Mangle say what now?

MMO Champion just posted a new look at the Cataclysm Beta build, and they’re showing the stuff you get at level 10 when you pick a Talent Tree.

Now, I know this is subject to change, but so far it’s Vengeance, an unspecified ‘Feral Druid” buff (the spellcaster types are listed as getting pushback reduction to spells for theirs), and….

Mangle.

Mangle at level 10.

No more baby Claw, but Mangle.

Well, hell, they’re really making me feel bad about deciding to level a Troll Druid as Feral from 1 to 85 in Cataclysm, aren’t they?

For those that don’t recall, Vengeance is supposed to be a new ability that, as you take damage in Bear form, your attack power gets boosted. So it’s a threat multipler/damage buff for Bears that tank, that hopefully will scale as we level.

But, well, that’s nifty and all… but Mangle at level 10!

Yeah, I know, I said I was Moving On…

So, we’ve all had an exciting week, haven’t we?

First, the news, for those that hadn’t seen it yet. Blizzard made an announcement that the Official WoW Forums would NOT, in fact, display real first and last names when their changes go live. Instead, there will be a persistant handle or nickname of some kind. The message was signed as coming directly from Mike Morhaime.

So.

I’ll admit to being a little stunned.

I’m not speechless, nor dumbfounded, or even amazed.

But I am stunned. With a little disappointment thrown in as well.

This is what I, personally, wanted, and it was all I wanted.

No bullshit rhetoric, no torches waved in the air, no pitchforks brandished with glee, no screaming “Burn the witch! Burn her!”

I just wanted what was, to me, a very poor decision modified to remove the requirement of publicly displaying your real legal first and last name in order to participate in an online gaming community. 

Well, they did that.

Thanks!

See, that was me there. Thanking Blizzard.

Look, I’ll do it again.

Thanks!

I’m thanking Blizzard, because they had made a decision, publicly announced their decision, and then had to face the hard choice of choosing to stick to their decision come hell or high water and being accused of refusing to listen to the concerns of their subscribers, or changing their decision and inevitably getting accused of being wishy washy and lacking the courage to stick to their principles.

They chose to bend in the wind of subscriber discontent. They modified their stance. We will not be required to bring our real life into our escapist fantasy.

And, of course, they are now being ripped a new one for it.

Well, I knew that was coming, no matter what. Truly, no surprises there.

What disappoints me is how many people were willing, SO FAST, to take Blizzard’s final reaction to the public outcry, an outcry that saw over 1700 pages of “Hell No”, and actually turn it into a consiracy theory.

“They meant to do that the whole time. They just got a week of free Buzz. Look, they came out with crazy talk they never intended to carry through on, and then when they backed down they get what they always wanted in the first place, AND get to seem like they listen to customer complaints! This is what they intended from the beginning!”

I thought I was cynical, and I thought I was pretty clear on the “Corporations are in the business of making a profit for their shareholders” understanding of financial decisions.

And yet, I am still not so far gone that I can see the color of the sky of the planet upon which these people are standing. I can’t tell what the weather’s like there.

I wonder if there are rainbows. Rainbows are pretty. I like rainbows.

Blizzard made a partnership with Facebook. They planned on, and moved towards, social networking integration. And in pursueing that goal, they made an announcement that caused a backlash with an intensity the WoW community has never seen before. This was almost, not quite, but almost Star Wars Galaxies NGE level backlash. And it’s possible it could have built to that level if left unanswered.

Did you see that main Official WoW Forums thread? Did you see the WoW Ladies forum thread? Did you notice the number of comments on the MMO Champions thread about it, or on WoW.com, or the many blog posts in the blogging community about it?

There has been outrage before, and drama, and stupidity, but never in my experience in WoW did so many come out with such a clearly negative reaction in so short a time to anything else.

There was a solid minority of players happy with the change, and there were of course those that were delighted to see Blizzard do it, JUST for the sheer joy of expecting to see an internet disaster of biblical proportions rain locusts and fire down upon everyone involved, for their amusement. Those folks, of course, I noticed expected it to be a nightmare for all involved… they were just in favor of it for the drama watching enjoyment.

Alongside the conspiracy theorists, there are those lambasting Blizzard for having “caved”.

“Caved”?

This is not a dad letting his grounded teen out of punishment early because he was tired of hearing the whining, “But daaaaad! my friends are all seeing Eclipse tonight, and I wannnna go toooooooo! Oh, and can I have $80 for a shirt at Hollisters first?”.

That’s what “caved” is. It’s giving in to the selfish, petty or inappropriate requests of the undeserving, out of a selfish desire to stop dealing with the bitching and complaints.

Do you really feel thats what Blizzard did? That they acted merely to shut us up because they were tired of the whining, and it was easier to give in than to stick to their principles?

Or even better, are you in the first group and really think that Blizzard WANTED to cause all this drama and controversy, for whatever reason, as some kind of plot, and this was all planned in advance?

I just…. wow.

If you do, if you really look inside yourself, and after trying to be objective about all this, you really feel in your heart that it was anything other than responding to thousands of players’ concerns expressed over three days, then please. I have a request.

Just leave me alone. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t.

If thats your stance, and that’s really the first reaction you’ve got instead of a simple “Hey Blizzard, thanks for paying attention to our concerns, I for one really appreciate such a clear, fast and unequivocal response”, if you’re really that negative, then just drop me from your feedreader.

I may get pissed on occasion and go off on a rant, but in my heart, I’m just not that negative.

I like playing WoW, I’m willing to pay a monthly fee for the game I’m getting, I’m willing to pay for the extra work that they put into the expansions, I’m very willing to buy an in-game pet if they give me a cute stuffed animal Horde batwing mount to go with it, and I’m happy to talk about the game and share stories and squee with glee over whatever comes down the road.

Sure, I get pissed at times. Sure I rant. I vent. I go off on great roaring tears. But I do so because I am so passionate in my love for the wonderful game of WoW, it’s depth, it’s vibrant vitality, the insane number of hours of pleasure it has brought me over the years.

I do it for the Internet Dragons. They deserve to get what’s coming to ’em, and I’m just the one to bring it.

Sure, on this blog that picture up there has my real name on it. But this is a blog about my life in a video game, among other things, and here, as there, I do not like being called John. John is what they call me at work. John is what I hear being paged over the loudspeaker when, inevitably, there is yet another damn emergency that needs tending to.

Here, I’m the Big Bear Butt. I’m B^3. BBB. Triple B. And whatever other cute, funny, goofy variations you awesome folks come up with.  And I am the BBB here, because this is not work. This is not my “serious” life. This is me having fun with other people I hope are as passionate about the game as I am, and who start out with that passion in their hearts as well.

Not negativity, and not piss-poor bitterness.

I’m glad I won’t have to be ‘John’ on the forums, if and when they change them. For me, I like keeping it unreal. No big deal otherwise, but thats just me. Far more than that, I am truly happy that so many people who wanted the choice of keeping their identity private, for personal as well as safety reasons, will no longer have that worry. Not at all.

I see that as nothing but positive. I don’t see shadows circling, getting ever closer. It’s just positive. We wanted to have the option of remaining unreal. We get it. Got it? Good!

I shouldn’t be disappointed. Nobody owes me a damn thing, and everyone has a perfect right to whatever opinion they’ve got. I have no reason, nor right, to have expected anything different.

But I am. And I did. Shame on me.

Moving On

I think I better understand the different positions people have, for and against, on the Real ID.

So, I’m moving on, letting the topic go.

I’m left holding the position that I agree with the idea of making the Official WoW forums a place where a player, whether brand new or long time and knowledgeable, can go and feel comfortable asking questions, posting suggestions, look for help or request technical support.

I disagree with the steps Blizzard is taking, in making the forums a place where direct interaction requires the publication of a player’s legal first and last names.

That being said, I personally have not posted anything in the Official WoW Forums in years. Literally years. I have also not felt the desire to do so. I have my blog, and while I’ll admit the Official forums are the best choice to get suggestions and guides for new players in front of their eyes when they need help, I just don’t have any interest in going there. Generally, if someone does a search for Druid Tank info on the internet, they can find me.

Gnomer makes a great point in a recent post about slippery slopes of privacy intrusion. Today Real ID in the game, tomorrow Real ID on the forums, next year, who knows? Maybe Real ID on the WoW Armory to track what players are doing today, live as they do it, regardless of character. Who knows? We’ve got Achievements there already to track what individual characters have been up to, so it’s really not the stretch of imagination you might think.

Still. There’s been enough talk about it for me. Blizzard knows how we feel, and what they do, they do.

All I can do is decide for myself what I’m going to do. I wasn’t posting in the forums before, so not posting in the future is no big deal. My real name is already out there thanks to my website, so it doesn’t stop me from asking Technical Support questions on the Official WoW forums if I ever need to, either.

I’m not going to quit the game, even to send some kind of message, because I still like the game. The game is fine. I keep finding more fun things to do in the game, increasingly with Cassie, and I’m looking forward to what the future may bring in Cataclysm.

I reserve the right, however, to change my mind if and when Blizzard continues to show a lack of respect for the privacy of it’s customers.

WoW.com has been reporting that Blizzard has changed it’s mind about revealing their CM real names publicly. Why? In consideration for the privacy and safety of their employees.

If they do go ahead with Real ID for customers but not for the CMs, then I’d have no choice but to interpret that as Blizzard caring for the safety and privacy of the employees that work for them, but not of their customers.

At that point, yes, I’d likely quit the game. I love the game, but a company that shows they’re aware of safety concerns for their employees but are fine exposing their customers to the same hazards isn’t a company I’d want to continue to do business with.

Time will certainly tell. For now, I’m going to drop it, and enjoy the game.

And now for something WTF?!?!

Am I cynical? I do think so. I’m paranoid, too. Hey, just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there’re not REALLY out to get me, you know. And when they do… defenses in depth, and claymores on multiple clackers. Just saying. Nothing says “Hi!” quite like 50,000 ball bearings to the face.

Moving on, and pertinent to the cynical vibe… I gotta say, I think the timing of the following massive Blizzard announcement seems a little too convenient when it comes to wanting to get people off the Real ID topic and on to other things.

That cynical disclaimer being said, I’m going to go ahead and post this distraction, because as I’ve stated before… the new leveling game in Cataclysm really IS the one thing I’m most looking forward to, so announced sweeping changes to how we level, and what Talents and abilities we get when, and how, really will affect the whole experience for me.

Quoted from Zarhym (and when I get a chance, I’ll add a link, this is coming from my email… and if my wife ever does decide to tank this blog’s credibility, all she has to do is write up some complete crazy crackhead talk, email it to me and tell me it came from an official source. I’ll go “wow, that’s nuts” and then post it.).

When we first announced our design goals for class talent trees back at BlizzCon 2009, one of our major stated focuses was to remove some of the boring and “mandatory” passive talents. We mentioned that we wanted talent choices to feel more flavorful and fun, yet more meaningful at the same time. Recently, we had our fansites release information on work-in-progress talent tree previews for druids, priests, shaman, and rogues. From those previews and via alpha test feedback, a primary response we heard was that these trees didn’t incorporate the original design goals discussed at BlizzCon. This response echoes something we have been feeling internally for some time, namely that the talent tree system has not aged well since we first increased the level cap beyond level 60. In an upcoming beta build, we will unveil bold overhauls of all 30 talent trees.

Talent Tree Vision

One of the basic tenets of Blizzard game design is that of “concentrated coolness.” We’d rather have a simpler design with a lot of depth, than a complicated but shallow design. The goal for Cataclysm remains to remove a lot of the passive (or lame) talents, but we don’t think that’s possible with the current tree size. To resolve this, we’re reducing each tree to 31-point talents. With this reduction in tree size we need to make sure they’re being purchased along a similar leveling curve, and therefore will also be reducing the number of total talent points and the speed at which they’re awarded during the leveling process.

As a result, we can keep the unique talents in each tree, particularly those which provide new spells, abilities or mechanics. We’ll still have room for extra flavorful talents and room for player customization, but we can trim a great deal of fat from each tree. The idea isn’t to give players fewer choices, but to make those choices feel more meaningful. Your rotations won’t change and you won’t lose any cool talents. What will change are all of the filler talents you had to pick up to get to the next fun talent, as well as most talents that required 5 of your hard-earned points.

We are also taking a hard look at many of the mandatory PvP talents, such as spell pushback or mechanic duration reductions. While there will always be PvP vs. PvE builds, we’d like for the difference to be less extreme, so that players don’t feel like they necessarily need to spend their second talent specialization on a PvP build.

The Rise of Specialization

We want to focus the talent trees towards your chosen style of gameplay right away. That first point you spend in a tree should be very meaningful. If you choose Enhancement, we want you to feel like an Enhancement shaman right away, not thirty talent points later. When talent trees are unlocked at level 10, you will be asked to choose your specialization (e.g. whether you want to be an Arms, Fury or Protection warrior) before spending that first point. Making this choice comes with certain benefits, including whatever passive bonuses you need to be effective in that role, and a signature ability that used to be buried deeper in the talent trees. These abilities and bonuses are only available by specializing in a specific tree. Each tree awards its own unique active ability and passives when chosen. The passive bonuses range from flat percentage increases, like a 20% increase to Fire damage for Fire mages or spell range increases for casters, to more interesting passives such as the passive rage regeneration of the former Anger Management talent for Arms warriors, Dual-Wield Specialization for Fury warriors and Combat rogues, or the ability to dual-wield itself for Enhancement shaman.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

Getting Down to the Grit

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today’s (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don’t want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

A True Mastery

The original passive Mastery bonuses players were to receive according to how they spent points in each tree are being replaced by the automatic passive bonuses earned when a tree specialization is chosen. These passives are flat percentages and we no longer intend for them to scale with the number of talent points spent. The Mastery bonus that was unique to each tree will now be derived from the Mastery stat, found on high-level items, and Mastery will be a passive skill learned from class trainers around level 75. In most cases, the Mastery stats will be the same as the tree-unique bonuses we announced earlier this year. These stats can be improved by stacking Mastery Rating found on high-level items.

To Recap

When players reach level 10, they are presented with basic information on the three specializations within their class and are asked to choose one. Then they spend their talent point. The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree. The character is awarded an active ability, and one or more passive bonuses unique to the tree they’ve chosen. As they gain levels, they’ll alternate between receiving a talent point and gaining new skills. They’ll have a 31-point tree to work down, with each talent being more integral and exciting than they have been in the past. Once they spend their 31’st point in the final talent (at level 70), the other trees open up and become available to allocate points into from then on. As characters move into the level 78+ areas in Cataclysm, they’ll begin seeing items with a new stat, Mastery. Once they learn the Mastery skill from their class trainer they’ll receive bonuses from the stat based on the tree they’ve specialized in.

We understand that these are significant changes and we still have details to solidify. We feel, however, that these changes better fulfill our original class design goals for Cataclysm, and we’re confident that they will make for a better gameplay experience. Your constructive feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Wow. Umm, okay.

First thing of note, all this is coming in a future Beta build.

So, a quick and dirty “I’m tired, bottom line it for me” breakdown.

When we make our new characters, at level 10 we’ll have to pick a specialization up front. Like, for Druids, before we ever spend our first Talent point, we’ll have to check a box choosing either Balance, Feral or Resto. When we choose our spec, we immediately unlock a set of core abilities and spells directly related to that one spec. We then get to spend our first Talent point in our chosen Spec’s Talent Tree, and we will continue to spend our points exclusively in that one tree as we level, until we hit level 70 and 31 points in the tree. After level 70, we can place points in other trees if we choose.

It’s stated that we’ll get a new Talent point every other level, and the levels we do not get a Talent point will be the ones we get new spells or abilities, so that every level gained feels like an improvement. However, what is not clear is, will we then get Talent points on even levels, and new skills/abilities on odd levels, or vice versa, or an occasional mix or what have you.

Then there’s all that Mastery stuff way up near the top at 75.

Hmm.

Well, sure, it all sounds great, but it also sounds like a very dramatic overhaul, coming as it does with non of it implemented in the Beta yet.

My gut opinion of this is, if they are planning on doing this, I wholeheartedly support the intent, I think it sounds like an outstanding system. My only concern is how extensive the changes will have to be, and how much work Blizzard is taking on. It’s going to be damn hard, guru level insanity, to not only make these changes in a timely fashion, but have them achieve their stated goals, be balanced in implementation across the classes, and feel highly polished and finished when released.

I’ll be hoping everything comes together.

RealID in forums with a different spin

I am NOT going to pretend to have any answers about this. 

What I’d just like to do is spin this a bit.

I’m seeing a lot of people, myself included, who think changing forums to only show commenter’s real names is a bad idea. These people have listed many, many different reasons why they feel this way, and some of those reasons include personal safety from internet predators.

I’m seeing a handful of people who say that they think it’s not such a big deal. Having their real name out there doesn’t bother them.

What I’m NOT seeing, not one single time, is any commenter saying, “This is a great idea that I have wanted for a while, and I’m glad Blizzard is doing this.”

Not one.

Now, this is where I’d like to spin this discussion, just on this one post.

Yes we know of the thousands of pages of vocal protestors commenting in various fora that they hate this change, and why.

What I want is for anyone who truly wants and approves of this to comment that they do, and specifically why. What specific benefits do you feel that this change will bring to you, realistically?

I’m not asking for people who are ambivalent to comment, people who feel, “Meh, no big deal.” If you don’t have a strong opinion about it one way or another, than you don’t really have a stake in whether this change goes live or not. You’re happy (or passive) either way.

No, I honestly want to know, and hear the voices of, those people (if they are out there) that are really positive towards this change, and why.

Help me to understand.

Because here’s the thing… right now, I’m not seeing a single soul out there vocally saying “Heck yes, bring it on, this is going to be awesome! Thank you Blizzard, I’ve hoped you would do this for a long time now, and there will be nothing but puppies and rainbows here on out.”

So, that raises the second question in my mind…

If not one single paying customer wants this change, and in fact the majority of vocal customers are offended by this change, then why is Blizzard spending so much in the way of time and resources to implement this change?

What, honestly, is their benefit?

Right now, from my little corner of WoW, it looks like all this has resulted in is the loss of customer good will and trust.

But there are many other reasons a company can choose to make a change.

Some people have suggested this is to help Blizzard reduce costs in terms of Moderator employees, by driving the forums to be self-policing.

Is this being done to help bring a more open and transparent identity practise to their forums to help in Human Resources and legal or criminal complaint investigation?

Is this being done because Blizzard has recently implemented a partnership/business arrangement with Facebook, and now they are required to make these changes as part of their personal networking interface with Facebook to abide by their agreement and make money with their business partner, regardless of what the customers want?

I don’t know, as I said. I don’t have answers. But I would dearly love to have more facts and a wider perspective in order to help better understand why they’re doing what they are.

Because let me tell you, their stated reason of making the forums a happier place just isn’t flying over here. I’m not buying it.

The Growing Storm

Seems as if some folks might be thinking that Blizzard stepped on their wanker a bit with this Real ID forum name real name shown thingie.

I’ve been following the discussion about it on WoW Ladies, and I think there is a lot over there well, well worth reading and considering.

Oh, and please… just for me. If you go over there after following the link, please behave yourselves. Please? I’d hate to think some of my readers dirtied their carpet. That’s not really a blog, it’s a community. Just a very nice community. So stay good Riff! Stay good!

Thanks!

Planning for a Cataclysm

Well, I started writing a post. It got to about 1700 words, and then I stopped, re-read it, and deleted it.

It wasn’t a rant or anything, I just thought it was boring. Talking about how the core gameplay rules are going to change, again, just like the core gameplay rules have changed with every expansion.

After deleting it, my thoughts turned to what about the expansion I’m actually excited about.

Raiding? Um, no. New levels for my characters? Um, no. New rules changes? Oh please. New instances? Meh, that’s nice.

I’d just gotten to the point that I’d realised that the only things I was interested in and excited for in the expansion were new starting zones, a revamped world to quest in from scratch, new tameable pets (the fox looks AWESOME) and new race/class combinations when my darling wife sent me a heads up that shut down my train of thought entirely.

See, right now the only thing I’m planning for the expansion is to make a new first level character with my wife, and we’re going to level up together from scratch. I’m going to have a Troll Druid and level as tank (with character name already reserved), and Cassie is thinking a Tauren Paladin. That’s still kinda up in the air.

But yeah, I was thinking of what to say that has me jazzed up for the expansion, when I got this email about a blue post made by Nethaera today.

Check this quote out.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.

So. First question. Will this be made retroactive to apply to all existing posts?

I would assume that the existing forums would be wiped before implementing this change. But we all know about making assumptions. It makes an ass out of you and ‘mption.

Further down, more details are provided, including the ability of you, the forum goer, to vote up or down other people’s comments the way most forums do these days. Like WoWhead does, for example.

Still. Does this spell the death of forum trolls? Will this mean never again will we be able to laugh when a Blue Poster nails a troll by revealing that various comments posted by different character names were all the same person?

Seriously, though.

What the hell are they thinking?

You know, as much as I despise forum trolls, the last thing I would want is everyone’s real name being attached to any question or comment made in the official forums, most especially when that is our primary avenue of help we resort to if we need technical support and can’t get into WoW to flag a ticket.

As the threat of identity theft rises, and as incidents of predators stalking children increases, how is forcing the reveal of player’s real names a good thing?

Is it somehow intended to encourage civility in the forum community? Guess what, the Moderators already have access to that data. If there are comments and a tone of discourse they don’t like… they can do something about it if they choose.

If the Moderators don’t choose to act in the first place, well, the trolls are supposed to what? Feel ashamed of having their real name tied to their words? Shame? A troll? REALLY?

What benefits this supposedly would bring, to me, are greatly outweighed by the potential downside.

Remember, I’m saying this as someone who HAS posted their real name publicly right where I comment. I know what I’m talking about.

I mention a couple nearby shops and post a picture, and I’ve got two readers who clearly were able to use that data to identify exactly where I work and look at it from Google Earth maps.

Going much further back, and using nothing but my name and some clues about what city I live in, and probably a story about where I’d lived in the past, I had somebody post a link to my real street address, and threaten to come over to my house and kill my son because I love bacon.

Seriously. Blizzard. Take a step back and get a grip on reality. This is a bad idea. At the very least, remove any aspect of the forums that players may have no choice but to post in, such as the technical support section, from being forced to use your real name. 

I don’t go there as it is, I post things here. But I’m just dizzy with disbelief.

Is this April first? Did I enter the Twilight Zone? In what team meeting or brainstorming session did this come across as a great idea?

And as an addition, considering how Gold Sellers currently datamine email addresses for gold spam, how much would you love starting to get real mail asking you to buy gold? Do you love the idea of gold sellers and account stealers being able to identify you as a player by name? 

Of course, this is nowhere near as disturbing as the poor souls whose parents set up, pay for and maintain the accounts their children use, and who won’t quite understand why their 14 year old son might be embarassed to post a comment as “Martha Gimberly”.