Archive for the “Soapbox” Category

I love buzzword bingo, especially at this time of year.

One of my favorite buzzwords is paradigm. Not because I like it all that much, but because the people who typically use it around me have no idea what the hell a paradigm is, let alone what a shift of a paradigm would be, or why anyone would care if it happened.

I’m gonna use it out of pure perversity. It’s a new year, and I need to put the hammer down.

I’m arguing that World of Warcraft is a paradigm for an MMO. Ooh, controversial! Okay, no, not at all, pretty damn obvious.

World of Warcraft is wildly successful, and is often immitated by other MMO products in terms of structure, quest theory, group dynamics, etc. World of Warcraft is the example that inspires and teaches us what works and what doesn’t, what customers will respond to.

I’m also saying that the paradigm has shifted out from under our feet.

I listen to a lot of WoW community podcasts, I enjoy reading what WoW folks say on Twitter, I read a bunch of blogs.

One persistant theme is daily quests.

We used to have them, but they were a necessary evil that were thankfully limited. We only had a few at a time, they had specific rewards, and once you had what you wanted the only reason to ever go back and do them again was to chase gold.

Now, daily quests are everywhere, there is no limit to how many you can do, and there is a good reason to want what they can give you, world without end, amen.

In short, daily quests have gone from a sometime thing to being very nearly at the center of the core gameplay, and people resent the hell out of the change.

To go by the podcasts and Twitter comments I see, they’re a drag, a grind, a bummer, a thing stripped of joy and humor in a cold, cruel universe not of our design. Curse them, we curses the dailies my precious!

Well, I’m here to say, I think the core gameplay in World of Warcraft is now being built around daily quests, and if you’re still stuck thinking of dailies as something we will someday get past, good morning Mr Phelps it’s time for your 6:00 AM wakeup call. That smell in the air? That’s change. Oh, and bacon. Bacon and change.

Maybe what is called for are a few well chosen adages.

I can drag out the good old Marine Corps slogan “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”, effectively saying brush it off and get over it. That’s what I’m thinking, so yeah.

Or perhaps I should simply reference Hank Williams, Junior and suggest you could use an Attitude Adjustment. :)

How is this a paradigm change?

Before patch 5.0, daily quests existed of course, but they were different from the daily quests of today in a couple of very signficant ways that have big implications.

First, we were capped by quantity. There were only so many we could do in a given day. We also usually only had one faction at a time, so if you were going to do dailies, the temptationw as to get out there and burn through them, get them over with, then move on to other stuff. Like queueing for heroics or LFR.

Second, they only gave gold and reputation. Once you had maxed your reputation and got what you wanted from that faction, you were done forever. 

Argent Tournament added tokens, a new throttle to prevent us just buying everything when we hit max rep and were done. Still, even with the Argent Tournament, there was a limit. Once you had the pets and mounts yuo wanted, done. Gold was all that remained.

The Molten Front really shook the daily quest structure up, tossing out tokens but adding phased progression, advancing storylines, great upgrades, profession recipes and vanity items, and branching paths to keep unlocking new stuff. 

As much of a success as the Molten Front was, it was still limited by points one and two. Limited dailes to do, only gold and reputation to gain.

Ah, how things have changed! Who would have ever imagined the difference tying Valor Points and Lesser Tokens to dailies would make?

The paradigm shift came when daily quests became something you could not burn through in a short time, and provided rewards that you would never stop wanting.

Who out there remembers where they were and what they thought when the word came out of 5.0 beta… “The cap on daily quests is being removed. You will be able to do as many daily quests each day as you could want without limit.”

Did you laugh? Did you look to your guildies in disbelief, thinking of the then-current system of gold/reputation dailies, wondering who the hell was out there praying for this change?

“Oh hell yes, sign my ass up, I want to spend my days grinding daily quests for gold, take that cap off because 25 quests a day is NOT ENOUGH to satisfy my hunger for money.”

Ah, but that before we saw the Valor Points being added to each and every quest. That was before we knew they were changing the way you could earn Valor Points from heroics, when you could still go in for just two days a week, run a bunch of heroics each of those two days, and max out your Valor gain from them. That was before tabards for reputation gains were removed…

And it was before they added the Greater Charms of bonus loot rolls, and item upgrades from Valor Points.

Things have shifted, big time.

Now, Valor Points are hard to get from heroics without logging in and committing to playing every single day, reputation upgrades cannot be obtained without running dailies at all, and Valor Points will forever play an ongoing role in upgrading all of your gear.

Now, you will never, ever truly run out of things to spend Valor on, you’ll just reach a point where you’ve stopped giving a shit if your items are fully upgraded or not.

For the progression raider, so long as new content is coming as fast as it seems, it will make more sense to relax about Valor. It takes one and a half weeks of Valor to fullu upgrade one epic. If you’re running progression, clearing all content and getting upgrades, it only makes sense to upgrade a few key items.

If you are not raiding or seeing a lot of drops in a short period of time, then using Valor to upgrade items is a nice way to continuously improve.

Bonus loot rolls? You get them from dailies, period. Reputation? Dailies. Even with the 5.2 farm changes coming, and being able to fulfill contracts on your farm to earn faction reputation, planting and farming still takes time each day. It’s just a new way of doing it.

Rumor has it, some players are motivated by new gear, and upgrading the gear they have. Who knew?

Well, Blizzard does, and the humble daily quest now fills an open-ended need.

There are so many quests available, and more coming all the time. And following up on the Molten Front design, we now have multiple daily quest hubs, each with a different theme, each having story advancement, phasing, and something fresh and new as you go.

Rumor has it, players like fresh story advancement and new shit. Again, who knew?

But the biggest wild card is how fast the new stuff is coming.

We just about had time to get our mains maxed in the 5.0 factions before Operation: Shieldwall and the Dominance Offensive dropped.

Now we’re going to have had time to finish and absorb those, and boom here comes the new war between the Kirin Tor and the Sunwalkers.

Things have changed in the game. Daily quests are at the heart of most of what we are doing, with the Black Prince threading through it all, adding a bit more meaning, bringing the threads together.

These days, even if you hate daily quests, it is strongly in your own best interest to pick a faction, grab some quests, and use them to fill the time as you wait for your heroics or LFR queues or BGs to pop.

Don’t expect things to change back the way you’re used to. Don’t expect there to be a day when you’ve got all you need and you’ll never have to do another daily quest again, ever.

And move past the idea that daily quests are something to focus on and burn through to get out of the way before moving on to the other stuff. There are too many of them for a reason, just pick and choose and fill in the gaps.

Above all, if you’re prejudiced against the idea of dailies, if the quests offend you by their very existence… you might need to adjust your attitude.

You can get your Valor from other ways, and you can decide you don’t need bonus loot rolls, and you can commit to getting your faction rep by planting flowers and fulfilling commissions, but the game is being built around dailies to fill in the gaps between doing all those other things you love.

Queue for a heroic, LFR, BG, whatever you want, the dailies are there to give you something to do other than stand around in Orgrimmar spamming Trade Chat while you wait.

Maybe I’ve made my case, maybe I haven’t, but the game feels very different to me now that before 5.0.

Before, there were big things to do, absolutely, but if you weren’t doing them, or if you were in queue waiting, there wasn’t much better to do than sit in a city, tab out with a warning timer, and read a book.

Now, there is a ton to do. Always. And it will reward you with upgrades or the potential for upgrades, either from upgraded epics, purchased gear from vendors, or bonus loot rolls.

And even if, somehow, you are playing World of Warcraft and could care less about gear at all…. Pet Battles. There is STILL something to do!

The world has changed around us, and the familiar needs to be looked at with a fresh eye.

Things will change in the future, maybe they’ll give us tabards, maybe they’ll do something else.

For right now, I know that if I log in, there will be a wide choice of things for me to do, and the hard part is figuring out what I want to do right then the most. 

And I love it. Every single day, I love it.

Every day, for months now, when I log in there is something to do. Always.

And more stuff is coming out!

I think it’s well past time for people to stop talking about daily quests as an annoyance, an unwanted evil, and start looking at them as something fast and rewarding to do in between the big stuff.

They’re not just for gold grinding anymore.

Comments 22 Comments »

Well, I never would have thought it, but I’m settling down into a very reliable cycle.

And I’m pretty happy about it, except of course, only so many WoW hours to go around.

Each week is getting to be a bit familiar. A pattern is forming. I have some priorities, and I follow them when I log in during the week.

Tuesday night, the instances reset. Time to begin queueing for Terrace of the Endless Spring!

Which I did, any time I thought I’d have two hours to be online. Yep, I want a shot at that damn gun. Obsessive? Me? NO! What could possibly have given you that idea?

It’s okay, though. This is a strictly limited obsession. I only get four shots at that gun each week, and once they’re gone, I be done til next Tuesday.

So, yeah, I might have stayed up late last night, but I managed to get in three Terrace runs since the server reset. That means four shots at loot rolls from Lei Shei, or whatever the hell her name is. That watery tart who doesn’t chuck a sword at you.

You did know that you can use Elder Charm bonus rolls on bosses that you’ve already killed in earlier runs, didn’t you? Yes, yes you can. And yes, you can win loot.

I have absolute proof. On my first run this week, I won loot from Lei Shei on the bonus roll, no loot from normal roll. Tier whatever the heck it is she drops. Last week, I won the Agility Trinket from her, but it’s not as good as the ones I have so it’s just in my bags.

My second run this week, used a bonus roll, no loot. Third run, used my last bonus roll, and WON… the Agility Trinket again. :)

So, I may not have won the Sha-Touched Weapon again, but I have absolute proof that you can use all your rolls on one particular boss, if you’re crazy enough to keep queueing up over and over again just to try.

Look, if Lei Shei didn’t have so many things useable by my class and spec, I’d probably have it already. I just have to fight double odds, first that I’d win something, and second WHICH item I would win.

Next week for sure. Bet on it.

Next priority, see if there is a Sha group forming, get that out of the way. No? Yes? Maybe later.

Okay, queued up for something, time to go do some dailies on one of the factions I don’t have at Exalted yet while I wait.

I truly admire the structure of the Operation: Shieldwall dailies. Different quest hubs randomized by day, and at certain points of reputation gain you get special story-driven quests to get extra (unplanned-for) reputation and also to drive the overall story forward.

If nothing else, I really hope they keep that concept alive going forward. Reputation grinds that have surprise new story-advancing content is what I want from now on. For me, I like having familiar dailies, but I also like having new story moving forward with them. 

Once the midweek rolls around, my thoughts turn to how I’m going to get Valor capped without too much time or grindiness.

It’s an interesting fact that you can queue for multiple types of random things now, without losing your spot in any of the queues, and while still accruing seniority.  Want some Valor for the night, but don’t like the long Heroic queue time sitting around as a DPS? Don’t want to HAVE to do dailies to pass the time in queue? Then queue for a random Heroic, and THEN queue for a random Scenario.

The Scenario will pop right away (usually), and all the time you are in there, you are building up time in the quue for the Heroic. When you leave the Scenario (and only after leaving the Scenario), you’ll be right back in line for the Heroic… and very likely at the head of the line!

I’m really starting to look towards how to get the most milk with the least amount of moo. Time is limited, and I’d like to do something other than run shit on my Hunter until I get capped Sunday or Monday, just in time for the server to reset the caps again.

I really want to regain the feeling that I can skip playing entirely for several days while still capping. WoW isn’t supposed to be a job where I have to punch my clock every single day or feel, subjectively, like I’m falling behind in my responsibilities.

Maybe Blizard is intending to structure things to reward those who log in every day. I’ve seen some blue moderator comments that do seem to indicate that they want to reward those that log in, well, every day. Consistently. For hours at a time.

/shiver

It doesn’t matter. If I’ve got stuff going on, well, tough. Guess I’ll just fall behind, and if I start feeling bad because I’m falling behind on game goals because of real life, there is a clear way to stop feeling bad about it… stop playing at all. I don’t need a video game to set goals for me that I will feel bad about not meeting.

So far, I have been hitting the Valor cap on my main each week… right at the end of my play time Sunday.

That means my Monday night gets to be my ‘do anything’ night without the feeling I really should be earning some Valor with something.

I’m going to have to do something to change that. I want more of my week free to play the PS3, or read a book, or watch TV or just laugh as Alex makes stuff out of legos.

A single LFR that is fresh nets 90 Valor. less than 1/10th the week of Valor. Considering how long a damn queue and run takes, I’d sure like to see it be a minimum of 1/7th the cap. I log in, queue, get my run done, I should feel like it’s cool if THAT IS IT for the night. Committment met, good to go, free to do something outside Azeroth.

If I do the Scenario/Heroic trick, it’s 120 Valor in a night. If I did a single daily hub for 25 Valor (5 quests/5 Valor each), plus one random Scenario and Heroic, then I’d be a sliver past 1/7th of the weekly cap each day. 

Mah point is, this is silly. The rewards for reaching the Valor cap are too damn good to just blow it off completely, but I feel silly juggling things around trying to get the most Valor out of the least game time, because geez, this is starting to be a lot of damn time in game.

Moderation in all things, even in Warcraft, remember?

Well, this week is gonna be all about moderation.

I did my time in the grind, I did Terrace three times this week, and if I don’t hit the Valor cap, whelp, too bad.

Tonight is the night my son will be performing in the school Christmas concert, both singing AND playing the saxophone in the band! I have the battery for the camcorder fully charged, and I can’t wait. it will be awesome.

After that, I expect to be reading him some more of Terry Pratchett’s “A Hat Full of Sky” to Alex. My son loves the Nac Mac Feegle, and I do all the voices. A good time will be had by all. Crivens!

I am thinking that, as much as I love the game, and as much fun as I’m having right now and have been for months… it feels like a bad sign that I’m trying to figure out how to get the Valor I want with the absolute minimum time in game. because no shit, I feel shackled to the keyboard right now, and that’s gonna get old real quick.

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This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years. It’s a topic that I’ve never seen anyone really address, and my instincts say most folks choose to avoid it with a ten foot pole.

I’ve mentioned ‘ten percenters’ before, but I’ve never really come right out and talked about it.

There are folks in this world that aren’t as fast on the uptake as other people, or who make choices and decisions that seem odd.

Call them (or me) stupid, or whatever, or say we’re all challenged in different ways, I don’t care what labels you put on it.

Some folks do not learn, process information, react to changing circumstances, improvise, adapt or overcome sudden obstacles at the same rate of speed as other people.

Physical? Mental? Lack of caring, lack of focus, cat ran across the keyboard every pull, degenerative nerve disorder, stupid as a suit made out of tacks in an inflatable inner tube factory? 

Not my concern.

I’m concerned with results.

I am on one side of a keyboard, staring at a monitor screen. I do not have any idea what is going on behind the screen of anyone else’s monitor.

For all I know, your character is being controlled by two cats, one moving the mouse and the other controlling the keyboard, working together to farm goods to sell on ebay to afford iPad butt warmers and chicken livers.

No clue.

What I see is what the other characters do in game, and what people type in chat. And, occasionally, what people say in vent.

Sometimes in random groups or in LFR raids, I see people do stuff, and I think, “What a stupid son of a bitch.”

I have no way of knowing what is really going on with that person. I don’t.

Half the raid is dead, and someone runs forward and pushes the big red button to start the next boss fight, initiating a wipe.

Intentional troll? Ignorant player? Stupid son of a bitch?

No clue.

In the Marines, I had a Sergeant who used to say, often, that being stupid wasn’t something to be ashamed of. If you were born stupid, there isn’t a damn thing you can about that. Algernon had a special treatment, but we don’t. And if we did, much like for Algernon, I doubt me it would last.

But if you’re ignorant… well, he had some seriously direct things to say about ignorant people. Ignorance can be corrected by education, by effort, by study and practice. If you’re ignorant, there are definite things to can do to correct the situation. The sin is in refusing to do something about it.

So, do you blame someone else for being slower than others, if they’re trying like hell but just aren’t getting it?

Well, do you really know they are trying? As I said, how do you really know what is going on behind the other keyboard?

If you don’t know… if someone keeps doing things that screw up the group, make mistakes, react in the wrong way, move too soon or too late, make the wrong decisions, you have to start wondering.

Is it a troll? Is it someone who doesn’t know what to do, and could have gone and watched videos and read strats, but didn’t? or is it really someone trying like hell but who can’t quite get it?

If you just don’t know, hopw do you handle it?

This really is something that is important to me, because I feel stupid. A LOT.

I have days where I just feel like an idiot. Things don’t click. I feel like I’ve got all the pieces right there in front of me, but I’m not putting them together right.

Someone will say something, others will laugh, and I’m wondering what I missed, what connection didn’t happen in my brain. Was it a pop culture reference I didn’t get because I don’t watch that show? Was it a play on words that I wasn’t smart enough to tie together?

Other days, I’ll feel pretty sharp. Those days are a mixed blessing, because I love them so much at the time but I know I won’t feel that way for long.

Like I said, I think about this stuff a lot.

I feel like an idiot a lot, and I’m not immune to peer pressure. When I spend time playing with other people, I don’t want to be the one making mistakes.

I don’t want to be the one person in a ten person group making mistakes or doing the wrong thing. Whether anyone says anything or not, I’ll be the one thinking, “Everyone else moved out of the Cobalt Mine before it went live, why the FUCK can’t I move out of the way fast enough? Everyone else is able to do this, so what is wrong with me?”

Or with the Stone Guard, and Jaspar Chains. I don’t want to be the one where, oh look, Jaspar Chains on me, and I didn’t even notice that I’m killing a melee player because I’m so focused in on pew pew pew that I’m oblivious to everything else.

“Oh shit, run in! Whoops, sorry, too late, I wish you hadn’t died like that just because I was too slow to react.”

Here’s the thing. Mistakes happen, yes I know, especially when what you’re doing is coming at you live and fresh like on the first few hours of a new boss.

But what do you do when the whole group tackles a challenge together, and there is confusion the first few times… but some of the group starts to get it, and others just don’t?

What do you do when you’ve got someone in your group that is not coming along as fast as everyone else. Someone who just does not get it, hasn’t had the encounter ‘click’, hasn’t gotten that flash of insight that suddenly brings everything into focus.

I just don’t see this question answered out there in the community, I don’t see it addressed.

If you’re in a raid group, what do you do when someone doesn’t get it, and the ones who do and think they should be able to kill it and move on get frustrated?

Worse yet… what do you do when you’ve got a raid member that isn’t consistently bad at just one thing, but seems to screw up all the time in all sorts of different ways?

And the capper – what if the person is in your guild, and is a good friend (or family member) of yours?

I have had days where I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, and the simple fact is, I could not get it done.

I mentioned Jaspar Chains earlier. Let me go into Stone Guard in more detail.

I had a raid pull a few weeks ago where it seemed like I did something wrong every single time I took a step. not per wipe, per step.

I knew what I was supposed to do, but I could not actually DO it right.

I have chosen Talents so that my Deterrence is on the shortest cooldown possible, and I take the least amount of damage possible when it’s up.

I did it specifically to be of more use on the Stone Guard for the Cobalt Mines. When you pop Deterrance this way, you can run over and trip Cobalt Mines when it’s not the Cobalt petrify phase, and you take seriously reduced damage AND you don’t get frozen in place.

The idea here is obviously to pull minesweeper duty on the Cobalt Mines whenever you need to, not just during Cobalt petrify, freeing up the work space if you have to deal with the Amethyst Pools as well.

Now, that’s nice. I did that on my own, practicing in LFR, worked nice. But Deterrence is only up for 4 seconds. I figured it would work best if our Healing priest Disco were to spec into the Talent that increases run speed when bubbled.

So the idea was, I would announce that I was popping Deterrence in two secs, get a bubble from Disco, and run faster, letting me cover more ground and pop more Cobalt Mines in a tight span of time.

Disco was gracious enough to change Talents just so I could do that.

So I ask you, how many times do you think I remembered to give her a two second warning in vent before popping Deterrence?

If you were to say “only once in a four hour span of wipes”, that would be pretty damn accurate.

I just couldn’t seem to move in on Jaspar Chains, pew pew the correct dog (the one in a group of two, NOT the solo one), avoid the purple puddles, pop Cobalt Mines, break things when the correct petrify was up, AND remember to give Disco a two second warning.

If I remembered to give the warning, I popped Deterrence and cleared Cobalt Mines that weren’t actually in the way. Or I stood in Amethyst for 5 seconds before going, “huh, dying, wtf” rather than getting the heck out of the way.

I tried my best, but I just kept making all sorts of stupid mistakes. The kinds of mistakes that are scattered around, and make it hard to point to one thing and say, ‘I need to do that better.”

Instead, it was the kind of pull where I had to point at myself and say, “You need to take a deep breath, and chill. Because that crap ain’t funny. Pull it together.”

You know what I mean? Just an entire pull where I was a day late and a dollar short.

Now, I’ve gotten a lot better since then. I’ve seen the fight often enough now that I can move properly for some things without having to focus extra hard on it. That frees up some of my attention to more judgment-oriented tasks.

But what if I didn’t get better? What if I came back, week after week, and I just kept being a spaz with no improvement?

I mean a spaz like “We are not progressing past this point because out of ten of us, this one person keeps doing stupid shit every damn week, and I’m sick of wiping for two hours.”

I see people talk about practicing, and working with players by going over recount, or World of Logs, or reforging, or rotation help, etc.

What do you do when you can ‘coach’ until you’re blue in the face, but they ain’t getting it?

More to the point… what do you do if the person is a friend, like in a friends and family guild raid team, and you can’t just say, “Sorry Raider X, you’re not getting it, so we’re benching you for someone that can.”

Does someone really have a good answer for this?

It’s one thing for me to look at a complete stranger in LFR doing something, and think (NOT SAY), “What a stupid son of a bitch.”

That is a private judgmental thought that hurts nobody but me and vents a little steam, because the person has no idea what I’m thinking, and they will never see me again. And again… it’s an unfair judgment because how the hell do I know what was happening on the other side of their monitor?

But it’s something else entirely when the person knows you, you know the person, you want to do this thing together as part of a team and to build shared experiences and have fun together… and now friendship, ego and pride are all tied into something like raiding progression pressure while one of you is doing stupid shit.

What do you do? Do you put progression before friendship, and tell them they aren’t welcome just so you can get a win?

Or do you put friendship first and stick it out together, even if that means wiping for three weeks straight without a single boss kill, holding your group together against the frustration because yo’re gonna get it together, or you’re not gonna get it at all?

I wonder about this a lot. Like I said, I have days I wonder why the hell I pretend I can raid.

I have days where I strive for brilliance and have to settle for competence… and wonder if I’m fooling myself.

I wish I could say that everyone would of course put friendship and family first, that what is truly important is the bond we have with the person behind the keyboard, that is the only thing that is real in a digital world.

But I see LFR, and I see the intentional trolls, and  wonder what guild they are in? Who chooses to have them as members?

I see people who don’t give a shit, and afk follow through LFR, and bump into walls because they can’t even be bothered to pay enough attention to walk straight. People who click the ready checks, and then stand there immobile through the entire fight, not even auto-attacking, as if to show they are too good to lower themselves to play in LFR with the likes of me.

Where are they guilded? Do they raid? Do they show that level of don’t give a shit with their friends?

And I think about how damn hard those of us who do feel like idiots try to learn and do better, so we don’t drag the group down with us… and I wonder how many people I play with wish they were on a team with someone who didn’t fail quite so bad.

There are stupid people in the world, and I often suspect I’m one of ‘em. And we’re in your game, standing in poo.

What do you do?

Comments 23 Comments »

I was listening to the latest Group Quest podcast this morning, and heard DeGei mention the fun and games we had over the Thanksgiving weekend doing some cross-server friends list leveling.

I was on my low level Warlock having a blast, and DeGei was on his Panda Warrior of about the same level. He saw me on, and suggested we group up and run some instances.

On the podcast, he made the point that this is something to be thankful for, that Blizzard has continued to grow the game to this point; that two people can be friends and follow what they’re doing regardless of what server they choose to be on (or originally rolled), and can group up together to run quests, queue for instances, and even do raids, so long as they aren’t current content raids.

I completely agree with DeGei on this. Maybe people take it for granted, or think there never should have been split servers to keep friends apart in the first place, but we are now at a point where if you are friends with people anywhere in your geographical area, you can meet them and play with them in almost everything the game has to offer.

Freaking amazing.

The cross-server raids I’ve been doing have been some of the most fun I ever had in game… at least, until Pandaria came out and kinda depth-charged the concept. Level 90 has made most old stuff so trivial it’s hard to find things for a large group to do.

My point though is I was able to group up with a friend and do some runs together. By the way, DeGei is an extremely good tank. He led two different groups through Blackfathom, and if asked beforehand I would have said I never wanted to do that one ever again. He actually made it fun, by knowing exactly what to do and where to go and how to tank. Such a blessed relief, especially at low levels. And without Heirlooms!

Now, let’s contrast this with last Saturday.

It was time to get our Moguvaults raid going, and we were once again short a ranged DPS. The wondermage that we had was a no-call, no-show, no-mail for the second week in a row.

Now, we asked in guild if anyone wanted to join us to DPS, but nobody was available. We really wanted to play with friends, so since guild members were out, we turned to our friends lists.

Several of us had friends who were available, and volunteered to join us.

The problem? You guessed it I, bet… they were all on other servers.

And you cannot have people from other servers in your raid to do CURRENT content.

End of story.

So, we were unable to bring in a friend, someone known to us, to join us in playing together. In order to continue our raid, Discobiscuit had to resort to, [shudder], Trade Chat to find one more.

This time, we were successful. The new DPS player had the lowest DPS in our raid, but they were friendly, paid attention and tried their best. With them added to our ranks, we felt the thrill of victory over the first two bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults again, and even had a fun go at da troll dude, mon.

As icing on the raiding cake, we had the pleasure of killing the stone dogs with jaspar chains up, and let me tell you, it’s a true feeling of satisfaction to struggle with a mechanic and then conquer it. Our first successful kill had been without the jaspar chains, so there was certainly some “we must overcome this” tension going through the group. Hah! Take that, you silly dogs, you. I wave my private parts in your general direction.

So, we ended up with a complete stranger in the group, but it worked out for us. This time.

This gave us a chance to meet someone new on our server, and potentially make a new friend. So, good thing, right?

But this came at the expense of a chance to play with an existing friend, build a stronger bond and develop more shared experiences. What was the more valuable opportunity? To have grown an existing freindship or start a new one?

I want to talk about this a bit, because of the recent comments by Ghostcrawler on Twitter about cross-server grouping for current content.

They’re worried about what it might do to guilds. 

Okay. That’s very reasonable. But with that given as a reason, can we talk about it?

What could having cross-server raiding on current content do to a specific guild, or guilds in general?

I’m trying to think about this, and I’m running right up against the age-old question, “What is a guild?”

A guild is a social system with built-in tools to easily communicate between members and organize group activities. There are additional tools available to aid the group, such as a storage system for items useful to the group, rewards for being active within the group, and methods to visually display your allegiance with your guild.

There is also the visual tag you can show proclaiming your membership in that group.

People can use this social system for whatever purpose they want. You can invite anyone in the server and have the purpose be a big social circus, try to only invite people with common goals or interests, or limit membership to known friends or family. Whatever you want.

I have a question. Can you queue with cross-realm friends to do current PvP battleground or Arena content? it’s something I don’t know.

See, the thing that I’m wondering about is why we would only block current content raiding from including personal cross-server friends, but not other activities. If current PvP content is also blocked, then it would seem a consistent policy for progression-oriented guilds, be they raiding or PvP.

Let’s simply look at the consequences of blocking cross-server friends.

If you’re short someone for your raid, this does force you to find someone on your own server.

If the person you invite is on another server and can only be invited through your friends list, then for everyone else in the raid that person is a “friend of a friend”, seperated by at least one remove. The rest of the guild only knows him through you, and can only chat with them or play with them if you are on and willing… until the cross-server friend shares their Battletag around.

If a guild is a social system to ease communication between members, then the cross-server friends list goes against the spirit by isolating the friend from the group.

If you have to resort to a stranger that exists on your own server, though, then everyone in the raid has the chance to spend time together, develop a bond, and possibly find mutual ground to consider joining the guild or making some other kind of lasting bond with multiple people from the guild.

Limiting current raiding, which is probably one of the most popular guild group activities, to same-server players has a better chance of growing the guild itself from adding people frmo the same server, and allowing for multiple personal connections to form.

So… the issue is the limitation of the technology. If we had the capability for cross-server guild invites and communication, then those same connections could form. It might be a bit harder initially, since the ‘getting to know you’ period would involve Battletags unless yuo gave them an isntant invite, but it would also strengthen the role of guild websites and matchmaking services for recruitment and trying out new potential members. 

Right now, if you party or raid group with someone else, it pulls everyone into the same server group. I say go one step further, and if you are NOT in an existing party or raid, then everyone in the same guild could be effectively pulled into the same server.

The guild as a social system would be restored. In fact, you’d have a greater chance to grow, by having strangers from multiple servers available to invite into your runs when you needed someone.

With cross-realm guilds, if you meet that great person in a PUG, you would be able to chat with them as you do now, but you could then say “Hey why not hit me up on our website, we can run some more stuff sometime as a group”. That person could become a guildie, and not just “that great tank we had last week, wish he was in our guild.”

I freely admit this is all rampant speculation. I’d love to hear more speculation on what the benefits or challenges would be.

And now, just to be contrary, I’m gonna turn to the only real argument I’ve heard against cross-server guilds.

I’ve heard that a big problem with cross-server guilds would be guild bank access shared across servers, places with different economies. I believe the argument is that would allow guilds to have the potential to become the East India Trading Company, doing triangle trade deals across servers, and placing ‘normal’ players at a competitive pricing disadvantage.

Imagine for a moment the rise of mercantile guilds, guilds of auction house traders purchasing cloth cheap on Azuremyst, selling it at higher prices on Kael’thas, using the profit to buy cheap Darkmoon Cards on Kael’thas and flipping them high on Vol’jin, and then buying cheap ore on Vol’jin to sell at a profit on Azuremyst.

Umm….

SO WHAT?!?!

Shit man, go for it. I’d love to see another, deeper aspect to the game economy emerge.

If you’re upset because you like the status quo, you’ve got a good thing going and this would make your gold-making system fail, well, I have no sympathy for you. You want to rule the auction house in a changing economy, adapt or die. Don’t try to throw up roadblocks to change to protect your own interests… or at least, acknowledge that you’re basically mirroring the real world business model by trying to stem the tides of change when that change isn’t in your favor.

Never forget your first principles. Things will not sell for more than people are willing to pay. But if there is a ready market for your goods at a price you are willing to accept, that means there are people in the market eager to buy. Opening up new markets for your goods means that true fairness is that other people have the same opportunity… but it’s up to them whether they take advantage of it.

God, wouldn’t it be a thing to see?  Might even tend to bring market stabilization over the long term.

Let Blizzard develop a regulatory agency, and we’ll just go the rest of the way to having a true world government within WoW.

Okay, we’re just being silly now, but there is so much to chew on in the subject.

For every problem, there is a potential solution, and also many things to fear. The first step is deciding what constitutes a real problem. Are we simply afraid of what may happen, and is that fear stopping us from adopting change?

All I see from what Ghostcrawler says is that they worry what it would do to guilds. Nothing in his statements says they have made a decision against, or that they aren’t considering how to implement it to address those worries.

I’m glad they worry what it would do to guilds. If they didn’t give a shit but just changed things and hoped for the best, we’d be in deep trouble.

I hope that, in the end, we do move towards something that opens the world up even more, expands the guild system to be more inclusive of people regardless of what server they are on, and that the technology and bugs get worked out to address the issues people have with CRZ right now.

I have no conclusions. I lean towards the “let’s implement it and deal with the consequences” side, but I don’t know what other obstacles or concerns they may be considering.

Maybe they’ve run studies that suggest if people could raid with others from a friends list, it would tend to exclude people new to the game and uncertain how to find a guild. I don’t know how, what with the rise of matchmaking cross-server raiding websites, and in-game Blizzard-sponsored assistance/welcoming guilds, but maybe it could.

I’m just saying, it’s fun to think about, and every time I have ever played with friends cross-server, whether in an instance or a raid, it has been an absolute joy, and I hope to see more growth to expand it further in the future.

Now…. now is your opportunity to tell me how strongly you disagree with me. :)

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I mentioned to Cassie in passing today that one of the surprises in Patch 5.1 was that Ghost Iron Ore and all Herb spawns had their respawn rates cut in half. Why? Apparently, because the resources were too abundant. If the resources are scarcer and players have to work harder to get them we’ll value them more, and they (and they’re crafted items) will be worth more on the Auction House.

Her reply? “Sometimes I think Blizzard hates the players.”*

I can see her point. I personally thought the respawns were originally too generous… and I was grateful, because I don’t exist to play “WoW Tycoon”, I play WoW, the game that has an auction house in it where I can share shit I get with other players for cash, and if there is something I’d like I can maybe go find it there too.

Since I don’t play the game to amass vast quantities of gold, I make sure I’ve got characters that can go out and get the stuff I need to satisfy my wants. You know, like Herbalists and Alchemists and Enchanters and all that stuff. Self-sufficient. So long as I can get enough of the base resources to satisfy my own needs, fine.

It’s about time investment, though. I invest my time in leveling a character now so I have the capability to make stuff, so in the future I can spend teeny amounts of time getting a few mats and making what I ened on the spot instead of having to always be working to get gold to buy stuff on the AH.

Change things so it takes tons of time to get those mats, fighting other farming players for hours to get the scant few resources it takes to make a couple flasks, and it flips things around.

Likewise, they changed the conversion rate for Spirits of Harmony from 1 Spirit to 3 Golden Lotus, to 1 Spirit for two GL. I’m not trying to corner the AH market, so whatever. As long as I can still get what I need to make weekly flasks with my little farm, it’s all good.

It does mean that the amount of time it takes us, the players, to accomplish the same tasks has increased. So why do it?

If I were to settle into a “me me me” point of view, then it would be a sign Blizzard hates us, the players. They made it harder and take more time, so thus they’re out to ruin our fun. Right?

It’s nice that people can make WoW Tycoon a game in and of itself… but I don’t feel that we need to really care if people aren’t getting the prices from their ore or herbs that they want. If the inscription market doesn’t make you thousands of gold, I really don’t give a shit. That’s not the game I care about or respect. So how dare you change things to cater to them! Let them make real money in the real world with those skills if that’s what they like!

Or… maybe there’s a different point of view. A view that embraces more than just me. Possibly?

I don’t see it and other things Blizzard does as signs they hate the players. I see it as signs they are still looking for ways to please more types of playstyles.

I think they are  still growing, and in this case are trying to identify all the different playstyles that attract paying monthly players, and then add content that will reward them and keep them coming back.

The Black Market Auction House, canes and monocles and other items… these are things that acknowledge the existence of playing the WoW market as a real ‘thing’, so let’s go all the way to making the game economy an official, and rewarding, part of the game.

Just because I don’t care about it doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile part of the game, right? PvP isn’t my thing, and they’ve done amazing stuff with integrating it into the game.

How long did those of us who like all the casual stuff in game rail at how the designers seemed solely focused on raider content? Oh waaa, it’s all about the raiders, why can’t we get class quests or something for us casuals to do?

Shit, we got that in spades, didn’t we? Look around you, and there is so much to do the game is bursting with content for players of all playstyles. Including raiding for non-raiders!

PvP content, raiding content, social and collecting and game economy and fashion and soloing and now even stage productions, fighting while we watch!

They didn’t ignore the plight of casual players for content, did they? It just took time, exactly as they told us it would.

“The things we are working on to make the game better now you won’t see for years.”

They tell us these things, and looking back, can we agree they weren’t kidding around?

And now, they’re clearly paying attention to the desires of those who make the Auction House and game economy their playstyle, and despite it meaning it’ll be a teeny bit harder for me to go out and get my own mats when I want them, to me it means the opposite of “Blizzard hates the players”.

It looks to me like Blizzard is trying to see what people like to do in the game, and then accommodate those desires. ALL of those desires. A massive balancing act, trying to make all of the people happy all of the time.

That’s pretty amazing. Doomed to fail? Heck, let’s find out. I’m enjoying the ride anyway.

They’re even going back to the “let’s make class quests because they’re fun” well, with the Warlocks.

Pet battles, mounts to collect, pets as drops from old raids, old raids modified to change mechanics that required multiple people to now be (potentially) soloable, a Brawlers Guild that is all about a solo player going against NPC challenges before a live audience…

Blizzard takes a lot of abuse, but when you come right down to it, they’re doing an amazing job.

One thing I like is how they’re experimenting more with small changes that add up to big content for players.

Have you seen the little items you can buy with the new Commendations that drop from mobs you kill doing dailies? You can buy traps. You take a trap, and it gives you a daily quest. You can go out and farm some materials to make an animal trap. Then, you trap the animal in the wild. You take the animal and turn it in at a big arena with animal cages. You or anyone that sees the animal in a cage can ask to fight it. And those are some tough critters! Crabs, Tigers and Cranes, and they are serious badasses designed to be easy for a party of five, but good luck soloing one.

Here’s a hint; stand on top of the tiger. If you back off to range, he’ll leap on you and one shot your ass. Melee Hunters up!

It’s just a little thing, but it’s an activity that you can choose to do every day that takes time, is diverting and different, the trap quests act as dailies for 5 valor and 2 Lesser tokens, and when you’re done, you or anyone else can fight the beasts and get a quest on completion that gives you more faction rep. And like with other boss kills from quests in the game, you don’t all have to be in the same group. If you take part in the kill, just jump in and assist one in progress, you get credit. And like I said, when it’s dead, your first critter kill of the day gives you a nice quest to turn in for added rep with the new faction.

I tested it. It’s only the first animal kill. Just saying.

Blizzard does things sometimes that seem to be huge pains in the ass, or make life more annoying, or whatever. But sometimes, you look at it a different way, and you can see that it may be annoying to my playstyle, but it makes someone else’s more interesting.

Let’s not be the raider that hated on casuals for wanting stuff to do. Or the casuals that hated on PvP.

I personally am eager to get a Brawler Invite. I’ll wait until I can afford one on the BMAH, but I was in the Brawlers Guild arena watching today, and it was very cool.

I enjoyed watching other players square off against opponents, and I can ABSOLUTELY see spending an evening kicking back, relaxing, having a few beers and watching the fights while waiting for my turn in the ring.

This Brawlers Guild thing really is going to add a new dimension to the game… exhibition. You are going into your fight knowing you are being watched, and judged. Will you get stage fright? Will the crowd jeer you?

Today I saw a Druid fight a penguin in Bear form, running and jogging around, almost jigging and it looked like it was all to put on an exciting show. I’ll grant you, someone in the crowd was /yelling “GO GO GO HAPPYFEET”, but it was still fun.

I can see a developing new playstyle, people playing to the crowd, tweaking their costumes for the show (transmogs are awesome now that we can be performers on stage, amiright?), dancing around and doing emotes to give the live audience something to FRAPS or screenshot for later.

Players, we who are about to /dance while kiting green slime salute you!

I feel as though the seeds for amazing things were sown in the expansion, and we’re still just seeing them start to blossom.

It’s just too damn early to pass final judgment on these things. Or to get all cranky.

*sentence take out of context may not represent Cassie’s actual thoughts about Blizzard.

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