The Art of Persuasion revisited

Talk about firing up the wayback machine!

I mentioned the torture quest from Borean Tundra yesterday, just as an example, and it brought forth a few comments and a few ideas.

Rohan wrote a post about it years ago that stuck with me, and I think he represents most of the players like me that say, “Hey! My character wouldn’t do that! Screw the Kirin Tor!”

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone come out and say they think it was a good quest from an RP point of view, because your choice is to torture, or walk away and abadon the quest, implying that you left the Kirin Tor to find someone else to torture the guy. There are no real choices involved, the prisoner will still be tortured one way or the other, and you knew about it and did nothing to stop it.

When I mentioned the idea of having raid hard modes represent harder moral choices, the Art of Persuasion quest was one that I still think of as a lost chance at letting the player make a pesonal choice.

To fight and struggle against an implacable foe can seem very heroic on the face of it. Armor plated warrior queen facing off against fire breathing drag0n, you know the battle is either gonna be brutal, or extra crispy.

But when the choice you’re given is to have a target strapped to a chair, people standing all around you, and one of them hands you a knife and says, “Get carving”, that’s not making a choice so much as taking the path of least resistance.

But what about having quests with decision points? A quest that follows a certain chain, and then at a certain critical point offers you two choices, and each choice has a couple different quests that, regardless of which path you choose, rejoin once again into the one chain?

Let’s take “The Art of Persuasion” chain as an example.

You are a hero trying to aid the Kirin Tor out in Borean Tundra. The Mages have a problem, and it’s a big one. Mages are being abducted!

You are first tasked by the quest “Prison Break” with rescuing an abducted Kirin Tor mage. You are sent to where the mage prisons are, tasked with killing a guard to get a prison key and freeing a Mage. Good!

Once you’ve freed the Mage, your are given the “Abduction” quest. Lady Evanor, one of the Dalaran Archmages, was captured and the most likely suspects are these mage hunters and their Beryl Sorcerer allies. Time is of the essence if we are to find and rescue her!

You are to go back down there, subdue a Beryl Sorcerer, chain him up and drag him back in for questioning.

After you have brought back your Beryl Sorcerer prisoner, you are given the quest “The Borean Inquisition”. The prisoner is being prepared for questioning, mostly involving a chair with straps. You are sent to go and be ready to help in the questioning, in case you are needed.

Okay, so far so good, right? Mages are being abducted, you go free one, then word comes down that a senior senator or archmage or some other high muckety-muck just got captured, this is an emergency, we have to act fast to enact a rescue!

So you go and grab a prisoner to bring back for questioning. Since you picked the person to capture and brought them back in chains, the well being of that prisoner is your responsibility. Whatever they were before, they are helpless now in your hands.

Yes, there are questions that need answers. Yes, in the heat of battle they might have died anyway. But this changes the dynamic.

Where is Lady Evanor? What are they planning to do to her? How can we free her from her magical chains? We need answers before it’s too late! But at the same time, the prisoner cannot defend themselves. whatever you do to them is being done to someone as helpless as a babe. How do you feel about that? No worries, who cares, I’d have bathed in his blood anyway, or is it different now that he is utterly helpless and at your mercy?

So you’re sent to the tower, where the prisoner has been strapped helpless in a chair, and there is clearly going to be some torturing for information going on.

It is fortunate you’re here, <race>.

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain ‘extreme’ measures – even in desperate times such as these.

You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

Do what you must. We need to know where Lady Evanor is being held at once!

I’ll just busy myself organizing these shelves here. Oh, and here, perhaps you’ll find this old thing useful….

[You receive  [Neural Needler].]

Now, this is the perfect point where a choice could have been offered. Instead of a single “Accept” button to choose to take the quest as offered, there could have been two lines of text describing your reaction, each leading to one of two branching quests.

The decision point.

One of the lines could have said, <You take the Neural Needler.>, indicating you intend to do exactly as asked, and torture the prisoner. That could have led to the normal two follow up quests, actually performing the torture, and then the follow up of taking your information to Librarian Donathan.

But what if the other line of text read, <No! There has to be another way! Wait, I have an idea.>

By selecting that choice, you could then be sent to talk to Librarian Donathan outside, and complete that quest by saying, “You of the Kirin Tor are powerful mages. Can you make me look like one of the Beryl Sorcerers for a few minutes, make a loud noise to the north and clear your people from the tower?”

The conclusion of that quest could be Librarian Donathan casting an illusion on you to make you look like a Beryl Sorcerer.

The follow up quest? There is a loud “boom!” to the north, a cloud od dust, the tower shakes a little, and you go in the tower, conveniently empty of Kirin Tor, to “break” the prisoner out. As you grab him and do a traditional escort quest to lead him out of the tower, he could let drop pieces of info along the way, such as thanking you, and telling you he’ll meet you on the platform where Lady Evanor is held as soon as he checks in with the person who holds her key, naming him.

That would give you two quests for each decision, but the end result would be the same.

However you got it, you have information to pass on to Librarian Donathan so you know where to go and what to do to free Lady Evanor in the quest chain.

Same quest count, so there is no advantage to one or the other in terms of exploring. And the follow up quests in the chain from that point would be the same. It would all be about which you felt more approapriate to your character.

The point is, for one brief moment lasting two quests long, you could choose whether you were the kind of person who chose expedience, pragmatism, ruthlessness or outride bloodthirstiness as their character personality, or if you were the kind of character that will try to find another way, any other way than torturing a prisoner, even if that means you fail to save someone else.

On a bonus? Screw the kirin Tor and their holier than thou bullshit. How much more fun would it be to listen to them tell you how special and precious their rules make them that they won’t torture the prisoner, tell you that YOU have to get your hands bloody, there is no other way, here is your torture device we just happen to have laying around, and then YOU tell THEM that you refuse and then find a better way that could have been taken all along, if they hadn’t been so quick to decide, in their worry or concern over the fate of Lady Evanor, to jump at torturing the prisoner..

Take your neural needler, shove it up your ass, because maybe it’s time you asked yourselves some pointed questions about how committed you are to the intent behind your rules and not just the letter of the law.

Yes, my description of how to impersonate a Beryl Sorcerer and the odds you’d really get your answers is far-fetched in a real detailed novel, but for a fast-paced quest chain I think it would be satisying. 

You could get the job done, but take one of two drastically different routes to do it, and while your choice would affect nothing but your personal relationship with your character, it would still be a meaningful RP decision. 

Blizzard almost did this later on, with Cataclysm in Mount Hyjal. There is a quest given by Thisalee Crow called ‘A Bird in Hand”.

In it, you are to use a signal fire to draw the attention of Marion Wormwing, and after you distract her by beating on her for a while, Thisalee sneaks up behind her and grapples her.

You then get to do some quick interrogating.

What’s interesting to me with this quest is, you aren’t given a choice of questioning her or not, but once you’ve gotten your info, you ARE given a choice… of whether to let her go, or kill her in cold blood.

Line of text: <Order Thisalee to kill the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re my kind of mage, <name>! We’re finished with this filth.

Line of text: <Ask Thisalee to release the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re a better person than I, <name>. But I suppose the harpies are just pawns here.

As you can see, this is exactly what I was talking about before. You still did the questioning and, yes, torture beforehand, but afterwards you’re given two choices, two lines of text, and what will happen differs depending on what you choose.

I’m suggesting that this same kind of “two options” thing could be used to offer decision points leading to quests, just one or two quests deep, that rejoined the same quest chain when done, but would give you a choice in how your character would approach things.

What do you think? Are there other quests in the game that you think could have a very different emotional impact if you’re just given a small choice?


Shhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting DEMONS!

Bearwall! Ah, the smell of fresh bear droppings  on a nice clean blog page.

It smells like… oh, damn.

Smelly bear, smelly bear, what have they been feeding you?
Beer and bacon and BBQ beans, that’s what a big butted bear is made of.

Surprise, surprise, I have been playing a little Diablo 3 this week.

I don’t know that my experiences are going to be all that interesting, but my approach to the game has been to ignore it and all related discussions completely until release.

I wouldn’t say I’ve taken pleasure in ignoring the latest details MMO Champion would release during Beta, or in passing by the fevered, frenzied arguments about it’s features that popped up like shrooms all over the blogosphere.

Well, yeah, I guess I would.

I was playing World of Warcraft, and while it’s nice to see what is intended in a beta for a game I’m actively playing, like WoW, I really couldn’t get into following all the details of a game that was unplayable.

Basically, I ask this of a company – if you’re creating a game, give me a video pimping your art design and music to entice my imagination, then give me some gameplay videos showing me what it’s like to actually get embedded into it. That’s it, I’ll take it from there. The more detail you tell me, the less left to my imagination. Give me a good view of the gameplay, I’ll see all I need for a snap judgment.

I played Diablo, Diablo II, and the expansions. I’ve got fond memories of them all, but the gameplay… they are, at their hearts, button mashing hack and slash dungeon crawlers, and there was nothing wrong with that at all. But the tastiest bits of those dungeon crawlers was exploring the world, the lore, and the specifics of the gameplay as it unfolded through the levels, so why would I want to spoil the mysterious bits with spoilers before I even crack the can?

Plus… one of the things I loved about my previous Diablo experiences was how rock-solid polished they were. Shit worked, no bugs. Why spoil by trying them when they’re all buggy?

I wanted to walk into the new game just like I did the old ones, to get immersed in a POLISHED game experience and enjoy my ignorance.

The best reason I could think of to follow the development would be to see if I felt enticed enough to buy it for $60, so as soon as they announced you got the game for free with an Annual Pass in WoW, well, I stopped following the news. Purchase was a done deal, I’ll play it when I get it, and see what it’s like then.

Fast forward to launch week, my friends. Ooh, new game, cool, time to see what all the hype was about. I hope it doesn’t suck!

I’ve been so successful at remaining spoiler free (that sounds better than ignorant, doesn’t it?) that I had to no shit look up how many classes there were and watch the “What the heck does this class do” videos on MMO Champion just to get some idea of which one I might try first.

I didn’t have even the most basic awareness of what was going to happen when I fired it up. Except, like, you know.

Demons and shit.

I watched the Barbarian video, the Demon Hunter and the Monk. I didn’t watch the Witch Doctor because the gameplay description was all “lol pets lol”, and I didn’t watch the Wizard because, well, squishy was my first impression, and squishy is for after you play around with it.

A heavy plate wearing class, a damage sponge, that is just the thing for a training wheels experience.

I didn’t think I’d start with a Barbarian though, because, well, it looked identical to a WoW Warrior, been there done that, I deal with rage issues enough as it is. If I want to deal with rage, I can just catch up on Twitter, plenty of rage to be found there.

I didn’t think I wanted to start with a Demon Hunter because, and this is the only real reason, I didn’t fancy micro-managing traps. Demon Hunter went on my mental “try when I’m bored with my first character, twin crossbows look sweet” list.

So I watched the Monk video, and I thought it looked pretty cool. It is about damn time someone decided that what the world lacked was Hungarian Ninjas, and I for one welcome our new Hungarian Ninja lightning-fisted overlords.

Awesome voice acting on the accents. I started off with a male one, booted through the startup intro and then thought, “Holy crap, this guy is so awesome, what does a female Hungarian Ninja sound like, OMIGOD RUN GO SEE GO SEEEEE”

I do not regret my decision. Sunshatter the female Hungarian Ninja is a lot of fun.

In getting started, the Monk certainly felt powerful, I kicked some skeleton ass. It was pretty cool. Nice effects, a melee class with lots of “get to the bad guy fast” abilities, very nice.

The more things change, though, the more they feel the same.

The first thing that really got into my head like Deja-Diablo-Vue was how like Diablo II the gear situation felt.

One of the things I carried forward from Diablo II was my irritation with their loot system.

Drops were always random, and it was difficult to know what stats you wanted, and if you did know exactly what was optimal, good luck ever finding it.

I only ever played Diablo II single player, and I remember feeling really irritated that they couldn’t have drops that were a little more… focused towards being useful, but in different ways.

I’m a warrior, what do I need Intellect on my plate helm for? Why does my two handed flamberge give me +Arcane Power? WTF?

At the time, I figured it was so that, when playing Diablo II in a group for years, the drop of an actually USEFUL piece of gear would be cause for celebration, acrimonious arguments, and furious dissention. All the stuff that helps bond a group.

So, yeah, when I saw the return of some of the silly stat combinations, it brought me right back.

The reality of Diablo III is better, much better, the new game does not bear any real resemblance to how bad Diablo II gear drop stats were, but the feel is there on each wtf drop.

See, the reason it’s all good is, all that crap gear has a point! You can destroy it for component parts without regret. Plus, and this is amazing, as far as I can see there is NO soulbinding, so you can equip a drop, use it as long as you’d like, and then trade it to someone else.

Oh yeah, did I mention my shock at that change before? There is an Auction House, and you don’t have to decide between equipping an awesome item to level with or selling it. You can do both!

Level with that awesome item, then when you get an upgrade, turn around and break it up into forging mats, or sell it on the AH to someone else. Or stick it in your shared stash for an alt to use someday.

That… that is pretty amazing to me. It seems almost TOO useful, too considerate to players, to be a Blizzard game design decision.

Then again, the Black Market Auction House is coming soon, as well as account-wide shared mounts, and those are a bit of a shocker too. I thought Blizzard wanted us to run things a bazillion times hoping for that rare drop, and then suffer the anguish of the “soulbound on the wrong character that ran it once to help a friend” tragedy.

Your tears nourish the black soul of Blizzard developers, who, or so I’ve heard, are all retired Special Forces E&E Trainer cadre who miss torturing willing participants in a myriad of perfectly legal ways.

My amazement of the transferrable loot system was overshadowed by my annoyance at how confused I feel at Blizzard’s itemization.

Understand, I could answer all of these questions with a 30 second web search. That’s not the point. The point is to have the joy of discovery all on my own, and that joy has to be balanced by my inevitable irritation when I’m ignorant, and can’t figure out a solution quickly.

As much else that I love, I continue to feel confused with armor and weapons.

For example… are there actual armor types?

I look at an item description, and it seems sometimes it says an item is cloth, other times leather, but many other times there is no actual ‘armor class’ or type listed, just an armor value.

Stats are fairly obvious in association, but can my Wizard wear the same types of armor as my Barbarian? There are class-specific items with a class name in some pieces, but in others, it seems pretty shaky.

It’s not quite as obvious as the system that I, as a WoW player, am used to. Such as “You are a Mage, you wear Cloth. Suck it up, silk-boy.” Or “You are a Druid, you can wear Cloth or Leather armor, you have a level 60 Skill that says if you wear all Leather you get stat bonuses so you are intended to wear leather whenever possible, if you don’t like it go stick a feather in your butt and pop flight form, bird-brain.”

Not a big issue, just… ah, the feel of Diablo II in the air. Refreshing!

When I’d played my Monk for a while, I decided I wanted to try a ranged class. I was having fun, but I was curious if a Wizard would feel noticeably squishier, and if so, would that be more challenging? The Monk was feeling a bit too easy mode.

I created a Wizard. A male Wizard. I refrained from making the obvious emo jokes when I saw his default pose, I just named him Unbearable, and really, when you look at his pose, why wouldn’t you? I look at him and I know *I* want to smack that smug know-it-all smirk off his face.

Here is the funny thing.

Because my monk was a melee combatant, I worked hard to get weapon upgrades. More powerful paired Vampiric daggers means more stabby-stab damage, right? Sorta?

But the Wizard is a spell-casting inferno of magical destruction. I am throwing lightning bolts and orbs of arcane might at the bad guys, all doing with the blowing up thing.

What does the DPS of a sword have to do with the damage my fireball does?

Well, it doesn’t, or so I reason out, and off I went through most of the first act ignoring my weapon unless a Wand dropped, since Wands might affect my Magic Missile.

I was having a pretty hard time towards the end, fighting the waves of bad guys in the Cathedral leading up to the Skeleton King. I was getting swamped, and as good as Arcane Orb is, it was taking every bit of skillful use of Frost Nova and that Arcane Explosion thingie AoE and running and gunning to stay alive.

Then, I decided to toss a 14.5 DPS flaming spear into my weapon slot. Just cause, you know. Flaming javelin mages are so the thing, right?


It turns out, and this was a hell of a surprise, it turns out that the higher the DPS rating on my melee weapon, the more powerful my magical spells are.

So… my weapon is a stat stick that has no intuitive link with my magical power, but does anyway. Fair enough, lesson learned, time to toast some Horny Tauren… err, goatmens.

It’s been lots of fun, dungeon crawling has never been more interesting. Learning to hold down the shift button whenever I want to blow stuff up at range (it keeps me from moving when I click), learning that I can click on my Templar companion’s portrait and train his skills and GIVE HIM gear to make him more powerful, there are all sorts of fun little discoveries so far.

And I’ll be honest with you, the fact that I am trying, screwing it up, getting myself in stupid situations and then discovering my error later? That is actually a large part of the fun.

There is something inherently perverse in how I’m playing the game. The moments that stand out for me as the best are the ones where I go “Oh shit! THAT’S what I was supposed to do! Well, duh.”

And yet… it’s been good.

I’ve been thinking, I’m having so much fun and being delighted by wonder and getting surprised by my mistakes and working through them, that I’m thinking I ought to try working ignorance into the rest of my day to day activities.

I’m thinking, from now on, when I’m driving I might want to stop turning my head around to see what is behind me and to the sides before I make a lane change. I think going to that extra effort to actually SEE the blind spots and make sure they’re clear before I change lanes is keeping me from having a certain taste of mystery, of wonder in my life. I think I should cut back on being informed, no turn signals either (why should I prevent other drivers from enjoying their own moment of enjoyable surprise learning experiences) and just glance in the side mirror and pop over in the same movement.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Don’t worry though, I know I’m not the first one to think of this as a way to add a certain flair and excitement to my day. Hell, from what I can see on the road, I’m apparently the last one to realize how fun it must be.

Here’s hoping that you and yours are having a great time in whatever game you may be playing, and I’ll leave you with this tagline:

“Ignorance – It’s not just a playstyle choice, it’s a LIFESTYLE choice.”

It Was Just A Blown Fuse

BEARWALL that has nothing to do with gaming.

Has anyone ever told you this before?

“Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”

Just so you know, that saying is a test.

A lot of things in life are tests, and it can be hard to recognize it when one comes around.

This post is in the way of a public service message for those of you that aren’t all too sure what “a blown fuse” means, and don’t want to look stupid or ignorant when someone tells you this in the future.

From now on, instead of nodding your head and walking away feeling vaguely worried, I’m going to arm you with science so you know what they’re saying… and what pointed questions to ask.

A Firm Grounding

Here’s the deal. If you’re reading this, you’re plenty smart enough and educated enough to understand what a fuse is, and what it means. You might just need a frame of reference.

Don’t panic. This won’t get technical.

You know your electronics runs on a power source we call electricity.

There are lots of technical terms used when discussing electricity, how it’s measured, how to calculate volts and amps, etc.

You don’t need to know any of that to live your life.

What you need to know is, how does it make that iPod spin out music, and can my iPod electrocute me if I drop it in water?

Quick answer: No.

We can functionally describe electricity as being similar to water. Water that is unaffected by gravity… but that loves finding a path to the deep, dark underworld.

What do I mean?

Let’s look at how water functions.

Water, when flowing, pushes things in front of it. The force of water pushing on things in it’s path can be used to get work done. The stronger the flow (or current), the more it can push, the more it can do.

Electricity works much the same way.

Picture a flowing stream or babbling brook. If there is a building on the riverbank, and that building has a waterwheel dipping into the river’s current, the force of the flowing water pushes on the paddles that are at the bottom, moving them forward, turning the wheel so that the next paddle dips into the current, and the rotation of the wheel continues, forever and ever, amen, ’til the river rises and the cows come home.

That waterwheel rotates on a shaft, and the shaft goes into the building, and what you get is a turning shaft inside a big building, powered by the flow of water. You can then attach stuff like gears and things, linkages and doodads, and get working machinery… powered purely by water. Triphammers, mill wheels, saws and drills and all sorts of stuff can be powered in this way.

Well, electricity is the same exact thing.

Except… instead of electricity flowing as water does, pulled down by gravity following the lowest surface it can find, electricity is special water that flows wherever it can find a conductive surface to carry it into the ground.

Electricity always heads for the easiest, simplest, fastest connection to the deep earth it can find. It follows the path of least resistance.

What is a conductive surface? Well, it depends on how strong the current of the electricity is, really.

Things like metal and water can be great conductors. Electricity touching metal will go straight to wherever the metal is touching the ground at the best point.

Rubber and the air can both be very good insulators, blocking the flow of electricity dead in it’s tracks. Plastic is pretty good at that, too.

But the more power, the more force, the more oomph in the electricity, the more resistance (or insulation) the electricity can overcome.

At high enough levels, the electricity can even jump through the air, conducting through the air itself to get to the ground. We call that an arc, and that’s some serious high power fry your ass mojo.

Why, if there is enough current in the electricity, YOU can be a conductor! You are a lot more conductive than the air, by the way. A LOT more conductive than the air.

Safety First

Let’s have a brief experiment to illustrate this point.

Say you take a metal knife, and you stick it in a wall outlet… the electricity will instantly see that if it flows through the metal knife, and then through your body, it can reach the ground through your knees where you’re touching it, and off it goes.

At this point, you will either get blasted away from the outlet because the electricity flowing through your body from your hand to your knees caused your muscles to spasm, OR you will get locked rigidly to that knife, taking the juice constantly, because your muscles all just convulsed and locked up.

This can be a fun experiment, because if your friend or loved one sees you there unmoving or unresponsive, they might run over to grab you and pull you away… and IF they are suddenly a better conductor (say they are in bare feet while you’re wearing jeans) than you are, now the electricity sees a BETTER conductive path of least resistance through them, and BOOM, they get zapped too.

Quick fun fact: In the Marines, when you’re going to work with electricity, we used to make safety devices. What these were, were long wooden sticks covered in rubber, with a metal hook screwed into one end and also covered with rubber. They were for when a Marine grabbed a live wire, convulsed, and you had to get them free without electricuting yourself. You could grab the 8′ long rubber-coated hook off the wall, and either hook them and drag them away or just whack them good with the rubber stick.

Oh no? Oh, hell yes.

Are you paying attention now?

Just to ease your worried mind, you should know that there are two kinds of electricity… direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The kind of electricity in your wall outlets and in your home is all AC, or alternating current. Think of it as special electricity that pulses instead of just staying strong and steady. It pulses so fast you wouldn’t notice it without special gear, but your muscles will know the difference, because if you get zapped by AC, the first pulse may lock your muscles up and cause them to contract but the next pulse will convulse you and blast you free.

Direct Current, now… that shit will lock you up, holmes.

Where do you mostly find DC (Direct Current)? Why you find it INSIDE a lot of pwoerful electronics like TVs, stereos, microwave ovens, motors, air conditioners, all that kind of stuff. AFTER where the AC power cord comes into the gizmo, goes through a transformer and some other stuffs, and gets distributed throughout the thingie as nice, smooth DC voltage.



Electricity is like water, it pushes stuff in front of it. It is supposed to start at, say, a wall outlet or breaker box. Then it flows through a conductive material, like metal wire, that is covered in a insulating material like rubber to keep it IN the wire, goes into a gizmo, pushes stuff around inside the gizmo to make it move and get work done… and then, believe it or not, goes right back out a second insulated metal wire and back into the wall outlet, return to sender.

It makes a complete circuit.

This is why, if you look at an AC power cord, it is two wires, each wrapped in rubber to isolate them from each other. One is the supply of juice TO teh gizxmo, the other is the return pipe FROM teh gizmo. They are commonly called the ‘Hot” and the “Neutral”, respectively. The hot is usually coated with black rubber, and the neutral is coated with white, when found in American wiring diagrams or inside a junction box.

You often also find a third wire. It is colored green inside gizmos, and it is called the ground wire.

Why? Because the ground wire does NOT carry any juice at all. None. It is dead as a doornail… and it is there to save your life.

The ground wire is attached to the deepest, darkest pit of black underground wetness there is anywhere near your house. It is THE favorite path for current to flow.

The ground wire is plugged into your gear, fixed to metal parts like the case… and is supposed to be a safety. If the hot or the neutral gets cut or shorted, instead of you getting killed by touching the metal case of your stereo, the power goes through the case, to the ground wire, and down to that inky it of blackness where all electricity finds it’s home instead.

It also provides a wonderful way of making sure you don’t get outside sources of electricity, like static electricity, interfering within your delicate electronics like your Xbox 360. If you zap the case, the ground wire bleeds the electricity off to ground so it never zaps the guts of the machine.

But what about fuses, you idiot!

It is normal to put a fuse in the wire at different points.

Breakers in your electrical panel in your house are, essentially, fuses too.

What a fuse is, is a wire designed to melt at a certain temperature, enclosed in a VERY insulative holder. It’s just the same as wire, but if it gets too hot, it melts. 

Fuses melt when they get too hot, and when that happens, no more path for the current to flow. Electricity stops flowing, because the wire just got cut. The gizmo stops working… because the electricity HAS to flow for it to push or otherwise make the gizmo do stuff.

So, if a fuse is designed to melt when it gets too hot, what causes it to heat up?

Electricity does.

More specifically, the amperage in the electricity.

What is amperage? 

You don’t need to know exactly what it is, but it can help to think of it like this.

Now, this is completely and totally wrong, and yet it may help. Professionals, if you think I’ve taken liberties before this, hold onto your hats. It’s all in a good cause.

When you see a sign saying # of volts, # of amps, think of it like this.

The amount of volts is the size of pipe the electricity is traveling in. The more volts, the bigger the flow of electricity can be, the more work it COULD do.

The amount of amps is the actual POWER, the push, the big honking wave that is flowing through the pipe, doing the actual work.

To complete this horrible analogy, the stuff that the electricity is pushing in whatever gizmo you’ve got? That is the resistance. The more it resists the amps trying to push it, the more amps you need to provide to get it to go.

Here is why you should care.

You could have 480 volts on the line, a huge pipe. But if there are only .2 milliamps in the circuit, an itty bitty amount of current, you can grab the bare wire in your hand and only feel a tickle.

If you lick a 9 volt battery, getting your tongue on both prongs at once and feel the electricity flow across your taste buds from one pole to another, it won’t blow your ass up because the amps are very low.

But if you grabbed that same 480 volt wire, and there were 20 or more amps on there… if those 20 amps of force decided to flow through YOU as the fastest way to get to the ground, if YOU became the “path of current flow”, then you can die, cooked from the inside out, with your feet blown off and still steaming in your boots.

I’m not kidding around here.

What makes a fuse melt?

Amps of force performing work, pushing through things that offer resistance, generate heat.

If there is too little wire to handle all the amps flowing through it, that wire will, literally, melt.

The reason you have circuit breakers in your house is to prevent you plugging in too many things on one circuit or loop of wire, drawing a SHOTLOAD of amps through the wires in the walls of your house to power all that crap, melting the wires buried in your walls and setting your house on fire.

The circuit breaker is a fuse, designed to trip out or ‘break’ when it gets too hot… and capable of being reset. It trips when there are more amps flowing through it than the wires attached to it are capable of handling.

Circuit breakers are designed to be reset, on the assumption you know enough to unplug stuff from the appropriate outlet when one pops. Old school power panels had actual fuses that you had to replace… and many skilled and brilliant electricians would replace them, all right. With copper pennies. Sigh.

So, pop quiz because you know the answer now. What does a blown fuse mean?

It means that something got so hot it melted a piece of wire. It melted a piece of wire that was designed to melt for a reason; to protect something else from getting damaged from too much force/amps/electricity/power.

So now we come to the main event.

If a fuse blew, it didn’t do it out of spite, or vindictiveness.

That fuse blew because something somewhere else went wrong, and the fuse melted to protect your valuable shit, or even your life.

Why your life?

Because the most common place to stick a fuse is right where the wire comes into your gizmo from the power cord plugged into the wall. If that fuse melted, something somewhere in your gizmo suddenly decided to suck so much juice out of the wall it melted a wire… melted that wire before it melted something else. Or tripped a breaker in your power panel.

Or shorted right through you, blowing off your feet.

So if someone says to you, “Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”, the very next question you need to ask is, “What caused the fuse to blow?”

That is the test.

To know that a blown fuse is not the problem, a blown fuse PROTECTED you from the problem.

What caused the fuse to blow? Because if all you did was replace the fuse, what the hell is stopping whatever it was from causing it to blow again?

What if the reason the fuse blew, was that there is water somewhere inside the gizmo. Electricity likes to find the easiest path to ground, right? And water makes for a good conductor. the electricity doesn’t want to do work, it doesn’t want to flow through any resistance, it’s always looking for the easiest way out.

So there is water, and sometimes the gizmo moves, the water flows, touches somewhere that has electricity, and the electricity says “Ah HAH! I can bypass almost all this other shit, flow right through the water, take a shortcut, and go through this here control knob, through that person’s hand, down their arm, and ground myself on the metal arm of the chair. YAHOO! FREEDOM AT LAST!”


Or maybe, and god this is common, maybe you’ve got a motor that is powered by electricity in your gizmo. Like your car. Or your air conditioner. The motor is physically moving, spinning round, from the force of electricity pushing it.

It takes a lot of amps to physically move a motor. Lots more than your iPod needs. Rule of thumb, if the electricity has to get a motor physically moving, it’s got a LOT of juice running through it. Moving parts take power.

The motor has all this power running through it, some insulation starts wearing away, or the bearing that lets the shaft turn nice and smooth starts binding up making the motor use a LOT more power to get that shaft to turn, and the heat from the increased amp draw builds up.

The fuse blows. It gets hot and melts, protecting your motor from turning into slag.

If this is caught right away, the motor can usually be fixed. Maybe by something as simple and easy as putting a bit of grease or oil on the bearing that the shaft turns on, reducing how hard the motor has to work.

But what do I see all the damn time?

“Fuse blew, I replaced it and got the device back in service.”

“What caused it to blow?”

“I dunno, probably just a power spike.”

“Nothing else went down, and the lights didn’t flicker. Go check it out, find out why it blew.”

“Okay.” *very grumpy*

A week passes.

The motor ‘burns out’, from too much heat because instead of greasing the motor bearings, the jackass replaced the fuses and didn’t ‘waste his time ‘troubleshooting the core problem.

I look inside at the fuses, wondering why the $20 fuses did not pop, protecting the $3000 motor from melting by blowing first, like they were designed to.

I see that the fuses, which are supposed to blow if the electrical current flow exceeds 20 amps, have been replaced by 30 amp fuses.

It takes a lot more heat to blow a 30 amp rated fuse than a 20 amp rated fuse. If the amps never rise above 30 amps, the wire inside will never heat up enough to melt.

But that motor sure did love the extra amps that drove it far harder than it was ever designed to, at a temperature it’s wires weren’t designed to handle. Wires melted, or maybe even the motor windings.

Meltdown. $3000 motor burnt to shit. Repairs and rewinding will probably cost about $1200.

Oh wow, but at least those $20 fuses are still in great shape, and the tech that decided to swap 20 amp fuses for 30 amp fuses so he wouldn’t have to keep replacing them when they blew over and over?

Well, at least he had some piece and quiet for that week.

Wrapping this up

Now you know what a blown fuse really means. It means more juice, more power, more amps, more OOMPH just went through the thing than it was designed to safely handle, and the fuse blew before something SERIOUS happened. Read: expensive or dangerous.

If you simply replace the fuse, you are giving whatever it was a chance to do it again, shocking the system and risking damage from the fuse melting too SLOWLY to stop the big jolt of power from going through and doing it’s damage to the sensitive guts of your gear first.

If you replace the fuse with a BIGGER fuse, what you’re doing is saying, “I don’t like to live safely, or to save money. Fuck it, let the motor burn, just as long as it stops bugging me by popping all the time.”

Yes, a spike of power from the source can cause a fuse to blow or breaker to pop. A lightning strike on the main supply coming into your house, etc.

But if it did… you should have seen lights flicker, or had some other indication than just one thing popping a fuse.

At the very least, I hope that now you will feel confident whenever you are talking to someone about your car, or stereo, or air conditioner, or circuit breaker, to call them on the carpet if they feed you that old “It was just a fuse” line.

Today, it was just a fuse. Tomorrow, it’s the water pump, or the fan motor, or the overhead crane drive, or whatever it may be.

Or something compound in your car. I don’t care what it is, if it’s compound, it’s money.

This may not have helped you, but by God I’m glad to get that off my chest. Freaking idiot techs, I swear I’m going to start using the Big Safety Stick™ to give them a current test they won’t soon forget..

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.

The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.

It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.

You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?

You want to go do the fun stuff.

For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.

Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.


Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.

On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.

Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.

Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?


But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.

And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.

So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?

Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?

Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.

Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?

I think so.

Look at the facts.

I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.

I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.

When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.

For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.

I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.

I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.

But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?

Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.

In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.


I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.

To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.

Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.

A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.

For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.

For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.

Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.

For armor… well, there is the obvious.

My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.

Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.

As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.

There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway. 🙂

I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.

The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.

What about the Molten Front?

Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.

There are still two things to keep in mind.

First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.

Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?

Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.

No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.

As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.

What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?

Bacon Bits

It’s the little things that really bring a smile to my face.

To follow up from my post on Friday, to me it doesn’t matter how long a game has been out, or how much has been written about it in the past.

What matters to me is playing a game my own way, of finding my own path, without worry that I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or something. I want to have enough options that I can make the game experience my own. I want to step back from the screen for a second, look upon what I have wrought, and think, “Yeah, that’s pretty f’ed up. Sweet!”

Take my new Paladin alt, for example.

I’ve been playing on Azuremyst-US, and I really like it there. The climate on the server is just friendlier than I’m used to seeing elsewhere.

It’s got a kinder, gentler Trade Chat troll. Why, I can’t hardly recall ever seeing [anal] jokes at all! Instead, they go off on [pet type] memes. Hardly any filth at all!

Frankly, it’s a little unnerving. Trade chat on Alliance side without constant foul BS feels like you’re playing on a server of pod people.

I’ve been playing a lot on Azuremyst, the Band of Misfits is just a great group of people, lots of humor, very active, and a bunch of characters. Characters as in kooks, clowns, cavorting karoake carousers, college kids and couples. They are pretty active, too, doing old raids for the Achievements and such. I just took part in downing heroic mode Yogg-Saron last week, and had a blast. We’ve got heroic 25 Lich King tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.

No matter how great things may be in the guild, though, they don’t have a horde side experience. I’ve wanted to play through all the new Cataclysm zone quests and changes on the horde side ever since they came out, but every time I made a horde alt, they leveled too fast to see everything.

Enter the Paladin.

A Tauren, because they’re awesome. Protection specced, since I want to see how Pally tanking really stacks up against the worst the PUG lifestyle has to offer.

And fully decked out in all the plate tanking and associated Heirlooms, because I’ve done the leveling thing the hard way, and I have no problem being ridiculously OP. Especially as the tank.

I almost made a critical error in playing the Paladin.

I leveled to 13 in Mulgore, did the whole zone for the second time, and it was quite fun. Things flow very well, and Paladins get lots of good tools for smacking things upside the head.

From Mulgore, I went directly to Silverpine Forest. I have heard a lot from Cassie about how awesome the questlines are in Silverpine, how cool it is to see the Banshee Queen in the aftermath of the fall of Arthas.

She was right, of course. With the Banshee Queen free of Arthas and the breaching of Greymane’s Wall giving access to Gilneas, Silverpine is transformed and has a great story to it.

Early on questing, everything was great. Then I dinged 15, and queued for randoms as a tank.

Stupid, stupid bear.

The random PUGs were fine, I dominated with Spear, er I mean Shield and Magic Helllllllllmut, but after just a handful of runs, I went back to Silverpine disgruntled to find I’d leveled past the damn zone already.

All the mobs were gray to me, and I could walk past everything without aggroing. That is SO irritating when you want to feel immersed. Whack, dead. Whack, dead. What, can’t you see me slaughtering your entire Gilnean Resistance Front? Whack, dead. C’mon, notice me, damn your eyes! I’m a skinner! I’m skinning wolves, and I’m /emoting skinning YOU! Did I just skin your cousin? I bet I did! After all, I got your whole village piled up back there in the cart, I bet he’s there somewhere!


So I had to swear off pugs and focus on questing through the gray zone. I dinged 25 last night, but at least I made it to the end of Silverpine without outleveling it TOO bad… and I logged out with a certain quest in my log.

A quest that promises to make me a quest giver, if only for a little while. Sitting on a horse, golden exclamation point overhead, the whole bit.

I’ve heard a lot about that quest, I intend to savor it slowly. 🙂

It’s the little things about the game, making it your own. Like having a huge, looming badass Tauren Paladin, rocking the spiky shoulders and helm. A Tauren whose very name proclaims his passion for the most valuable treasure in existance, a treasure that entire generations have gone to war for.

Baconburgler the Paladin. No bacon is safe.

(Yes, I know burglar is spelled with an ‘a’. I spelled it in the name with an ‘e’. It’s a riff on both bacon thieves and bacon burgers, get it? Yeah, I know. What can I say, I’m me.)

Having a name that makes you giggle when you see it is a solid part of making a character feel like it’s all mine. But there’s more.

Heirloom gear looks the way it looks, but there is one thing you can truly control. Your mount.

I’ve worked hard with humans before to get the Night Elf faction maxed JUST so I could have a kitty mount. Having strange mount/race combinations as early as you can get them, and fun/unusually distinctive mounts at max level are tried and true ways of being yourself.

I’m sure that every single person out there has spent at least SOME effort deciding which of the hundreds of mount/color combinations was the perfect mount for their favorite character.

I think many of us try to have that special mount for every main character, because it really is something that is up to us. Whatever mount you choose for a character says something, even if it’s “Hi, I still have the default mount I bought when I trained because I’m cheap and I don’t give a shit and I have no romance in my soul whatsoever, lols.”

The new Tauren Paladin mounts are pretty cool. The coloring style used resembles earthy clay pigments, and goes very well with the Sunwalker motif.

But that didn’t really give me the badass vibe I was looking for. It didn’t say, “Hi, I’m Baconburgler, and I’ll be taking your order. No, I’m not giving you any food, I’m taking your order. Give it up. Mmm, now that’s a tasty burger! You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?”

So, let’s do something to give BB a little spiky Jules vibe. Let’s pimp his ride.

(I’d like to add that I wish Blizzards April Fools Gag of Pimp my Mount from 2009 was live. Yes, yes I WOULD like to pimp my mount, thank you very much.) 

Band of Misfits (the coolest raiding guild evar, they raid the most from coast to coast with mobs on toast like Emily Post) is level 25. Beartrap the Hunter be exalted yo, so I can buy the Reins of the Golden King, a pretty cool looking lion mount.

How does that help my Paladin? Well, as most of you know, the character that buys the mount from the Guild Vendor has to be exalted with the guild… but the mount itself is Bind to Account. You don’t have to be in the guild to use it, any of your characters can.

Why, just look what happens when that faction-specific item gets mailed cross-faction? It turns into the applicable item of the other faction, of course. 🙂

Introducing my level 20 unguilded Tauren Paladin, riding around on a massively badass Kron’kar Annihilator!

As I said, it’s the little things. Sure, most people can do the exact same thing I did, but the point isn’t what other people may or may not choose to do, or whether you think blowing 1400 gold on a mount for a level 20 alt is stupid, what matters to me is what *I* do, and doing something crazy that looks that cool puts a big ol’ smile on my face. 

The other thing that has been putting a smile on my face lately has been having the Vial of the Sands on my Druid. Not just because I like having Dragonform, but because I can carry a rider.

Cassie is having a good time leveling yet another Shaman, her favorite class. She’s in Outlands, getting all the quests done in a zone, collecting all the group stuff, and then she whistles for her pet Dragon to come and carry her around from place to place, killing stuff.

You have to be careful how you treat your pets, though. 

Last night, I carried her way to the top of the atmosphere in Nagrand before transforming into Swift Flight Form. As Cassie began falling to her death on the hard rocks below, I swooped down to get below and take screenshots.

To my dismay, she lofted a parachute and floated all the way down nice and safe with a full canopy overhead.

The parachute had no time limit, so she floated safely all the way down.


Now, this may seem harsh to you, but in my own defense, I think there was sufficient provocation.

After all, I didn’t fly out over the edge of the abysss before I shifted. I gave her a fair chance at splatting on solid ground. And she’s a Shaman. She could rez. I could even bring her back myself!

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you the provocation, didn’t I?

Well, I’m tooling along the skies of Nagrand under her guidance as she turns in quests.

As we leave the Ring of Blood, headed for Nesingwarys camp, she says to me, “If I’m going to keep you around, I’m going to have to break out my Carrot on a Stick.”


“Or in your case, I’d better make a Bacon on a Stick.”


It wouldn’t have hurt so bad if it wasn’t so damn true. I finally understand those poor turtles swimming endlessly around Northrend. Put some Bacon on a Stick and hold it in front of me, and I’ll be sure to follow.

Of course, unlike those turtles… eventually, I’ll simply go get some of my own. Eventually. You know, just as soon as that delicious aroma is mine!

Just. Have. To. Fly. A. Little. Faster.

One inch deep but a million miles wide

Yesterday, I touched on some of the things I was doing in World of Warcraft that has me feeling like there is too little time for me to do everything I’d like to do.

It wasn’t meant as any kind of statement that there is too much content in WoW for anyone to feel bored, but that seemed to be how at least one person took it, and they wrote a great comment that brought me up short.

Syl of Raging Monkeys said, paraphrasing here, that from the point of view of someone that has one main character they love as their avatar in the game, there is very little to do other than raids and instances. Any new content feels gone the day after it comes out. Being able to do the same 5 quests on 10 alts does not equate to 50 quests worth of content anyway.

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Syl. I’m not saying there is tons of content to do, I’m saying there are tons of things I’m keeping busy doing.

Watch this next bit… I’m going to start rambling about the good old days. And yet, were they really all that good?

There was a time when my Druid was not just my main character, but my only character, just like Syl.

I know for people new to the game it may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when I played my first and only character for three months in Azeroth… just to get to level 60. No alts, no distractions, no other games.

I tackled everything at level, trying to take stuff on at Yellow or Orange difficulty for boosted XP rewards, and I scoured the land looking for more quests. What I didn’t do was try to rush to level, and I didn’t grind mobs. But I quested pretty consistently, and yep, three months.

When I look back on those days, and all the things that have changed since then, I do feel the changes were for the better. But the side effect of all those changes has removed the one thing that helped me love my Druid so much; I loved spending so much time in one zone doing quests that it began to feel as familiar as home. 

When you really think about it, the original pace of the game forced us to take time to advance. And when you spend a lot of time somewhere, you come to know it well.

Maybe you come to love it, maybe you come to loathe it, but damn it you know it!

Aside from the pace of earning XP from quests, and needing more XP then to advance to the next level, there were other reasons we were feet wet in zones for a long time.

We didn’t get mounts until much later, then. We spent 1 through 40 walking everywhere. We carefully planned our hearth settings, gathered and consolidated quests to need fewer trips, we did what we could, but we were slow moving mammals.

One aspect of that easy to forget is that when you’re on foot, it’s a LOT harder to just blast on through to where your quest objectives send you. When you’re on foot, you sneak in or you fight it all, and trying to run just got you dazed/slowed and eaten. You spent more time fighting your way to places.

Another aspect was fast mount speed cost a shitload of gold by old school prices. I knew a lot of people before Burning Crusade that raided, that simply couldn’t afford a thousand gold for an upgraded mount. They had repairs and enchants and crafting Flasks to spend money on instead. So even if you WERE 60, you could be running around and aggro bad guys, and they would be fast enough to catch your ass and knock you off your mount. Phase three… fight!

I still remember the moment I bought my Druid fast mount speed. I was still questing in Silithis, and I had a fast mount, and I was riding past mobs… and they couldn’t catch up to me in time to knock me off my riding cat! I swear to you, that moment I felt a surge of disdain blast right through me.. “Hah! Try to catch ME, mother-)&*(^er! My ass is OUTTA HERE! Nyah, nyah! Woot!”

Another reason I spent a lot of time in zones, time enough to get to know them very well, was that we were comparatively much weaker back then. Gear and talents were aimed at incremental upgrades. It was all additive. You’d get a +3 strength boost on an epic as compared to your best blue. It didn’t seem like much, but when all your gear had those little boosts, it all added up and made you far more effective.

With content balanced with that in mind, tackling 3 or 4 mobs at appropriate level was a hell of a challenge, and just traveling through mobs to get to a quest objective could take a while and some careful planning.

By the time I was done with a zone, I might have been frustrated at how long it all took, but I really knew the area well. I had spent enough time there to develop unique experiences that stayed with me as special events. And gaining a level or two felt like a big deal.

Even now, I can cast my mind back and call forth doing escort quests, orc stronghold invasions, and performing genocidal slaughter of centaurs in Desolace as if it happened to me, and not something that flitted past my eye on screen for a second and was gone.

I remember with fondness the turning point in my feral Druid life, when I took on groups of mobs in Un’goro Crater because they were packed so tight, and developed a feral spec that drew deeply enough on Restoration that I could take Nature’s Swiftness. If it weren’t for how challenging the fights were then, there would have been no call for me to develop a fighting style where I could pull four raptors, burn one down in Cat while accepting the increased damage, switch to Bear and stun one to reduce incoming damage I’ll take in caster to two mobs worth, shift to caster, fire off a Nature’s Swiftness instant cast max level Healing Touch, shift back to Bear to grind them down to one left and then back to Cat to finish it off.

Three mobs, even four, and to still be alive at the end! That was some intense and satisfying fighting, and a true sense of accomplishment that lingers to this day. That was when I began to get a handle on how fun Feral could be if you lived it.

There, just like an old fool I rambled on about the good old days. Those days are long gone, and we have the game to deal with as it is now.

I drift off into into these things, and I think one reason is because I am having a very hard time convincing myself that everything today is rosy red.

I make alts, and they’re fun so long as the rush of possibility is still there. New alt, new name, maybe a new spec to play with, a new race combination, a new combination of professions.

The excitement only lasts while I can keep it different. The new content in Cataclysm is great, and I haven’t seen everything yet, but the closer I get any character to Outlands, the greater the dread grows.

What I try and avoid thinking about is how we have backed ourselves into a corner when it comes to new content.

The playerbase got Burning Crusade, and played it through and loved it. Once we got into end game raiding in Burning Crusade, where there were tons and tons of raids that had all these keys and attunements and quest chains and things to do before we were allowed to enter, we begged to have the leveling process accelerated so we could bring up a second character to help our groups out. DPS wanted to be able to have a Healer alt for when Gene can’t make it. Tanks wanted a DPS for when they felt burnt out.

There was so much to do at end game, we wanted to have extra characters to try and do it all. 

Well, now we’ve got it. The genie is long out of the bottle, the leveling experience is accelerated to ludicrous speed, and we can get alts up in weeks, not months.

But the acceleration applies to all PvE content outside of raids. And those of us with armies of alts long ago leveled them all most or all of the way there.

We’ve done Burning Crusade 8 times, Northrend 8 times, even Cataclysm 8 times.

Cataclysm feels more brutal to me than the others, and I think it’s because they gave us so much new in Azeroth. There is a limit to how much new content anyone can provide in an expansion, and the scope of what we got in Cataclysm was wonderful. It was more than I ever expected.

But it wasn’t quite enough in the end game to satisfy the need for new questing and adventuring.  

Blizzard has done a great job with Azeroth’s revamp, and the races/class combos, and the guild leveling, and the PvP, and even the raiding pace. They are fulfilling their promise of continuous new raiding and instancing content.

But Syl nails it on the head, that for those of us that want to take our main characters on an exciting new adventure, there just isn’t enough. Everything I’m doing is to distract me from that truth.

It is the adventuring that I love, and that calls to mind my favorite moments in the game over the years.

It is going new places with my Druid and seeing new things. In a perfect world, I’d be able to keep doing that with new questing content that came out as regularly as raids and instances. In a perfect world, there would be frequent mini-pack expansions of expanded worlds full of solo or two-person adventuring delight.

There would be $15 expansions of ‘pirate adventures’, and ’empire toppling’, and ‘lost civilization discovery’, the same as the D&D modules we used to buy from TSR. Things to keep you going for another couple of months of lateral adventuring at the same level and with new green level (or blue) quest rewards, leaving the epics to PvP and PvE raiders.

What keeps me from getting cranky about it, or seriously talking about it, is the simple fact that content for adventuring pleases one person at a time, and is only repeatable in that you can do it again with your alts. Content aimed at challenging a group of people can satisfy a whole lot of folks at once, and has a weekly reset timer.

It makes more economic sense to focus design team work on creating content that is inherently repeatable for a group.

The other thing I keep in mind is, Blizzard does have another design team hard at work on a new MMO. They are trying to make something insanely awesome, something that will both blow us away, and at the same time not compete directly with those of us that love the myth and feel of WoW. So I don’t expect the same level of investment in WoW as I would if it was all they had on their plates. WoW revenues help to support new product development. How could it be any other way?

I guess all I’m coming around to say is, I can’t always get what I want, but if I try sometimes, I justmight find, I get what I need…. until something shiny comes along, or the new MMO comes out, or getting to know a good group of folks to play with changes the game experience itself in new ways.

Thank you very much for the thought provoking comment, Syl.

And have a great weekend!

I’m a bad player and proud of it


I am a bad player, and I *am* proud of it.

Tobold revisited the ageless topic of players that don’t use the ‘optimal’ spec or rotation in group play this week. 

It’s certainly been talked about before over the years, but damn, what a great subject to chew on! That’s one that really gets the juices flowing, know whut I mean?

No matter what you do in game, if you play in group settings, you’ve got an opinion on this one.

I’m going to present mine, because that’s the only one I know that comes from the heart. BUT! I can easily see there being several different, equally valid viewpoints available, because there is no one set goal in World of Warcraft. Not everyone is in it for the same reason; as in, not everyone is focused on clearing the end game content firstest and fastest, or focused on completing every 5 man in heroic mode, or in completing a boss fight with zero deaths, or always using the pretty green fire, or beating content on hard modes, or playing with complete stoic professionalism get in get done get gone, or to romp through the game with a relaxed, friendly joking atmosphere, or beating the snot out of bosses with all of one particular class. Or ‘whatever floats your boat, honey’, to quote Flashback.

For each player, the goal of the game is personal to them, and with a game so vast in content, of course it’s going to vary from person to person. Therein lies the fun of the discussion, for when you get two people who disagree on a topic, if they don’t go into a discussion with open minds, they’re liable to assume that ONE of them just HAS to be wrong instead of thinking about it from the other person’s point of view.

I guess what I’m saying with that preamble is, I anticipate much anger and chest beating about this subject, and I honestly won’t mind.  

What’s the core issue up for discussion?

“Is it okay to play below your potential when grouped?”

That’s the core issue. Right? We talk about this subject, and around this, endlessly.

But is that really the core issue here?

There is another underlying issue at work here too, because this wouldn’t be as big a topic as it is if some folks didn’t feel they had a right to answer this question FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

The real topic is, “Is it okay for other people to play below their potential when grouped?”

People don’t treat this as a personal decision to make up their own mind about. Instead, people take a stand on this, make up their minds about what standard of behavior everyone else should follow, and then act as though everyone else should agree about it and be held accountable to that standard.

That’s where I’m going first with this post. That’s the meat of what I’m going to talk about, and I’m going straight to the part of this that causes drama. Taking other people’s inventory.

Every time we talk about a bad pug, we’re doing this. “Oh, this one player, he was so bad, he did blah blah blah”… “Oh, I joined this one group, and the tank had prioritized blank stat over blank…” Oh, how horribad.

We group up, and we take other people’s inventory. We check them out and hold them up to what our own personal standard is, and if they don’t measure up, we ain’t happy.

I’m going to come right out and say it, I do this all the time, I judge the performance of other people, I judge how people act towards others, how they behave, how they spend their time (as in, is the dude actually going to HEAL at some point, or just bitch about the crappy DPS?), I’m sitting right there and you betcha red ryder, I’m watching you. 🙂

Most of the time, and this may surprise you, what I’m watching and noticing are the things people do that are good. I don’t like dwelling on the negaitve, I am always looking for things that are praiseworthy, that would make for a good ‘This person kicked ass” mention.

Still and all, if there are problems or wipes or terrible behavior towards others, absolutely damn straight, I’m noticing and probably getting irritated.

What I’m not going to do is act the assclown to you based on your class, spec or gear. Nor will I ever mention your rotation to you. Ever. Behavior issues WILL get me all riled up, but even then, it takes a lot for me to say something to you. 

Let’s put behavior aside, though. Let’s just talk about specs, gear, classes and rotations. There is a big difference in thinking “This healer isn’t really geared up enough for this”, and saying in party chat or whisper or any other way, “Hey, I don’t think you’re ready to heal this content yet.”

I don’t pull that crap, for two reasons. First and foremost, it is not my place to tell someone else how to play their character. It is not my place, I do not have the right, moral or otherwise, to tell anyone else what to do, unless it is my specific job as agreed upon by the group.

If I’m the raid leader for a group, and it’s part of my responsibility to ensure that everyone in the raid group is properly prepared, then sure, I’m going to be making observations and asking questions if, in my opinion, I think things could be improved. Notice I’m not saying I’d dictate changes that needed to be made. I’m saying that if I saw things that looked like they could be improved, I’d ask the player for their opinion on the subject, and work it out. Maybe they’re going with some new spec or focus of stat and rotation they researched that might show improvement on a boss fight.

If five strangers meet in an LFD pug to do an instance, ain’t nobody got the right to tell someone else how to play. Here’s why;

The phrase ‘taking their inventory” originally came from Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program. Step 4 of the process is to Take a Moral Inventory of Ourself.


Step Four is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. We are searching for “causes and conditions.”

We want to uncover the truth about ourselves. We want to discover the attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, fears, actions, behaviors, and the behavior patterns – that have been blocking us, causing us problems and causing our failure.

We want to learn the exact nature of our “character defects” and what causes us to do the unacceptable things we do – so that once they are removed – we can acquire and live with new attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, actions and behaviors for our highest good, and for the highest good of those with whom we come in contact.

From this concept of taking a moral inventory of ourselves to identify our own hidden defects and try to find ways to improve came the language of taking someone else’s inventory FOR them; of judging someone else, making assumptions about that person, identifying what we think of as their defects in character and behavior, and then deciding what we thing they should do to fix it.

One of the things that experience has taught people in AA is that you can’t make those decisions for someone else. No matter how much smarter you think you are, unless three conditions are met, any suggestions (or judging) you make for them will serve little useful purpose.

Those three conditions are; they have to need your advice, they have to want your advice, AND they have to ask for your advice. If one of those is missing, you’re not going to be helping them, you’re just fulfilling some need of your own to make yourself feel better by speaking or acting out towards someone else. You’re dumping your unwanted and unasked for opinion on someone else. As the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one, and yours stinks.

The very first condition is, they have to need your advice. You’re already making one walloping hell of an assumption by thinking they need YOUR advice to fix their problems. If you can’t see that, then hey, you probably never read this far.

So… before you blurt out in party chat exactly what you think of someone else, hows about you look at yourself first, and ask yourself, “what do I really need to say to them, and what purpose will really be served here by saying it?”

Let’s change it up and flip it over the other way.

Taking other people’s inventory. It’s a great phrase for our game, isn’t it?

What else do you call it when some stranger you just met in a group begins to tell you how your spec needs to be changed, what gear you need to replace, what stats you’ve prioritized wrong and what part of your rotation is messed up? That your healing is crap, you can’t tank, you need more health, you’re not moving right, stop acting like a noob, etc etc.

How does that make you feel? Even if it isn’t directed at you, how do you feel when one person begins telling someone else how they should play their character or perform their role in the group?

If someone starts talking to you like that, does your mind open up, willing and eager to learn from the pearls of wisdom that this idiot is sharing with you?

I know I don’t. I tend to think he’s acting like a self-important little asshat instead of focusing on playing his own character the best he (or she) can. And I put him on ignore or just tune the idiot out, and focus on carrying him since he can’t be bothered to pay attention to his own actions. Judging my actions (or someone else’s) is more important to him than playing.

Is it true? No way to tell, because even if the person really DOES think there is a problem they could help with, their approach was confrontational and only served to piss people off.

Again, sure, we judge other people in game and in life, that’s part of who we are. I’m not suggesting we all be perfect little saints and stop making decisions based on our opinions of the people we meet in game, or to stop following our gut feelings. 

What I *am* suggesting is that the actions we make be directed NOT at yelling at other people, but instead be directed at changing ourselves to take us OUT of a bad situation we don’t want to be in. Don’t waste your time and energy directing your anger or annoyance at someone else to try and make *them* change.

Okay, so what if you’re a naturally helpful person? A mentor, a coach.

Then ask yourself what you’re really trying to do. If you really are trying to provide guidance and support, to mentor someone through what seems to be difficult at the moment, then the first thing is to not be confrontational. If the other person really is trying their hardest to do the best they can, then chances are good they know they’re not playing as well as they could be. Your yelling at them for it will just put them on the defensive and close them down.

Instead, try and be open and helpful. Compassionate and friendly. Warm and genuinely trying to help as a guide, not as a dictator.

You can ask, gently and with great courtesy, in a whisper, if the other person is familiar with the next fight, boss, battle or instance. You can ask if someone has been playing their class for a long time, or has done much research on their current spec or gear. IF the person seems receptive to suggestions, then and only then, after mentioning, again in non-bragging, non-epeen waving  fashion, that you have some experience with the content/spec/gear in question and would be willing to help, you could offer to share some pointers.

All of this conversation, by the way should be by whisper ONLY. There is no need to make this a “everybody else just chime in to tell him what to do” situation. By approaching it privately, and making sure the person understands you are offering some suggestions if and only if they are welcome, then you can feel your way towards seeing if the person IS needing advice, looking for advice, and if offered, will ask for it.

They may need advice, and want advice, but just not from you. People can be very proud, and what good does it serve to get somebody all riled up if they don’t want to be told what to do? If you have them thinking in the direction of support or advice, they might not want it from you as a complete stranger, but they might be open to being directed to where a few awesome resources are for their class, such as Tree Bark Jacket for Restoration Druids, or Warcraft Hunter’s Union for Hunters. You can point them in the direction of brilliant tips and guidance and feel good about having helped. When in doubt, directing someone to Elitist Jerks is always in style.

The important thing is, if you really want to be a helpful person in groups and help out those that might seem inexperienced or new to a class/spec/role, take away the suggestion or insinuation that they are a bad player, and turn it into a discussion about suggestions for dealing with this one unfamiliar situation

How many people, good friends, do you know that are like unto a living god at their normal ‘main’, but have taken to trying new classes or specs lately? How would you feel if you saw them playing their new and unfamiliar character in a group, and got ripped a new one and called a ‘worthless noob wrath baby’ because they didn’t do something someone else expected as they try and master their strange group situation?

It’d probably piss you off a little, wouldn’t it? Here’s the best damn Warlock you’ve ever known, and this monkey-muncher just went off on him for no good reason. So what if it’s taking him 3 extra seconds to get his Rogue turned around and facing the right way behind the mob the tank is attacking… dude’s not used to running into the damn fight from the back is all, it takes a bit to get that down. You don’t exactly get to practise running around behind a mob much when you’re soloing.

If you are at your most gentle and circumspect, and you try and whisper the offer of a little help and the person gets defensive or hostile, that’s the point where you drop it. You drop it and you be courteous when you do so.

If someone else is not open to your suggestions or ideas, then it’s on you to take action for yourself if you feel you have to, and not to try and force change on them.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the behavior of other players on this blog over the years. I talk about crap I’ve seen, things that have annoyed me, and people I’ve just wanted to smack the crap out of. In a lot of cases, it’s my firm belief that beating all the crap out of them would be an all day job, and I’d have to make sure to both pack a lunch AND dinner to get it all beat out.

The big thing here is, it is incredibly rare for me to take out my annoyance in game on other people. Eve if the person is just having the most offensive behavior, how do I know what that person is going through? How do I know if maybe they had a rip roaring big breakup fight with their significant other, got canned at work, or are half drunk and really starting to build up a rage on.

It’s not right that they take that crap out on me… but I don’t need to be the one to take them down. I can just put them on ignore, and move on with my life.

My point is, trying to be helpful to others is great if you’re doing it to be a mentor or be compassionate because you remember what it’s like to be new. It’s something else entirely to tee off on someone else for gearing, speccing or playing in a way you don’t like.

If you are in a group that has players having trouble, then you need to take a look at yourself. If you can deal with whatever it is with a song in your heart and a smile on your lips, then go get ‘er done. Have fun. It may not be the greatest run in the world, but heck, they’re not all going to be the greatest run ever. Some of them will be merely good. And yes, some of them will downright suck.

But if you are getting way stressed out about the situation, don’t assume you have to try and change the other person… do something about the one thing you DO have power over – yourself. Leave the group. Leave, or try to vote kick the person if it’s their behavior you just can’t tolerate. Vote kicking someone else because you don’t like their spec or gear is bullshit. If someone else is being a tool, though, sure, vote kick the sorry bastard. If enough other people agree with you, then cool. If they don’t… again, move yourself out of the situation. Beat feet. Boogie on out of there.

I’m sure this whole post has been preachy as hell, but it’s something that I wanted to make sure I say, nice and loud and clear. This is truly how I feel about calling strangers out and chastising them for what you perceive are their problems in performance.

Now, about the real core point, from way back in the beginning…

“Is it okay to play below your potential when grouped?”

My answer to that question is, “Hell yes!”

With the goals I have in game, of course it is.

I don’t play World of Warcraft with the goal of playing as the most optimized possible character in the game.

I do not read Elitist Jerks to lock in what spec I should use, what rotation I should use, what stats to prioritize or what gear to hunt.

I *DO* read Elitist Jerks and other bloggers to gain guidance, suggestions and insight into what works, what doesn’t work, and to find out what research and experience have to say about whichever class or spec I’m interested in.

I reserve the right to deviate from the ‘optimum’ spec, rotation, stat or gear based on my one priority; is it fun to play?

That’s my goal in the game. To have fun playing

On my Hunter, I do not study the recommendations and research to make my choice on spec based on highest potential DPS. Instead, I start with the baseline; I want to play as a Beastmaster, because I like my Exotic pets.

After I have made that decision, THEN I check out specifics on how to gear for the best advantage, what stats to reforge into or out of, what abilities within Beastmaster do whatsit, and to find suggestions for doing my best in groups or solo, all that jazz.

I start with what I feel will be the most fun style to play, and work from there.

Maybe that’s not what you think that question is about, but I’m telling you, yes it is.

The underlying principle behind that question is, with a way to measure performance, be it as DPS, Heals or Tank, those classes that can perform those roles have potentials they can reach. If it is that important for you to be at your highest possible potential, then the differences between playing a specific rotation, a specific spec or a specific class based on potential performance are different from each other only by degrees.

“Oh”, you say, “But I only mean you should have to play your most optimized rotation, not that you have to play a specific spec within a class”, and I say to you, at it’s heart, it’s all the same thing.

“Oh”, you say, “I’d never tell someone what class they have to play based on which one does the most DPS”, and to that I say, it’s all the same thing. 

Now, that’s the direction I’m coming from. My goal is fun in playstyle first, and then within that, to play the best I can.

For other folks, just as an example, the goal may be the fast, certain destruction of content with the greatest ease possible for the group as a whole.

With that goal in mind, you could approach the discussion by saying, “If everyone isn’t playing at their very best, then someone is having to carry someone else.”

I’ve written blog posts about this before. I agree with that sentiment, to a certain extent. I feel that players that are grouping together have a personal responsibility to do the best they can to be ready on time to run with the group, to be prepared with whatever consumables they may need (or to have made arrangements with friends to bring them), to be ready to play their best and to kick ass. To pay attention, and to be focused on the success of the group.

I strongly feel that if you agree to play as part of a group, to do any less than this is to show a lack of repsect for the other people in your group.

But my personal goal is to have fun, and within that goal, I reserve the right to choose my own class, to choose my own preferred spec, to perform my own research, and to deviate from what is considered ‘optimal’ if I think it’ll be fun and not hurt anyone else.

Other people who are organizing said raids can reserve the right to tell me, “We don’t need or want you in our group unless you bring the blue sparks”, and I’ll have no hard feelings.

From the raiding success point of view, I completely agree that if someone isn’t doing the best they can, then the group as a whole will have to work a little harder to compensate in order to reach the same point.

However… from that same point of view, taken to the logical extreme, if Frost Mages do the most potential damage, then all raiders should be Frost Mages. Or Moonkin Druids, or Fury Warriors, or whatever is considered, through research and experience, to be the one class and spec that has the greatest potential damage of all of them.

If a group is not willing to go to that length, then there is already a tacit understanding that raiding success and individual fun are meeting somewhere in the middle. So maybe both sides could agree to chill out and find that common ground?

Heck, some groups may even be so devoted to the speedy, efficient destruction of content, the completion of world firsts and Hard Mode obliteration, that specifying what class to bring on top of spec and rotation and gear are considered perfectly normal.

I’ve got no problem with that… at that level, everybody knows what they’re getting into. But do those same players remember when they get into a five man random that not everybody else is quite that… well, extremely gung ho? I hope so. I surely do.

If I queue in a Heroic 5 man LFD, I certainly don’t expect to get ripped because I’m a Beastmaster Hunter, or a Kitty Druid, or a Frost Mage, or any other combination of class and spec. But yes, it’s happened.

If I happen to LIKE being a Warlock and finally having me some green fire? Yeah, I reserve the right to bring that green fire. To bring it, and to use it to light bosses up right on the ass. In five man content, and as a solo player.

I choose to play what I find to be the most fun. I will do all the research I can to be the best I can be within that framework, but the fun WILL come first.

It may not be optimal, it may not be the greatest potential way to play my class effectively and efficiently.

But it will be FUN!

Yep… I’m a bad player, and I’m proud of it!