Thursday, September 8, 2011
My wife made me watch an episode of Friends one time, years ago now. I did it out of love and loyalty to her, not willingly or because I liked it. In this particular episode, Ross and Rachel had stopped dating per Rachel's request, Ross ended hooking up with a Chole chick. Well Rachel finds out about it, gets mad for Ross being "unfaithful", and Ross spends the next four years of the show justifying his trist by yelling "WE WERE ON A BREAK".
Not Emmy worthy stuff, I admit, but it made its way enough into pop culture to have some sort of a lasting impact.
So, why do I bring this up? Because I noticed I haven't written anything since July. I've lost all my 7 readers, probably, and well that's ok. I guess you could say I'm taking a break due to real life crap. Being unemployed for 10 months with a family of four to shelter and feed is tougher than you may realize. But it's not like I'm being unfaithful and writing a separate blog on the side or sworn off MMO's and went back to board games. No, I just spend most of my days trying to find work as a partially disabled dude, and worrying about how to pay my power bill (which is like, really important here in the 110 degree desert).
One thing I've done is continued to play in the evenings. I have tried something...refreshing. I decided to not throw all my alts into my main guild and branch out a bit, meet new people and all. It's been such a pleasure. I've seen debates in my guild chat about how it's so hard to split toons between guilds on the same server, but really I think that only applies to serious players or raiders, not casuals like myself.
It ceases to amaze me how many great, friendly, and helpful people are out there. People willing to laugh at me and themselves, but never in a way to make anyone feel worse about themselves. People willing to commit to having a good time and doing it together. Oh yes, I'm all for splitting time between guilds, if I didn't I'd meet fewer and fewer of you fine folk out there.
I haven't been ignorant of the goings on in the blogosphere, I never am. I see there continue to be more and more discussions on game design. I still try to stay away from that since I don't really wish to think too much about it. For myself (and myself only) I try to ask "am I having a good time" (per my personal standars). If yes I keep playing, if not I stop. The one thing I noticed is that as soon as I went multi-guild I started having a better time again. Proving to me, and me only, that these personal connections are useful in fulfilling my gaming satisfaction quota for the night. I still enjoy the freedom of playing multiple classes in all kinds of roles, but it's still the interactive nature of MMO's that helps me to come back, even if I'm feeling down cause I just went through another day with nobody wanting to hire me.
What do I have planned for the future? I enjoy writing, I enjoy connecting with readers and other bloggers. I will continue that, but later. Once I can find a good job and have my family in order, I'll be back and with a bang. Probably I'll re-brand myself as a more sociopathic personality, and make you constantly look over your shoulder wondering if I'm watching you read my stuff right now...like I really am, just look behind you!!!!
Peace out! I'll talk to ya'lls later.
Monday, July 11, 2011
If an alien invasion happened in real life, and the military and special forces and all the highly trained government agents were either dead or didn't want anything to do with "civilians", who would I go to to raise the flag of revolution and fight along side me? Nerds!
More specifically, gaming nerds. In fact, I'll take some gaming nerds over CIA operative anyday, and here's why:
2) Battle Strategy
3) Improved Stealth Capabilities
4) Resources & Technology
In real life, sort of like the show Survivor (which is totally real :D), when a new group forms there is often a struggle for power. It's human nature to fight for leadership. It occurs in MMO's sometimes; take a pug raid, for example, where there tends to be a person who challenges the authority of the raid leader who set everything up. Either the group will accept this new leader or shout him down and throw their support behind the one who set up the raid in the first place. Either way, sooner or later there is an agreed leader, which leads to improved coordination.
The great thing about group play in games is that everyone comes in knowing their role. So whether you like the holy trinity (tank, damage, healer) or not, everyone knows who is supposed to do what, and who is good at what. When people know their jobs before a plan is enacted, it makes coordinating them much easier. Imagine what it would be like trying to coordinate people in your neighboorhood for a strike on an alien outpost. Gamers with predispositions to one of the trinity roles would come to the planning meeting knowing what they are good at, what they can do for the group, and the knowledge of how to best fulfill their role. When fighting aliens, people who know their jobs well who can be easily coordinated have a far greater chance at victory. Round one goes to the nerds.
2) Battle Strategy
There is both good and bad about gaming nerds ability to develop a battle strategy. The bad is that it may take a few groups a few times to figure out how not to win, but ultimately a valid and powerful strategy will be formed and shared throughout the network of revolutionaries, and we would begin to see quick and decisive victories at battlegrounds all around the world because of the analytical minds of those involved in the initial attacks.
We'd throw up monuments to the early fighters, those who lost their lives so that we may have a strategy that works. But guaranteed, if followed exactly, failure would be nearly impossbile. Round 2 goes to the nerds for their ability to formulate a battle strategy. It would certainly be better than a real estate agent trying to put one together, or a politician, wouldn't you agree?
3) Stealth Capabilities
Gaming nerds have a long and storied history of being able to hide from nearly anyone. For years they have been hiding in their mother's basements, or a dingy apartment not exactly legally leased to them. They also take the shape of a CFO, who would never be expected to be a gamer, or a doctor or a business owner. People of all walks of life enjoying various forms of gaming, unknown to the world to avoid negative public reaction to their secret habits. Nevertheless, gaming nerds can stealth with the best of navy seals or international spies.
A nerd's ability in today's world, invaded by aliens bent on our destruction, to blend in or hide in locations that nobody can hack, would be a powerful strategic advantage in our revolution against the aliens. Round 3, nerds.
4) Resources & Technology
Nobody is more capable of obtaining the resources and technology than hackers. Instead of bringing down "the man", they could then bring down "the alien...man", or woman, or whatever gender they are. Of these hackers, many would certainly be gamers, nerds from their infancy, unknown to the world except by their powerful viruses, or ability to hack the pentagon or NSA databases.
Imagine the combined efforts of hackers who were also gamers who were also revolutionaries in a war against an invading alien army. In my opinion, they would be a force for much destruction, but for the good of the human race. In the end, however, they wouldn't be rewarded, they would simply take of the spoils of war, be given the alien ships as payment, and fly to a different planet to hack and reek havoc. Round 4 goes to nerdy gaming hacker.
How close are we to a real alien invasion? I don't know, but I'd venture to guess not too close. But if it did happen, I know who I would want on my side. Nerds. Gaming nerds. For all the "nothing" we do for society, supposedly, imaging the good that will come of our habits and our skills when the aliens come crashing down on earth in a blaze of lazers and heated metal.
Well I say BRING IT ON, E.T., cause I got gamers on my side!!!!!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I worked at a mortgage company once, and we literally went out of business overnight. Better said, we were told one day that we might be out of business the next day, but things had been brewing for a long time before. To defend my fellow accounting/finance co-workers, we flagged many things long in advance and yet ownership continued to make choices to boost short-term profitability. But they failed to see the long-term consequences of their choices. Hence, the apparent over-night shutdown and loss of over 1,000 jobs. Tragedy.
Whether it be Blizzard (ATVI), Trion, or any other game developer out there, decisions are made for both short-term profit and long-term viability. At the same time, there is an effort (which is often the subject of criticism) to make MMORPG's that people enjoy and have long-term viability. I think as a business, Blizzard does things that are ethical and fair, for they were the ones who created World of Warcraft. They created what has become the world's most successful MMO, so at some point in time they did something that gamers enjoyed. I believe they also include things in WoW that are time-consumingly addictive, and take away from my personal definition of enjoyment (such as daily quest grinding, etc). It's a bit manipulative, but it's also an accepted practice within the industry, and from a business point of view is acceptable but can be construed by some outsiders/consumers as leaning towards the unethical.
The way I see it, we're all greedy. Sure, I guess we can sit here and say that all these businesses want is to squeeze us for all we got, but we can't blame any corporation (MMO developer or other) for our choices to purchase and consume the product(s) being offered. Gamers are greedy too. It seems that we want the "perfect" game, and if not perfect, then at least on the path to exceptional.
Webster's defines greed as: "A selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed."
What is need? I guarantee you that there are currently 6 billion different definition of this word on planet earth. When somebody outside of ourselves exceeds some imaginary limit that we place on need, we label them greedy. Is it not possible that the person making money has a different idea of what "need" is? But often we don't care about that, because when our own personal threshold is exceeded, in our minds we classify the excess as greed, and we take it personally.
I don't need games in my life, but I enjoy them. Enough to pay for them. Enough to place value in them because I choose to spend part of my life playing them. I have my reasons, and I think they are good enough. Others may disagree with me and think I'm greedy for wanting to play games when I could be feeding the homeless. Well I sure don't want people judging me for my supposed greed; this is why I am careful at casually labeling business people, and especially MMO and other gaming companies as greedy, because I'm sure that there are good people at these companies who really do want to just make a good game, and to be judged harshly by people who don't know what's in my heart would seem to me unfair.
I don't think I'll ever write again on the business of game developers. Unless, of course, they try the crap that Blizzard tried with revealing my real name or something like that. I think it's fair to criticize the products these developers are sending to the market. It's fair to bash them if they suck, and praise them for the good they offer. I think it's fair to complain when and if we discover that a company will pursue a policy that leads to profit when they openly and knowingly (internally) are manipulating people with addictive material (like the tobacco companies).
But I think we need to understand when to separate the business from the personal. People conduct business, it's how most of the world survives and thrives, because somebody started a business. So the concept of business should not be demonized. But it's our right as consumers to monitor businesses, to demand that they follow the laws of the land governing them, and to hope for good products to consume. It's also our right as consumers to NOT consume them, if the product isn't to our satisfaction. Remember, they don't make money if we don't pay. If nobody bought the Sparkle Pony, they wouldn't keep selling them or other vanity mounts and items.
We have the power to change the industry we consume. Keep using your voice, or your imagination, or knowledge, and even expectations to change the game. Don't buy into those things that you view as manipulative or out to get more from your pocket out of "greed". Don't rush to judgement, unless you're willing to be judged unfaily yourself. Even though there is greed, there is also honest dealings by good business people, and it would be in all of our best interest to find and support those developers who have good intentions, who we are willing to support by spending our hard earned money on their products.
After all, business is not just business...it's personal!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
"...businesses have a right to make money. How they make it, though becomes a discussion of ethics, something sorely lacking in many megacorps nowadays."
Actually, Stubborn pointed that out in the comments from Part I, I thought I'd start with that because this is precisely what I wanted to discuss in Part II, the "HOW" part of the money making equation.
I hate politics. Per MY definition, politics is a series of lies, perpetuated by people with enough money to make a sign or poster with their face on it, and spread by the mindless mass slaves of irrational thought called "you and me", for the purpose of granting more power and influence to those who probably shouldn't have a driver's license to begin with.
Politics play into MMORPG's, really they do. Not only those elected officials that set some of the ground rules for doing business in this or any other country, but the politics that occur within a business. In my personal life, I've worked very hard to distance myself from office politics. It never, I repeat, it never ends up how you want it to and almost always puts you in a position where you must make a decision that either goes against your personal values or potentially loss of employment. The reason is simple, I hate politics. It's the grandstanding, it's the deception, it's the power grabs, it's the complete disregard for others and the epitome of self-gratification. Some like it, some are really good at it, I am not one of those. Sure, I am selfish, but aren't we all, so let's move on.
For a moment let's pretend that we are.../gasp...mature. People start and run business, and while the business entity is not of itself evil or immoral or unethical, people who control them can be sometimes. Office and business politics places people in positions where they choose an ethical path or not. In my comments in Part I, I described a situation that actually happened at a place I used to work. If the idea of deferred commission is new to you, it's basically where an employer will hold back a part of a commission (gross salary) due to someone on their staff, usually an independent contractor working for the employer, and use those funds to pay for things like golf club membership fees and many types of other, expensive and fun things. Why? So that the independent contractor effectively has a lower gross income, thereby lessening their tax liability.
This is unethical, but creative methods are often used to cover up accounts such as these. Politics came into play the moment the independent contractor requested this arrangement. In my situation, this employee brought a lot of business into the company, and they felt it acceptable to give the ultimatum to the owner: "Set up this deferred commission account for me or I'll find somewhere else that will". Leverage, that's what they used to get their way, but the question is, should a company give in to their top salespeople and committ either unethical or illegal actions in order to maintain a desired revenue stream and resulting profits?
In business the answer is simple...DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO KEEP YOUR BEST PEOPLE...WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!
It may seem that the ethical choice is the easy one, but my experience and observations prove otherwise. In fact, most owners/managers of business often will make many, many unethical (yet legal) choices in order to get or keep business and revenues. It's so rampant in business, in fact, that it seems to have become the norm. The problem with ethics is that unlike laws, they are not written down. Not only that, due to people's various upbringings in different cultures, religions, etc there is not one set of unwritten "right vs wrong" rules to be followed. To be perfectly honest, I find it difficult to make too many judgements on businesses whose practices may be unethical, because there truly is a posibility that my values are not their values, and in their eyes they are doing nothing wrong.
There are some consistencies, however. Most everyone believes it's unethical to lie in business. Also it's not ethical to spy on other businesses, in fact there are laws governing corporate spying, so maybe that's not a good example. But something like greed is difficult to measure. Is greed unethical? Is is illegal? I don't think it is, but it's what greed leads people to do, such as lie, that most have a problem with.
Politics in business are always messy. One person putting another in a compromising situation, forcing them to make a choice that may or may not be ethical and may even be illegal. But when it comes down to it, somebody in a position of power needs to do make a decision and then live with the consequences.
Choices in Management
I do wonder what the discussions were like when Blizzard was pondering the release of the Sparkle Pony. I wasn't there but I guarantee you that a financial analysis was done, as well as a marketing one as well that provided the research and evidence that if offered to the players there would be enough to buy it that the venture would be profitable. Consequently, many other companies who engage in the new trend of micro-transactions, didn't decide to offer them on a whim, but because research and analysis showed that it would be a profitable venture.
It's the same reason there have been many WoW immitations, because research and analysis showed that if they adhered to certain guidelines, they too could potentially be profitable. But why does a manager/owner make the decisions he/she does?
It's profit based, guaranteed.
Everyone thinks they know how to run a business. More than that, everyone thinks they know more than the next guy about business in general. Every MMORPG developer, their managers and owners have this one thing in common...EGO. I love to draw mazes, and I think that I am really, really good at it. So good, in fact, that I have bragged about it many times to many different people, like I am now. Now I know that I am not the best in the world, but I know that if I really wanted to, I could make a book of mazes and sell it, and hope to make a profit from it.
Like me, these CEO's and CFO have huge egos. They all think that they are so good that their choices are always the best. They think they are so ingenious that even though an idea here or there may fail, if they keep at it their genious will shine through and they will have the profitable financial statements to prove it. I'm sure there have been many CEO's of gaming companies who have produced failures, but who believed during development that the game would be a success. Why would they publish a game if they believed it sucked? They wouldn't, and it's because they all believe in their skills to produce products that will sell.
There are no rational developers, no rational managers, no rational business owners. They all think they are good at what they do, if they didn't they probably wouldn't have their job. Ego, however, tends to leads people to make certain choices, and often it comes across as a "greedy" choice. Over time I'm beginning to think that all business is greed. People want to make money, so they become part of a business. If you don't want to make money, join the peace corps or something. I'm trying to say that's it's difficult to define greed when ALL business is about making money.
Is there a specific amount of money that one can make before it becomes wrong? How much is too much? Seriously, what is the cut off point? One million profit? Ten million? One billion? There must be some reason why we call businessmen greedy, and I wonder how that's defined. Money, profits, greed, all these things are accepted in the business world. Hurting people is generally frowned upon, and there are many legal remedies for various types of harm one inflicts on another. But I've been around in the business world enough to know that greed is not viewed as unethical within the business circles. It's a label of negativity only directed by outsiders.
I would bet all I have (which isn't much right now) that Blizzard's belief internally is not one of "how can we screw the player", rather "how can we create a game that is good and profitable". Unfortunately the consumer takes his gaming personally; he/she is, after all, giving of their personal funds and time to a game and expect gratification in return. When the player, however, realizes that he's viewed as a means to an end [i.e. "profit"], of course the player will take it personally. The usual response is to call a company like Blizzard greedy, interested only in appeasing their investor base. The player feels used.
No wonder there is a growing animosity in the community, people feel used and not gratified to their standards. And yet, isn't that a bit greedy on the part of the player? Who says you have the right to play the perfect game? Who says you have the right to be viewed as anything but a paying customer? I'm not advocating the thought, I'm simply offering a counter argument.
Where I try to make sense but fail
Politics put people in positions of compromise (personal compromise or legal compromise). Choices are made from management's ego, not necessarily the greed center of their brain. I want to say somthing that I believe personally, because sometimes I may write something I don't believe but I feel both sides deserve a defense:
I believe in greed, and I believe it's wrong. I do not put a dollar amount on it, however, and I don't believe that 5 billion in profits is greedy. I believe what the CEO/CFO/COO does with their annual 100 Million bonus measures their level of greed. I also believe that any time a business attempts illegal and/or untehical accounting practices, that is borne of ego AND greed, and should be brought to light and the individual replaced by someone who won't be easily pushed around, someone who wants to make money by following the laws and not by offering "deferred commissions" to their employees.
I do not believe, however, that offering a Sparkle Pony is greedy, I think it's manipulative. Why? Because if research shows that people are dumb enough to pay stupid amounts of money for a "vanity item", it's a business simply taking advantage of the tendencies of the person. Psychology is important in business research, and is used extensively in MMO's to get people to play and to STAY.
I live in Las Vegas, where Casinos all over bring you in to darkened rooms with no clocks, with lots of noises and bells going off to make people believe there are other people winning all the time. I see how businesses manipulate people because of psychological research, and use it to profit from it. I believe this is wrong. The problem we face is, not only with MMORPG developers, but with all business, that if you use knowledge to gain an advantage and profit from it you, as a business are doing nothing wrong. Therefore, by extension, Blizzard and other developers don't believe they are doing anything wrong by using addictive behavior to keep people playing, they do nothing different than Vegas casinos in that respect.
The kicker is, businesses are run by people, which means that more and more people don't view it as unethical to manipulate others to keep using a substandard product, as long as everyone makes money, nobody is doing anything wrong. So, what the heck are we doing compaining about it when chances are some day we will be sucked into the business world in order to support our families, then support our addictions, then just to support our greed? Seriously, why bother fighting for a system, for games that we really, really would love to play, if sooner or later we'll be managing a business and make choices for the sake of profit?
Because if you have read this far in this post there is a part of you that believes that we, as people, can be better. We can choose to NOT manipulate others into buying our product, that there is a way to do business in an honest manner and provide a product that people love. I'm a cynic sometimes, but I pull myself out by being an idealist at other times. I believe you CAN do business honestly and ethically. I believe that you can AND SHOULD BE ABLE TO make a lot of money in the process. And I believe that it's that kind of person who will take their annual bonus and use it to help people, or to invent and innovate to create something that will be good, clean, worthwhile fun to people.
I think we should slow down on labeling people as greedy, it may just be that they are so egotistical, that greed doesn't enter the equation, they actually believe they are better at what they do than everyone else, even if they're not.
And despite what I said about politics, go vote anyway. Sooner or later there's got to be somebody not totally corrupt. Someday...maybe.
And oh, keep speaking up and demanding a better product. It will happen!!
Monday, June 27, 2011
I've been thinking a lot lately, a lot more than writing, given that I've been unemployed for seven months now barely making rent. Some of you who may know my history of back trouble and my insurance company's absolute refusal to approve my much needed treatment (because, according to them, I don't match the criteria 100% that would merit the kind of treatment I seek...i.e. "It's a business decision, we need to save money where we can by enforcing our policies strictly...it's nothing against you personally"). Anyway, where was I. Oh yes, so knowing my issues with my insurance company it may seem odd when I stand by a businesses right to, yes, make money and place that as priority.
I've witnessed and observed a lot, from childhood until now. I've gone to college and have many, many years as a financial professional under my belt, so I believe I'm quite quailified to speak on something such as business. Of course, even the college kid who took a Bus 101 course and 20 political science courses by a professor extolling the virtues of communism can also have an opinion, it's just that I think we'll disagree on some points.
Getting back on topic, I have noticed a general tone throughout the blogging community over the past year growing sentiments against game makers for not producing better gaming experiences due to their lust for money and wealth and power and money and more money. I actually have mixed feelings over the issue, for one I am a fairly new online gamer. I have a console game but don't even have it connected to the net because I refuse to buy a longer chord. So, generally speaking I can both understand the cry and hope of gamers for an experience more to their liking, but at the same time I can simpathize with game makers who wish to actually make game making their....shock....business.
Where did you grow up? Was it hot in the summer? I grew up some in Utah (6 years from 2-8) but before and after that it was all New England all the time, both Maine and New Hampshire. I still consider myself a true New Englander. Anyway, it could get hot in both places, and in both places I took the opportunity with my brother and friends to capitalize on the heat and those who worked outside by establishing a lemondade stand. And yes, I sold lemonade to people, I did not give it away.
Because there was this cool arcade down the road, and by pulling in 5 bucks I was set for an entire weekend of arcade gaming. It was beautiful. I was also quite unaware of anyone in the local community or even nationally who protested against my lemonade stand and the fact that I sold it in exchange for real american coins.
There was another trend in my childhood that I would like to point out. The Playground. Now, if you wish to deny what I am about to tell you, be my guest. I can only assume it will be becuase you were a sheltered child that had no friends. So, here I go with my observation: Often while playing some game, whether it was made up or more well known and traditional, I often found myself on the losing end of a "new rule" that some other child made up in order to gain an advantage over me. Let's say I was make believe sword fighting, somebody would suddenly claim to be Darth Vader with a light saber and proceed to cut my sword in half, gain the advantage, kill me and claim victory. I hated that.
Of course I was free to change my mind and the rules of any game I wanted to if that's that choice I wished to make, but that wasn't my style...most of the time. I was a stick-in-the-mud-follow-the-rules type kid, so it would take somebody really pissing me off and taking advantage of me to push me to change the rules right back on them. But that usually led to both parties just getting pissed off and quit playing with each other. So what I'm saying is that I, and I would bet my life that you too, and many experiences where somebody changed or added a rule in a game you were playing that lessened the joy of your playtime, annoyed or frustrated you, or perhaps just pissed you off. Or maybe you were the kid who always changed the rules on others, and if that's the case then let me say now that I'll get you someday, so watch your back!!!
So how does childhood apply to what I'm beginning to talk about? Well I've observed that people don't change that much from childhood, and businesses both change the rules and have the rules changed on them continuously. Added to that the continually changing desires and expectations of gamers, I'm surprised that game developers can make anything worth playing. Well, no I'm not really surprised, but hyperbole seemed appropriate in the moment.
Governments change laws constantly that affect the business decisions of a company. Here are a few decisions that a business must consider depending on the law changes:
1) Business Structure
3) Tax strategies
5) In-House vs Outscourcing
6) Overall Strategy
7) Revenue markets/Opportunities
8) Threaths (including but not limited to Competition)
9) The list could go on and on but I'll stop here for now
New laws require a business to conform to new rules (Sarbanes-Oxley), but sometimes a business will be so innovative that they will create the new rules themselves. The automobile assembly line was an innovation that changed how car companies made cars. It effectively changed the rules of car-making to a level never before seen in the industry. Both the PC and gaming consoles changed how people played games, or what type of games people played. True, people still play board games today, I know there are quite a few I still love to play, but as Atari and others early in the industry discovered, the rules of what, when and how to play a game changed in what the world would consider a very short amount of time.
Expectations are a force in rule making. But notice, expectations are not as strong a factor, and as a result, I believe, the consumer is left to complain that progress isn't progressing as fast as they like. To make it worse, younger generations, meaning those 10-15 or more years younger than me, were not alive to experience the growth from Apple II games to today's incredibly detailed console games and MMO's. Their view on the pace of growth and advancement is far different than mine or those older than me. It feels that their expectations grow faster than an industry is capable of growing.
Of course a counter argument (of many) could be that the game developers today know what is wanted, have the knowledge and technology to make it happen, but simply refuse to out of either greed or fear or whatever. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt considering the evolution of gaming that I witnessed before my eyes. I'll give them a bit more time to figure things out.
Part I Conclusion
I would like to conclude today's discussion with this thought. Remember that at some time or another we are all or have been rule changers. We know it happens, and sometimes we don't allow for imperfection despite the knowledge that there is a complicated dance happening between the changers of our rules. Governemnts create rules through legislation and politics (be they corrupted or not). Businesses create rules through innovation and even sometimes greed, new thought expands technology, and yet there are some who use these tools for more philanthropic ends and others towards more selfish ends. Expectations changes the rules, although those changes are slower and lead to more dissatisfaction in the consumer.
Part II will focus more on the inner working of a business, the politics, the people, the realities of finance vs what the average person thinks of those finances. I hope you will join me next time, most likely this week, as I continue to wonder whether it's just business, or if it's truly personal.
Monday, June 20, 2011
So, this week I read the patch notes, or what I believed to be the patch notes, and these are my conclusions.
1) I'm still quite as awesome today as I was the day I entered first grade. True, the girls don't all flock to me, but that's because of the barbed wire and electric fence surrounding my yard. When asked by my son who would win, Aragorn (of LOTR) or my Shaman I confidently stated that my Shaman would wipe his booty and like it. Yes, the patch notes did certainly confirm that my awesomeness can't be stopped.
2) WoW sort of plays like Pac-Man. I run around feeding on tiny bubbles/circles (questing), sometimes being buffed by larger circles (Heroism/Bloodlust/WhateverCrapSpellMagesStoleFromShamans) and occaisionally doing a nicely scripted dance with those pesky ghosts, sort of like a mix between Hiegan and Alterac Valley. In the end, after I've cleared the level it just resets and the wheel turns again and again (i.e. the next new awesome patch, or whatever).
3) There is no spoon.
4) I may be illiterate. It's true, I'm not actually writing this, I'm thinking it and it's manifesting itself on this page, right here and now. Amazing. So ultimately I'm not even sure that I read the patch notes, how could I if I can't even read.
5) I'm glad I play one of each class in the game, for when my Shadow Priest gets nerfed for doing "too much" PvE damage (I would have liked to have seen some of that come my way before getting rid of it, btw), I can always jump on some other toon and blow people's face off, like with my Black Arrow shooting Hunter. The results of my altitis is that I can't gear up anyone at level 85, but whatever, I'm not on that hamster wheel at this point in my career.
6) I'm so glad Blizzard pays me to play...Wait...What's that? I'm getting a message from my agent...he says that I pay Blizz. Then why am I paying you, you sniveling bloodsucking lawyer? You're fired!
7) Finally, after reading (or not) through the patch notes I know this: I'm still enjoying the little things, not taking really ANYTHING too seriously. I love yelling and screaming during BG's, it helps me release my inner rage. And I'm so glad that I've finished all the Hyjal quests on all my 85's before the patch hits, I'd hate to fall behind in the race that is imminent indeed.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Hugo wrote of his fearless Friends of the ABC leader Enjorlas:
'Daring to die well always moves other men. As soon as Enjorlas folded his arms, accepting the end, the deafening clamor of the struggle died down in the room, and the chaos suddenly abated in a sort of sepulchral solemnity. It was as if the threatening of majesty of Enjorlas, disarmed and motionless, weighed on the tumult, and that, if only by the authority of his tranquil gaze, this young man, who alone had no wound, superb, cruel, dashing, indifferent as though invulnerable, was forcing that sinister mob to kill him with respect. His beauty, at that moment enhanced by his dignity, was resplendent, and, as though he could no more feel than be wouinded after the terrible twenty-four hours that had just elapsed, he was fresh and rosy. It was, perhaps, about him that a witness was speaking when he said later before the ensuing court-martial: "There was one insurgent I heard them call Apollo." A National Guard who was aiming at Enjorlas lowered his weapon, saying: "I feel like I'm about to shoot a flower."
Then a sergeant shouted: "Take aim!"
An officer intervened.
And addressing Enjorlas: "Would you like us to put a blindfold over your eyes?"
Fiction or not, the author makes the point that man can be majestic in the face of death, even inspire awe in his enemy, because "Daring to die well always moves other men."
In that story Enjorlas found himself alone, face to face with a multitude of enemies ready and anxious to end his life. He not only stood before death but threw himself in harms way in the first place.
Now, I make a distinction of an MMO player when I say daring to die well is not the same as to die intelligently. As a former raid healer, Shaman, I knew very well that if my death seemed imminent that there are better places to die than others. For example, running in front of the boss to die, planning to Reincarnate while the boss cleaves his way to victory is unintelligent. Finding a place away from add spawns, behind the boss, but in range of the tank(s) is better (again, given that death is unavoidable).
But as a healer I never charged the boss with my arms wide open, and in suprise and shock no boss ever stood in awe of my daring, my courage, nor my faith and dropped his club and whispered to himself "How could I ever hurt such a precious thing?" No, the raid bosses I fought with were pure evil, evidently, and were completely given over to the darkside. Otherwise I'm sure raiding would have been significantly easier.
No trash mob, no boss, no opposing faction player is going to care if you display courage when you decide, foolishly, to charge the Lumber Mill, alone, headlong into a group of 5 or more enemies. They will mercilessly strike you down without a second thought, and you will lose every time.
Death is a joke in MMO's, made moreso by the fact that no person is allowed to dare to die well. (Again, not intelligently, but bravely and courageously). There is no mercy, there is no enemy willing to offer you a blindfold, it's pure blood for blood and anything short of that is weakness.
The only person who cares about daring to die well is you, and the only other who recognizes it is your Id. That said, if you continue to feel like 1 on 5 is courageous or Healer vs Raid boss, by all means, be a hero to yourself. Your fellow raider may not appreciate the wipe.
I'm all for intelligent deaths in MMO's, it's good for you and everyone else you play with.
Until next time!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I wondered to myself the other night, as I was trying to reach honored with my guild with my level 85 DK, why is it that I deserve more guild reputation than someone questing from level 10-80? I can go from 80-85 far faster than from 10-80, yet I seem to be valued by the system in such a way that my guild reputation increases significantly faster than my level 33 Hunter.
I have no doubt that GC or someone has made a blue post on this subject, and I'm just not aware of it, but it got me thinking about one's value in a guild. I suppose accept it the same way I accept that I'm not granted with the same amount of experience for completing a quest at 20 as I am at 83, it would only make sense that the same level 20 toon of mine is not worthy of any guild reputation.
For me it think of it very simply, is your quest more important than mine? Is is more valuable? Are you, then, more important? Now I'm not one to talk too much about game design because I'd rather leave those discussions to people with more experience and knowledge of these things. I'm just sharing my observations based on my experiences, not attempting to design the perfect game. But in this game I play, I can't but help feel devalued by the devs as they tell me that all the time I put into leveling this toon to 80 is so much less important and significant than those who level from 80-85.
In leveling my alts I do all things I'm allowed in order to help provide experience for the guild. I quest, I BG, I dungeon, I gather and I craft and I even give gold to the guild bank. But what am I given for my efforts? About 30 rep points in 30 levels, that's what. On the other hand, if I log into my DK I can do 1/4 of the things that I do at lower levels but earn more rep. This must mean that I'm more valuable, more important.
The only reason to be in a guild for the first 70-80 levels is to take advantage of guild perks. Well not the ONLY reason, there is playing a game with friends or other good people, but that's a different subject, I'd prefer sarcasm in this post. So for the sake of making a point, let's assume tha the only reason is for guild perks. But what emperical evidence can I produce at lower levels that proves that I even deserve these perks? I'm not a source of significant experience or reputation (for myself), so why bother? Why even grant access to low level toons to guild perks if they can't actually show they've contributed?
I don't really have a solution, I'm just a bit upset by this reality. I like to earn what I get, but that's just me. Ah well, it's the system and I guess I just need to get used to it, right? It doesn't stop me from enjoying my games, but it just doesn't seem to make sense to me, that's all.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
"Deuwowlity ponders who is responsible for the failures of storytelling in MMOs, what the main issue is, and how to fix the problem."
I don't recall suggesting HOW to fix the problem, rather that it's a problem that can't be overcome 100%.
Still, as my wife tells me, I'm not complaining over the link love. I appreciate it and would appreciate any good discussion about what ya'lls think I got right or what I got wrong or didn't think to point out.
Have a wonderful weeked, everyone!
Thursday, April 14, 2011
So to that end I propose, for the sake of the future of MMO's, that we burn all the books in the world.
Dang, I hope you didn't believe me there! Of course I think book burning is tragic, immoral, illogical, illwhatevered baddness and all out evilness. That still doesn't mean that it's not the fault of thousands of years of literature, whether it be carved into stone or typed out and posted to the world wide interwebnetsess or bound and sold at Border's Bookstore.
I'm no expert at these kinds of things, but I've got a pretty good idea why a story from an MMO doesn't measure up in quality with that of good old fashioned literature in book form. It's not internalized the same way word on a page are. Let me attempt to explain (although I'm sure I'll suck at it).
From personal experience, when I'm reading a book that doesn't completely suck, something happens to my brain. I enter a sort of trancelike state where my mind receives the information from the words and then is given freedom to shape images in his head in a very personal way. True, many book authors will describe a scene or a person with great detail, letting you, the reader, know of the color of the carpet or the temperature of the air or the amount of light coming through the windows. But even then our mind creates other details that the author never thinks to include, and it's these little things that makes the scene personal to us, almost to a point where the reader is authoring the story simultaneously with the actual writer.
Have you ever seen a movie or TV show adapted from a book and said to yourself or someone else "that's not how I pictured him/her to look like". It's funny, really, because even when an author describes a person, each reader pictures someone unique and different, sometimes even changing major features to suit his/her whims. This is an example of a book becoming personal, and a reader's relationship with that piece of literature.
In a video game, all the visuals are provided, and often story is communicated with words or text or quests or whatever, but a visual is given to you with no room for interpretation or personalization. That barrier to personalization keeps the user from fully participating in the story in the way that readers participate in creating details while reading a book.
So right away MMO devs are at a disadvantage when trying to tell a story. They can make the story compelling, but they lose the ability for the player to participate in the character's creation.
I have some experience in writing...some. I've written some short stories and am about 75% completed with a fictional novel, along with a lot of poetry between the years of 16-26 (the "wooing years" I call them). I have my wife read what I write, to criticize and to encourage me, but often when I discuss with her the "behind the scenes" details of my characters or scenes, she tells me that she pictured something different in her mind while reading. It's good, really, because it forces me to make sure that I'm consistent, but it also proves the point I made earlier about a reader personalizing a story regardless of what the author wrote.
The story of Arthas, as told via the game of WoW, is interesting. There are points that you see where you want to reach through the screen and strangle him for making some of the decisions that he made, but ultimately I have never felt for Arthas or any other character in that fantasy world the same I have felt about hundreds of other characters I've read in books.
Perhaps a contributing factor is that MMO's generally deal with fantsay, while much of literature, even fantasy novels, often deal with real human issues of love, hate, jealousy, power, etc in ways that are significanly more realistic than a cartoon character on a computer monitor.
Again, I don't blame MMO's for not being as good, I just think that there are inevitable barriers that cannot be crossed no matter the skill of the dev in creating compelling story lines or scenes. Not to mention, often in liturature you share the journey of the main character, from their insecure beginnings to their heroic finale. Music, TV, movies, and MMO's just don't measure up to books in sucking in the reader/player and immersing them in such a personal way as to make that person feel that, at times, that they are actually there.
So, why talk about something like this? Why bash MMO's for their failures?
Well partly because I, like others, have been thinking or discussing a lot lately about the future of MMO's and how they could be "better", that is please old and newer type players. I'm not really intelligent enough about game design to throw my hat into the ring too often, I'd just like to say that I don't think that we should expect MMO's to create immersive stories because I don't believe that they are capable of it.
So let's try to fix them in other ways. RP is immersive, but it's personal and done in the player's mind. Images on a screen have never proven to immerse someone into a story the way words on a page do, and I'll argue that point till the day I die. I'd love to see changes to the World of WoW, I'd really love it. I'd like to see consistency and reason in the stories I play through as well, but I'm not asking for something that I don't think a video game is capable of.
That's all I have for now, I'm sure I'll think of other stuff later, I usually do. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day in whatever world you play in.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Does anyone remember that Harry Potter stuff? TANGENT: The 7th book came out HOW LONG AGO? And we're just now, this year, on the verge of finally getting the final movie? Too long to produce, peoples, there are some people who've completely forgotten about HP. Moving on.
Going back to HP & the Goblet of Fire (#4 book/movie), there was a lot of uproar among fans because there were significant changes and omissions from book to movie screen. Granted, the book was much longer than any previous book and therefore more difficult to adapt to the silver screen. There's always a necessity to cut out things from long books when making a movie, that's something that most people understand. But it doesn't mean that the fans of the book necessarily liked it. I'm not saying that fans didn't like the fourth movie, I'm saying that so much was changed or omitted from the fourth (and fifth, I may add) that some fans didn't receive those movies as well as the first three. The director has attempted to appease the fans by making two movies from book 7, to get in as much of the book as possible, so in the end people will leave fairly happy to see their boy hero portrayed as accurately as possible from how they recall him in the books.
The thing about the Warcraft franchise is that the stories are huge, made up of many, many more characters than Harry Potter ever was, and their story arcs are long and deep. Does anyone have any idea how much of the story that we all know is going to be necessarily omitted when they finally do make a movie? Answer: A lot more than HP movies combined. It's a fact, and I think will become a painful one as devoted Warcraft geeks glimpse those things they love fall by the wayside on the director room's cutting floor.
How many blogs or comments or whatever will we see saying something like:
"How could they leave out the story about XXXX or YYYY? ZZZZ clearly is important, every fan knows that, yet these stupid producers just don't have a clue and the movie is the worse for it."
I tell you now, so you're prepared, if there ever is a Warcraft movie made, it will receive more complaints and negative comments than positive ones, and mainly for the reasons I've listed. It will mostly be for all that's left out of the movie, which will make it more difficult for people to focues on the potential good things about it.
Don't tell me that that's never happened to you, where you read a book, then a movie is made from it, you go and see the movie and your brain can't help but make comparisons throughout the movie, sometimes ruining the experience for you, and complaining to your date or whomever on the way home about all the things "they got wrong".
Will I go see a Warcraft movie if it ever gets made? Probably. But hopefully I've learned enough and accepted the fact about story/book/game adaptation to the big screen that I won't want to complain about the omissions to this or that.
Heck, my favorite book in literature, Les Miserables, has had a movie and a broadway musical made about it and both omitt more than half, easily, of everything that Victor Hugo ever wrote in the UNABRIDGED/ORIGINAL version. I've accepted that and simply enjoy the entertainment for what it's worth.
But Warcraft fans are far more geeky and dedicated than someone who likes 19th century french literature. I know, it's just an opinion, but I've seen it happen to so many stories that have been adapted and made into movies, I think it's pretty clear what will happen this time around if a Warcraft movie is made.
If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I'd be happy to admit that. But I don't think I will be, and I'm sticking to it!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
On my main's realm, I intentionally keep multiple alts out of my main's guild so that I can experience gameplay on that server from different perspectives, either other guilds or guildless. I'll take freedom over all things, whether it's gold, gear, or honor, the freedom to be my own, on my own, helps to keep my batteries charged and going forward in an age of a new type of burnout.
I'm free to go back to raiding, or participate in rated BG's, but I choose not to. True, there are real life reasons why I don't raid, but I could ignore those and raid anyway. It wouldn't be smart, but nobody can stop me if I did.
Freedom of mind and soul is an unparalled joy in my little gaming world. To stop mid-way through a quest and literally stop and smell (or pick) the flowers, to fly high and take in the views of a new world that I have yet to see all of, even months after the Cataclysm. Casual play is my new best friend, (which means I'm sorry to my previous best friend, my invisible friend Frank who used to tickle me while trying to heal ICC - that led to more wipes than I care to admit).
Freedom is serene, it is strength, it is music and it flows through my fingertips endlessly as I press 2, 3, then 2, then 5, 6, oops, I got to interrupt, -, then 9, 2, 3, 5, 4, 4, 5! Sometimes, when I'm feeling really rebellious, I'll open with a 7, then a 3 then a 2. Sorry 2, you aren't always my first choice of spell, sometimes I need to 7 and you'll just have to get over it.
Ugh, all this burnout talk on the "internets", I need to stay away from it, I need to jump on my mount and fly above it into the far reaches of the cloudless skies towards the sun that frankly isn't all that hot. What? Forget it, I'm just walking while I'm talking.
What's my point? Well for me I've found great solace in my casual gametime, grace has given me the freedom that I've sought (whether I knew it or not) for a very long time. Gaming is supposed to be fun, and fun is what this chipper bloke is having right now.
On, on to victory! Freedom shall be ours!!!!!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
But what about gaming? Is there crying in gaming? I'm not referring to complaining, but rather real emotional outpouring in the form of real tears, difficulty breathing, all out crying. Should I share anything that's ever happened to me where I allowed myself to cry or perhaps stopped myself? Maybe...I'll think about it.
What brings on that powerful manifestation of emotion anyway? Death? Joy? Pain (physical or mental, etc)? Certainly everyone has different thresholds, different breaking points for different situations. I just wonder how much crying in front of the monitor actually goes on in online gaming. What would cause you or me to flood our cheeks with the salty moisture of the entrance to our souls?
Crying in General
I just had this talk with my kids the other day, where they mentioned to me that "if you cry in school your life, your reputation, everything that you love and want out of school will be destroyed...forever...never to recover." A bit of an overreaction, I suppose, but what do you expect from an 8 and 10 year old boy? My basic stance on crying is this: There's a time and place for everything, usually, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with crying in general. It would be wise, like my kids say, to control yourself in public if you can. But there are definately circumstances where it's acceptable to cry in public, for example if you were told of a death in a public place, everyone would understand your emotional response, even mean little kids in elementary school.
Crying is natural, we were all born crying, or cried soon after birth and long into our first few years of life. It's a means of communication, it let's people know that we have a need, whether that's physical or emotional comfort, and let's others know that we deem some issue important. Frankly I despise the macho male society that I live in. Especially in sports. As a "MAN" I'm not supposed to cry, like ever. I'm supposed to, per some unwritten cultural rules, remain stone faced and play the role of the tough, good solier. THAT'S BULL CRAP! There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING WRONG WITH CRYING. Anyone who says any different is, in my sole-important opinion, mentally disturbed and example of a repressive household. How are humans supposed to make any lasting bonds if their not allowed to express their true emotions? We're NOT animals, we're above that, our capacity to think and feel make us so.
But I still teach my kids to be aware of your surroundings, and protect themselves from unnecessary ridicule by expressing themselves, ALL OF THEMSELVES, to the appropriate person at the appropriate time. This means they work hard not to cry at school, but when they get home, I let them and encourage them to pour out their hearts about the pain they suffer at school from bullies and other affects of really bad kids. So, if you want to cry I got nothing against you. The more the better I say.
Crying in Games
So I'm not raiding anymore. Like...ever. Unless I get a new back or something, it's done, I'm done. And for me that's a touchy subject. It's a recent decision, really. I tried to get strong for Cataclysm raiding, but when it came to it I just can't take sitting in a chair for 3-4 hours, it's too difficult on my body. I had to tell my guild leader, and that was difficult.
My wife tells me I take everything too seriously, and she's probably right. It's my personality to take ownership of my life's activities, to give them meaning. Even sitting in the park on a blanket with my kids, that's important because it's a time of bonding. Equally the last couple years I've come to bond with the people I raided with. We're not lovers or lifelong friends, but I internalize my contributions and view them as significant because I've had to suffer through some painful nights, nights which physically hurt me for days after in the real world, for the sake of contributing to the team and driving us to success. That success meant something to me, it meant that I had sacrificed physical comfort for an opportunity to achieve something with 9 other human beings, even if it was a game, it was done with other real people.
So when I had to tell my guild that my body was just too broken and I couldn't contribute any more, I do recall my eyes watering. So for me, I guess there is crying in MMO's. Who woulda thunk it? I'm not ashamed, I am proud that I feel, and more than that that I value human connections enough to allow myself to feel loss when I cannot enjoy those connections as much or in the same way that I used to. I have my breaking point, and for the first time ever playing a video game I reached it. In the end it's about the people. Because I helped form the guild, I'm allowed to stay and do whatever I can whenever I can, and I still help cut gems, make flasks, etc. I still run some fun things on the weekend when I don't have to give up too much time. It's nice.
Crying and You
There is a time and place for everything, for the most part. I still feel that while on vent or whatever, people should control their emotions, or at least control to whom they express them. It's ok to let it out to the right person at the right time, but I still think one should protect him/herself from general ridicule. What we do, what we play, because it's with other people who feel, I think in principle there is no feeling that needs to be repressed, nor any manifestion of those feelings. Just do it at the right time. Most circumstances in gaming really don't merit crying, but I think there are a few that do, and all of those deal with the relationships we forge with other sentient beings.
So, Tom Hanks, there may not be crying in baseball, but maybe there should be...in private.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I gave RIFT a go.
While watching the opening cinematics for both Guardians and Defiants I noticed that I am told about my creators, about where I come from, whereas in WoW, I just appear out of nowhere and am supposed to have feelings all of a sudden. It's interesting, to me at least, how the Guardians have been risen by their gods as Ascended (I think I'm getting this right, I didn't take notes and am going off poor memory), super heros brought back to life to defeat the evil Regulos and do some other heroic stuff and stuff.
The Defiant built machines, and with those machines created a race of "Ascended", in other words, magical Frankensteins with a defined purpose. In either case the story makes a HUGE point of telling you where you come from. It also tells you why you're here, but that's a separate subject.
WoW just kind of apparates you into Northshire and gives you a stick without telling you where you came from. I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. I mean, sooner or later you learn that you are not intended to be a hero anyway but a punching bag for elitist jerks who treat you like you're 3 years old...AND, LET'S NOT FORGET, TO GET MORE LOOT!!!!!!
All jesting aside, I don't know whether it's better to be created from "nowhere" or made by a machine. It seems like the Guardians in RIFT get the lucky draw, risen by the all powerful beings or whatnot, while Defiants or WoW players are either some rare cyborg meat suit or a nothingless creature brought from some alternate dimension by some dude in his mom's basement looking for some cheap weekend thrills.
No, I suppose none of it really matters. I was just thinking and all, you know how that goes. It's "just a game", who cares about story when you can pew pew all day long and get shiny purple shinies thingies. Aargh, I'm in a bad mood today, can you tell? I'm treating this issue as if it doesn't matter, which it doesn't, but in some weird way I'm supposed to think that it does? When it comes down to it, I appreciate that the creators of RIFT were thoughtful enough to tell me where I come from. I do enjoy WoW still, or I wouldn't play it, but now whenever I create a new toon I know I'm going to be thinking, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I drew the short straw when it came to character creation lore/background. /sigh.
I'll be alright, I'll get over this tragedy, and maybe, just maybe the reason I'm here (in Azeroth), will be compelling enough to make up for the fact that I have no idea where I come from.
Monday, February 28, 2011
"It is fitting that people appear, write, and then fade away; that others come to take their places, and say the same things in different ways."
Was this me? I know for a fact that he wasn't even thinking about me when he wrote this, but nevertheless it resonated and caused me to consider whether I was one of those that were just saying the same things that have been said over and over and over as one in the long line of bloggers that come and go from the WoW blogosphere.
I've been frozen since then, unable to generate any thought for fear of it being so completely unoriginal, worried that my thoughts were the 14th encarnation, the 12th actually put to words and sent over the vast internet[s]. But why? Why should it matter? Even if it's not completely original, it may be relevant to me and my current experiences. And if that's the case then it's worthy to [cut] and paste. Sorry, bad attempt at humorous rhyming.
More than that, I haven't read much as I've only been reading and blogging for a little over a year now (one year and about 20 days), which means that I don't know what's been said. So, for the sake of overcoming my own self-esteem issues, I remembered the reason I blog in the first place. I firmly believe that people matter, you and me included I hope, and that people are the ones actually playing MMO's like WoW (with some exceptions perhaps). Every person experiences something while they play, be it good or bad. Those experiences have the potential to affect the real lives in some small or large way.
The point is, we all feel. Well, there may be a few unfeeling terds out there, but I bet even those feel something, even if it is self-loathing. Anyhoo, we feel, we think, we laugh, we scream, we grow tired or sick. We hide our gaming self from the world or we are liberated to celebrate it with those who employ us. So many of the experiences that our level 85 Fire Breathing Mage or Warlock are shared experiences with the person at the keyboard and mouse combo. I've never been too shy to be personal here on this blog, it's how I roll because if I don't show the real me, then how will I ever connect with the real you?
There's a story I want to share, and I'll have the pleasure of relating that experience directly into the WoW experience.
The GirlI'm married now, but it wasn't always that way. Yes, believe it or not I was once a nerdy teenager, entirely too self-absorbed and critical. I was a handsome dude, to put it lightly, and I had the unfortunate habit of refusing to dance with a girl once. ONE TIME ONLY, I might add, a terrible mistake which I never afterward repeated. This girl was a couple years younger than me at the time of the unfortunate incident. I continued on in life, oblivious to her and her feelings. Around the time I was 18 I saw her again and was struck dumb and fool by her overwhelming beauty and perfection.
I was in love, or at least the love a teenager can possess, which differs in everyone. We had the opportunity to be a part of something wonderful, and do it together. Joy was in everything, life was rich, music rang from the houses and the hills, the sea and the air. Quite literally, in fact, as we were both chosen to sing in the musical The Sound of Music. I was to play the part of the young traitor Rolf, while she was the lovely eldest daughter of the Captain Von Trapp, Liesel.
For those of you who don't know, one of the most memorable scenes in the play/movie is where the young man and woman sing and dance with each other and ultimately kiss at the end. For girls it's utterly romantic, for boys it's deserving of some "whoops and hollas" from your bros in the audience. For me it was magic.
Opening night arrived, the backstage area was electric as adrenaline pulsed through the veins of all the actors and stage crew, director and orchestra. It was a monumental accomplishment for such an ameteur group of singers; I was on the verge of something wonderful. Shortly before costume and makeup time I was chatting with one of the other younger actresses who played Liesel's sisters. From out of nowhere she decided to tell me something that my beautiful sidekick had told her...in confidence. It was about our kissing during the hundreds of rehersals pervious.
"She said it was a bit dry, not very impressive. I'm surprised she doesn't just gag instead."
Now, what could have possibly motivated this young lady to say such a thing to me I have no idea. I was shocked, floored, destroyed. In a few short seconds all my hopes and dreams for love were vanishing into the void, and all because I had laid a fairly dry kiss on a girl. (Mind you, it was always in front of the entire cast, and so I was nervous ALL THE TIME in rehersals). My desire to see this queen of perfection outside of the play seemed to vanish before the eyes of my very soul. My psyche forever tarnished.
I don't remember making my way up the stairs and into my dressing room, but the next thing I know I'm there. Sitting in his chair was the lead actor, with one look at my face he jumped to my side pleading to allow him to assist me, for I looked quite ill to him.
"No, I'm not ill," I told him. "Just heartbroken." I related the story to him and watched as he listened intently, not saying a single word until I had finished my story. Slowly he placed his hand on my shoulder and said:
"Don't let this get you down. Channel this feeling, all the disappointment, sadness, hate, love, everything you have into your character, into your performance. Let these feelings channel into your heart and mind and focus you like you've never focues before."
That was it, he was done. With another pat on the shoulder and a "break a leg" while walking out the door, I was left to wonder if it was even possible to channel what I felt in to something positive.
But I did it.
Everything I had ever felt for this girl, past and present, I allowed to envelope me completely. I wouldn't even speak to her or anyone else before going on stage. I was a machine internally, but to the crowd I turned into Rolf, Rolf as he really was and how everyone should see him.
The beautiful one and I sang and danced as we had never done before. And as the scene came to its conclusion, we kissed as we had never done before. In that one kiss there was passion, warmth, hate, betrayal, love and confusion. Everything poured out and we shone as a result. Drawing all power from the grid we lit up the city, and people in our town talked about us for years afterwards. All because those feelings were channeled, focused into the power to accomplish a worthy goal.
That was my life, and my life isn't mutually exclusive from the games I play, and now a part of my life is a game. A small part to be sure, but a part nonetheless.
Channeling in WoW
It can be done, and successfully at that. There have been times when I have listened to a raid leader implore the group to "get it right for once", and other stuff less appropriate for children along those same lines of thought. Those times when I allow myself to become frustrated at that leader or at someone who is clearly making multiple mistakes, are times when I begin to fail. But those times when I can successfully focus all those positive and often negative emotions into my ability to concentrate on the task at hand are those times I find my greatest successes.
Perhaps I'm in a BG and someone is yelling at everyone else to NOT BE SO BAD, when that happens I try to take all that disdain and channel it into performance. Sometimes it works, sometimes I lose focus and I fail badly. But the opportunities are there for me, for you, for many other gamers out there. We play with other people, people with different opinions, values, personalities, and often we clash with these folks to the point were we either want to vomit or just punch them in the face. Since their faces are not within punching distance, there is another option. Channeling. Channel your hate of that trade chat idiot into something worthwhile. Maybe you can just ignore him/her, which makes channeling unnecessary. But you can't ignore everyone, it's literally impossible.
So I say to you, give it a try. Next time you get frustrated, focus, channel those emotions into somthing beneficial, something positive that rewards you and leaves you feeling accomplished. Don't listen to the yelling of the raid leader, listen to the words, then channel the emotion that is on the verge of boiling over into a great performance this week, this month, or whenever.
Who Am I?
I've thought about it, and here I've given it to you. These thoughts, however many times they have been expressed, have never been done so by me to you in this manner. This fact, above all else, tells me to keep on keeping on in this here interesting blogosphere. It's a pleasure to talk with you, to receive you to my little corner of the world, to get personal with you, and maybe, just maybe, connect with one of you.
Come back soon sometime!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
One thing that melodramatic bad guys do well with are deadlines. Call them enrage timers or whatever, they know when they need to perform ability X, Y and Z and in what order. They are, in fact, so predictable, that it leads to their ruin many, many times a night. Many jobs in RL have deadlines, so this doesn't exactly pin down a job that these bad guys would be both good at and hate at the same time. So, let's see what else they can do.
Bad guys love bureaucracy, a chain of command to follow when things go sideways. Arthas had his minions following his command, and often they reminded us of their loyalty to Arthas. So clearly they don't have to be independent business owners, they can work for someone who issues commands and sets strict deadlines, so with these two qualities are quite fit for many jobs; at least we've taken Amway distributor out of the running though.
I've wondered, however, if bad guys are good with numbers. Let's take Deathwing. He knows how many sentient lives he wants to destroy, infinity, which makes him both a mathmatician and a philosopher. At the same time, he doesn't want to die himself, which means that he knows how to kill everyone without killing everyone. How does he know, you ask? Why the answer is clear, he's an Accountant. But he hates his job.
Deathwing is great with deadlines (timers and such), loves a good organization chart, is great with fudging numbers (of people he wants to kill), but the one things that keeps him up at night is the governemnt oversight. You see, even the great Aspect of Death can't fudge with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). The entire month of January he was busy finishing out 2010's books and getting the annual report ready for the investors (old gods and such folk).
The most frustrating thing about the SEC deadlines is that it doesn't allow for the same melodrama that exists as any of his bad guys prepare for battle. Consequently, for the last month and nine days every single raid boss has not spoken a single word in any combat. The reason being that they needed to hurry up and die to get back to closing the books on their invasion on Azeroth. To further delve into the mystery, they have actually replaced themselves with digital reproductions of themselves, which if prompted, will say some things during a battle, but the actual boss guys themselves have had a gag order placed on their real selves as they slave away at their desks, crunching numbers in their Excel spreadsheets.
But finally, yesterday, Feb 9, Activision Blizzard, er, Deathwing, finally realeased its 2010 annual financial reportings. It was a big event for Deathwing, who was quoted by saying "Now I can finally get back to destroying the world". The SEC really had him by the claws on this one, dictating the timetable TO Deathwing, a job that Deathwing definately hated. "I don't know how Arthas did it! I don't really want to do this again next year; maybe I'll be dead by then and can turn it over to the next bad guy."
I never would have thought that Deathwing would have hated accounting more than Humans, but I'm not complaining.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
A long time ago, when I started playing I always looked at some names of players around me and though them silly, or even stupid at times. But I recognize the many variations in people and their personalities and give them leave to express themselves by choosing whatever name they wish for their characters. So when I see a name like 'Douchedragon' or 'Spongegirl' or 'Ipwnuloser' I get it, it's just a person expressing themselves how they want. Even if the name itself totally breaks away from fantasy and destroys any possible immersion, it's fine with me.
But there is one kind of name that, even though I understand, I simply wish that people would be even A LITTLE creative when creating. For example, and I see this most with Shamans (in my experience), any time I see a name with 'Shammy' or someone uses the name of a talent spec like Ëlemental, I can't help but think that that person has no creative bone in their body.
Oh, did I upset you, guy/girl who has a Shaman named 'Shamtastic'? Or simply yet another varied spelling of Ĕlêmêntål. Well too bad. You're free to make fun on any of my toon's names if you like, it's just that I have a blog and can say whatever I like, so suck it up!
The hunter named 'BeastMaster', who's a Beast Mastery spec hunter, or the Fire mage named 'Fyre' (see what I did there? I spelled fire but used a Y instead of an I). True, the first time I saw the name 'Shammwow' I chuckled, but soon got over it. I think I've seen at least two dozen Elementals in my play days. I wonder, sometimes, what happens when their guild wants them to heal? Do they change their name or do they simply explain that this healing thing is temporary, but as others can see by their name they are an Elemental Shaman at heart.
I know it's stupid, to get worked up over something as small as names; to be fair it's not THAT big of an issue, but it is something I've been thinking about for a while. Whatever method people use to create a name, whether you're like me and you use mixed up variations of names of real people, or you use fantasy based names, or an clear joke of a name, I feel that at least you have used some creativity in forming it. To use Mage, Hunter, Shaman, Priest, etc in your name just isn't very creative, imo. It's like naming your newborn baby, 'Baby'! Who would do that?
Or what if your mom and dad had a 'Shotgun Wedding', and in their passion conceived you that day, then named you 'Shotgun'. There's just no thought, no brain cells at work. I just don't get it. No, wait, I do get it, I just think it's totally stupid.
Guess what? I just ran a dungeon today with an Enhancement Shaman named, wait for it...'Enhancement'. Aaaarrrrggghhhh! C'mon man, you don't need a life, you just need a new naming philosophy.
So that's all for now. I can't imagine I'll ever change my opinion on this. And if you are the kind who uses this naming strategy, well, suck it up because I won't apologize. But I do hope you have a nice day! :)
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Save the Wee Animals
You're supposed to run around a burning grove of trees and pick up any combination of of Panicked Bunnies or Terrified Squirrels. Question: With Night Elves connection with nature, you would think that they would know of some spell or encantation that would attract wildlife to their side, including these cute little bunnies and squirrels. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! They ask some dude with an axe to gain the confidence of an already terrified little animal and allow themselves to be picked up and carried to safety.
Which leads me to the annoying part, picking them up. They are small, they move fast, their patterns are sorta random, sorta pre-programmed, and just when you think you have them where you want them, BAM! They quickly dart off in the other direction. They are suspicious little buggers, that's for sure. Don't they know I'm trying to save them? Just keep your cute little fanny on the ground and let me, the 6'4" man hero to lift you to safety already.
It's the capture part that gets to me, er, the rescue attempt. It's not easy to right click on a tiny moving target. It's so difficult, in fact, I need to call in help in the form of kobolds. Kobolds have these wonderful nets that they like to throw on people, so, in an effort to get this quest done quickly and efficiently, I enlist the help of 10 Kobold Miners who I send out into the burning wild to capture one critter each. When they are done I pay them with fake rocks, plastic painted like rock, and to date no kobold has complained.
I warn you, if you haven't quested through Hyjal, be prepared to be frustrated. The quest, even with it's cute factor, just plain sucks.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I've had other thoughts lately, all of which I suppose can be applied to real life or to any of the games we play, including WoW.
According to Webster's, definition 2b, the most well known and applicable definition SUCCEED is:
"to attain a desired object or end".
While SUCCESS is: (2a) "degree or measure of succeeding" and (3) "one that succeeds".
As with all words in every language, the exact definition can evolve over time, can be used in a "slang" context, thereby changing the meaning of the word all together. And sometimes, generally accepted definitions of words are created within certain societies that sometimes describe a general concept or lead us to a particular way of thinking. Such is the problem with the word success, and I think I know why.
If you were to tell me that you succeeded in the Cho'gall fight last night that could actually carry with it more than one meaning. How? It's entirely dependent on the goals of the raiders, a group of individuals coming together with the same purpose and often the same definition of success. For most raiders, success means actually killing the boss. But are there some people who view getting the boss down to 20% or 10% a success? Maybe. I'm not saying that raiders generally see 10% as success, but I'm also saying it's possible.
What if I were to tell you that a 10M raiding group was filled with 8-year olds, and that group came within 10% of downing Cho'gall? For them, being so young and inexperienced, 10% could be a success if that is how they, as individuals who formed this 10-man raiding group, defined it. So in the end, you can have two very plausable success stories, and each was dependent on stated individual and group goals.
Let's step back into the real world for a moment. Nothing bothers me more than the "generally accepted American definition of success". That is, wealthy, good home, nice car, great job with power and influence, blah, blah, blah. It's a definition handed out by social pressures, contrived and accepted by the masses, but subject to individual life circumstances. The boy raised by filthy rich parents who's hopes and dreams lie in the potential of said boy to grow up and become a US Senator, success is defined by the parents as US Senator, but we must, if we believe in freedom of conscience and choice, to allow the boy to have his own definition of success. What if all this young man wants is a 50K/year job, a nice family he can spend weekends at the park with, and a car that doesn't require a personal driver. We must allow him to define his own success, right?
Back to WoW. We love to judge, whether it's to say WoW is great or WoW sucks or whatever, we define the success of the devs by our individual expectations of the game. Sometimes we allow others to shape our definition of what is a successful 5-man dungeon design, or a successful 10/25-man raid fight design. We believe that there is some rule book out in the nethersphere that says that a "tank and spank" fight can't be a successful fight design. Successful by who's standards? If the devs' goal was to create a tank and spank (Patchwork), then they were successful in creating the fight they wanted. The other side of the equation, the player, can formulate his/her own opinion based on what they believe to be a successful fight, but those opinions come from expectation, or somewhere else that I can't fully explain. After all, where a mass opinion originates is often hard to trace back to its genesis.
If a raid group is having trouble with a particular fight, where the first night they achieve 75%, the next 65%, the next 50%, a raid leader may try to motivate their group by saying that "progress is success...we'll get 'em down soon". Still, in the back of the raid group's minds they know that they weren't successful? Why? Because people who raid come into it with a shared goal, one that each member holds individually, but shares as a goal in common that success = Boss Dead.
What is a successful crafter? Someone who maxes their profession and learns every, single recipe in the game? Or maybe that person believes that success is crafting items that he/she can sell for obscene profits in trade or on the AH. Success for some is maxing gold per character, being the wealthiest player in WoW history. Still success for others is achieving the all-ambiguous "fun" during whatever playtime they have that day.
Success must be individual, it can never be forced upon anyone. People may choose to accept the expectations of their raid leader, thereby defining success the same way as everyone else who has accepted the same expectations, and that's good because that means that everyone is working to a common goal - the same goal. Some are weak minded, and believe that another person's definition of success should be their own because it's more noble or above their own. For those people, you get what you deserve.
Do you like how questing works nowadays? You go to a hub, you get 3 quests: #1 = Kill, #2 = Gather, #3 = Bandage/Strengthen. Over and over and over this pattern repeats, for 85 levels until you just want to die. Then you hit 85 and you do dailies, the same quests over and over and over. Is this successful quest design? Perhaps, depends on who you ask. I'm sure Blizzard loves the quest design that has people do the same stuff over and over and over for incremental rewards, it keeps people playing and paying after all. Do some player criticize it? Absolutely. For those players, it's not successful game design because it doesn't meet their expectations.
WoW a Success?
For as much as I enjoy reading blogs of people who discuss game design, I'm convinced, by all the things I've read, that there is no perfect design because we, the players and payers of these games, have varying expectations and goals, interests and attitudes. Like Syl wrote, I kinda accept WoW for what it is, knowing it doesn't attain success in every aspect, according to my expectations. I'm sure Blizzard considers WoW a success as a whole, as evidenced by their subscription numbers. ATVI defines success by net revenue and % increases, not by raid design or questing design or 5-man design. The player doesn't care about their net income or whether they're paying a dividend this year, they just want to have "fun".
Is what I've said just too obvious and redundant? Or maybe I'm deranged and don't understand how society works? Perhaps I'm just an idiot who needs a new brain? Or maybe I'm right and need to allow other people to define their own success in WoW. Success for my 8-year old boy is killing a Pali in a battleground, mostly because they stink like last week's dinner, while for others it's being the first to kill all raid bosses on 25M Heroic. Either way, I must allow for others to define success AND reject anyone's expectations of me. I don't want someone telling me that questing is a failure feature if I truly believe it's a success.
Oddly enough there are many things about life and the universe where I believe in truths and absolutes, but gaming is not one of those. If you provide a compelling argument and give me the chance to experience something for myself, like the LK fight, then I have the right to agree or disagree whether that fight was a success. But don't tell me I'm an idiot or I'm inexperienced and don't understand what success is. I define success myself, for myself, and I believe all others should do the same.
Groups of people rising up in protest against the establishment moves the powerful to change their minds...sometimes. For that group who finds success in changing how a game is made, good for you. But consider this, there are some out there who were content with how it was, who found the prior product a success. I guess in the end everyone can't win, everyone can't be happy, everyone can't achieve the success they define for themselves. Someone will always want to change their mind, to take away what they love, to distort your own expectations and make you feel that your success isn't as good as theirs.
On the other hand, there are many who are charismatic enough, convincing enough, and skilled enough to draw people towards a definition of success that they define, ultimately being shared by the whole. It's what happens when you raid. It's what makes the game fun for ME, when I share a goal of success with 9 or 24 others and we can share in the exhilaration of downing that one boss in that one raid that took forever to kill. We succedded, and the success was ours!
Monday, January 24, 2011
The thing about being the kid who succeeds at everything, is sooner or later you begin to think that you can't fail. Until you do. As this isn't exactly the time and place to list all of my life failures, rather a silly little World of Warcraft blog, I think I'll limit my comments to this silly game instead of confronting the more frightening reality of how totally unsuccessful I have been at meeting many personal life goals.
DPS to Heals to Failure
I would tend to guess that many newbies start their wow careers as some sort of DPS. Some may have started as a Holy Pali thinking that that would provide them the best chance at being awesome at swinging a big mace. But let's not pick on those silly little Paladins today, they have a hard enough time as is. I thought the point of the game was to hit with a stick. Then I experimented, learning took the place of ignorance, and in time I realized that I could do various things.
My road to becoming a healer has been treated on this blog, so for time's sake I won't rehash the past. Let's just say I found myself in ICC with my Resto Shaman chain healing my way to victory. That is until I had to give it up for a while.
So Cataclysm comes and I start reading how healing is hard, how it sucks, how people are giving it up because it's unreasonably difficult. I read how the devs think "healing is in a good place right now, where we want it" (not actual quote, just paraphrasing multiple quotes). I switched my shaman back to Enhance for Cata, not because of the supposed healing difficulties but rather because I wanted to have fun in a more seflish way this time around.
But my Priest, oh, my Priest kept a healing spec. And this past week I healed something for the very first time. And I failed.
And when I say failed, I mean I really was aweful. Even my own guildies didn't want to be patient after two wipes, they just thought I sucked. It hurt, mainly because these particular guild mates weren't a part of the guild in ICC, they didn't seem me almost single heal Festergut. They had no idea how good I was, (or how good I thought I was). Now in their eyes I suck, I'm a terrible healer that probably doesn't deserve a spot in the guild. As for me? What do I think?
Well I failed, and no I don't think I'm unworthy. But chances of me logging into my Priest again any time soon is around 3%. I don't take failure well. I didn't fail much as a child, or a teen, or in college where every professor wanted me to follow in their footsteps and choose THEIR discipline of study. I didn't fail when I programmed amazing financial models that improved the productivity and efficiency of my accounting department by measurements unknown to human kind. Ok, hyperbole, more like by about 500% increased efficiency. And a system that saw a 60% error rate to less than 1%.
I won't blame my back pain for any goals not attained, some things are just out of our controls. Even being unemployed doesn't make me feel like a failure. But for some reason, I felt like a failure this week when I couldn't even keep a tank alive for more than 20 seconds.
Odd, really, how something so silly, a game, can make you feel such things. I guess my specs will be Shadow PvE and Shadow PvP from now on. Screw healing!
Don't look at me like that! Don't you dare call me a quitter! I think I fight quite hard every day in RL to make up for EVERYTHING I may choose to STOP doing in a game. One thing was obvious to me about healing, I had no idea what I did wrong. What I didn't understand was why I couldn't keep a tank alive when I was healing every second. Health was dropping too quickly and I just couldn't keep up. Perhaps the tank was doing something wrong? I won't know, really, because he'll never admit to it. I kept my shield up on him, along with the Grace buff, Penance on cooldown, even Pain Suppression to reduce damage taken - not to mention Inspiration (another damage reducer). It's not as if I didn't now HOW to heal as a Discipline Priest, but it's obvious to me that there was something that I clearly didn't understand. And that bothers me.
I've read enough about healing to know what I needed to do, and I thought I was doing it. I've done it before on my Priest, A LOT in fact, just not in the Cataclysm era. And that's my undoing. But that's in the past now, I guess, and that failure will stick with me for a while, which is something I'm not looking forward to. I suppose I could try it again, a chance to redeem myself. But what if I fail again? Can my pride take it if I try again and fail again? What more trauma will that unleash on me?
We've seen the number of tanks and healers recently, and there's a lot of reasons for that, all of which we won't discuss today. There are even solution, which we definately won't discuss. I wonder how many stopped because they failed and, like me, are just too afraid to keep failing. Maybe it's irrational, but try being rational with the irrational - it's not an easy thing, ya know.
Where I Sum Things But Come to No Conclusion
All this talk about failure, though, is just too heavy for a Monday. But since I don't really care and this is what I felt inspired to write about today there you have it. I've been mulling the idea for a really long post on Success, I think I'll write that, it's all cheery and happy stuff.
Some fail and get back up and succeed. Some fail and get back up and fail. Some fail, which failure frightens them into trying again. I won't say if one is worse than another, all could happen to you or me at any time and any place in life, so I won't judge (although I'm sure somebody will be more than happy to). As for my healing failure, it won't mean I won't heal again on any toon, just that one...for now...maybe. I can't see the future.