclaims his passion for the most valuable treasure in existance, a treasure that entire generations have gone to war for.

Baconburgler the Paladin. No bacon is safe.

(Yes, I know burglar is spelled with an ‘a’. I spelled it in the name with an ‘e’. It’s a riff on both bacon thieves and bacon burgers, get it? Yeah, I know. What can I say, I’m me.)

Having a name that makes you giggle when you see it is a solid part of making a character feel like it’s all mine. But there’s more.

Heirloom gear looks the way it looks, but there is one thing you can truly control. Your mount.

I’ve worked hard with humans before to get the Night Elf faction maxed JUST so I could have a kitty mount. Having strange mount/race combinations as early as you can get them, and fun/unusually distinctive mounts at max level are tried and true ways of being yourself.

I’m sure that every single person out there has spent at least SOME effort deciding which of the hundreds of mount/color combinations was the perfect mount for their favorite character.

I think many of us try to have that special mount for every main character, because it really is something that is up to us. Whatever mount you choose for a character says something, even if it’s “Hi, I still have the default mount I bought when I trained because I’m cheap and I don’t give a shit and I have no romance in my soul whatsoever, lols.”

The new Tauren Paladin mounts are pretty cool. The coloring style used resembles earthy clay pigments, and goes very well with the Sunwalker motif.

But that didn’t really give me the badass vibe I was looking for. It didn’t say, “Hi, I’m Baconburgler, and I’ll be taking your order. No, I’m not giving you any food, I’m taking your order. Give it up. Mmm, now that’s a tasty burger! You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?”

So, let’s do something to give BB a little spiky Jules vibe. Let’s pimp his ride.

(I’d like to add that I wish Blizzards April Fools Gag of Pimp my Mount from 2009 was live. Yes, yes I WOULD like to pimp my mount, thank you very much.) 

Band of Misfits (the coolest raiding guild evar, they raid the most from coast to coast with mobs on toast like Emily Post) is level 25. Beartrap the Hunter be exalted yo, so I can buy the Reins of the Golden King, a pretty cool looking lion mount.

How does that help my Paladin? Well, as most of you know, the character that buys the mount from the Guild Vendor has to be exalted with the guild… but the mount itself is Bind to Account. You don’t have to be in the guild to use it, any of your characters can.

Why, just look what happens when that faction-specific item gets mailed cross-faction? It turns into the applicable item of the other faction, of course. :)

Introducing my level 20 unguilded Tauren Paladin, riding around on a massively badass Kron’kar Annihilator!

As I said, it’s the little things. Sure, most people can do the exact same thing I did, but the point isn’t what other people may or may not choose to do, or whether you think blowing 1400 gold on a mount for a level 20 alt is stupid, what matters to me is what *I* do, and doing something crazy that looks that cool puts a big ol’ smile on my face. 

The other thing that has been putting a smile on my face lately has been having the Vial of the Sands on my Druid. Not just because I like having Dragonform, but because I can carry a rider.

Cassie is having a good time leveling yet another Shaman, her favorite class. She’s in Outlands, getting all the quests done in a zone, collecting all the group stuff, and then she whistles for her pet Dragon to come and carry her around from place to place, killing stuff.

You have to be careful how you treat your pets, though. 

Last night, I carried her way to the top of the atmosphere in Nagrand before transforming into Swift Flight Form. As Cassie began falling to her death on the hard rocks below, I swooped down to get below and take screenshots.

To my dismay, she lofted a parachute and floated all the way down nice and safe with a full canopy overhead.

The parachute had no time limit, so she floated safely all the way down.

Damnit.

Now, this may seem harsh to you, but in my own defense, I think there was sufficient provocation.

After all, I didn’t fly out over the edge of the abysss before I shifted. I gave her a fair chance at splatting on solid ground. And she’s a Shaman. She could rez. I could even bring her back myself!

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you the provocation, didn’t I?

Well, I’m tooling along the skies of Nagrand under her guidance as she turns in quests.

As we leave the Ring of Blood, headed for Nesingwarys camp, she says to me, “If I’m going to keep you around, I’m going to have to break out my Carrot on a Stick.”

O.o

“Or in your case, I’d better make a Bacon on a Stick.”

(”)-.-(”)

It wouldn’t have hurt so bad if it wasn’t so damn true. I finally understand those poor turtles swimming endlessly around Northrend. Put some Bacon on a Stick and hold it in front of me, and I’ll be sure to follow.

Of course, unlike those turtles… eventually, I’ll simply go get some of my own. Eventually. You know, just as soon as that delicious aroma is mine!

Just. Have. To. Fly. A. Little. Faster.

Comments 18 Comments »

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