Concerning Arming the Military in America

Since the tragic terrorist attack and the murders of our servicepeople in Chattanooga, there has been a lot of talk in the state I live in, Minnesota, about arming ‘the troops’.

The discussion itself highlights the growing feeling among some civilians that we here at home in America are under an active, ongoing threat of attack. Talking about arming active duty military servicepeople is a response to the feeling that we are engaged in a war on our home territory. A terrorist threat, a guerilla war, however you’d like to phrase it.

As a former Marine that writes about video games for people who mostly don’t have anything to do with active duty military stuff, or who aren’t familiar with America (waves to Rel and Hunni!) I wanted to give you a little more insight into some of the issues involved here. Stuff that I just don’t see included in the discussion.

The first big thing is, this discussion is mainly being driven by civilian citizens that want to do something to try to address what they feel is a vulnerability for our armed forces. The argument goes, “We allow them to be armed and defend themselves when we send them in harms way, but here at home we disarm them but require them to wear their uniforms or be in clearly marked areas, painting targets on them and making them helpless victims.”

As an example of where this comes from, take a look at this relevant picture from the news coverage of the recent Chattanooga terrorist attack. That picture is of the front door of the recruiting station that took quite a few rounds through the glass.

gunfreezone

That’s right, a sign proudly stating that “this is a helpless victim zone, fire at will, we can’t shoot back.”

Oh, no, sorry that was my editorializing. It’s a typical sign declaring an area to be a gun free zone, so please don’t bring your guns in here.

How that is any different from posting a sign saying, “Hey whackjob, helpless victims inside, have fun” I have no idea.

So civilians want to do something. And something probably should be done.

But you can’t just say, “Oh well let’s arm them all and then we’re all safe.”

The armed forces won’t do that, because THEY’RE in charge of how the internal firearms policies work, and those policies are based on long and careful considerations of lots of stuff. No, really.

See, the first issue is the conversation is happening in the wrong place. Civilians aren’t going to get SHIT done about this.

Armed forces aren’t democracies. It’s a top down hierarchy that is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not a civilian legal code. There are specific rules about firearms use by active duty military.

Changes in the civilian legal system, especially at the state level, can’t dictate how a federal armed force will choose to arm or equipment individual mission classifications or MOS dutues. The National Guard may work differently, but sure as hell Governor Dayton in Minnesota ain’t gonna get the Marines all issued pistols and ammo. So talking about it is just a barometer of the concern we all have about wanting to do something.

Any action will come from the military themselves.

A valid question would be, “Is there anything in the civilian legal system preventing the various branches of the military from arming recruiters or other service personnel?”

NO.

They can absolutely do this. The armed forces can indeed, at any time, choose to make internal changes up to and including assigning weapons to, issuing weapons to, and instructing active duty servicemen to carry them while going to and from and about their duties here and anywhere else they are assigned.

The main issues as to whether they will or not are armory and supply logistics, firearms safety, weapons inventory control and mission requirements.

Let’s talk about mission requirements first.

All it takes for this change to begin is for the upper ranks of military leadership to re-examine what the mission requirements are for, say, active duty servicepeople assigned to recruiter duty.

If they re-examine the requirements for that mission and determine that the capability of an armed response to a potential threat is required, then they can determine what type of the equipment needs to be issued to a serviceperson fulfilling that mission. That includes the issuing of a firearm, what type of firearm, and deciding at what times that firearm is to be carried and how.

Regulations and standards get written. It’s called your T/O equipment, or table of organization equipment. Every rank, every role has a place within the Table of Organization, and if your role requires you to carry a Beretta 9mm pistol as your T/O weapon, then there you go.

It does not require any interference by an outside agency or civilian legal system.

I can tell you flat out that before that happens, before the T/O gets re-evaluated for recruiters to be required to carry firearms, then someone will have to admit that our armed forces in the United States of America are under credible and consistent threat on domestic soil by armed terrorists, whether foreign or domestic.

Despite all the talk in the media, ain’t nobody official from the federal government gone anywhere NEAR saying that, or admitting to it.

But let’s say our military leadership does change the mission requirements, they determine our military forces assigned to recruiter duty, or living off base, all need to be armed.

The next step are all those rules and regulations and standards that have to follow.

First off, it won’t be a case of just letting military personnel carry their personally owned firearms. Not in this lifetime.

This may surprise you, but most active duty military don’t OWN personal firearms. Not while they’re active and living on base. If they do have them, they mostly have them at their parent’s or relatives home, or at a friend’s house off base.

Why?

Because if you have a personally owned firearm on base, you have to keep it stored in the on-base armory, where it is controlled, maintained and issued by the armorers just like any government owned firearm, and if you want to check your personally owned weapon out to go hunting, then you have to go there and request it, fill out the inventory control card, and after shooting it you have to clean it before they let you check it back in.

Most people don’t want to deal with the hassle.

Also, there will not be a requirement that active duty military must spend personal funds to purchase a firearm for official use. So no, no they won’t make active duty recruiters carry personal firearms. And I cannot see them allowing the possession and carry of personally owned firearms while on duty in uniform. I just cannot see that happening, because holsters and rifle slings and safety and OMG just no.

No, if the mission changes so our recruiters need to carry a firearm for personal defense, it will have to be an official firearm identified and supplied by the military, controlled under armory conditions and inventory rules, and the service member will have to train with it and qualify on the range with it.

So, on to the next one. Armory and logistics.

The military will have to get enough inventory of these firearms to issue out to meet this new requirement. Also ammunition. Also all associated equipment like holsters, etc.

Training in the rules and regulations on grooming and cleanliness standards will have to be provided, since  aside from Military Police and officers, few active duty servicepeople are ever issued a pistol for their T/O weapon. Your average Marine sure as heck knows how to march with and salute with a rifle in his possession, but a pistol?

Yes, these are important considerations. You don’t just hand a pistol and holster to a Sergeant on recruiter duty and tell him to figure it out.

And finally, one of the biggest considerations; safety and public opinion.

Before the recruiters are assigned weapons and ammo and directed when and how to carry them, someone in the military leadership will have to decide that the benefits of arming the recruiters outweigh the potential negatives of loss of life, bad press and other fallout that would come from an active duty service person firing on and wounding or killing a civilian when it wasn’t in response to an actual terrorist assault.

If you arm a shitload of recruiters, you HAVE to address the conditions that permit those recruiters to use those weapons.

Only in defense of themselves? What about in defense of others? All service people swear an oath to protect and defend the citizens of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That’s pretty fucking cut and dried. it doesn’t get much plainer than that.

Yes, there is training provided on when it is appropriate to apply lethal force. Yes, that training can and would be freshened up for everyone involved. But it is a consideration that would have to be rexamined in light of arming active duty people and sending them out to interact with civilians all the time. The training is normally focused on what to do while on active guard duty and witnessing a security breach, or in the field, not when walking across a mini-mall parking lot to your POV.

But this is the real world, and if you’ve never been in the active military you have no freaking idea how much your base and unit commanders fear and dread having their Marines or whatever get into trouble with civilians off base.

No, really. You really have no idea.

Just for a moment try to imagine that the unit commander is the father of 200 or more smelly, messy testoterone-addled teenagers whose only desire is to get out of the house, get drunk and get laid at any opportunity.

What is worse is none of those kids are yours, they come from your wife’s former marriage. So you’ve got all the responsibility, but you aren’t related to those pains in the ass by blood.

And finally, realize that these kids are off base, out of your control, and when or if they get into trouble it will be with civilian authorities that are going to resent having your charges out of their legal control because they fall under the UCMJ for most things.

That base or unit commander, therefore, rarely feels much mercy towards someone that fucks up to the point that the civilian law ges involved, from say a DUI off base.

You cannot imagine the reaming you endure and the punitive actions that can be taken when a dry cleaning store owner calls your base commander to tell him, personally, that Private Dumbschmuck wrote him a bad check for the uniform dry cleaning bill.

Think about it.

Now we’re talking about those military leaders having to address how to deal with having all those recruiters, working out of small offices all over the country, being armed and living exclusively among civilians all the time, with the increased potential for incidents that would come with it.

So there you go. Those are just some of the real issues involved behind the scenes right now while people are yelling about how OF COURSE our active duty military should be armed and why hasn’t it happened already, jerk that knee.

Could be those folks are right. Maybe our recruiters should be armed. Maybe ALL active duty military should be armed while not actively on base or at a secured facility.

But those decisions need to be made after careful consideration of all the many aspects of this change, and as part of an overall analysis of how to respond to the situation as a whole.

I can assure you that if our military leaders are looking at the pros and cons of increasing defensive capabilities on an individual basis among recruiters and off-base active duty military, they are also looking at ways to be proactive and go on the offensive, identifying the threats in each community and taking action against them to neutralize them before it gets to a shooting at a strip mall.

That would require increased military intelligence and cooperation with local and federal law enforcement, but those are the kinds of things they WILL be examining.

This isn’t going to be about a sudden popular fad in the media asking why they’re not arming recruiters.

It’s going to be about analyzing the overall threat, and how best to address it. And just tossing guns to recruiters isn’t going to be the only solution discussed, or the only layer to the solution, if any, that they eventually go with.

Never lose sight of the fact that before any of this happens, there will have to be an official recognition by the government and the armed forces that this is a serious ongoing threat that needs to be faced. I’ll be honest, our current sitting President does not seem capable of using the term ‘terrorist’ or of acknowledging that anything out of the ordinary is happening in America. Can’t fix it if you’re too proud to admit it’s broke.

In the short term, I’d expect many, many, many safety briefings and terrorism counteraction classes are being given and an overall “let’s be careful out there” message is being delivered to the troops.

If WoW PVP had other popular PVP modes

Yesterday Blizzard revealed they were developing a ‘Mercenary’ mode for battleground queing.

In brief, it’s a system that would speed up queue times by letting members of an over-represented faction play on the opposing faction team for that match.

I like that Blizzard are very careful about there being ‘lore’ reasons behind all the pvp content the players have available. There needs to be some small suspension of disbelief in the number of times the battle for Alterac Valley plays out, but everything has to this date had to be explainable in terms of lore and story and setting and motivation.

So it is with Mercenary mode. A simple conceit that allows us to imagine, if only for a moment, that some traditionally Alliance races have individuals that would be willing (for a wage or a cause) to join in on the other side.

Sounds pretty cool to me.

I’m sure a lot of questions immediately spring to the minds of the perpetual complainers. “What about people who join a match intending to throw it for their friends on the other side!” Etc, etc, ohmygodarewebacktothat.

I remember a time, lost to the pages of history, where you could have characters of only one faction on a server. You could go Horde or Alliance on a server, but not both. Why? Because OMG what if your friends on Alliance were going to PvP and you could switch to Horde and listen in on enemy plans WTFQQBBQ.

Yeah, that was a thing. Didn’t really happen because, as we all discovered, outside of flaming forum posts nobody ended up having the energy to truly give a shit what the other side was planning. I mean really, nobody has time for that shit.

Remember when Transmog was impossible to consider implementing because of how game breaking it would be for pvp if people couldn’t evaluate your power level by recognizing the look of the individual pieces of gear you had equipped?

Oh yeah, you think I’m kidding. That was also really a thing, and some people actually took that argument seriously.

Moving on…

I like this idea, I think it sounds fun, spices things up and adds some additional flavor options.

But I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere near far enough, and I wonder if the desire to match gameplay into existing lore and story are limiting our options.

As an example.

We have these wonderful maps for PvP battelgrounds, places like Alterac Valley, just as an example.

These maps, if present in a traditional first person shooter game, would each have multiple mission types you could choose from. capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, you know the drill.

We get one type of battle built in to each map. Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if we could use these maps for other types of missions? Missions that perhaps wouldn’t use the looking for more / automatic matchmaker function, but would instead open them up for inner-guild or cross-realm friend gameplay events?

My first example of what I’m talking about, using Alterac Valley, would be a Snipe Hunt.

A group of friends or guildies, all same faction, group up into a raid and queue up for the battle.

The existing looking for group has role verification. You get a popup offering you the different types of role you are willing to queue for based on the capabilities if your class.

In this case though, it wouldn’t be a role check for tank, healer or DPS. Instead it would be a check for Hunter or Hunted.

In Snipe Hunt, one person would be the Hunted, and everyone else would be the Hunters.

That one person would be the target of everyone else. Obviously a class with stealth capabilities would be great for this, but consider this;

The first question everyone would have is, why not gang up in groups of four and ensure that whichever group finds the Hunted can lock them down and insta kill them?

My answer to that is, proximity based health and dps debuffs. The closer a Hunter is to other Hunters, the lower the debuff drops their health, damage and related atributes like armor.

If you hunt as a pack of four, you will be more effective in terms of numbers and multitasking but you will still have the effective health and combined damage of one player, the average of all four combined.

Can you imagine the fun of a stealthed Hunted sneaking up on a group of four Hunters and killing them all in a burst of Killing Spree or Barrage because of how weak they were when clumped up?

One grenade, man. Just one grenade. Don’t bunch up! Get scouts out on the flanks, damn it!

It would be a balancing act, but I think you could tweak the gameplay into something that would be fun and thrilling, especially if there were bonus objectives like capture the flag or treasures to steal or other things that could give the Hunted multiple paths to gather enough points to hit a win objective.

If it were all capture the flag, then the Hunted turn turtle, and if there are no capture points or treasures than there is no reason for a Hunted to go roaming instead of hiding in stealth in a corner. But give the Hunted a time limit and a point total to reach, and make each Hunter kill, flag point or treasure worth a certain number of points and the Hunted gets plenty of options to make the flow unpredictable.

Moving away from the gametype, think how you would feel being able to join a group of guildies for a night of “Hunt the Guild Leader”, where everyone gets to go into a battlegroun with one goal… hunt your guild leader down and kill him with extreme prejudice.

Or a cross-server group of Twitter friends able to group up with the express goal of killing someone like Rades. Rades is a badass hunter, he could handle it. Right?

Same-faction grouping for different pvp modes in battlegrounds wouldn’t really fit in with lore or story, AT ALL, but I think it would inject a lot of life into the game and add lots of possibilitiies for friends to get together and do things together outside of formal pve raiding or playing against strangers.

With all the innovation taking place in FPS games, i’d love to see more gameplay modes available for our existing battlegrounds. Heck, even tourist modes for Battlegrounds would be a hoot.

What do you think? Do you have any passing ideas for spicing up pvp by keeping the battle within your circle of friends?

Adventures in the Timeless Jungle

With the advent of Patch 6.2, I tried to have as few expectations as possible. Spoilers and all that.

Still, it’s hard to be spoiler free when you’re online and surrounded by enthusiastic people who enjoy sharing the things they look forward to, especially with such a big unknown as ‘what will we be doing next?’.

So I knew there would be rare mobs and treasure chests that had a spawn cycle similar to the Timeless Isle from MoP.

I also knew there would be ships and a shipyard, but I didn’t give much of a ship. Can I get on them and take my piracy on the high seas like in Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag? No? Oh, I get to send faceless crews off to do missions for me and you’ll let me know how they turned out?

Okay. Well then. I hope you go have fun! Bring back some fruit and little pink umbrellas so I can enjoy a nice tropical drink while I bask in the sunshine here on my beach because I guess I’m not going on a cruise ship with you. Because I’m the hero. /sip.

It’s safe to say I didn’t know the specifics, but what I did know didn’t exactly flip my skirt up in excitement.

But that was then, and along came Tuesday, so let’s go see this Timeless Jungle.

So far, I have to say it’s changing my expectations.

The terrain is as varied as the rest of Draenor, but much more cluttered, claustrophobic, atmospheric. I’m enjoying it. There is definitely more of a feeling of tension moving around.

There are bad guys everywhere it seems, crammed into every nook and cranny.

And yes, just like in the Timeless Isle there are rare mobs on respawn timers everywhere, and yes there are already camping groups waiting for their specific highly desired spawn. With the added complication of the Group Finder and cross realm match making, which I think is going to be a big help. Heck, thanks to group finder we filled out a 40 person raid group to take down the Whale Shark off the Northeast coast of the jungle last night to get our Shipyard blueprints, took less than 10 minutes to finll the entire group. That plus inviting friends, of course.

Before I go too much farther into the good, I have some grumpiness to get off my butt. let’s get this out of the way.

There are factions grinds, and my apologies to Blizzard but this ‘kinder gentler rep grind’ I was told about is bullshit. I’d rather grind mobs and unlock rep at MY pace then be locked behind gated daily quests that force me to drag it out over weeks.

Here’s the horrible truth about the new reputation system, at least for your initial faction-specific reputation; it still sucks.

there are two ways we’ve seen this, and each has it’s pros and cons.

Having only mob kills give rep means you have to grind mobs to get your rep and with a teeny bit of rep per kill, it will take a long time to amass vast quantities. But at least when you have a really big block of time, like say a day off from work on Saturday, you can get in there and get some serious grinding done.

Having only daily quests give you rep means that yes yuo can log in and do one big event for a large chunk of rep, but you can’t go out and spend all day grinding if yuo have a sudden sufficiency of free time. You have no choice but to do the limited quests available in a single day, and even if you have plenty of time you run out of rep quests before you might run out of desire to do them. And if you have too little time to do even the single quest in a given day, I know I feel like each day I don’t log in and do them is another day I’m falling farther and farther behind with NO WAY TO CATCH UP TO MY FRIENDS.

The solution?

ADD BOTH METHODS instead of this either or crap. /rant off.

Okay, so I got that out of my system, and it was important for me to say something because Blizzard made a lot out of how they heard our pain from the initial WoD rep grinds and made them so much better. Um, no. When I finally got the TIME to do rep grinds, it took me less than a week to finish all FOUR. And it felt great.

Also, I’d like to point out that the original Warlords of Draenor reputations had no impact on gameplay or gating content. They provided cosmetic items, mounts, pets, followers. Most of those items shared to your account, so only ONE character really needed to do any of them.

Now, there is actual content for our mission success gated behind reputations, meaning every character that we want to have a viable shipyard or legendary progression needs to do those same rep grinds, to some extent. No, honored ain’t that long a slog but it’s more than my Priest or Druid needed to do so far. Just an observation.

So, as far as the concept of reputation grinds being so much better now? I have a saying that I find applicable.

Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Okay, seriously, moving past that. The actual area is so much better than that.

I went into Tanaan Jungle, and what I’m finding is I really like the hunt for rares, the seeking of the Equipment Blueprints for my Shipyard, the random events and activities and the general feeling of hustle and bustle.

I also like how some of the reputation is at least done in different ways, like instead of just daily quests one of them DOES require you to farm mobs to get claws, to earn your right to challenge more powerful bosses for better reputation. That sounds pretty good, right? earning the right to challenge an opponent to increase your reputation with their enemies? I like that.

What has surprised me is how powerful the normal mobs out there are.

I’m running as a Warlock with a tanking AoE demon pet and wearing damn near iLevel 700 raid gear. I didn’t expect each generic mob fight to be so stiff, and to have to watch where I was going to the extent that I am.

I also didn’t expect the entire area of the Throne of Kiljaeden, where lots of rares and quests and stuff are, to be elites.

I can kill them one on one, even two on one sure, but it takes a lot longer than I expected.

I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying it’s unexpected.

Running around in there solo for a few days, it felt pretty slow. Things take a while to die.

On the flip side, I’m using Avianna’s Feather on cooldown to get around fast. That thing is a must have.

So I was getting kind of down in the mouth about it. I mean, here’s the new content and if it’s this stiff on my raid geared tank-having character, what the hell would my squishy Rogue or Priest think? I get sudden images of a train rolling down the track. POW! right in the kisser!

And then this morning, while I logged in for a few minutes to see if maybe I could score a rare, I found that a bunch of guildies were also on and I joined them while they bopped around slaying rares by the dozens, including tearing through the Throne of Kiljaeden.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

If you actually have a group of friends with you, even if none of them are healers, everything in that zone clicks and it’s perfectly balanced. It is good to have a tank, but I bet a Hunter with a tanking pet and a healer could get along fine.

With a small group, the timing feels perfect. The mobs are just tough enough to let you cut loose with your rotations and not feel like the thing will be dead before your first cast gets off, and soft enough to not feel you’re gonna insta-wipe when you pull an extra pack.

Suddenly, reputation grinds like collecting claws makes PERFECT sense, as long as you approach those areas of Tanaan Jungle as an opportunity to get together with just a couple of other friends and make a go of it for an hour or two.

For me it was a really nice sense of shifting perspectives. Instead of grousing about how tough the opponents are, I started seeing that some areas are fine for soloing, and others are balanced to encourage you to go play with friends for a bit.

Do you HAVE to? Not really. Like I said, I didn’t know any better. I took my Warlock up to the Throne area on Tuesday night, and I had it all to myself. It took me a long time, but I did go up there and I did kill quite a lot of enemies and explored around a bit. I just had to take my time and be careful of positioning.

I know, it’s still early days. Maybe things will change and I’ll be grumpy again next week.

But for right now, my first real impressions are that I like it. In fact, I love it. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time there doing it. It ain’t no place to relax. Get in, get it done, get the heck out.

My hope is, not only will this encourage ME to find other friends to play with on a regular basis but that other people will also feel inspired to want to play together instead of always being a lone wolf. It doesn’t do much good to want to play with friends if everyone else is too busy getting their soloing done. :)

One last thing.

This really does highlight how awesome the Barracks is, and the ability to have a Bodyguard to follow you around. And how wonderfully useful it was for Blizzard to give us multiple different types of potential Bodyguards that we can pick from depending on what WE think we need to fit our playstyle. I have a tank I can control as a Warlock or Hunter, so I’d rather have a healer or DPS along to help out.

But I can promise you, my Priest, if she ever goes there, will have a pet tank as a Bodyguard, 100% guaranteed.

Never really NEEDED a Bodyguard before, but now? Now I can definitely feel the benefit, no matter how billy badass I think I am.

All things considered, I have to give the patch a tentative Bear Butt Up.

Farming Sha’tari Defense Rep – The Quick Way

Shatari Defense Trading Post - mount and building

This morning, I finished the last of my pre-6.2 patch bucket list. I went from Neutral to Exalted with Sha’tari Defense, the reputation associated with the Garrison Trading Post, in three hours.

It was fast, it was fun, it was easy.

I’ve avoided working on this reputation because of the insane length of time it would take to solo it out. There will be things like a Garrison Quest in patch 6.2 that gives 1000 rep towards it that will help, but if you’re looking to clear the decks BEFORE the patch drops, maybe this will help out.

The pre-requisites to accomplish this are having an Alliance Trading Post at least to level 2 so that you unlock the Sha’tari Defense reputation, and preferably to level 3 for an extra 20% reputation boost. It is very helpful to also have a Battle Standard of Cooperation or other Guild Banner (sold from Guild Vendors) that you can drop on cooldown to award bonus rep. Oh yeah, and be level 100, of course.

The way I did it is the same way I see most people getting it done lately, forming a 5 person group in the Custom Group Finder tool, and then hitting the Path of Glory.

You see, there is a place in the Northeast corner of Talador called the Path of Glory, leading right to the massive iron gates blocking the way to the jungle.


Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - smallYou can get here quite easily as Alliance by flying to Fort Wrynn (where you started in the zone) and riding along the path to the place where it forks before the citadel.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - map

Here you will find the Path of Glory, just by taking the branch of the path to the right. It’s a very short cul-de-sac that ends at the massive Iron Gates. And before these gates, tasty, tasty elite mobs that award Sha’tari Defense reputation. Lots of it. EACH.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 2

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 3

While I’m sure my Death Knight pal Monstre could walk in here and solo them all, I’m not quite so sturdy.

So, it’s time to find some friends, fast.

There are LOTS of folks trying to get this rep done. All you need to do is start or join a 5 person group. Raid groups larger than 5 don’t receive rep for kills, so you need to make a 5 person one to get this done.

Just in case you haven’t used the new Dungeon Finder tools to do this before, you need to choose Premade Groups and then the Custom sub-category.

Dungeon Finder tool 1

Dungeon Finder tool 2

If you’re a tank or healer, it should be simple to find a group. If you’re DPS, you may want to make your own.

I was fortunate enough to join a group as DPS that still had a few open slots. We ended up with a raid geared Monk tank, two destro Warlocks, a balance Druid and an arms Warrior. No, we had no healer, and yes, that made some of the pulls where we grabbed everything a little tricky. We had to time things to make the really big pulls when the tank had a lot of cooldowns available.

Still and all, dropping the banners, using our Warlock AoE stuns, dropping massive AoE damage (gotta love Rain of Fire and Fire and Brimstone), even without any heals we cleared the area in front of the gates repeatedly as soon as the mobs respawned. And the spawn FAST.

We’d usually still be finishing off the last few from barrel toss pulls as the respawns began trickling in. You are not left waiting.

Three hours of clearing the area, minus probably a half an hour of messing around as people wanted to hearth to Garrison to buy banners from the guild vendor and be summoned back, then hearth to the Garrison to upgrade (or build!) their Trading Posts and then be summoned back. Or go walk their dog. Or look for a garage remote for some strange reason.

The rewards for finishing this rep are pretty good. Aside from a really nice set of Plate armor that is transmoggable (and binds on pickup, so if you want it make sure to run this on your plate-wearing character!) there is also the nice bloody elephant mount shown above, and two toys, one of which transforms you into a Draenei plate-wearing Sha’tari Defender for an hour. Transforming items that last an hour are pretty rare, so it’s a very nice toy.

Oh yeah, and you’ll be able to buy the Sky Fry pet, as well, if you haven’t bought him off the Auction House.

Personally, I’d recommend a standard 5 person group of tank, healer and three DPS instead of trying it with no heals. All it takes is grabbing a group too big with no tanking cooldown available and you’re in for a short run back from the graveyard.

I’ve been wanting to do this and putting it off for at least five months now, all because I didn’t want to solo an endless grind.

But a three hour clear? I think any of us can handle that, if only once. And if you don’t get all the way there with your first group, there is always another you can join or form.

Did I mention that group finder is cross-server? Just in case you haven’t ever used it and were worried not many might know of it or use it from your low population server. No, it’s widely used, and extremely convenient.

Just be careful that the server you get pulled into doesn’t change you from PvE to PvP… or accept it and be prepared to maybe farm some honor while you work. :)

I don’t know what will happen when patch 6.2 comes along. I think this area in front of the gates to the jungle will be opened and the elite mobs will no longer be so convenient to munch on. Maybe in three days you’ll be back to farming reputation in the harbor or Shattrath City.

Whatever happens, if you’ve been hanging back, I hope this encourages you to take the step to get it done if you’re at all wanting the toys, mount and pet. I know I’m very happy I did.

Only thing that would have made it better was if I’d done it with some friends.

Half an Idea – Injecting Randomness into Gameplay

E3 is going on right now, and aside from making me really glad to have bought an Xbox One, it’s pretty cool to see the new ideas and gorgeous concept videos on screen. I love a slick trailer.

Still, there is a reason Penny Arcade coined the term ‘bullshot’ to refer to advance release screenshots full of bullshit hype that doesn’t reflect real gameplay. I’ll enjoy the promise and then judge the execution, just like most other gamers I know.

While looking at all of these game trailers that are coming out, I had a thought occur to me on what could be a fun addition to mutliplayer shooter gaming that I just haven’t seen done yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

There are a lot of first person shooter games already out that incorporate leveling and loot aspects. It’s a hugely successful genre, and everyone is always looking for a way to spice things up, including how to generate real surprise.

What I was thinking was, what about mid-game context sensitive bonus objectives with enticing loot or rewards?

Here’s what I mean in actual gameplay.

Say you’re playing multiplayer, with strangers from the lobby or with friends, maybe a Destiny style game that has gear loot drops. Good stuff that is hard to get, your infamous rare ‘purple drop’.

The five of you are working together towards the common objective, go through this terrain and avoid or kill the trash mobs, get to the boss fight, down the boss and then pick up the flag/salvage the wreckage and extract to the starting point to finish.

But as your group is working through the trash, player A gets a pop-up window only she sees, saying ‘Bonus Objective – kill 10 trash mobs in 30 seconds or less within the next two minutes for epic weapon reward.’

That player, and only that player, now has a choice to make. Ignore the bonus objective that has a timer ticking and miss out on that oh so tasty chance at good loot… or go for it.

The danger to this objective is that it would be tuned so as to achieve it, you would have to ignore smart blocking and cover mechanics to go full rambo run-and-gun. You would have to push like an idiot to get that many kills, exposing yourself to enemy fire and risking your entire team getting wiped as you break cover. Risk vs reward, and only you know what is happening. Unless you are on voicechat and choose to share the news of your opportunity. And what makes it so enticing is, even if the team wipes, if you completed your objective first, you got that promised piece of loot.

Or another scenario. You and your group have made it to the boss fight, you’re taking it down, and at the 15% health mark you get a popup window, ‘Bonus Objective – Kill one member of your team to gain +50% chance at Legendary drop.’

Do you do it? Do you swivel around and kill a teammate at the tail end of a boss fight, making the whole thing even more difficult for everyone and screw your partners over just for a chance of better loot?

Mid-game bonus objectives to introduce a sense of randomness, to force you to make real decisions on the fly balancing risk vs reward, with enough of a variety that you can’t easily game it. And the point is to simulate the human element, the truth that you can’t ever really know the mind and heart of the person you’re with. You have to trust them. And to make trust matter, there has to be a reason for someone to be tempted to break that trust.

They don’t all have to be designed to screw over your teammates.

There could be objectives to fall back and ‘take 30 seconds to rest’ while engaged in combat or advancing through terrain, something that can provide a small disruption to the rest of the group unless they are well coordinated.

The point of all of these is not specifically to encourage players to troll a group, although that could be the result.

As I said, the point would be to introduce the human element that is present in all real life events. That randomness, the unpredictability of human nature under extreme stress.

The teammate with a sudden case of nerves that freezes in combat, the kill-crazy idiot that loses their head and forgets to duck, the buddy that runs too hard and has to catch their breath right when things go bad. The team mates on a heist that at the last minute turn on their partners to try and take the loot for themselves.

The team member that sees a friend about to take a rocket to the face, and leaps in front to take it themself, sacrificing their life for their friend.

Greed. Fear. Rage. Protectiveness. Caution.

In a video game where your character suffers instead of you, you the player in control may not feel the emotions your character would in that situation, but mid-game bonus objectives could entice you to ACT as if you were suddenly influenced by strong feelings.

To your fellow players, the effect would be as if you really did crack under pressure or flee the fight, or go nuts and walk into the open like Kurt Russell in Tombstone.

It’s a half an idea at most, but there are bones in it that I think could be fleshed out into something pretty damn fun, especially in a team based multiplayer shooter. Even among friends using voice chat together and able to warn each other, it would add a level of tension and suspense that would be an interesting addition to a game.

Okay, so here is where I hit publish, and someone tells me it’s already been done and by who. In a world with this many imaginative gamers, the possibility I came up with a new idea is ridiculous. But what the heck, I am enjoying imagining the possibilities to spice up my games.

Give me your feedback, what do you think? What kinds of mid-game bonus objectives do You think would toss a group a curveball in a fun way?

Storytime: What Goes Around Comes Around

ILiveForThisShit

I have something to share I really enjoyed, wanted to end the week on an up stroke.

The company I work for is pretty sizeable, with many branches spread across four states. With all of that, it’s family owned and still has that small ‘everyone knows everyone’ feel to it. Most everyone here was here at the start, when it all worked out of a small office in a strip mall.

What I guess I’m leading towards is that, while we work our butts off and get things done, and people are respectful to each other, there is an underlying relaxation among those of us that have been here a while and know each other.

Another important point is that my office is in what you’d call the ‘head shed’ or the corporate area. We’ve got sales outlets and repair facilities and stuff here too, but this is the location with the upper management, such as it is. You know, CFO, CEO, HR, etc. In fact, my office shares a wall with the HR office and if we talk too loud in here, she’ll hear it pretty easily.

So, all that out of the way.

We’ve been expanding my department, growing, working towards tripling our current workforce. Part of that has been hiring and training a new salesman, and now adding on a personal assistant for me.

Part of explosive growth means I’m up to my ass in alligators. I am what you call a single point source of failure. If I go on vacation, people shit themselves. I know most of you can relate to that.

So, instead of training my own personal assistant, I trained the new outside sales guy last month, and now I’m having HIM train my new assistant. They’re next to me though, so I can chime in with the view from above on why he’s being traing to do the stuff Kyle is showing him.

I know this may surprise you, but I’m both a bit of a smartass and a practical joker. I know! Crazy, right? I know I’m pretty uptight and all most of the time here, so you probably didn’t know I could loosen up around the office.

Turned out the salesman, Kyle, well he can dish it out as well as he can take it, and he’s a good guy, so we been messing with each other ever since he came onboard. And the new guy, Curt, he’s all right, he does seem a little high strung but he is the FNG so he’s been taking any good natured ribbing in stride. He can dish it out as well, but he’s so swamped trying to learn a million new systems that he is always walking around in sort of a mid-level panic attack. Kyle tells him that the last thing he needs to do is drink coffee, but hey, who among us can be the one to toss that stone?

So here we are, three of us in my office, with Kyle the sales guy hovering over my new assistant Curt’s shoulder, pointing out stuff like computer systems, contact lists, quoting and, oh yeah, our phone system.

We have this interesting phone system just got added earlier this year. We’ve got digital phones at each desk, and each computer has an app called the Shoretel Communicator which will let us answer our phone, get voicemail messages, forward voicemails to other extensions and all sorts of stuff right from the computer screen. I don’t even need to touch the phone.

This new phone thingie also has a built in Instant Message function. You can call up the app, type in an extension or an employee name, and pop them an internal IM to their desktop. never use it myself, I’m more of a call guy, because if I send you an IM, how do I know you’re at your desk to get it?

So I know what it is, but I don’t use it, and to be honest I don’t know anyone that DOES use it for anything at all except for personal bullshit gossip, and even then I ain’t in that loop. Ain’t nobody got time for that at my desk.

Earlier this week, my boss takes off for Florida to go visit with some vendors, get a free hat, maybe shoot a round of golf. I’ve got Kyle working with Curt and out of my hair so I can try and stay in front of the leading edge of the emergencies that come in every day. “Oh my god my crane is down, what do we do?” “Just take a deep breath, relax, I’ll move some things around and have someone there to fix it in about half an hour. Cool?”

So there I am, plugging away, and an IM window pops up on my screen showing “Curt says; SUCK IT FU&*#^$&”.

I look over and there the two of them are, giggling and pointing fingers at each other. Curt says “Hey, I didn’t send that”, and Kyle points back at him “Well I can promise you I didn’t type it!”

Turns out Kyle is showing Curt the IM part of the phone system, as a joke Curt typed that in to my name, and then as he reached to backspace it off, Kyle reached his gorilla arm around and slapped the Enter key on the keyboard numpad and sent it.

So Curt is freaking out, the two of them are pointing at each other, and I say, “Oh yeah, if that’s where we’re going with this, I’m going to get HR involved.”

And I click the little ‘add a person to the conversation’ button on the IM, type in our HR manager’s name, and hit enter.

Moments later, the IM window on both my and Curt’s computers adds a notice that HR has joined the conversation… and that means she got the entire conversation window.

Curt… Curt just freaked. As Kyle dissolved in laughter mixed with gasps of “ohmigod you didn’t just,” Curt leaped out of his chair and away from the computer, recoiling in fear like a rattlesnake just popped it’s head around the monitor stand.

He’s just losing it, I thoght he was stroking out right there, so I closed the window on my desk closing the IM session, and reassured him there was very little chance HR would have seen it. it’s all good, I’m sure it’s fine.

Curt is still standing there in a panic attack, breathing heavy, saying “OMG I’m going to get walked out of the company, I can’t believe you did that.”

Now, I’m laughing too hard to really reply, but Curt went to get more coffee and Kyle sat down and got his laughter under control.

I gave it enough time for Curt to come back and Kyle to get tucked in next to him going over something else, and then I quietly got up and walked on over to the HR office, poked my head in and said, “Hey, did you happen to see a pop up IM window a few minutes ago?”

Lori looked at me and replied, “Yes, but I don’t know what that was about.”

So I explained. In detail. In loving detail. The whole story.

So she lost her shit too, then she got her ‘I’m professional, no really” face on, and walked out of her office.

I’m still standing there in the corridor outside my office when I hear her walk in and annouce, “Okay, what exactly is going on in here? That was completely inappropriate in the office.”

Now Kyle has enough of a clue to start asking her if she’s serious, halfway laughing and halfway worried, but Curt went from gently vibrating to over the edge freaked in point two seconds.

Lori played it perfectly straight as long as she could, coming down on them like a ton of bricks, denying I’d said anything to her and approaching it as if she was at her desk when the “SUCK IT FU&$^%*” IM popped up and she was now investigating.

So BOTH Kyle and Curt are now losing their shit, and I’m out in the hallway and i just cannot control my laughing. I thought I was going to pass out, I was laughing so hard.

Lori finally couldn’t keep it going and broke in laughter, and i went in and we calmed Kyle and Curt down somewhat.

Curt needed a bit to climb down off of the ceiling, but eventually I think he was getting back down to normal. Somewhat.

I immediately follow up by texting my boss, who is on a plane somewhere winging his way back to us, and let him know that there are high tensions between Curt and kyle in the office. I think they’re having some seriousl personality conflicts.

Then about half an hour later, I text him again telling him there is no longer an issue, that HR had to get involved and Lori straightened everything out, but my boss should probably find out what HR had to do by calling Lori when he landed.

Shortly after his plane landed, I get a panicked text from my boss, now he’s freaking, what happened, did Curt quit? Did Kyle quit? What’s going on?

I repeat my text saying he needs to call HR, no I’m completely serious Lori had to straighten it out.

Now, I know my boss. I know HE’S now freaking out.

I walk around the corner to the HR office, just in time to catch Lori fielding a call from my boss.

And he was taken like a suckerfish, hook, line and sinker. He bought the whole thing.

By the time the real story was shared with him, my boss was about ready to piss his pants in panic over trying to fill TWO sudden vacancies just when both of them were about ready to be kicked out into the real world and make some money.

Then came the capper.

Since today is Friday, it was the FNG’s first payday with a real physical check.

So when Curt came in to the office, he found a paycheck in a white envelope waiting for him on his keyboard, with a note from HR telling him it was his severance pay and to clean out his desk.

Ahhhh.

I think a lot of important training got accomplished.

In a very short period of time, I managed to teach both the new guys and remind my boss what will happen if you fuck with me.

Also, I taught a very valuable lesson on the importance of logging out of your desk when you step away, because you really don’t want anyone else to be able to send message from your keyboard.

Like, you really don’t.

Now I get to wait and watch for when some or all of them try to get me back.

Hey, if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out, right? I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.

Best pack a lunch, me boyos.

Flying through the Possibilities

Flying in Warlords of Draenor continues to be a hot topic.

I see a lot of conversation coming from the bitter and cynical side of life. What I mean is, people assuming that the reasons we’re given for no flying in Draenor or future expansions aren’t the full reasons, that there are things they’re doing to cut costs or remove options to better control us, and then going on to speculate on what’s going on.

Everything from trying to slow our progress so we subscribe longer, all the way through to trying to cut developer time and costs so they don’t have to develop all of the world, just the parts we see from the ground.

Now, I’m a cynical bastard myself, I’m not going to lie. I also assume that there are multiple reasons behind the decision.

I guess one difference is, I’m not assuming the devs are out to get us, or that additional reasons are automatically out to screw us, the players, the consumers of content, the customers.

Say what you want, but I firmly believe Blizzard as a company and the developers as people love this game and want us to be happy playing it and giving them our money for value received. I have a hard time ascribing malice to any decision they make. Just saying, that may make me biased.

I’m used to the idea of multiple goals being accomplished with one task. It’s smart to try and do it, it’s efficient. If you have several goals you’d like to accomplish, it just makes sense to try and come up with a solution that hits several of them at once. You might run into a problem trying to hammer too many problems with one solution that doesn’t fit right, but if you can smoothly cover a few things with one change, that’s smart.

If you are solving multiple issues with one change, from a PR perspective it also makes sense to mention the reasons that will be viewed positively by the customers and downplay any additional tasks that benefit you, the company, from a cost savings perspective.

Saving time and money isn’t inherently evil, but if you went by the media any business trying to save money must be the biggest devils in the lower pits. Meanies. As if throwing money at a problem somehow automatically benefits the customer. I don’t know where that idea came from. Maybe the idea is, the more money thrown at something the more luxurious or triple-A the experience?

Whatever. I’m open to the idea that Blizzard as a company would like to improve the game experience for us, the players, and approach issues trying different things that will accomplish several goals. I also expect that in announcements they may choose to play up the things they hope benefit the customers and downplay the parts that may be seen as cutting content or saving development time.

I personally don’t care what the goals are, I just wish I knew them all because then we can more effectively look for comprehensive solutions that also allow us to keep flying.

For example, I do see the point of saying that removing flying helps to immerse players forcibly into the game world.

I look back on the game as I’ve played it over the years, and those areas that are most alive in my memory are those places from Vanilla where I had to work my ass off to travel from place to place and survive. Where I moved from tree to rock to bush killing things for a quest, and then having to take long boat rides back to island quest givers, trying to avoid wandering foes that I no longer had a quest to fight.

Man, some zones just flat out SUCKED for the distances traveled and the unneccesary fighting we had to do and all the travel. But. But I came to know those zones extremely well, to have mobs that I developed a real hate on for the way they intruded on roads and came to knock my butt off my mount and make me fight back or run away perma-slowed.

Was that a good play experience? Is that something to look back on with fondness or want back? That’s a different question. I came to know those areas as places somehow more real, more tangible to me as a player than stuff in later expansions. The world seemed so much bigger when I had to ride my mount or walk my happy ass from place to place, collecting flight points and trying not to get eaten.

I still remember that first death march I made as a lowbie Druid from Darnassus to Stormwind to Booty Bay in an effort to get flight points well before I should legitimately ever have seen those zones. Why? I don’t know, it’s been almost a decade now. I think I was all excited to be ‘getting ahead of the game’ by having access to all of these remote regions before I came across them in normal play. Like I was somehow getting one over on the game, getting that access.

It says something that a game experience from almost a decade ago is still well remembered because of how intense it was trying to get through those areas on foot.

But all that really says is, it’s a valid idea to limit flight until after all the quests and content in an area are complete. As a reason to say we never need to fly there at all? Hold that thought.

What about, just off the top of my head, Archeaology? Where the travel from zone to zone and even from site to site within a zone seems specifically designed to require flight to do anything without being tedious or having to constantly fight pathing elites.

It seems to me that if we were only trying to discuss ways of accomplishing the one goal, more immersion in the content, then there are suggestions we could make to help find an alternative to banning all flight.

For example, what if flight in a zone were gated behind the Loremaster achievement for questing in that zone? Or even the overall Loremaster achievement for the entire continent?

That would give you a goal that drives you to finish not just the quests needed to level to 100, but all of the questing content for that expansion. At least on one character.

If future content patches are bringing new quests to a new, previously locked zone then that still works fine, because until all the new content is done that new zone can still be locked off from flying.

Is the concern not just quest content but also all the treasures to discover, the jumping puzzles to solve, the rares to find and kill?

Then add achievements for completing those to the overall meta achievement that you need tofinish to unlock flying.

After all, once you’ve completed all of the quests, found all of the treasures, killed all of the rares and solved all of the annoyingly coded and painfully bad jumping puzzles, haven’t you seen the content that you were intended to see from the ground? At this point, flying just adds another wonderful reward to all of that gameplay, and unlocks the ability to observe and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Draenor, take great screenshots, duck into those nooks and crannies you missed the first time around and play full on tourist, without detracting from the creative vision.

This is one reason why, even if there are multiple goals being taken care of with the removal of flying, I would like to know what all of them are.

Until we know what goals this is meant to solve, we have no way of effectively helping to discuss potential solutions that would be well received by the community in general.

As things are now, there are a lot of unhappy people who seem to feel that the core issue is ‘Blizzard isn’t listening to us because they’ve got secret reasons to do this to us’.

Do I want to fly my internet dragons through the skies of Draenor? Absolutely.

I spend all of my non-raid time in my Garrison. I don’t really want to get out there because traveling anywhere is a pain in the ass. I’d love to do Archeaology, but every time I get out there I get tired of the riding around from place to place on my ground mounts when the zones change.

I know Blizzard wants me active in the game world. Taking flight away isn’t doing it. Even with my badass raid geared characters that can steamroll rare mobs, I don’t want to get out there because of all the variable terrain. Moving from place to place when you’ve got to go a long way around the crevices, canyons, mountains and cliffs is a huge pain and, contrary to previous posts I’ve made, I don’t always want to use Avianna’s Feather. I like the RP aspects of mounting up and soaring into the sky on my dragon.

I know that’s just me, but I like to think that there should be a way to accomplish what Blizzard wants to get done while still opening the world up to us for flying.

I hope something gets worked out.