The BBB is hiring!

Hold up, don’t get too excited.

I ain’t hiring for the blog.

I’m not even hiring for anything game related.

I’m hiring someone for a real job.

Networking is one of the ways in which people are supposed to get good leads on positions that may be available. Consider this post as part of your network.

I have an opening for a 3rd shift Machine Maintenance Technician that I am looking to fill as soon as possible. This is a new position that has been created to fill my department’s growing needs.

The candidate I am looking for needs to be skilled, experienced and love what they do. Machine Maintenance Technicians are the investigative detectives of a production facility. People come to us with problems they just can’t solve on their own, and ask us to make all things clear and restore hope and order. Oh, and get things running again so we be making money.

This is a real posting for a position in my department. I expect to act this upcoming week on all initial phone screenings and begin arranging interviews.

If you are, specifically, a qualified and experienced Machine Maintenance Technician available for 3rd shift work in the Minnesota Twin Cities metro area, go to the bottom of this post to view the required qualifications.

If after reading the list of qualifications you feel you are qualified and experienced, and the position interests you, please email me at and I will send you the link to the posting.

All resumes are to be sent in following the link, the same as all others we are considering. Resumes sent in using the posting link will go directly to Human Resources, will follow our established corporate HR procedures, and the hiring process will follow all appropriate rules and regulations, local, state and federal.

This is not a method to bypass anything, it is simply an opportunity that is available for someone with the right skills and experience, and having been the subject of a layoff myself in the not-so-distant past, I want to make sure I do my part to get the word out. 

The window for sending in a resume will close on 5/7/10, so if you are interested, act now.

Continue reading

Hey, does this iPhone blog addon work?

I have an addon for the blog website, I’m using it at the suggestion of a reader for a few weeks now.

Apparently, people have these smartphone thingies these days they can use to surf the web.

That’s pretty cool. Why, I was just using my luggable computer the other day (the one with the orange plasma screen) and thinking that portable computing is really neat.

Anyway, I installed an addon here that is supposed to let folks using iPhones, Blackberrys, Droids and similar devices choose a view of the blog that is easier to read or navigate.

Of course, I don’t have any of those devices, nor does anyone I know, so I have no idea if it works, how it works, any of it.

It’s magic!

If you have one of those devices, could you please do me a favor, check the blog website out, and drop me a comment letting me know if things are okay? I’d hate to have it just be broken and not know about it.


10’s versus 25’s

Look, I’m going to bottom line this, because the previous post about Cataclysm raid changes is seeing some excellent points, but it’s drifting around a bit.

Let’s cut to the chase.

The question isn’t “Do 25’s deserve better rewards than 10’s”, or “Are 25’s harder than 10’s”, or even “What should be used to entice people to play in 25’s”.

The question is, “Can 25 man raids really be as fun as 10’s to play in, if most people have to be bribed to take part in them?”

That’s the question at play here.

If you would prefer to play with 25 people over 10 people, then if the rewards are the same, it doesn’t matter, does it?

If the only reason you personally raid in 25’s is because you are bribed with better loot, but given the choice, all other things being equal, you’d rather play as part of a more intimate gathering of 10, with less chance for asshat drama… well then.

If you need a raid environment where so many bodies are necessary to win that your asshat or immature behavior will be tolerated just so people can get a big enough group together to get better loot rewards, I can imagine you’re very unhappy right about now.

It really does seem that what Blizzard is saying is, if you prefer playing with 25 people, if that feels more epic, then do so and enjoy the game. 

But if you prefer playing with 10 people, if you feel that a more intimate group will be more fun for you, then you can do that as well, for an equally viable, equally rewarding experience.

Your choice.

Likewise with having a capped weekly point system to do away with having to run daily Heroics you don’t like to get Emblems. 

If you have to be bribed to do it, then they’re removing the bribe. Now, if you still want to do it for fun, go for it. But it will be by your own choice, not because you have to.

I have heard a lot of arguments one way and the other, but in my opinion, if you are playing the game, or a part of the game, you should be doing it because it’s fun, not because you feel you have to.

If this change they are making results in guilds fragmenting into smaller groups of friends who would prefer to raid in a more intimate environment, then the players are voting based on fun.

I’ll bet there will still be 25 man raid groups. I bet there will still be people who prefer the epic feel of controlled chaos and massive splash effects. As Dechion posted on his blog recently, there is a big difference in feel, and they’re a lot of fun with a great group.

But removing the bribes, and letting people vote based on which one people would rather play in is full of win.

“But wait, 10’s aren’t more fun, they’re just easier to organise”.

Umm… so they’re still more fun for the raid leader/organizer, right? Or don’t those people count too?

Just something to think of.

Sherlock Holmes, we meet again for the first time!

For the patient among us, Sherlock Holmes, as re-imagined by Guy Ritchie, was released on DVD Tuesday.

You know. For those of us that didn’t see it in theatres, pay per view, at the dollar cinema, or bought it a month ago in stores.

I obtained it from the cherished Redbox at our local McDonalds, and watched it Tuesday evening.

Goody for you, you get to read my thoughts on the subject.

Or, you now “Mark as read” and move the hell on.

As a large part of my thoughts are grumpy, well, your call.


Good call!

Why, you might ask, did I wait until now to watch the movie?

My reasons for delaying were that the reviews and comments I read about the film were mixed, but mostly poor. Most reviews I saw said that while the acting was enjoyable for fans of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr, the plot was confused, difficult to follow, not very good, mixed up, etc.

Also, I saw reviews that said that there was very little of the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes within the movie. It was, in their words, an action mix ’em up with a bad plot but fun buddy cop hijinks.

I am a true fan of Sherlock Holmes, so I was going to go see it anyway, but that kind of thing certainly put me off. 

Upshot is, I didn’t see the movie in the theater.

Moron. I’m a bloody moron. Why, oh why do I keep thinking that movie critics have any clue whatsoever about anything they say?

Mission Impossible should have clued me in. When the critics panned it as a horrible movie because the plot was incomprehensible, whereas I found the plot 100% clear and engaging, and I enjoyed the intrigue every bit of the way, I should have known.

m not the sharpest axe in the shed, but I swear, most movie critics are simply too stupid to follow anything that isn’t spoon fed to them with a Cliff Notes synopsis. And if they end up feeling stupid, then the plot must suck, right?

Who is the greater fool, then, when I persist in allowing myself to be guided by known idiots.

I’m not talking out of my butt here.

Before I talk about my impression of the Guy Ritchie version of Sherlock Holmes, I’d like to establish a certain level of credibility towards why I feel I just might have the qualifications to share my opinion on this subject.

First, of course, I’ve read all of the stories.

One of my fondest literary memories of all time was when I visited my uncle’s home, and found a thin, threadbare copy of a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories on his bookshelf. It was a slim volume that combined the stories from the Adventures and the Memoirs.

Ah, I feel the beginnings of a Bearwall. Here we go…

Digression towards education.

Let’s talk for a moment about the importance of the well-stocked library of classics.

My family would occasionally visit my aunt and uncle, who I found out much later in life was a retired Major in the US Marines.

As the neighborhood my uncle lived in had no other children my age to play with, and no TV (yes, that’s right, no TV. It was common for homes back then not to bother with TV. There was nothing but crap on, anyway, so why have one?), it fell upon myself to discover some form of entertainment.

With a heavy, dreary weekend looming before me, there were only so many charms to be found in running in circles on the back lawn, exploring the tool shed and the mysteries of two stroke gasolene engines, and playing with the electric organ until people screamed at me to shut the hell up.

Thus, I turned my attention to what the boring old people had in their library. Oh joy, I bet there are dry academic tomes. Oooh, a complete Encyclopedia. How exciting.

As my own parents were mostly illiterate, I didn’t hold out much hope. My highest ambitions, in fact, were that there might be some stashed Archie and Jughead comics in the bedroom of one of their boys who had grown up and moved to college, as that seemed to epitomize the height of my relatives’ humor.

Old people. Boooooring.

Imagine, then, the wonder of a small boy as he discovers, for the first time, “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas, “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” by Captain Ted W Lawson, a wonderful collection of the works of H.G. Wells and many other treasures, all hidden in plain sight like the Purloined Letter, if you will, right there amongst the Reader’s Digest Collected Editions.

Can any words truly describe my shock and amazement to find thin books of advanced age, clad in threadbare cloth and cracked leather bindings, words imprinted in gold foil as if on a pocket Bible, that held such tantalizing titles as “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”? Or even the seeming simplicity of “The Most Dangerous Game.”

No teasers to spoil the story, for there were no dust jackets on these volumes. The title itself had to intrigue, had to beckon you inside. And they did.

My uncles’ library turned out to have the outward facade of boring, conventional lameness, keeping in perfect lockstep with the Joneses, but on closer examination it yielded adventures, thrillers and penny dreadfuls of a character to scandalize all of lower Miami’s tasteful middle class. 

Well, I say all the books were clad in unassuming cloth and leather bindings, and for the most part that was true… except for the collection of Doc Savage novels I found tucked secretly behind the Encyclopedia Brittanicas, where they wouldn’t cause a ruckus or start a riot with their lurid cover illustrations.

Why did I search behind the books? Because at that point, I no longer trusted other adults to be quite as boring and placid as they first appeared. Hiding the good stuff? How dare they!

Still, I’m sure it would have caused quite a sensation among the late night electric organ crowd. Paperbacks in the library? Shameful!

In hindsight, I can truly credit my uncle for opening my eyes not only to the very existence of amazing and astounding stories that thrilled my imagination, but also to the idea that, just because something is old, and even in dated language, it doesn’t automatically render it crap.

This is not something they teach in public school, at least not at a young enough age. Well, at least not in the schools I bloody well went to. By the time they do introduce interesting books in school, it’s part of the officially approved school curriculum, and thus, inherently evil and to be shunned and hated. 

If it wasn’t for my uncle, I’m sure I never would have dived as deeply into the ancient stacks of old science fiction at our public library as I subsequently did, there to discover the joys of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Harlan Ellison and so many others.

As a parent, looking back at my own formative experiences, and seeing how my own son is growing and what influences he’s exposed to, I think we have a responsibility to pass the torch of wonder to the next generation.

I’m sure most folks already keep a library of good quality movies and music they cherish, but I think care should also be taken to maintain a library of the fictional classics that inspired in us a sense of wonder, amazement and mystery.

Let us be the ones who play our own subversive role in the education of the young.

Have you yet taken the time to build your own small library of books available to visitors or your own children?

If you did, what books would you especially wish to have in such a collection, intended to expand their horizons and open up their eyes to the possibilities of the world?

This has gone pretty far afield, hasn’t it? All the signs of the true Bearwall.

That pretty much ends anything except talking about, and bitching about, Sherlock Holmes. This is your second warning to “Mark as read”.

Okay, then. Moving on.

Back to my credentials with Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

However it came about, Sherlock Holmes captured my young imagination, as I expect the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did for many of you, as well. There is something about those of us, the architects and the adventurers of the imagination, that we find ourselves drawn to stories of the mysterious, the elusive, and the puzzling.

I think our shared curiousity and inquisitiveness also helps explain why so many of us also possess interests in stage magic, the histories of various esoteric cultures and religions throughout history, and other knowledge from the fringes of mainstream life. 

The stories, yes, of course. Back on track.

These days, I have my own volume of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, some 1300+ pages as printed in the 40’s, a particularly well cared for, and yet threadbare tome of power.

I could use it to stun attacking badgers. Not that I have, but I could.

It’s got a heft to it. I re-read it quite frequently, especially when I’ve been subjected to some modern crap. I mean, I re-read the whole bloody thing about once a year. It would be more often, as I am assaulted by modern mediocrity constantly, a veritable bombardment of trendy shit, but I have one hell of a library to keep me warm and shelter me from evil, and remind me that this too shall pass.

My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes doesn’t stop there, though. Oh, hell no.

I have many movies and television shows on tape and DVD that recreate the original stories, or include new interpretations. My favorite of these would have to be Young Sherlock Holmes. It just captured the spirit, if not any of the actual lore, so very, very well.

None of that, I think, serves to document my insanity on this subject quite so well, however, as to let you know that I also have the complete collection of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episodes starring Jeremy Brett on DVD.

This collection numbers some 41 television episodes, each faithfully addressing one of the short stories from the original work. That’s over 36 hours of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett.

Many folks out there, I’m sure, can claim the same.

But how many went one step further, as I did? I meticulously ripped the episodes from the DVDs to my computer, rearranged them to match the original timeline of the release of the printed stories on which they were based,  and then reburnt them to my own DVDs so that when I watch them all, it is in their true, proper, published order. A visual companion to my book, so to speak. 


Leaving the question of my sanity aside for the moment, what I’m saying is I do in fact have a passing familiarity with the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, most particularly concerning his famous sleuth.

Up to this point in my life, I’ve seen many re-imaginings of the stories, different portrayals, new concepts. I’ve even seen a Saturday morning children’s cartoon that introduced a robot into the future that had the, ahem, “Memories” of Sherlock Holmes for a brain.

So yes, I’ve seen modern talentless hacks take something that inspired wonder, and twist it, dumb it down and make shit out of it to trade off a famous name and turn a fast buck.

I’m well educated on the subject of Sherlock Holmes, in terms of the stories themselves and of the various interpretations. I’m a fan of the heart and soul of the stories, I respect the work and the language of the originals, but I’m not quite an obsessive fanboy in that I demand an exact reproduction.

I do not require everything to be a precise portrayal of every line and movement. I admire those that do bring the originals to life in such precise and faithful a fashion, but it’s not the words themselves that move me, it’s every aspect of the spirit of mystery, of wonder, of thrilling imagination, and of course the nature of the friendship of these two vastly dissimilar men.

I love the originals in print and on the screen, but I can also admire and enjoy a re-imagining if done in the spirit of the originals, like Young Sherlock Holmes was.

Hey! What did I think of the damn movie?

I loved it.

In fact, towards the end it was so good it pissed me off.

Once again, as with the recent Star Trek movie, I entered with certain pre-conceived notions, expectations that it would go off the rails or descend into triteness thanks.


Well, because as I said earlier, I actually gave weight to what I’d read from critics about it.

While I enjoyed it all as it unfolded, I had in the back of my mind that little voice, the inner person that expected that, sooner or later, no matter how good it seemed, it would inevitably turn to crap.

By the time I realized the critics and naysayers were full of shit, it was too late. Fully two thirds of the movie had passed. Pricks.

Here’s the thing about the movie, where I can see how critics might just not get it. From prejudice, ignorance, I don’t know.

I think the biggest thing that people might have objected to is that it seems to take remarkable liberties with changing the characters’ personalities, histories, hobbies and lifestyles. The second is that Holmes seems to have nearly supernatural powers of observation, deduction and prediction.

The problem I have with the first viewpoint, is that it doesn’t. It bloody well doesn’t, except from the most strict interpretation of the original.

What it DOES do, is take the original stories, almost word for word in what is said, what dialogue is used, and what clues are left as to the character’s history and inner nature, and go in a different direction of interpretation than the more classic portrayals as made famous by such TV shows as the ones starring Jeremy Brett that I already mentioned.

If you are most familiar with Sherlock Holmes from watching TV episodes, then the interpretation you have seen is that of the calm, cool, cerebral professional, always calculating, unemotional and logical.

That is how Holmes is depicted in the stories as to how he thinks of himself, as being nearly robotic and meticulously precise, without emotion or wanton act. Again, it’s how the stories show that he prefers to see himself.

If you actually read the stories, though, carefully, they reveal a deeper picture. Sherlock Holmes is a man full of deep passion and immense intellect, who has trained himself to observe and analyze everything and everyone around himself. He runs at a fever pitch, but frequently he runs himself too hard for too long and burns himself out with his obsession, coming close to ruining his health. When once an idea comes into his mind, he must pursue it to the end.

Obsession to the point of physical collapse is not purely of logical thought.

But let’s move from his emotional state for a moment, and talk about the fight scenes I saw critics complain about. I saw accounts that objected to Holmes’ being shown as a skilled, fit fighter in a rough gambling den, masterful and electric, kicking the ass of big hairy chested men. “Much too physical, not nearly cerebral enough.” 

But if the critics had actually read, perhaps, “The Sign of Four”, the story in which Mary Morstan, Dr. Watson’s eventual wife was introduced, they would have known that not only was Sherlock Holmes skilled in boxing, but that it is specifically mentioned that he sparred in backroom matches at “Alison’s rooms”, and, in the words of McMurdo,  a former prize fighter he encounters guarding the door, “If instead of standin’ there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I’d ha’ known you without question.”

It’s clearly stated that, far from just being a skilled fighter, Holmes had actually applied the same study, research and hard work into mastering the science of fighting as he had into observing, detecting and understanding what he saw… but that he had done so before Dr. Watson had met him.

Oh yes, and how strong is Sherlock Holmes? After all, he’s so thin and passive most times, right? Well, that’s the TV shows interpretation, again. If you’re familiar with “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, when Dr. Grimesby Roylott confronts Holmes in his own chambers, and bends a poker in his hands to demonstrate his strength, Holmes himself then demonstrated to Watson that things might not have turned out as Roylott expected in a fight, and with sudden effort, straightened the poker out again.

So in the movie, when Guy Ritchie takes those passing mentions of skill and strength from the story, and develops it into an inner vision of how Sherlock Holmes applies his skills at observation and deduction to being a badass fighter… it’s not bullshit or something new at all. It’s actually taking what was already there, plain as day in the original, shining it up and bringing it to the forefront of our attention, something no other interpretation had done before.

Oh, yeah

That’s where I think the critics really blew it.

At every step of the movie, what I saw was not changing or deforming the original away from the spirit, not at all. Everything was there, in the written word, in some way, depending on how you chose to interpret it.

Okay, I’ll give you one thing. Watson always had the will to fight, and having been an Army Surgeon was no stranger to sudden violence. He even frequently backed Holmes up by carrying a pistol, and not being afraid to use it.

But Watson had, according to various accounts, either suffered a debilitating wound that put him on disability from the Army from a bullet to the shoulder, or one to the leg. Over the length of the stories, the location of the wound changes. In one mention, the Jezail bullet was even still lodged in his leg, where it throbs when the weather changes.

That, as far as I can see, is the only thing whose spirit is toyed with, since even though he does carry a cane in the movie, by showing a length of sword steel within it becomes more of an Ace up the sleeve than an aid to walking. And he certainly never seemed to suffer any the worse from this injury during the numerous fights. That’s my one “okay, I’ll give you that one” moment.

What the script writer did in my opinion was use a positive brilliance in bringing a brand new interpretation to Sherlock Holmes that wasn’t the same old rehash, and yet still remained true to the spirit of the original stories.

They also went to great pains to weave the originals directly into the film, for the enjoyment of the fan.

I cannot count the amount of dialogue that was taken straight from the stories.

There is one scene in particular that made me laugh, where Holmes hands Watson a pocketwatch, and asks him to deduce what he can. Watson parrots lines Holmes himself used when he deduced details about the identity of a person from nothing more than his pocketwatch, a scene that came again from the story “The Sign of Four.”

To return to the character of Holmes. The whole thing is of a piece. The state of Holmes’ rooms, his pistol shots indoors, his sleeping all hours and not going out, his smoking, the apparent drug use of cocaine when bored out of his mind (a major part of the early stories), his eccentricities, his ego and even at times overconfidence, his love of music played well, and his habit of playing his violin while thinking, usually dischordant tones, but then slipping into beautiful improvised melody when he comes out of his own private reveries.

Even his way of sitting down, unmoving, for hours at a time, smoking and playing the violin and just thinking, all comes straight from the original stories, and is highly suggestive that within Sherlock Holmes’ calm logical exterior is a powerful well of emotion kept under strict control.

The Sherlock Holmes stories were always about a man who denies the existence of his own chaotic nature and emotion with a strict adherence to a life of logic, reason and deduction. Not accepts, or deals with, but denies their very existence, sometimes to his sorrow.

In the movie, at times Watson is angry with and disgusted at the antics of Holmes. At heart, he loves him and the adventures and the hunt, but being kept in the dark, made to feel stupid, and his disgust at the sometimes cold way Holmes treats other people and manuevers them sometimes shows. These things, too, are an integral part of the stories.

What of the introduction of Irene Adler, criminal mastermind and love interest?

I’ll grant you that the scope of her later actions, her love of money or luxury were not in the original story, but when she was introduced in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, it’s made abundantly clear that she beat Sherlock Holmes at his own game, even when Holmes had the initiative. It’s also made clear that Holmes, while denying any feelings for women at all, felt for her a keen admiration that masked his own feelings, even to the point of, yes, keeping her portrait upon his table but denying it held any special significance.

That she put on her own disguise in a flash and trailed Holmes back to his lair, the cheekines with which she tells him, “Good night Mr. Sherlock Holmes”, tweaking his nose, it is all perfectly in keeping with how she was portrayed in the movie. Again, the scriptwriters took the writing itself, and pulled from it something that was already there, but never brought out into vivid life.

I could go on like this for hours, but there’s no point. The movie did not imagine everything from whole cloth, it simply bent your expectations 180 degrees.

And what, at last, of the story itself?

I felt it to be a wonderful example of the heart of a Sherlock Holmes story.

It begins with the initial revelations, the case, the buildup of events.

What I feel some people have lost sight of, is that a Holmes story is not about our, the viewer or reader, being given enough facts to solve the case ourselves in step with the detective.

No, not hardly. Certainly, we are given enough to sense the broad outline of events, if we pay attention and follow along. We can keep up, and see the shape of the case and events.

But in a Holmes story, part of it has always been the near magical way Sherlock Holmes sees deeper into the nature of the mystery, sees more in the clues, deduces more than other people… and keeps it to himself alone, while we follow along and see the results of his actions, see what steps he took based upon his understanding, without ever knowing what it is exactly he saw, observed or deduced along the way.

It is only after the very end of everything, when the villain is unmasked and captured, or the situation is resolved, that there comes a moment of peace at the apartments of 221B Baker Street, a moment where Holmes makes all things clear to Dr. Watson; how this little thing or that revealed to him a deeper understanding of events, and how he then manipulated the criminals to their doom, without their even knowing it.

The story is structured to keep us wondering, speculating, imagining, and guessing all the way to the end.

In that regard, I felt that the movie performed brilliantly. Right up to Holmes’ making decisions based on esoteric knowledge of chemical processes that we the viewer couldn’t be expected to share.

That’s what’s so frustrating about the whole thing, to me.

The damn movie was not only fun with a good solid mysterious story, but it also succeeds on every level I care about from a Sherlock Holmes fanboy point of view, right down to a mention of Sherlocks’ brother Mycroft Holmes.

Even the extent of Holmes’ predicting upcoming events, an ability that seems nothing short of impossible bullshit to a modern reader or watcher, is true to the original. 

A key part of the stories was the documenting of cases showing the amazing feats of impossible deduction and prediction, made with uncanny accuracy, based on observation and his knowledge of previous case studies and files and researches into science and chemistry.

The movie even won on that score at another level, because even in the stories, there were times when Sherlock Holmes, made small mistakes, leaped to a conclusion despite cautioning himself against doing so, or when he acted on too few facts. And the movie had it’s share of showing that too.

The point in the film when you have already seen how he plans his fight choreography in advance, takes a swing against a giant and his blow is blocked by a pipe hanging there that he hadn’t noticed… his momentary shock, his double take that things went off his mental script in the fight… that was awesome.

I’m not saying it’s the greatest film of all time. It’s not. It was a good movie, fun, entertaining. I enjoyed ita lot, but it’s not like my favorite movie of all time or anything. I doubt if I’ll buy it, for example. I’d certainly rent and watch it again with friends and have a good time.

What I am saying is, it really pisses me off that the movie took so much crap from reviewers that clearly were talking out of their ass.

What I wanted out of the film was to have fun, laugh, enjoy the camaraderie of Holmes and Watson, and above all, feel the sense of wonder, suspense, and thrills that come from being within a true Sherlock Holmes story, never quite knowing where the adventure will carry you next.

Well, it succeeded for me. Bravo!

/end Bearwall.

Blizzard announces Cataclysm raid lockout changes

Coming from Blizzard is a pretty surprising, thorough breakdown on changes to upcoming raid lockouts.

Cataclysm Raid Progression Refinements

We’re continuing to refine the raid progression paths in Cataclysm, and we’d like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!
The first of the refinements being made is that we’re combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn’t apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.
We’re designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we’ll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They’ll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.
Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.
We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you’re able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.
We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.
We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward. We don’t plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.
In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don’t want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We’ll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.
We design our raids to be accessible to a broad spectrum of players, so we want groups to be able to make the decision about whether to attempt the normal or Heroic versions of raids pretty quickly. The goal with all of these changes is to make it as much of a choice or effect of circumstance whether you raid as a group of 10 or as a group of 25 as possible. Whether you’re a big guild or a small guild the choice won’t be dependent on what items drop, but instead on what you enjoy the most.
We realize that with any changes to progression pathways there are going to be questions. We’re eagerly awaiting any that we may have left unanswered. To the comments!

This… this is something I did not expect.

I love it, don’t get me wrong, I just never expected it.

Perhaps I’m prejudiced after all. I have long considered the current structure of rewards for 25 person content being significantly better than those for 10 person content as being unfair, based on the difficulty of the challenge.

I say again, “as based on the difficulty of the challenge.”

For anyone that did both 10 and 25 person raids at the same gear level, it was frequently more difficult to do the content at the 10 person level, based on every single person having to bring their “A” game.

I’m talking about when Wrath first shipped. The people doing Naxx 10 did NOT have Naxx 25 gear. They had Naxx 10 gear, and Heroic loot.

And I’m not talking the new loot, I mean pre-ToC/Icecrown Heroic loot.

And no Frost or Triumph or Conquest or anything but Heroism emblems.

Do you remember? Emblems of Heroism, Heroic loot, and the awesomeness of Naxx 10 drops.

Where killing Kel’thuzad on 10 man mode dropped singificantly better weapons than anywhere else you could get.

Oh yeah, THAT level of content.

With fewer players, fewer overlapping classes and lower gear levels per the content, NO 25 man raid drops in the group, the 10 person raids played by 10 person raid geared players were just more challenging than the 25s.

I didn’t mind, and neither did most people I think, because at least from my point of view, I felt that the reason the gear was of greater power in the 25 man versions was simlpy to reward those that put up with having to herd 25 cats into some form of reliable group.

I’m serious. The challenge in the content was easier in 25s, but good lord, that’s such a higher level of stress to deal with. I’m not joking, I’m not being facetious, 25 person raiding is just far harder to organize.

If you judge the rewards on that basis, well, sure. Give the people willing to put up with a 25 person raid group better gear. I shall not envy them.

That’s why this announcement floors me.

I know that many people have lamented having to pug in 25 person runs in order to get gear that will better help them in their 10 man guild groups. Having to pug with strangers, in chaotic environments, in the hopes of improving their own capabilities for the benefit of their guild. Ouch.

I also know that there are people in progression raid guilds that get serious burnout from having their raid leaders expect them to run both 25 and 10 man version of raids in order to maximise gearing speed and Frost rewards.

What is the downside for this announcement?

Well, for me, none. But regardless of what some folks might think, I don’t consider myself the center of the universe.

Unless that universe is composed of bacon, in which case, I am it’s little god.

No, the downside is, there had better be enough raid content present in the game to keep raiding guilds happy each week, if their characters have only one lockout per raid instance regardless of size.

Will we see a return to 3 day lockouts? Ouch. Will they really have enough of the smaller raids ready to roll to prevent raid burnout between content patch releases?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that remembers the drought of raids in Wrath after Naxx had been run every week for 3 months, and the whining that followed. The seemingly endless, perpetual whining.

For myself, in my own little world, this whole thing sounds groovy.

Let me foresee the future for a second.

I’d bet that, with that system in place, content is going to start feeling very, very difficult to everyone. And that makes me freaking ecstatic.

People are so used to overgearing their content, and then bitching about “EZ mode” challenges.

It’s like people have put out of their minds older styles, and forgotten that Blizzard CAN design any difficulty of challenge they’d like. They choose NOT to make crazy stuff for everyone, and they choose to let 25 person gruops get better gear they then carry back to their 10 perso attempts.

They don’t have to. And now they’re saying they won’t anymore.

Everyone will have one set of gear and content tuned to a raid instance. Talk about a massive shock to the system.

Oh, dear Blizzard, let me praise you, for I foresee a golden age.

An age when mana is reduced for healers across the board, and content is tuned to require skill at crowd control and it’s frequent use, and DPS have to choose between crap AoE damage output on trash or very solid focused single target damage, where everyone doing a certain level of content has the same gear options available to them, where a Lich King kill would be a Lich King kill, without a qualifyer of how many people were in it, and finally…

Where you don’t get people sneering at other players because their guild has fewer than 25 raiders.

Will this golden age happen?

Damn me, but I think Blizzard is really trying their hardest to make it so.

If they’re not careful, I’m going to become a kool-aid drinking fanboy.

Raiding can be fun! Who knew?

About a week ago, I actually went into the secret fortress of Icecrown Citadel with a good bunch of blokes, hoping to find out the truth behind this raiding thing. 

Along the way, we discovered rockets that stick out of furry Bear butts, the dangers of dancing too close to the edge of Gunships, and what happens when you don’t have maxed Hit Rating on your Taunt mechanic when fighting Saurfang.

I went on this run as a healer, and it was very exciting. After all, this was raiding. The big “R”. This is what the game is all about. This is where we seperate the noobs from the leet. Prime time.

Or, in the words of Ming-Ming, “This. Is. Sewious!”

We went in looking for a fight. The group had consistently taken down Morrowgar, but being all friends, most of whom know each other in real life, their focus is more towards fun together than on progression. I know of plenty of times on raid nights they’ve had 8 or 9 able to be there, and rather than pug in an extra stranger to get a serious raid done, they just give it a shot on theirown.

Regardless, they’ve got the skill, they just hadn’t taken too many shots past Morrowgar before then as a ten person group. This was the night they were hoping to really push the envelope way up into the far right corner. You know, that place where they cancel your ass. 

I was really looking forward to seeing it for the first time as a healer. In the past, as a tank, I’ve found having the chance to observe in person the action from a distant vantage point very valuable. Healers get to see a lot, most especially what kind of damage people are taking, and where people are standing, and what adds spawn from where, and what AoE pops up, and slime trails, and frost paths, and etc.

I was one of three healers for the ICC 10 run. One Shaman, two Trees, no waiting. I was supposed to focus on party heals.

Yeah, okay. Like I’m going to sit there and NOT throw some HoTs on the two tanks when I get the chance.

The group composition was kinda neat, since we had 3 Hunters, Bear and Paladin tanks, and a Warlock and Shaman as additional DPS.

Yes, that’s right. Three Druids, three Hunters, two Shaman, a Warlock and a Paladin.

Makes for interesting buff combinations. On the other hand, we certainly had lots of Runescrolls of Fortitude and Drums of Forgotten Kings handy, so what the heck.

Morrowgar happened to be the weekly boss, and went down with scarcely a moan. In fact, Morrowgar doesn’t cause nearly as much angst as doing the trash leading up to him without a Rogue to check for traps.

The excitement that comes from having someone run in for a planned group pull, and body-trip the land mines on the way in is AWESOME.

Adrenaline junkies, take note. That’s the good stuff.

“Here we go, here we go, pulling, OH SHIT WE HIT A TRAP, RUN, RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!”

Good times, good times.

Morrowgar went down, and there was much rejoicing.

From there, we went after Lady Deathwhisper, and the Zuggers were in new territory where boss kills in ICC were concerned. They were all primed, and ready to give her a whomping. 

The first time we went after her, there were a few learning curves all around, but it was awesome seeing how so many Battle Rezes plus the Shaman Ankh helped us towards the end when it all went wahoonie-shaped.

But we still all died.

For myself, I found that it was actually easier to use high Mana-cost Regrowth for general party heals due to it’s duration, spot in Rejuvenation when needing an extra kick, Wild Growth on tank groups and a fast pop of Innervate on meself 1 minute in.

That let me launch a ton of up-front healing while the group got settled in and worked through any jitters or confusion. With the Innervate getting me charged back up, I was able to coast on spot party and tank heals for the next 2 and a half minutes of cooldo, burning down the adds.

As the fight wore on, the intensity of outgoing heals increased, my Mana began to really drop towards the bottom, and while a carefully timed Potion kept me in the bottom 25% of my reserve, Deathwhisper’s Mana Shield finally dropped, and I was perfectly poised to have Innervate ready to go again for full Mana right as everything went into overdrive. 

Sadly, as I said, we all died anyway. 

But the second one, ah yes, the second one went smooth as clockwork. Regrowth is a major Mana investment, I know, and isn’t very cost effective in healing done, but it really does allow you to have a few extra seconds in there to get spot Rejuves on while ignoring some of the group.

As Napoleon famously once said, “Time, time, ask me for anything but time!” Sometimes, having a HoT ticking those few seconds longer somewhere else is more precious than gold, if it lets you blow an extra two Global Cooldowns on HoTing someone else. 

At least, it does for me, since I don’t have nearly the Haste a raiding Resto Druid should have. 

With Lady Deathwhisper down for the guild’s first kill, there was much rejoicing. Cars were flipped over in the streets and set on fire, bottles upended, toasts drunk, and Brokentree woke up the next morning with a strange pair of underpants on his head and a shaved cat hiding in the cupboard.

The awesomesauce epic Bow dropped, and watching three hunters all want it and only one be able to have it hurt. A lot. At a moment like that, you really do wish everyone could have a pony, don’t you?

Okay, great night, grats all around.

Somebody, I think it was Brokentree, had to suggest we go on to the Gunship battle. “I hear it’s pretty easy.”

Now why would you want to go and spoil a perfectly fine victory like that for?

Well, okay. I wanted my own rocket pack!

Now, in Tree form, I don’t get to have a visible rocket pack. This makes me fairly sad. But I did flip to Bear form, and do my fair share of rocket blasts back and forth on the deck.

Now, with this fight, I began to detect the first hints of a pattern.

The Zuggers would take their first try at something totally new, go over the strat, line up, take it on, and then wipe in glorious fashion.

Then, on the second try, down she goes.

Now, the Gunship might have been successfully run the first time, but we’ll never know, now will we?

No, because you see, we had to try nine-manning it.

We WOULD have had ten… but Chawakanda was admiring the view from off the port bow, seeing the sights of Icecrown from the air. She’s always wanted to take an ocean cruise, try the badminton, the shuffleboard, see the floor show, dine on lobster and all those funny little glass bowls with the shrimp with tails on and the spicy red sauce.

Well, she was lost in thought, leaning over the railing… and fell off the ship. 

I have it on good authority that once the Hunter has left the ship, the Rocket Pack no longer works.

Gotta love that Goblin engineering, eh?

The second try, we all made it into battle, and we totally kicked their ass.

Like, totally.

Do you like that descriptive replay? Isn’t that helpful?

Not really much more to say. Go across and kill the Mages when the guns get iced up, head back and repel boarders and shoot hell out of the other ship. Dodge Mortars. Avoid the enemy captain. Rinse and repeat. Next!

So, more loot, and I gots a shiny new healing dagger. Woot! icecrown loot! I iz a raider fo sho!

Yo man, check out mah leet gear score! Pay no attention to the iLevel 200 Trinkets behind the curtain.

So, guild first Gunship battle kill, same night as the guild first Deathwhisper kill. Rock on, right? We bad, we bad, you know it, uh huh.

Yeah, well, let’s go for the hat trick, and a guild first Deathbringer Saurfang kill.

Wait, what?

At this point, I know one thing.

There isn’t enough alcohol for this raid night.

On Deathbringer Saurfang, the trend is definitely confirmed.

See boss. Discuss strategy. Attempt boss. Wipe after a solid attempt, screaming and shouting and carrying on. Then do it a second time and make it look easy.

This is a terrible rut these folks have fallen into.

Don’t they know you’re supposed to wipe four or five times, argue strats in heated tones, reference the almighty Elitist Jerks or Tankspot, then bitch at each other for sucking or pulling aggro?

Noobs. Lrn2dramaz.

Long story only slightly shorter, yes, we did in fact take down Deathbringer Saurfang.

I even got enough rep from the night’s extravaganza that I could go get my Friendly Ring, and I chose the tanking one. Woot!

Wow. First four bosses dead in ICC, achievements, loot upgrades, rep Rings…

That was pretty cool.

This raiding thing… it’s pretty neat. I’m not sure the Zuggers get the concept, though. They’re entirely too… I dunno, efficient.

What the hell am I gonna blog about, if all they do is just go in and win?

There is a limit to how many bosses they can see and wipe to the first time, you know. How freaking boring!

Oh well, I’m sure something will turn up.

Like maybe we can go into The Eye and try to brute force Kael’thas.

Yeah, I bet that would be awesome!

The Week of the Phoenix

This is going to be a slightly different post for me, but I’d like to ask that you bear with me on this one for a few minutes, because the feelings behind it are very important to me.

I’d like to start, by asking you to try and remember back a few years to 2008, and the story of a young boy named Ezra Chatterton. 

Ezra Chatterton, for those that might not have played WoW back then, was a charming ten year old boy that suffered from a very serious brain tumor.

His story came to light in the WoW community when, through the works of the Make a Wish Foundation and Blizzard, his wish of meeting the designers and developers of his favorite game, World of Warcraft, and spending a day AS a developer was made real.

World of Warcraft was Ezra’s favorite game, because according to the story related by, Ezra’s parents were divorced, and Ezra’s main method of spending time with his father was through playing together, and talking together while they were both online in WoW.

WoW was a bonding experience that helped bring father and son closer together, even though they lived quite far apart. 

The story of a father and son brought closer together through a shared love of video games did strike a very personal chord with me, and it was only too easy to imagine how I’d feel if it was my own son that suffered from a brain tumor, and an uncertain future. My little wabbit slayer. 🙂

During his visit with Blizzard, and his day as a guest designer, Ezra, whose in-game name for his Tauren Hunter was ePhoenix, took part in helping design many small features that are still to be found in the game.

He helped design and do voiceovers for a new NPC, Ahab Wheathoof, that can be found in the Tauren starting town of Bloodhoof Village near Mulgore, and also designed the quest Ahab gives you, which is to help find Ahab’s pet dog, Kyle, modeled after Ezra’s own dog Kyle.

Ezra also gave input on, and helped design the Season 2 PvP weapon, the Merciless Gladiator’s Crossbow of the Phoenix. A weapon that still looks really damn cool, and that my Hunter has in the bank. How can you get rid of the Phoenix bow?

Why so many references in Ezras’ story to the Phoenix? It’s because Phoenix was actually Ezra’s middle name, and he took the name his father Micah and his mother had chosen for him, and it’s mythological background, close to his heart.

The lengths the Make a Wish Foundation and Blizzard went to, to bring his dream of feeling what it was like to be a game developer for a day, really was an inspirational, sweet gesture full of heart. 

Towards the close of his  day with Blizzard, he was given one parting gift from the development team; the Ashes of Al’ar that drop from Kael’thas in The Eye, the 25 man raid instance in Burning Crusade. He was the very first person to have the Ashes of Al’ar in all of the game, the exceedingly rare drop that becomes the lovely Phoenix mount, and I think it was very appropriate and wonderful to have thought of.

Not too long after the story of Ezra and his day with Blizzard came to our attention, shared the news that Ezra had passed away on October 20th, 2008, after complications resulting from a stroke.

So, why am I bringing this up now?

Well, here’s the thing.

One thing that is talked about a lot these days, here and elsewhere, is how things feel like they’ve changed recently in the game.

With the addition of random Battlegrounds, random Looking For Dungeon tools, weekly Raid quests that get advertised, filled, knocked off and then party abandoned, even pug ICC raids, it’s become increasingly easy in the game to log in, join a series of groups, play in group content for hours, and then log off without ever having shared an actual moment of personal interaction with anyone else.

For me, the story of Ezra is, at least in part, the story of how a video game that is designed to make it easy to bring people closer together CAN be a place where families and distant friends can get to spend some valuable time together that they might not have had otherwise.

Yes, it’s time spent in a virtual world, but it’s time with REAL people that you know, love, and miss, people that you can’t be near in real life at that moment.

The distance between people in game, the ease the random group systems make it to slip away into isolation from other people… these are things I think about often, and Ezra’s story stays there in the back of my head, as counterpoint to what the game can be.

I’d like to try and do something with you, the readers of the blog, as a joint effort to remember Ezra. A little event where we could each get together and remember him, and the joy he took in having the game help him be closer to his dad, by doing something with friends and family.

What I’d like to propose is this.

If you read this blog, and if you are willing to take part in this with me, then approach your guild leaders, raid leaders or officers, and ask them if they would kindly put up a raid sometime during the next week or so to go into The Eye, the 25 man Burning Crusade raid, and try for a Phoenix mount drop, in honor of the ePhoenix.

Make it a special occasion that holds the spirit of the game to heart; you and your fellow friends and guild members, and of course your family if they play, getting together to have fun, to bond, and to spend time doing something just to be together as friends in the game.

I know it must seem corny, but it would bring a smile to my face to think of people playing WoW all across the world, seperated by physical distance but together in the game, having fun and giggling and doing silly crap, all inspired by the memory of the young boy who loved the game and the closeness it brought his family so much.

Now, here is the part that will probably sound wierdest, but I’m really serious.

Please, don’t advertise it with my name on it. Please don’t link to me, or refer to me, or have it be attached to me in any way. It’s not a Bear thing. It’s an “all of us” thing.

If you do want to spread the word, please do not mention me in any way. Just take the idea on your own, and mention it as something you’d like to do.

Where the idea comes from isn’t important.

I want this, for the people who agree that it’d be a nice thing to do, to be all about the idea, and about Ezra, and about playing together with friends instead of alone in LFD.  

If the idea of taking a few hours out of the week to remember how precious it is that we can get together with friends and most especially family members from all over the world and have fun appeals to you, just bring the idea back to your guild, and try to make it happen.

Any of you that do this next week, whether you get a Phoenix mount or not, I’d just like to know how it went for you. Whether you had fun, what craziness you may have gotten into. Just drop me a line at my email, and let me know.

If by some chance you do have a Phoenix mount drop, send me a screenshot if you think about it. Cassie and I would love to see it. 🙂

I don’t know, maybe it sounds stupid on the outside. Maybe folks just have much more important things to do, or things to think about. But the older Alex gets, the more I think of Ezra and his father… and of how precious having these few moments to spend together really are.