Inverted Expectations

This post was written on Thursday evening. I’m going to sit on it when it’s done, and I know going in that, like many other posts of mine, this draft has about a 80% chance of deletion. I’m going to write it all down now, and I’ll see how I feel about it after a few days.

Blizzcon 2010 has started!

As the long string of excited posts about everything from loot bags to food carts goes up on WoW Insider, I have a confession to make.

I don’t feel like excited or enthusiastic about playing World of Warcraft anymore.

I still log in. Then I stare blankly at the character log in screen.

Who to choose?

If I’m by myself, the answer is, nobody.

I have not a single ounce of interest in any of them… except for my Mage.

Why am I still interested in my Mage?

Because when I play my Mage, I’m playing with Cassie.

This effect, the feeling of fun while playing with Cassie, believe it or not, can be duplicated with a boardgame. I don’t need WoW to have fun spending time with my wife.

So, WoW has gone from being a value added part of the family experience, to being something that just doesn’t sound like fun.

Is it the blahs?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. Or at least, not only the blahs. But it could be. Maybe it is.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest with myself, I think part of it is that the game has been out for a very long time, and yet with every big expansion it’s the same old, tired story.

Well, all right, other expansions have come and gone, why should this one feel any different?

During previous bug-filled unbalanced pre-Expansion patch releases, my enthusiasm for the promise of the game, the potential it holds, would keep me logging in and see me through the bad times until the fun returned.

Is that it? My enthusiasm has aged like a bad cheese; it’s gotten crumbly and easily broken.

I really liked class-specific quests. I loved the Druid flight form quest line. I’ve enjoyed every quest line for every class i have chosen to play; it’s been one of the big “replay value” aspects of the game. As has there being two separate factions with different starting areas to play through. Now the class specific content is gone. The reverse of what I want…. instead of there being more class specific content to give me an additional reason to enjoy leveling different characters, now the existing ones are gone, too. So, when you play an Alliance character… that’s it. You’ve seen it all.

Or is it the bugs?

Oh my, yes. The bugs. That is a major part of it. But not just the existence of bugs, it’s more what the bugs the patch incorporated represents for me about Blizzard’s changing attitudes.

What positive things have come from the release of the Patch into the game? There were quite a lot. Revamped Talent trees, new play mechanics for many classes, expanded stables and trap launcher for every kind of trap, and, well, a few other things. Sure.

Then I balance that with it’s polar opposite;

What negative things have come from the release of the patch into the game?

I’m not going to list them all. It’s so subjective, isn’t it? How emotionally affected you may feel by the bugs you encounter in different from anothers. One person’s major frustration at getting D/Ced in instances is anothers “butch up, Sally”.

What it comes down to, for me, is that the benefits gained from implementing the patch WHEN IT WAS, the new Hunter stable slots and Talent trees and all sorts of cool little things, were outweighed by the negatives incurred by implementing it before it was done. Before it was stable. Before the beta component of testing was complete.

The point to logging in, for me, is to actually play the game as a form of entertainment. Adding stress for any reason OTHER than pulse-pounding internet dragon killing excitement is NOT the kind of stress I’m looking for.

The condition of the game before the patch was such that I could reliably log in and play a stable game. I could plan to do something, with the serene confidence that I’d be able to do so, including coordinate a massive in-game event without having to worry about sudden chaos-causing problems such as when everyone that tries to click on a Mage portal to Dalaran or Shattrath gets disconnected every single time they click on the portal. Not to, like, bring up any real life examples or anything.

The condition of the game after the patch is that I may intend to do something, but chances are good something somewhere is going to crash or have issues. Issues I’ll have to work around or find a fix for, and if I’m in a group, I’ll likely find the group fall apart before everyone gets back to a stable environment.

I’m too tired to deal with Vanilla WoW stability issues. This stuff was fixed. We were past this point. We had lots of problems, but we endured them and moved past them. We were all good, ‘sup?

I’m sure that my exhaustion with current content is a good portion of the problem. I had a far worse experience just prior to Burning Crusade being released, being hacked and all my Druid’s raiding gear being deleted and not ever getting it back two months before BC came out, and all. But I stuck it out then, and it all turned out fine eventually.

Even at the height of the instance zoning problem, when you simply were not allowed to play in instances because too many other people were already playing and having fun, I did not feel quite as tired of all the sillyness as I do now. I was not as close to canceling my account as I am right now.

It really is the buggy state of Patch 4.0.1, and when and how it was released. The timing of it. I just don’t see any excuse for it.

It’s not a slap in the face. There are no histrionics here. It’s just that it’s a videogame I’m paying a continuing fee to play that feels like I can’t really play it now without wondering what problem I’ll hit up next.

I’ve got console games, and you know, I never have to worry if the developer is gonna change something up on those that’ll make it so what I used to play will sudden;y stop working, or crash when I do x. Worst I gotta worry about is that my disc gets scratched and will stop reading.

This ain’t world peace or a cure for cancer we’re playing. It’s a video game. It’s no big deal, but I have to decide, is the ennui I feel, and my general falling trust in Blizzard’s attention to providing a quality release product, combining to mean that i should save my money anc cancel my subscription and not pay money to buy Cataclsym? Why through good money after bad?

I’m not a zombie, or a fanatic. I didn’t drink any kool-aid, and I’m not going to follow slavishly anywhere Blizzard chooses to follow.

And there’s an old saying that’s applicable… don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

When the class specific quests have been brought up in the past, one common Blizzard response has been that coding quests costs resources, and those resources are better used in creating quests that all players will get to experience.

To which I reply, Blizzard is receiving an immense amount of capitol from our monthly subscription fees. We pay money for the game, and we pay money for the expansions, and on top of that we pay a monthly subscription fee for server maintenance and new content.

The Blizzard response implies resources for coding are finite. You can do either X OR Y, but not both.

My response, take some of the subscription capital, and instead of spending our WoW payments on funding your new MMO, use some of it to hire MORE RESOURCES, and code BOTH kinds of quests. Hire 5 more people and have ’em code class quests. Add the resources to the project.

OR… stop using that bullshit excuse, and admit that you don’t want to spend the money to invest in that segment of the game, even though it helps to differentiate the feel of the various classes and extends replay value, keeping existing customers in the game for longer periods of time.

If you don’t find value in it, say so and be honest. When you use bullshit excuses, all I do is laugh at the corp-speak.

You don’t have the resources? Really? Wow. I feel very sad about your incredibly poor financial condition. I regret that WoW is not a money-making enterprise for you. I am sad that we are a burden on your bottom line.

That was BS customer speak, by the way. Two can play that game, and neither is very helpful to actually communicating.

~~~

I sometimes feel like the last sane person on the boat.

It’s Blizzcon. I mentioned that at the start.

Blizzard employees, while you head on out to your huge event celebrating what awesome rockstar gods you are, as your legions of fans pour their undying love and devotion all over you, as the horde screams out their adoration and chants your names, as queues form to meet you and beg for autographs, I am here to whisper in your ear on your chariot ride to the senate;

Blizzard, it’s a videogame. A very good videogame, but still a videogame. And at the moment, it’s a pretty broken game. Don’t shatter your arm patting yourself on the back.

You’re only as good as the quality of your product, and if you keep going on this route, releasing content before the bugs are actually worked out, you’re likely to find out that the lesson of Star Wars Galaxies and the NGE can be applied to other companies, too.

WoW, in my opinion, and boy this whole post is only my opinion, is one of the most impressive achievements in gaming technology. How incredible is it that the game has kept my interest, and the interest of other players, for years. Not months, but YEARS. Sure, a good part of that is carefully timed content patches and new expansions, but it’s still an incredible achievement.

But it is still a videogame. It’s a product. We are still your paying customers.

We are not your tax paying citizens, and you are not our kings and queens. We are not reduced to flinging poo while we toil in your fields, without choice as to the disposition of our monthly funds.

We can emigrate at will. We don’t even have to pack up our furniture and haul it away on a burro.

I just keep asking myself, why? The game isn’t even remotely stable now. It was pretty rock solid before the patch.

What is the definition of a beta? Ain’t it, “something not yet ready for release”?

The patch was not ready for release. And yet, released it was, and it’s live, and we’re dealing with it…

But why? Was it to give us something new and shiny to keep us logging in that little bit further, get us over that last hump before the Cataclysm where a lot of people might have canceled their account for one month until new stuff was available?

I don’t care. Machiavellian scheme, incompetence, poor managerial decisions pushed by a rigidly adhered-to marketing timeline, I honestly don’t care.

What I care about is that I’m a customer… and a stable piece of software I’m in the habit of using regularly has had a patch pushed to it that has broken many aspects of it until, not that I can’t use it, but that I don’t emotionally FEEL like I want to use it anymore.

There was a time when every game that was released was pretty much a beta version, and the first thing you had to do to even get a playable build was go online for the patches. Then along came a company called Blizzard.

In that era, Blizzard made a name for itself by responding to media questions asking for a release date with the answer “We’ll release it when it’s ready.”

That was so amazing, that a release of software would be pushed back, delaying profits, just so it was released in finished form. How ballsy! How… how respectable.

It seemed to be an indication that Blizzard was a company led with integrity. I for one responded with my consumer loyalty. There hasn’t been a single product Blizzard has sold that I haven’t purchased. Okay, except for some of the Trading Card game stuff, and some of the models.

I’m sorry to say it, almost as much as I’m sorry to feel this way. But this Blizzard ain’t that the one I gave my consumer loyalty to, the one that I had confidence in. Not anymore.

There’s honestly nothing else out there remotely like WoW.

More interesting to me, there CAN never be another game that could capture my heart the way World of Warcraft did. I won’t be writing a blog gushing over the next video game. WoW has always been something special, but aside from that, WoW came along at a time when the MMO world was still pretty new, and Blizzard took the foundation of Everquest to an entirely new level.

But that was then. We were younger then, and the world has moved on. We, as a gaming culture, have grown older, and if we aren’t more mature, we’re certainly a lot more jaded.

Our expectations are a lot higher now than they ever were in the past.

The Patch shouldn’t have been released until it was stable. That’s my feeling about it. If that meant they didn’t hit their timeline of release prior to Blizzcon, so be it.

I look at the early removal or breaking of class specific quests as just kinda being icing on the cake. One of the few things I was looking forward to was getting my Mage to level 60, so I could do my class quest and learn the Pig polymorph spell. Well, that’s not gonna happen. Turns out I waited too long… the Cataclysm didn’t break it, the patch did. Whoops, guess I should have played that class a month earlier.

I’ll still get Pig… from the trainer. And Cassie will get her Flight Form from the trainer as well… but never get the chance to do the class quests.

Why break it?

That’s a rhetorical question, because the answer they seem to give themselves is, “Because we can. And because nothing matters in the game anymore until Cataclysm is released, and the sheep will keep paying until it comes out, and then they’ll buy the expansion, and then they’ll pay while they level to 85, and by the time they get bored again we’ll have 8 more months of revenue streams generated. We’ll just put together some new content instances or raids for when they start getting restless and bored again. Let’s just go mingle with our adoring public. We’re good.”

Probably.

But do I care enough to be there to see it, if I don’t feel any enthusiasm anymore?

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Best of wishes to all attending Blizzcon this year!

I had a cranky post all set to go up, and then I really thought about it.

If you’re excited about WoW and you’re attending Blizzcon and you’re really feeling up and happy, the last thing you need is some schlub being pissy and dragging the room down with crankiness.

Hey, go, have fun, enjoy the weekend, meet people and see things and capture that feeling of excitement and fun.

I hope everyone has a really good time!

I’ll say this; Cassie played her Hunter, and trained a beautiful rare blue parrot as a combat pet, and it looks great. She’s very happy.

Even when I’m feeling in “write a really tired cranky post” mood, there is still something positive that we can find to think about.

So, even though there are still issues and irritations, go, have fun, enjoy the weekend, and accentuate all the positives the day (and the game) brings.

Time enough to be cranky when you’ve got the hangover on Monday. 🙂

Bug Hotfix – X-Perl UnitFrames right click dispell buff workaround

This is a very specific, focused blog post to address one specific issue.

I, like many others, do not like the default WoW user interface.

I prefer, no, scratch that, I LOVE the X-Perl UnitFrames UI addon.

The changes it implements, on the surface, seem relatively minor, but there is a ton of power lurking under the hood. I like minimalist designs that provide me with tons of tools, designs that leave the majority of the screen real estate for me to actually see the game. If I wanted to see a ton of text describing the action, I’d play Zork.

With the introduction of Patch 4.0.1, there is an existing known bug with Raid UnitFrames addons in general.

The problem is that if you try and right-click onto buffs to dispel them in your addon, it will introduce what is called a “Taint”, and that causes bad things.

In X-Perl UnitFrames, the ability to right-click to dispell buffs has been temporarily disabled to prevent “Taints” from occuring.

If you use X-Perl, it also currently prevents you from right-clicking buffs displayed by the normal UI.

For just a second, I’m going to quote a description of Taints, just so you know I’m not talking ’bout “Taint one thing nor the other”, ’cause I know my audience.

From a discussion on WoWwiki;

When WoW starts executing lua code, the execution starts off ‘secure’, and able to run protected functions. Execution remains secure until it encounters ‘taint’ – which is an indicator that a function or object came from an untrusted (AddOn or /script) source. The basic idea is that execution becomes ‘tainted’ as soon as it reads tainted data or executes tainted code, and any data written by a tainted execution is itself tainted. Protected functions refuse to operate when called from an execution path that is not secure.

When the UI first loads, all code and data from Blizzard signed FrameXML and AddOns (plus their saved variables) is secure, and all code and data from user provided AddOns (plus their saved variables) is tainted.

 Okay, so right now, if you love and want to run X-Perl UnitFrames but run into buffs you need to be able to click off, you have to either logout your character to disable your addon, use another addon that allows you to temporarily disable addons from within the game without logging out, (such as Addon Control Panel), or specifically cancel the buff by using a line item command such as “/cancelaura Buffname”.

Is this earth shattering? Of course not.

At least, not unless, oh, they did something like release a All Hallows Eve holiday event a week after the patch that includes Trick or Treating, and the tricks gave you buffs of costumes that last an hour… some of which prevent you from mounting. Or spellcasting. Buffs that… needs to be canceled. Right click style canceling.

Oh wait… Doh!

So, for you few peeps out there that love your X-Perl as much as I do, and want to keep using it, but are sick and tired of having to disable the addon in order to right click your Tricks to dispell them, here’s a solution that finally works.

First, make sure you have the very latest beta build of X-Perl. To do this, you have to visit the project page for X-Perl UnitFrames at WoWAce. They’re posting fresh builds constantly as they make corrections.

Second, with your current X-Perl UnitFrames Options open, go to the Player Tab. Within the Player Tab, look at the Player Buffs section and UNCHECK the “Hide Default Buffs” checkbox.

What this has done is display the default WoW UI buff panel, in addition to your X-Perl setup. Yes, a second set of buffs. For me, it’s worth it.

Now, this alone has not fixed the problem. There is one extra step you have to take.

Remember the description of a “Taint”, from above? It all comes from running code that isn’t “secure”. Code that is secure comes from Blizzard’s FrameXML data, then takes input from addons.

Well, as a purely short term fix, here is what you can do;

Go to the official Blizzard download site for the Interface Addon Kit, and download the appropriate version for your language. In my case, that’s US-English.

When you unzip that file, you copy the FrameXML folder, and you place it in your World of Warcraft game folder, at C:Program FilesWorld of WarcraftInterface (or whatever your destination folder may be, ending within the Interface folder).

This establishes the correct baseline FrameXML data for you to fall back on when right clicking those buffs on the default WoW UI buff bar.

Now, this is strictly a short term solution for JUST until there is a new patch.

The reason for this is, FrameXML is establishing a set of frame data specific to the game build it was created for. If a significant patch is released changing the frames (or actually fixing the core issue causing the bug in the first place), leaving this FrameXML in there will cause you lots of headaches.

BUT… for the pure short term, it will correct the problem. 

Can you believe the bug has annoyed me so much I went to these lengths to find a solution?

Wanna know what really annoys me? I start writing this, go to various websites looking up links to copy to send you to the right reference locations, and what do I find? A poster named Twintails over at WoWAce posted this solution already, just hours before I started the post.

I hereby proclaim this entire idea as belonging to Twintails, and I thank them very, very much for their helpfulness to the community. Especially since I don’t really know anything about addons, and I was only guessing at things to try and make it work, and clearly they actually knew what they were doing and went to the Interface Addon Kit intentionally.

I just wish I’da seen that before I started writing.

UPDATE: This post was correct as of X-Perl UnitFrames beta build r448, and the patch status as of 10/20/10.

When the game changed, did your play priorities?

It’s been almost a full week since Patch 4.0.1 went into effect, with it’s myriad of mechanics changes to World of Warcraft.

In that week, every class in the game had it’s Talent Trees, all three of them, drastically remapped with different functionality.

The entire Glyph system was revamped, with the implementation of a third tier of Glyph, Primes, and most existing Glpyhs were moved around to adapt to the new Glyph categories, filling out the Prime slots. In addition, with the changes to existing Talents and new spells being added, many Glyphs changed functionality.

Some cuts have changed gem colors, and with new spells and rotation importances many folks find themselves needing to regem to get back to optimum potential.

With new mechanics, many Enchants have shifted in value, also bringing the player seeking top performance to examine making potentially expensive changes.

Speaking of Enchants, one thing I have read that I have not tested out personally, is the word that Engineering Tinkering now stacks with gear Enchants. So things like Rocket Boots, Guantlet missile launchers and agility/parachute tinkers on Cloaks might be able to be combined with real Enchants. Pretty amazing if true.

Yeah, I know, you know all this.

My point?

If you’ve been playing any length of time at all, you began thinking of your characters in terms of mains, alts, leveling characters, perhaps characters you farm on, things like that.

Now, when the Patch came back, every player was faced with the decision of “who do I rebuild first?”

What I’m curious about is, who did YOU decide was the character you just had to rebuild first… and why?

Secondly, did your decision change anything about how you see your priorities in the game?

As an example, did you suddenly realise that the character you thought of as your “main” isn’t the character you wanted to get rebuilt first in order to play?

With so many of us having had the time to level multiple characters to max level, It’s just something I found myself curious about. How many people playing their mains suddenly decided that the character they wanted fixed first was that “alt” they were really excited about trying out.

For myself, the first character I rebuilt was my Feral Druid… but I haven’t redone my Resto spec yet. I even took all my Resto gear out of my bags and put it in the bank.

No, my second character I rebuilt was…. my level 54 Mage.

My Hunter and Paladin are 3rd and 4th, but it’s still funny how excited I’ve been with the Frost Mage playstyle.

So, what about it? Has the Patch changed who you love to play most?

Raid from the Heart Wrapup!

First, of course, is a huge thank you to everyone that helped get things set up, and to everyone that came. We’ve heard several times that people thanked Cassie and I for doing this… we didn’t do it. We had an idea. YOU are the ones that did this, and we just sat back and enjoyed a wonderful time.

For those of you that created characters for the event but play on other servers with your mains, keep ’em around, we do plan on keeping the guilds intact, keeping the guild banks open, and the invites active for another go in, oh, 12 more months when folks get bored. 🙂 Next year, don’t be surprised that when we do a second run… it may not be bigger, and it probably won’t be better, but I swear we’ll have more Magey ports. 🙂

Now, I had way too many screenshots that I loved to be allowed to post them all here. But what I CAN do, is first, repost that awesome Youtube video that Kaiddi created;

And second, I can post a link to my Flickr account, specifically to my Raid from the Heart 2010 folder.

Once I get things sorted, I’ll do a nice follow up post with some of my very favorite screenshots… but seriously, I’m having a hard time reducing the ones I love below 139. So, for now… there are all of these.

PLUS all the links to awesome screenshots that you can find in the comments of the thank you post!

What a great weekend… with everything we did, it amazes me so many folks still had the energy to make so many great picture posts… and that movie Kaiddi did!

Just awesome. 🙂

Alchemy Gem Transmute Recipes gone in 4.0.1

No, not the ones you already know.

Just the ones the trainer has to give you if you are leveling the Alchemy Profession now.

This is a major issue for anyone that is thinking of taking Alchemy, or who is in the process of learning Alchemy. Once you hit level 450, all existing recipes turn grey. Previously, at 450, the Epic Gem transmutes were made available for purchase, you trained those, and there was also the quest offered by the trainer to learn the Transmute of Cardinal Rubies… that requires 5 Epic Gem Transmutes to turn in.

You can’t complete the quest, because you can’t get the Epic Gem Transmute recipes anymore.

Is it a bug? Is it intended?

There is absolutely no way of knowing at the moment, because there has been zero response from Blizzard on this issue to date. No Blue forum posts, no Patch notes, and multiple in game tickets have gone unanswered, or answered with “Geez, I dunno, is there anything else I can help you with? Please fill out our survey.”

There has literally been nothing but silence from Blizzard concering an issue that has crippled a Profession for anyone training it right now.

Posts entered into the official US forums concerning this issue are not only being ignored by Blue posters, but I have confirmed that even very politely framed requests for help or information are simply being deleted by moderators… much as the posts about being hacked that were entered into the Customer Service forum used to be when Blizzard took no response in years past, before they stopped pretending it wasn’t happening and developed an actual customer service response.

Hey, bugs happen. A lot of Alchemists are upset about varying gem transmute cooldown timer issues. This was a huge patch, and I’m sure not everything is going to be perfect.

But the current attitude from Blizzard is insulting. As customers, we pay money for the opportunity to spend time playing the game with persistant characters. It is money for time. When a significant investment of that time is invalidated or deleted, possibly due to a bug or not, then it seems reasonable to expect an acknowledgement that they are aware of the issue, a clarification of what the nature of the issue really is (bug or intended removal, perhaps as recipes to be discovered via Discovery mechanics), and a timeline for resolution, such as “someday in a future hotfix”.

What I do not think is a reasonable response is deleting posts asking for help or clarification of the issue, ignoring the existence of the issue itself, and sticking their heads in the sand as if we might all just shut up and go away. 

I tell you, just when I dare to think that Blizzard has implemented solutions for customer service concerns that make them the leader in the MMO software industry, such as their responses to hacking issues and return of lost items, the development of authenticators to improve account security, the addition of security levels to Guild functionality, the continuous improvement to the balancing and fun of the game, and the communication by “Blue” moderators in the official forums, something like this comes up.

Thank you to everyone that came today!

The event is over, and it was a ton of fun. It actually felt a little overwhelming, but damn it was great.

There will be a ton of screenshots to come, but in the meantime I wanted to really thank everyone that was able to come, and for being patient when the Mage conflaburation kinda went down. The heart was great, and the dancing! Woo!

Oh, and for that sneaky Gnomer… you may have had your accomplice Penguin me (many, many times), but at no time was this Bear Sheeped! Hah!

If you have screenshots you’d like to send in for posting on the blog, by all means send them to tigerlordgm AT yahoo DOT com!

Wow, what a great time.