Archive for the “Soapbox” Category

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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So, this morning I was playing on my son’s main character.

He has been working on the Order of the Cloud Serpent dailies for months, and had finally gotten to within a stone’s throw of being exalted. Just a few more days of quests… or about 6 Onyx Eggs.

He asked me to help him find a few Onyx Eggs, in the hopes he could achieve exalted this weekend, when he’d have some time to look for hatchling pets in the Arboretum. In case you didn’t know, the only way to be able to tame Wild Hatchling battle pets in The Arboretum is to be exalted with the Order of the Cloud Serpent. So it’s not just the beautiful mounts, it’s some of the cutest pets in the game, too.

So, yeah. I decided to be helpful dad, and get him some eggs this morning. I just achieved exalted myself a few days ago, so I know where I had been finding eggs. I thought I should be able to score one or two.

There is a point to this, I promise.

I flew around the isle looking in the usual spots, and I saw an Onyx Egg on a ledge. I swooped down, landed, opened the egg, and mounted up to fly off. Before I took off, someone on a carpet flew up, paused, /spit on my character, and flew off again.

Now, here is where I made the first mistake. And it’s a big mistake, I grant you.

I whispered him with one word. I said, “Really?”

Yes, I did. And it was a stupid mistake. Someone that will /spit on you because you’re looking for eggs too, and you found one? Not someone that will respond well to any kind of response to their behavior. Just… if you /spit on someone in the open environment, you’re too high strung. This ain’t PvP, this is just flying around doing your thing.

So, I screwed up. I was on my son’s character, and I responded to someone that was rude. If I had been thinking at all clearly, or had any coffee yet, I might have restrained myself.

The person, as I should have expected, whispered back. A lot. Not really swearing so much as dumping on me for being childish enough to cry about being spit on. I called them childish for spitting on me, and put them on ignore. I don’t need someone whispering my son, and I seriously regretted opening my damn mouth.

The person then proceeded to swap to each and every character they have on the server, apparently outraged that I put them on ignore.

They kept this up for a long time. They followed me around, /crying at me, /lolling, and every time I’d put them on ignore they’d swap over to a new one. I was talking to them throughout this, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t swearing, but I was trying to get them to stop, explaining that this wasn’t my character that played on my account, it was a character I let my son play, and I was ignoring him because I didn’t want someone whispering my son with this stuff.

That just set him off more.

Now, here is my dilemma.

I took screenshots of everything. As soon as he started swapping characters to continue to harass my son’s toon, I wanted to keep some kind of record of character names, so I could put them all on ignore for his other characters.

I never expected him to go that far, continuing to change over as soon as he found he was being ignored on one.

After I had all of his characters finally ignored, I saw in /1 General he began announcing back on his first original character, that my son’s character, called out by name was a whiny something or other.

I mention this because I was surprised that even though I had him on ignore, I could still see what he said in the General zone chat tab.

What do I do next?

I’ve honestly never had something happen like this, where someone spends over a half hour stalking my sons character. Even after all of his characters were ignored, he kept flying on top of my character, hovering in place, obscuring my view, doing /cry, etc. He even, and this was funny, I was hovering high up near one of the narrow ledges an egg can spawn on, and he did a /duel… and the flag appeared on the narrow ledge, and it dismounted him, causing him to plummet to his death. Okay, I chuckled, that was funny. Whoops!

But seriously, what do I do?

I mean, it was really annoying. While he was ranting at me for all that time and stalking me for having gotten that one egg, I got seven more Onyx Eggs. Not racing him to them, mind you, just flying around and going, “Oh! Another egg! Wow, that’s sweet”.

After I got the seventh egg, I might have announced in /1 that I had found seven Onyx Eggs after he had started stalking me, and that he was very lucky for me. Yes, I was weak. Someone else said “Bonus!”

So I found enough eggs for my son to hit exalted… heck, I found enough for him to have one extra for a souvenir.

But, I didn’t want to call him down until this was resolved in some way, because my son doesn’t need to be harassed.

It left me worried. The guy shows every indication of having nothing better to do with his time than spend a half hour camping my son’s character, even after I explained the situation. And putting him on ignore didn’t stop it, he just posted in general, and physically followed me around emoting.

But if I post all the screenshots of all the chat logs, showing his character names, that seems inappropriate.

Stuff lasts on the blog forever. Four months from now, someone could be reading the archives and see the screenshots, and it will be new to them so there will be fresh wonder at the childishness, and they might possibly whisper him. Months later, mind you, after what might have been just one bad morning they had.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no big thing in any way, it’s not like there would be an army of outraged gamers swarming him. But those of you who do read my blog, friends one and all, would probably be pretty annoyed and want to call him on the BS. Some of you might whisper him about his behavior, and the question arises… is that fair?

This wasn’t griefing a raid group or some other group thing. This wasn’t something that would be a public service to get out. I feel that if I’m in LFR and I find someone in my battlegroup that is clearly intentionally trying to wipe the raid repeatedly, then giving you his character name and server is a public service. You can then put them on ignore and not worry about seeing that one character in your own groups in the future. There is a reason to share it.

In this case, it was harassment on a personal level, and not to one of my characters but the one my son plays on my account. I don’t want my son to have to deal with that because of my actions.

Do I report it to Blizzard? If I do, how do I show that it was multiple character swapping and stalking? Is there a method where I can link screenshots I took to Blizzard, without making the screenshots public?

I could really use your advice on this one.

I talked about this in Guild chat with Trajar, and his opinion was that with stalking/harassment like that, putting it all up on the blog would be entirely reasonable.

In the long term though, what he did to me was a single morning where he might have just been really cranky. He did say early on that he /spit on me because he’d been farming eggs for hours and the one I got was the first one he’d seen. I don’t think that justifies stalking and character swapping to keep up the insults, but it would explain part of why he was so angry.

I have to think that if I had one bad morning, and regretted it later… what a nightmare it would be to have people still coming at me about it for days afterward. Nothing you can do if you regret it then, and even if you tried to apologize it wouldn’t matter. Someone could search for your character name, and there it would be, long after everything was long done.

But reporting it to Blizzard… Cassie thinks that Blizzard takes this seriously, but we both talked about it, and we can’t think of how Blizzard would have any way of knowing if we were telling the truth about what happened, short of being able to provide screenshots, and I’ve never heard of Blizzard having a mechanism in place to have you submit one.

So… post on the blog, report it to Blizzard, let it all drop, what do you think I should do?

 

EDIT: Updated with information from Blizzard CM Daxxarri:

Harassment is a serious issue, and we’ve dedicated significant resources toward dealing with it. In fact, we have a large support team, and we’ve (comparatively) recently implemented faster tools to deal with harassment.
If you’re experiencing harassment in-game, there are a few steps to take.

  • Don’t respond, or get involved in an argument. Stooping to using language that violates our policies simply opens yourself up to suspension, and doesn’t accomplish anything. Seriously, don’t do it.
  • Use right-click Report on their name next to any lines of text that contain offensive language–the appropriate category should be Language.
  • Use /ignore to close the lines of communication.
  • If your harasser by-passes the /ignore feature and contacts you on an alternate character, immediately place that character on ignore, then open a support ticket to report Ongoing Harassment, and include that phrase, as well as the offending player’s name, realm, the exact phrase that they used to harass you and that they by-passed the /ignore feature to do so. Please be detailed, our Support team works hard, but they aren’t wizards. Mostly.

On the forums, just mouse-over the offending post, then click the ‘downvote’ hand, then select the ‘Report’ option.
You won’t receive notification when another player receives any kind of disciplinary action due to our privacy policies, but rest assured that we like to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding what constitutes acceptable conduct in-game.

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Last night I ran the second part of Throne of Thunder LFR on my Hunter. I also did Galleon and Sha of Anger.

Ended up with a 496 ring and two iLevel 502 drops. No, not the bow, but really when enjoying an embarassment of riches, who cares?

Contrast that with last week, where I didn’t so much as sniff a drop. Or Cassie, who ran the first section last night, used a coin every kill, and also didn’t win new loots.

Random is random.

It’s funny, I remember one of the core tenets of video games when I was growing up in the ’80s, which was that digital logic programming couldn’t produce truly random results. At some point, there had to be a seed, and from that seed all pseudo-random gobbledygook must follow.

Duplicate the seed, and you repeat the sequence related to that seed. The secret to beating video game ‘random’ sequences was discovering that hidden, secret seed or how the system was programmed to respond to your actions.

I wonder sometimes if that is where some of our legends on influencing loot drops comes from. That old faith in an underlying structure, a belief that nothing in a video game is truly random, and that things are programmed to respond to our input, to react to our actions in some way, and if we could just nail down what the repeatable response would be, we’d know what to do to influence events to fall our way.

I sometimes wish that our wild theories on how to influence loot drops or ‘random’ events really, well, WORKED.

I loved the mystery in Vanilla WoW of wondering if we the players, by our actions, could somehow influence, say, when Onyxia would deep breath. People in raid would come up with strats for what the players had to do, and they were serious. Stand over there, DOT early, don’t DOT until 15 seconds in, all Mages stand in the center, etc. Some of it was that Onyxia wasn’t tauntable, so tanks had to be allowed to really build up threat before people started doing damage, but other things were just… attempts at seeing if player actions in weird ways would affect when Onyxia would do something.

There is a part of me that wishes there really was some chance that filling my bellybutton with blue mud, dancing naked in the rain widdershins to the wind and rubbing my tummy with one hand while patting the top of my head with the other, I could increase the chances my Gun would drop from Lei Shei by 10%.

It would give me the illusion that I could somehow influence my fate.

I’d even welcome the inevitable “blue mud is unbalanced, nerf blue mud” forum posts.

I’d like to think that there were secret, behind the scenes things that players did in their ordinary gameplay that would have unforeseen and unknowable effects later in the game, on loot or bosses, when you least expected it.

You could call it karma if you like, but I am not suggesting that there be any way to track it. It would ruin things if there was a clear link between cause and effect. Part of the fun would be in thinking you’ve discovered a secret trick that always works for you, you don’t know why nobody else has discovered it. It didn’t work for someone else? They didn’t do it right!

“Hey, I don’t know what’s wrong with your group, when me and my four Druid friends formed a raid and made a stack of Reindeer, Ashes of Alar dropped from Kael’thas right after. I’m telling you, you need to try it. Did you have five? Maybe you didn’t have enough Druids in your stack.” 

It would be so much fun if there was a gentle suggestion from the devs that, should you do things of a positive or friendly nature in the game, your kindness would be returned to you in ways you could not foresee. And that it was coded right into the game to track random acts of kindness, just like tracking achievements. But without any way for the player to see what is or is not tracked, or what they have or haven’t noticed to create some ‘perfect guide’ to gaming the karma system.

I know people in the game already who enjoy taking items, wrapping them in gift paper and sending them to friends, just to cheer them up. Or who offer tips instead of criticism, support and encouragement instead of unloading with venom.

People that do the little things that go into being a positive person in public rather than a depressing pain in the ass.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we were told that keywords, phrases, even trends of typed chat in the game contributed to some kind of karma system?

Such a terrible dilemma. To troll people and rant in trade chat, swear and yell at noobs, post ‘anal’ links and risk reduced loot chances or increased damage done to YOU by bosses (or enemy players in PvP!) or, as the alternative, pretend to be nice to court unspecified but presumed real karma rewards, even when you’re a nasty little shit in real life.

It’s fun to contemplate. It really is.

Thinking about these things, and how it would be fun to experiment with the results in a live setting, it all  just points out how glad everyone should be that I am not a game developer.

Because I’m telling you, straight up, i’d implement the system and not tell any players until the game had been out at least 6 months, and then track social behavior changes.

Lab rats or players… well, as the saying goes, eventually developers would grow a fondness for the rats.

Also, there are some things you can’t get the lab rats to do. One word? Achievements.

Better all around to just use players. :)

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