Archive for the “Soapbox” Category

I’ve been feeling a trend. Not among the game, no.

Among a part of the community.

I was listening to last weeks Convert to Raid podcast when it hit me the hardest.

Preach was a guest on show #99, he has a Youtube channel where he posts vids about the game. He was there mostly to talk about a recent vid he’d done about game accessibility and community apathy. As an experiment, he took a level 90 bank alt, geared up through heroics and LFR, with a twist.

The twist?

He intentionally did zero dps, and as a capper,he stood in the fire. All of the fire.

The point?

Supposedly to see how a brand new player would see the game, what the game was designed to teach them to improve their performance, and also to see how the community would welcome such a player.

The hosts were gushing all over Preach, and all I could think was, “This whole thing reeks of bullshit.”

Preach made some points about how horrible it is that he would make a level 1 alt, and he would immediately get invited to a guild, such guilds wanting nothing more than to take advantage of new players who don’t know that guilds want low level players for no other reason than to have levelers feed their coppers into the guild coffers.

Another point made was that, as a level 90, by using every trick currently in the game for gear boosting and factions, he was able to get from 90 and no gear to having completed Throne of Thunder on LFR and killed Lei Shen after just a day. To paraphrase his point, “I saw everything the game had to offer in just one day at the level cap. Why bother joining a guild or trying to do normals? If you describe a normal raid, it sounds too much like work.”

Hey, so you’re a player who knows nothing about the game or how to play, but you’re also a player that knows every trick to gearing up and getting to the next LFR gear threshold fastest? Fucking bullshit.

And the final point… he was doing zero DPS, and standing in every horrible thing to be an active pain in the ass and make healers suffer, and nobody ever, ever said anything to him about it. Nobody offered any suggestions on how to be better, nobody raged at him, everyone ignored him completely… even in heroics. And that means the community fails.

My opinion is, this was nothing more than a way to get attention and buzz and get people talking about him, so I guess congratulations, because here we are.

The underlying assumptions are just bullshit.

His conceit requires we assume a player who has reached level 90 with no idea how to play a character at all, no idea that standing in things is bad, no guilds, no friends, nothing but a single player game of WoW, isolated and alone.

And then this player, having reached level 90, now for the first time asks in trade chat “How should I prepare for raids” and then follows the only advice he is given, to “Gear through heroics, then do LFR.”

Underlying assumptions. If we start with them weighted heavily enough, I guess we really CAN prove whatever the hell we want.

You know what I did?

I decided to test the first underlying assumption. That the community is full of apathy and nobody will help anyone, and those level 1 guild invites are evil.

I made a level 1 alt on a different realm, chose a name at random that was vaguely fantasy-ish, and started playing. No heirlooms.

Within 10 minutes, I had a guild invite and accompanying whisper.

I accepted the invite, and was greeted in a friendly way by several people.

I said, “Hi! Thank you. I’m really new to the game, um, can anyone tell me where I can find something to tell me what these buttons do?”

Guess what?

Holy crap, did I get a lot of help.

It turns out, people seem to know an awful lot about this game, and shocker! They are not only willing to share that knowledge, but they seemed very happy to be able to give advice to someone that didn’t already know it all.

I got suggestions of visiting Wowhead.com to be able to see what my specific abilities do, a suggestion to visit Tarou on Youtube to see many guides to current content, a warning that most of the videos were guides to help make gold in-game but lots of other stuff too, suggestions of MMO-Champion for the latest news, and one person took the time to take me step by step through my Spellbook and teach me how to see what I have, what specs and Talents are, how to move them onto my bar and move them around, and finally, a suggestion that I pay attention to the level 3 quest I will get that has me test an ability on a training dummy, and how I should remember that because when I get new abilities, I can put them on my bar, go to one of those training dummies in any city, and try them out.

I was also introduced to addons, DPS meters, and where to go, the Curse website, to find them.

So, an anomaly, right? I just happened to find the one guild that invites brand new players that is helpful, normally they are all evil and such. It was a fluke.

Maybe it was because I made a Draenei Hunter, and everyone loves more Hunters. Or knows they need all the help they can get.

Maybe there is a Hunter Outreach Program, people who watch for new Hunter players, and intercept them to stop the noobs.

Stop the noob. Almost sounds like a public service announcement, right?

So I went to a completely different server, and this time I made a Night Elf Warrior.

Within 15 minutes of normal playing, I got another invite to a guild.

This time, I didn’t take it. I was noobish right from the beginning, asking what the invite was for, what a guild was, etc.

They were patient, talked to me for a bit, assured me they were helpful to new players that were leveling, and I accepted the invite.

Same thing. Bunch of people, this time over 25 people online in the guild, many of whom said hi to me and ‘Welcome!’.

I said hi and admitted to being brand new, asked for help/advice, and was again drowned in a deluge of link suggestions, Youtube guides, and websites.

Amusingly enough, one of the suggestions was I should visit Preach Gaming to see his guides on how to play your class at max levels for a good idea of not just abilities, but their use in the game, addons and UIs.

So, what do I get from all this?

I get that if I were indeed that level 1 brand new player, and I did get that guild invite, and I didn’t have a preconceived impression of such guilds as selfish or evil and discarded them out of hand, if I actually gave them a chance because I wasn’t trying to build a completely bullshit point by ignoring inconvenient facts, then maybe I might get some interesting suggestions on how to learn more about playing the game. By talking to new guildies and interacting with the guild, its even possible I might make some casual acquaintances that would like to run stuff WITH me.

They might even grow to become friends, and allow me to enjoy some of what an MMO can be.

So what about the other end? What about helping people in LFR who aren’t doing as well as others, the lack of outreach, community apathy?

Here is the thing.

If I see someone in LFR, and that person is doing zero DPS, I know that in order to do nothing, nothing at all for DPS, that person has to be working hard to intentionally not touch anything.

It’s not a question of not knowing what to do. Unless that person played as a pacifist to 90 and only did Fedex quests, they have buttons that eventually kill things. To do zero, they are either on follow, which breaks on damage, or they are actively choosing not to use them to be trolls.

I have seen players like that before. I’m going to make a wild and crazy assumption; you have too.

I don’t offer them helpful suggestions, instead I put them on ignore for the worthless trolls they are. not even one point? That takes skill, yeah, um fuck you troll, bah bye /ignore.

That’s not even taking into account seeing him standing in ALL the fire.

So that just throws out anything he did in heroics or LFR. Why would you do that, and assume anyone would reach out to you to help you perform better? You’re being an asshole in a way that takes an effort. Completely worthless results.

It was only when he started to do Rogue DPS without poisons and to Rupture to be on the meters but low that he started getting any data worth a shit, and even then, how many runs were those? And again, why does he think that other players are responsible for watching what the fuck HE is doing instead of focusing on their own performance and duties?

Do you do that? Do you spend half your play time in LFR looking at each person on the meters to judge for yourself how he or she is playing their character, looking for people who need you to tell them how to play?

If so, please put Bigbearbutt and Buttflame and Beartrap on Azuremyst-US on ignore. I never want to see you, in any content, ever. You are an asshole. Focus on playing your own character, unless of course you think you fucking know everything and exist to tell other people how to play, which again, put me on /ignore.

I liked how he had to make the point that other people were lower than him on the meters. /facepalm.

To buy into what Preach is selling you have to agree with his underlying assumptions… and the key assumption to me was, new players are too introverted and shy to ask anyone in an MMO anything. Ever.

New players apparently need someone to be assigned as their friend, to tell them these things.

Worse,  in Preach’s world new players aren’t capable of finding anything for themselves. They don’t look anything up, they’ve never heard of Google, they don’t look for guides, they are oblivious to anything and everything having to do with WoW, except for the login screen.

Is it that he does videos where he teaches everyone how to play their classes? Does donning the mantle of the great teacher mean everyone else is an idiot? Does he get so many stupid questions that he thinks everyone but him are stupid?

The thing that struck me the most about it was how the crew of Convert to Raid just thought it was the best thing ever, so awesome, they couldn’t stop gushing about it.

I have a big problem with so many of his conclusions, but the one that annoys the most is that the community within WoW has failed him and let him down, because nobody else took the time to see what he was doing, approach him in the LFR raid, and offer him advice on how to improve his DPS. To point out that if he equipped poisons he would perform better. Nobody took him under their wing and helped him to fly.

It is Looking For Raid. It isn’t Looking For Friends.

It is not Blizzards responsibility to build in a Looking For Friend matchmaking service.

Despite that, they actually DID take a stab at this in the recent past, or is it inconvenient to the narrative Preach is selling to recall the Guild Mentoring Program? If that wasn’t a “Looking For Friend” trial program, well, it was the next best thing.

It is not the responsibility of Blizzard to help new players make friends. Blizzard makes the MMO, and if anything, tells people “If you bring the friends you already know into the game with you, you get rewards like boosted leveling, teleporting and mounts! So go get your friends hooked too!”

You know what I took away from his video?

What I learned was you can be an intentional troll, and in some LFR groups some people have stopped spewing forth the venom and hate of Cataclysm, and instead they grit their teeth and work harder to get a victory despite your trolling.

People are indeed focused on accomplishing the mission and moving on in LFR, because it is a place where you are there for yourself. You are presumably not there with friends or family, and you are not there for progression. You enter LFR to obtain Valor, item upgrades to help in progression raids, to keep pushing on your Legendary questline and to hone your skills and improve your own game, unless you think you already know it all.

If you’re going into LFR looking for opportunities to teach other players how to play their classes, well, just damn.

LFR is just not the place for that. A huge go go go mission focused environment? A place where, just as Preach said, people are there to get the job done, and are generally moving too fast and are too successful to even leave a minute or two free without something being pulled.

That’s not a situation where you even HAVE the time to open a dialogue with a complete stranger from another server to broach the topic of playstyles and potential improvements.

You need a place where, after the raid, you can talk to the person you’d like to help in a non-stressful environment, and do so without being accusatory or threatening or derogatory.

Oh shit, look at that, Flex Raiding incoming. How about that.

Flex Raiding, easier than normal, harder than LFR, and designed for you, a group of friends, AND any pugs from your server that you’d like to bring along to help because loot isn’t competed for, it’s individual.

Guess what? By making it a mode that is good for forming pug groups on servers, it provides an opportunity for new players who haven’t raided before to join a group where people could actually see them, talk to them on the server after the raid is over, and have a lingering conversation on improving performance without publicly calling someone the fuck out.

I will say it one last way, and hope I get through.

If your expectation is that the player is not responsible for trying to improve their own skills, if you expect that the game and the experienced players within the game are responsible for seeking out under-performing players in the wild and take the steps to approach them and coach them, then you’re fucking delusional. 

Helping other people is nice, but it’s not your job. Your job is to have fun on your own terms without hurting other people. Anything beyond that is gravy.

I’m going to conclude this with facts.

I went to Google, and typed in this simple search phrase; “New Player Warcraft”.

Top result?

World of Warcraft Official Forums New Player Help and Guide thread.

Yeah, it’s so damn hard for new players to find information about how to play the game, or get better. It’s just terrible.

Oh, if only a new player had a resource on the internet to help them! Oh, if only someone would make a website! Or a Youtube channel! Or a twitch stream, or a twitter account, or an official forum, or guilds, or or or…

Fucking get a grip.

What are these new players…. Amish?

If you require Amish to play the game to fulfill the requirements of your argument, I think it’s time to fall back and regroup.

/drops mic.

Comments 24 Comments »

We all want to be special.

Is it really that simple? Does all the bitching, pissing and moaning boil down to everyone wants to be a special little snowflake?

Ever since Flex Raids were announced as a new feature, I’ve been silently observing comments, discussions… remembering where I’ve heard these same old stories before.

I’ve pieced together the bullshit behind a lot of the discussion.

Put simply, it is this belief; “Blizzard ruined the game by dumbing everything down in ICC to get more people carried in raids, then even stupider with bonus LFR idiocy in Cata, and now any moron or baddie gets to feel like they should be allowed to raid in Pandaria. Blizzard wants everyone to be able to raid, and when everyone can raid, then there is no point for real raiders to play the game because there is nothing special about being a raider anymore.”

Reminds me of the nefarious plans of some super-villain. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

“Some content should be exclusive, only for those who earn it. Baddies don’t have any right to see it, but now since Blizzard caters to them, the game is ruined and they think they have a right to see content. In the same tier it’s current, no less!”

“If some content isn’t exclusive, if there aren’t cool rewards for the hardcore raiders, then why should they play? There has to be something for the baddies to look up to, to aspire to become, although they are too bad to ever put the effort into getting better. Because they’re bad.”

“That is what exclusive rewards are for. To give someone the feeling that they are special, different… better.”

“That’s why the game is an MMO instead of a single player RPG. So other people can be my audience and bask in my radiant glow of awesome.”

Is that really what it comes down to? If people don’t get to be special snowflakes and feel superior to others, the game isn’t worth playing?

Adapt or die, motherfuckers.

Maybe the game was about that in the beginning.

Maybe it has been like that for years, and maybe those roots run deep and will never entirely go away. Rare pets, rare mount drops, insanely low drop chances, heroic content, PvP ranked ladder matches, races to world firsts that ding special snowflake achieves.

Competition with winners and losers is a part of the game.

Problem is, those of wee brain have missed the point that it’s a big ass game, and the competition is just one part of it, a part that is easily ignored if desired.

It’s a big motherfucking game. It spans worlds, ages of legend and despair, times of triumph and trial.

There is room enough for love, war and everything in between.

If you need to feel better than others around you with rare mounts, world firsts or achievement points, good on you. I laugh my ass off at you, and I’ll do it in your face, but good for you. I’m glad you have a place to find life affirmation.

Exclusive content? Exclusive significant group content that I am to be denied because I don’t now nor will I ever invest the time someone else does in the game? I said bullshit years ago, I say bullshit now.

Every time a new method of bringing friends together is added, I rejoice inside. Battletags and RealID friends. Cross-server raid groups. LFR options available whenever the PLAYER is able to have time for one rather than an entire group. Hell, Queueing for LFR with a handful of friends and chatting along in Vent while a bunch of silent stragglers roll right alongside.

Now, even more fun friend flexibility. Cross-server Flex Raids for current content that requires more coordination and commitment than LFR, but fewer solid ‘numbers’ of people.

I cannot count how many times I’ve seen a raid group of 18+, who are left with no choice but to “Go to the General Chat to look for more or the raid is canceled.”

Oh yeah, those must be bad players, because they only had eighteen players in the group. Good thing they weren’t able to raid.

Are you kidding me? Go suck a drainpipe, Luigi.

Would I love to see it work with eight players? Yes. Or even nine.

I would like to see a Flex Raid system where you need two tanks, two healers and three DPS for a core team, and then you grew it from there. Maybe, for every additional four DPS you added, you’d be best served to add one more healer… or even a DPS/healer hybrid.

Regardless of how it eventually works, this isn’t Vanilla WoW anymore. The game grew up, how about you do too?

The game and it’s content is not exclusive to those who have the most time to play, and does not belong to those who do more than it does to anyone else. The hardcore raider spending 50 hours a week raiding heroic modes in WoW is not an exalted King, gracing the rest of us with his or her majestic presence.

Fuck them, we also play who cross-server raid with our friends whenever we damn well feel like it.

Tired of it. Tired of the same old tired entitlement bullshit.

That’s what it is. Someone who wants the ‘best parts’ of the game tailored to a small, special sub-set of the paying player-base. The rest of us are supposed to pay our monthly subscription fees and help fund the content that they experience, while we stand by and admire from afar.

Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Hey, if you want an exclusive experience that nobody else will have the privilege of seeing, code your own damn game, play it in single player mode, and then delete it. Grats, you won.

Oh, wait, are we playing a single player game? Oh, no it’s an MMO. A group game, a dare I say it SOCIAL experience.

Things have changed. That’s what this is all about, and it’s what keeps bringing the complaints and the cries of “WoW is dead”.

WoW has changed. It’s not all about you anymore, and it hasn’t been for a while. So bitch all you want, sit in your bird nests and open your little shrieking mouths to cry for food, Ji-Kun ain’t gonna cram exclusive lore down your throats anymore.

The game has been opened up for the masses. And those masses, for all you fucking cry about it, hey it turns out a lot of them are pretty damn good raiders, no matter how much you want to deny it and call them baddies.

I run in LFR. I do it all the time. And for every ‘baddie’ I see, I see four self-important egotistical little shits and twenty other people who are doing what they are supposed to in a raid, and doing it well.

Newsflash; it’s the self-important egotistical little shits I put on ignore.

So keep crying.

You play the game your way, I’ll play it mine, and we’ll see who has a better time of it.

From the looks of things, you’re going to have the satisfaction of reaching the server-first “Choked to death on his own bitter bile” Achievement. Grats.

While you’re doing that, and bitching about the death of WoW and how much it sucks, I’ll be talking to folks about cross-server Flex Raid groups and looking forward to having fun.

Comments 33 Comments »

Microsoft publicists put on their dog and pony show reveal of the upcoming Xbox console yesterday, the Xbox One.

Amidst the press puffing were a few kernels of fact, kernels which are popping into corn all over the place.

One of the most interesting things to be revealed wasn’t part of the planned presentation, it came out of the Q&A afterwards.

On the new Xbox One console, which offloads a lot of information to ‘the cloud’, when you want to play a game for the first time you install the whole thing on the hard drive of the console. Once you’ve installed it, the disc is of no further use to you. You can toss it, or file it, you won’t need it to play.

Now, that was an interesting fact, and immediately spawned questions on whether a 500 gig hard drive was going to be large enough to accommodate all of the games a player might own (even with the cloud), but it wasn’t the surprise reveal. They were up front about the cloud and the install, as though always having to be on the internet and not needing the disc in the console to play were big advantages I had always wanted.

The surprise reveal came when someone had the guts to ask what that meant for used games. If the entire game is installed on your hard drive and tied to your Xbox Live account so you are “free to play it anywhere, on anyone’s Xbox when you sign into it”, then what does that mean for used games?

Microsoft, what is to prevent someone from installing the game that they can now run without the disc, and selling the disc to a used game store?

Well, they weren’t glad that question was asked, because the answer, the official answer, is that if you want to play a game from a disk on your system that someone else already registered, you will have to pay Microsoft a special fee.

That’s right. If you buy a used Xbox One game, you will have to pay Microsoft to be allowed to play it. If you borrow a game disk from your friend to try it out, you’ll have to pay Microsoft.

Oh, but it’s all okay, because if it’s really your friend lending you the game, you can just log into your Xbox One as HIM, and play the game with appropriate permissions on HIS account.

I guess people borrow games differently these days than when I did. I don’t recall having my buddy over for a sleepover camping in my living room for a week because I wanted to borrow his Halo 2.

Now, that fee could be anything Microsoft decides. No way now of knowing what it might eventually be, what structure it might take. The system isn’t even out yet. Maybe they’ll have one set fee, maybe there will be a higher fee based on ‘premium’ games or on games exclusive to the Xbox franchise, maybe there will even be a time decay structure so the longer a game is out in the world from it’s date of release, the less the fee would be.

“This game is two years past it’s born-on date. You are free to play.” Blech.

Who knows? Maybe if the stink reeks enough before launch, they’ll drop it to a token fitty cent, get the worst of both worlds, too low to generate much revenue, enough of a fee to outrage people that a fee exists.

The point here is that with that one announcement, they have killed any possibility that I or my family will ever buy one.

We won’t buy an Xbox One because we are not early adopters, and we don’t have to play the latest content to feel like we’re keeping up with the gaming joneses.

When my family buys a console, we buy it only after it has been out long enough to have a decent selection of titles available at a used game store on the cheap, and after most of the software bugs have been worked out. Typically, we’ll hold off until there is a really nice ‘Black Friday’ sale over Thanksgiving, or some other serious cost savings to getting it.

See? I am not the target market Microsoft is pitching to, so what I think shouldn’t make any difference to their marketing plan. Their game will be a hit or a miss the first year entirely without our dollars stirring the shallow end of the pool.

The key point is, if we buy a game console, and we have friends with games we could borrow, or we find a good deal on a game that got decent reviews at the used game store or online, we’re good. We do our gaming on the cheap. We just don’t have the inclination or the capability to spend thousands a year on games.

Any console that will charge us extra money, whatever that amount may be, just to install and try a used game is doomed.

Gamefly is a service that is the Netflix of games. It’s a pretty cool option, one I’ve looked at for when our son gets old enough he wants to start playing some of the same games his friends inevitably will. Likewise, if we want to try out a game on the Wii or PS3, you can rent games for a day or two from the local Redbox dispenser.

We’re not going to rent a Gamefly or Redbox game and then turn around to pay Microsoft their ‘rental use’ fee before we play it. Just, not going to happen.

And the idea we’d do the teenager route of dropping $60 or more on every new game that comes out that sounds cool? Man, that’s something kids with disposable income do, not us.

But here’s the thing.

Whether you like the idea, hate the idea, or dislike it but think it’s inevitable, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the result of “greedy corporation lusting after your dollars.”

I know the tendency will be to paint Microsoft as evil and greedy.

Please, be original. before you jump on the hater bandwagon, take a moment to think about what drives these kinds of decisions for them.

Microsoft, along with all other publicly traded corporations, are responsible for reporting their revenue streams, profitability and plans to their shareholders.

Like it or hate it, the market has set expectations. Your company must not just be profitable, it must be more profitable than your previous year.

You literally cannot simply make money, or be profitable, and survive. You must have ‘growth’, and that growth is defined by making more of a profit, or ‘profit before income tax’, then you did the previous reporting cycle.

You must grow to be successful in the market, because the market said so. If you simply continue to be really profitable each quarter, then your earnings to shareholders are ‘flat’, and the market will count you as a failure to dump.

There is a lot behind all this, but in the end the core metric is simple to understand. A stockholder takes $1000, and buys a block of stock in some company that makes widgets or game consoles or whatever, and that block of stock was valued at that moment at $1000.

From then on, so long as you own that block of stock, you can make money one of two ways.

One, you will get paid a few cents on the dollar each quarter based on how much money the company made as profit. Those are your earnings, for owning the stock.

OR, you can play the market like a casino, and hope that the company will get some rocking good news, sound like earnings are going to go through the roof and be a ‘good investment’, and someone else will be willing to pay you more than you spent on your block of stock. A short term quick profit.

If a company experiences ‘growth’, if they keep making more money in profit each year, then their stock is considered desirable, and you could flip your block of stock next month for maybe $1200. You just made $200 for picking the winning racehorse, and bailing out before the company revealed they had a union strike in Malaysia and profits are going in the shitter next quarter.

If the stock continues to grow every quarter, and the earnings continue to grow for your block, then the perceived value of your block goes up. Ooh, this month my stock is worth $1500! I wonder what it will be worth next month. Microsoft, make me some money! More profits! Make people want my block even more, so I can dump it and make buckets of dough!

So, think about it.

Corporations are about greed because shareholders are about greed. A corporation must always be looking at ways to be come more profitable than they were a year ago, because if they don’t the shareholders will respond by dumping the non-performing stock, and when your stock price falls it be bad, yo.

If you invest or have holdings in a 401K plan, congratulations. You’re part of a huge shareholder block that distorts these things, too. 401Ks and pensions funds that represent huge numbers of employees have enormous power over the market, and they aren’t interested in what the product is, they want increased growth. So before you bitch about greedy shareholders, consider that you might very well be one of them, or at least are represented by one.

You financial pitbull, you. Grr!

It absolutely does not matter if a company made a billion dollars in profit last year. If you only make a billion dollars in profit this year, your earnings were flat and you are a FAILURE, your stock price will drop because you’re not an easy cash cow for day traders to flip your stock for easy profits, and the drop in stock price triggers all sorts of bad things.

“But… but we made a billion in profit last year!”

Yeah, but how much more than a billion will you make next year? You won’t make more? No growth for you! LOSER!

It is this core philosophy that drives corporations to look frantically at new ways to, sigh, ‘monetize’ their intellectual properties and any asset they can find. It is what drives automation, efficiency efforts, reduced benefits for employees, reduced headcount and layoffs, outsourcing manufacture to cheaper labor markets, and yes…

It is this kind of thinking that can drive a Microsoft to look at used game sales, and see that as money being left on the table.

Nobody in Microsoft was sitting over there, wondering how to screw gamers on a budget. There was little to no malice in this decision.

No, if you think about how the market game is played, you can see that for every executive, the drive is to come up with new ideas for getting as much possible profit and residuals out of their products as they possibly can, to continue to have growing profits quarter over quarter.

So, somebody had the great idea of designing the architecture of the system so that you’ve got your DRM on the ‘cloud’, someone can buy a game and register it to their Xbox Live account, and if someone else tries to use that same code, they have to pay. Makes no difference if the game disk was ripped or sold to a used store, Microsoft won’t care, because every time a code is registered, someone will pay.

Personally, I hate the whole idea, but I can see where they’re coming from. A new launch is costly, and they want to be able to show the shareholders that the new system architecture will result in more robust residual sales and reduced losses from theft or pirating.

I hate the idea, because I play PC games for the online experience, I play console games for the single player or multiplayer sitting in front of the TV experience. If I lose internet, your cloud based DRM just bricked my console. Screw that for a game of soldiers.

Anyway.

If you are intrigued by how shareholder concerns and business conditions in the market can directly impact the businesses that create the stories and movies we dearly love, I highly recommend the book “Disneywar” by James Stewart, a gripping account of the inner working of the Eisner-era Disney Corporation, written by a journalist that was given amazing levels of access for purposes of a biography.

James Stewart witnessed and accounts firsthand the events that led to the creation of Dreamworks, among other things. A fascinating book that takes the things we as gamers and geeks love, and shows you the money matters and profit driven concerns that shaped them. Considering they now own the Star Wars and Marvel brands, the book is even more relevant to us geeks today.

As a side note, you’ll also learn the secrets behind the Disney VHS and DVD timed release strategies.

In conclusion, I think the Xbox One media event just confirmed for me that this is not the console I’m looking for.

At the same time, I don’t think they’re being greedy and hateful to gamers. I just think they are allowing the real need to please shareholders and increase profits any way they can to drive their design, and it’s gonna bite them in the butt in the long run.

The solution?

There isn’t one. We have a market economy, and for small businesses, the holy grail is to take a company public and hope the stock will go through the roof, make you as the owner a millionaire overnight, and then you turn the company over to the people who have to start riding the shareholder accountability train.

Companies that are not publicly traded don’t have to cater to market pressures. Smaller companies can actually be satisfied with flat growth so long as they can make payroll and expenses, and reinvest the rest into improving the quality of their products and even, and this may shock you, provide better benefits and wages to their employees.

You sometimes hear of these companies out there, where the owner pays employees great wages and benefits, and still makes lots of money for himself, and turns out a great product or service. They are the exception, not the rule, but they are out there.

Things are rarely as simple as they seem, and sometimes understanding the system, what it is, and seeing how it pressures others to act as they do helps us see what we can expect.

It looks to me as if in this case, Microsoft is feeling their position as the number one selling game console with the 360, and is looking at ways to increase revenue streams with the next launch rather than consider that if they do things like this, they may lose the crown, along with a big chunk of market share, to someone else that is giving away the store to bring in more customers.

 

Comments and criticisms and opposing points of view very welcome!

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Following on the heels of yesterdays post, Blizzard can implement scaling but would we want to play that way?

The World of Warcraft game could be boiled down into one concept; bigger means better.

The goal of the game is to reach higher numbers. Higher character levels, higher stats, higher item levels, more gold, topping meters, and on and on. For a game with no end, the numbers are the way we keep score.

I’m not saying that is the way we have to play it. I’m saying that is the way we have ended up playing it. Roleplaying our characters and pet battling and other pursuits are perfectly viable and fun means of playing the game, but that stuff is our attempt to turn a level grind into a sandbox. It works, but it’s certainly not the message we get from the game. Level your character, equip upgraded gear, go look for more levels and better gear. Rinse and repeat.

Content in the game is set to a fixed difficulty level. If it’s the hardest content, it has the best gear rewards for developing the skill and coordination to beat it. By beating it, you get more powerful gear than can be found anywhere else, which enables you to attempt ever more powerful challenges. At some point, what you’re doing is relegated to old stuff, new content and ever better gear comes out, and the people who couldn’t kill it when it was current can get gear through other means to let them go back and give it another try.

Having problems in Mogushan Vaults normal? Go get yourself some iLevel 522 Valor Gear and come back to roflstomp it later.

The entire system is designed to reward you for improving your skill and coordination as a team by giving you the highest level of gear, and then making that gear necessary to take on the next leading edge content.

Blizzard has included other content meant to give non-progression raiders a strong challenge in the past. Like the timed bear mount runs in Zul’aman, the new Challenge modes in Pandaria. Um, maybe other stuff I’m spacing on?

They’ve tried, and it’s been well received. People like their bear mounts.

The name of the game, though, is progression, even in our character power. Starting off low, improving over time, and feeling that difference as your gear gets better.

Personally, I like the way our characters become more powerful in comparison to older content. If you played through content at it’s most challenging, then coming back years later brings both nostalgia for the good times and a renewed sense of being a badass now. In a game with no ‘I win’ ending, it is important to be able to feel badass after getting your lunch money stolen all day by Lei Shen.

With the majority of the game designed around coming back to a challenge after your gear improves, would there really be interest in playing scaling content?

Yes, I know it’s goofy to make up a system yesterday that doesn’t exist, and then spend time today asking if anyone would play it. I’m just getting in on the ground floor! First I suggest the system, and then I tell you why it would never work. Okay, I’m kidding. But seriously, if Blizzard did that, think of the time savings by cutting out the QQ middleman!

I’m interested in this idea, though. Scaling of content exists in other games. Guild Wars 2, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Neverwinter, etc. It’s out there, this is not a dream or an imaginary tale, it’s really real.

If the game you play is founded on the concept of improving your gear to become more powerful, then how does it feel to play scaling content that makes your gear irrelevant? The challenge will always be the same, the only way to improve is to practice and improve your own gameplay.

How does it feel? If your gear doesn’t matter in scaling content, doesn’t that mean your gear doesn’t matter? Without gear to improve your power, what is the shiny dangled in front of you as a reward?

For better or worse, powerful gear is the lure used to get most of us playing the next content to come out in World of Warcraft.

Whether you run a raid to get a drop, or you run content that can’t drop anything that would be an upgrade for you because you can earn points to spend on stuff that IS an upgrade, it’s still doing stuff to get better gear.

Achievements and vanity items like pets and mounts help to give us other goals to pursue, but for the most part it’s more powerful gear. Not everyone runs stuff for pets or mounts, but everyone I know in the game wants gear upgrades, and plays some form of content they don’t particularly like once in a while to get some.

I don’t know. I’m very curious about this whole thing.

What I would like that does not currently exist are twofold.

I would like an expanded selection of content to run while leveling, content that was reachable by the LFD tool.

I would also like a way for players new to World of Warcraft to be able to experience ALL of the content that has been released over the last eight years through a simple to find interface like the LFR/LFD tool.

For a person brand new to World of Warcraft, the game is easy to get into, experience from kills and quests comes rolling in fast, and the journey from 1 to 90 doesn’t take long at all.

Here is my only criticism of it.

You can use the LFD tool to play existing dungeon as you level up, with new ones presented as you outlevel the old ones, but once you’re past that level range, the dungeon is gone forever, and the raids don’t exist at all.

I would like a way for new players to be able to know that the old raids exist, to see them, and to do them in groups without the only real option being facerolling them solo at level 90.

It is only my assumption that the best way to allow a new player to get into the old raids as a group is to scale the raids so you’re not limited to doing them within a narrow level band. The majority of active players are at or near level cap, so my thoughts turned to how to get the old raids viable for level 90s.

Perhaps, before I thought of scaling, I should have gone to the heart of the question;

What could we do to take all of the existing content, all of this awesome stuff Blizzard has spent the last eight years creating, and stick it in the face of players new and old to have fun with?

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Just for fun, I’m going to ramble on about scaling this morning.

Call it scaling, sliding, normalizing, whatever you’d like. What I’m going to talk about is increasing or decreasing the effective power of an opponent or a player to make a fight ‘fair’.

The first time I ran into scaling was in City of Heroes. They had a sidekick system that incorporated scaling. The idea was, you might be a long term customer with a powerful character, and a friend decides the game sounds fun and they want to come in and give it a try. The problem? Your friend wants to get in and start playing with you right away, but they’re level 10 and you’re 50. What to do?

The sidekick system in City of Heroes let you group with your low level friend, and the low level friend would have their effective power levels raised to match yours. They wouldn’t gain any new abilities, so they would have far fewer tools in their toolbox, but what they had would at least be effective, and their health and armor would let them be a viable teammate instead of a boy hostage.

So, that’s an example of a system where the power of the character would scale to match the content you were running.

Now, I’ve been puttering around in the new free-to-play MMO, Neverwinter, which is still in beta but is pretty awesome.

Why is it awesome?

Unlike almost every other free to play game I’ve tried, Neverwinter hasn’t been shoving their cash store in my face every time I turn around. Instead, I’m having fun playing the game, and the store is enticing me to buy neat stuff to enhance my play. Not, you know, stuff to buy just so I can have any kind of playtime at all.

Anyway.

In Neverwinter, there are scenarios, dungeons, instances, whatever you’d like to call them. There are those designed by the game company, and there are also player-created instances in what is called ‘The Foundry’, which are also, yes, free to play. And if you so desire, you can create your own scenarios too.

The interesting bit here is that the instances are not gated by level. The monsters and treasure within the instance will scale based on the level of the player that enters, so loot in chests will be level appropriate, and the opponents will also scale to match you. The difficulties come in the instance design. If someone stacks a bunch of bad guys in a small room with no place to maneuver, well, it’s going to be a hell of a challenge. The design of the instance determines the difficulty, and even how many people are needed to play in it, rather than the level of the characters or villains.

So, an example of a system where the character stays the same, and the content of an instance scales to provide an ‘appropriate’ challenge.

Where I’m going with this is simple.

What would it take to add scaling for the old content in World of Warcraft?

I’ll talk about why I think it would be a good thing later, for now let’s just talk about what would have to be done to implement something.

In my opinion, the highest hurdle would be the scaling technology itself. No sense talking about it if it would cost three years of serious programmer time to get something into beta.

Surprise! In World of Warcraft, most of the technology needed has already been implemented.

Blizzard is using scaling in the game already, and seems to be following the ‘scale the player power to match the content’ concept.

The first piece we can see comes from Heirloom items. The tech is in place to be able to scale the ilevel of gear up OR DOWN based on the level of the player.

You get an Heirloom, whoever you mail it to can equip it, and it will scale up or down, no problems. Right now, it scales based off of a character trigger – what is the level of the character equipping it?

In my opinion, it’s a short step to changing the trigger so iLevel scaling could change based on the recommended level of the dungeon or raid you were zoning into.

That brings us to the second piece which is already in the game, Challenge mode dungeons.

The Challenge mode dungeons are all level 90 dungeons that you cannot access until you’ve completed them on Heroic. They do not incorporate any character level scaling, but they do scale your equipped gear down to effective iLevel 463, except for the trinkets.

They also do other things upon entering them, such as deactivate Sha-touched gems and Tier bonuses. A complete list of what gets changed when you enter a Challenge mode 5 person dungeon can be found at Wowhead New’s awesome guide here.

The important bit here is that the tech is in place so that when you specifically queue for one of these scaled dungeons, and you zone in, your gear gets ‘normalized’ to an appropriate power level for the dungeon or raid you are doing.

So what puzzle pieces are we missing for the tech?

Only one thing, really. When you zone into a dungeon or raid, if there was a mechanism in place to detect your character level, and to scale your base character stats down to the ‘intended’ level of the content… well, that would cap the package, wouldn’t it?

With that one additional piece of tech, you could zone into, say, Ulduar 25 and as you zone in, your character base stats could be adjusted down to level 80, your gear iLevel could be scaled down to 232, your hit/expertise percentages against raid bosses would be maintained at whatever your previous level had been, and lo and behold you would now be able to do old content scaled to the appropriate ‘challenge’.

So, it’s a possibility. The tech is not that impossible to imagine.

Blizzard could, if they chose to, implement a new system where you could do old content through the LFD/LFR system, and when you zone in with the group your effective level and gear would be scaled to match the challenge.

If they chose to.

What is the one big reason why they might like to implement this?

To expand on options in the Looking for Group tool for dungeons and raids when leveling.

For a big bonus, to give us more options for randoms when level capped and seeking fresh possibilities for weekly Valor Points.

If you could queue for ANY dungeon or raid content, where you can queue for it now instead of when you finally ding 90, where you would have to use your class abilities to some extent rather than outgearing and facerolling it,  and IF you received Justice Points, Valor Points and experience points for doing it just like the current leveling dungeons… wouldn’t that expand the leveling freshness a bit?

Think about it. You wouldn’t just be matchmaking with people who are within the same three levels as you when trying to do Sunken Temple. You’d be queuing with anyone your level and above who’d like to get a run in, and everyone in the group regardless of level is going to have their effective power scaled down to put you all on the same playing field for that run… except for how many buttons are on your bar.

Why would you expect to get Justice, Valor or experience for such a run? Well, the whole point would be to make the content a reasonable ‘at level’ challenge, and suitable for LFR/LFD queuing. It would seem reasonable to expect to get some XP from the kills, some JP for the bosses and maybe a 15 or 30 Valor Point random queuing quest reward.

But there is one last big hurdle to it, and the reason why this isn’t an “I think they will do this” and more of an “I wonder how they would do that”.

What to do about loot?

Right now, when you do randoms leveling up you get a loot bag on completion of the run, with some random blue quality gear of the appropriate level for the dungeon you ran. The iLevel of the gear is based on the level of the dungeon, not your level. It doesn’t matter much because once you level past that dungeon, you can’t queue for it anymore.

What if they added loot bags to the random LFR/LFD system for old raids and dungeons? Bags with a piece of loot based on your actual character level instead of the level of the dungeon or your effective character level? The gear is already there, a wide range exists from those dungeon bags. Tie the bag quality into your level when you queued rather than the level of the dungeon, and you would get a level appropriate something for doing older content.

But is that enough incentive to get someone going through an entire raid? Some of those would take megatime.

Probably not.

But there is something else already implemented in a similar context that could be expanded into older content in LFR/LFD.

Achievements, Titles, Pets, Mounts and fancy transmoggable armor sets.

They have already implemented this in the Challenge mode dungeons, so the model is there.

If there were special achievements for doing older scaled content through the Raid/Dungeon finder tool, if loot was handled the way it is in LFR right now so you’re not competing with the other players, if there were pets that could drop on bosses, mounts to earn for completing raids or achievements, gear pieces that were specially colored old Tier or Dungeon sets…

Yeah. I think that just might be a complete package.

You could even implement a class-specific easter-egg hunt.

If you played in Vanilla WoW, do you remember the Sunken Temple quest lines?

Each character class had a quest you could get in Ungoro Crater, that led you to Sunken Temple, and as a reward gave you something really useful for your class.

What if a quest chain were added in the game, that asked you to visit all of these places through the Scaled Content LFD and collect items from them? Gather all the items, turn them in and get something appropriate for your class.

It wouldn’t have to be anything big or crazy, but it would be fun to have that class quest for a tasty item or RP flair. Mages could go collect shards of energy cast off from some of the big battles, charging a special Mana Gem. Warlocks could collect Shards of teh Souls of powerful bosses they defeat along the way. Rogues could pick pocket trinkets from bosses in various locations that had… personal meaning for the person sending you out to get them back. You get the idea.

I’m just musing aloud here, I’m not trying to prophecy or suggest something, and I don’t believe it WILL happen… but it could happen, and it would be fun.

The most interesting thing about this to me, is that by using the LFD/LFR tool as the gateway to run these, it allows Blizzard to leave all of the existing content untouched. You could still zone in and solo the old runs, get the chance at the original loot lists, work on original achievements and Legendary questlines, drops for the Raiding with Leashes pets, all of it.

The only time you would be zoning in to old content that scaled for an appropriate challenge would be when you intentionally sought one out on the LFD/LFR tool.

And finally, and to me the most fascinating part of the whole thing… by scaling the players to the content, you leave in place the option for Blizzard to tweak up or down the effective iLevel of the players. If a particular dungeon or raid became a severe chokepoint, then they could tweak the effective scaling of ilevel up or down as they felt appropriate.

I dunno. Maybe there is some glaring flaw I’m missing, but the whole thing seems technically feasible, it would benefit the majority of players in the game right now by adding more options, you could return to having a challenge in old content without it necessarily being a brutal slog, it would not require the creation of new zones or raids or art assets, except for mounts or Tier recoloring (or new gear sets, if they felt like it), and it would continue to be relevant regardless of what future level caps may climb to become.

Okay.

So, what do you think? Does any of that make sense? Would it be fun? Is it a horrible idea? What do you think, my friends?

Oh, and happy Wednesday.

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