Friday, January 28, 2011


Earlier this week I spoke of an epic failure of mine. Sad to say that I have not since logged into my Priest out of fear of being recognized. The time will come again, someday, when I'll give it another go.

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.

Possible Definitions
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.

RL Examples
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?

Fight Design
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.

General Stuff
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".

Captain Obvious?
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


I'm not very accustomed to fail. You know those kids you went to school with, the ones that always got good grades, that were the stars of the basketball and other teams, the ones that all the girls thought were cute? It's a bit of a stereotype, I know, but I think we all know or knew someone like that. If there's one thing I am it's honest. Not modest, unless I'm in the mood, and today I'm not. I was one of those kids, and I was proud of it.

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.

Horribly 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.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two-Headed, Teenage, Transvestite Tarantulas

True story: I used to live in the Northeast, New England to be specific, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecicut to be even more specific. One of the great advantages of living in SW Connecicut is the train system. I could hop on a train and be into "The City" (New York City) in 45 minutes. It made it a great tool for dating or just fun with friends.

On a pre-Christmas Eve night (Dec 23) I boarded a train in Stamford, CT with a bunch of friends to tour Rockefeller Center and take a look at the famous Christmas tree and skating rink. The train brought us into Grand Central Station, we walked west along 42nd Street towards Broadway and Rockefeller Center. Not two blocks down we came across a woman who had eyes for you know who. She actually stopped and touched my arm and asked me if I wanted to have "a good time". It was with surprise that I noticed that it wasn't a woman at all, but a man in a mini-skirt and this cute little red top, it, moving on.

Politely I said no thanks, that I was going on a walk with my friends, but I wished her, um, him a good night. He winked at me and blew me a kiss, my friends and I chuckeled and went on with our night.

Later that night, after viewing the forgetable Christmas tree and being completely underwhelmed by Rockerfeller Center (it's significantly smaller than appears on TV), I was approached once again by a woman clearly dressed for warmer than 25 degree weather (F, not C). Once again, as before, even in the middle of all my friends of both sexes, I was offered the night of my life. To my everlasting astonishment, upon closer view, I noticed that it was yet again a man dressed as a woman, looking for the type of good time that I wasn't.

My friends and I pondered what the odds were that two transvestites approach me on the streets of New York City in the same night, both times while I was not walking alone but with a group of friends. A hundred billion to one? Who knows? And while this is not a commentary on my personal position of the transvestite lifestyle, I thougt it would make for a fascinating read nonetheless.

Cataclysm Xpac
So things aren't always what they seem, so what? With all the mumbo-jumbo talk going around about the success or failure of this current expansion, I wonder if anyone has looked closely enough at all of its features to make formulate an informed opinion worthy to be listened to? So what, any time anything undesireable makes its way into the game people should stop playing? By that rule we all should have stopped when ToC hit the raiders shelves. But if that happened we wouldn't have been able to be a part of one of the best fights in the game with the LK himself.

I just don't think it's completely fair to judge an xpac by what it initially releases. Judge it though it's completion. I'm talking about a final judgement. It's just fine, imo, to say that this or that isn't great or could use improvement, while that over there is good. The release of any game or xpac is never the finished product, it's the beginning of the story. And for all writers out there, you know that the beginning of a story is always the hardest part to write.

There's time for each xpac to play itself out, and I'm sure there's still plenty of time in this xpac for it to either horribly fail or rise to levels of awesomeness that none of us have yet to see.

In the meantime, watch out for those two-headed, teenage, transvestite tarantulas, they bite.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Like Bugs, And I Hate Them

One morning, long ago, back in the days when I used to brush my teeth, I leaned over the sink only to find a cockroach crawling out of that little "overflow" hole on the side of sink opposite the faucet. Launching myself back in disgust, I stared at the little bug, wondering if I should scream for my wife to come and kill it or to walk away and pretend it never happened. Honestly I can't remember what I did, although I'm pretty sure I decided that I'd never brush my teeth again.

Kidding...about the not brushing my teeth part; that other stuff totally happened.

But that's what you get in the desert, and many other cities around the world. Bugs. They're everywhere. Billions of them, all planning an overthrow (with the help of spiders, I would like to add) of the human race. You can forget Armegeddon, it'll be bugs that destroy us all. Sort of like that one Supernatural episode where those bugs killed all those people, etc.

Another bug crossed my screen last night as I wrapped up a VICTORY in Tol Barad. Granted, we were defending, so gaining a victory is sort of like beating a two-year-old in basketball. But knowing me, I'd probably trash talk that little kid as I was dunking over his head, such is the spirit of competition. Anyhoo, as the BG ended, a bug crossed my screen...aka an Achievement. Evidently, even though I entered Tol Barad with 15 minutes remaining and was on the defending side, I still earned For Whom the Barad Tols, an achievement for attacking TB and winning in under 10 minutes.

Come to find out, after some surfing and reading, there are quite a few bugs with TB achievements and achivement tracking. As if the actual battleground design wasn't bad enough, now people are either getting credit for things they never did or not getting credit for things completed. It must be frustrating for the later, cause who wouldn't be mad if they killed the Lich King but never got their Kingslayer title? Imaging the real wrath when those same people found if that people like me, who never killed the LK, actually got the KS title without earning it?

Ah, bugs. So much fun, and there are so many of them. Are there too many? I just wonder if Cataclysm wasn't rush, ya know, by just a bit. With the Ramkahen people voiceless, achievements all screwey, and all the other little things that come with each patch or expansion normally, perhaps good ol' ATVI (That's Activision-Blizzard) was a bit more concerned with meeting Q4 revenue and net income figures than having a clean, finished product.

For the most part everything is really well done. I'm not saying that the xpac is a dud; I know that there will always be unforseen bugs crawling out unexpectedly while we brush our teeth or slay our dragons. There just seem to be a few extra things, a couple fairly large, that can't have been a bug but rather a product of unfinished work.

Oh well, it'll work itself out, I'm sure. Hey, my guild got XP from my little added achievements, so it's not like I'm the only one benefitting from this, my whole guild gets the bonus from the bug infestation in Azeroth. So with the bad comes some good...albeit unearned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Please, I Beg You, Get Off Your Mount!

I think GC said it once, he was worried that the players are too obsessed with efficiency:

"But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency -- this terror of being WRONG -- that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it's one of the greatest challenges facing the game." - Ghostcrawler

I am making a plea to everyone out there who has fallen victim to the efficiency virus, GET OFF YOUR FREAKIN' MOUNT. The walkways around Stormwind used to be quite narrow. Since Deathwing's appearance they have been widened somewhat, but still are far narrower than the sands of Tanaris. Limited space requires some thoughtfulness, I believe, by the playerbase. For example, let's assume you are a Jewelcrafter and desire to complete the JC Daily. You are on the other side of the canal, can see the new JC store, and you think to yourself, "Wow, I've got to get this done asap, lemme mount up and head on over."

So off you jump onto your Undead, Hardened, Ultimate Awesome I'm-A-Hard-Core-Raider Mount" in order to fly about 40 yards accross a tiny little canal of water. Upon reaching your destination you proceed to land directly on top of the JC Daily quest giver, who also happens to sell JC gem cut recipies. Oh, there are already 4 other people there, and for some reason you can't target the questgiver, not even the little ! on top of their head because these other 4 players have not yet dismounted.

"Aaaaarrrrrggggghhh"!!!!!!! You yell at your monitor, as you, mounted yourself, begin ranting at those idiots who won't dismount and stand right on top of the quest givers. Oh, this isn't the first time it's happened, no. Remember that time in Hyjal? Or all those moments in Deepholm? Or what about that one jerk in the Twilight Highlands, who not only wouldn't get off his mount, but jumped on his mammoth, stood over the quest giver, then let out a long, annoying laugh. No, this has happened before, and you're fed up with it. And yet you won't get off your mount, no, because to do so would mean that you would have to get back on in order to go to the place that dropped those things that let you finish your quest.

I'm no doctor, but I saw one on TV, and many say that denial is often the first step to recovery. Denial? Wait, maybe that was about grief. Whatever, in any case the first step I take when frustrated about something is ask myself if I'm in denial? Am I doing committing those same offences that I complain of or do I, when I p/u or turn in a quest dismounting out of courtesy sake?

I get it, people want to be efficient, and if you can get or drop or turn in a quest from your mount then more power to you. You'll save, what, 3 seconds? That 3 seconds could really change your life, make or break your attendance at the next raid. Yeah, I totally get how 3 seconds and a little bit of courtesy is a real pitfall to efficiency.


I need therapy, big time.

Doctor: Gronthe, you seem to struggle with your emotions regarding people not dismounting and standing on top of quest givers, don't you?

Me: What gave it away?

Doctor: You know, you can't control what others do, only yourself and what you think and feel. Would you like some coping mechanisms to help deal with your frustrations?

Me: Gee wiz, doc, you sure are smart.

Doctor: Next time you encounter this problem, I want you to spit on the person. If they send you a tell asking what your problem is, I want you to curse at them and tell them off for being a giant @$%@#$%. You simply need to release these feelings of yours; bottling them up will only make it worse.

Me: No, doc, you're wrong. What makes it worse is people not getting off their mounts. They did it before, remember? In Dalaran. There was always that one loser Tauren on his super-big mount that stood on the flight master. Remember? But somehow it's all worse now, I just can't take it anymore.

Doctor: Perhaps we need another method, then. Let's just kill them all.

Me: You may be on to something, yes. But not yet, no, we need to plan this...together.

Therapy Session Over
I've made progress since that therapy session, and have my plans already set in motion. Honestly, I have no idea whether people will ever stop being so obsessed with convenience and efficiency that they'll decide to think about other people when they stand on the questgiver and get off their mounts. But a little hope, some planning, and a lot of therapy just may bring the answers we all are looking for.

Have a wonderful weekend, and don't forget: "Make your dismount count!" "Join in the fun and remember to run!" and lastly, "If I catch you mounted, duck or get pounded!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011


"Croatoan", the name of an episode of the TV series Supernatural = TRUE

"Croatoan", the name carved into a tree in the center of the abandoned English settlement of Roanoke, VA = TRUE

"Croatoan", the name of a Native American tribe whose own settlement was found South of Roanoke = TRUE

What's funny about the Supernatural episode is that their explanation and meaning of Croatoan is a demonic virus that turns people into a mass of like minded crazy people who ultimately disappear into the unknown. In the episode they talk about the abandoned Roanoke settlement and how nobody, to this day, really knows what happened to those early colonists. With all other options remaining undiscussed, we come to find out the this mysterious demonic virus is the real reason behind the vanishings of the late 16th century.

The more rational theory, i.e. one not invented for entertainment purposes only, is that those Roanoke colonists found friends with the Croatoan nation and ultimately setteled with them, mixing over the years to later become what we know today as the Lumbee people (who, btw, still live in the same coastal regions of NE North Carolina, south of Roanoke.

Reality sucks, fantasy is often much more interesting. And the concept that a demonic virus can turn all of us insane before causing us to disappear into the nether-regions of the universe makes for better writing...and watching. Unless, of course, you just love watching things like PBS & CSPAN.

WoW's Croatoan?
I know it's annoying to hear, but change is constant. One thing we can be sure of is that the way in which we interact with each other today will change into something else tomorrow. Imagine how long the Queen of Spain had to wait before Christopher Columbus reported back. There was no email or Twitter back in those days. But even has over 500M people obsess over, er, utilize social networking sites such as Facebook, you can rest assured that not even a $50 Billion valuation of the company will keep it up and running 20 years from now. At the pace we're going, Facebook will be obsolete in 10.

I don't know that I'm one to talk about life cycles of games, etc, but I'm going to anyway. See, WoW has been around for a while, in gaming life terms. I've been playing for over two years now, I believe, and others for over 6 (or is it 7?, I forget). There will be more content patches for Cataclysm, and most likely one or more expansions. Many people have asked the question before, "when will WoW reach its end?", I guess I'd like to pose the possibility that it will do so via Croatoan.

No, I don't think that the community will depart peacefully and simply migrate to another game with nothing but a word etched into a tree. I believe that WoW will suffer the fate of a demoic virus, with one person infecting the next until all are driven crazy and go off to play some other new game, but remain infected still. I wouldn't claim that this will happen to everyone, I guess what I'm saying is that WoW won't go quietly.

Believe it or not, as for myself I mostly provide anecdotes to prove a point, but from my first day to today there is more hostility in WoW among the players. In a simple BG the other day, I sat staring at the BG chat more than anything (well not really, but I did read a lot of it), I noticed how much people were yelling at each other and blaming one another for our failures. Other examples are horror pug stories, which increased x100 since the inception of LFD, largely due to the fact that a significantly larger population was now grouping with random strangers, thereby causing statistics to amplify what was already there. Meaning, there were already bad pugs before LFD, but since so many more people were running pugs, and raids became more pug friendly, there were just more horror stories to listen to.

But don't worry so much about what others think, what have you seen with your own eyes? Have you seen more abusive language, more blatant disrespect for other people based on random, uncomprehensible motivations? Surely not everyone is infected with Croatoan, but it's starting to spread. More people means more things happen, both good and bad. But just as the news reports bad stories, the bad experiences get amplified in our minds due to the emotional effect it has on us. The more emotional we get, the less rational, the more susceptible we become to negative influences.

Perhaps we will respond in kind, fall victim to the bait set by the trolls and in so doing, become deformed, grow tusks, and spew illogical hate over something that we would otherwise deem meaningless. Or maybe there are many good people, who upon sensing the Croatoan virus crawl up their arms over their skin will wish to dash to the decontamiation area below Gnomeregan and cleanse themselves of the filth, after which they will also decide that the Croatoan people are much more friendly than the imposing English empire - i.e. will find another game to play and do so quietly.

Perhaps what will be left at the ending days of WoW will be nothing but infected Croatoan people, oddly working together for some demented goal. The devs, upon seeing a population of demons, posessed by the common goal to end all life, will flip the switch, causing the infected to shout to high heaven for the crime of having their beloved game stripped from them. News flash with Brian Williams reports that Blizzard Entertainment suddenly and without warning, turned off all servers, shutting down the most popular MMO in history. Upon sending a field reporter to Blizzard headquarters, nobody was there to greet them.

Slowly the reporter and camera crew will walk into the Blizzard offices, and finding them empty will find their way into the server room. On a screen, still turned on, will be one word flashing the reporter in the face: CROATOAN.

"Well Brian," the reporter will say, "It seems that WoW has gone the way of the Roanoke colony of the late 16th century. If our insider reports are correct, WoW failed due to a massive community infection. Some made it safely out to play other games, some have disappeared and may never be seen in the MMO community again, and the host of the infected are outside burning down our TV van. Odd indeed are all these things, but I was told there were signs. Signs of an infection, but Blizzard only applied patches, never a healing ointment. Well, we don't know what's next, nor how many will participate in the next 'big thing', but what we do know is that there is no cure for a virus, only treatment of the symptoms."

I love hyperbole, don't you? I don't really think all that will happen, but it's more entertaining than real life. Still, I do believe that Croatoan, in some form, will and has infected many players. It's not as severe as I paint it, but the end result, I believe, is a game that will leave more questions than answers when all is said and done. Will people ever be able to point to what caused WoW to fail? Maybe it will simply grow old and die, a prisoner to improved technology and our insatiable appetite for a more immersive experience. Who knows? But wouldn't it be cool if Blizzard did that, for just one day, leave their workstations and put a sign on their front door: CROATOAN

For one day, as a pratical joke, the reaction that would illicit would be, well, historical.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Love/Hate of PvP - And Why PvP is to Blame for Everything

The 10-Day Trial. The most impactful moment of my gaming life. I gazed at the screen and thought to myself, "it sure would be cool to play games on my computer, this World of Warcraft thing, whatever it is, could be fun." That fateful day I gazed at my computer screen and only wished that I didn't have to pay in order to play.

Then I looked closer. "FREE 10-DAY TRIAL!"


And thus my online gaming life began. I ran through my first, then second, then third 10-day free trial, and each time I did I found a class that I loved more than the last. One day, as I strolled into Goldshire, I saw this dude (Warrior or Rogue, can't remember) holding a rather large weapon (for which I call him Big Sword Guy, or just BSG for short). I wondered where he obtained such a gift, for I didn't recall any such weapon dropping in the starting area, from a mob or from a quest. BSG invited me to a duel. I was afraid because I had seen how he had punished others with his big sword and I had no desire to be another victim to his blood lust.

Then I agreed.

I think it was the minion of mine that finally did him in, tossing one last fire ball into his face. He bowed to me and congratulated me on a victory well earned. I thanked BSG, then vowed never to PvP...EVER AGAIN!

It was stressful, I gained 17 new gray hairs after that duel in the village crossroads, and had no desire to hasten my demise by participating in a portion of the game destined to grow me into an old-folk home prematurely. No, I would swear off PvP for life, it held no attraction to me at all.

A year passed, then 18 months. I had a dozen toons of all levels, I had began and stopped raiding, I studied all the PvE tips and tricks of every class and spec. But during all that time I still refused to PvP, I had made a promise to myself, there was no way I was going to break that now.

At the time I stopped my raiding life (for a while, to rehab my RL injuries), I still enjoyed playing, but questing and dungeons alone didn't provide something that I had experienced while raiding..."challenging" (let's not debate this today, I'm not in the mood) encounters that forced me to think and react quickly to the situation. What out there could help compensate for that feeling without having to committ so much time to multiple raid nights/week.


And thus it was that I broke my promise to myself, I started to PvP on a regular basis. I had always told everyone that I didn't want to PvP because I sucked at it (which is actually true), but had withheld the true reasons for avoiding battlegrounds, etc. But I was called by the mystical forces of the Universe, did I really have a choice?

One by one I played my various toons of different classes to see which ones I enjoyed to PvP with the most. Basically it came down to who was the most intuitive and powerful classes that my fingers could wield. It may seem strange, but whenever I play with my rogue, I can't seem to win a fight. It's not that I don't know my spells or anything, it just doesn't feel right under my fingertips. On the other hand, the class I vowed I would never play (Paladin) was one where I excelled at PvP.

Love / Hate
I now have an odd love/hate relationship with PvP. I love it because it's not scripted, I can't look up strats for fights, when to move out of the fire and when to stand in the good stuff. No, every fight was 100% unique from all others, it keeps me thinking and planning constantly, never allowing me to breathe or take any mental break. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in PvP that I don't read what people write in BG chat (not that some of it is useful). But I love it because it gives me a chance to use my toons in ways that I would have never dreamed of in any dungeon or raid boss fight.

I hate it because of the unpredictability, yes, the same reason I love it now is the same why I hate it. The most unpredictable thing, however, are the people you are fighting with. In any battleground you have a chance to be grouped with others who understand that particular BG strats or with people who just run around looking for a fight, whether it's one on one or one on eight. It's those times when you find yourself looking up at the Arathi Basin score board and the Horde is at 1440 resources and you and your pathetic Alliance friends are at 300. Ugh.

It's in those bad groups that you often find yourself launching into battle with 4-5 other friends, only to find out that 3-4 of them, upon seeing a fair fight ahead of them, turn tail and run like little chickens crying for their mama. Now you're left with a 5 on 1 situation and you're dead...again!

And it's then that I start to scream and yell and my kids run out of my room because their dad is about to explode.

Life Goes On
So I continue to PvP, and probably will, for those reasons why I enjoy it so. I'll live with the bad, those things I hate, because there is always bad that comes with good, that's life. I am pretty good with some classes/specs, and still suck at most, but I keep trying, and maybe one day I'll get good. At least I know BG strats, so that I don't do stupid stuff and get yelled at. If I lose it's because I wasn't as good/skilled, period. No excuses and I'm fine with that.

PvP Causes Rebellion
Many out there, including myself, often find cause to complain about the bad behavior of others. We question whether or not anyone has heard of oddities such as manners, thougtfulness, and common sense. There are many theories, but I think the root of all evil is PvP.

I hope in reading this section you don't actually believe a word I say, it's all for fun. And so I continue.

PvP is leaderless, anarchy incarnate. It promotes rude, offensive behavior, for all out war, no rules is the only way you can defeat your opponent. In days of Knights and Kings and Surfs, if a warrior dropped his sword in a duel, his opponent allowed him to pick it up, for to slay a defenseless man was honorless. In PvP, it's encouraged. In fact, some classes are even given spells that disarm their opponent so that you can kill them. Nice!

WoW is filled with a bunch of "heroes" roaming the wild without a moral compass. The only compass in PvP is pointed at your enemy, and you hope that the arrow pointing you in said direction can also be used to gut 'em. PvP won't allow leadership, it would burst the dam of honor in order to gain a different sort of honor. PvP is the evil that corrupts all players to behave badly, because in PvP there is no such thing as bad behavior, just kill or be killed.

So PvPers take those attitudes to the streets of SW and Org, and with it find new and unusual ways to troll the rest of the community. Eventually, that reckless hate spread to PvE realms and players, until it became acceptable; or at the very least prevalent, if not acceptable.

So, what do we do? We must destroy PvP once and for all. Then we must turn and destroy all PvE elements, leaving us with only professions and fishing. People will role play fights, BG's, raids, and everyone will be a Kingslayer. The world will be perfect because all the kids will get a trophy. Yes, PvP is the genesis of all bad behavior, and we must destroy it before it infects you and me.

Die PvP! DIE!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Silent Damage

Do you work in sales? Do you work with someone who works in sales? For years I worked in the residential mortgage industry along side hundreds of salesmen and women known as Loan Officers. Despite the officer title, they couldn't all claim to have any authority of significance. A more apt description or title would be Loan Pusher.

I have to be careful, because my parents were loan officers for many years while I was growing up and were very honest people who wanted to help others get the right kind of loan that suited their personal situation. But as the real estate economy evolved the Loan Officer type went from a person who was looking out for your interests to someone hoping they could sell the product that would yield the biggest commission, thereby becoming Loan Pushers. Now I'm not saying all salespeople are dirty scoundrels, but I am saying that many of them have a few things in common with each other, and with a certain kind of WoW player...the BEST DPS ON THE REALM dude/dudette.

Aggressive, overconfident, vocal, self-congratulating, and master at reminding everyone of their uber awesomeness. That describes half of the salespeople I have ever met and a subsection of wow players as well. What makes my curiosity peak is that the loud tend to not only congratulate themselves, but other loudies. But ya know when that one guy who you know believes a bit too much in himself comes over to you and says:

"Bobby (cause that's your name), you are the best salesperson here, really! I've never seen someone as smooth or capable. Keep up the good work."

The problem with this compliment, it's completely fake. You know what I'm talking about; those people who aggressively try to make you feel extra special but you know it's completely disingenuous. Don't lie to yourself, you know the kind of person I'm talking about. The other day I saw one of these people in WoW, and I saw right through it.

What proof have I, you ask? Well let me see if this makes any sense to anyone but me. If I'm wrong so be it, but I know what I believe. There was one particular fellow who was talking a lot of trash before a certain fight in Baradin Hold. And I mean a lot of trash. It was textbook overly aggressive, vocal, self-cocky sort of whipadoo that makes you want to leave the auto show room the second he breathes his alcholol breath (from "lunch break") in your face. But we all just wanted to finish and get out of there.

The fight commenced, and I believe this particular individual ended up approximately fifth or sixth in total damage and dps. Not bad but not the top. Well that didn't stop him from claiming the top spot, in a round about way. He congratulated the top two damage dealers for their uberness, and talked about how those two, in combination with himself, could quite possibly be three of the best players on the realm. He would have been better "if only" he didn't mispress a button that totally threw off his rotation.

Oh how I wanted to leave, I needed to vomit after all that he was saying. What was more disturbing was how one of the top two played into his fantasy. Bad move. I felt bad, not for his stupidity or poor manners, but for the players that outperformed him, and by a significant margin. Now maybe your asking yourself if I was one of those silent damage dealers who outperformed him? I am not claiming such a thing. I was healing. Anyway, I did the smart thing and dropped group and went on my merry way leveling the various new faction reputation as slowly as I possibly could manage. I don't really enjoy a cock fight.

As I don't intend for this post to be a complete rant, I wanted to make a point and congratulate thsoe silent damagers for remaining silent. I have no doubt that they were well aware of their own performance as well as this salesman, they were confident enough and secure enough in their own skins that they dismissed this player as the hooter he was. Most of the group were silent, did not endulge in the fantasy as only one did. And I think that's a good sign. There are plenty of trolls out there, and plenty of trollers of those trolls, it's nice to see that on at least this occaision that the majority allowed the trolls to feed on their own delusions rather than feeding them more fuel for the fire.

There are a lot of stupid people, not unintelligent, simply unwise in that they say the wrong thing at the wrong place and time but don't understand why it's so bad. But I think there are more people capable of biting their tongue and doing what should be done, ignore the ignorant.

Congratulations and thank you to all the Silents out there, those who don't feed the trolls or their cousins. Any more loudies and next thing we know we'll be selling mortgage loans to our guildies.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sample Sizing

I remember, oh yes, I remember all the speculation before the expansion hit about the new guild rewards system and what that would mean for all size guilds. I think that after all the speculation, and now about a month into Cata, I've come to realize something...size matters, sort of!

To test my theories I have taken various toons of mine and found guilds of different size and purpose. Regretfully, however, I haven't played my DK much, and so an invitation that was extended to me here on my blog to join a certain Llane realm guild has not come to fruition. But if I ever do log into my DK I'll do what I can to contact that person (you know who you are).

I have a couple of my toons at level 85 and are in a raiding guild. There's approximately 70-80 characters, with about 50+ accounts, and currently we stand at the precipice of guild level 8 (as of today we're at 7). I dropped one of my son's toons, a level 82 DK, into a guild with more than 740 people, and at the time they were close to level 9. I haven't checked their level in the last few days, but they were making very good progress.

I have a lvl 25 mage (and leveling fast) that I threw into a guild with 5 people. Right now we're still at level 1. Ugh. And just the other day Gronthe joined a casual, leveling guild with nearly 200 people that currently stands at guild level 3. Of all these guilds, only the 5 man guild is inactive. All of the others are active in their own way. My raiding guild has, on average, 4-8 people on at the same time most of the day and into the night. My son's guild (740+) has about 40-50 active on at any time of day. Gronthe's new guild is also very active, about 15-20 on most of the time.

Size, it seems, has an impact on guild leveling, but only to the point that those people who log in actually do things. My raiding guild, albeit somewhat smaller and not everyone has even played since Dec. 7, seems to level fast despite smaller numbers because everyone is extremely active and doing things to progress their character, in terms of leveling, professions, pvp, dungeons, etc. Nobody just sits around and chats in Stormwind like I've seen in the other guilds. To be fair, the other guilds that I have mentioned are "casual", i.e. not particularly interested in raiding or maxing out professions or things like that. I'm just making anectodal observations, that's all.

I happen to enjoy the different guild I'm in, and all for different reasons. They each offer me what I seek for those particular characters. Serious on one hand, nothing but ridiculous fun on others. I think the only exception is the 5-man guild I'm in with my mage, I think I'll look for a bigger one. I enjoy the perks, it's nice to not have to pay as much to repair gear, really nice.

I don't have the resources to gather the appropriate information to make a proper analysis about which guilds are leveling the fastest and what is making them do so, but if I were to guess the answer is simple, ACTIVITY. Not just logging in but DOING things. Some guilds don't need all the guild perks, so to level the guild slowly because you enjoy chatting or telling jokes or going off to do silly things in your own time is perfectly acceptable. Guild perks are nice, but only if that's what you seek out of the game. If you enjoy leveling slower (which is difficult nowadays), you don't want the bonuses you get from guild leveling, so you may just wish to join my 5-man guild. :)

Take anecdotes for what they are worth, just one man's story from his own perspective. I still have some guild joining to do, that's for sure, I'd like to spread my toons out when I can, just to get some flavor in my game experience. So, although larger guilds have an advantage, they can only capitalize on that if they actually do stuff. But, like I said, not all guilds are the same. A smaller raiding guild with only 4-8 active people at a time can level more than twice as fast than a guild with more than 2-3 times the about of logged in players if they want to.

I hope that everyone is enjoying themselves, doing what they want, and in the guild that brings them the greatest utility (and/or enjoyment). If you're not in a guild, and not by choice, I wish you luck in finding a home that suits your style. Be active, but more important than that, have fun!!!