Thursday, September 30, 2010

Idea Ownership - Doth it Matterith?

A while back, I don’t exactly remember when, Tesh (From Tish Tosh Tesh) asked me a profound question:

“Does idea ownership matter? Is it not wise to consider ideas on their own merit rather than dismiss or validate them based on their source?
Just a thought…”

I finally have a good answer for him, not my incoherent ramblings from my first attempt. This is something I have thought about constantly for a few months now. So I hope in this attempt I can make my answer perfectly clear. To the question “Does idea ownership matter?”, I say:


(If you’ve come here for WoW stuff, hang in there, for me it all comes back to another question about Blizzard that I don’t have the answer to. Moving on…)

Idea Defined
My answer is 100% contingent on the definition of “Idea” that we’re talking about. If we were to discuss a theme or subject of unknown authorship, of general public knowledge and/or interest such as Taxes, Immigration, Slavery, Communism, Capitalism, then NO, idea ownership does not, or at least should not matter. Who came up with the idea of slavery anyway? I don’t know. But over time it’s evolved into a subject of debate and consideration (SDC). That’s right, I just made up my own acronym!!! Who had the bright idea that governments should tax its people? I sure as heck-fire don’t know. These are ideas of a special kind, SDC’s that have no known authorship and are debated in public forums or even privately among friends and acquantences.

There are difficulties, however, in debating these general subjects. One problem I see is that no or very few subject(s) is presented by an impartial spokesman, so any information shared will be tainted by biases too difficult to mask completely, if any attempt to mask them at all has been made. Other difficulties are the variables that become part of the equation: An individual's communication skills (listening, speaking, phraseology, use of common fallacies), personal experiences, personality, temperament, education, and the list goes on and on. The ideal is that these subjects should be considered on their own merits and idea ownership does NOT matter. Too bad the world isn’t ideal.

A Bright Idea
The other definition involves an idea that has a known author, which idea is an actual entity (a thought, conept, sensation, or image) that is actually or potentially present to consciousness. Combined with that are ideas which can be considered “plans of action”.

For example: I have an idea for a new TV show. A little alien, only about 2 ½ feet tall (who, by the way, likes to be called a small, but just as smart, person) with magical powers travels from world to world saving the galaxy in which he lives from evil glowing balls of gas and fire. It will be called “Sun Killer, The Irony of Misunderstood Heroism”.

Would you watch a show about a Gnome who accidentally destroyed all the suns in a Galaxy, believed himself to be a hero but everyone hated him, but due to his utter ignorance kept on doing what he thought was heroic? Maybe, maybe not. Are your opinions changed knowing who the author of the idea was? If, for example, the show was put into production, should I (the author) receive credit for the idea? Does idea ownership, in the above example, matter?

Let’s say you’re on Safari in Africa and fall into a pit with 10 cobra snakes and your grandmother and uncle Vinny. Someone needs to come up with an idea, a unique and specific plan of action fit for the situation or you're all gonna die. "Quick, take granny's shawl and toss it onto that tree root, we'll use it to pull ourselves up!" Or let’s assume that you are a blog writer, a novelist, or a poet? Did anyone else come up with the idea of Harry Potter or was it JK Rowling who had that idea? Maybe you had something similar, but you suck at writing, so you scrapped it. Oh well, no billionaire ball for you!

This definition of idea is clearly different than the first I presented. It implies that the idea is a creative thought or concept designed to answer a question or serve a purpose or make someone's life better, etc, etc, etc. Given this definition of Idea, to answer the question, “Does idea ownership matter?” I say without hesitation…YES.

To prove this I point to some popular social and legal norms. Plagiarism is illegal and unethical in just about every civilized nation I know of (excepting communist or dictatorship states). In science, education, the workplace, if you copy someone’s work and pass it off as your own, that’s bad. Why? Because idea ownership matters!

Many nations, including the US of A has enacted copyright laws to protect original authors of their ideas, or intellectual property.

“Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of ‘original works of authorship,’ including literacy, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works…[The laws] generally gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

(See link for more details)

A scientist who bases some part of their new and groundbreaking theories on somebody else’s work MUST reference all his/her work or that scientist will be unemployed and will have to find a job teaching Junior High School somewhere…if they are lucky. Why? Because idea ownership matters. It matters so much, in fact, that breaking copyright law can land you a hefty fine or even up to time in jail. Ouch!

Ideas in the Business World
In business…oh, business. Here is where I begin my decent into Blizzard and World of Warcraft. I’m a businessman, oh yeah. I got to business meeting and have business luncheons, and dress up in business attire, and have a business office. I’ve also had a business idea of mine stolen by a co-worker, which ended up in their promotion and my ultimately having to leave the company. If ever I were to resort to violence to solve problems, that would have been one instance where violence was justified. But that was a long time ago, when I was ignorant and foolish and trusting of, you know, other humans. I’m more guarded now and make sure that I protect my business ideas very, very carefully.

Idea ownership is king in business. It can bring you into the position of CEO or land you in the unemployment line. I imagine if you’re a game developer and come up with a really crappy idea for a game, it may be hard to keep your job or find work in the future. But if you develop a really, really, really great idea and that idea takes off, you could benefit from it in major ways.

Which brings me to my final question, one that I do not have an answer to.

WoW Dev Team – Group Rewards or Individual Recognition?
Does anyone know how much the devs who create all aspects of WoW actually work together vs how often they work alone? Who initially thought up the concept of talents? Did they get a raise? How about 31 point talents? Did that person get a promotion? Or are the ideas that flow within the development team considered “shared” ideas?

Legally, I know ATVI owns all the ideas, it’s how all good businesses protect themselves and their intellectual property and investments. Technically there are things I created at my previous jobs that are legally “owned” by those companies, but I know that I created those programs or processes, etc. And they know it too. But the work I did while there legally belonged to them, as do the ideas belong to ATVI.

But the practices of reality do not always reflect the legality of things. In practice, I wonder if individual devs get credit internally for their work or for any great ideas or concepts that they design? If 10 people are in a room and at the end they decide to go with 31 point talent trees, who gets credit for it? Does anyone? Does everyone? Does idea ownership matter within Blizzard’s development team?

Maybe that question can only be answered by Blizzard, or maybe someone out there has insight that can ease my troubled mind. If I were working on WoW, in some developer capacity (which will never happen, I’m an accountant, remember?) I think that I would enjoy personal and individual recognition of some things, and also be happy for the success of others and as a whole team. But to be void of any individual recognition, to be told that ownership of ideas didn’t matter when I was the one who created the LFD tool (just an example) I think would hurt, ya know, emotionally. How motivated would I be if I never received recognition for the ideas that helped build a really great game? I, Gronthe, would definitely lose some motivation, if I were being honest with myself.

How many used to watch Saturday Night Live in the 1990’s? There was a skit, I can’t remember who did it, I think it was Al Franken, who would have celebrities look into a mirror and say: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonnit people like me.” It was especially funny when Michael Jordan did it at the height of his popularity. But I’m afraid that in business, in the workplace, self-affirmations isn’t enough. I know I’m smart, but I need my boss to know it too. I depend on his opinion for my living. Without it, I lose job satisfaction.

I’m hoping that Blizzard does both, recognize people and teams, and they probably do. But I don’t know for sure. I hope they do because Idea Ownership, when discussing thoughts and concepts of original authorship, DOES MATTER in society, as evidences by our norms and our laws.

All other general subject ideas, SDC’s so to speak, idea ownership DOES NOT MATTER. I should not validate or invalidate an idea, or a subject matter, because a biased source delivers the topic in a way that is leading and not 100% objective. It may be difficult, but the ideal still stands, it does not, or at the very least should not matter. In reality, however, I'm afraid that it does, that people get tainted by a biased opinion that is difficult to uproot. But alas, a discussion for another time...

So to Tesh, who’s questions have tortured me the past few months, I hate you!!! No, I really don’t, I thank you for making me think about this more. For making me delve into my own opinions, for making me look around me in the world and consider the applications of these questions.

I know this wasn’t your typical World of Warcraft post, it was an attempted expression of thoughts that I tied into WoW, somehow. Anyway, I’m tired, I think I want to take a nap. Until next time…

Guild Recruitment

There are a few forms of guild recruitment currently available to wow players. You can post a "classified ad" on the official forums or on a forum of some other well known wow-related website. There are the local chat channels in-game, where you can spam your ad 100 times a day, if that's the kind of game you want to play. You can make a "mostly guild" dungeon or raid run and bring along others (guildless or not) and attempt to recruit them away from their current status and into your guild. You can have people fill out applications, go through interviews, prove themselves in a trial run somewhere, take them into the middle of knowwhere blindfolded then leave them to find the quickest way back to your guild's secret hiding place in some obscure cave in Winterspring. Bottom line is there are many avenues to follow, and all with differing results.

But what if there were an easier way, a more streamlined way of recruiting people, while keeping the previous avenues open (because as we know, some people like to do things the old fashioned way or not at all). I have an idea which may be totally insane or somewhat useful, I'll let ya'lls decide.

An in-game browser designed to bring people of the same server together. Functioning somewhat like the previous LFG tool, players searching for a guild would be able to list their names (which listing would not disappear upon logging off, only manual removal by player would work). The named players would designate their primary and secondary (if applicable) spec, their race and class would be included. Race because there may be somebody out there who wants to create an all-Worgen guild or something, who knows? There would also be the options to classify your primary objectives: Raiding, PvP, Social, Leveling, Trolling, Gold Selling, Goblinism, Hacking, etc. The player would be able to select up to two additional objectives, but the primary is the reason you seek to be recruited.

Meahwhile, guild leaders who seek to recruit can browse the system, filtering according to their needs. So let's say that a PvP guild seeks to recruit a max-level, Horde BM Hunter who's primary objective is PvP, they can filter by race, class, spec, and primary objective and BAM! They found a few potential candidates. From there they can choose to approach them in whatever manner they see fit. They can have them fill out apps, run live with them to test their skills in real time, whatever they want.

I have spoken before about the position some players (not all, btw) find themselves in once they land in a guild, primarily raiding guild. They may want to run as one spec but are asked to perform a secondary role. I am not going to discuss that further in this post, but the reason I'm suggesting the implementation of this LFGLD tool is because I believe one of the solutions that would allow more people to play their preferred spec is more targeted recruitment by guild and raid leaders.

It's my opinion, targeted recruiting helps all parties involved. One, it fills the exact roles a guild is searching for AND it allows the person being recruited to play the spec he/she prefers and is most likely best at. This, I believe, produces an effective and happy raider, less prone to conflict and more likely to perform well due to their intimate knowledge of the spec they love the most.

Ugh, I can't believe I'm going to say this, but out of a disclaimer attitude I feel I must. I know there are tons of people who perform exceedingly well in their dual specializations, I myself was an excellent healer and melee dps with my Shaman, both became natural and comfortable. But like I said, I don't want to go too far down this path, so...

Will it Work?
Is this a tool that would work on a realm to realm basis? Would it only work if you could list yourself over your battlegroup, or is realm only sufficient? Would you use it if you were looking for a guild? Would it be better than trying to post in trade chat, "LF Guild", then getting mocked at by trolls saying, "Go make your own, noob!"? I really don't know, it's just an idea.

I believe that it would be a useful recruiting tool, and it would allow someone who's guildless to just list themselves then go along their merry way playing the game until somebody responds. At that point both parties can do whatever they want to determine if the union will be a good fit or not. Personally I would use it, and given the changes to guild structures upcoming, I think guilds could use a tool to help them recruit better than sending out random invites to a list of people they are told are guildless (happens to me all the time and I decline every one).

Please, feel free to share your opinions or demolish my own, I don't claim to know if this would work or not, but I'd be curious to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I bet you thought I would say ch-ch-ch-Changes, didn't you? Well here's some other things you did not expect.

Perhaps it’s out of fear of retribution (not Paladins, because let’s be honest, who’s afraid of those pansies?), perhaps out of an inability to express themselves, there are some Cataclysm changes that have not hit any of the boards or notes to the public. But thanks to my inside insider, who shall be named Mistermiss Insider, there are some changes fast approaching that we all need to be keenly aware of. The following is a list of some, not all of the remarkable changes to Cataclysm.


I. Mounts: All mounts will have their base color turned to brown. Via a silent partnership with UPS, it was requested of Blizzard that all land and air transportation be the same color as their trucks and planes. So when you climb on your Netherwing or Twilight drake, you’ll be greeted by your new mount with this phrase: “What can Brown, er, I do for you?”

II. Guild Banking: All guild members who either deposit or withdraw money from the guild bank will be assessed a Bank Access Fee, equal to 1% of the transaction or 10g, whichever is less. Additionally, to make the lives of all guild members more full and productive, guild bank ATM’s have been placed in strategic locations throughout Azeroth and Outlands. For an additional guild ATM fee, plus the deposit/withdraw Bank Access Fee, guildies will be able to access the boundless resources of your guild bank at no inconvenience to them. Now you can keep on questing without having to return to a capital city. Non-gold items will be charged a flat Access fee of 3% of median auction house prices or 15 gold, whichever is less.

III. Gear Repair. Coming are the days where it will cost as much for the stupid Warlock to repair his armor as the plate wearing tank or Rogue leather-wearing Fury Warrior. Added to the upcoming guild rewards is another feature sponsored by AIG Insurance. For a nominal fee of 500 gold per month, you can purchase access to Gear Repair Insurance, receiving an additional 25% off the costs of repairs. (Conditions: You must be in a full guild RAID. No healer may be in the same party as a tank. Any damage done outside the actual raid BOSS fight is not included in the discounts. The raid must have been scheduled and appeared on the guild calendar at least 3 days in advance. You may not have more than two Paladins in a 10-man and 4 in a 25-man raid group. Policy is void upon the inclusion of any class spec that only needs to push 3 buttons or less in their FULL rotation. These and other conditions as set by AIG will be enforced without remorse).

IV. Buff Food. All food that provides buffs will no longer be made available via the secondary profession of cooking. Now, thanks to McDonalds and their buff food training centers, you will be able to purchase reasonably priced value meals at Fast Buff Food kiosks outside all dungeons and raids in Cataclysm. You may choose less powerful buffs off the value menu (WotLK food), or the new and improved Cataclysm buff foods in the form of combos. With every 100 purchases you will receive a new toy in the mail. (Note: After buff food wears off you enter the receive a Bloated debuff that can only be removed by sitting in one spot for 30 minutes).

V. Mana Regen. Don’t believe everything you’ve read about mana regen in Cataclysm. Spirit isn’t the only way. No, thanks to the partnership of the NCAA and the NFL, now you will be able to purchase the Mana Hat. It’s a piece of head gear that provides two stylish canisters of mana attached to the sides of the head piece, with drinking tubes that run from the canisters to the caster’s mouth. Requires you to reach Exalted with the faction of your choice twice. Upon reaching exalted you can reset your reputation back to Neutral and begin the rep grind from the beginning. So choose your favorite grind and prepare for double the healing/casting fun with the Mana Hat.

VI. Flight Paths v Alternate Travel. Who would want to pollute the skies with the gaseous waste that has been proven to come from all breeds of dragon, bat, and gryphon. In Cataclysm, enjoy the freshness of electronic monorail trains and hovercrafts. Ecologically safe and environmentally friendly, it’s an acceptable tradeoff to immersion knowing your saving the planet from forces other than Deathwing.

VII. Government. Available to all who wish to participate, Cataclysm will introduce Realm-based elections. Run for your favorite office: President, Supreme Raid Leader, Gear Score Czar, Achievement Whore Director, Vice Troll, etc. It’ll be a new and fun way to express yourself and build more close and friendly communities…just like the good ‘ol Vanilla days where community mattered!!!

VIII. Stat Changes. Worried about stat conversion with the upcoming patch? We’ve got your stat changes right here:
a. Spellpower will become > Flower Power (For all those who love to love more than fight)
b. Critical Strike Chance > Raised hand but won’t actually hit you (for tanks who like to threaten but not actually do anything else)
c. Haste > Patience (for those who don’t want to take their time and catch the scenery)
d. Armor Penetration > Polite Knock (because barging in on someone is just rude)
e. Attack Power > Word Power (pen vs sword thing here)

I sincerely hope that I have been able to enlighten everyone as to the wonderful new additions to look forward to in Cataclysm. May you play and have fun any way you want as long as you choose (as long as it does not exceed 17% of your average work time or 13.5% of your average study time – otherwise no fun is guaranteed).

Better Late than Never?

So I know I said I stopped raiding...but I can't really count this as a raid, what I did last night. On a whim, a bunch of guildies thought it would be cool to try for our "The Twilight Zone" achievement (25-Man) last night.

Pull #1: 20%, the tank didn't know where the flame wall was and walked straight into it. It was pretty funny, actually. Nobody left the group, so we went in again.

Pull #2: We got to within 0.3766% of victory. That's not 3.7%, it's a 0.3766%. Three tenths of one percent. Talk about frustrating, and again rather funny. But we knew we had the dragon exactly where we wanted her.

Pull #3: 40% - again with the flame wall...c'mon guys, it's not like we can't see when it's coming.

Pull #4: 2.5107% away from victory. Good, we're moving in the right direction again.

Pull #5: A rogue drops group, we pull in a Warlock (yippee, I hope he was Affliciton). The person who was supposed to control Tenebron finally understands what he's supposed to do.

BAM! Twilight Assist, Duo, and Twilight Zone all in one happy screen. Didn't win the mount, somebody rolled a 99...then another rolled a perfect 100. All in all, not a bad night for a half guild, half pug fun run. It took only about 45 minutes or so, so I wasn't hurting at the end. I got a nifty new title to go with my 15 others, so that's nice too.

Plus, as I was doing this on my Shaman and asked what role I wanted to fill I said, without hesitation, ENHANCEMENT. Because, as you all know, that's what I love. It was actually quite funny since I have not been around my guild in a while, many of the newer guild members didn't know if I was properly geared for the zerg run we were about to attempt. 'How's your dps?' I was asked. 'Is it any good?' - I laughed to myself then responded, 'Heck ya!'.

3rd Overall damage done, not bad for a dude who almost never raided as enhance and hasn't been around for heroic runs or Ruby Sanctum while everyone else was all "leeted out". I dare say that I KNOW MY CLASS. :) Anyway, enough self-promotion, I am just very happy to be able to do something fun with my guild that didn't take too much out of me. I didn't realize how much I missed them. I might do it again sometime, for a chance at the drake.

One more thing, I respect those of you out there who got this achievement when a zerg was an impossibility, or where strategy and execution were far more important than the group I was in last night. Not to say it was easy for us, but 5 pulls compared to what some of you did when it meant a lot more? I got off easy. I take nothing away from you, your achievement was far more significant than mine. But that's not going to stop me from being happy about it! Hooorrraaayyy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

PTR Economy

Someone please 'splain dis to me, cause I ain't gettin' it at all. Why do people play the gold game on beta or PTR realms? It's not the real game, it's a place to test things, for crying out loud!!! Why some decide to charge 2,000 gold for one epic gem just doesn't make sense to me.

Don't give me crap about "lower supply + higher demand = raises equilibrium prices for all products" crap, etc., etc., etc. It's a TEST REALM, where we're supposed to test certain features and mechanics, spells and content, etc. To make the game better would it not benefit all of us if we had access to all the features without having to pay for them?

Things get bugged on the PTR. Sometimes your professions don't work, but you want to test something. You can ask nicely for someone whose professions do work to provide you with the needed supplies, or you can quickly run to the AH to see if there's something available there. But you get to the AH and see that Joe Blow is trying to pay for his Ho by charging you 3,500 for a glyph! What's the point? That dude is trying to hit gold cap on the PTR? What's the point? He/She is just being a jerk and I say they should be banned.

There should be a rule about AH postings on the PTR or Beta. Nothing can exceed 5 gold...period! Chilled meat or Epic gem, there's a reason the PTR exists and it's not to screw someone who finds themselves in a hurry wanting to test something but can't because his/her professions are temporarily bugged. These snake oil salesmen should be burned at the stake for their astonishing greed and stupidity.

I know, I know, you don't HAVE TO use the AH on PTR, but sometimes when you can't do something and nobody is responding and you want to test but can't unless you have X, I'm just saying that at times you have to get what you can where you can. But there should be rules about the PTR so that some loser can't take all your 5K in one swipe (for premades). When I saw that this past weekend I about vomited on my monitor. It's the kind of immature crap that will keep me away from any beta/PTR testing in the future.


Have you ever been to a Masquerade ball? I would not attempt to compare a Halloween party to an old fashioned Masquerade ball, the latter drips with elegance and beauty, while the former is simply another excuse for people to dress up like a pregnant nun and get sloshed.

At a Masquerade it's required for everyone to come ingognito, in other words to wear some fashionable, elegant mask that is intended to hide their true identity. Now if you throw a Masquerade party for/with close friends, you'll probably know who is behind each mask without too much effort. Even if you cannot deduce identities by sight, a short verbal exchange and some well thought out questions will reveal the true identity of your party guest.

Now imagine that one of your friends brings a date, somebody you don't think you have met before, but you can't say for sure because, well, you don't know who's behind the mask. Is the person beautiful or plain looking? Do they have freckles? How about a birth mark or other defining feature hidden somewhere behind the mask? Are these the kind of questions that you'll be asking yourself when you see them walking in the front door, or will you be wondering about the nature of your friend's date. Is this person kind? Is he/she smart? What qualities attracted my friend to this person?

World of Warcraft is a giant Masquerade Ball/Party. In the melodious words of Andrew Lloyd Webber:

Masquerade! Every face a different shade...Masquerade! Look around - there's another mask behind you!
Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads...Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!

We, all of us, show up to this party in WoW completely ingognito. Nobody can help but see the masks that we put on to play. Some of us put on elaborate masks and some try to keep it simple so that they don't stand out.

There are those that frolic to the trade chat channels and spin gems of countless colors into their masks that they will hope to make themselves sparkle and shine more brightly above everyone else. There is the introvert who puts on a flesh colored cloth for a mask, with holes for eyes to see and nose to breathe, and never wishes to be noticed by anybody. There are some who show up with no mask at all, but are handed the mask that they are told will help them to fit into the party, they take that mask and begin to mingle in the manner they were taught.

So many masks, so many shiny things to grab out attention.

Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds...Masquerade! Take your fill - let the spectacle astound you!
Flash of Mauve, Splash of puce, Fool and king, Ghoul and goose, Green and black, Queen and priest, Trace of rouge, Face of beast...FACES!
Drink it in, drink it up, till you've drowned in the the sound!

You may not have another chance to interact with any of these masks. Look around, see all the kinds that populate this game world. Run in a PUG, make an attempt to lift the mask from their faces to see what they are hiding. Sometimes you don't even have to try, for some will be willing to show their true selves without asking. Others will hide their face, hide their soul at all costs, however, which makes lifting the mask a near impossible task.

For me, the mask is not as interesting as the story behind the masks, however, and is something I try and make a point of here at my little blog. But our stories are our own, and what right do I have to even ask you to remove your mask and present your true self to me and all the others you play with? Your mask is your friend, it's your protection against unwanted attention and unwanted persecution.

Masquerade! Paper faces on parade...Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you!
Masquerade! Leering satyrs, peering eyes...Masquerade! Run and hide - but a face will still pursue you!

Unless you play WoW completely alone, there is no running from those that would want you to join their Masquerade ball. Some face, some mask will continue to ask you to join a guild, jump into raiding, do end-game PvP, become a Loremaster or World Explorer. There's always some masked person or thing that wants you to join them in their own little Masquerade, but you have the power to take that mask off or put on one that others think will be good for you. Even with this power, however, it does not mean that you can escape into the crowd and be forgotten. Somebody, something will always be either trying to take off your mask or handing you another to wear that's a better "fit" or "design" than the one you have on.

Masquerade! Seething shadows breathing lies...Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you!

In all the masks that we wear as online gamers, of all the designs and gems and frills and lace, you must decide on what you want to wear to the party. And once you get there, you must decide whether to take it off of try and fool everyone into believing that you are something that you are not.

One thing I enjoyed about my guild was that there was a time (when I was more active with them) that I felt comfortable enough to take my mask off and show everyone who I really was. Then I could put on whatever mask I wanted to and enjoy the game out in the world any way that I wanted to. It created an intimacy from human connections, from the real stories behind the masks of my guildies, that made coming back and coming back to the game more and more inviting. I honestly don't know what the future of guilds will be, whether there will be more larger guilds or if the smaller ones will fight their revolution, keep their masks on and refuse to put on the masks apparently being handed out by Blizzard. I don't speculate because it won't affect me. I know what mask I want to wear in Cataclysm, do you?

If not, then all I have to say is this:

FACES!...Take your turn, take a ride on the merry-go an inhuman race!

I hope to see you all at the party, but hope to see you all wearing whatever mask makes you feel comfortable. May the Masquerade begin!

p.s. Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorites. I always found the character of the Phantom to be pitiable, singing at the very end:

Masquerade! Paper faces on parade...Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will never find you!

He was taught to be ashamed of his face, of his deformity, which drove him to madness and to murder. But Christine realized what I love to see while playing online games, that is there was a story behind both the mask and the face, a story of a life ruined by ill treatment and cruelity. He was taught to be ashamed of his face, Christine taught him that he didn't. Don't be afraid to lift your mask every now and then, you may just find someone who understands who you. You've got a story, go ahead and share it...not with everyone, but with someone.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quiz of the Week: Take it!

So, you THINK you know what faction/gender/class/spec combo is best for you? Well I’ve got 3 words for you: YOU ARE DEAD WRONG! All the answers are here in the new class optimizer quiz. Inspired by the most insightful magazine quizzes in the world, I’m going to take you on a ride through your subconscious with the single goal to get you on the right track with the right faction/gender/class/spec combo for Cataclysm. So, with about as much ado as I can muster on a Friday morning, (hmm, muster, makes me think of a ham sandwich for some reason), take the quiz below, add up your score, and find the corresponding match in the table at the end.

Our first step in the quiz is to determine whether to play Horde or Alliance, male or female.

Horde vs Alliance
In what hemisphere were you born?
-North = 1 pt
-South = 3

Did the name of your mother begin with one of the first 13 letters of the English alphabet?
-Yes = 3
-No = 7

Do you support communism?
-Yes = 1
-No = 4

RESULTS: If you scored 10 points or less, you should roll Horde. 11+ points roll Alliance.

Male vs Female
If you are on a date, and at a restaurant, and your food is cold, what do you do?
-Complain to the server = 6 pts
-Dance naked on your table = 4
-Say nothing and eat food without spit or urine = 8

If you were to die and be reincarnated as another human, would you maintain your current sex or change genders?
-Stay the same = 3
-Change me = 5

You’re in a dungeon standing before the final boss, the tank leaves the group, the healer whines about it…what do you do?
-Pull the boss = 9
-Tell healer to stop crying = 5
-Drop three fish feasts and dance until a new tank shows up = 3

RESULTS: 15 or fewer points you should roll a female character. 16+ total points you should roll a male toon.

Now with the real meat and potatoeeees, the part I know you’re eager to discover about yourself. Your class/spec combo, or that (along with your gear score and achievements) will define you to every other person on your server and in every dungeon or battleground you enter. On with the quiz.

Do you like baby kittens?
-Yes = 2 pts
-No = 1

If a stray dog walked up to you on the street, would you?
-Pet it = 3 pts
-Kick it = 2
-Kiss it on the mouth = 1

What is the longest you would be willing to wait in line to ride a roller coaster?
-180 minutes = 4 pts
-90 minutes = 3
-45 minutes = 2
-30 minutes or less = 1

If leading a raid to defeat the Lich King, how many Paladins would you include in your 10-man group?
-10 Paladins = 5 pts
-6 Paladins = 3
-4 Paladins = 2
-3 or Less Paladins = 1
-0 > I hate Paladins = 0

What is your ideal employment situation?
-Self-Employed = 3 pts
-Small Company employee = 2
-Big Corporation employee = 1
-Unemployed = 0

How many times have you run ICC?
-1 Bugugillion = 4 pts
-100+ times = 3
-Between 20 and 100 = 2
-Less than 20 = 1

What is your favorite color of jello?
-Green = 3 pts
-Red = 2
-Yellow = 1

How many times a day to you floss your teeth?
-5 or more = 4 pts
-Between 3-5 = 3
-Once or twice = 2
-Never = 1

You’re in a foreign country, you don’t speak the language, strange men are following you and it’s getting late. What do you do?
-Scream loudly in gibberish = 3 pts
-Turn and face the dark, scary men = 2
-Knock on someone’s door and try to ask to be admitted until the morning = 1

Done. Very nicely done. I hope you kept a tally of your points and have added them up either in your head or on paper. Are you ready for the results?

Final Score of 8 – 12
You should choose one of the following:
-Ret Pali
-Arms Warrior
-Subtlety Rogue
-Arcane mage
-Balance Druid
-Elemental Shaman

Explanation: You are in touch with your sensitive side, you enjoy mid-20th century rock and roll, and you enjoy the easy life and will always find ways to shirk responsibility.

Final Score of 13 – 18
You should choose one of the following:
-Survival Hunter
-Combat Rogue
-Discipline Priest
-Affliction Warlock
-Blood DK
-Protection Warrior

Explanation: You are the kind of person who shows patience in pugs but screams at guildies in raids. You are intelligent, hard working, and love peanut butter.

Final Score of 19 – 22
You should choose one of the following:
-Resto Shaman
-Feral Druid
-Protection Paladin
-BM Hunter
-Destruction Warlock
-Unholy Death Knight

Explanation: You have achieved perfection in your personal life and now wish to take on challenges in your gaming. You feel that all level 1 toons should start out with 10K gold and 4 30 slot bags. All in all, you have no faults but your own hubris.

Final Score of 23 – 27
You should choose one of the following:
-Assassination Rogue
-Shadow Priest
-Fury Warrior
-Holy Paladin
-Frost Mage
-Restoration Druid

Explanation: You are left handed, sleep standing up, each oatmeal for breakfast every morning and like bright, shiny lights. But most of all a good book and an action movie!

Final Score of 28 – 31
You should choose one of the following:
-Enhancement Shaman
-Frost Death Knight
-MM Hunter
-Holy Priest
-Demonology Warlock
-Fire Mage

Explanation: You are greater than 30 years old. You remember playing Atari and at one point Asteroids was your favorite game. You enjoy long walks on the beach and people who are smart, funny and good looking. You find raiding to be the most enjoyable part of WoW, while you suck at PvP.

There, I dare say I have each and every one of you pegged down to the greatest detail of your character and what you enjoy about online gaming. Use this guide, not only in WoW, but in life. It will serve to enlighten and protect you from evil politicians, telemarketers, and bumblebees bend on taking over the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fighting the Need to be Perfect

I give full credit to Larisa for providing me with a topic that I've been inspired to write today. There are some things that ruffle my invisible feathers (not imaginary, I know I have them, I believe I can fly AND touch the sky), and player behavior is one of them. I am no expert in human behavior, and I'm pretty sure nobody else is either, so let's just have a nice little chat about things we observe, and try and make connections where possible that make some sense.

Let's talk about Classical Conditioning, a behaviorist model of behaviorism psychology.

"It posited that behavioral tendencies are determined by immediate associations between various environmental stimuli and the degree of pleasure or pain that follows. Behavioral patterns, then, were understood to consist of organisms' conditioned responses to the stimuli in their environment. The stimuli were held to exert influence in proportion to their prior repetition or to the previous intensity of their associated pain or pleasure."

To put it simply, stimuli > response. Ghostcrawler is apparently taking the Classical Conditioning approach by taking blame for the player base's phobiaa of being "WRONG" when choosing our talents, creating inefficient specs that are not desireable to many raid leaders.

"But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency -- this terror of being WRONG -- that we have managed to instill in our player base."

It looks like he is saying that the devs created the stimulus with their development choices, and the players' response to this, the response that is the safest and creates the greatest pleasure, is a community of players afraid to be wrong, to follow the tried and tested wisdom of "cookie cutter" specs, of raid leaders demanding X gear score and Y achievement in order to non-fail their way through a raid. We all know the behavior, we're familiar with it either because we see it constantly in trade chat or we've been subjected to such scrutiny ourselves. We can't deny that the min/maxing attitude has permiated into a majority of the player base at end game. In many it has created a phobia, a fear of being left out for choosing one talent over another, a fear of being WRONG according to those who have the power to decide such things (i.e. raid leaders).

I do not question whether or not the devs have created an environment condusive to these attitudes and behaviors, I think that Larisa has treated that subject nicely, as have many of her wonderful readers/commenters. Many agree that these attitudes have been around for a long time, and there are many factors which led to them. I'd like to take the discussion into a slightly different direction. You see, Ghostcrawler wants to fix the player's attitudes and behaviors. He doesn't want people to feel afraid of talenting the WRONG spec. He doesn't want raid leaders to choose people for a group based on cookie cutter criteria of GS/Achieve/Spec, etc. But...the devs also are afraid to take away some of the environmental conditions, the stimuli, that allows for these behaviors because, in part, the player base has obtained pleasure in many of the changes.

But if GC is right, and the blame is 100% the developers, if they instilled these behaviors in us through their game design, then Classical Conditioning is hard at work in WoW. Personally, I think it's all a big pile of cow dung. Personally, I don't believe myself so conditionable (is that even a word? Well I'm going with it...) as Pavlov's dog. I point to my personal experience here. I think GC takes too much on himself and we, the players, are not as accountable for our behavior as we ought to be.

It's not a lack of choices in talents, it's not min/maxers who instill fear in the new 80 with "inefficient" talents, it's not ONLY the environment, it's a horrifying lack of leadership that is of equal blame of game design which encourages the behavior that GC does not like to see. When I did raid, I came to a point where I was sick of being held to unreasonable gear and achievement standards by pug raid leaders, so I started to raid lead pugs on my own. They were never a steamrolling experience, and there were often wipes and challenges, but never did any group I lead ever fail to complete the goal set out at the beginning of the raid. And in the process I was able to include people that would have otherwise been excluded becuase they did not choose to follow some cookie cutter spec, or other reasons.

What we fail from is bad leadership, ignorant leadership, tyrannical leadership, unreasonable leadership, stubborn leadership, greedy leadership, lazy leadership, need I go on? What we suffer from is people wanting to force other people to play "the right way", or the way that that leader desires, at not only the exclusion of others but outright public demeaning of specs and gs and achieves that are undesireable. I am not talking to any of my readers specifically, but for as much as environment influences the players, it's the players who choose to be led by said influences and whether to reinforce behavior or punish it. (Please read this on reinforcement and punishment, etc, it will help you understand).

What we have is a player base void of sufficient leadership. We need not place blame needlessly or in undue amounts. In such a reciprocal relationship nobody should shoulder all the blame. But let's not hide from a situation just because we're afraid to hurt each others feelings. I do not claim to be a perfect raid leader, nor hold all those qualities which I most desire in a leader. But I have tried to take a stand in the past and learn to become a better leader. I don't say this, again, to suggest that I'm any better than anyone, but at least I know that I have tried to fight against the norm. Can you say the same about yourself? I know some of you can, you've shared your experiences with me before.

Ghostcrawler will never fix the problems of behavior that he sees by tweaking the stimuli connected, to whatever degree you personally believe. No, you can't change a nation all at once, but you can change yourself, and encourage other individuals to do the same. In the process, as individuals change their paradigm, the nation begins to change, but from the inside and not from external stimuli.

I think that there are a lot of people lying comfortably in their shells, capable of doing great things and being great leaders. But timidity gets the best of most of us when faced with an angry mob demanding GS/Achieve/Cookie Cutter Spec. So how will you combat such demands? Not you as in "ya'lls", but you personally. What will you do individually to change the overall tone of raid leadership, pugging, talent specs, etc? Will you fall in line with the least degree of resistance? Many will, it brings pleasure to not have to face conflict. Larisa asked for ideas on what things could change to help the situation. My solution, become a leader. Make the change in yourself and ask others to follow.

How would you respond to local chat that said:

LFM raiders for Tol Barad. I care how you play, not GS or Achieve. I care if you know what you're doing, but don't demand any specific talent combination in your spec. Let's rock this place! Let's be honest with ourselves and with each other. Dont' send tell if you know you are not up to the challenge. But if you are let's join forces and have fun in the process. Who's with me?

Ok, maybe not the most eloquent speech, I'm no King Henry V. Leaders, come out of your shells and lead! Show everyone that there are a lot more people than we think with open minds and a willingness to learn and to teach. If GC wants things to change, allow him and the devs to make changes they feel will help (with your suggesions, of course), but YOU have to do your part as well, which may be more important than anything any developer can do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Innocent Opinions of Coolness

Have you ever been presented with something potentially really cool only to somehow rationalize it in your mind that it may not be as cool as you thought because of X, Y or Z?

Prime example, the recent discovery of an Alchemy only mount in Cataclysm, the Sandstone Drake, where via the discovered Vile of the Sands an Alchemist can learn how to transform into a dragon capable of carrying an ally on their back. See picture here. This is cool, right? I mean, a non-Druid not only gets to shapeshift, but turns into a frickin' mount that can carry another person on its back. As to give justification to my opinion that this is cool, I need to go no further than to ask my kids.

"Yo, kids, check this out", I says to dem.

Dem kids say, "No frickin' way, that's soooooooooooooooo awesome!!!!"

Meanwhile, there are yet others who have been poisoned by their own cold hearts, advanced age and jealousy that say things like, "We'll see about this, I'd like to find out what the other profession mounts are first before I get too excited about anything."

Awe, c'mon dude! How can you be so cold about this? So what if you're not an Alchemist, take this by itself - it's frickin' cool! Even cooler would be if that passenger was a frickin' shark with a frickin' lazer on its head. But alas, I'll settle for a guildie if it comes to it.

I think there are little things like this that just make me sit back and stare at the calendar waiting for Cataclysm to arrive. There will be time to mourn over the social breakdown of our civilization via the introduction of even more invasive technology, but just for a moment, just for one second let's shout out a simultaneous 'COOL' for the utter coolness of this cool new mount. I actually am looking forward to see what, if any, other professions mounts will be introduced without lessening the coolness of the current. I will also not complain that it can't carry two allies, like the mammoth can, because that's just petty.

The only question is, if I turn into a dragon, will people try to kill me? I mean, I will become and internet dragon. The only solution will be to use among friends.

Guide: How to Balance Family & WoW

Gronthe's guide to balance family and WoW life:

Step 1 - Get a family.
Step 2 - Get a life.
Step 3 - Get a scale. You can rob your local High School chemistry lab, but you'll get caught and go to court, at which point you can "borrow" the scales of justice for this exercise. Or you can use your brain power, if your IQ is sufficient.

I will base this guide off of a couple simple parameters: A) That people are either in a state of marriage or unmarraige. I really don't want to get involved in a political, moral, religious debate here, that's not the goal, but I need to define boundaries for this article. B) Within A, people either have kids or do not (by natural birth, adoption, or if you just found a stray kid on the street and brought it home to feed and decided to keep it). So, guided by these simple parameters, let's continue.

Unmarried, No Children:
If you live by yourself and are not attached to anyone, you clearly have the freedom to play as much as you like when you're not at work or at school. I warn you, however, that by doing so in excess may prevent you from ever being attached to anyone at any time in your life, so refer back to Step 2 above.

If you live by yourself but are attached, your time is your own only when you are alone, which may be a lot or a little depending on many life and relationship factors. Bottom line here is that when your significant other wants attention, you give it. Don't try and compromise, don't try and make excuses, just spend time with them and have tons of fun. If you act like you did when you were unattached, you will find yourself returning to said situation.

Unmarried, with children:
I both applaud and feel for you. I have never experienced it personally, but I watched my sister do it for many years. What can I say? Child first, WoW second. Period. If you have a partner in life to help out, great, use the guidance previously provided with this added caveat: it's your child and don't ever put WoW ahead of it for any reason. If they are old enough, include them with your WoW time, sometimes. Not all the time, there are other things that are important for a parent to do than sit their kid by their side as they raid ICC. Anyway, enough of that, let's move on.

Married, No Children:
I've been there, a long time ago, and from what I remember there really wouldn't have been much time to play wow, if ya know what I mean.

Married, With Children:
This is one where I have the most experience, and therefore anything I say is law and absolute truth!!! Or, if you're less willing to believe in my omniscience, let's just assume that I do have one or two useful things to impart to the masses who may be one day in my shoes.

First, settle things with your spouse. I come from the belief that spouse = 1st, children = 2nd. I know that may sound cruel, as in practice I love my children as much as my wife, but let's be honest, it's a different kind of attachment and we need to approach the two relationships differently. But for the purposes of this guide, I am suggesting that it is far more important to please your spouse if you wish to have quality WoW time than it is to please your children. Children always make life hard, that's how kids are made, but your spouse actually has the power to do something about your WoW time where your kids are powerless. Therefore, spouse comes first, children second.

Communicate with your love, let them know who you are and what you love about life (including games). Understanding of character will go a long way in freeing up your own personal time and provide a means whereby you and spouse can balance things. Communication needs to be proactive and lead time needs to be a lot more than you think it should be. Let's assume that you will be raiding with your guild on Friday night, what day of the week should you tell your spouse that you will be indisposed for 3-4 hours on what may usually be a premier date night?

If you said Friday morning, you're an idiot. If you said Thursday, again I say that you are not as smart as you think you are. It is best if you tell your spouse about your raiding schedule approximately 5 days in advance, so in this case it would fall either on Sunday or Monday night. Sunday and Monday nights are good family planning nights, and what better time to claim those raid hours than during a weekly family planning meeting? Express your desire to be with the family, but at the same time your desire to enjoy quality time with "friends" online. Be prepared to make deals with your spouse, you will find the word "capitulation" to be a close friend as you seek 'me time' for your play.

In any relationship, whether you are single or married, compromise is an art form, devised of well timed and well place compliments, carasses, and selfless acts of service. Imagine your bargaining position if you took out the garbage, cleaned the kitched, and changed the baby's diapers WITHOUT BEING ASKED. You don't have to bring up these selfless acts in your negotiations, just make sure they are noticed so that you don't have to lie if asked if you have done anything for the betterment of the family that week.

I am not suggesting to compliment without being genuine, I am saying that you can do it to serve two purposes simultaneously. So be you single or married and attached, with or without children, your demonstrations of good will and caring will go a long way in getting what you want, and finding that balance that you also need in your family.

Added to good communication and acts of good will I will add one more thing. Family first. Yeah, it probably doesn't need to be said to you fine folk reading this guide, but balance can't happen if you don't put a lot onto the family side of the scale. I love to play WoW, I really do. I give to my family and they know it. It's because they see and appreciate what I give to them that they are willing to give back to me, and give me the time that I like to play a game I love. So this simple and obvious rule is actually the one great thing that will give you balance. Call it a law of restoration, what you give will be returned to you. So the more you give selflessly to your family, the more they will be willing to give to you. It makes for a nicely balanced family/gamer least it has for me.

So in conlusion let me say this, remember to talk, remember to touch, remember to live, and remember that your play is made better with people who support you, not fight you. Give time to others and you'll get time in return. Try it, seriously, it'll work. I realize that there are many variations and situation that could not be discussed here, just know that I am aware of those and you need to use whatever pertinent advice you may find in this guide to lead you.

If your significant other plays wow as well, then most of my advice is useless, sort of. Just have fun and good luck!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Creative Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from? I refer to creative inspiration, the kind that wakes up the mind of the artist, author, game maker, and the like to produce amazing works that is enjoyed by so many. Do people use stepping stones to lift themselves up high enough to see over the haze of the normal human mind into a universe of endless possibility? Or does creative inspiration come from some alternate universe through mystical inter-dimensional travel mechanisms that serve to enlighten the mind of us paltry human beings?

I know that there are a lot of people out there that make the attempt to create the ‘perfect’ game, whether it’s a MMO or FPS or even board game (yes, board games still exist in the 21st century). In their attempts they all fall short due to the seemingly endless definitions of perfection that are both a blessing and a curse to those who make and those who play the games. No game has been made perfect, at least according to somebody. Still, despite the failure to achieve perfection, and our recognition of imperfection, we play away at games that are surprisingly humorous, clever, artistic, intelligent, immersive, well thought, and even ingenious. The creativity that goes into a game such as World of Warcraft is no less impressive to me than the creativity of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

(Although, I admit that Mozart writing his first symphony at age 7 is more impressive than any game I’ve played, but not in content, simply for the fact that he was frickin’ 7 years old.)

I have never been a stout follower of WoW lore, but I have started reading more things here and there lately and have come to really appreciate the depth to which writers go to create motive and move stories forward and introduce heroes and villains that I can both love and hate; and doing all this while remaining consistent. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain consistency in a fantasy story, as the writer’s mind is naturally engaged in ‘making things up’, there can easily be mistakes and slips of the mind which produce contradictory realities that require reconciliation in order for the reader to be satisfied. Again, there may have been inconsistencies in WoW lore that I know not of, but for the most part it’s amazingly consistent.

I believe that creativity is made easier, or should I say that inspiration flows more freely where there is already intelligence and knowledge. I used to work for a large mortgage company (accounting dept) and brought to the company certain skills and knowledge that their current staff of accountants didn’t have in the same degrees. I knew a lot more about the mortgage industry in general, and technically I could program applications like Excel to interface with our accounting software to significantly speed up certain processes and improve accuracy to near perfection. I used my knowledge in creating things that could not have been created by others at the company, not because they weren’t smart enough, but because my specific knowledge and skill set made it possible for me to see things from a different perspective and therefore find different answers to the company’s problems.

The same is true for any creator (of anything), and so Blizzard doesn’t just hire idiots or slouches that live in their mom’s basement to design their games. They, I assume, hire people who have demonstrated competence and specific knowledge in the fields necessary to do their jobs. Without this specific knowledge, these developers could not do the jobs that were needed. Their perspective would be limited, and therefore so would their ability to solve problems and receive creative inspiration.

Don’t think, however, that I would ever suggest that knowledge is the source of creative inspiration, but it is a factor. The other side of creativity comes from a place that I cannot explain or rationalize. I believe that everyone is born with some particular talent(s). These talents can be improved upon, additional talents can be developed through hard work, but there is ultimately some aspect of a person’s talent set that cannot be explained. How did it flash into somebody’s head to create a computer game that thousands or millions could play at the same time, could interact with each other in various ways, all the while throwing around fire balls, lightening bolts, and shadowy darkness at “bad guys” and, sometimes (just for fun), at each other?

I realize that MMO’s like WoW are part of a process, where through time one game or story has evolved into another, and where they merged the ideas merged, and the next thing you know we have what is available to the market today in the many computer games that we enjoy so much. All of them born out of creative inspiration of somebody, taken by another and added upon or altered depending on the second person’s own innate creativity.

I stand in awe of the super creative people of this world. Those engineers who can build giant dams and bridges and buildings that touch the clouds. Our world and our games are born out of the vision of many, and enjoyed by so many. I speak a lot about the vision of great authors or artists, but in that I must include those that first created the computer games that we now enjoy, and those that continue in the wonderful traditions of creative inspiration that permeate the game making world.

There are so many out there who will decry game developers for not making the perfect game, or at least one that nearly attains perfection. True, some may not contain the creativity necessary to hold my attention, but all of them are born out of somebody’s creative mind, and that inspiration is something to be praised. It’s not as easy as people think to create something truly great, or else great would be common place and no longer great. There was only one Mozart, one Tolkien, one Rowling. There are many game developers, all of differing skill and knowledge and talent levels. Not all games will be great, it is a human impossibility, and no game will ever be perfect, that’s yet another.

Speaking for myself I will continue to play games that I view have achieved a particular level of greatness according to may tastes. To me, WoW isn’t perfect and never will be. But I am in awe of the creative inspiration that seems to occur on a regular basis that that game company. All business decisions aside, their creative minds cannot be insulted, and I am grateful to be able to live in this day in age where they and many other creative minds can give us entertainment worth talking about.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Testing

I'll tell ya'lls what I'll be doing this weekend...testing. That's right, for the first time ever I'll be testing the upcoming patch. Not hard core, just a few things here and there, get a taste of things and try and do a good job at reporting problems or make quality suggestions. I've never beta or patch tested before, so this should be fun.

I just hope I don't turn into a major geek while I'm at it. Wait, I probably already am a geek, so nevermind. I'll, uh, try to get into a group that tries to do AoE everything or something funny like that; I just want a good story or two to share. We'll see how it goes. The download certainly takes a long time.

Until next week...

More Poetry in WoW

(Disclaimer: For whatever reason, whenever I post the paragraphs aren't separating well, so it looks like one huge paragraph. Be patient, I'll try to fix it but I don't know how).

One of the defining features of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels is the poetry that he masterfully weaves into the story. The Hobbits are all too fond of rhymes and riddles, but there are other examples of how the language itself is poetry, consider the scene when Frodo visited Lothlorien:

"It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lorien there was no stain."
-The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 365

To me this is a greater example of pure poetry then any contrived rhyme of "roses are red, etc". What it does is allow the reader to be swept up in the moment from the perspective of [Frodo], and experience the wonder of seeing most beautiful scenery our eyes have ever beheld.

Then there is the more common style of poetry as well, such as these lovely examples from the same book:

"Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread.
Through shadows to the edge of night,
until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
we'll wander back to home and to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread.
And then to bed! And then to bed!"
"The shadow lies upon his tomb,
In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
But still the sunken stars appear,
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep."
We may either forget or not know that Tolkien was an award winning poet, not just one of the most beloved story tellers of the 20th century. We are all aware of the influences that he had on our world of game playing and fantasy, but that's not the topic I wish to address. I wonder, sometimes, given Tolkien's influence on just about everything that came after him, why there is little to no poetry in games, particularly WoW.
Now please, as I have not played every game in the world I certainly cannot say that no games incorporate poetry, so if there are examples out there I would love to hear of them. I would also like to make clear that I do not wish for WoW to incorporate Tolkien poetry, I realize that if I want access to that I could play LOTR Online (I actually don't know if there's much poetry in that game), read the books or watch the movies. I also am well aware that the name of the game I enjoy the most is World of WAR-Craft. I just wanted to get the obvious out of the way to spare me the agony of having it pointed out to me in any comment.
In any good fantasy story, I believe that there must be great characters, an easy to follow and engaging plot, and significant conflict. Added to these are the details of the story, in both the characters and the world they live in. The more meaningful the world, the more important are those characters to the survival of all that's good in that world. To me, a world without virtue, without beauty, without love and culture isn't really a world worth saving. If I am a "hero" dropped into a world of pure evil and told that I needed to bring my manifest destiny to the miserable creatures of that world, the destiny of light and life and good and courage, blah, blah, blah, I'm going to look up and say to the one dropping me off, "No thanks, I think I'll let this world destroy itself, there is nothing good here but me, and if I leave no loss to the world, it's already destroyed."
I just can't seem to generate a desire to save something if I'm the only good thing in it. To that end, I look around Azeroth and I see that, according to my character, there is much worth saving, much that was good before, or worthwhile, and that through my efforts that worth can be secured for the future generations. When Deathwing comes he'll do much damage to the world, and why do we care? Because there are things that we value here, whether it's culture, people, etc., Horde or Alliance, there are things we wish to protect or restore to their former peaceful state.
I know this is WARCraft, but we don't war solely because we wish to shed blood. Sure, politics churn the war machine, disagreements add fuel to that fire, and it's people who do things that are considered 'evil' that unite us in our war efforts, but to what end? To continue to war even after we have defeated all the evil that has risen in the world? I understand that there will always be a hatred between Horde and Alliance, but even those parties have joined forces to defeat common enemies.
So, in this fantasy world, in Azeroth, I wonder sometimes that I do not see more of the things I'm fighting to save. I play mainly Alliance, so am I fighting so that my farmers can farm in peace? So that the tailor may weave with endless supply of wool? I want to be fighting for more culture, for writers and artists and musicians, people that are being phased out of our real world for math and science (btw, I am SOOOOOO pro math & science). Schools drop their arts programs when there's a shortage of money, but it's always been my belief that the arts are what makes our world beautiful. So I wish it was more in Azeroth, that there would simply be a deeper culture to save and to protect.
Writers (poets included) have been the source of great controversy in our world because they discuss issues in times and ways that allow for societal introspection without resorting to one-liners and cheap shots (like politicians). Uncle Tom's Cabin, Nineteen Eighty Four, Les Miserables, The Scarlet Letter, and many, many, many others. Where are these wonders in Azeroth? I'm freakin' dying over and over and over to help these Westfall farmers rid themselves of evil beasts and machines (which is fine and all). I'm clearing the forests of Duskwood of the 'bad' Worgen, in hopes that maybe someday these homesteads may be returned to their rightful owners. I'm fighting the scourge in Northrend and doing battle with the Lich King himself to save all lands from death and decay. I'm at War with the Horde on principle alone, they're just so darn ugly, and we know that ugly people need to be killed.
I am the first to admit that I don't know the entire story of Azeroth, I'm not familiar with enough of the lore to make definitive statements, all I speak of is from my own experiences. And what I experience is that there are not a lot of musicians or writers or poets in Azeroth. In real life I fight for their cause in many ways, I wouldn't mind having some artists to fight for in Azeroth as well.
Please, I am open to correction and education on this topic, I'm also open to peotry, if you so desire. The more the merrier.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gearing Up the Hard Way

I would never suggest to anyone interested in obtaining Tier 10 gear (I'm talking to the little guy, not you been there, done that crowd, so hold on to your pantyhose). What was I even saying? I lost all my thoughts in an attempt to retain all my target demo audience.

Ah yes, T10 and you - the, "don't do it this way" way to gear up. I've got 3 level 80's, and Gronthe is fast approaching, now questing at 72 in Dragonblight. I had raided regularly with my Shaman up until about a month ago, I use my DK to run around the world and get as many achievments as he can, which leaves my poor Priest to wallow in the absolute emtpyness that is being a middle-child.

My Priest has been doing the weekly raid quest and daily dungeons for her 2 emblems of frost (although I admit not every week and definately not every day) for many, many months. While my shaman has full 4 sets for both specs, my priest has yet to claim her 4 pc Shadow set. That is until today. Later this evening (West Coast USA baby!) I shall log in, queue up, get my 2 frosts, then go buy some leggings and complete her 4 pc T10 set. FINALLY!!! It's taken about 8 months of very few VoA runs. Quick tangent:

I don't hate VoA per se. What I absolutely cannot stomach is the squeeling that goes on whenever we win Wintergrasp. Yeah, yeah, I know it's because we're on a timer and people want to get it done, and there's no guarantee (especially on my server where Horde rocks PvP in BG's) that we'll ever get it back, and that like me other people are on a schedule and don't have all day to play that people get very anxious about running some version of VoA...but the squeeling!!! I can't take it sometimes, really I can't, so I rarely run it. That and my guild leader got the 264 legs for his Priest the first time he rand VoA 25, I've run it a dozen times and they've never dropped, let alone won a roll for them. Screw you VoA!!!

So here I am, on the precipice of a talent respec. What? What does talents have to do with getting a 4 set T10 piece? If you're asking that you don't know what the 4 set bonus does for Shadow Priests. See it here. Basically it's a major haste boost to our Mind Flay spell, a channeled spell that slows your butt down in PvP, and does some serious damage with good amounts of spell power and made better with haste. It's so good, in fact, that most Shadow Priests re-tune their talents by taking out 5 talent points that reduce the cooldown on our major nuke by 2.5 seconds and put those points elsewhere in the tree. I'm not sure that when all of this was planned that the devs deliberatly designed it so that (mostly raiding) Shadow Priests all over the world were changing their talent trees this late into the expansion.

I would venture a guess that the devs want to avoid this happening again in the future. Surely with the 31 point talent trees, it would be extremely difficult to even attempt such a drastic re-talenting at level 85 on the third tier of raiding. The trees and their forced "31 talents in one tree" will not allow that. But it's available now, and it will be both fun and interesting for me as I move my talents into places that I only dreamed about before.

I would not suggest taking 8 months to do it, however, and point to myself as a bad example for any raider with any aspirations of greatness to follow my example. Then again, come Cataclysm it will supposedly take longer to gear up for raids to begin with, but I doubt it will be 8 months. So go, run wild, run fast, run with a reckless abandon and gear yourslef up as fast as you can. If you do it may just provide you many, many months of power compared to just a couple months for myself.

Gronthe will never get his Tier 10 Warlock gear, and for him I am sad. But that's ok, I'll get him to 80 soon enough and he'll fancy himself sporting some hideous T9 stuff and run Ulduar at least once while it's still semi-relevant for some people very late to the party. So, that's it, journal entry completed. I'm thinking of changing the tone to my blog, perhaps every post will be in the form of some poetry. Or maybe I'll write every other post in Hebrew, or Arabic, or Chinese. Just a thought.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Communication Evaluation

Personal Debates
I have been evaluating a debate this week between myself and a couple of my friends that I play fantasy sport games with. The subject isn't important, what I've been trying to discover is whether I am doing a sufficient job at looking at the matter from their point of view, and at the same time requesting from them that they do the same.

In these back and forth message board posts, I believe that I have tried to take as honest a look as I can at their point of view. You know how sometimes when people debate something, they actually are not even debating the same subject, their retort is nothing more than a spin of the original argument that takes the discussion in a completely different direction? It's a turn of the debate to a topic similar but not exactly on point. I'm no communication master, so I don't know what this is called. Maybe a Red Herring or some cousin to that fallacy, I'm not exactly sure. No, a red herring fallacy is more deliberate, I guess the term should be Ignoratio Elenchi.

Anyway, I think I've made an honest attempt at seeing things from their perspective, but the debate points never seem to stay on topic. I've searched in their arguments for signs of an attempt to view the matter from a point of view not their own, but that has proven pointless. No, I'm not saying I'm a better man for making the attempt, I'm saying that their stubborness is increasingly frustrating. I think this is what some polititians go through, or at least zealouts in a political debate, or two lovers in a quarrel - they often get into arguments but not over the same subject, they just release their frustrations by making conclusions of things that may or may not be right but don't have anything to do with the suject at hand.

Guild and Raid Communication
There are far fewer methods of communication that are available to wow players than to you in your personal life. Not being in front of someone, seeing their facial expressions as they react to what you say, that's a big one. We communicate through text and voice, there is no body language (to the degree and significance of RL). But I think one of the mistakes that occur in debates with fellow guildmates or raid team members, is we fail not only to see things from the other's perspective, but we don't make the attempt.

Why is it important to make an honest attempt to see things from another person's point of view?

People often define the same experience in different ways, and yet can define different experiences in the same way. 10 People witness the same crime, each one had a different point of view, saw different things, felt differently. One may have been a mother with a baby and her instinct was to protect the child, and from that point of view she didn't take the time to study the features of the criminal. While another person, single, strong male, had nobody else to worry about except himself, and then makes a concerted effort to study the criminal's features in detail to relate to the police after. In order for the man to understand why the woman, who was standing right next to him, couldn't see in detail who had committed the crime, he would have to place himself in her shoes (not literally, of course) and try to understand what it means to have a child that you love, and want to protect even over your own life. It may be hard, and that man could probably never truly knows what that feels like until he has a child of his own, but he can still make that attempt to understand, and in that attempt he has acquitted himself.

Let's say you have someone in your guild who takes some time off from raiding to get a surgery, but your guild has a strict rule about attendance, that if somebody misses 2 raid nights in a row they are kicked from the guild. This example may be real or not, but that's not what I'm talking about here. Let's move forward.

So in this example the person who gets a surgery and is out for a month or so will come back online to find himself kicked from the guild. Or so he/she may expect due to the rules. But more than likely, this individual spoke with their guild leader and obtained an exception to the rule. Why did they grant the exception, in effect breaking an important guild rule? Because that guild leader, and hopefully all the guild members, were able to consider the situation from the perspective of that person needing the surgery. They could have subconsciously (or even consciously) asked themselves how they would feel in the same situation, needing time off for surgery but with the intention of returning to help the guild. They did what many people would consider fair (a word I hate, it's too ambiguous and relative, but you know what I mean).

Now, let's turn the situation around, and assume that the guild leader told this individual that the rules would be upheld, no exceptions for any reason. The person needing this surgery would probably be upset, leave the guild in anticipation of being kicked, and decide that either people are jerks or they will just take their medicine and search out a guild willing to work with them. I believe this would be a case where a guild leader not only failed but refused to look at the situation from a different point of view. What if he was the guild creator and was in the same situation, would he want himself stripped of the guild that he worked hard to create, like many owners of business are the moment they go public and leave the decision making to a board of directors? I don't think the guild leader would have liked that very much, he would want others to see the situation through his eyes, it would only seem "fair" to him.

This ability to see something or someone from their point of view is not as easy as I may make it seem. Often long-standing biases, traditions, moral values, ethic norms, or whatever influence us to approach the debate of a particular subject with massive barriers. We are unable to communicate effectively because of these biases, and it takes a great deal of effort to overcome them. But the principle is sound, trying to see things from a different perspective enhances communication and understanding between people. It does not mean that you, in making this attempt, must be swayed by their logic or reasons, but it does mean that you just may come to understand the pathway of logic that they used in forming their opinions.

Guild "Misunderstandings"
How well do you know the people in your guild? Do you know how they feel about wiping? Does the raid leader HATE wiping (I mean really hate it, as if they = complete failure)? If so, after a wipe do you make a funny comment about being cleaved in your pretty dress, only to be yelled at for not taking the raid seriously? The truth is you do take it seriously, but you don't view wipes and complete failure, and both your insensitivity and your raid leaders unwillingness to view wipes from a different point of view, which causes contention where understanding could be had both people known each other better.

Debates rage on many fronts. On the blogosphere, in guilds, in raid, in your work or your home. How many of these debates could be softened and concluded if we sought more actively to understand the other person's point of view before attacking them? Can men truly understand feminism? No. We're not women, we will never be and therefore lack that quality which would give us perfect understanding. But we sure as heck can TRY to understand, through education, listening skills, and taking the time to see them from their point of view.

Can Hardcore vs Casual ever be resolved? Well, that's a bad example, too many definitions for both, let's just move on.

Talent Complaints
Over on I read an article about the new T11 Set Bonuses. The comments opened up with some Warlock complaints. By the end of the first page of comments, there were people complaining about "the Warlocks complaining", and I couldn't help but think 'Do you play a Warlock? If you did you might just understand their point of view.' I'm not saying whether the Warlock's complaints were valid, and frankly it doesn't matter, but to argue with somebody without knowing why they are upset reeks of not making an attempt to see their opinions from their perspective.

This sort of thing I find quite often on forums and in the game itself. It's ok if you don't like it when people whine and complain about the new Cataclysm talents or tier set bonuses, but I think it would be better for everyone if they took the time to try and understand 'why' class X, Y or Z doesn't like talent/ability i, ii, or iii. If you take the time to ask them to clarify their complaints, you might just come to sympathise with them. Even if you don't, you have bridged a social gap and created a tie and a bond that is healthy between two people. When you show someone that you at least are trying to understand them, you have earned yourself loyalty and respect. When you don't try, when you just sit back and argue about things not directly related to the true issue, you only prove yourself to be selfish and closed-minded.

I don't know how my debate with my friends will end, I don't really have hope of them opening their minds, I think they have too many biased traditions that they hold on to. But I can try, I can still do my part. The same goes for all your communication, I would suggest that before you criticize somebody else that you take the time to step into their shoes and see things from their perspective. You don't have to end up agreeing with them, but you'll be the means of creating atmosphere's of mutual respect and understanding, something we all could use a little more of in this game that we love.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Best Add-ons Never to Make it to Live

I was surfing the other day, not the internet, but in Hawaii on a real surfboard. Just think about it, I'm in Hawaii and you're not, how exactly does that make you feel?

Okay, I'm not nor was I in Hawaii and I wasn't surfing the giant waves on that famous beach with the sand and stuff, I was surfing the internet for some really cool add-ons. I found this site that had add-ons that Blizzard had banned and found a few that would have been really useful.

Here's a list:

Finger Pointer
This is an add-on useful for group activities such as 5-mans and raids. It works something like DBM, but with a twist. Whenever any party/raid member remains standing in "bad stuff" for at least 1.5 seconds, a taunting, disembodied voice shouts out to all party/raid members:

"Hey ______, get out of the damn fire, you idiot!"

It would be great. This way when asked if you stood in the fire too long you no longer can deny it. What better way to improve the skills of your raid group than through public shame?

Good Idea?
This nifty little add-on functions much like the "Ready Check" tool we're all familiar with. After reviewing a strat for a fight the RL pushes a button and asks the shy, no-confidence, raid members if they think that that particular strat is a Good Idea? The raid members answer anonymously, so nobody but the raid leader can view the responses. Upon seeing that 6 out of 10 see that it's a bad idea the RL will say:

"Well, considering most of you are too shy to say anything anyway, we'll just proceed with my strat. But thanks for telling me it's not a good idea, at least I'll have that to hang over your heads when it comes time to promote the next officers in the guild."

Cry Baby
This is a sleek, light weight add-on for all you PvPers out there. Here's how it works. Any time you engage in any PvP battle, whether it be a duel, Arena or in a BG, whenever your toon loses a fight he/she begins to stomp their feet, shout obscenities into the air, then proceed to fall into a fetal position whimpering before actually dying. The cool thing about this add-on is that it tends to spread like a virus to all other computers of your fellow PvPers you ever engage with. Which means eventually everyone who PvPs will have this addon whether they like it or not. It got rave reviews when the beta version was launched, but Blizzard didn't like the behavior demonstrated as it was too close to the behavior of their largest investors over the past two years.

Probably the most controversial add-on that never made it live was this little bugger, Crash. Used primarily by dedicated raiders, Crash could mimic a total systems crash even during the most stressful of raid encounters. With the simple click of a button, Crash would show that you had been kicked offline but your toon would remain under your control in-game. This would allow a person to committ all sorts of errors during a raid with the no-lose excuse of "I was offline, I couldn't avoid getting cleaved", when the truth was that the raider had a thing for boss crotches and didn't want to tell his fellow raiders of this unseemly little fettish.

Before it was banned I was actually able to see Crash in action as a fellow raid member, a Priest if I recall, thought he would experiment and stand in front of Rotface during the whole fight. His reasoning? "I thought I saw his foreign object and wanted to get a closer look."

Disturbing, just disturbing. Luckily it was banned the following day.

What about you?
So what add-ons would you like to see in the game? Is there anything that you know of that had a moment in the spotlight but later faded into oblivion like these? Taking requests here all week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Origin of Murlocs

It's not what you think, it's certainly not what has been written. Nay, the origin of murlocs is more sinister than you could ever imagine. In fact, the true knowlege may even frighten the most hearty and couragous of you. But if you think you're ready for the truth, then read on.

It's widely believed that Murlocs are an ancient race of Azeroth, but of their origins little to nothing has ever been uncovered. Since their history has been primarily oral, and let's face it, nobody can really understand what they are saying, there has been nobody of knowledge to record their history in a more...permanent manner.

Very recently, however, in the rumblings of the earth prior to the Cataclysm, an ancient tablet has been uncovered (the first, but definately not the last) with writings relating to the ancient origin of Murlocs. It makes reference to a leader, presumably a king of their kind, named Norkostrider. Ancient names normally did were not fashioned by joining components of two separate names, but with the discovery of this name, and it being so old, the evidence is clear that Murlocs had origins with...Gnomes.

That's right, Gnomes are the progenitors of Murlocs. Many of us are familiar with the Gnome history, explained clearly over at wowwiki here, that talks about how Gnomes were first created as "mechagnomes" by the Titans, and later fell "victim" to the Curse of Flesh, thus making them a mortal, fleshy race. But with the Murlocs, the Curse of Flesh mutated. Unknown to all, even the Titans, one Gnome named Norko, being overcome with the Curse of Flesh, fled into the hills of Northern Kalimdor. His long journey there left him tired and weak, and in this weakened state the Curse began to mutate. Little by little the flesh that corruped Norko's body turned scaley and slimey. Horrified by the transformation, and feeling, in his words, "parched", Norko wandered east until he reached the shores of Azshara. There he took to the water, and there he stayed.

Unknown how Norko multiplied, within a hundred years there were already many clans of Murlocs set up all throughout Kalimdor. Norko changed his name to Norkostrider, for he strode along the beaches in search for his lost mind, or so they say, and became king of the first Murloc clan. Their own language there developed, but many believed Murlocs to be dumb, amphibious creatures only. The truth is that Murlocs retained the high intelligence of the mechagnome race, granted to them by the Titans when they were made to help shape the world. Today murlocs remain highly intelligent, albeit highly unintelligible.

Gnomes know nothing of their relationship with Murlocs in current Azeroth, for this knowledge had passed through the ages hidden from even the most wise and powerful. What can be wondered at now is how Murlocs will be treated as a species by their cousins. Will Gnomes, especially Mages and Rogues, continue to thrash and flame to death those that they once called brothers and sisters? Have Gnomes finally found the race of being capable of defeating without the assistance of 24 other, much larger, heroes of other, more noble races?

I feel for the Murlocs now, a pity that urges me to activism for the all-forgotten Gnome sub-species. They need a voice in the wilderness, preferably a voice that speaks, Common tongue. Murloc matters must be of the utmost importance to the Gnome and Dwarf races, given this new information. Will they grant the Murlocs a place by their side in Ironforge or Gnomeregan?

Alas, the plight of the Murlocs is in the smallest hands in the world, and that's something to think about.