Disappointment and Regret

The All Hallows Eve season is almost over, and I find myself feeling conflicted.

Every year, World of Warcraft has some kind of event to celebrate All Hallows Eve.

I really like it. There is the traditional, and sometimes the new.

As an example of the new and unique, in 2008 we saw the addition of Prince Tenris MirkBlood in Karazhan during the Scourge Invasion event. He appeared in game six days prior to October 31st, and for those that logged in during that event and killed Prince Tenris, there were guaranteed Vampiric Batling pets, some Monster Hunter kits through a quest chain, and the chance of getting an Arcanite Ripper, the epic axe that let you, well, rock out with an epic axe.

As an aside, I was present for that on both my Druid and my old Hunter that was replaced by my new Hunter. My Druid therefore is fortunate enough to have the Vampiric Batling.

This year, there were some really nice items that you could get that haven’t been around before as well. My love of the Luggage… err, I mean the Creepy Crate is already well known, and the Feline Familiar is also awesome. A black cat with a witches’ hat may not seem all that special to you, until you see that when you mount up and fly off, theFeline Familiar mounts her own broom and follows you.

It’s pretty damn cute. I find myself hoping that, if the Feline Familiar is far enough advanced in the magical arts to be able to fly on a broomstick, that when PokeWoW is released we will see her be able to have her own form of Polymorph… turning an opponent pet into a mouse, for at least a few seconds. How freaking cool would that be? I mean, what ELSE would a cat be trying to research while studying the works of her Mage master?

Anyway, putting the new and special aspects of the season aside, the one part of the traditional All Hallows Eve I’ve always participated in is taking the fight to the Headless Horseman in the Scarlet Monastery.

From the times when we had to physically travel to the Scarlet Monastery to engage the Headless Horseman (and didn’t all the PvP bodies in the instance entryway littering the ground look cool?) to now, when the LFD tool lets us get in at our convenience, I’ve been doing it on my plate wearers.

Every time. Every day. Every year.

I’ve done it for the sole purpose of getting the Horsemans Horrific Helmet (or earlier, lower level variations of same).

Coolest helm in the game, imo. Love it. Always wanted it.

Never seen it drop for me. Not once.

So it goes.

I feel a little sad about it, but mostly I feel disappointed.

Disappointed in the drop rate and my lack of luck thereof, but mostly disappointed in the mechanism of getting it.

There are a lot of items in World of Warcraft that are just way too cool. Some of them most people would love to have, like a really cool rare mount drop, and others have special meaning to just a select few, like the Antique Cornerstone Grimoire that dropped from Onyxia, one of the items that lets you have a neat temporary bodyguard. A flavor item.

What sets the Helm apart from most of them is that, for those other items, if at first you don’t succeed, you can try, try again. It didn’t drop this raid? Maybe next week. Or the week after. Or the week after that.

Your mount didn’t drop in Stratholme Undead this time? Well, maybe your luck is really, really bad, but you have the power to chose to mindlessly run that sucker endlessly, 50 times a day for 4 weeks if you are that het up about it, until the bloody thing finally drops.

You really want that Whelpling? Well, all it takes is time, patience, and about 20,000 kills in Wetlands on the average, depending on which mobs you hunt.

What I’m saying is, it may be ridiculous, it may be so out there silly that only a completely insane person would do it… but most things in the game, if you really, really want it, all you need is time and a whole lot of will.

Oh yeah, and a long song playlist or some good audiobooks or podcasts. Worse than fishing.

With the helm, especially now that it’s loot from the Loot-filled Pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how determined you are, how patient or how willing to grind endlessly. You get one shot a day, for the duration of the holiday event, and if you don’t get it, then you don’t get it. Seeya next year.

So be it.

I’m an adult, I’m not crying home to mommy. The RNG God of Loot has long ruled WoW, and we all deal with it in our own ways, and have known our own disappointments.

As an adult, I can also acknowledge that the harder it is to attain something, the more effort it takes to get it, the more we cherish it for reasons beyond the items own intrinsic value.

There is something about working hard and consciously devoting time and effort into getting something that adds meaning. Significance.

If the shit is handed to us on a plate for showing up, we don’t value it at all.

It’s all digital pixels on a hard drive, it is the meaning we give to those pixels that gives them value.

I have a friend, Falromord. For all of Vanilla WoW, he played his warrior. He raided Onyxia for part of it, and he always wanted the tanking sword, Quel’Serrar.

Time moved on, and he never saw the sword. It wasn’t until years later when Wrath brought the revamped and revitalized Onyxia’s Lair with all new useable loot that the guild I was in went back in there, and I was there when it dropped and Falromord won the roll.

Was that sword the exact one he wanted? No. But it brought back to him all the times he had tried and failed, all the times of hoping and seeing nought, and all the times since when nobody wanted to do it anymore because nothing in that place was of any value.

To hear his joy on the microphone when he got it was a moment. A good moment.

I think most of us have a moment like that in us, something we’ve built up in our minds, something we’d just squee over if we finally won it or it dropped for us, something that other people might just look at and say, “What, you wanted that? Sure, it’s yours, whatever. I have no interest in it.”

The Horsemans Horrific Helmet is not that item for me. It’s not built up that much. And the main reason is, there is little I can do to try and earn it beyond showing up once a day for 5 minutes and seeing if I got a little luck in my bag. 

There is not enough opportunity for me to work at it. It’s hard to get emotionally invested in the chase, when it’s five minutes and then see ya tomorrow, Charlie. Seeya Ralph. Whistle blows, off for the day.

Why I’m writing this post is really to muse a bit on the goals we set for ourselves in the game, the things we covet and how the game is designed to give us ways to obtain those things.

Someone has to make conscious design decisions on methods to earn loot. Drop rates, group loot rolls or personal loot bags, daily chances or endless repeatable tries.

I like systems where you do have to work for your loot, where you have to invest of yourself to gain it.

But what I like best are systems where the gateway that prevents you from obtaining your desire is skill and, to some extent, a willingness to spend time to achieve your goal, and not pure luck. And I don’t like ‘limited time only” when it’ is pure luck, and you can do everything in your power to make it happen and still fail. Not skill, not effort, not time, just luck of the draw and then gone for another year.

Really, I’m not complaining. But my friend Tesh likes to talk about game design and enticing players with good design, and what is more central to the current MMO model than the carrot that urges us on to greater efforts?

Another part to this whole topic is the idea of rarity among the population. I’m talking about when the drop chance percentage of an item is adjusted up or down because a designer has a target of x number of items per so many players in the game.

Or, to narrow it down further, if one person gets an item, a certain number of other players must be denied an opportunity to get the same item, in order to keep its existance scarce among the community, and thus feel ‘special’.

Have we ever really talked about that concept on this blog before? I don’t think so.

It’s built into the game and we take it for granted, but if you step outside of the game and think about it, isn’t that an amazing design plan for a game where every player represents a paying customer?

I pay a subscription fee, and you pay a subscription fee, and theoretically we both have an equal chance to win an item… but in reality that chance is very, very small because as a group very few players will be lucky enough to get that coveted item, no matter how hard they try, by intentional design to encourage feelings of jealousy and perhaps to inspire other players to strive harder to advance to gain rare items of their own.

As a goad to spur players to involve themselves deeply in regular gameplay, I’m sure it has been very successful over the years. But if being a goad towards greater involvement is one of the purposes of item rarity, then wouldn’t that work better if it wasn’t pure dumb luck driving who wins and who loses? And shouldn’t a player actually have the chance to earn that item, effectively making it less rare?

And shouldn’t that be okay, because periodically new content of greater level comes along and resets the progression and the hunt for the rare begins anew all over again?

I see someone riding an Amani War Bear, and I know that they achieved something through skill and, yes, gear levels. But it takes investment in time and effort to get those gear levels, and by removing the mount when gear gets high enough, it keeps that mount as a testament to skill and teamwork.

Would I have a better chance of getting the helm if the drop was guaranteed, but required the gear and skill of an Amani War Bear? No, because I don’t have the time to play and the friends to gather to do it. But I would feel a lot, LOT happier about it, simply because I would know the only things holding me back from achieving that special goal would be the amount of time and effort I was willing to invest in getting it, and not the whims of man and the dark gods of programming.

Or a quota of drops that, once achieved, got nerfed to the ground, baby.

I consider the whole situation of legendaries sometimes, and it reminds me of that classic scene from Real Genius;

I see a lot of people get excited every time, and a lot of people freak out over how awesome they are, and wonder if everyone else is crazy or is it just me?

When the news about the new legendary daggers was announced for 4.3, I swear to you, somebody I know said, “Man, I think I’m going to roll a Rogue so I can get those daggers, those are sweet!”

This was at the announcement.

I think I am crazy.

Think about the designs of the drop rates for legendaries.

They are designed to be so brutally hard or random that unless you are already at max level, well geared, and actively raiding and clearing 100% of current max content when the legendary content comes out, then by the time you ARE at that point and able to start raiding to get the legendary, it’s too late. There is new content that has just rendered the stats on the legendary you struggled to get obsolete and no longer best in slot for your role. Your raid team is already moving on to other content, or doesn’t need anything from that content, or has someone else in the raid team already on the quest and so all drops towards the legendary go by default to that player, not you.

There are certainly guilds out there that have the current legendary staff, and some got it quite quick, before the drops got nerfed.

The fact remains though, that most guilds that aren’t very hardcore don’t have one yet.

If they do have one, or even two, that is still one or two people in a guild full of raiders.

That is great for those one or two people, but the rest of the people don’t get that legendary, but they do get a sweet pet as a consolation prize this last go ’round.

Is that good design? Blizzard wants to keep legendary items legendary, but I have to ask, if the item is already obsolete and useless as what it is by the time you get it, what really was the point, aside from being able to say you’ve got one, and isn’t it a beaut?

It becomes a conversation item, an object of the utmost rarity… and of no other use than as something to equip while standing on the fountain in front of the bank at Stormwind.

Shouldn’t a legendary be something that is worth the effort put in to obtain it? And in that case, shouldn’t you either be able to get it while it is still very useful in terms of progression, or be able to scale with your level because it is so damn rare it is a one of a kind item that is, well, legendary?

I dunno. It just seems very silly to me for anyone to get all worked up and super-excited at a legendary item, when by design the chances that any given player are ever going to see it while it’s still useful are slim as all hell.

A cool item? Certainly. But a reason to roll a new character for current content and powerlevel and max gear and get rep and grind valor?

Well…..

I guess you tell me. Do you have a story about that item you really, really wanted? Do you think the legendaries really are all that and a chip of ram?

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So, Pandas, huh?

We now return you to our regularly scheduled gaming post, already in progress.

Blizzcon, the Blizzard Entertainment-created celebration of all things Blizzard Entertainment is over for the year.

Amindst all the officially-sanction public relations releases, we got the heads up on some great new products we can expect to see sometime over the course of the next year.

There was news on the next phase of the Starcraft II war, some Diablo III stuff, and of course World of Warcraft.

The new official expansion for World of Warcraft that MMO Champion cracked has been confirmed.

That’s right.

PANDAS.

I remember once someone showed the overall map of Azeroth, and highlighted which areas someone could squeeze more zones into for future expansions. I don’t remember anyone showing us where they could hide an entire continent, but hey, I’m all for it.

I like Pandas. I also am a personal fan of the Pandaren that we were once told, I swear we were told, would never be an actual in-game race. I should look for that quote, I thought there was an interview with Samwise where he was specifically asked about Pandaren in game, and he said something like “We added them a little bit here and there for fun, but were never going to expand on it.” I dunno, maybe I was smoking bacon that day, and the fumes gave me sweet, sweet dreams of big jolly pandas.

I like the Pandaren so much, that I have the Pandaran Monk non-combat pet.

Won’t that be interesting to explain once we meet more Pandaren in the wild?

“Who, this? Oh yeah, I bought him at the market years ago, and he’s never left my side since. I’ve grown in power, killed old gods and lich kings and dragons, and he’s been right there beside me through thick and thin. Oh, he’s your father? Huh, he never said he had family when I bought him. In fact, come to think of it, I’m not sure he knows how to talk. No, no I never tried talking to him myself, but if I bow to him, he does bow back. And he exercises a lot, waving his arms around. Pretty much all he does is follow me around, day after day, never tiring, never complaining.”

There is so much I could gush about, so much I could be snarky about, but hell, why rush? There are months ahead of us to explore all the potential ramifications.

But I DO have two things. 🙂

First is this twelve month subscription thing that kinda slid in under the radar.

You might think you’ve got to pay for twelve months of WoW time all up front, but you don’t. You don’t have to change your subscription pattern at all.

You just have to sign a digital contract with Blizzard committing to paying for your monthly account, without cancelation or interruption, for the next twelve months.

You just gotta say, come hell or high water or a drought of content over a spring of new game releases, that Blizzard will still get theirs.

In exchange, you get a free BoA mount that looks really cool on all characters, and you get a free code for the retail version of Diablo III.

Oh yeah, and an automatic beta key for the next WoW expansion.

It’s an interesting trifecta.

You get a new mount, but since it’s in game it only cost a little design and code time. That is an investment, but it’s one they are set up for.

You get a Beta key. Well, again, digital only, and not only is it a small investment on Blizards part for email sending invites and access front ends, but they need beta testers of their digital products anyway.

Both make perfect sense. You’re not actually paying any extra, but Blizzard isn’t actually paying any more either. We get something on a digital download, and Blizzard gets a financial commitment. If you were going to do this anyway, play for another year, why not?

Everybody happy.

But the third part is a free copy of a retail product they have been working on for years, Diablo III.

Granted we’re not getting a box version mailed to us, but we are getting the code and digital delivery of the final, retail launch version of the game.

We can see what’s in it for us, but what is Blizzard getting that is worth losing out on that many potential sales?

Hugh at MMO Melting Pot has about the best explanation I’ve seen that makes financial sense. If Blizzard anticipates a content drought over a long period of time, between patch 4.3 and the 5.0 Pandaria expansion, then they may have done the math and would prefer to lose a $40 short term sale in exchange for a guaranteed 6 to 8 month game subscription lock-in during the times people normally cancel accounts… you know, summer vacation time.

Especially if there are a lot of great new MMOs coming out to compete.

Cynical? Maybe, but on the other hand… successful.

I already signed up. The mount and beta key are nice, but it was the Diablo III that I was going to buy anyway that sold me.

In my case, Blizzard lost out on the deal. I am someone who WAS going to continue my subscription over the next twelve months anyway, AND I was going to buy Diablo III. So, free game? Gee, thanks!

The other thing I want to touch oh so very briefly on, is this PokéWoW thing.

I have no idea how you think of it, I know I have never liked mini-games in games. I’ve rarely if ever enjoyed a game when someone takes the popular neat thing from another game system and tacks it on their own.

I’m willing to give it a shot, though.

What excites about the concept, the CONCEPT mind you, is that our non-combat pets will become another custom, personalised aspect of our characters.

We will be able to name our pets. A truly ‘duh’ idea, a “Well it’s about damn time” idea, but let’s just keep that on the downlow and give thanks, right?

We’ll also be able to move pets around our characters. Did you get that rare pet Batling from the special, one-season one year only Karazhan event to kill the vampire Prince on only one character, and it’s NOT the character you ever play or collect pets on? Well, now you can fix that and similar situations.

But more interestingly, your pets will be able to be trained, leveled and then taken to an arena to fight other pets.

This is the part that excites me and also amazes the shit out of me.

In order for our pets to be able to fight, they have to have combat moves, defenses, all that stuff. AND, they will need new animations to correspond to what they do.

Doesn’t that seem like a shitload of programming time to devote to this PokéWoW thing?

Again, I love it. It’s great. I think it will be loads of fun, and, again, I get to name my pets.

I’ll be able to field a combat team of Grunty the Murloc Marine, a Pandaren Monk, and Stinker the Skunk if I so choose.

But, and here is the butt….

Nobody asked for PokéWoW that I know of, nobody knew it was coming, and yet here it is, a massive commitment in programming resources.

But quests tailored for specific classes, quests to fill out the Rogue Ravenholdt line, quests to individualize our leveling experience and bring a new, fresh reason and interest to playing an alt in Azeroth for the 500th time…

Thats still a poor use of developmental resources?

Huh. Interesting.

I’m Not Right in my Head

Hello to you, and welcome.

This is not one of my usual posts. There is no intent here to be funny, I won’t be taking my usual sideways look at the world around me, be it a game or the ‘real’ world.

No, this is a serious post. This comes from my heart, and I wish I weren’t writing it. But I am, and I fully intend to publish it, in the hopes that once it’s out and gone from my head, so will be all of the bad things that have been building up in my brain all day.

I’ve had the desire to write about this for months, and I haven’t done so, because it just wasn’t appropriate for a ‘gaming blog’.

Yes, I know, I’ve always said this blog is for me to write about whatever I want to write about, and you’re all welcome to come along for the ride, hating it or liking it as you wish.

Along the way, one thing that I’ve tried to do is  avoid anything that was confrontational.

The heart of the reason why is, I know full well that anything I say, any argument I may make or reasoning I may frame will do nothing to change someones mind. All I would be doing would be making noise, and hurting people.

Hurting people? Yes, indeed. Nobody wants to hear someone else criticize their opinions or beliefs. If I weigh in on a serious topic, someone else will feel strongly about it and feel hurt that I said things they did not agree with. Plus, hey, I am not that smart, and my position may very well be wrong. Why hurt someone else AND be wrong? Better if I stay silent and have the chance to continue to learn and grow.

So, faced with no positive result from a post, and the surety of hurting someone, why do it now?

I’m doing it now because I can’t take it anymore. I have to say something, I have to get it out of my head. I have never felt quite so helpless before, so powerless, as I have done earlier today, and as pointless and ineffectual as this forum is to actually accomplish anything, one thing it will do; it’ll get this crap out of my head and out there where I can feel that I did something.

At least I won’t have done nothing about it, nothing at all.

Gay marriage. Specifically, the fight against legalizing gay marriage.

I’m a married white straight man that attends Catholic church every Sunday morning. I declare that up front because people who believe in labeling people care about that shit. There are a lot of people who, after reading that, will undoubtedly feel confident that they know everything there is to know about my opinion on any subject worthy of discussion.

Fine, think what you want, while I get on with this.

I and my family went to church this morning.

I grabbed the bulletin of announcements on the way in, and read it a bit while sitting in the pew, waiting for the service to begin.

The section of the bulletin that the pastor uses to write his weekly message was titled “Supporting Marriage: The Responsibility of All The Faithful.”

Within this section, I read the following, which I have re-typed exactly as it was published, except where I noted to preserve anonymity;

This past Thursday Archbishop Nienstedt gathered the priests and deacons of the archdiocese for a teaching day. One thing  that the Archbishop wanted to stress  is the importance of supporting the Marriage Amendment that will be on the ballot in Minnesota in November 2012. The archbishop is asking all priests, deacons, and indeed all the faithful to work for this cause. The amendment will ensure that marriage remains defined as between one man and one woman. As your pastor I fully support the archbishop and this effort and I greatly appreciate his courage, vision and leadership on this issue of our time.

Eric (last name withheld) has volunteered to head up a committee in our parish to work on this effort. The committee will serve to first reflect on marriage and its purpose and then to inform, and coordinate our parish efforts to support marriage. I thank Eric for stepping forward to serve in this important role. (Information on volunteering for the committee withheld)

At the teaching day last Thursday, it was noted that the ultimate goal is not simply a victory at the ballot box next November, but rather a deeper understanding and appreciation for ourselves and society of the true nature and purpose of marriage. I look forward to the next twelve months as we as a parish take time to reflect on marriage and its role in society and the importance it has on all of us.

That is what I read in the bulletin this morning, written by the pastor that was about to speak to us.

When I read those words, my brain kind of froze for a bit. I was trying to get my brain moving, but it felt like I was a light truck with bald tires on an icy surface, lots of spinning and movement going on, none of it going anywhere.

I lasted like that until the pastor got to his sermon. I pretty much went on automatic pilot until he started to speak.

The sermon he gave today was about the two most important commandments that all the faithful should obey; To love god with all of our soul, heart and mind, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

That was the sermon. That was the message.

And that sermon went into my brain, a brain that was still trying to digest the words this pastor had written.

We are to go out and vote to define marriage as between one man and one woman, AND we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

They just kept hitting, colliding in my brain. They still are.

I wanted to shout at the pastor right there in the church, “You mean love all our neighbors, as long as they are straight? But to hell with the gays, is that it?”

But of course I didn’t. What would it accomplish? Will I change his mind? No, of course not. Either he truly believes that this is what God wants, or he will do exactly as he is ordered by his superior the archbishop regardless of what he actually believes is right or wrong.

Either way, I’m not going to change his mind, I’m just going to cause a scene and hurt a lot of people who feel that this is somehow right, or just, or Gods will.

I know, I’m not saying this well. 

Let me try and take this through how I see this.

An Amendment on Marriage that seeks to define Marriage as between a man and a woman does not actually support marriage.

Right now, are marriages between one man and one woman forbidden, denied or blocked? No.

If one man and one woman, of any faith, requests their union to be recognised as a legal marriage, it is a simple series of legal steps to make it happen.

So, is an Amendment necessary to ensure that keeps happening in the future?

No.

Such an Amendment would not give any additional benefits to one man and one woman seeking a legal marriage bond.

Is same-sex marriage legal right now, then? No. Right now, in the state of Minnesota, same-sex marriage is ALREADY denied.

So what would this new Amendment do?

It’s purpose would be to add an extra layer of legal bullshit preventing same-sex marriages from being accepted. See, right now the existing laws are being challenged, so if there is a second law on the books, then if the first law gets overturned, there will still be a second one that has to be fought.

It is an Amendment not to provide but to deny, and really, to stick the boot in, too.

It is an Amendment aimed directly towards one goal; to provide an additional layer of legal defense to continue to discriminate against same-sex marriage, both sexes still being composed of PEOPLE. American citizens. You know, people.  

If you are singled out or excluded, you feel hurt, don’t you? You feel rejected, unwanted, even hated depending on the lengths someone is willing to go to just to exclude you.

That is what this is. In my mind and heart that is how I see this. I can’t find any OTHER way to see it. And for that, I am truly grateful.

This proposed Amendment is a tool of hate, because it has no purpose other than to single out and exclude an entire group of people from enjoying the same legal benefits under our government that others take for granted.

Or, as Governor Mark Dayton is quoted as saying, “I’m here to support those Minnesotans and Americans who want the same rights, freedoms, opportunity, respect, dignity and legal protections and legal opportunities as every other one of their fellow citizens… which is the founding principle of this country!”

Notice please that I vote Republican and Mark Dayton is a Democrat. I mention this to point out that this isn’t a political discussion, it’s discrimination against people. Discrimination is discrimination. Period.

And yet, the message of the pastor in our church this morning is that we are to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.

Is it that gay people are evil? Is that the message I’m supposed to be getting here? Would the very existence of same-sex marriage sunder the bonds that hold families together? 

But are we not supposed to turn our cheek, to give no offense, to embrace others and show them love and compassion?

Are we not all people, regardless of our race, our religion, our philosophy or our chosen nation? Are we not all people regardless of whether we are atrtracted to the same sex, the opposite sex, both or none of the above? 

How can someone that truly believes that ‘God is love’ be capable of showing so much determined hate towards other people?

How does denying same sex partners the right to legally marry in any way affect the quality of the marriage between one man and one woman?

That is a rhetorical question. I can tell you right now, the entire rest of the world can be engaged in same-sex marriages, and it will not affect my personal marriage with my wife one bit. However, if I don’t stop spending so much time playing WoW and more time fixing the house, I am going to be in trouble. 

If one man and one woman engage in a marriage and it falls apart, the blame cannot be laid to rest at the feet of same-sex marriages. It can be blamed on the couple.  

This is how I feel. I look at this… this bullshit going on, and what I see is our generations’ future shame.

Right now, we, our generation, can look back on the civil rights wars of the 1960s, and we can wonder, “How the hell could anyone be so racist and so hateful that they would try to make it a law that black people and white people could not drink from the same water fountain, or go to the same school, or eat in the same diners. How fucked up did those people have to be to have that much hate, to want to exclude an entire people, and who the hell would stand up in any meeting hall and have the guts to try and pass laws like that.”

We can say that now, but guess what? Those people, many of them, are still alive. They are still around. And when we wonder this aloud, they keep their mouths shut, but inside, they are still the people who were there back then. Those folks didn’t just vanish into the mists of time. They hear their grandchildren wonder about racism, and who could be so stupid and wrong, and they keep their mouths shut.

I feel that is where we are right now.

Right now, all across America, all this hate, this same stupid hate and fear is all out in the open, and people are actually standing up and proud of their efforts to exclude the gays, and to block them from the legal rights straight people enjoy.

But someday soon, gay people will see the justice they deserve. They have to. It is inevitable. There are too many of us in this country that are continuing to grow with an open mind and an open heart, and are raising our children the same way. We grew up with a lifetime of accepting and understanding that discriminating against a people based on the color of their skin is wrong, and discriminating against a people based on the religion they practise is wrong

Is it any wonder that with the lessons of the past to show us the evil of such discrimination, the civil rights movement and the Holocaust just to name TWO in the last century, that we find it ever harder to understand how those types of discrimination were evil, but discriminating against someone on the basis of gender or sexual orientation is just fine and dandy? 

The hate is still alive now, but within 40 years there will be teens wondering aloud how fucking stupid and evil and hateful people had to be to try and prevent people from being legally acknowledged as married just because they were bith the same sex, instead of understanding that it’s what a person has in their heart that counts.

And these people now, these people we see right in front of us, they will be the ones that hold their past in their hearts and keep their mouths shut, because they don’t want to look like a hate filled bigot in front of the grandkids.

But why do we have to wait 40 years? Why? Why do we have to be able to see this so damn clearly right now, how FUCKED UP this is, without being able to speed it up?

I said to Cassie, I don’t know how I can even argue this with someone. I start with, “I hold this truth to be self-evident. That people are people, and intentionally hurting people is wrong.”

I don’t know where to go from there. If you don’t get that intentionally hurting other people is wrong when they are doing nothing to hurt you, when their actions have no affect on your life, if you just can’t get that key point, then where do I go in convincing you? 

I don’t know. I’ve never felt so powerless. I know, nothing I say can change even one mind. Sure, I can live my own life, and I can raise my children to keep an open mind and see people as people, but that does nothing to change how other people are raising their kids… and how long this whole struggle to stop the hatred will continue.

I’m sorry, as I said. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and I don’t want to be controversial. I don’t even see this as controversial, that it is is just… stupid. I’m not very articulate about speaking my heart, it’s not like writing some cool story. But this shit… this stuff going on in my mind, it’s really bothering me. I just don’t get how people can’t see what it is they’re doing. I can’t get it through my head how anyone can be that full of hate, or worse yet, so uncaring of the affects of what they do if they just blindly go along with it.

Cassie tells me it’s not just the Catholic Church, it’s a lot of Churches, and I understand that. I also understand a lot of the arguments are made that it’s in the Bible and is the will of God.

Well, there is a lot that is in the Bible that isn’t acted on because we understand the Bible was written by men, not God directly. Or has anyone noticed all the banks being forbidden to charge interest on loans all of a sudden? Anyone? I know my mortgage has interest payments, I don’t know about anyone else.

Just saying.

If the basis for an argument is that God said so in the Bible, then every single thing God decreed in the Bible better be in place, or fought for equally hard. You don’t get to pick just the bits to enforce as Gods will that let you be a hate-filled bigot. If you do that, then you are acknowledging that you don’t agree with God on everything, just the bits you think he was right on. Now you’re picking and choosing… and we’re back to this bullshit being about what people do to other people, looking for a justification, and has nothing to do with Gods will.

I don’t know. Hopefully when I push publish, I’ll get that cathartic cleansing that means all this is now dumped on someone elses id.

Tomorrow will be a new day. Every day is a gift, and I don’t want to be walking around tomorrow still pissed off at the hate of a bunch of stupid people. 

I do know one thing. Singling people out and hurting them because they are different than you is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the ‘different’ is. Gay, black, jewish, space alien, I don’t care, it’s wrong.

I don’t know much else in this life, but that I know, and I WILL stand by it.

I say, it’s not enough to block this stupid Marriage Amendment. No, we need to go further, and pull back the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act AND the federal level Defense of Marriage Act.

Huh. How about that. I really do feel better now. And yet, I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. Go figure.

Halloween Challenges Galore!

Welcome to another All Hallows Eve season. I hope you’ve been enjoying it!

World of Warcraft has expanded on what is one of my favorite in-game celebrations, and brought us not one but TWO new pets to pursue, in addition to the little pumpka-dude.

This, of course, comes about 3 days after I finally reached 150 in-game pets on my Druid. Those last two pets seem kinda… well, superfluous now. Ah, well. Getting a start on the inevitable 200 pet achieve, right? Bright side, bright side.

The new kitty pet is cute, but the Creepy Crate… just, omigod.

The Creepy Crate… easts critters. It is the critter chomping crate.

Awesome, right?

I mean, I know that this certainly does reinforce the notion that those Blizzard artists, boy, they sure are serious about wanting WoW to have fewer silly things, huh? Sure does put that argument to rest. /sarcasm.

You might think that the new Creepy Crate was all win, no downside at all, but I’m here to tell you the new pet threw the BBB household into a bit of turmoil.

Our son Alex is eight, and he has the attention span of a ferret on hot chocolate. He gets enthusiasms, stays on something for a few days, then wanders off to something else for a while.

Credit where it is due, he has beaten both Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii (thanks to an incredible reader that sent me a copy of MG2, for which I still remain exceedingly grateful). He plays games, specializing in Mario. He loves Bullet Bills, he knows the names, he has the moves.

He also, yes, has his own World of Warcraft account, but after the first paid month we let it lapse. He simply didn’t use it much. A few days here, a few days there.

With great joy, therefore, we set him up with a free WoW account soon after they were available.

Limited to level 20 on a free account? No problem! All Alex wants to do is log onto a level 5 dwarf shaman, equip a fishing pole and run around fishing. And exploring Ironforge and Stormwind, taking the tram back and forth. We can group with him, and I can take him on Dragon rides around the world. It’s all good.

Oh yeah, there is one other thing.

Alex loves killing critters.

Bunnies. Frogs. Deer. Sheep. Whatever.

I’ve told the tale of Alex the Wabbitslayer before, but he cemented his place in the critter gitter hall of fame when he proudly showed me his secret cow level in Stormwind, where there are usually 5 cows all in a clump out in a farmers field. Cows that are just itching to be whipped to death with a fishing pole, apparently.

This disturbs Cassie, who has this policy of never, ever, ever allowing a critter to come to harm through her actions.

I say, it’s better than having him setting real critters on fire in the backyard… and don’t think I ain’t watching fer the signs.

Alex saw me on my Druid last night, saw me complete the quest chain for the Creepy Crate, and then watched in stunned amazement as I went down into the Ironforge Tram and let the crate feed on rats for a while.

Oh yeah, that did it. He wanted one. Badly. A critter-eating crate pet? Oh, heck yes.

So, the BBB household faced its first true test of the season; can a level 5 free account get a Creepy Crate?

No. No, a level 5 cannot get the first quest of the chain. We tried.

Thus begins our little drama. Sadness. Crushed spirits. Dissappointment, bringing a sudden lack of interest in continuing last night.

You see, he was really excited, he got his hopes up. Once he had those hopes up and went to try and do it on his own character, and found out he could not, that he was denied, he really felt bad.

So, as I talked to him afterwards, Cassie took up the challenge. She began researching what it would take.

A little research revealed that it was possible for a level 10 character to get the quest, and to actually complete it and get a Creepy Crate.

Okay, first goal. Level his character to 10. 

This became a surprise pain. No heirlooms, no problem, right? Of course not. We’re master-class WoW professionals.

But also, no money. No money to train, no money for gear upgrades, not even from vendors. No money by playing the Auction House, you can’t use the AH on a free account. No money for flight paths.

No money from friends or trades, you can’t even USE the mailbox on a free account. And nobody can trade with you. Not money, not items.

So, you quest, you get quest rewards, you loot cash from mobs you kill and from the quest turn-ins.

I got his little Dwarf to level 8 last night, and called it. Wasn’t hard, was just a grind.

Cassie picked it up again this morning and pushed the rest of the way to 10. Go go Cassie levelbot!

After training, and buying a vendor axe for the off-hand, Alex had a level 10 Dwarf Shaman with… 6 silver and some copper.

But he could get the quest! Hurrah!

This evening, after dinner, we revealed to Alex what we had done, and told him that we would work together to do the quest chain, and at the end he would have a Creepy Crate for his very own.

Ah, the excitement! The delight! His little face lit up with pure joy.

It will be one of those moments that I carry with me and hold tight, cherished as a warm, cheerful glow for when I’m old(er), and gray(er), and he has begun legal proceedings to declare me senile and put me in a home so I’m not a bother.

Doing the quest chain together was a lot of fun, we had to run everywhere on foot, because, well he is level 10, and I’d done it on my Druid already, and I don’t have any others that have passenger vans. Err, who can carry a friend around.

As Indy might say, “We’re on foot from here!”

We ran around, we did everything together, when we had to follow the trail of purple spiders I took a step back and let Alex the mighty spider-sniffer lead us along the trail. He likes being the leader, even when he has no bloody idea where we’re going. It’s enough that someone is following him for a change.

Everything went great, right up to the point where we had to get 5 Blood Nettles, 5 Arcane Powder and 5 Crystal Vials.

Guess what? Vials are cheap and Blood Nettles are free, but the Arcane Powder were going to cost him 9 silver 50 copper. EACH. Times 5? Do the math.

Little dude had 4 silver. Screwed, we were.

Ah, shit.

Think, think…. there had to be some way to cheat like a bastard. It’s a video game, there is ALWAYS a way to cheat in a video game. We choose not to cheat in video games, we never said we couldn’t figure out how.

Ah hah!

I’m already grouped with Alex, so we know that works.

What is the goal?

Earn money in sufficient quantity to buy his quest items, minimum 50 silver, in the quickest and easiest fashion possible.

It took 5 levels to get 12 silver, so that is flat out.

But… high level mobs drop higher-value money per kill… plus vendor trash drops. And weapon drops at level 60 are frequently worth a gold all by themselves.

Time to test.

I get on my Druid, we group up, I put it on Group Loot: Free For All, pop Dragonform and fly him out to Burning Steppes, where there are swarms of mobs.

A fast kitty whompas through the crowds, and there are a ton of dead bodies littering the barren wastes.

Can he loot my kills?

Why yes he can!

Five minutes later, he had a few gold in cash plus some sweet vendor trash, and away we went back to Stormwind, and carried on brilliantly, thank you.

Yes, he did complete the quest, and yes, I anticipated the point where the level 84 bad guys pop out when you intercept the meeting. Except I think his bad guy was level-appropriate for him. It went so fast I didn’t get a good check on it, but we both turned in our quests, and I swear two mobs popped out, and mine was 84 and lasted a few good hits, but I think his target was level 10 like him and died in an eyeblink. Something I need to check on an alt.

We went and endured the long chat scenes, waiting patiently to turn our quest in so he could get his Crate AND have the moral high ground by giving it to the Archaeology student… even if I knew the student would be all greedy anyway.

Then I watched as three people ran in, one after the other, and made sure to spam the buttons on their long quest turn-ins so Alex had to wait five minutes, with other people cutting in front of him, and never getting his turn because he just wasn’t fast enough to get that millisecond response time in on the click to turn in.

After three of those, it was time to say “Screw this for a game of soldiers” and go all the way back to Ansom, who may have been greedy, but at least he was short-winded and gave Alex a chance to finish his damn chain.

For the rest of the evening, I enjoyed watching Alex travel around Stormwind, giggling and snorting as the Crate ate… well, everything.

Including, yes, cows. And bunnies. And damn near every other thing he could find.

An evening well spent.

When I think, “I could have been raiding”… it sure does put things into perspective.

In related news, we have two Wii guitars, a drum set, and Band Hero, Lego Rock Band and Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock. Cassie has the Wii version of Metallica and Guitar Hero 5 on the way.

We could play WoW, but it can’t always be Creepy Crates and consumed cows. But it CAN always be “Daddy played bass, momma played fiddle, and little Alex was joining right in there”, whenever we’d like.

Lately, having only an hour or so to do something before an early bedtime, WoW just seems like a lot of time investment with very little family fun and excitement in return. But a good song is only 4 minutes… 5 tops.

That there is good entertainment value for my gamer doller, right there. Git ‘er done!

But for tonight… tonight, there was Creepy Crate.

May you enjoy yours at least half as much as we enjoyed ours.

This is a drama post!

This post has the potential to unleash rage and drama in those that read of it. You’ve been warned.

Nooo….. it’s not about the new BOE Blizzard store pet. Well, not MAINLY about the new Blizzard store pet.

As Steven Brust might say, one word on the new pet.

It is a pet. It will be in the Blizzard store. When you buy it with real money, dollars, euros, yen, what have you, it comes to you bind on equip. You can trade it. You can presumably wrap it in that pretty wrapping paper and mail it to a friend.

You can sell it for gold on the Auction House.

Yes. A Blizzard-sanctioned method of turning real money into virtual gold. You pays your money, you gets your in-game gold. And, depending on pet prices on your server, you takes your chances.

My comment is; so?

A few years ago, I’d probably give a shit. These days, the only victim I see is the account hacker that wants his virtual gold to be the only option you have to buy with your real money. And really, screw The Hacker.

The only point of interest I have in the project is to see how much your $10 will eventually be worth in virtual gold, based on the demand for this pet by people who don’t want to spend $10 of their own real money to get it.

My wife is one of those folks who will pay 20,000 gold for something, and that’s okay, but she already pays $15 a month in real money on the game, be damned if she’ll pay more. And more power to her.

I’m sure your opinion will likely differ, and thus, drama potential one.

But no, that’s not the potential drama I really wanted to talk about.

I was reading Officers Quarters on WoW Insider tonight, and a comment Scott Andrews made touched off this little fireworks ‘splosion in my brain housing group.

The Raid Finder is not just for the guildless. Guilds can also take advantage of this new feature in several ways. The first and most obvious is that it will allow your raiders to get practice time on bosses for your own normal-mode raids. Since you don’t get locked to the instance using the finder, you can see the mechanics ahead of time and still raid with your guild in the same week.

I read that, and for a moment, the aforementioned fireworks went all ‘splodie. Then I felt my brain actually jump the track (over the shark, most likely) and spin aimlessly for a little bit. I failed my SAN check, I tried to disbelieve the reality of the text I had just read, but I rolled a 1. Epic fail.

Scott clearly has spent some time thinking about this topic, and already internalized this, but I’m slow and I’ve been busy.  So maybe I’ve missed the discussion somehow on my feedreader. It’s possible, my feeds have been whittled down to a bare smidgen.

Is Blizzard really just about to release a tool that hardcore raiding guild officers will be able to use to require their members to raid hour after hour after hour in ‘does not count’ practise sessions to fine tune their performance before attempting a boss fight in a raid ‘for reals’?

And nobody has said squat?

Sure, I know that the loot drops won’t be as good as a ‘for reals’ raid, and I know that it will be easy peasy lemon squeazy mode, but it’s still the bare bones of the real raid, and as the game progresses, it’s still a tool that will continue to grow with the patches and expansions.

How did this slip under the radar?

If you were an officer in a hardcore raiding guild, and your guild was shaky on the mechanics of movement, target prioritization or mechanic flow for a particular boss encounter, are you telling me you would NOT have your raid members get in a few hours practise where it won’t count against your weekly attempt?

I’m sorry, maybe nobody cares anymore, but it wasn’t that long ago that players in hardcore raiding guilds were complaining bitterly about having to run both 25 person raids AND 10 person raids every single week in order to maximize their possible loot drops and point/token earnings. I believe quality of life and balance between game time and real time were becoming factors.

This may not be in quite the same ballpark, but it has the potential, in the first few weeks of any new raid, to be even worse. That raid team that really, really, REALLY wants to smoke the raid bosses first week… well, how many hours are they prepared to spend running the raid on what will be, for all intents and purposes, Practise Mode?

True? Not true? Molehill that just looks like a mountain?

You tell me.

Okay, NOW my journey to the Feral side is complete

Tesh has taken up the challenge, and crafted the ultimate Ring of Power™.

Or at least, the ultimate Ring of Furry Feral Druid Pride.

Yes, I said Furry. We’re Druids. Get over it. SOME of us are even Taurens, so if you can’t at least handle the label with humor, dare I say “let it slide like water off a Manatee-forms back”, then you’re in the wrong end of the class pool.

Tesh has opened a new Shapeways store, called Tish Tosh Tesh Toys (I love that name), and has presented us with several different Feral Druid ring designs.

One of these rings is exactly, EXACTLY, how I envisioned the ring I wanted to design… except a little better, because it has our Druid shoulder markings on each side of the claw design;

It’s amazing! And on Shapeways, when made out of Stainless Steel, it’s only $23.00!

Now, at this time it is only on there at size 11. I do not know what size my finger is, but it’s unlikely to be 11. I ain’t that lucky. But Tesh tells me he is going to be adding more ring sizes soon.

I think if we ask nicely, he may also add the option to have it made out of other materials… I don’t know what the options are exactly, and I know I will buy the stainless version so I can wear it without worrying about breaking or chipping it, but it seems to me you can have things made of other materials, some colored. Perhaps a Night Elf purple or Tauren brown version are possible.

 Still…. behold the power of creation!

And if Tesh acts fast, it is entirely possible that some lucky Druids could be seen wearing one of Teshs rings at Blizzcon! Talk about a head turner, eh?

In other Tish Tosh Tesh related news, one of the things he intends to create and place for sale on his Shapeways store are Zomblobs! figures for a tabletop game version of his game design.

Just sayin’, this ain’t a one-shot store for a one day wonder novelty item that will quickly and quietly fade away. Tesh has plans. Exciting, imaginative plans. I’m really looking forward to seeing where his vision will carry me next.

What to get the geek that has everything?

The holiday season fast approaches, and for once, I’ve found something super-cool far enough in advance to be able to tell you, and have it do some good.

No, nothing on my store, although I do hope to one day have enough energy to put Tish Tosh Teshs brilliant tanking pet design up there, like I said I would back when I went to NADWCON.

No, what I want to point you to is one of the most brilliant sites on the internet, one of the most wonderful stores, and a good way to blow an afternoon.

Do you have a friend you’d like to find that perfect, unique gift for?

Do you also lack the craft skills necessary to pull off something neat yourself, like knitting a scarf in the colors of the Horde?

Well, then may I suggest you pay a visit to Shapeways.

You probably already heard of or visited Shapeways before, but have you been by lately?

Shapeways is a site that allows you to either submit your own custom 3D CAD designs to be made by their cutting-edge processes out of the material you choose, from plastics to stainless steel, or to pick from existing designs that other people have already created and uploaded. Or in some cases, customize some of those designs to suit your own purposes.

You could find replica Green Lantern rings on Shapeways long before DC Comics realized it might be a money maker for them, and come on, who didn’t want their own Ring of Ultimate Power™ as a kid?

I had planned on taking the Blizzard WoW Bear Claw design that signifies shapeshifting into Bear form and having it designed into a signet ring.


Unfortunately, I truly have zero time these days. I’m working twelve hour days at the foundry, five days a week, and that just doesn’t leave me much time to do squat. So, I fail.

BUT!

Shapeways has grown to the point where creative folks have carved out their own stores on the site, populated with their own unique designs.

These are things you truly will NOT find in brick and mortar stores… so you can be assured that your significant other will not open this present and say, “Oh cool, I saw that on Amazon and was thinking of getting one, thanks!” Or, worse yet, “Oh damn, I already got one, I forgot to tell you.”

First, for the true dice collectors among us.

I, myself, am a collector of dice. I’m clearly not in Wil Wheaton’s league, but I can console myself with knowing that my collection filled tackle boxes years before he considered picking up his first d20.

As an initiate to the inner mysteries of the die, I find these beautiful designs to be worthy of applause;

The Large Dice Set, designed and sold by Made by Wombat. This is just one of Made By Womats designs, to whet your appetite for more. 🙂

Or how about this, for the Girl Genius fans out there?

The Steampunk Die Set, created and sold by Masterworks?

As cool as that is, I love the stylings of her Deathly Hallows inspired dice set a little better, but that’s just me.

You starting to see what I mean about cool and unique?

Before I leave the world of innovative die, how could I not mention Dizingof’s Steampunk D4?

Yes, that is a single D4 die. Just, omigod. If you WERE planning on handing Wil Wheaton a single die at Gencon or something, what better way to leave an impression than with that?

That is as far as I’m willing to go on a blog post. Hopefully, this will tease you into leaping in and seeing what kind of awesomeness you can find to wow that special someone.

I’ll also be honest, I have an ulterior motive. I know a lot of you are brilliantly creative, and if even one of you visits Shapeways, sees the possibilities, and opens your own store to share and sell your imaginative designs, I’ll consider it a victory.

Okay, I have to leave you with one more.

This one is the Horde Medallion by leslie of the store Satori.

Does that not kick ass?

I think it does.

Happy shopping!