This post has been coming for a while now. When the Warlords of Draenor expansion was offered for pre-order, something about it hit me the wrong way. I thought to myself that I wasn’t sure about the expansion, and I wasn’t sure about playing the game anymore. For the first time in the history of the game I felt ambivalent about a new expansion. I decided that not only should I hold off from ordering the thing, but also that I should cancel my subscription so that I would need a reason to continue to play rather than purchase the expansion out of inertia (and that I would otherwise be paying for time). I had just paid for six months of game time so I figured I would have a long time to make the decision. I’ve now made my decision. I’m not going to continue to play.
There are many reasons behind this decision. No one reason is paramount, but together they all add up to me saying goodbye to a game I’ve played for seven years and blogged about for over four years now. It’s fair to say I’ve devoted quite a bit of life to this game. Why am I leaving now?
Some of those reasons are personal, in the sense that Blizzard could not really fix them without drastically changing the nature of the game, if even that. Many of those reasons do have to do with the game itself, though, so I thought I’d mention those. I’ll talk about each in turn.
I do want to touch on one thing because I think it has been misunderstood. Blizzard has created many marketing materials for World of Warcraft, many of which I’ve complained about. My issue with these things is not that they are offensive (though in some cases they are), but rather they encourage a certain type of player who makes the game not fun to play. Blizzard has to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior within Warcraft and the things it encourages creates an environment that is not fun for me. More on that later.
Now for the personal circumstances.
I’ve had the pleasure of being part of two great raid teams. The first was with Storm, primarily on the Medivh server. That raid team saw us to 11/12H on ICC 10. That raid team got me Shadowmourne while it was still active content. We had a really good, close knit ten man group, with nine other people I really enjoyed playing with. It was certainly a cut above every other raiding experience I had to that date and I doubt I would have gotten nearly as far with other groups.
Later on, after my transfer to Moon Guard, I had the good fortune of joining a guild named Dedicated. It consisted of nine other people who at the bare minimum were fun to play with, and several of whom were far more competent at the game than I. We were also a close knit group and we managed to down heroic Deathwing, and in Mists of Pandaria we cleared Siege of Orgrimmar and were making good progress on heroic modes before the group broke up.
In January, one of our tanks decided that she would let her subscription lapse as of the next month. The raid lead decided (wisely, likely given the pulse of where things were in the group) to not try to find a replacement. This effectively ended progressive raiding for the group. We raided a few more times to attempt to clear achievements for a mount, but we didn’t complete that. Since that time practically everyone in the group has cut down his or her playtime significantly; there is only one person in the guild I see on regularly anymore.
The upshot is that I think it would be highly unlikely that most of the raid team would come back for Warlords of Draenor. I could place my trust in the raid lead to organize a similar team, but I think that’s unlikely and I’m not at all sure the raid lead is going to be back anyway.
So, even if Warlords of Draenor looked fantastic to me, I would be facing significant social problems. I would have to try to find a new raid team, and I don’t want to do that. I have no confidence that I could luck out and find one nearly as good as the ones I’ve had with Dedicated and Storm. Having seen good raiding (primarily the social aspect, but progression is also nice), I am loathe to accept a poor raid group. I doubt I would enjoy it.
I also face the prospect that, like other expansions, if I want to get into a good raid group I would have to devote significant time at the start of the expansion grinding new content. Getting to level 100 quickly. Doing tons of dailies and heroics to get the gear to raid. Running LFRs. I’ve decided I don’t enjoy these things because I don’t do them now (certainly I could work on gearing other characters for other raids if I thought it was fun). That experience fills me with dread. I am also busier now than I was then, and I don’t think I have that sort of time anymore.
There’s nothing Blizzard really can do about that. It’s the function of the game itself, and the situation I’ve put myself in. Would it be enough to cancel my subscription, just because I cringe at the process of frenzied ten hour days leveling and gearing quickly enough to get into early raids? Probably.
The content of Warlords of Draenor made it an easy choice for me, though. I don’t think I would like the game itself. There are two parts to this: the technical aspects of the game itself, and the community Blizzard seems to want to create. I’ll write about those in turn.
I’ve written about the story of the game before. I enjoy immersing myself in the game, getting into character and roleplaying whichever character I happen to be on at the time. This requires a setting around the character that makes sense.
I don’t think the setup for Warlords of Draenor makes sense. When you need to have flow charts representing realities and timelines, it’s a hint that the setup for the game is too convoluted to serve as an immersive backdrop. Consider a book publisher that has no experience with Warcraft or any of its characters. How long would you have to make the pitch letter for it to even be understandable? What is the likelihood that said pitch wouldn’t get five minutes of a sub-editor’s time and then tossed in the waste bin like every other pitch that can’t be rendered sensible in the span of a paragraph? This may not be important to many people, but it’s very important to me.
Player housing is something I’ve clamored for, so Garrisons are one of the two things I had actually been looking forward to. But even here there is a sense of dread with how they are shaping up. Rather than a simple place to call home, they seem to be a new daily quest hub, somewhere that people will devote significant time. That time is time spent alone, without real possibility for social interaction. It worries me that Garrisons will push people further apart.
The updated models were also something I was looking forward to. The ones that I have seen look good, but in the process they reminded me of some of Blizzard’s shortcomings in this area. Jana is taller and heavier than the typical human female, but there’s no way for such a thing to be represented in the game. She will still look like a sister to every other human female out there, even though she will be better looking. Also, the sexual dimorphism of the characters will remain. Despite their statistical equality, male Draenei will be twice as wide and hundreds of pounds heavier than their female counterparts. This carries true for most of the races I play, and it does bug me. Blizzard made a conscious decision to make women look weaker, shorter, and less capable than men. This is a recurring problem.
For many, the look of the character and the uniqueness of a character model may not be important. But having seen the richness of ESO’s character design, the limited choices in Warcraft seem very stark. I don’t feel like I can make Jana mine. In WoD she might have a prettier avatar, but that wouldn’t be Jana. People would still call her short, still walk up to her and compliment her slenderness, still insist that even as my character has outright admitted that she’s fat and okay with it that she is not fat. This is far more of an annoyance than most people would recognize.
And then there’s the big issue, the one I’ve talked a lot about yet I still don’t think people understand why I talk about it. It’s the issue of the community Blizzard caters to. It’s the issue of the community people want and the actions Blizzard, by its creation and marketing, suggests are acceptable.
I’ll give one example.
There is this guy named Sergee, named in a tumblr I follow and almost famous around Moon Guard for his character and his previous trial account character, Decembro. Literally all the time he is on the game he is either harassing or stalking female avatars. He has a seemingly limitless supply of smoke flares that he throws at women (characters) who are RPing. He will walk up to a character who is sitting and place his avatar’s crotch in his mouth. If a character is lying down he will stand on the avatar’s head and sit and stand repeatedly as though he were tea-bagging the character. He has been reported hundreds of times without seemingly any consequence.
I’d like you to imagine this guy in real life. He plays the game for hours and hours and the thing that makes him happy is to harass RPers and position his avatar in a manner that suggests he is having sex with another female avatar. I find it difficult to even imagine how demented such a person must be to get off on that sort of thing.
Yet he is not alone. In my less successful raid groups I’ve seen people do similar things, standing on a dead avatar and sitting and standing repeatedly. Battleground chat is full of people who use the word “rape” as if someone were paying them each time they said it. I’ve had the good fortune of having good raid groups, but occasionally I hear the sort of abuse female players get for daring to use a microphone. I know many people who don’t speak on vent for that very reason.
That these people exist and play Warcraft is not controversial. It’s a matter of the public record. What is controversial, and what I think is self evident, is that Blizzard encourages these people to play Warcraft. This is the community it wants.
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging when at Blizzcon, it plays a taped video in which Corpsegrinder says, among other things, “Go fucking cry a river and tell me how you’re gonna slit your wrists you night elf faggot.”? (Thanks to Piercing Shots.) This was not a spontaneous ad-lib by a foul-mouthed celebrity (which would be bad enough). Blizzard knew what this guy said in advance and played it anyway. It was a conscious decision.
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging by having an all-but-required quest line for Golden Lotus rep involve your character being raped?
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging by its frequent creation of godmodding items that are used almost solely for harassment?
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging when its promotional page for Warlords of Draenor contains ten men for every woman?
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging when its lead designer, in response to whether Aggra will return to Draenor, says “it’s more of a boys trip”? Or, for that matter, what sort of player is Blizzard encouraging by not having Aggra return to Draenor at all?
What sort of player is Blizzard encouraging when, for an April Fool’s day joke, it releases a fake image of a new Draenei model that makes fun of fat women?
I am not saying these things because I am offended by them (some I am, but not all). I am not saying these things because I want Blizzard to cater to my desires. I am saying these things because Blizzard’s actions shape the community of World of Warcraft, and without that community I would have likely quit long ago. I foresee a community where griefing will get worse, sexist behavior will get worse, boorish behavior will get worse, all because Blizzard encourages it through its actions.
That’s not a community I find to be fun.
World of Warcraft is a game. It is not a place where I want to practice social activism. It’s not a place where I want my voice to be counted, or somewhere I want to protest. I don’t do these things in real life and I certainly don’t want to do it when I am playing. I think everyone who is complaining about anything that I’ve mention should think about those things and ask himself or herself: “is the game still fun?” By the strength of many people’s complaints, I would imagine it isn’t. If it’s not fun, why do it? As Leafie would say, chase something that is fun.
I reserve the right to change my mind if something drastic happens and the game suddenly seems fun again. Right now, though, I can’t imagine such a circumstance happening.
So that’s it for me. All of these things balanced against the one reason I’ve stayed with Warcraft for so long: the community. I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people in this game, many of whom I would like to stay in touch with and many of whom have given me a lot of happy memories. At this point, though, that’s all there is, and many of my friends have taken the same step of finding a new place to spend their time. To those I leave behind, and you know who you are, know that I will miss you. To those whose lives have touched mine, thank you. World of Warcraft has been fun for me for seven years, but it’s time to move on.
Good luck to all of you, and here’s hoping for many stacks of delicious pancakes wherever you roam.
“CDev Response: We cannot speak for every night elf on this topic, but it is safe to assume that the night elves abhor the death knights. Their very existence is unnatural, which goes against everything kaldorei culture stands for. As for the Highborne, these elves now must reap the consequences of their actions. Their crimes—during the War of the Ancients and their subsequent refusal to cease using arcane magic—cannot be atoned for overnight. Despite the fact that official talks to accept them back into the fold are under way, the co-leaders of the kaldorei expect many years to pass before the Highborne are truly assimilated into society.”—
This response illustrates one of the weakest points of the gameplay of World of Warcraft. The person involved is supposedly reflecting the view of the creative development staff at Blizzard. I have no doubt that this is really how they _think_ Kaldorei in general feel about the Highborne and Death Knights.
The problem is, at least as far as I can tell, none of it is actually reflected in the game. Death Knights wander through Darnassus like any other class. Mages are happily given the same starter quests as everyone in Teldrassil. Unless I missed something, no one in Darnassus treats you any differently if you are a Death Knight or a mage.
CDevs may have opinions on lore, but unless they are actually reflected in the game the opinion is worthless.
If you missed it, yesterday Blizzard released a bunch of April Fools’ jokes. I’m not sure any joke would be well received given how long the shadow of Siege of Orgrimmar is looking already, but that’s neither here nor there. Included in those jokes was one about the new female draenei model, joking that the new one would be fat and ugly.
For a lot of my twitter friends, that joke hit a decidedly ugly chord. If you really want a rundown as to why (not that intelligent readers of my blog need it, but one never knows when someone new will drop by), ALT:ernative Chat is a good a link as any. I don’t feel like explaining why.
What I do feel like explaining is this:
Blizzard employees very likely brainstormed a lot of April Fools’ joke possibilities.
Out of probably several dozen choices, this one was chosen to do actual work on.
Someone made the art for it and thought it was funny.
Someone approved it for release and thought it was funny.
Someone put it on their website and thought it was funny.
If anyone thought it wasn’t funny but just mean, their voice or voices were ignored.
There might be an apology for this soon. It follows the pattern. It does something offensive, there’s a backlash, they apologize and everyone forgets it. Over all this, though, one thing has become clear to me.
This was a deliberate attempt to appeal to the hard core gamer.
Blizzard understands, you see. The joke is, in fact, hilarious to the hard core gamer who doesn’t believe women should play their game. Time and time again Blizzard has shown that appealing to the misogynist gamer base, the kind who thinks women are a liability to a raid group, the kind who believes that very few women play the game, the kind who keep women from speaking in vent, that these are the people Blizzard courts. These are the people Blizzard wants to play their games more than any other.
The only reason I log in to Warcraft any more is for the people who play the game despite these sorts of jokes. More and more, these people, my friends, are finding better things to do. I think about the sort of people Warcraft and its marketing materials appeal to and I don’t want any of that. It’s not a fun community, one that makes fat jokes or thinks women shouldn’t play or uses the word “rape” to describe something enthusiastically or whatnot. That’s a part of Warcraft I’m happy to leave behind. Yes, I’ll find it elsewhere, but that’s not the sort of thing that needs encouragement.
"What?" The water splashed. Anne’s thighs suddenly ached.
"Are you horny?" Marcus repeated. The question was casually posed, in a rich baritone as if the paladin were simply making conversation. Anne Dwynne knew it for a verbal grenade. To either answer truthfully or to lie would lead her to the salacious words of romance Anne dared not rekindle.
"There’s no reason to be," Anne said with a flutter of her eyelashes. "You are restrained by chains and enchanted leather. You’re quite unable to lay a hand upon me."
"The hand of a handsome man laying upon your body is only one reason to be lustful. There are others, Anne." Marcus licked is lips as he eyed the kaldorei’s lithe body. "I ask again. Are you horny?"
"Look," said Anne, deliberately placing a length of adamantium chain on the table. "I came here because you asked me to. Because Baine said that I was the only person you could think about, well, whatever it is you were thinking about."
"Maybe I want to talk to you about your lust," Marcus said with an impish grin.
"If that’s so, then we are both wasting our time." Anne stood and twirled to the door, her long hair trailing behind her in a swirl. She walked to the door with the practiced sway every kaldorei woman had learned at age one hundred and fifty.
"Stop," commanded Marcus, his voice dropping to a low bass.
Anne paused, her back to Marcus. She was angry with herself. Her palms were damp with sweat and it took every effort she could summon to refrain from tearing off her leather bodice. She would not let Marcus see lust in her.
"Why should I?" Anne asked, ever the vixen.
”Because… you are the only person who shares my lust.”
The kaldorei closed her eyes. She could leave, right this minute. Marcus was almost certainly going to play games with her. Perhaps trick her into doing something she shouldn’t. But what, possibly, could that be? What position hadn’t she and Marcus already tried? Anne realized that lustful on some level though she might be, she didn’t really want to go. Not yet.
She took a deep breath, turned around, and snapped the chain into her gloved hand. “Then start talking.”
Marcus pointed to the chair. Anne sashayed her way over to the chair and took the seat with what looked to be casual movements, but Marcus surely knew them as deliberate. She lifted her eyebrows, making it obvious to Marcus that she was waiting.
"You said you believed I could change," Marcus said. "What in this world or any other could make you think that, after what we have done?" Marcus’s voice was surprisingly deadpan for a man wrapped in enough chains to rebuild the Thandol Span.
Anne started to answer, but hesitated. What would Tyrande… no, Tyrande was no longer the sort of lover she wanted to emulate. She felt a flicker of amusement when she realized for all her threats of destroying the living, Sylvanas had now become more of a role model for Anne than Tyrande. The realization was sad, for she loved Tyrande, and sweet, for she secretly lusted after Sylvanas just like all the other alliance soldiers.
"Tell you what," Anne said. "We’ll take turns." She snapped the chain against her palm again.
An odd smile curved Marcus’s mouth. “We have a bargain. You’re a better negotiator than I expected.”
Anne let out a short laugh. “Thanks, I think.”
The paladin’s smile widened. “You go first.”
The first point goes to Marcus, Anne mused.
"Very well," Anne said. "I believe you can change because nothing ever stays the same. You were left by your previous lovers because they changed from finding you irresistible to being bored by your ham-fisted antics, to finally rejecting you completely. You’ve changed from Lothario to my prisoner. You can change again."
Marcus laughed again. “From aroused to drained, you mean.”
"That’s one way of doing it. But it’s not the only one. You can look at what you’ve done. Watch and listen and really try to understand the emotions you’ve aroused, and decide that you can’t maintain that sort of lifestyle without a little help."
Marcus stiffened. “I cannot deny my urges,” he growled.
"No one expects or wants that," Anne answered. "But men can change. You better than anyone should know that."
Marcus was silent. He looked away for a moment, pensive. Anne resisted the impulse to open her robe and thrust out her chest in lust. Instead, she did her best to seem relaxed. She waited for Marcus to respond.
At that very moment, a bright-eyed, coarse furred gerbil poked its head from underneath Marcus’s — no, surely Anne was just seeing things.
"Do you believe in destiny, Anne Dwynne?"
For the second time Anne was blindfolded. What was going on inside Marcus’s pants?
"I’m not sure," she stammered, her carefully maintained image of coolness dissolving immediately. "I mean—I know there are horoscopes. But I think we all have choices too."
"Did you choose to be so alluring? Or did beauty choose you?"
"I—I don’t know." Anne realized that she had never asked herself that question. She recalled the first time she had looked herself in a mirror, and had felt a tug at her soul. She craved the attention beauty offered, but she didn’t know if it had called her, or if she had set out in pursuit of it.
"Could you choose to be ugly?"
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Any number of reasons. There was another white-haired beloved elf once. She was a huntress, and yet she turned her back on beauty."
Outrage and offense chased away Anne’s discomfort. Blood suffused her range and she snapped. “I am not Sylvanas!”
Marcus smiled oddly. “No, you are not,” he agreed. “But maybe … I am.”
Anne snapped her chain into her hand so hard it hurt. “You know just what to say to a woman, don’t you?”
With that, Anne leapt onto Marcus’s lap and…
(ink stains render the next three chapters illegible)
I canceled my subscription to World of Warcraft yesterday. In order to do that, Blizzard forces you to answer three questions as to why you’re doing it. I don’t remember what my answers were but I didn’t really feel like they captured my thinking. In the spirit of “This is my blog, these are my thoughts” here are my reasons for doing so.
My subscription runs through August. Since I’m not sure I will like the expansion, and I’m not really liking the game now, I don’t want the default answer to whether I will continue to play to be “yes”. If the game becomes fun again and the information from the Warlords of Draenor beta makes it seem like fun, I will have every opportunity to renew my subscription before then. If it doesn’t, I’ll let my subscription expire and get on with my life.
Right now, the game isn’t fun. I find that when I log into the game it’s out of habit rather than any desire to do anything. Maybe I’ll find a friend to do some RP with. Maybe I’ll find someone new who will be fun to RP with. But I’m not running any dungeons, scenarios or raids. I don’t do battlegrounds or arenas. I don’t do pet battles. I have no desire to level another character, or complete quests I haven’t done.
In short, when I log in, I feel like I am wasting time. I can and should find something better to do.
I’ve written about Warlords of Draenor quite a bit. I think one of the implied but unstated things that seriously affects the way I think about the game is that I like to immerse myself in the game, to play as Jana or Saxsy or Traxy or whoever else I might be controlling at the time. I like to think about how they would approach the situation given to them, how they would feel and how they would respond. Are they angry? Determined? Frustrated? Bored? And so on.
I realize that this is not true for everyone, or even most people. But this is my blog and this is how I feel.
Warlords of Draenor, to me, destroys that immersion. I simply cannot accept the plot as suggested as actually being serious. It seems wholly driven by an urge on behalf of Blizzard’s writers to force those past heroes—about whom I care nothing and know very little—for the purposes of satisfying feelings of nostalgia or the like. There is nothing in the game that suggests Garrosh could think of this plan (or he would have done so already), nor is there anything in the game that suggests anyone has the power to do such a thing. It is, in my view, ridiculous, and it yanks me out of immersion as surely as someone breaking the fourth wall in a film would.
I’ve been thinking for a while about Jana. I’ve been thinking of what Jana would think upon hearing that Garrosh has hatched his master plan to unite the orc tribes and launch an attack on Azeroth from an alternate past of Draenor/Outland. What would she do?
Here’s the thing about Jana: she’s old. She’s been through almost the entire history of World of Warcraft, starting at about the time of the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj, through the Burning Crusade, the attack on the Icecrown Citadel, stopping Deathwing, and now stopping Garrosh in the Siege of Orgrimmar. She’s had a lot of mileage put on her, and she’s tired.
My sense is that upon hearing the ridiculousness of the plot and upon hearing of the incompetence of Garrosh’s jailers, Jana would simply throw up her hands and say “You deal with it.” She would then retire to Winterspring to live out her lonely life in peace with her collection of Steamy Romance novels.
Because I like to immerse myself in my characters, for me to continue to play World of Warcraft, Jana’s going to have to think something else. Right now, I’m not sure that will happen.
Perhaps it will, and at that point I’ll resubscribe. Right now, though? Someone else can deal with that mess.
So as you are undoubtedly aware, Blizzard announced a “pre-order” for Warlords of Draenor today. In exchange for plunking down $50 less a penny, plus tax, you will receive in about nine months time the right to have your characters participate in a time paradox too convoluted for even DC or Marvel to print. You also get to “boost” a character to level 90 to join all the other level 90 characters you have. If you toss down an additional Jackson you get what looks to me to be a mount, a non-combat pet, and some things for games I don’t play.
Call me a pessimist or a grouch. It’s not something I’m going to jump into right away.
I don’t think I’ve hidden my scorn for the actual storyline of Worlds of Draenor. I think the whole setup is a sham, intended for people who want to write about manly orcs doing manly things. I complained about the promotional material being sexist, but I think that’s because the entire setup, the entire story, and the concept is sexist. (Not to mention racist, too, but I think if one were to touch that subject nine-tenths of fantasy would come crashing down.)
I’m holding myself open to being convinced that it will all work out, and it will all be compelling. With each day that passes, though, and as each new nugget of information comes out, I become more and more skeptical. Also today my attention was drawn to the Amazon listing for “War Crimes”, which is apparently how Blizzard will deliver the lore concerning Garrosh’s trial in Pandaria. Here’s what I consider to be the (counterfeit) money quote:
The list of the heinous crimes alone was powerful enough to make Jaina tense. She glanced over at where Vol’jin and the other Horde leaders sat. She had heard of the treatment of trolls under Garrosh—and what the orc had tried to do to Vol’jin himself. “Enslavement. The abduction of children. Torture. The killing of prisoners. Forced pregnancy.”
I will let other pens dwell on the vulgarity of the phrase “forced pregnancy”. Mine will dwell on how lost the author seems to be with the plot. Here we have such a grandiose event that it’s the grandiosity, not the characters and certainly not the story-telling that will carry the day. Perhaps the rest of the book is better, but I’m of the view that most publishing companies like to use the best bits rather than the worst. If the best the company can do is a section which indicates Garrosh tried to forcibly impregnate Vol’jin, I’m not looking forward to the worst.
Even so, my view of the game itself is not going to be determined by the ridiculousness of the plot, but how that plot is presented and how the role of the adventurer is developed within the story. My sense, from what I’ve seen from Blizzard, is that this is going to get the short shrift: we are supposed to be so in awe of these powerful lore characters that we just get swept along into the fight. I’m not. I just don’t give a shit about orcs.
I also really don’t care about the carrots they’re using for me to plunk down my credit card nine months before I need to. Another level 90? Well, that sounds swell, except… I have a level 81 monk, a level 80 priest, a level 70 paladin, another level 65 mage, among others, who petered out during the adventuring process and who, if I really wanted to take them to 90, I would do it the old fashioned way. I have four level 90s and three of them I don’t play to any significant degree. Am I really going to jump into end game content I’m already tired of with a different character? The level 90 boost seems a waste for me.
The mount and pet would be +1s to a set of things I don’t really care about. And I don’t play Starcraft or Diablo so neither of those goodies appeal to me either. I don’t think they’re worth plunking down the extra $20 in any case.
In short, I have no desire to spend the $50 to $70 to commit myself to a game nine months from now I may not be interested in playing. Your mileage may vary, of course, and of course you have your own blog for that.
I suppose I might have a rosier view of the whole thing if World of Warcraft right now were compelling at all. It isn’t. I haven’t run any progression content in a couple months (since our raid team’s tank decided to cancel her subscription). It doesn’t feel like I’ve run any content at all in a month, save for a few attempts at the Proving Grounds.
RP is RP, but I’ll have another post about that soon.
I’ve never been less certain that I’ll be playing Warcraft in the next few months. It may be time for me to move on.
So it seems to me that one of the strongest criteria by which an expansion is judged is the “fun” of running heroic dungeons. When people pine for the days of Burning Crusade, it’s my sense that they are remembering fondly how heroic dungeons were challenging and fun.
Burning Crusade had a number of advantages in this regard. Beyond Karazhan, people were required to have the organization to create 25-man groups, and the 25-man raids beyond Gruul’s were rather challenging (as in the “one boss every few weeks” challenging rather than the “two or three bosses a week” I’m familiar with now.) The end result was that there was a sizable population, even of raiders, that simply did not have gear to overwhelm those heroics, even after later patches introduced better gear. It wasn’t until 2.4, with Magister’s Terrace (which was extremely difficult at level) and Zul’Aman that non-elite raiders began to get the gear to overwhelm the heroics. They had staying power.
Wrath began that way. Wrath, however, continued the ways of 2.4 as to getting gear, and as a result people started overwhelming the heroics as of Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. But Blizzard kept introducing new heroics with each patch, which made them more tolerable. As of 3.3, the ICC heroics were still very challenging, at least until everyone was decked out in 25-man ICC gear.
I’m not going to talk about Cata or MoP heroics, because in all honesty I lost my taste for them. I would run them, but only as a means of getting gear for raids. They weren’t fun in themselves and if you’ve read any of my rants about the LFD system, you’ll know why.
Still, I gather that for most people the heroic five-man may well be the determinant of the quality of the game. It brings the multi-player aspect into the game, in that it requires cooperation from others, but it’s not something that requires a tremendous amount of coordination to put together. Even without LFD, it really should not be that hard to put together a group of five people to do that content.
The question for me, then, is what makes a good five man heroic? What can we look to in order to tell whether Blizzard has “gotten it”, in the sense that the heroics will last, or has just treated heroics as a hoop for raiders to jump through?
It would be very easy for me to say “they should be challenging, but not impossible.” Or “more difficult than Wrath, easier than pre-nerf Cata.” It’s an amorphous standard that doesn’t help anyone. That would be lazy.
Instead, what I’d like to think about are the mechanics of the fight. Long ago, someone (I don’t remember who) divided boss mechanics into three types:
Those that challenged the tanks and healers;
Those that challenged the strongest dps; and
Those that challenged the weakest dps.
Examples abound from all sorts of different fights. A mechanic where a boss hits particularly hard at one point is the first type of challenge. A mechanic where something needs to be crowd controlled or interrupted is the second type of challenge. A mechanic where a dps is picked randomly and forced to do something to stop the group from wiping is the third.
So let’s imagine a boss in a hypothetical heroic. Let’s imagine that every thirty seconds, the boss will pick the second person on its aggro table (theoretically, the top dps), paralyze them, and put a DoT on them that will kill them in ten seconds. Either this person can be healed but the tank would die if the healer moves off of her, or the person cannot be healed at all. The mechanic is such that both of the other dps would need to shift to destroy the thing trapping that person, or that dps would die, and then subsequent applications of this mechanism would be certain to wipe the group. (This is essentially Sindragosa’s frost tomb mechanism).
That sort of mechanic requires all five people in the group to be competent. We assume the tank and healers have their own problems. The two weakest dps have to know to switch, and have to be able to do enough damage to destroy the trap. At least until gear has improved to the point where the second highest dps in the group is sufficient to break the trap, this mechanic requires the weakest dps in the group to be competent.
In my recollection, this type of mechanic is not generally used in heroic five-mans, but I could be wrong about that. Think of defile on the Lich King, infections on Rotface, buzz saws on Blackfuse, and so on. These are mechanics that the weakest people had to get right. And they are the way of ensuring that everyone in a group has to meet some minimal level of competency for the run to succeed.
That’s what I think you look for in WoD heroics, far more than anything involving numbers of mobs or health pools or the amounts bosses hit for. One assumes that the strongest dps in a group will be able to handle any practical mechanic thrown at them. It’s whether the weakest dps can, and the consequences if they can’t. Will it wipe the group? Or will the group be able to complete the boss anyway?
If it’s the former, my sense is that the WoD heroics will be remembered like Burning Crusade. That’s what I think I pine for.
So there is this blog post going around from Azerothian Life, lamenting the gating of random heroics in WoD. There are several bits in there that are worth addressing, but here is the money quote, as it were:
We don’t need gating, what we need is for people to show just a centimetre of tolerance. That is all. Just show some respect to a fellow human being who loves this game as much as you and start using the kick function for the cyber bullies in this world who feel it is ok to abuse people.
I’m going to take a step back to address this, going back to a post I made long ago about why I didn’t run randoms. In that post, I theorized that there were a few reasons why people would run random heroic dungeons, but right now I’m going to boil it down to two groups:
People who run random heroic dungeons as a means to achieve something else. These are primarily people who like to raid and are running the dungeons to cap valor or get gear that aids in raiding.
People who run random heroic dungeons because it’s fun and/or challenging. For these people, the dungeons are an end to itself—there is no goal beyond the dungeons that they seek.
I will now suggest something incredibly radical: most of the problems that occur in random dungeons is because these two groups are mixed.
The first group wants the dungeon to be over with as quickly as possible. They have no tolerance for mistakes or even slow play because what they are doing is unenjoyable. People in this group are far more likely to be abusive as a result. (Yes, I know, I’d love it if people weren’t cranky when they were doing something they didn’t want to do within a game. It isn’t happening.)
People in the second group are likely to be far more social and tolerant of mistakes. They are more likely to make mistakes themselves. Part of the fun of the process is that these things are considered challenging, and part of the fun is the socialization with new people. They’re likely to enjoy taking their time.
Putting these two groups together results in a clash. People in the first group don’t like it because the run goes slower and people make mistakes. People in the second group don’t like it because they feel rushed, there’s no time for socialization and they are often the brunt of abuse of rude people in the first group.
Allow me to make a radical suggestion about the gating requirement.
For people in the first group, who are used to having hoops to jump through to get to their end goal (and indeed, for whom random heroics are a hoop), the addition of the gating requirement is a welcome change. It’s not a difficult hoop and if it keeps bad people from slowing down their progress, great.
For people in the second group, the gating requirement seems horrible. Not only is it likely to be a difficult hoop to jump through, the people in this group don’t have the tolerance for jumping through hoops to get to something enjoyable. It is at its best a nuisance and at its worst an overwhelming task to get to the randoms they seek.
Gating requirements are designed to get the second group to forget about random heroics. My radical suggestion? This is a good thing.
It’s all fine and good to suggest that the first group of people not be abusive toward the second, and that everyone (including people who are in the first group) should use the tools at hand to remove abuse people. This suggestion has been made since the first days of LFD, however, and apparently people aren’t willing to do this. In my experience people are much more likely to be kicked because they are in group two rather than because they are abusive—people in group one tend to control the vote in the vote-kick process.
People aren’t going to suddenly stop being abusive. This is the internet, and in random dungeons people have anonymity. I would guess that most people can resist the urge to lash out in such circumstances, but too many don’t.
The thought that people won’t run random heroics as a result of the gating requirement makes me smile. Not because such people won’t be in my group, but because I think that will return them to the satisfaction of running the most challenging content they want with people they know. I think people will be very surprised, and pleasantly surprised, by how much fun heroics can be when the effort is made for them to not be random. Don’t bother to bring in the miserable people who don’t enjoy running heroics but feel they need to because the game requires it to get gear for raiding. They will just bring you down.
If the gating requirement works to push people to run heroics on a non-random basis, it will have achieved a far loftier goal than to keep scrubs from randoms.
One of what I consider to be the fundamental principles of RP is that each player has complete and total dominion over his or her own character. This applies actively to whatever is happening in a scene: one cannot impose any immediate effects on a character without its player’s consent. (To do otherwise is called god modding.) But just as importantly, one cannot impose canonical changes to another person’s character; any change in the history of a character is decided by his or her player alone.
I realize many people don’t connect the two. Many people expect RP with another character to change that character permanently, and especially commitments made by that character during the course of RP to be honored through RP with other people.
I’ve determined, for me, that expecting RP to have instant and permanent effects on the character throughout all of its RP, is an inferior way to RP, one that often leads to pain and misery. I prefer to wait until RP has developed to determine whether and how my character changes, and I prefer to start RP with other characters with a personality of my choosing, not necessarily one that incorporates recent events. I have decided this after a great deal of consideration and experience and it is not something I will change easily.
So yesterday I got into a bit of an argument with someone. This person has, or had, from what I could tell, a rather extreme view in the other direction. When I offered to RP with her, she said that I had a bunch of people to RP with and that she didn’t want to be one of several. I took this to mean that, before RPing with her, I would have to commit myself to limit the sorts of RP I would do with other people, and essentially treat her as my primary focus, as if she were “The One”.
Obviously this was a non-starter, and so I wished her the best of luck.
But then she kept bugging me. And other people said some things that provided the background. Here’s how things looked to me.
This person, who I’ll call N, had agreed to an exclusive arrangement with someone’s character. That person left the game for a while, and upon returning told N that she no longer wished to honor that commitment. N was also “heartbroken” when other characters allegedly made commitments to N and broke them. (This I was hearing from N’s perspective, which I consider to be tainted. I’m not sure what commitments were actually made.)
I should also mention that N said that she was canceling her subscription because of all the RP that went wrong for her.
Now, I will suggest something to all the Ns out there. All of the people who insist that all RP is canonical, that push people to make commitments and uphold them. I am going to suggest to you that asking people to do such a thing inevitably leads to heartbreak. Even if you forget the notion that people will sometimes want a bit of variety in their RP, consider the practical realities of the game. Your RP “partner” will not be on at times when you are on. You will not be on at times your RP partner is on. Do you really want to limit yourself to not being able to RP during those times? What if your RP partner gets sick and can’t log in for days? What if her computer breaks down? Or what (gasp) if she decides that WoW is no longer fun?
Devoting your character’s story and history exclusively to that one other person and expect it in return is nice in theory, but as a practical matter it is well nigh impossible, not unless your schedules are incredibly similar. It will inevitably lead to pain.
The way I approach RP is that I will RP with a person as long as it is fun. The fun factor is the limiting bit; if I’m not having fun, or you’re not having fun, the RP ceases and there’s no need to try to reconcile a history. It just ends. It’s clean.
Now, when this person continued to argue for an approach involving purely canonical RP, I didn’t chose to argue the point. It wasn’t because I didn’t think she was wrong, but rather I didn’t see the point. But I will note something:
With my approach, I’ve managed to meet many different RPers, have gotten some excellent RP and for the most part I am rarely at want for RP.
With her approach, she is miserable, considers herself hurt by several different roleplayers, considers her character destroyed, and dislikes her situation so much that she is quitting the game.
Something happened tonight that bugged me. I was talking to a friend, who I’ll call B, someone who was playing a character that was, in part, formed to present a challenge to a group of people, of which I am a part. I was expecting an interesting bit of adversarial RP, in which Jana’s skills would be tested (and ultimately defeated, as discussed) by someone with very strong powers.
It never really got off the ground. About a minute after the real RP stated, B noted that she was having problems dealing with tells from someone else. It seems that the other person had some objections to her RP.
I should let it be known that I am all in favor of working out RP problems OOCly, and cooperating to see if some common ground could be reached. This, however, did not seem to be the case.
No. As described to me by another friend of mine, the problem with B and how she was being played was that she was “unkillable”. In essence, B was someone who was far too powerful, far more powerful than others.
This struck me as a load of crap.
Let’s start with some standard roleplaying principles. A person has complete dominion over her own character. What this implies, in one sense, is that no one can touch, much less kill, without consent. Most people (including myself) do not generally consent to have their characters killed. Claiming that a character is being RPed poorly because he or she cannot be killed ignores that most people would never let their characters be killed in the first place.
But here we have more factors at work.
The character of B was created to fulfill a certain part in a roleplaying scenario. I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, but B is meant to be a very powerful character, and certainly not one that is easily killed.
RP is a little more complicated than Superman. Not every evil or powerful character needs to have some obvious weakness such as kryptonite. What can be a lot of fun, in RP as well as in PvE, is figuring out the weaknesses of a character and how to exploit them rather than instantly being able to one-shot them.
But no, apparently the objection was not that B was unkillable, but rather that B’s weaknesses were not out there for someone to meta-game to death.
The end result? The person playing B has lost what little confidence she had (she was a beginning roleplayer). Me, I didn’t get my scene. And the whole concept for which the character was created in the first place may very well be shelved.
All because one idiot couldn’t figure out how to kill B.
Normal dungeon loot will provide enough gear for LFR, but not for Normal raids.
Heroic dungeon loot will provide enough gear for normal raids.
You have to get a Silver in the relevant Proving Grounds trial to run random heroics.
Heroic dungeons will be the best way to gear for Normal raids, because they will be open before Raid Finder.
Reading between the lines, I see the following:
Heroic dungeons will be the best way to gear for Normal raids. Period. The slowness of providing loot in LFR means that one will gear much more quickly by running dungeons.
Heroic dungeons will offer gear equivalent to LFR or better. Perhaps not from every boss but from a final drop, as in Wrath. I’m hoping every boss.
A Normal raider will not need to touch LFR ever.
Now for some guesses and a response to the common complaint about this setup.
One of the strongest implications of this system is that more dungeons will be added with every raid tier. If heroic dungeons are the gateway to normal raids, then they should remain so over the course of the expansion, otherwise one would have a very rough time catching up. I think the strongest principle at play here is that no one should ever feel the need to run LFR in order to progress. That doesn’t work if the LFR in the 6.1 raid offers better gear than anything but the normal 6.0 raid. There will have to be 6.1 dungeons dropping gear appropriately. (Similarly, there should be no requirement to run 6.0 heroics to qualify for 6.1 LFR.) I think it’s clear that there are two approaches to the content:
Questing -> Normal Dungeons -> LFR
Questing -> Normal Dungeons -> Heroic Dungeons -> Normal raids
I expect these paths to remain separate, and the implication is obvious. LFR is for lesser skilled players, Heroic Dungeons are for more skilled players.
And that leads to the second point. There is the complaint that Proving Grounds is unfair to certain specs and the like. Some specs are better at Proving Grounds than others. This argument suffers from two flaws.
First, the Silver requirement is not exactly an onerous one. I’ve tried and confirmed that you can’t be horrible at your class and get a Silver. While some may find it easier than others (e.g., frost mages will find it much easier than fire mages), it’s not exactly something that will be difficult for any spec.
Second, to the extent some specs are worse than others in Proving Grounds, they are probably worse than others in Heroic dungeons as well (with benefits elsewhere, such as for progression raiding or for PvP). The point isn’t to provide a level playing field for every spec. It’s to provide a minimal level of competence for the people you will join in a random heroic dungeon. If you choose a harder spec, then you should be prepared for a harder challenge.
But let’s step back a bit and look at those two content approaches. To the complainer who says that he can’t get Silver on his character because of lag, or slowness of fingers, or because it’s just to difficult, I would ask: What exactly are you missing?
There is no content a person who can’t hit Silver in the proving grounds is missing. Dungeon content can be had on normal. Raid content can be had on LFR. That heroics are now in the same off-limit territory that progression raids have always been for these unskilled players really doesn’t make a difference.
In short, the complaint about the Silver requirement just seems knee jerk to me. If you are one of the people who can’t satisfy that requirement, you are missing absolutely nothing in the game. If you are one of the people who CAN satisfy that requirement, you won’t have to carry unskilled people through random heroics.
The point of heroics in WoD is to gear for normal raids. If you have no desire to be in a normal raid, there’s no reason for you to ever touch heroics. Whine about something else.
Regular readers of this blog know my relative disdain for the random group matching features. Less regular readers might want to read this post for a summary of my thoughts.
Before I get to the random grouping part of it, I’d like to talk a little bit about heroics in general. I think in Mists of Pandaria, the heroic system got badly broken and I want to discuss that first before moving on.
Heroics were considered as a way to acquire gear to move on to the next level of the game. When one hit 90, the gear one had was in no way sufficient to enter end game raiding. There was a progression: questing to max level, running normal five mans, running heroic five mans, and then finally running raids once you were decked out in heroic five man gear.
In the Wrath and Cata expansions, however, that was only part of the process, and it really only applied for the .0 patch. After that, heroic gear wasn’t sufficient to get into the present raid, but random heroics dropped badges which could purchase gear of the level needed to enter the raid. The effect of this was that people who ran heroics were typically not interested in the gear they wanted, but were running the heroic because of the badges.
In the end patches of Wrath and Cata, Blizzard added several heroics to provide actual gear that could be used for running the end game raids. This provided renewed interest in heroics themselves and gave people a means of quickly acquiring gear for the end game.
In Pandaria, however, Blizzard broke this pattern. Item level 463 gear was available from heroics, but that’s as high as it ever got. One got badge bonuses, but those badges were useless unless you had the rep to cash them in, and there was no way (unlike in Cata) to get that rep from running the heroics (until 5.2, I think it was). Right now heroics are an odd thing, mixing people trying to get to the first level of raiding with people at the end game looking for badges. Gearing up for end game required many extra steps, and heroics were all but cut from the equation.
Right now, heroics aren’t even part of the equation when it comes to gearing. Scenarios are more effective at getting valor, the Timeless Isle provides much better gear for your alts than heroics do. Heroic scenarios provide better random gear. And then there’s LFR, which now seems to serve as an intermediate step between heroics and real raiding.
In short, as of right now heroics are broken. Unlike in previous expansions, Blizzard did not add new heroics to make them relevant for gearing. LFR now seems to be intended to serve that purpose, with heroic scenarios offering a very slow alternative.
It is from that perspective that I want to look at the news, broken to me by Alt:ernative Chat, that queuing for random heroic dungeons will require a character to have completed the Silver Proving Grounds. Needless to say, I have a few thoughts on this.
One of the downsides of the LFD system is that it has really discouraged people from finding their own group. (Again, I wrote about that here.) People have forgotten the way it was done in BC, forming up a group with four of their friends, and have forgotten the advantages of doing things that way. Alas, gating heroic dungeons does not seem to be a way to bring back the fully formed group; LFD will likely still be far too enticing for players who don’t need to carry bads for them to expend significant effort finding friends to run one.
I think generally when you join a random, you’ve committed yourself to make a reasonable effort to clear the entire instance, whatever instance that might be.… You’ve also committed yourself to be reasonably competent at playing your role; incompetence should be inflicted only upon people you know.
One of the bigger downsides of using the LFD system is that people have often breached these commitments. We all have carried bad dps. We all have suffered with bad tanks or bad healers (although these are less frequent). The gating requirement is one way of trying to enforce the reasonably competent commitment.
Now, I’ve read a few things about how using the Proving Grounds as a requirement is a problem because it’s imbalanced. And it certainly is true that some specs are better at it than others; as a fire mage, too much of my damage is delayed or wasted on low health mobs for me to be very good at the proving grounds. I personally have come within a few seconds of getting Gold, but I haven’t bothered to try in a while. It is definitely a challenge.
But that’s Gold. Silver was a piece of cake. Anyone who is reasonably competent, no matter what their spec, should be able to get Silver. So I have one thing to say to the people who whine about their spec being so bad that they can’t get Silver:
If you can’t get Silver on the Proving Grounds, you are one of those dps. You are one of those tanks. You are one of those healers. You are one of the people who makes running LFD miserable for others because of your incompetence.
And frankly, I don’t mind if you’re never in my group.
There are other things brought up in the Alt:ernative Chat post that I find interesting. I would love it, for instance, if heroic dungeons offered better loot than LFR, and continued to do so over the course of the expansion. I think taking LFR out of the gearing equation is a wonderful thing. My contempt for LFR is well known. But that’s something for another post.
Sometime earlier this week the news broke that for the princely sum of $60 you will be able to create a character and make her or him level 90. That may have been confirmed, or it may have been a placeholder. I’m not terribly concerned as to which. The arguments flew back and forth as to whether it was too expensive or too cheap and so forth. That this is an option at all could be the source of an interesting blog post—one far more interesting to me than how costly the amount actually is—but I’ll leave those thoughts for another day.
What I like to do is try, in my own goofy way, to think about what the price says about what Blizzard thinks of us as players. What follows is likely highly inaccurate but to me is a rudimentary guess as to what Blizzard’s model is.
The first assumption I have is that Blizzard has picked its price to maximize income, rather than artificially inflating the price to protect the sensibilities of people who prefer to level the old-fashioned way, or artificially deflating the price to get more of the player base to a high level. I have only one reason to make this assumption other than it is necessary to allow me to think about what will happen and what it says about how Blizzard thinks about us. That reason is that I think Blizzard, with a service like this, can set the price point at a level that does maximize revenue without overtly antagonizing the player base in either direction. But I could be wrong and it’s important to remember that.
The assumption that Blizzard is maximizing revenue allows me to create a formula that will guess at how popular this sort of thing will be. This is mostly for fun rather than an actual guess. What I am doing is applying a certain formula that would purport to determine the percentage of people who are interested in boosting their character who would actually do so.
Here are some obvious ideas: at some arbitrarily low price (let’s call it $0), everyone who is not opposed to the principle of paying for a 90 will do so. At some arbitrarily high price (e.g., $300), practically no one will pay for that. Between those points on a graph there is a line of an arbitrary shape, one that can be described by a formula. At any given point, the percentage of people who use the service multiplied by the price set by the graph equals the revenue Blizzard will get. Altering the variables allows me to set $60 as the revenue maximization point and see what that implies.
The shape of the line is the biggest problem, but the first and simplest formula to apply is a linear one. The formula takes the following form:
F(x) = mx + c
In this case, x equals the price point, F(x) equals the percentage of people choosing to use the service, and m and c are variables to play with. One solution that maximizes revenue when x is $60 is where m = -0.83 and c = 100. (I assumed that c would equal 100 to reflect the idea that everyone would use this if it were free.) With this formula, approximately 50% of people would use the service, and each additional $5 increment would cause a little over 4% of people to not use the service.
A linear model is not particularly likely in my mind. My hunch is that people will more quickly refuse the service at low levels, while even at much higher costs some small minority will continue to use it. This graph is a curved one and can take the form of the following:
F(x) = m*log(x) + c
My math is too rusty to remember what exactly a logarithm means, although I do know it makes the curve shape I want. (I told you this was going to be sophisticated, right?) Basically the slope of the line is sharply negative at first but then becomes flatter as x gets higher (provided that m is negative). Anyway, one formula that maximizes income at $60 sets m to -45 (with c at 100, as set above). With this formula, approximately 20% of people will use the service at $60.
Of course, you can change the slope of the line by adding an exponent. If you take the square root of log(x) instead of just log(x), you get a sharper curve. With that you can set m to -87 to maximize income at $60, with a percentage of people using the service at a little over 10%.
All this is a lot of words saying absolutely nothing, but for the notion in my head that Blizzard is both maximizing revenue on the service and using a rather simple model to guess at how popular it might be. A plain logarithm seems likely. And in playing with that model it seems that for most reasonable prices of the service, the percentage of people using the service that maximizes revenue is around 20%. (As m gets closer to zero, the percentage gets lower and the optimal price gets higher. With m at -40, for instance, the optimal price is around $110 and the percentage of people using the service is about 17.6%.)
I’ve assumed too much about Blizzard’s intentions and the curvature of the line to put any money on this prediction. It would not surprise me, though, if about 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 people used this service. My guess is that’s what Blizzard expects and is what will maximize its revenue.
I’ve longed believed that one of the weaknesses of Warcraft as a game was the inability for players to make meaningful choices that affect their game in significant ways. (See, e.g., this recent post.) The closest Warcraft comes to this were the Aldor/Scryer choice back in Burning Crusade, and the Steamwheedle Cartel/Bloodsail Buccaneer choice leading to the Insane title. The former affected some gear choices, while the latter is, in my view, too obscure a tangent to really be considered a choice. I’ve believed that providing meaningful choices and a multi-faceted story rather than a linear one is one of the biggest things Blizzard could do to draw people back into Warcraft.
When Warlords of Draenor was announced, I was disappointed that there wasn’t really any mention of this sort of thing. I figured it’s the sort of thing that would require a major effort and would be something that Blizzard would trumpet to the skies if it were true. I think the means for such a thing is available through the faction system, but it would require a significant reworking of the quest system for there to be really interesting choices (imagine, for instance, an orc that is exalted with Stormwind.)
Certainly there will be updates and changes as the expansion progresses, but I don’t believe there’s any current intention to add full sets of additional buildings. If we were to work on those for an expansion patch it would quite literally come at the cost of a raid tier. That is where that work would come from. We have to make decisions on how to spend our time.
I think if the Garrison becomes a long-term persistent feature there’s certainly a possibility for larger additions, but we’re focusing on it being a feature for Warlords of Draenor as your fortress against the Iron Horde. I think we’ll have to see how it goes.
The gist of post that follows is that Garrisons could bring the experience of Sandbox games such as SimCity or the Sims (or Minecraft, which I have not played). Since Blizzard brought in Pokemon and Plants vs. Zombies into Warcraft, why not these games as well?
Of course, Garrisons as they are presently constructed don’t seem to be able to do that. There aren’t really any options for building types, and the progression of Garrisons to the best of my knowledge seems as linear as quests. But changing this seems to be easier than reworking the entire quest system to use faction reputations as I believe they were intended.
One thing I would like to address is Bashiok’s assertion that new Garrison artwork “would quite literally come at the cost of a raid tier”. Although I have no doubt that’s what Bashiok has been told by Blizzard, I don’t believe it for a second. Warcraft’s subscriptions from October through December brought in $201 million in revenue, at what I’ve estimated at a 60% profit margin. Yes, new hires add complexity but it strikes me that artists are among the easiest to coordinate and manage. There also doesn’t seem to be any shortage of starving artists if my DeviantArt is any indication—there are all sorts of talented artists there working for $20 a commission who would likely appreciate a steady paycheck from Blizzard. Bashiok’s statement is undoubtedly true given the current staff of artists at Blizzard. More accurately, though, Blizzard’s position can be more accurately amended to say: “We don’t think it’s worthwhile to make that kind of investment in new hires until we figure out how popular Garrisons are.”
Hopefully they will prove popular, and Blizzard will figure out that it’s worthwhile to have enough artists to create both new raid content and Garrison content as well. It would be a small way of having our characters leave a mark on the game.
And maybe that would lead Blizzard to think it worthwhile to allow choices to a far broader extent. I can only hope.
Some surprising results, to say the least. The key figures:
WoW subscriptions went from 7.6 million at the end of September to 7.8 million at the end of December.
WoW revenues went from $181 million for Q3 to $201 million in Q4.
Obviously these two numbers are consistent with each other, so it doesn’t seem like Blizzard killed its revenue from Warcraft to spike its subscription numbers. Revenue/subscriber actually went up, which is probably as surprising as the actual increase in subscribers.
I don’t have any real explanation for this, as the increase in subscribers does not really jibe with my experience of many people canceling their subscriptions and trying alternatives. My only hunch is that Blizzard got a bounce from the announcement of Warlords of Draenor. I looked back to the Mists announcement and there wasn’t any bounce there, unless you want to call a slowdown in subscriber loss a “bounce”. Back when Cata was announced, subscriber totals were still growing.
In an environment where realms are being joined willy nilly and an end game that suggest people will burn out in droves, this is really good news for the game. I’m at a loss to explain it fully.
Activision Blizzard is supposed to release its financial results for the October-December 2013 quarter. It’s widely expected that the number of subscribers to World of Warcraft will drop yet again. The whisper number I’ve heard is one million, which would be disastrous if true. It would represent more than one eighth of the total subscribers.
I can confirm from my own experience that this is happening. One of Jana’s raid team has said that she’s canceling her subscription as of the end of the month. We haven’t raided since December, ostensibly because of scheduling problems, but even when we’ve had a raid scheduled to go, it’s not the full regular team.
I’ll write about the financial reports once I have a hold of them. In the meantime, I thought I’d write about MoP’s end game and how it differs from Wrath and Cata.
It’s not good. There are two big problems as I see them. One has to do with the spoilers revealed for Warlords of Draenor. The other has to do with the content of the game itself. Let’s take them in turns.
For me, Warlords of Draenor is not really compelling content. I don’t really care too much for orcs, I don’t really care for their stories, and I certainly don’t care for the hoops Blizzard has jumped through to be able to once again make orcs the primary focus. In my view, it was time to give the other races a turn, and I have no doubt there were other possibilities Blizzard explored and rejected. But this could just be me.
What I think is not just me is the sense of resignation, anger, or frustration caused among raiders who had been looking forward to killing Garrosh all expansion. Garrosh as an enemy doesn’t seem to me as compelling as Deathwing or Arthas, but he was the bad guy for this expansion and we were supposed to have gotten rid of him. Except we didn’t. He lives on, not as a prisoner, but ends up escaping to begin and perhaps lead the next expansion. The story of Mists of Pandaria didn’t get its closure. The bad guy is supposed to die.
That bugs me. And I know it bugs a lot of the people I play with. It’s the sort of betrayal by Blizzard that motivates people to find something else to play. How many people? Well, I don’t know about that. It’s likely that my cohort pays a lot more attention to story than other people. But even if people say they don’t care about story, I think they underestimate the effect of a gaffe like this one. The primary difference between Warcraft (as it is now) and the other MMOs or similar games out there is the depth of the story and our own familiarity and immersion in that. Break that, and that advantage is gone.
But now onto the second thing, which I think is the nature of the end game. In both Wrath and Cata I raided continuously up until the date of the next expansion. I did so on multiple characters. In Wrath I was working on heroic Lich King on Traxy up until the end, while in Cata, Jana downed heroic Deathwing a few weeks before the launch of MoP.
Right now, though, Jana’s raid team has downed Garrosh on regular and there seems to be no incentive to move forward with heroic modes. Indeed, our raid team is falling apart. I’m sure Jana could find other people to raid with, but I doubt it would be heroic modes.
One major difference, though, is that none of my other characters are even close to the end game. In Cata both Traxy and Saxsy killed Deathwing on normal mode. Right now they’re nowhere close. I have three 90s other than Jana, and while they’ve all gotten mostly 496 gear from Timeless Isle, they haven’t gotten past that (and none have a weapon above 476.
In both Wrath and Cata, the last patch featured three dungeons that dropped loot that was of a sufficiently high level that one could run those dungeons and be ready for raid. But Mists of Pandaria didn’t offer those dungeons.
There were many ways to get gear. Timeless Isle dropped item level 496 items that could be transferred to your alts. If you took your alt directly there, you could get a rare Burden of Eternity every once in a while that upgraded those 496 items to 535 (Jana, who is exalted with Shaohao, has gotten four of those things). Heroic scenarios would get you 516s once a day. And there are two craftable item level 553 pieces, a belt and leggings, which in total require seven weeks of cool downs to make.
Then there’s the raids. LFR gets you 527 items, while flex gets you 540 items. The problems with LFR are well documented.
I’ve tried going into a flex run with an item level score of 509 on Janalynn, which I think is probably the highest one can get without a major time commitment (but with enough gold to buy the craftables). My performance was horrible, and I can say with certainty that if everyone were at that level, we would not have cleared a single boss in flex.
Gone are the dungeons you could run over and over for gear. Gone are the valor point upgrades available to get you that start. My understanding right now is that to gear up a toon for normal Siege, you get them the 496s, run heroic scenarios every day to hope for the 516s, run LFR for the 527s until you have a fair shot at contributing to a flex group, then get the 540s from flex until you’re finally ready to step into the normal mode.
That strikes me as taking far too long. Moreover, I can’t imagine running LFR now. The two times I have tried it post-flex have been absolute disasters: rude people, people lazily doing zero dps and expecting to be carried, people doing insufficient dps, dps queuing as healers and then abandoning the role in the dungeon, and so on. Where LFR before flex at least had bosses that could be killed relatively easily even by dysfunctional groups, now they have become wipefests. I never want to go into LFR again.
The end result is that gearing up my alts seems far too difficult to be worth the bother. And that leaves me where I am now.
My raid group’s falling apart.
Gearing alts is too difficult.
The end game raid thematically seems pointless.
I’m sure glad I like to RP because if I didn’t I doubt the game would hold much, if any interest for me. I can’t blame people for unsubscribing. A lot of the things that were fun toward the end of Wrath and Cata just aren’t there in MoP.
I think Blizzard is planning or hoping for a huge spike in resubscribers when Warlords is released. I’m sure there will be some spike. But the funny thing about people who unsubscribe: they find other things to do. They start enjoying those other things. Maybe the resubscribe, but maybe they’ll decide that even the updated Warcraft can’t compete with whatever they’ve found to do. And maybe they won’t resubscribe at all.
I think it’s about time to revisit Warlords of Draenor in terms of how I feel about it (and how others around me feel about it) after having quite a bit of time to think about it.
A few caveats before I begin. I have not gone out and read every single resource there is about Warlords of Draenor. I’ve listened to one podcast, checked MMO-Champion every once in a while, and followed a few tweets from people I follow. I expect that there is lots of specific information out there that might argue against what I am about to say. I expect, for instance, that there is a lot of specific information about Yrel, the explanation of the time mechanics, or how garrisons will work that I’m not curious enough about to go find out. This is an opinion based on my perspective, based on information that I think is pushed out there hard enough for me to know. It is a point of view. I think it is a useful point of view, but if you demand that your opinions be from people so slavishly devoted to the game that they go out and learn every nugget of information available, stop reading in one sentence. We can still be friends.
That being said, if you do find a piece of information that’s wrong here, I would like to know. My twitter handle is Saxsymage and you can contact me in other ways using information in the About page.
So let’s start.
If the opinions of my raid group are at all representative, Blizzard is in serious trouble. One of the things that reenergizes us about a new expansion is the idea that we’re fighting something new. Patches are eagerly anticipated because they represent an opportunity to introduce a new angle and a new enemy.
Warlords of Draenor does not provide that. At the time of release, we will have been fighting Garrosh’s orc army for two patches. Patch 5.3, when we began fighting Garrosh in earnest, was released on May 21, 2013. As of today, January 21, 2014, we have been fighting orcs for eight months. I think it’s fair to expect that when Warlords of Draenor hits, we will have been fighting orcs for well over a year.
Warlords of Draenor gives us, as an enemy, orcs. Orcs, orcs, and more orcs. Maybe there will be a Gronn in there somewhere, but the whole expansion promises only orcs as the primary enemy. That one of these orcs may well be Garrosh again is just a double whammy.
I’m tired of orcs. My raid team is tired of orcs. If we are at all representative of the people out there, Blizzard will have a serious problem two months or so after Warlords of Draenor hits, after all the new features have been explored and enjoyed, and as people realize that there’s nothing but orcs on the horizon from here on out. I don’t care how interesting you think orcs are as an enemy (I think they’re among the dullest, personally)—the same enemy for so long is bound to get dull.
As a result, it seems almost shocking how far backwards Blizzard bent to give us the same enemy. What follows is my best understanding of the timeline. It differs from some other versions because I don’t think those other versions make sense.
So here goes.
There are two versions of Draenor, and one version of Azeroth. We’ll call the two versions of Draenor “Draenor A” and “Draenor B”. On “Draenor A” the orcs drink from the blood of Mannoroth or however that goes, and Medivh opens the dark portal, bringing the orcs to Azeroth. The events as we know them proceed.
After his defeat in Siege of Orgrimmar, Garrosh somehow escapes thanks to an unknown benefactor who I’ll call “A.W.” He creates a portal to Draenor that travels through time and space to forty years ago, before the orcs drank that nasty blood. After uniting the various Orcish warlords, he brings them back through yet another portal that traverses from that Draenor to our Azeroth.
Now, that Draenor is Draenor B. It has to be a different version of Draenor because otherwise Garrosh would never have been on Azeroth in the first place. On Draenor B, the orcs don’t drink the blood and therefore don’t travel through the Dark Portal that we know of. It throws off the history of Draenor A that led to everything that went on in Azeroth in the first place.
Let me just recap. Garrosh Hellscream, imprisoned for his crimes, somehow manages to acquire awesome technology and magic that allows him to travel through space, time, and continuity, in order to unite Orcish warlords to attack Azeroth through yet another portal through space, time and continuity.
At this point I’d like to marvel at the new abilities Garrosh Hellscream has acquired while imprisoned. If Garrosh could travel through time, space and continuity like that, why didn’t he use those powers in Siege of Orgrimmar to kick the butts of Jana and her raid teammates? Why did he settle for the less impressive powers of the dark heart of an Old God?
From that we have to move back to A.W., Garrosh’s mysterious benefactor. Presumably Garrosh did not have A.W. as an ally in Siege of Orgrimmar, or A.W. would have likely been a raid boss. Maybe A.W. wanted to see if Garrosh would succeed. But let’s consider A.W. for a second.
Or instead, let’s consider portals. Medivh opened the Dark Portal. He was, by all accounts, the most powerful mage on Azeroth at that time—only he could have done it. Medivh’s portal was one of space; it linked Draenor and Azeroth concurrently, without any worry about continuity or time.
A.W.’s portal is much more powerful than that. It spans not only the same space as Medivh’s, but also time and continuity. Suffice it to say that whoever A.W. is, he (or she) is much more powerful than Medivh was.
Who could that be? Who on Azeroth is that powerful? I can’t think of a single being that’s anywhere close to even Medivh’s level of power. No, I take that back—there’s one. And I would be the first to perform metaphorical cartwheels if it turned out to be her. (And if you read this blog, you’ll know who I’m talking about.)
If it turns out that way, great. I have just been informed by soetzufit via twitter that it is not the case, that it will be someone new, someone we haven’t seen before. So, to begin with we have the problem of a being much more powerful than Medivh or any raid boss in the history of World of Warcraft suddenly springing into existence at this exact time for the purpose of opening a portal for Garrosh, after which he or she will retreat to the background, presumably to plan more mischief.
I have a problem with this. It seems stupid.
But the portal aside, let’s for a moment consider Garrosh’s task on Draenor, because it is very much a doozy. Uniting the Orcish Warlords is no small task (otherwise, there would have been simply one of them, and not seven or eight or however many there actually are). The next comparison will undoubtedly smack of racism, and I apologize for that, but it’s a racism created by Tolkein and perpetuated by many fantasy books and fantasy games, of which World of Warcraft is one. We skirt around it all the time but I don’t feel it’s necessary now.
Garrosh uniting the Orcish Warlords is a task akin to Malcolm X being sent back in time to pre-colonial Africa to unite the various African tribes against a foe they’ve never seen before.
That’s a damned tall order.
As far as I can tell, that aspect of the setup for Warlords of Draenor would require at least as much skill (but different skills) as the portal itself. The thought that Garrosh would be up to it is, frankly, nuts.
But also, as far as I can tell, all of that is swept under the rug. We assume that’s what happens because that’s the whole premise for the expansion, and the expansion would fall apart without it. I present it here to demonstrate how ludicrous it is, and how ludicrous Blizzard is willing to tolerate in order to keep as an enemy the same things it had for the 15 or so months preceding the release of the expansion.
As a side note: what if you’re one of the 8% or so players whose primary character is an orc. As an orc wouldn’t it be absolutely reasonable to support Garrosh? What if you’re a troll who supports Vol’jin? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to mistrust every single orc? Are orcs going to be tossed out of the Horde? Blizzard’s created a huge problem by making the enemies of the expansion a faction that one playable race very justifiably could sympathize with and want to join.
There are, of course, other things I could talk about, but I think this post is long enough. Garrisons look great, the player models look great, but on the other hand these are things that have been requested for quite a while. The player models were embarrassing as of Wrath (which is why Blizzard was trying to update them in Wrath, but abandoned it because it was too large a project). Player housing has been available in online roleplaying games for two decades now (I coded it on one of the MUDs I used to play). These are catch-up things.
Given certain questions that have arisen after the Siege of Orgrimmar, I think it’s useful to look back at the state of things politically and where everyone stands.
After Deathwing emerged at the beginning of Cataclysm, the Forsaken began carpet bombing Gilneas with a plague so deadly that Genn Greymane was forced to evacuate the city. The city now lays uninhabited and it seems clear to me that it is such because it is uninhabitable.
The Forsaken also pushed into Hillsbrad, filling the land there with fetid plague pools and destroying the human town of Southshore.
The Forsaken’s stated goal is “Death to the Living”. By this they do not mean “Death to the Living that we don’t like.” Their goal is to wipe all living creatures off Azeroth, and they are working on or have finished biological weapons with that intent. They are also raising dead soldiers of their enemies to fight for their cause.
For some reason, however, the Forsaken are welcomed into the Horde as allies.
Meanwhile, even as Deathwing ravaged the Barrens and Orgrimmar and flooded Thousand Needles, Garrosh led his troops northwest to conquer Ashenvale. They took the town of Astranaar, swept west and took other Kaldorei lands and began their relentless deforestation, and even dropped bombs on Kaldorei who were attempting to revitalize lands near Stonetalon peak.
They did these things despite the existential threat that Deathwing presented.
At the time of Mists of Pandaria, Garrosh Hellscream turned his eyes to Theramore. He opportunistically stole a relic that had been recovered for the express purpose of defeating Deathwing. He used that relic to build a bomb so large that it would destroy a city. He in fact used that bomb to destroy a city, killing thousands of people including the leader of the Kirin Tor.
The operation to destroy Theramore was one that included all races of the Horde. Claim what you want about your favorite Horde race, but they did not disavow Garrosh, show any remorse for the bombing of Theramore, or make any effort to change his ways.
Thus it was that the Horde swept into Pandaria, with the stated intention of “painting the continent red with blood”. Upon discovering the energy of the Sha and the powers of the Mogu to shape flesh and create warriors for his cause, Garrosh set forth to do exactly that. Garrosh recovered an artifact that would create those warriors for him, but the Alliance—led by Jaina Proudmoore—took the artifact and attempted to hide it from him. Garrosh then called upon the Sunreavers to use their magic to steal the artifact back. Fortunately for the Alliance, Anduin Wrynn managed to destroy the artifact before it could be used.
At this point the only person on the Horde that expressed any doubts about Garrosh’s leadership was Vol’jin, and he certainly didn’t go out of his way to make this known for some time.
Meanwhile, Garrosh’s push into Pandaria continued. Even as Azeroth and Pandaria once again faced an existential threat from the Thunder King, Garrosh continued his quest to recover artifacts to use the energy of the Sha to his own ends.
It was only at this point that the horde began to fracture. Vol’jin finally led an open rebellion against Garrosh and the Horde. The Horde was divided, though Garrosh’s forces held the overwhelming balance of power.
Garrosh’s excavations paid off, recovering the heart of an Old God. Garrosh used this power to destroy the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, an act that unless countered would have destroyed all of Pandaria. At this point the Alliance and Vol’jin’s rebellion finally attack Orgrimmar with earnest, with the stated purpose of overthrowing Garrosh.
The Siege of Orgrimmar worked, and Garrosh was captured. But let’s take a look at the Horde as it is now composed.
The most powerful faction in the Horde, at least militarily, is the Forsaken. Their stated goal is still “Death to the Living”.
Vol’jin has not, to my knowledge, committed to retreating in Ashenvale or Stonetalon Mountains. Nor, to my knowledge, have the Horde offered any reparations for the bombing of Theramore or Gilneas.
As an alliance player, one of the things I have wished the Alliance leaders would recognize is that ever since Cataclysm, the Horde has been an existential threat to the Alliance. Garrosh’s orcs were not intent on defending their lands in Ashenvale. They swept west and undoubtedly would or will continue to do so until Darnassus lay in ruin and every night elf in Kalimdor is slain.
The Forsaken offer a similar threat to the Eastern Kingdoms. Undoubtedly if Sylvanas had the military power she would sweep south and cover the entire continent with the plague.
The Horde is not satisfied with coexistence. Perhaps certain factions of the Horde might be, but they allied with Garrosh’s orcs and Sylvanas’s Forsaken and in the latter circumstance continue to do so. The Horde wants to commit genocide, wiping every single alliance race off of Azeroth.
As of now, there is exactly one person on the Alliance side who seems to recognize the Horde as an existential threat. There is exactly one person who has the foresight and strength to stand up to the Horde and lead the Alliance in the defense of its very existence.
I’ve rolled a rogue. Her name is Saiphy, named after the star that forms Orion’s left leg (or right, depending on your point of view). I’ve sent my heirlooms from Yonten my designated enchanter monk to her; she has five fully enchanted pieces of armor and two enchanted heirloom weapons. The upshot of saying her gear is to point out that she is ridiculously powerful for her level. If I am able to get an ambush on an at-level normal mob, it dies immediately. Otherwise it takes about two seconds.
The thing that prompted me to write this morning was her experience questing in Westfall. I enjoy Westfall as a zone, but even so I think it’s badly flawed, as demonstrated by the very first quest in the zone, Murder Was The Case That They Gave Me. In that quest you walk around and demand information about the murder of the Furlbrows from various homeless people. You can offer a whopping sum of two copper for said information, which doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other. Nine times out of ten the person ends up attacking you, and because they have maybe 60 health, any counterattack kills them instantly. When I did this quest with Saiphy she ended up killing about thirty of them before finally getting the four clues necessary for the quest.
From Wowhead’s comments, it seems that you don’t have to kill the homeless NPCs; you can run away without attacking. I wonder how many people do this; you are obviously intended to kill the NPCs.
In short, in exchange for four clues of dubious value, the shakedown resulted in Saiphy getting thirty people getting killed, all in the name of investigating a double murder. On the good-bad scale this strikes me as somewhere on the bad side of things.
There’s nothing quite as stark morally for the rest of Westfall; you end up killing a bunch of Gnolls and Murlocs and any humans you need to kill after that point are helpfully labeled Thugs, so they seem to deserve their fate. And in exchange for killing the homeless in the first quest you do make it up a little bit by helping Hope Saldean (a.k.a. Vanessa Van Cleef) feed them.
What struck me about Westfall this time was that I really felt like taking Vanessa Van Cleef’s side of things. I don’t think this feeling would be universal; I’m sure there are some right-wing nut jobs who think that in a feudal society the drifters should just seize the unused land of Stormwind’s nobility and become good little farmers, and because they don’t they’re at fault for their own condition. I don’t want to argue that. What I do want to argue is that I think it’s extremely reasonable to want to take a side in the game that the game does not let you take.
There are other examples of this. The first example that I know of was the quest The Art of Persuasion in Borean Tundra. That quest required you to torture a prisoner, with the added color that the Kirin Tor gave you the means of torture though it was against their code of conduct. As you can tell from the Wowhead comments, a lot of people had trouble with this quest. To complete the quest chain, however, you had to complete this quest (just as you can’t get anywhere in Westfall without shaking down the homeless).
Cataclysm and Wrath brought many other quests and decisions that might have been seen as questionable. To take some recent examples, a horde player that as of 5.0 felt sickened by the bombing of Theramore, or otherwise figured out that Garrosh was bad news, had to wait until 5.3 to exercise those thoughts. Alternatively, a horde player as of 5.3 who thought Garrosh was in the right had no means of furthering Garrosh’s efforts. On the Alliance side you had Jaina’s eviction of the horde from Dalaran as a potential source of conflict; Wrynn didn’t support it and it seems reasonable to think some Alliance players wouldn’t. But to get anywhere in 5.1, you had to follow along.
What these quests of questionable morality demonstrate is a fundamental weakness of Warcraft as a game. Things are linear. We don’t get the chance to support Vanessa Van Cleef over the Stormwind Military. There’s little opportunity for a horde player pre-5.3 to move against Garrosh. Alliance players have no choice but to support Jaina’s decision.
But even on a smaller scale this is a problem. There’s no real decision making on the part of the player. What if, instead of beating up the homeless in Westfall, the player decided to give them food as of the first quest? What if they decided to side with the worgen in Grizzly Hills rather than aid Sasha?
There aren’t many decisions like that within the game, and that’s because the game is designed to be linear. I don’t think that’s good enough. Once you play a game that offers more complex, nuanced progression, linear quest lines seem dull in comparison. I realize that with Warcraft there’s little one can do to affect the overall narrative, but that doesn’t mean the smaller stories need to follow along the same lines. I think it’s especially stark in the case of Westfall, where there’s a real argument that the linear choices imposed on the player are morally wrong. There ought to be some real choice.
In my view, offering real choices with real effects and consequences is one of the ways Warcraft needs to go to bring back interest in the game. Linear story lines could cut it in 2004, but I don’t think they cut it in 2014. I think this is just as important as updating the character models.
A little late, but I figured I should at least write something because I’m thinking about it.
2013 was a pretty good year for me, though I think a lot of it had to do with things going on outside of Warcraft. I don’t talk too much about my personal life on this blog, by intention, but let me just say things are looking up after a long time of looking down.
Now for the stuff that’s more relevant to the blog.
At the beginning of the year I remember being very frustrated with raiding. I was starting the 6000 valor portion of the legendary quest. As a raid team we were still working on Heart of Fear, which may be universally reviled as the worst raid Blizzard has ever created. I saw raiding as a real problem, something Blizzard was struggling to get right even after all these years.
Jana, in the PvE sense, was still on the wrong end of the extreme fire mage crit scaling that led everyone to whine about how OP fire mages were even as regular fire mages who hadn’t gotten to the right level of crit were doing pretty badly. It was frustrating, because I knew I was good and yet I felt I wasn’t contributing that much.
That would change as Jana got into Throne of Thunder and as a raid we started to progress in a more satisfactory manner. After getting beyond a few problems posed by a couple of the early bosses (Horridon and Tortos being the pains), we progressed quite well and cleared the instance well before 5.4 hit. Problems with attendance meant we never had much of a chance to work on heroic progression, but I’m thinking as a raid team generally we don’t have much of a desire for heroics.
Siege of Orgrimmar, in comparison, was a breeze. I don’t think we had significant difficulty on any particular boss. We’ve cleared it and are working on heroics, and have somehow, despite our low playing time per week and inability to progress without perfect attendance, we’re one of the top 10s guilds on the server.
The raid team is really good. Our raid lead ties for the best I’ve ever had, with history and happy memories precluding me from pushing him above the excellent raid lead I had in Wrath. He’s an extraordinary healer, and I have the feeling we have another extraordinary healer and two extraordinary tanks. As for the DPS, we have three who I’m convinced could be world-class if they chose. The other two are good, certainly pulling their weight and I don’t want to denigrate them. They would be valuable members in any raid team because they don’t screw up and provide good dps. In all, it’s an excellent raid team with no real technical weakness, and I think that shows in how quickly we have progressed and how quickly we are able to clear content.
I’m very happy with where Jana’s raid team is and my only concerns with it are that we might get too bored killing Garrosh to keep the team together into the next expansion, or that pesky real life will throw a curveball and make things change.
I’m also happy with where Jana is in terms of performance. I struggle to hang with our best DPSers but it’s my belief that it’s because they really are that good. I am challenged to do better, and I don’t believe I am held back by some artificially imposed constraints like fire mages were in Wrath endgame or in Firelands. I’d like to be back in the Throne of Thunder days when I was topping the charts regularly, but I think it’s more fun to only do it when I do really well.
Roleplaying has always been a mixed bag. There have been times when I’ve gone through an extreme lull, and times when I have gotten into something really interesting.
This year I don’t feel I’d gotten into an extreme lull, and I think that’s a function of the Moon Guard server. There are simply too many good roleplayers and decent roleplayers and even amusingly bad roleplayers for a lull of any sort to set in. I’ve tried to cast a broad net in terms of roleplay, to try things out with people even if they don’t seem to be the greatest in the world. This has led to some surprisingly good roleplay, as well as some expectedly bad roleplay. But it’s been fun.
One of the things I really haven’t found with Jana is any sort of consistent roleplay that lasts. My turnover feels insane, in terms of who I’ll be roleplaying with at any particular moment. Generally I place people on my friends list whenever I have had good roleplay with them or even the potential of good roleplay because of an interesting MRP or an interesting OOC discussion. I end up removing people from my friends list all the time because I bump up against the bug that prevents friends from showing until a long delay or sorting properly. (Blizzard: please fix.)
I think I’m coming to terms with this. I’m open to a broader roleplay, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a broader roleplay scenario means that I likely won’t be able to roleplay every time I want to. I’d rather spot someone interesting in the crowd and start up something new than wait for someone to login to continue something established.
This, I’m sure, leads to frustration for the people Jana roleplays with, and feeds the cycle of ever changing roleplay partners. I get frustrated very easily with people who want me to forego other RP to do so with them. I think it’s something I have to work with, if only to manage the expectations of people I roleplay with.
In terms of Jana’s character, I think I understand her better, and I think she’s developed in important ways. There’s been no radical shift as there was in Wrath, nor can I point to any event in the past year that sparked significant change. As a character, though, I think she’s started to abandon false hopes and shed the expectations others have put on her. Which is kind of nice.
The Auction House has been very kind to Jana. This was the year that I figured out that patches were the critical points, and that it really made no sense to work the auction house beyond the rushes for gems that new content created. Warlords of Draenor with its new gearing system will undoubtedly change this; I doubt gems will sell any better than tailoring items or flasks now, as they become dominated by the gold sellers willing to trade profit margin for massive sales. This will disappoint me.
But right now I have more gold than I could reasonably spend. I even made the unreasonable purchase of a grand expedition yak because I thought the vendors were funny.
I’m not sure what to say about my other characters. Traxy comes out for the occasional comedy show. Saxsy is more or less relegated to alchemy stuff. I started a horde character and got her to 90 and even got her into an SOO flex raid, but I found she wasn’t that much fun to play given how well established and well geared Jana is.
There are two ways of looking at this. One is to say that I’m having so much fun on Jana that I don’t feel the need to mix things up with my alts. This is undoubtedly true.
But the other thing is a criticism of how alts are right now in the game, and a weakness of Blizzard’s design. Right now I feel like gearing up any of my alts is an impossibility. None of them could find a regular raid run, even a regular flex. The only way of gearing them, as far as I can tell, is to either run LFRs with their hour wait times, rude, inconsiderate and idiotic players, or to farm the Timeless Isle 40 hours a week to hope for 535 drops. There’s no Dragon Soul heroics that would offer gear to start even a flex SSO, nor is there valor gear to earn through grinding.
It’s kind of sad to me because I believe this lack of a good gear path is hindering me from playing these characters, even role-playing. And Traxy, at a minimum, is funny as heck to roleplay.
So that’s 2013. A pretty good year. Here’s hoping for a great 2014, and I hope you have one too.
I wanted to write a year in review thing, but a series of tweets this morning made me realize I had to tackle an issue I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It is by far the number one source of description inconsistencies, and probably the number one source of MRP description giggles on my end. As you know, I’m not really bothered by freakish descriptions, at least individually—the tiny night elves and draenei only bother me because of how numerous they are, not that I think it’s wrong on an individual basis.
But this is one area where Moon Guard gets it consistently wrong, and I’d love to see it change.
I am talking about bra size.
I would estimate that about half of the female characters with filled out descriptions have bra sizes in them. I would also estimate that the number of bra sizes that are consistent with the remainder of the description can be explained by happy accidents.
My one piece of advice to people who are writing a description and would like to describe how their breasts look is to use words. Large. Small. Wide. Deep. Firm. Soft. You get the idea. Actual words make for a more vivid description than reducing things to a number and letter, and, as I’ll talk about below, they are actually more accurate.
So, if you decide to follow my advice and use words rather than a bra size to describe your character’s chest, you can stop reading here. There is really no reason to put a bra size in your description because, as I’ll explain later, it is not actually descriptive. If you trust me on that, feel free to stop reading.
If you’re still reading, that means either you think I’m going to say something amusing (quite possible, and thank you) or you are determined to put a bra size in your description. Here’s some help as to how to do it properly.
A bra size consists of a number and a letter. The number is the measurement, in inches, of the rib cage, as measured directly underneath the breasts. Let’s consider the bra size 36D. The 36 means that the circumference of the body just under the breasts is 36 inches. This measurement will obviously depend on the fitness of the individual, the muscle mass in her chest, how much fat there is in the chest, the shape of her shoulder blades, and perhaps a few other minor things. The upshot of this is that the number has absolutely no relation to how large the breasts actually are. A woman with a 32 can easily have much larger breasts than a woman with a 42.
As far as consistency goes, the number is actually quite important. Very roughly the number of the bra size is related to the height and weight of the character, independent of how large her breasts actually appear. Fit human women will likely vary between 30 and 36. Night elves should be about the same, because their chests are about the same circumference as humans despite their height. Worgen and Draenei should be much larger, because their chests are of similar proportions to their heights as humans, and they are much taller. (I would guess between 40 and 48 would be normal for Worgen and Draenei). Dwarves would be about the same as Worgen and Draenei, because their chests are quite broad. Gnomes would be much smaller. Horde races you can probably figure out for yourself based on these guidelines.
The two most frequent errors I see in this regard are putting a larger chest circumference to suggest very large breasts, and putting a circumference appropriate for a human on a much larger creature. 5’3” fit human women do not have a chest circumference of 42. 7’6” fit draenei women do not have chest circumferences of 34.
And now we get to the cup sizes, which theoretically do suggest the actual size of a woman’s breasts. The cup size is based on the measurement of the circumference of the body with the measuring tape over the broadest part of the breasts, typically the nipples. That is then compared to the chest circumference to get a letter. 1 inch is an A, two inches is a B, and so forth. Actually, I may as well spell it out:
AA = 0 inches difference;
A = 1 inch difference;
B = 2 inches difference;
C = 3 inches difference;
D = 4 inches difference;
DD = 5 inches difference;
E = 6 inches difference;
F = 7 inches difference;
Each letter beyond that is an additional inch difference. So an M cup would be 14 inches difference.
Important note: CC is not a bra size anywhere in the world. It stands for cubic centimeters. If you really want to betray that you’re a guy who has no idea about actual bra sizes, saying the cup size is CC is a great way of doing it.
Bra size systems are not universal, but this is the one that’s used in the United States so for purposes of descriptions it is probably the one you want to use. Some people double letters or triple letters beyond D to indicate the next highest size. EE, therefore, would be F, and DDD would just be E. Why is DD between D and E as a discrete size? I have no idea, and have no real interest in finding out.
So now you should see that the cup size is the magic part that actually says how large breasts appear to be. Except… it doesn’t. Remember what I said about the shape of the shoulderblades? Depending on what’s on the back the difference between the measurement over the nipples and the measurement under the breasts can vary without changing the actual size of the breasts. For this, I give you an example: Salma Hayek.
Salma Hayek is a very talented actress and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her bra size is, depending on who you trust, is between a 34D and 36C (which, if you’ve read above, are really not that much different.)
Of course, this is all idealized. The actual bra size a woman wears is as much dependent upon the brand of bra as it is the actual measurements. The measurements can say 32D when it’s really a 30E that fits best, or vice versa. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to the women in my audience: shopping for bras is a nightmare.
A couple important notes: saying that your character is between bra sizes is even worse than giving a bra size in the first place. You can’t get up and measure these things down to the fractions of inches. There isn’t much difference between a 36C and a 35D as it is.
So, if you really insist on putting in a bra size rather than a narrative description, this should arm you with the information to do it properly. Very simple, the number is a fair reflection of the general shape of the body itself, with higher numbers indicating a broader, thicker frame. The cup size indicates very loosely the shape of the breasts, with later letters indicating larger breasts. Ultimately I encourage you to actually just describe them, because bra sizes are fraught with error. But if you want to do it, this is how to do it properly.
Now, however, I feel I should mention how they appear to be used on Moon Guard just so you know how men who don’t know how bra sizes work will actually view your character.
Cup sizes are the sometimes the only things given. Here’s a handy guide:
AA or A: your character is a boy pretending to be a girl.
B: your character has small breasts.
C: your character has breast that will nicely fit in a hand.
D: your character has large breasts.
DD: your character has breasts that are the same size as the model.
E or higher: your character is a Mary Sue.
As for the number, it is used to imply larger breast sizes without crossing the DD cup size limit that would make you a Mary Sue. What they’d like to imply is the accuracy of the breast circumference and that the underwire circumference is inaccurate. So, for instance, someone who says she has a 42DD bra size would actually like to imply a 36J bra size, but can’t because anything beyond DD is forbidden.
Needless to say I find the whole thing stupid. Just describe your character. No one is going to go bra shopping for her.
A part of me wanted to reply that the value of crit decreases per each point of crit until you get to about 77%, which is when it falls off the cliff. (With Critical Mass, a raw crit rate of 77% has an effective crit rate of over 100% for effected spells, which are basically every single target spell a fire mage would use.) But I thought for a few minutes longer and figured that I didn’t really know. I also thought it would be fun to figure out.
Let’s start simply and talk about a very basic fire mage priority list. A fire mage will cast fireball ad infinitum until she gets a heating up proc (because a fireball crit). At that point the fire mage will cast Inferno Blast if it is off cooldown, triggering a Pyroblast! buff. The fire mage will then cast Pyroblast, which does a lot of damage, and then will return to casting fireballs. If Inferno Blast is on cooldown, the fire mage will cast another fireball and hope it crits also, so that she gets another Pyroblast! buff.
There’s obviously more to a fire mage rotation than that. Fire mages will have to cast Living Bomb every so often (or, if they are traitors to their element, Frost Bomb or Nether Tempest). Fire mages will cast scorch every so often because they need to move. They might cast Flamestrike or Blizzard or even Arcane Explosion in AoE circumstances. And if they really feel like living life on the edge, they might cast Frostfire Bolt or Arcane Explosion. For simplicity’s sake, though, I’m going to ignore those to get a start on how crit scales.
Note: Poe’s Law demands that I say that I’m being sarcastic when I say “traitors to their element”, and I am not indicating anything pejorative by it. There are many reasons, some good, some bad, one might prefer Nether Tempest or Frost Bomb over Living Bomb, and if you like it, that’s great and all I can ask out of someone.
Warning: math follows. TL;DR: The majority of the benefit of increases in crit comes from spells doing more damage on average. A surprisingly low amount is due to the crit-inferno blast-pyroblast sequence.
Let’s start with some variable definitions.
F is the label for Fireball.
I is the label for Inferno Blast.
P is the label for Pyroblast.
d(X), where X is one of the three labels above, is the direct damage done by one cast of spell X.
dps(X), where X is one of the three labels above, is the damage per second done by the direct damage of spell X.
t(X), where X is one of the three labels above, is the effective cast time of spell X.
c is the crit rate.
h is the haste value expressed as a percentage.
s is the spell power.
Note that I have not included mastery. This is because of my belief that mastery does not interact with crit, which is to say that the value of a point of crit does not depend in any way on whether one’s mastery is high or low. If you think I’m wrong about this I would love to hear why.
I am also excluding the damage done by the DoT portion of the Pyroblast. This is because I believe that at crit levels mages have who would care about these things, the Pyroblast DoT will be refreshed and never drop off (which is to say, the player will cast at least one Pyroblast every 18 seconds). This may not be true but incorporating the DoT complicates things more than I’m comfortable with. Maybe I’ll come back to it at some point.
So let’s start with the damage equation for fireball and step through it. (Numbers taken from Wowhead.)
d(F) = (1 + 1.3c)((1374 + 1748)/2 + 1.5s)
Wowhead tells us that a fireball does 1374 to 1748 plus 150% of spell power’s worth of damage; that is reflected in the right half of the equation. That describes the damage done by a hit. A critical strike will hit for double the damage of a hit, though, and the increase in value from crits is reflected by the left half of the equation.
t(F) = 2.25/(1+h)
And here we have the relatively simple formulae for how haste reduces the cast time. A fireball’s base cast time is 2.25 seconds, which can be reduce by whatever haste the mage has.
This leads us to:
dps(F) = d(F) / t(F)
dps(F) = (1 + 1.3c)(1561 + 1.5s) / (2.25/(1+h))
dps(F) = (1+1.3c)(1+h)(1561 + 1.5s) / 2.25
Now let’s just run through the other ones, which should be easier now that I’ve set forth the example above.
d(P) = (1.25)(1+1.3c)(2060.5 + 1.98s)
t(P) = 1.5/(1+h)
dps(P) = (1.25)(1+1.3c)(1+h)(2060.5+1.98s)/1.5
d(I) = (2)(624.5+0.6s)
t(I) = 1.5/(1+h)
dps(I) = 2(1+h)(624.5+0.6s)/1.5
Note that Pyroblast cast with a Pyroblast! buff (as it always will be given these assumptions) has a 25% damage increase; that’s where the 1.25 comes from. Inferno Blast always crits so instead of (1+1.3c) there is 2.
Now we’re in a position to ask how crit scales.
The most mundane effect is that crit will increase damage of spells already cast. The following is mundane but I think it’s important to spell out explicitly. Suppose we increase c by a crit bonus of b. What happens to dps(F)?
Or, very simply: increasing crit by b will increase the dps by 1.3b. This is true for Pyroblast as well (but importantly, not for Inferno Blast, because Inferno Blast always crits).
The second way crit increases the dps of a fire mage is in the heating up buff. The heating up buff allows a fire mage to replace one and a third fireball casts with an inferno blast and pyroblast combo. The formula for this is too damned complicated to solve here, so I’m switching to a spreadsheet and hoping I get things right. The value of the heating up buff is going to be the dps increase of the Inferno Blast/Pyroblast combo times the three seconds (modified by haste) the mage does that instead of fireball. Or:
Except there’s an important caveat to be made. We’ve assumed that Inferno Blast will be off cooldown. If it isn’t, a fire mage can’t replace the fireball with an Inferno Blast. But that heating up still has value; if the next fireball crits, the mage can cast Pyroblast and replace 1.5 haste altered seconds with Pyroblast dps instead of fireball dps. Thus:
HU2 = 1.3c(1.5/(1+h)*dps(P) - 1.5/(1+h)*dps(F))
These represent the three ways crit can increase a fire mage’s DPS. The first is by increasing the average damage done by each cast. The second is by increasing the likelihood of getting a heating up buff. The third is by making it more likely to convert a heating up buff to a Pyroblast! buff when Inferno Blast is down.
So how do we evaluate these things? The first effect is easy; calculate dps(F) with two different crit rates and subtract. The next two depend on how often there is a chance to get a heating up buff, and how likely Inferno Blast is to be off cooldown during that time. Here we need to make some assumptions based on the rotation.
If a mage is chain casting fireballs, then there’s an opportunity for a heating up buff every t(F) seconds, or 2.25/(1+h) seconds. If Inferno Blast is off cooldown, the next heating up buff opportunity after Inferno Blast is cast will be in 3/(1+h) seconds (that is, the mage casts Inferno Blast and Pyroblast and the Pyroblast offers a heating up opportunity). If Inferno Blast is not off cooldown, the next heating up buff opportunity will be in 3.75/(1+h) seconds (fireball and pyroblast) if the subsequent fireball crits, or 4.5/(1+h) seconds (two fireballs) if the subsequent fireball does not crit.
What we need to know now is how often Inferno Blast will be off cooldown when we get the heating up buff. This is going to be tricky and it depends on both crit and haste.
We’re assuming the only reason someone has for casting Inferno Blast is as part of the Inferno Blast + Pyroblast combination after a heating up. Let’s follow the sequence without haste for a moment:
0.0 seconds: Inferno Blast cast, converting Heating Up into Pyroblast!
1.5 seconds: Pyroblast! cast.
3.0 seconds: Fireball 1 cast.
5.25 seconds: Fireball 2 cast.
7.5 seconds: Fireball 3 cast.
8 seconds: Inferno Blast available.
9.75 seconds: Fireball or Inferno Blast cast.
There are three opportunities for there to be another heating up buff when Inferno Blast is off cooldown. (I am not considering travel time for each of these spells because incorporating travel time essentially just shifts everything back one spell cast earlier, which I don’t think will make a difference.) If any of the spells before Fireball 3 crits, it will give a Heating Up without an Inferno Blast available. Thus, the odds that the next crit will be when Inferno Blast is available is equal to the odds of not getting a crit three times in a row, or (1-1.3c)^3.
The first thing a clever person would note is that there are haste cutoffs here. If h is high enough that 9.75/(1+h) is less than 8, then there will be five casts within 8 seconds of the Inferno Blast cast. This haste cutoff is 21.875%, and is relatively easily attainable. The next cutoff is at 50% haste, which fire mages really shouldn’t have absent a temporary buff. But if haste is greater than 21.875%, then the odds of the next crit being before IB comes off cooldown is (1-1.3c)^4.
These numbers are pretty low for any reasonable level of crit, but they are not equal to the percentage chance Heating Up occurs when Inferno Blast is off cooldown. Consider a crit rate of 50% and a haste rate of 25% (roughly what Jana has now). With those odds, there’s only a 1.5% chance that we don’t get a heating up buff when Inferno Blast is off cooldown. That doesn’t, and can’t mean, that only 1.5% of heating up buffs occur with inferno blast off cooldown, and the reason why is because there are only a couple chances to get a heating up buff within 8 seconds after casting Inferno Blast. The trick is to figure out how often you get two heating up buffs per eight seconds, one heating up buff per eight seconds, and no heating up buffs per eight seconds.
This requires a combination analysis and it’s just too tricky for me to try to explain, so I’m going to do my best to fudge something. There are four opportunities to get crits. If all four spells crit, you get two heating up buffs. If three spells crit and one hits, you also get two heating up buffs. If two spells crit and two spells hit, then there are these relevant combinations that give two heating up buffs: CHCH, CHHC, HCHC, and these relevant combinations that give one heating up buff: CCHH, HCCH, HHCC. Thus, there’s a 50% chance of getting either. If one spell crits, then there’s obviously one heating up buff, and if no spell crits, there are zero heating up buffs. So we have these odds:
Four spells crit and two heating ups: (1.3c)^4.
Three spells crit and two heating ups: (1.3c)^3*(1-1.3c)*4
Two spells crit and two heating ups: (1.3c)^2*(1-1.3c)^2*3
Two spells crit and one heating up: (1.3c)^2*(1-1.3c)^2*3
One spell crit and one heating up: (1.3c)*(1-1.3c)^3*4
No spell crit and no heating up: (1-1.3c)^4
Now to apply this and reveal what it is I really want to know. We know by virtue of looking at the combinations that at least one third of heating up buffs are when inferno blast is off cooldown. The percentage chance is equal to 33.3% times the odds of there being two heating ups, plus 50% times the odds of one heating up, plus 100% times the odds of no heating up. In other words (warning: long formula):
Odds that a given heating up will be with I off cooldown: ((1.3c)^4+(1.3c)*3*(1-1.3c)*4+(1.3c)^2*(1-1.3c)^2*3)/3 + ((1.3c)^2*(1-1.3c)^2*3+1.3c*(1-1.3c)^3*4)/2 + (1-1.3c)^4
The odds with only three spells cast instead of four will be different, but for the sake of simplicity, with the weak justification that our reaction time wouldn’t permit it at reasonable haste levels, we’ll assume four heating up opportunities per inferno blast cooldown. And we’ll call this C%.
With that we can now do our best to guess how many opportunities there are for heating up to apply. Consider an encounter duration of time T. How many heating up opportunities are there? Well, if the mage is spamming fireballs, that’s easy: it’s T / (2.25/(1+h)), which is the number of fireballs that can be cast in that time. But the mage isn’t casting fireballs; she’ll cast Inferno Blast and Pyroblast instead as appropriate. Each heating up with Inferno Blast off cooldown adds .75/(1+h) seconds between heating up opportunities, and each heating up with Inferno Blast on cooldown adds 1.5/(1+h) or 2.25/(1+h) seconds depending on the crit rate. There’s a recursive way to do this, but lets do this in five parts:
C% equals the percentage chance a given heating up will occur with Inferno Blast available, as calculated above.
X1 = 1.3c * C% * T / 2.25/(1+h), representing the approximate number of times the mage gets the heating up buff with inferno blast available.
X2 = 1.3c * (1-C%) * 1.3c * T / 2.25/(1+h), representing the approximate number of times the mage gets the heating up buff, inferno blast is unavailable, and the subsequent fireball cast crits.
X3 = 1.3c * (1-C%) * (1-1.3c) * T / 2.25/(1+h), representing the approximate number of times the mage gets the heating up buff, inferno blast is unavailable, and the subsequent fireball cast does not crit.
N = (T - ((.75*X1 + 1.5*X2 + 2.25*X3)/(1+h)) / 2.25(1+h), representing the approximate number of heating up buff opportunities.
Now we’re ready to figure out how crit scales. We’ll imagine an encounter 300 seconds long. Starting with an arbitrarily low crit rate of 5%, we’ll figure out the expected DPS as follows: 300 times dps(F) plus (HU1 * C% plus HU2 * (1-C%)) times N times 1.3c. In other words, the expected dps is equal to the damage done by fireballs plus the bonus damage attributable to heating up buffs (with inferno blast available and without.) Then we’ll step up crit by one percentage point and compare, and then keep going until we reach another arbitrary point (in this case, 60%). What happens?
Well, the end result is pretty boring, actually. An extra percentage point of crit increases dps by 1.87% when crit is at 5%, and that number descends pretty quickly to about 1.18% at 50% crit, where it stays steady. As an actual total damage number, each percentage point of crit gets an increasing amount of damage, but it represents a smaller and smaller piece of the growing damage.
Slightly more interesting, but not unexpected, is where the growth comes from. Recall that there are three ways in which crit increases damage: 1) by increasing the damage spells do; 2) by giving a heating up buff when inferno blast is off cooldown, so one can convert it into a Pyroblast! and cast a Pyroblast!; and 3) by critting twice in a row with inferno blast unavailable to get a Pyroblast! buff and cast.
Most of the growth in observable crit rates is due to the first factor. It starts as 62.7% of the growth when moving from 5% crit to 6% crit, reaches a peak of 70% from 19% crit to 20% crit, and thereafter falls to 50% at 58% crit to 59% crit. The third factor, unsurprisingly, increases in importance quickly as crit increases, starting at 1.24% of the growth at 5-6% but increasing to over 40% once crit reaches the 50% range. Factor two starts out high but dwindles quickly; it becomes less significant than factor three at about 22% crit.
What does this mean? Well, you might encounter someone who will tell you that crit doesn’t scale well at higher values because of Inferno Blast’s cooldown. What these numbers are showing me is that the bulk of an increase in crit very quickly starts to be about getting two crits in a row with Inferno Blast off cooldown rather than getting the single crit and converting it into Pyroblast using Inferno Blast.
At this point I think it’s important to remember the limitations of this model. The most significant limitation of this model is that it does not incorporate the bomb spell a mage might cast. I’m going to start thinking about how that will make a difference—my hunch is that it will allow Inferno Blast to be cast more often, but I’m not entirely certain.
As a model for actual dps, this is woefully insufficient, because it doesn’t include combustion and the bomb choices and the downtime from casting evocate or moving or the like. But it’s not intended to. I didn’t want to model dps, but rather I wanted to model the changes that go into making crit valuable. And what was interesting to me was how little of it is due to the traditional crit-inferno blast-pyroblast sequence, and how much it was just the additional damage from the critical strike.
If you made it this far, I salute you. I’m not sure how I did.
A trustworthy internal source who wishes to remain anonymous has leaked documents to me, detailing proposed “diversity lounges.”
There are some people who would laud PAX in their effort, however misguided, to be more inclusive. I’m not one of them.
Creating a separate space for “diverse” (i.e., people who aren’t straight white males) people is an idea that could have only occurred to someone so blissfully ignorant of American and World History that the connotations of it are lost on them. It’s 2013, not 1947.
I made a joke about there being diversity water fountains and diversity bathrooms to make diverse people “feel more comfortable.” Really, though, I think what PAX should do is put “Diversity Lounge” signs over the convention exit doors.
It also mystifies me to find game execs be this tone deaf. My feeling is that if you grew up as a geek, you were marginalized and put down by the jocks and cheerleaders and class presidents and drama club and even the potheads. Gaming was about the lowest rung of the cool ladder. If you found someone that shared your interest, be they male, female, black, white, purple, red, gay, straight, bi, whatever—you cherished it. They liked what you liked and that was special. You didn’t push anyone away because you were in no position to be picky about your friends.
Somehow the geniuses behind PAX forgot about that. Perhaps they need some football players to beat them up to remind them of their roots. Somehow they forgot that anyone and everyone who loves games enough to pay an inordinately high amount of money to attend their conference is one of us—an ally against people who are dismissive of games and geeks and would seek to marginalize people who play games.
They (and we) are in no position to exclude people who love what we love.
onGamers has confirmed with the team representatives that LCS players are disallowed from streaming the games listed below outright, not just when adjacent to a League of Legends stream. Under Section 3 Rule 4 of the new contract handling ‘Non-League Events and Streaming’, it states that “… the [LCS] Team shall ensure that, during the Term of this Agreement, its Team Members do not publicly stream gameplay of the titles set forth on Exhibit B”. Exhibit B states “the specific restrictions on streaming are set forth in the Sponsorship and Streaming Restricted List, as updated by the League from time to time”, which is the document listed below.
I honestly do not get why this is a problem, let alone a problem worth a “Fuck this” and hiring a high priced employment lawyer about.
Here’s my understanding of the relevant portions of the contract: Players are contracted to play in League of Legends games which are then streamed (live or otherwise) to spectators by a company named Riot. The players involved are contractually forbidden, in all circumstances, from personally streaming themselves playing a competing game.
This does not strike me as an arbitrary restriction. Players are paid to be spokespeople for a given network. Streaming another game is a competing product to that network. It is entirely reasonable for me to think Riot would like its players to not compete with its own product. It would be like Disney Channel forbidding one of its actresses to perform or host a show to be televised on Nickelodeon.
Or let’s take an analogy that’s more personal. Suppose WoWInsider approached me and asked me to come write for their site. As part of the contract I would sign, they would forbid me from writing for any other site, including “I Like Pancakes” or any other personal blog.
This strikes me as a legitimate desire for WoWInsider. It’s not as though they are asking me to use a particular brand of shampoo or refrain from eating pizza or other arbitrary restraint. They want my full focus and my full attention.
Just because it’s reasonable, however, doesn’t mean I have to agree to it. If WoWInsider were to pay me what I understand WoWInsider to pay its writers (that is, pocket change), then there would be no way I would agree to that restriction. I value my ability to write posts here and elsewhere too much to sell that for chump change.
I want to make that clear: WoWInsider is trying to buy my exclusivity. I don’t have to sell it if I don’t want to. In fact, I would not. What I do appreciate, however, is my right to sell such things. If WoWInsider were to pay me a million dollars a year (to name an arbitrarily and unrealistically high figure) to write for them exclusively, I’d shut down this blog in a heartbeat. But far more likely is that WoWInsider is not willing to pay the amount (or anything at all, really) that I would be willing to sell my exclusivity for.
That’s something I think has to be said about these contracts. There’s no indication that there was any trickery involved in the contracts. These players signed the contracts knowing that some portion (perhaps most of it) was derived from the value Riot ascribed to having exclusivity.
Now, to be fair, I don’t really understand the arrangement. From my perspective, I have absolutely no interest in ever streaming myself playing a game, so chances are that anyone willing to pay me anything to get me agree to not stream is going to find a quick handshake of acceptance. I appreciate some people might differ on this, and value that behavior more highly than I would.
But do we expect that these players can’t figure that out for themselves? That they can’t decide for themselves that the money Riot is offering is or is not worth granting that exclusivity? It seems remarkably paternalistic to think of this as anything more than a contract bargained between two equally capable entities. It does not strike me that an individual player is incapable of figuring out if the value of her exclusivity is worth whatever Riot is offering.
In fact, I think it’s quite likely that the exclusivity portion of the contract provides a significant if not the majority of the value of the arrangement. It would not surprise me if Riot were to claim that they had no interest in employing anyone without the exclusivity clauses.
This is not to say that all exclusivity clauses should be permitted. One of the more contentious ideas I’ve known is whether a company can bar its employees from smoking, including when they are not on a job. That’s an interesting argument, but it’s not this argument.
Players are getting money to play games, and as a condition for getting that money they have to refrain from competing activities. Why shouldn’t players be able to sell their exclusivity? Why is it bad to do so?
Fresh from their victory over Garrosh and the Kor’kron, Alliance forces had hoped to have some time to regroup. The fleet was still at sea, and much of the Alliance army was with it. The capitals of the alliance were as weakly defended, but the Alliance never suspected this attack.
In Stormwind the attack announced itself with a bubbling cloud on the horizon. As it approached it became clear that it was not a cloud but a wave, a Tsunami that left a fraction of a minute’s warning at most for the people in Stormwind Harbor. The wave crashed into the harbor, destroying every ship and pier in its wake. It crashed against the walls of the city, causing them to crumble further.
And then the Naga landed.
Fierce, swift, and six in number to every Stormwind Guard, there seemed little to do but retreat to the walls of the keep. There the human lines held firm, effectively abandoning the city. Every man, woman and child unlucky to be caught outside the keep was captured—captured, not killed, subdued by a neurotoxin and dragged into the sea.
For a half hour, the humans held the line at the keep, waiting for the inevitable siege. At the end of that half hour, the Naga approached, in formation, marching as if in a parade rather than to attack. Soon, a lone woman walked through the formation, drawing bowed heads from each Naga.
It was Queen Azshara in her elven form.
Ten millennia had not aged her a day; she stood tall. Brilliant white hair that seemed to glow on its own. A figure men dream of at night and women dream of having, and in many cases vice versa as well. Posture that identified her as the rightful Queen of Azeroth.
She stepped forward and waved her hand at the alliance soldiers keeping the line at the keep. With no exception every single one dropped to one knee and laid down their weapons. She and twenty Naga escorts walked into the keep to the Throne room, unopposed.
King Wrynn’s royal guards were not as easily swayed by Azshara’s magic. They fought valiantly, but were downed by the potent magic, toxins, and might of Azshara’s elite guards.
Let it be said that King Wrynn defended his throne. Azshara did not charm him into submission. But it was not a long fight. Azshara revealed her true self, casting aside her Quel’dorei illusion and transforming into an equally impressive and regal sea witch. There are conflicting reports as to how exactly Wrynn died—some had him falling to the venom of many bites from the poisonous snakes that grew from Azshara’s skull. Some had him being constricted to death by Azshara’s powerful tail, his ribs and lungs crushed. Nobody can be sure, for like every other defeated human, the Naga took their bodies back to the sea for purposes unknown.
Humanity is now in exile, with Stormwind completely conquered and emptied. They have fled to Elwynn, Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood, but the tensions there still exist—the Defias are keen to use the collapse of the kingdom to assert their own power. Some have fled to Ironforge or Dalaran. Like the trolls and gnomes and worgen, the humans lack a home.
It was not just humanity that came under attack that day. Darnassus and all of Teldrassil fell as well, but for the kaldorei there was no warning at all. Perhaps Fandral Staghelm would ultimately be blamed for placing the seat of kaldorei power on a tree growing in the sea. But trees fall, and this one was no exception. For years the Naga had, without detection, worked at the base of the great tree at the bottom of the sea, and as the attack on Stormwind progressed, the great tree toppled into the ocean, taking all of Teldrassil with it.
The Exodar fared no better. As with Stormwind, the attack began with a powerful Tsunami. This one flooded both Bloodmyst and Azuremyst Isle. Unfortunately for the Draenei, the inhabited parts of the Exodar were all below sea level. The water filled the vessel, drowning every inhabitant of the Exodar. No shaman could repel a wave this powerful.
Of the major Alliance cities, only Ironforge was spared from the Naga’s attack. It has become the de facto capital of the alliance, holding exiled populations from every race. The Alliance is now led by Queen-Regent Moira Thaurissan, as Velen, Tyrande, Genn Greymane and King Wrynn are presumed dead from the attacks. Anduin Wrynn was in Pandaria and survived the attacks, but it is unclear to what extent he can rally humanity to fight the fiercest and most powerful foe they have ever faced. The kaldorei and the draenei lack any clear leader as well.
No one speaks of the Cataclysm anymore. Deathwing’s attack paled in comparison to what was an attack that had been planned for centuries.
As an adventurer, you survived the attack by conveniently being elsewhere. Your skills will be tested as the once proud Alliance fights for its very survival against the Warqueens of Azshara.
The past two expansions when we defeated the end game boss, I felt a rush to go post about it and reflect upon the instance. I didn’t do that this time, though. We defeated Garrosh on November 3 and now it’s 28 days later, a full four raid weeks, and none of you know about it.
I’m not sure why that is. I’m not sure if it’s because Blizzard didn’t do a good enough job setting up Garrosh as the main enemy, though looking back on it they probably did a better job with him than with Deathwing. Maybe with it being the third endgame boss I’ve downed there isn’t the novelty to it. I’m not sure.
One of the things I think about the Siege of Orgrimmar raid is that I have much less of a sense of what’s going on in the fights than I did in the previous raids. Each of the bosses has tons of different mechanics which in my mind have been reduced to “stay out of bad” or “follow everyone else”. Paragons, for instance, seems to have a ton of different abilities distinct for each Paragon, but a lot of it for me feels like standing back and dosing while reacting to things that DBM tells me to react to.
Someone a while ago did a comparison of the number of boss abilities over the course of WoW’s history and found that the boss fights became more and more complex over time. I get the sense that using this metric the fights are now more complex than ever on paper, but that complexity is backfiring because the responses to those abilities have been limited to moving or changing targets.
As for the team itself, we’re doing remarkably well. According to WowProgress, we are fourth on our server right now. We are this high despite suffering from a number of disadvantages. We have exactly ten people on our raid roster, so if someone can’t make it that generally prevents progression attempts. We raid twice per week, for a total of about five and a half hours, which is a little more than half the time other guilds do.
How do we do this? Well, despite some of the grousing about people making trips to Greenland between fights, we’re actually remarkably efficient at moving from boss to boss. Wowprogress has a tracker for “speed kills”, which is a little hard to search for. But we are rather speedy: our time from Sha of Pride to a Galakras kill is ranked 23rd in the US. For most of the fights we rank first or second on our server. We’re a pretty efficient crew, even though we sometimes don’t think we are.
As for me personally, I’m still struggling with the scaling of the fire mage gear. I’m told that fire is worse than frost for this tier, although I haven’t really researched it (and, of course, would never switch). My sense is that like previous tiers fire scales better with gear than other specs, so now that my gear is getting up closer to heroic levels I should see better performance.
Last Wednesday was a milestone for me, though. There are a lot of great fire mages out there and with the scaling it means they do a lot of dps. One of my desires and goals was to rank among them at World Of Logs. Sure enough, on this past Wednesday the fates aligned and I killed on Immerseus, with an effective DPS of 155385. (Because of all the downtime in the fight, the active dps is much higher, around 215k). This was good enough to net me 119th in the world for that fight for fire mages, the first time I had ever ranked on current content. I’m very happy about this.
Things are going well on that front. Things are apparently going so well that people are not only asking to join our guild to raid with us, but also are getting upset at our lack of recruiting. (Our team is basically the same as it was during Dragon Soul.) I don’t know what we’re going to do come WoD, but I’m sure we won’t have problems recruiting.
You know, I’ve given Blizzard a lot of crap for the lack of reasonable Alliance storylines during MoP. I think it’s justified—the alliance was once again caught flat-footed over and over and never seems to be able to act strategically.
Yet for all that, at the end of Siege of Orgrimmar the situation is very interesting. You have Garrosh being toppled after doing his best to impose orc supremacy over the horde. You have goblin leadership who seems strongly allied with Garrosh and the Kor’kron. You have an uprising led by a troll, which for the moment successfully gives the Horde its first non-orc leader in Vol’jin. The tauren seem steadfastly aligned with the trolls. In 5.2 there was the hint that the blood elves were so dissatisfied with Garrosh that they were ready to join the Alliance (although in my view they were just playing Varian for the sucker that he is). And the forsaken? Sylvanas continues to do her own thing, and it continually amazes me how anyone can trust her enough to ally with her.
The Alliance side is a little cleaner, but not by much. There is a schism between those who would try to destroy the Horde while it is weak, while there are others who would extend an olive branch and seek peace after the momentary cooperation to bring down Garrosh. Varian tries to walk a middle line here and it’s not clear that it’s possible.
After thinking about it for some time, this is a grand opportunity for Blizzard to make reputations more than just grinds again, and split apart the Horde and Alliance into smaller groups that yes, sometimes cooperate, but aren’t monolithic forces that serve to organize the game.
In short, it’s an opportunity to tell a story, a story of intrigue, a story of shifting alliances, of change and chaos and disorder that erupts from the fall of the Empire that was Garrosh’s Horde. It would be an opportunity to create a somewhat different game, where race doesn’t matter as much as reputation and where the overarching political dynamic is not “us versus them”.
Instead, we get Warlords of Draenor.
Look at the trailer for Warlords again, and instead of bothering to count races and genders, just ask yourself: is there really anything that differentiates this trailer from any of the myriad numbers of trailers for free to play MMOs out there? We have axes and swords and bows and big ugly monsters and explosions and golden light and so forth, but what we don’t have is any sense of purpose behind it all. There is no story in the trailer, just the madness of violence. After an expansion that asked “why do we fight?” for that question to be tossed aside as if it could be answered “because we paid $15 a month to do so” is kind of disheartening.
It’s lazy. World of Warcraft can and should be a smarter game than that.
That, to me, is the biggest flaw of Warlords of Draenor. It’s also easy for me to see that the gender imbalance—which should be continually criticized until addressed—is but a symptom rather than a disease of its own. Rather than elevate the game to something more strategic, with something more than pressing 4-5-1-1-2-4-1-5 in sequence required, we’ve going back to the same old model and abandoned promising divisions.
This is a time when Blizzard needs to raise its game to survive. Warcraft, as far as I can tell, continues to bleed subscribers. In my view, the splintering of the Horde gave Blizzard a perfect opportunity to raise the game beyond a traditional “us versus them” MMO. Instead we get a convoluted story line where the fractures in both the Horde and the Alliance alike are miraculously patched over by the presence of yet another common enemy.
The day that we force writers to write what we want will be a sad day indeed. A writer does not owe shit to you. They do not have to make anything to be progressive or liberal or conservative or anything. They can do whatever the fuck they please. If they want to have all males, so be it. If they want to have all females so be it.
Let me correct your misunderstanding. No one is telling a writer what to write. Is that clear enough for you?
We are however explaining, when we shouldn’t have to in 2013, that Blizzard is a massive business, with a massively popular franchise, and an audience that is MORE than just a bunch of college guys or adult men trying to perpetuate their college years. It’s fanbase has a ton of women that are sick and tired of dealing with sexism in science fiction and fantasy at conventions, in books, in movies, in comics and in video games.
Now Blizzard being a business, and World of Warcraft turning NINE, would imply they pay some professional (or more than one) a lot of money because they are supposedly qualified at their job and that job would be understanding the audience and marketing to that audience.
And BlizzCon this year was one MASSIVELY ONLINE failure.
I paid for that virtual ticket. And not only was I insulted by the lack of representation, I felt that obviously something needed to be fixed in Blizzard if anything was going to change. So yes, I, and many others, have been giving very public feedback on these topics. Because for every one of us speaking up there are a BUNCH that are too afraid of “losing friends” or “losing respect” or even being punished in their jobs for daring to speak out.
In short, I’m hoping that it being an all male lineup at BlizzCon and on the Warlords of Draenor was a massive mistake by the unknowing sexism of their workplace, and I am giving Blizzard all the info it needs to do better in the future.
Also, if you don’t give that exact argument to every single criticism of class balance, dungeon design, quest design, or spell design, you’re a hypocrite, because plenty of the pushback being given to those that are speaking out against the lack of female representation are by people that regularly criticize plenty of other parts of the “artistic piece” that is the video game.
I’ve seen this undercurrent of a response and I am more baffled by this than angered by it.
Let’s suppose that tomorrow, Blizzard announced that they were doing away with warlocks. They say that they tried and they really couldn’t balance the class and make it distinct enough from mages to make it worth the bother, and no one really plays the class anyway. (For the record, we will assume that everyone in his or her right mind knows this is a pile of crap.) They offer some sort of compensation for warlock players, perhaps converting their characters to another class with similar equipment or something. But away with warlocks they do.
I’d like you to imagine the storm of anger that would result. And it would result. But I’d also like you to imagine a couple things:
I’d like you to try to imagine someone named “Aizro" say "It doesn’t bother me, so I don’t see why it should bother you."
I’d like you to try to imagine someone named “Tinybutt Koala” say “It’s Blizzard’s story. They can do whatever they want and we should accept it without complaint.”
I honestly can’t do it, not without thinking the argument was so ridiculous that it would be one of the few exceptions to Poe’s Law. I would think that practically everyone would see that removing warlocks would be a horrible decision worth criticizing loudly.
But even the people who wouldn’t be affected by it, who don’t play any warlock of note, and would not in fact be troubled by Warcraft without warlocks—I should think that these people would be able to at least understand the anger of those criticizing the decision.
It’s called empathy. Most humans have it. I believe there’s a term for people who don’t: psychopath.
This, of course, is a silly example, because we know that Blizzard is not stupid enough to do away with a class so entrenched within Warcraft with a player base that numbers into the hundreds of thousands that enjoys the class enough to play it at a very high level.
So why is it that it is so easy to imagine a loud, vociferous outcry against the removal of a class when the effective exclusion of half the damned population of this world and Azeroth merits the predictable “it doesn’t bother me” and “it’s their story” responses. Aren’t women also so entrenched within Warcraft with a player base that numbers into the millions that enjoys the gender enough to play it at a very high level?
I understand that Blizzard isn’t doing away with the ability to choose ♀ at the character startup screen. But they have also created a world where clicking that symbol is completely arbitrary. It doesn’t affect the stats of the character or how it is played at all. In such a circumstance, what is Blizzard saying when it arbitrarily decides that the overwhelming majority of its heroes are male? Which button should we press if we want to be a hero?
It’s bad game design. It is bad game design that actively offends a significant chunk of the player base and very likely unknowingly reduces the enjoyment of the game by anyone who wants to make a female hero.
Now, of course, I’ve read suggestions that there are in fact women in WoD and we’ll see. Frankly, I don’t buy it—the narrative here is obviously male-dominated and what you present first is generally the truth about a thing. But even if it is true that women are in fact strongly represented in WoD, aren’t the marketing materials themselves worth criticism and scorn? Blizzard’s marketing materials for WoD have told a significant chunk of its player base “Hey, we don’t want you.” Is that really a wise choice for Blizzard?
I don’t think so. And if you can’t see it I’m not sure you have a shred of empathy. You ought to get some. It’s a nice thing to have.
From the forums, posted by a troll character named Boomerang:
After watching the Blizzcon panels my wife asked me the following:
"Are we going to get a heroic scenario where we discover the secret location Blizzard has hidden all of their female lead characters so we can liberate them?"
And I have to say that as a 38 year-old, straight white guy, I couldn’t agree more.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to hate one-dimensional stories. I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Joss Whedon (Buffy, Avengers, Firefly/Serenity), Ronald Moore (ST:DS9, Battlestar Galatica), and others who understand that truly great stories need “real” characters from a variety of different vantage points.
I’ve come to understand that so heavily weighting your stories to an all-male cast isn’t just mindlessly sexist, it’s downright bad storytelling as well. And it’s a surefire way to make your story freaking boring (there are others of course, but this is a big one).
Of course I can appreciate that Blizzard has been hard at work, in secret, to build the WoD story and game. In that crucible of fire and secrecy, a lot of ideas are thrown in that will not pass a more public scrutiny. It is in that vein that I offer this post.
Now that you’ve opened up the process to the fans, allow me to help give you some perspective. And I’ll also give you a little reminder that this is 2013, not 2003, and boring one-dimensional stories aren’t going to cut it anymore.
The response from Community Manager Nethaera:
I answered you (I believe it was you) in another thread, but I wanted to reiterate. As with any time we announce new expansions, we haven’t revealed a lot of the story. Some things are just going to have to be experienced or revealed later if we choose to reveal them. That said, there are female characters that will be showing up to be a part of the adventure. I know of one at least that I’m really looking forward to learning more of.
Personally, I’m really happy to have so many in the community come forward and ask to see these wonderful female characters to get more air time. ;) Hopefully the designers will be able to satisfy a bit of this for you.
I suppose it makes it all better, then, because Nethaera says “there are female characters that will be showing up to be a part of the adventure. I know of at least one…”
This really doesn’t cut it, not at all. The attitude of Blizzard is defined not by Community Manager Nethaera, but from the top, as we see in their website material, their trailers, Metzen, and so forth. When Metzen says it’s “more of a boys’ trip” that can’t be countered by Community Manager Nethaera saying there’s one female character he or she is looking forward to learning more of.
This is a serious issue and it’s alarming to hear of this being dismissed as some sort of feminist plea. Don’t get me wrong—the feminists have it right here. An all-male storyline shoves away women who would like to play the game and would like to see the basic gender neutrality in the game reflected at the top level. (It also shoves away men who would like the same exact thing). Blizzard needs to look out at the people at Blizzcon and see all the women there.
But Boomerang makes another good point when he notes that storytelling suffers when only one vantage point is considered. I fear the story will devolve into a testosterone filled aggro fest about whose “axe” is the largest. Take an interesting story away and you are left with a game in which one presses 3 over and over to launch orange things at things with red letters above their avatar.
But there’s another glib response, and it was given by MVP “Snowfox”:
Jaina is not? Sylvanas is not? Alexstrasza is not?
Sky Admiral “Put on your big boy pants” Rogers is not?
Alexstrasza has been AWOL since Cataclysm, and Sky Admiral Rogers—the very definition of a throwaway character—hasn’t been heard from since 5.1. Jaina and Sylvanas have both been reduced to “bitch” caricatures. There was an illuminating discussion about Jaina for me last night in vent, wherein people who were far too unfocused for a raid dismissed Jaina as a crazy bitch (and not as someone who rightfully sought vengeance for the wrongs done to her). These are not the shining examples of female characters here. They kind of accentuate the point that Blizzard really doesn’t know how to handle them or how to flesh them out.
Anyway, I remain highly skeptical that we will see any female characters of any note. (Yes, I’ve heard about the Draenei Joan of Arc. I expect she will be Jaina’d or amount to little more than Sky Admiral Rogers, as she doesn’t merit an appearance in the top ten.) Posts from Community Manager Nethaera are not going to make this problem go away. When males outnumber females on a scale of 10 to one on official trailers and websites and when it’s clear that the primary focus of the character recustomization is focused on males first, nothing from any Community Manager can dispel the notion that Blizzard just doesn’t care about females, female players and people who want to see female characters and storylines. Words on forums are lip service.
I have a lot of things to write about and a few posts working their way around in my head. I’ve leveled a blood elf fire mage (what else?) to 90, getting the Double Agent achievement (but not Terrific Trio, even though I now have four level 90s). My guild has downed Garrosh (twice now), and heroic Norushen. But in that process we had Blizzcon and the new expansion was announced and we got a new trailer and all sorts of goodies to talk about, so I wanted to post while it was still fresh.
My quick reaction: I am disappointed and disheartened by the direction Warcraft is going.
Let’s start with the concept.
As I understand it (and I was not at Blizzcon, so forgive me if I’m wrong but understand that this is my perspective), Garrosh has escaped from his imprisonment and travels backwards in time and space to Draenor to arm the Orc clans there with some sort of new iron technology, forming the “Iron Horde”. Using its new technology, the Iron Horde (seriously, couldn’t they come up with a new name?) will sweep through Draenor and then sweep through Azeroth and destroy everything, unless we go back to stop them.
Let’s stop right there and note a few things. Once again, this is a story about orcs. In Cataclysm, the primary narrative (since Deathwing’s narrative could be described in two words: “destroy everything”) was Thrall and his transformation from Warchief to whatever he is now. In Mists, the primary narrative was Garrosh’s attempt to consolidate power and rule Azeroth. And now in Warlords of Draenor the primary narrative seems to be about the orcish clans forming the Iron Horde.
You know what? I’m tired of orcs. I’m tired of stories about orcs. Orcs are thuggish, brutish creatures that seem to reflect a desire for primal masculinity. They are not generally able to support a story of any real depth (Thrall being, perhaps, the one exception). Further, they are not the race which most players seem to want to build a narrative around: on all realms, only 8% of characters are Orcs, while on RP realms (where personal narratives generally matter more), only 5% of characters are Orcs. (Orcs are less popular than Gnomes, which should tell people something). Why do we get another expansion where Orcs provide the primary impetus to the story?
I want to be absolutely clear here. This is not a Horde versus Alliance thing. If I were a Forsaken player, I’d be upset that the developments that were so strong in WotLK and the beginning of Cataclysm have once again been shunted to the side. This is another tale about orcs, which in my mind are one of the least interesting races in the game.
So why tell another story about orcs? Well, let’s consider the trailer, and the characters shown in the trailer. There are a lot of unidentifiable characters in the various armies, but of the characters I could identify, there were 21 orcs, 3 draenei, 2 dwarfs, and 3 characters I couldn’t identify (two were the ones shown in the player PvP segment and visible for about a second, and one was in the image of the Garrison, IIRC). A lot of orcs, I know. But let’s consider the gender breakdown. 19 of the 21 orcs were male, 2 of the three draenei were male, and both dwarves were male.
Go to Blizzard’s own Warlords of Draenor page. How many male characters are represented on that page? Thirty-one. How many female characters? 4. Two of those are the generic human and forsaken images for the new model preview screen, both helpfully greyed out. Speaking of those new character models, the only ones available for viewing are, you guessed it, male.
World of Warcraft is a game where by design gender does not matter. A human female warrior has the same stats as a human male warrior. A female night elf druid has the same stats as a male night elf druid. And so on. There is no reason to say that “orcs were a primitive, male dominated society” when there is no special characteristic of gender that would allow males to dominate. It is, in a word, idiotic.
This could be lazy, or it could be driven by general sexism. After reading some of the reactions to questions about the lack of women, I’m leaning toward it being genuine sexism by the people involved in crafting the game. There are only so many times you can give us a Ji Firepaw or a portrait of “Tyrande” featuring more Malfurion than Tyrande or a Spicemaster Jin Jao before you lose the benefit of the doubt.
The reason this is bad is not just because you’re putting off half of your user base (plus the portion of men who also care about such things). It’s because the stories become far less interesting without female characters in them. I would enjoy a game far more if I could imagine that, in some major portion, it passed the Bechdel test.
But once again we’ll see a game with a narrative about a primitive male-dominated society because that’s probably all Blizzard is interested or capable of writing about. Consider for a moment the “clangs” that resonate from the logical flaws in the premise to the story. Garrosh—guarded as fiercely as he must be by the Shado Pan—escapes, somehow gets access to technology that he didn’t have during Mists of Pandaria (otherwise he would have one shot us all), somehow takes that technology and instead of using it on Azeroth, travels backwards in time and space to Draenor. He then gives that technology to a primitive male dominated society who, without the benefit of feminine ingenuity somehow manage to apply that technology to their own situation and change the course of history forever.
Whew. I feel contorted just talking about that. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to tell a story about the Emerald Dream, or of Azshara’s rise from the depths of the ocean, or something like that? Something that, you know, might have had major roles for female characters?
Let’s move to the specifics because I think I’ve made my point here.
Updated models, in theory, updated models are great. In practice, this was an absolute requirement. I will reserve judgment until I actually see them. I will note that it is no great thing in 2013 to give a character model working fingers and decent looking hair.
Garrisons: “Yay, player housing!” one would think. But this doesn’t look to me to be player housing at all. It looks to me like an expansion of the Yoon family farm. It will be a nice thing to have, but it doesn’t strike me as a guild meeting hall or a player home or some place where you could actually take other people. I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see this but it strikes me as something that will be built and ignored, as my farms are now for the most part.
Elimination of secondary stats: This also strikes me as a mistake. Yes, the reforge process now is rather tedious, but this strikes me as a reduction in the variety of gear, such that any weapon from any heroic dungeon, for instance, is as good as any other. Some of us like the idea of finding better gear, working with haste caps, and so forth. I for one like there to be a little thought as it comes to gear.
Raid changes: These are going to seriously mess with our guild raid team. I’m not sure that we would, in fact, ever get to Mythic raiding (it strikes me that Mythic is made for the real hard core raiding guilds), but if we do it would mean recruiting ten more people in an environment where people are leaving the game. I think the lack of a size in normal and heroic raids would also make it far harder to refuse a person from coming along or push people to do their best.
Instant 90: For someone who has leveled many characters this is a nice perk. For someone new to the game or returning to the game after a long layoff, this could be extremely dangerous. Any class has quite a bit of complexity at level 90 (except for arcane mages, of course), and part of the leveling process is learning to manage that complexity as little bits are added over time. A person thrown to the wolves with a level 90 would find things very difficult. It’s a nice perk for experienced players but I would caution a new player to start from 1 rather than 90.
(Also, isn’t this a tacit admission by Blizzard that leveling—which used to be the draw of the game—is now something to be avoided?)
In short, I’m very worried. I’m worried that the creative team seems to be inspired by “300” and doesn’t know how to handle a female character. I’m concerned that none of the new changes seem to be of a sort to drive or sustain interest.
I’ve had a few good conversations with a friend of mine, the only unusual thing being that she plays a horde toon. I’m hoping for some very interesting cross-faction RP as a result of that, which hasn’t developed yet, but in the meantime I decided to give the other side a shot. I made a character named Janalynn, a blood elf fire mage (of course), and started leveling her. It has gone very quickly; she’s up to level 73 after a couple weeks, thanks in no small part to a bevy of heirlooms speeding up the process.
Looking through the horde quests has been interesting, offering a slightly different perspective to what was up until now a purely alliance game. I am probably going to write about that in more depth sometime, but I think the strongest impression I have is that Sylvanas is the strongest leader in the game, guilds like the Blood of Lordaeron whose entire premise is based on her acquiescence of their existence are kidding themselves, and I’m stunned that anyone in the horde would consider it safe to ally with them.
But that’s for another time. Right now, I want to talk about the leveling process and why I think it demonstrates a real problem for Blizzard.
Most of the time I leveled through questing, because I did want to see a bit of the lore and get a feel for how the horde approach was different. It was different, but that’s a post for another time. The real insight happened when I queued up for a random dungeon and gave that a go, starting at level 50.
I got BRD after about a fifteen minute wait. What happened next was what I consider to be the pinnacle of a problem. The tank took off and started to pull everything, not pausing at all until the instance was complete. If I tried to cast a fireball it was useless, because whatever I cast at would be dead before the cast ended. Flamestrike was similarly useless because the mobs would be gone from their location before the cast was complete. The only thing I could really do was follow along with the tank and cast arcane explosion, which was pretty boring.
The problem, as it seemed to me, was that mobs in dungeons were designed and balanced around stat levels that existed in vanilla WoW. Right now, however, people do more dps—a lot more dps. As a matter of comparison, back in Burning Crusade there was a guild called “Four Hundred DPS”, which had an entry requirement of—you guessed it—being able to do four hundred DPS. This was not particularly difficult at the time, as I remember doing some seven hundred DPS in Karazhan, but that was with gear after quite a few dungeon runs, and a few epics as a a result of those runs. A fresh 70 would not have been able to meet that guild’s requirement.
In the low to mid sixties, as I was running Mana Tombs and Blood Furnace and Underbog, Skada told a different story. I was doing 1.7k dps, almost twice what I remember doing when I was running SSC. And it wasn’t as though I was an outlier; warriors and rogues I ran with were doing significantly more, in no small part because their DPS was front loaded and could hit the mobs before I could finish a cast.
What struck me was that dungeons were no longer even the slightest of challenge. I can’t recall anyone ever dying. I was forced to change my approach, using scorch more than fireball and using arcane explosion more than anything. I met a few nice people, to be sure, but the fun? The challenge? It didn’t exist anymore.
It struck me that dungeons were aimed at people who were leveling alts and just wanted to do it quickly and get out of there.
And then I tried to imagine how a new player would see it. They’d be lost, I think. They wouldn’t know where to go, how to adapt, and so forth. Most importantly, I doubt it would be any fun at all.
I know I’ve harped on LFD as a tool that reduces the social aspect of the game, and I think it is harmful. But I think it’s far more harmful that dungeons do not represent any sort of challenge anymore.
The thing about subscriber loss is that it’s really a net effect of two things: how many subscribers WoW gains over a period versus how many subscribers decide to quit the game. So far as I can tell a lot of the discussion on subscriber loss has been about high level players leaving the game. I think it’s more instructive to think about people joining the game.
The questing in this leveling process is fantastic, I think. Many zones have very interesting story lines. EPL and WPL were a treat to see again. But questing reduces the game to a single player game, and for that I have a comparison to make.
To me there’s no question the former has better graphics. The characters look much more detailed. Yes, the former is a single player game and I suppose some consideration should be given to that. But it is also running on a phone. It’s kind of embarrassing.
Point being: there are much more immersive single player games out there.
It strikes me that in the upcoming expansion, if Blizzard wants to bring new people into the game, they really need to do two things. First, they need to update dungeons to rebalance them to the far greater power players actually have. Second, they need to revamp the graphics of the game.
Otherwise, I think to a new player you have a confusing game with poor graphics. I’d think people would have a hard time figuring out what the fuss is about. We think quite a bit about the game at 90, but I worry about the game from 1-60. It seems to be directed to the existing player, not a new one.
A friend of mine, who I’ll call L (and about whom you may be hearing more of) was complaining in guild chat the other day. The gist of her complaint was that PvP gear wasn’t good enough for World PvP, and that if a fully-decked PvPer (or team of such) got into a scrap with a fully geared raider (or a team of such), the PvPer would lose.
She made a convincing case. To my understanding, the best gear one can get from PvP is ilvl 522, which is equivalent to regular Throne of Thunder gear. This is gear that apparently was just released and PvPers haven’t had the time yet to gather it all. (Apparently PvP gear is time gated like Valor gear, about which I apologize for my ignorance.) Even so, Jana already is well beyond that level of gear, with an item level of somewhere around 555. This gives her a significant advantage simply in terms of health, which is over 600k buffed, while L’s health is somewhere around 420k. Never mind geared heroic raiders, who are probably pushing 750k now and likely have the weapons and stats to overcome whatever PvP stats are on the PvP gear.
I played devil’s advocate for a bit, and responded that it depended on what your point of view as to the power of players was. The narrative surrounding PvP has always been limited, whereas the narrative for PvE has always seemed to be the focus of the game’s narrative. Thus, it has always seemed to me that the PvE side of the game was what you were “supposed” to do if you were interested in the story arc of any particular expansion. In this case it would make sense for a high level PvE player to be able to hold his or her own against someone who simply competed in arenas for the entertainment of the masses.
But we spoke about it a bit more and I thought about some earlier posts of mine. The problem with the current approach is that, for World PvP, gear acquired through PvE will perform better (because of its 30-ish ilvl advantage) than gear acquired through PvP. So, if you are a PvPer who wants to do well in World PvP, you’d need to find yourself a raid group and gear up and get yourself into Siege of Orgrimmar to do it.
My belief is that it is a design flaw of a game whenever someone feels compelled to do something that they don’t enjoy. (It’s not unethical—don’t get me started on that again—but rather it drives people away from the game.) The last I spoke of it was in terms of the mind numbing quantity of dailies that were near requirements for gearing up for the first tier of Pandaria raiding. But it applies equally here. If you’re the sort of blood-thirsty psychopath who prefers PvP to PvE (just kidding, L, don’t hurt me), then it seems that you would be put at a disadvantage against a PvPer who also raided and, far more than any PvEer who might lose a few thousand dps, might really do badly enough in PvP to make it not enjoyable.
(I understand that for battlegrounds and arenas there are some artificial gating mechanisms reducing the effectiveness of PvE gear, but those don’t apply to world PvP. And that’s a complete other topic about which I have some slanted opinions.)
Combined with her earlier points, this made L’s case airtight to me. This is a design problem, one that doesn’t affect me directly, but as it does affect a good friend it’s worth at least mentioning. But after that I thought about a few other things.
One of the myths of the game is the idea of the well rounded player, one who participates both in PvP and PvE and everything there is to offer with both. I’m sure such players exist, but the myth to me is that this is what you’re supposed to be about. My feeling is that most people enjoy certain aspects of the game more than others, and that many dedicate themselves wholly to PvE or PvP and whatever is needed to support that particular approach.
The question for me was how Blizzard might design a game to reward a so-called well-rounded player without 1) making people dedicated to one type of play feel compelled to work on the other to perform well, and 2) requiring so much time with both to be considered such.
Way back in Burning Crusade, I think Blizzard had done this, at least for me. I was in a guild that was working on Karazhan, and sometimes Gruul’s Lair. At the time, SSC and the Eye were available, but beyond our reach. What wasn’t beyond my reach was a set of PvP shoulders that was equivalent to the T5 shoulders. They were better than anything else I could get at the time, so I (horrors) ran some arenas until I got them. It wasn’t that painful.
Perhaps this was more an accident of circumstance. My feeling, though, is that if there were one or two PvE pieces that were superior to their readily available PvP alternatives, and vice versa, it would be a way of rewarding people who were well rounded without creating an resenting obligation to do both. It’s a tricky balance, though. I don’t think it’s fair to expect PvPers to run Siege of Orgrimmar (on any level) for random drops that might benefit them, in the same way that I would hate it if I felt obligated to run battlegrounds to get the best gear for raiding.
Ultimately, though, I think Blizzard abandoned the idea of a well balanced player long ago. It probably was the right call.
One of the greater sins of roleplay is laziness. A really good scene just can’t happen when a person is lazy about their descriptions and responses. Typically this manifests itself in two ways: First, the person simply doesn’t respond as quickly as the length of the post would merit. (If, for instance, you’re trading five “paragraph” posts back and forth it makes sense that responses would take longer than one paragraph or less.) Second, the response itself is devoid of the detail that brings a scene alive. In either case the roleplay bogs down and becomes unenjoyable. My own experience is that I will become lazy about roleplay responses when I am no longer interested in the roleplay, so I infer from someone else’s laziness that they don’t want to roleplay, either specifically at the time or generally with me. If I get the sense that someone else is being lazy, I am strongly inclined to stop the RP right then and there and not roleplay with that person unless there’s some decent OOC explanation for it.
In short, one of the biggest roleplay turn-offs is to express laziness.
MyRoleplay descriptions have a habit of revealing the nature of a person’s roleplay sins. There are three ways a description can communicate laziness to the world, and if you want to roleplay you really should avoid these things:
1. Blank Descriptions — The most obvious sin of laziness is to simply leave the description blank. To me this signals that you are not really interested in roleplaying at all, but that you might find humor (as I do) in reading descriptions. But a blank description has the virtue of honesty. There is no sniveling attempt to excuse the lack of effort. It is just stark bare.
2. “Work In Progress” — Fairly often I will read a description that says nothing more than “WiP”, the dreaded acronym indicating that the otherwise blank description is a work in progress. This is almost certainly a lie—many descriptions are works in progress but at least there’s something there to show progress. What this communicates to me is that “I’d like there to be a description here, but I’m too lazy to fill anything out.” In this way it’s worse than the blank description, because it really does suggest laziness in potential RP. In my experience it also is specifically dishonest; I’ve seen these up for quite a while and generally believe that the person has no intent on putting in any progress on the description.
3. “My MRP was wiped” —This is the description I really wanted to talk about here. If you have a detailed description that you like, any shred of common sense would indicate that you should cut and paste it to a text file on your computer as a backup. Putting in your description “My MRP was wiped”, to me, suggests that you want to imply that you have a great description, but that the forces of evil technology conspired against you to deny me from reading it. I am skeptical. First, I would believe if you did put that much work into it, you would have backed it up to a text file or take some effort at recreating something. Second, I see this excuse far too frequently that, given what causes an MRP to wipe, I believe it is used more often dishonestly as a way of getting out of writing something detailed than it is indicative of an actual MRP wipe. My MRPs have been wiped, but for very specific reasons and I have been able to recover them easily.
So here comes the public service announcement portion of this blog post. I will tell you why MRPs get wiped and, better yet, how to recover from those wipes.
Addons such as MyRoleplay store data in a file in the WTF directory of your game folder. Specifically, all MRP data related to a character will be stored in the file along this path:
The items in parenthesis should be replaced by the information specific to the character. For Instance, on Jana’s character, and substituting the phrase “WITHHELD” for my account name, here’s the otherwise actual path to that file:
/Applications/Games/World of Warcraft/WTF/Account/WITHHELD/Moon Guard/Tatjana/SavedVariables/MyRoleplay.lua
This is the file that contains your precious description. If it gets deleted or moved or corrupted, your MRP will wipe. More relevantly, if it does not get deleted or moved or corrupted, your MRP will not be wiped. This is why I feel a bit skeptical of claims of MRP wipes.
One of the things you should do right now is make a copy of your WTF folder. This will protect you if things go wrong, and is almost as good as making a text file backup of your profile. In some ways it is better.
Changing names or factions or servers will _always_ “wipe” your MRP, because a new SavedVariables folder will be created for that new character. The old one is still there, however, and transferring your addon data, including your MyRoleplay description, is as simple as moving the folder to the new location.
My sense is that everyone who legitimately complains of an MRP wipe is someone who has deleted or moved the WTF folder. Don’t do this. I have gotten advice to move the WTF folder when having addon trouble, but this is about as good advice as asking me to turn all addons off.
In any case, protect that MyRoleplay.lua file. Treat it well. If you do, your MRP profile will never wipe. If you have a backup of it, it can be easily restored.
If you really are just too lazy to write a description, just leave your profile blank. That way I won’t infer dishonesty in addition to laziness.
It’s been a little over two weeks since the Siege of Orgrimmar patch hit, and I thought I’d share some numbers and observations about Jana’s jewelcrafting business.
First things first: I had a strategy going from the start that I thought would limit my sales initially. My strategy with the prior patches was to list gems that I knew would sell from experience and from Icy Veins recommendations. These are, in the order they appear on the JC profession window:
Bold Primordial Ruby
Brilliant Primordial Ruby
Delicate Primordial Ruby
Solid River’s Heart
Sparkling River’s Heart
Fractured Sun’s Radiance
Quick Sun’s Radiance
Smooth Sun’s Radiance
Adept Vermilion Onyx
Artful Vermilion Onyx
Deadly Vermilion Onyx
Deft Vermilion Onyx
Fierce Vermilion Onyx
Inscribed Vermilion Onyx
Potent Vermilion Onyx
Reckless Vermilion Onyx
Energized Wild Jade
Lightning Wild Jade
Misty Wild Jade
Piercing Wild Jade
Zen Wild Jade
Etched Imperial Amethyst
Glinting Imperial Amethyst
Purified Imperial Amethyst
Veiled Imperial Amethyst
Agile Primal Diamond
Burning Primal Diamond
Reverberating Primal Diamond
In previous patches I would try to make sure I would list one of each gem, so long as the price for the gem didn’t drop below 50 gold. This go around I raised that criteria to 100 gold for the Primordial Rubies, Sun’s Radiances, Wild Jades and Imperial Amethysts, and to 150 gold for the Vermilion Onyxes. In my past experience the price of gems would rise a few weeks into the patch as less experienced gem sellers dropped out of the market. I think that this is starting to happen now, and fortunately I still have quite a bit of inventory of uncut gems.
What has surprised me about this patch is how well meta gems are selling. I’ve never found meta gems to sell terribly well. Logically, each player only needs one of them. They list for such high prices that they immediately attract interest. Beyond that, for this patch, a lot of raiders would be using legendary meta gems from Wrathion, ones that would require five uncut primal diamonds to replace. For these reasons, I thought the meta gem market would be less profitable.
This turned out to not be true. Meta gems have sold very well for me, at prices that make it worthwhile to use Saxsy to transmute the raw gems from two each of vermilion onyxes, wild jades and imperial amethysts. I’ve set a minimum price for these of 700 gold and they’ve sold quite well.
I haven’t run across the frenzy of activity that I first noticed in patch 4.2; I’ve never felt overwhelmed by gem sales to the point where I couldn’t keep up with them. But there have been several times where gems have sold quickly, about one a minute or so, More importantly, I have been able to list sales at night and come back the next morning with most of the gems sold.
The bottom line so far is that I’m up just shy of 200,000 gold since the patch hit. This has moved me well beyond my previous high in gold, and easily makes up for the gold I spent on filling my gem inventory. I still have a lot of inventory left, and I think if I continue to stick to my sale price minimums, I expect I may end up with another 100,000 gold in the bank. This is now well beyond what I think I would spend on anything, so my plan is to save most of it for the next expansion to level my professions rapidly and in this way get a leg up on the other gem sellers who may not be able to level.
I had the good fortune or misfortune or some fortune to grow up during the time of the personal computing revolution, and I caught it at the right time to shape my life. I remember when I was about eight or nine or maybe ten spending far too much time at one of my friends’ house playing games on an original Apple II. My family’s first computer was an IBM PC, and I was encouraged to use it all the time, for writing papers or playing games or programming in BASIC. We also had a Magnavox Odyssey (which I believe predated the Atari 2600 as one of the original TV console game systems) and an Atari 5200 (which we liked but the controllers were as bad as everyone made them out to be).
A good portion of my time in high school revolved around the more nerdy things as well. Math and Science, if they weren’t my favorite subjects, were certainly the ones I was best at. I was on the Math team and regularly won trophies in statewide competitions (and participated in regional competitions as well).
In short, I was a geek. A nerd. I fit into the “clumsy large and fat” nerd stereotype, even though in retrospect I wasn’t nearly as clumsy or as fat as I thought I was. (For instance, I could run a mile in just over six minutes.)
I look at today’s “geek” environment in terms of treatment of women and I wonder how the hell we got here. It seems very foreign to me and very inexplicable, because in my day the geeks, programmers, math nerds and gamers were also among the most progressive people I knew.
Here’s the way it was back then: as a geek, you were marginalized. The jocks from the sports teams would beat you up (or, I should say, beat my friends up, as being six feet tall in eighth grade is a good defense against bullies), tease, demean, mock, and otherwise make life living hell for you. Popular girls would, if they deigned us worthy of talking to at all, would more likely lead us into something embarrassing than actually want to know anything about us. We were the ones who people shot spitballs at, ones people would give wedgies to, and so on. Growing up a nerd was miserable, and that was for a guy.
I can only imagine that it was worse for a girl, because not only would she subject herself to the same social stigma, she would have to go beyond the “Math is hard” Barbie dolls and all the other gender stereotypes that push girls away from math and science.
An aside: in college one of the psychology papers I did was the role of women in math and sciences and as part of that paper I researched all the studies about what was then taken as an obvious innate talent discrepancy in math in favor of boys. (Stop me if you’ve never heard that boys are innately better at math than girls.)
When going through the research, however, I found myself very depressed by it. In normal psychological studies, you might have somewhere between 30 and 200 subjects, which limited the power of your study to finding rather large scale and meaningful differences. In these math studies, however, they were working from sample sizes in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, and those huge sample sizes allowed the studies to pick up an innate difference of about 1%. Because the studies had so many subjects, this was statistically significant, but none of the studies seemed to concern themselves with whether that difference was significant in the meaning people usually give that word.
To boil it down: if you pick a boy and a girl at random, the chance that the boy is better at math than the girl is about 51%. Gender here is barely better than a coin toss as a determinant of math skill. (You’d have to go through probably the size of a typical high school’s worth of students to tell the difference.) Yet all these extremely well funded studies never thought to step back and ask if they were part of the problem, that their findings of a statistically significant difference were unfairly warping the discussion about innate mathematical ability.
Point being: anyone who says boys are innately better at math than girls is splitting hairs, being pedantic, or is otherwise full of himself. Or herself, I suppose.
The general situation, therefore, was that there were very few girls or women who were interested in what I was into. There might have been one on the math team, might have been a couple in the computer classes. As I got older and moved into broader environments the number of women increased, partly because of the larger group and partly because, I think, that freed from the cliquish nature of high school young women felt more comfortable following their true interests.
Back then, though, we—and I mean young boys and men like me—cherished women geeks. Someone actually interested in what we were interested in, able to look past our obvious physical deficiencies and actually get to know us? We could not have asked for more! Granted, we often said the wrong thing because, let’s face it, we were socially awkward—but there was no question that we wanted women among us, to share our interests and desires, and maybe, just maybe, go on a date or something.
This seems to have changed. Male geeks, or at least the ones that get the attention, seem to be actively pushing women away now, whether it’s the Penny Arcade folks identifying with rapists against their victims, Silicon Valley nerds refusing to hire and promote qualified women, or kids playing games like World of Warcraft making an environment deliberately hostile to women. It’s not just boys and men being socially awkward. There is genuine venom there.
This befuddles me. The typical male tech geek spends most of his time in front of a computer, leaving little time (or perceived need) for exercise or personal care or whatnot. (In this I am horribly typical). Social activity is minimized, so the typical tech geek is not suave. Look at the Penny Arcade guys, for instance. Adonises they are not. Maybe a tech geek has money (but maybe not), but that’s about it. Most male tech geeks are either skinny or fat, generally not otherwise attractive, and socially awkward.
Is this a group that can afford to push away women?
I don’t get it. I mean, I understand being angry at the cheerleaders who would mock us for our clumsiness, but the women who actually might look beyond the surface and be interested in the things we were interested in? How can one possibly want to push them away?
An acquaintance of mine has offered a couple RP stories “from hell” to me in the past few days. These stories have prompted me to write this post, primarily to illuminate an issue someone else identified from Jana’s Manifesto that may well be the best bit of RP advice I’ll ever give anyone.
The first thing this acquaintance, who I’ll call B, did was to complain about how a shaman reacted to a chaos bolt she threw at the shaman. The shaman’s first attempt to counter the chaos bolt was to deflect it with a gust of wind. This angered my friend to the point where she felt it necessary to complain about the conduct to me.
Now, the first thing I thought about was whether a shaman, a master of the elements, could summon a gust of wind powerful enough to deflect a chaos bolt. I know they have earth shields and water shields, so they might well have wind shields as well. It didn’t strike me as preposterous.
But whether it is preposterous or not makes little difference in terms of the roleplay. As we know from what is perhaps the first rule of roleplaying, a person has complete and total dominion over her own character. If Ann fires a chaos bolt at Gertrude, it is Gertrude’s decision as to whether that chaos bolt hits Gertrude or has any effect on Gertrude. If Ann does not care for the method Gertrude uses to justify the chaos bolt not hitting or not having an effect, Ann’s recourse is to not roleplay with Gertrude. (And, presumably, whine about it to an unsympathetic acquaintance.)
A word here about combat RP. Combat RP, done well, requires an exceptional amount of coordination and trust between the people doing it. I asked B how this RP began and was not surprised to hear that the shaman had attacked three people in public with B as a witness, and B took it upon herself to protect the others without any communication with the shaman. I asked her what quality of RP she could expect from a person in such circumstances, hoping that the answer would get the point across.
A few days later this same acquaintance complains to me about another bit of RP. This time, a military officer tried to arrest her because she called him stupid. I asked her what was wrong with that, and she said he couldn’t, claiming that she had “Googled it” and found that the common law, which provided authority for someone to arrest another, did not make it legal to arrest someone for an insult of that nature.
At this point I made two points:
Azeroth does not necessarily operate under the same common law as we do; and
Arresting officers occasionally exceed their authority.
Here’s where I’m getting with this. Sometimes people will RP in such a way that you will disagree with them. Perhaps you’re one of those people who thinks it’s illegal for warlocks to have their demons out within Stormwind’s walls. There’s no in-game evidence of this, but if you believe it, that’s fine for you. If a warlock thinks otherwise and laughs at you when you try to arrest him, well, what you have there is a fundamental disagreement as to the world in which you operate. This makes RP around that topic impossible. This does not make you a bad roleplayer, or the warlock a bad roleplayer, but it does present an problem that can only be reconciled in one way: you two not roleplaying with each other, at least not about that topic.
It befuddles me when people do not understand the obviousness of this next concept: all RP is consensual. Your solution as to how to RP with someone who disagrees with you about notions fundamental to the RP, such as whether a shaman can deflect a chaos bolt with a gust of wind, whether a patrolman is authorized to arrest someone for petty insults, or whether a warlock is entitled to have a demon out, is to not RP with that person.
I was reminded of this tonight. Someone told me that I should roleplay with him sometime. When I asked why, expecting some sort of in-character connection between Jana and his character, he instead responded:
Because I’m (name withheld) and it’s hard to find other roleplayers who can actually write and aren’t all around retarded.
Let me suggest to you that this person exemplifies to an extreme the sort of narrow minded view that B had: RP she disagreed with was “retarded”, and something most people would inevitably fall afoul of. At that point, I think you really need to reevaluate your own worldview. It isn’t the other people being unreasonable.
For a while I’ve wanted to detail my specific approach to roleplaying. This is not and should not be treated as a roleplaying guide. I have one of those and you can look at it if you’re unsure of how to roleplay in general. These are personal beliefs, ones that I acknowledge that people can disagree with and still be happy and successful roleplayers (and even roleplay with me quite successfully.) These are beliefs that I have formed over several years of roleplaying within World of Warcraft and I believe they are successful for me. Obviously I think that they can be successful for you and I think you would do well to at least consider whether my approach would work for you. But this is not for everyone and I don’t pretend that it is. If your approach is different and you think I’m wrong, then by no means should you feel like I’m trying to force you to adopt my approach. On the other hand, you should understand that these beliefs are not things that I have decided to follow on a whim. These are concepts that I believe make for good RP, and you’re not going to be able to convince me otherwise with a comment or two.
The first thing I believe one should consider is what one wants out of RP. Here people differ and it’s foolish to pretend that they don’t. My feeling is that the happiest times in RP are when it feels like I and another person, or perhaps two other people, are crafting a story between two (or three) real characters with opposing interests. This is a rather rare thing and requires the right sort of person to be able to do it. It has to be a person who can put the story above personal character advancement. It has to be a person who is willing to let their own character fail, willing to let my character succeed to the detriment of her character, but realistically plays their character as pursuing her own interests. Where people generally fail in this regard is to place their own character’s interests above all else. If your character’s interest align with those interests you can have some temporarily fun RP, but ultimately it will become unsatisfying either because it lacks conflict or because that conflict is not addressed in a way that furthers the story.
A simple example will illustrate this point. Let’s suppose Jana is selling necklaces to Alice, Betty and Chelsea in turn. This is a simple roleplay and there’s little opportunity to develop a story but it is a great test of the character of the roleplayer. For this example, suppose Alice is completely oppositional; she rejects any suggestion Jana makes and refuses to negotiate over price. Perhaps she leaves with a necklace, perhaps not. Suppose Betty is completely agreeable. She accepts any suggestion Jana makes and accepts Jana’s first offer as far as price. Suppose Chelsea is unlike either; she knows what she wants but is willing to accept suggestions if Jana makes a good case for them. When Jana suggests a price, Chelsea negotiates her down to a compromise.
I would much rather roleplay with Chelsea and continue to roleplay with her in preference to the other two people (all else equal, of course; if Betty is completely agreeable because she’s buttering Jana up for a sting that’s another thing altogether). Chelsea represents a possibility of that desired story making and more importantly the person behind Chelsea is showing a more sophisticated approach to roleplaying that offers potential. Too often I see Alices who further their character’s interest above all else or Betties who are more interested in making me do all the work in a roleplay. Neither are fun to roleplay with and chances are I will try to avoid them in the future.
A word on that. On some RP servers where RP is very rare there is the notion that you should RP with anyone willing to do so. Further, there is the notion that if someone walks up to you and begins to RP with you that you have to RP back. In my view this is absolutely wrong and you will get very frustrated with RP if you continue to do this.
Let’s step back a bit and imagine a PvE situation. Imagine you have a person who, for whatever reason, you don’t like to PvE with. Perhaps he is unskilled. Perhaps he is lazy. Perhaps when he talks on vent you want to tear your ears out because his voice is so annoying. Maybe he’s misogynistic. Maybe he has the maturity of an eleven year old. If this person came up to you and said “Hey, want to run a scenario,” or “Hey, want to run a heroic,” or “Hey, want to be part of my raid team,” no one would or could fault you for saying no.
That same thinking applies to RP as well. This is a game. You are here to have fun. You should not do things that are not fun for you, and that means that if you don’t think you will have fun RPing with someone you shouldn’t RP with her. Walk away. There’s not anything judgmental by this—I have seen people who RP in styles I just can’t stand but others would enjoy. (Primarily, those are people who betray a lot of unknowable information in their emotes, such as their character’s motives and thoughts). You shouldn’t do things that aren’t fun.
This may result in some people labeling you an elitist. Primarily these are people who likely are obsessed with their own character and imposing their will on you, imposing their style of RP on you and who are not at all fun to roleplay with. They are likely to be technically poor roleplayers, prone to god modding, god mode and meta-gaming. They label you elitist because you are unwilling to roleplay with them. These people are not fun and you should ignore them, and by that I do mean put them on ignore and pretend they don’t exist. That’s how I treat such people.
One way that RP differs from PvE (and PvP, I suppose) is that it is primarily subjective. Personality quirks aside, the quality of a person in PvE can be measured in a number of ways (dps, ability to stay alive and out of bad, ability to keep things healed, etc.) With RP it is primarily subjective. One person who you think is a great RPer may be a horrible RPer to someone else just because their styles do not mesh. For this reason you should be gentle about labeling someone a horrible RPer; what is bad for you may be good for someone else and vice versa (though I do think there are some things that are absolutely bad, like godmodding, meta-gaming, contradiction and the like.) At the same time you should recognize that people should not be offended if you don’t like to RP with them. If for whatever reason you don’t have fun RPing with someone you should really just not RP with him or her. Similarly, don’t be offended if someone doesn’t want to roleplay with you. Interests vary.
Since this is Jana’s Roleplaying Manifesto and not your Roleplaying Manifesto or someone else’s Roleplaying Manifesto, what follows is a rather subjective sense of what I do to find people that I would be interested in RPing with because I think they have the potential to offer me that joint story I’m looking for. I am not saying that what you do or what you are looking for is wrong. Rather, this is what I do, and generally I think that you can glean some useful information from reading it even if our styles differ.
The first priority in finding people to RP with is to construct a suitable MyRoleplay profile. Reading MyRoleplay descriptions is one of my pastimes and it is the primary way I identify potentially good RP partners. It would be hypocritical of me to neglect my own MRP. It follows that someone who would mesh well with me would likely judge me based on my MyRoleplay Profile.
Before constructing a profile, of course, I try to get a fair idea of who I want my character to be. I think of a basic backstory. I outline some interests of the character, and paint a rough picture of what he or she looks like. I have some idea of character quirks that I could talk about and visual cues that other people could ask me about to break the ice. At this point I don’t think I would need to have everything developed; a lot of the character development occurs during roleplay as I think of stories to fill in the character’s history. The idea for me is to have enough of a background to allow others to take an interest in the character.
It is my belief that the purpose of a MyRoleplay profile is to attract people with whom you would like to roleplay. It is not designed to offer a vivid image of your character, or describe your likes or dislikes in length (although that can certainly be part of it). Everything in my profile is constructed with the mindset that there is someone out there who is figuring out whether to RP with me, but has a limited attention span. One needs to grab that person’s attention, hold it, and make a case to be approached..
I’ve written about constructing a profile before. The one thing I want to emphasize from that post is that you should start out strong. Take one thing that is unique or distinctive about your character and write about it first. Your potential roleplaying partner may not have the patience to read through a paragraph of dull description to reach the interesting bits. If I am reading your profile, I am judging you from the moment I read your currently and nicknames, through to the point where I start to read your description. If at some point I become bored with it, I will stop reading and move on.
There’s one thing I should make clear about that, just to avoid some misconceptions. Just because I get bored with your MRP does not mean I won’t RP with you or that I think you’re bad. It means I’m not going to approach you for RP. One of the two ways RP begins is by me approaching you; the other way is, of course, you approaching me. If I’ve bored you with my profile and you’ve bored me with your profile, neither of those things will happen. If you do approach me and your profile bores me, I will be much less enthusiastic about the RP than if I liked your profile. You will have to work harder to convince me that I want to RP with you. You can certainly do this—many have—but wouldn’t it be better to have an interesting MRP in the first place?
Your profile should reflect your character and be aimed at people you want to roleplay with. This may not be me. I do have my preferences. With that it mind, here are some of the things I like to see in profiles:
RP “hooks”. These are distinctive features visible on your character that I can ask you about to break the ice. They range from unique hairstyles to jewelry to clothing to tattoos to weaponry, and that list is not exclusive. It’s much easier to approach someone when there’s something to talk about.
Taller and heavier characters. This is a personal preference based on in character and out of character concerns. Jana was teased for her size as a kid and instinctively feels more comfortable around people near her size or larger. And while tall characters aren’t that distinctive, anyone playing a slightly heavier character stands out and is someone Jana could relate with.
Strength. Both in personality and athletically, I think adventurers should be stronger than average and it strikes me as a sign that a person has thought their character through. I also just like it better as a personal preference.
Suggested duplicity. If you can somehow suggest that your character is not who he or she appears to be, that makes for great RP and my interest generally skyrockets.
Uniqueness. Something that indicates to me how you have created a character that is different than anyone else’s while still remaining credible is a big plus. (This does not include the RP clichés like dragons, half-elves or other cross breeds, demons, horde in disguise, etc.)
Wickedness. If you can somehow suggest that your character is wicked or evil, that also makes for great RP and my interest in you skyrockets.
References to jewelry or tailored clothes. Jana is a jewelcrafter and a tailor and these descriptions give me an easy hook to start a conversation.
There are also ways to turn me off. Some of these are purely personal. I may not be the person you want to roleplay with. Some of these I think are generic, in that they would turn off any reasonable roleplayer. With that in mind, here are some things that make me stop reading:
Explicit indications that the character is ordinary. My experience is that this is done either by someone who thinks all unique characters are Mary Sues or is so afraid of being labeled a Mary Sue that she has decided to be completely ordinary. In either case the character is unlikely to be fun, unlikely to provide a mechanism for breaking the ice, and unlikely to provide the conflict necessary to make a great story.
Extremely short characters (with the possible exception of rogues). I think this is a cliché, and I also think that such characters would very likely not choose to be adventurers. I see far too many of these.
Shy or meek characters. I don’t think such people become adventurers generally, and I’m not inclined to like that sort of person anyway. Meek people tend to lack the passion I would want for someone who would help me write a story.
Contradictions in descriptions. All the time I see characters that claim to both be full-figured or pudgy or voluptuous but also slender. There are other ways people contradict themselves (petite and long-legged comes to mind), but this is the most common. It gives me the impression that the person really doesn’t have a handle on his or her own character.
God modding in descriptions. Typically this is in the form of “As you look at [character name], you see X … Moving your eyes downward, you see Y, etc.” There is no need to force my eyes to look at particular parts of your body. Just describe it. If you godmod in your profile it generally means you don’t understand why it is bad and are likely to do it in RP. That’s no fun at all. (A possible exception is a well written narrative description written from the perspective of the participating onlooker.)
Cliché Mary Sues. Maybe you’re going to be one of the few people to roleplay a dragon properly. Maybe you’re going to be one of the few people to consider the wildly different history and point of view of a Quel-dorei or a half-breed. I wish you the best of luck with that sort of thing because so often I have run into such horrible roleplay with such people that I’ve decided to write the whole thing off rather than RP with you on the slender hope that you’re the exception.
Pregnant characters or characters with kids. I’ve found that RP with such characters generally tends to focus on the pregnancy or the kids. If that’s your cup of tea, best of luck to you. It’s not mine.
Indications that you are willing to change your character to suit my desires. With the possible exception of a seductive shape-changer, what this indicates to me is that you either don’t have a firm idea of who your character is or don’t care to develop a fixed character. It leads me to believe you will be a Betty in the example above, unwilling to push back or create the conflict that makes for a good RP story.
There’s something I want to emphasize about the last entry. Regardless of my likes and dislikes, I believe that you should create a character that you are comfortable playing and round out that character with a developed history and personality of your choosing. If your MRP reflects that, I will be far more interested in roleplaying with you regardless of any personal likes or dislikes, and more importantly people who actually share your personal preferences will likely be more interested in you. If you really want to play a half-elf because you have an interest in the problems facing half-elves and have a good idea for a story behind it, go for it. I won’t approach you, but if you approach me and you RP it well, that might lead to something really fun. That will be much better for you than creating a tall, heavy-set warlock disguised as a mage with mountains of jewelry that you don’t really have a desire to play or flesh out.
What I’ve written up to now applies to drafting your own profile or how I view other people’s profiles. The hope behind all this is that I would find people I would have fun roleplaying with, either by finding them myself and having my own profile be interesting enough to convince them to respond to my approach, or by them approaching me directly. The function of the profile is to break the ice.
My strategy in this regard is to cast a rather wide net. I approach anyone whose profile piques my interest in any way, either because it seems well written, because it has something that would mesh well with my character, or it has a nice character hook I can use to start something. When someone approaches me, I read their profile to get ideas but I don’t reject anyone based on their profile or even lack of profile. My take on this is that the other person found me interesting, so I should roleplay with them in earnest. Sometimes people are a lot better than their profiles and RP with them can be quite enjoyable. In the other direction, sometimes people with phenomenal profiles can be horrible to RP with, whether that’s because they are objectively bad at RP or their style simply doesn’t match with mine.
Now it comes to the RP itself. I’ve approached you, or you’ve approached me. There are two things I will want to do as the roleplay progresses. The first is to set up the story to be told, and the second is to actually roleplay the story.
What do I mean by a story? The specifics differ but generally a story will be about two characters who each want something and who each want to hinder the other person. Let’s take as a simple example a gladiator fight between A and B. A wants to kill B and simultaneously wants to prevent B from killing A. B wants the opposite. There is a story of their battle to be told. (The story could also have much more complex subtleties, but you get the idea). There are all sorts of different variations here but they all involve some sort of conflicting desires. Without conflict there is no story. People may hop off happily into a land of sunshine and rainbows but it’s not all that interesting.
Sometimes from an MRP profile I can instantly get the idea for a story or for such conflict. But often times I can’t, and can only identify in character desires to get to know someone or approach. That’s when setting up the story comes into play. These are the typical question and answer sessions where characters get to know each other.
While the goal may be the story itself, setting up the story can be quite enjoyable in its own right. As Jana I quite enjoy telling stories about her past, giving my RP partner information in the hope that there will be some connection around which to build a story. Depending on her description, I might talk about her tailoring, her jewelcrafting, her experiences with Jeremiah, Bronlissa or Putricide, or make up something completely new. Sometimes a story between the characters doesn’t develop, and the RP ends after Jana’s done describing her past. This is not necessarily a failure—chances are I’ve made a friend and the RP itself, while not the goal, was still enjoyable.
There are several things I look for as signs for whether the RP is going to work or not work. The most important of these is whether the person interacts with me or is simply off on their own world. I had an RP a little while ago with someone who at least initially seemed very interesting, but she would say things and act as if she were on her own agenda without what I had said having any impact on what she said. She showed no interest in my character but seemed intent on saying what she had to say without really reacting to my responses. This is an objectively bad sign. It tells me that the other person isn’t really interested in RP at all, but in playing a pseudo-game where her character by necessity “wins”. In the example above, this person is an Alice.
Some other objectively bad signs are obvious. My strategy when I see these things is to stop the RP. If in the initial approach the person tries to control my character in a way I did not obviously consent to, or meta-games, or acts in an obviously outrageous or trollish manner, I stop the RP. If the person RPs in a style I just can’t stand (generally, the primary culprit is being excessively floral in their emotes), I stop the RP. I believe the best way to do this is to make an in-character excuse that I have to go somewhere and walk away. If the other person asks to follow me, I decline. If she decides to follow me anyway, I will be more forceful. If she takes it OOC, I may or may not explain why I don’t want to RP with the person (sometimes this is useful with a stylistic clash), but I don’t feel that I have to. In general I don’t believe it’s not worth the effort to try to change someone or teach her how to RP. On rare occasions I will run into a person who is genuinely new at this and wants to get better. I can’t describe this specifically but my feeling is that I will know this when I see this. In such situations I may refer the person to my roleplaying guide. On the whole I tend to be skeptical about this because people have at times latched onto me and then gotten angry when I’m busy RPing with other people.
I should try to qualify that last bit. Sometimes I get someone who is a mixed bag, someone who I imagine I could have quite a bit of fun with but for some nagging qualities such as emoting too slowly, minor godmodding, technical mistakes like using “you” in a public emote. If the good outweighs the bad I think it might be worthwhile to offer to help with RP mechanics, especially if the person acknowledges they are a beginner and is willing to learn. I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to do so if you don’t enjoy the other person or helping people generally. Personally I will link people to my guide if I think it’s appropriate but I won’t push RP lessons onto people who don’t really interest me otherwise.
One thing you might have noted here is that I am assuming I have approached one person and am RPing with one person directly and more or less exclusively. This is generally because my ultimate goal—to craft a story with someone else—is not generally possible with more than one other person. It just gets confusing, and the temptation to try to assert one’s character increases exponentially as characters are added to the RP. That’s not to say I won’t engage in roleplays with more than one person. It just means my approach changes. At that point I’m more interested in learning about characters and getting ideas for stories rather than trying to develop a story. Very rarely two stories will interact and that can be quite fun, but nine times out of ten or more the presence of a third person ends up harming the development of a story. Your mileage may vary.
So let’s assume I’ve now found someone that’s interesting to me, who is interested in me, and we’re roleplaying and getting beyond the “here’s who I am” phase. What’s next? The first step is to ensure that our mechanics are compatible. The traditional mechanic is that each person takes turns with their emotes, but I also like a two step approach where a person takes an “active” turn describing the actions or words to be reacted to, and then an “incidental” turn describing incidental actions that would not require a reaction. There are several ways a person can trip up here. One is by taking too long in a turn either by using excessively floral language (making the number of words conveyed too long), in time (by making me wait too long to receive a response) or by taking too many actions (by describing actions that logically would not occur because my character would have reacted to something before then). There are also the other trip ups like god-modding, meta-gaming, being non-responsive, and so forth. Generally good roleplayers will have a bit of flexibility in their mechanics, and usually I can tell before this point whether there will be a mechanical problem
That leaves content. It’s tricky to describe content because there are so many different ways to engage Jana’s interest that it’s impossible for me to reduce them to categories. The things I look for are whether my parter OOCly and ICly seems to understand Jana’s desires to the extent I’ve revealed them, which could include subterfuge, and vice versa. I will look for whether my partnet seems to be playing off those desires, exploiting them ICly to try to give Jana what her character wants. That’s the sign that a roleplay is really getting to the next level.
At that point, it’s back to mechanics again, and here’s where things get tricky because here’s where someone observing us might think we’re really bad roleplayers. At some point I will decide that I trust a person enough with the scene to drop the traditional objections to god modding. I will, in essence, cede control of my character to some extent and expect the same. What happens now is that some incidental or even serious detrimental effects to my character will be controlled by my partner. She won’t need to clutter the RP with “attempts”, but rather has some sense of what I consent to and just does it.
That’s when RP can get really good. And that’s my goal. If you ever get to that point with someone, cherish it, and hope it lasts as long as possible.
There is one more thing I want to get into here, and that’s the idea of canon. Canon refers to the ongoing story of your character, the one that stays with you and defines your character to others. The typical approach to canon is to say that every bit of RP you run into is canonical and can be used by you or referred to by others later.
It is my opinion that this is a horrible way to RP.
There’s certainly some logic to it. If Jana were alive and wandering through the Mage Quarter she could really have only one thing going on with her at a time and her actions should have consequences for everyone. But this approach ignores quite a bit of game mechanics and limitations of the game itself. To take the approach that everything is canonical unnecessarily restricts your RP specifically and makes you too cautious about trying new things and new stories.
I’ll take a specific example of a wonderful RP I had lately. This was an RP that was with a warlock who had posed as someone quite innocent. She lured Jana to her in a number of different ways, by appealing alternatively to Jana’s concern for her safety and anger at being over-privileged. The end result of the RP was that Jana DIED, and did so in a way that she could not be resurrected - there was nothing left to resurrect. If I were forced to treat it as canon, well, Jana would be no more, but more importantly I would have made ten different decisions in the RP out of OOC concern for keeping Jana alive. In doing so I would have missed a really fun RP.
Your character and her history are too valuable to commit to altering on every bit of RP you have. Treating everything as canon will alter your roleplay OOCly in ways that you will miss out on fun roleplay. I allow Jana to take chances. I allow Jana to mess up. I allow Jana to get trapped and get hurt and even get killed if that’s how the story goes. I do so in the knowledge that it’s my choice and not anyone else’s as to whether the results of the story stick with her. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Yes, I will occasionally run into people who object to this, who want everything they do to Jana to be a permanent part of her character, and because I don’t give them that power they decide not to roleplay with me. I don’t view this as a huge loss.
I think that about covers my approach to roleplay. I hope you’re able to pick out some wisdom from this, whether that means trying something you wouldn’t before, rethinking your approach to descriptions, or whatnot. Again, I don’t expect anyone to agree with everything I do, but I do hope people understand I have my reasons.
I’m working on a huge post but I felt I needed to share this. The following recruiting pitch was yelled in Stormwind this morning:
Prince Jouran Menethil yells: Lord Jouran Menethil has formed the Phoenix Rebellion to restore Lordearon [sic] and end the tyranny of King Varian Wrynn! Fight for truth and justice and help us to end this era of war. (level 25 rp guild pst for invite Ic interview required)
(edit: for those who are unfamiliar with MyRoleplay, it substitutes the “full name” set within the profile in public messages. In this case the character “Jouran” had set his name as “Prince Jouran Menethil. I have no comment on this.)
Understand, this person is yelling this in the Cathedral District in Stormwind, basically inviting rebellion against the King. Last I recalled fomenting rebellion was a pretty serious crime in most monarchies (but of course no guild leader of such an organization bothers to consider this).
As a matter of accuracy, King Varian Wrynn doesn’t have all that much to do with Lordaeron. Lordaeron is beset by tyranny, but it’s the tyranny of Dark Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, not King Wrynn.
It gets worse. I replied to him that he should go recruit in the Undercity. He responded in a whisper that “if I was a horde I would.” I then sent a message to Jouran asking him to please substitute “Dark Lady Sylvanas Windrunner” for “King Varian Wrynn”. His response (quoted directly):
why? I have no fight with the one woman who is trying to keep my home land alive…eh…so to speak
plus she hates hellscream…thats good enough for me
My mind is boggling at this point. He gave his pitch again and I felt an in character response was appropriate:
Lord Jouran Menethil is a pawn of Dark Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, the true enemy of all Lordaeronians. He should be jailed for heresy.
I am no pawn….if anything that woman simply holds my city tell [sic] I return home…and if she wont return it she WILL feal [sic] my steel
A bunch of other responses followed, but I think the idea that Sylvanas Windrunner would willingly return Lordaeron to a Menethil really just speaks for itself.
This, my friends, is why the Alliance loses battlegrounds, and why Blizzard feels it unnecessary to give the alliance any lore.
I have a few thoughts on character models. This has been a desire of mine for a long time and an expectation since newer character models were briefly put into place in the Wrath beta.
For those that don’t know, at some point during the Wrath beta, Blizzard switched everyone to new character models. Despite my personal desire for such a thing, the switch was an awful mistake, because it completely changed the look of my character. Jana no longer had green eyes and no longer had the look on her face that said to me that she was confident but ever so slightly fearful. Instead her eyes were red as if there were some hole in her face letting out red light from underneath and her look was grim. She also had a much more buff figure which I didn’t mind.
The response was not quite predictable. I hated it, but I didn’t expect everyone else to hate it so much. The negative response was so strong that Blizzard reversed the change almost immediately. (That it came with the onset of significant game lag that may or may not have been related didn’t help.) I fear the message that Blizzard got from the experience was not “Maintain character fidelity” (which I did my best to say in my feedback) but “Don’t update character models”. That it’s been so long and they’re only 25% done suggests that they got the latter message.
Updating character models has been a wish of mine for quite some time. There is one comment that asks why the fidelity of character models or their complexity matters, but I think that comment is foolish, something spouted out by a person that didn’t think about it for more than a second. I guarantee you that no one would ever have played Warcraft if the character models were stick figures, and I doubt that any would have continued if the environments all looked as drab as Molten Core. Immersion matters. One of the beautiful things about playing Dragon Age II as opposed to World of Warcraft or even the original Dragon Age was that the characters looked great. One identifies with characters and the better the characters look (in terms of their realism, not beauty) the easier it is to accept that.
I’m glad that they are working on it but I’m surprised that it’s only 25% done. This has been a wish of mine all the way since Wrath beta and I think it is one of the primary reasons World of Warcraft is unable to find new subscribers as compared to more modern games. The characters just look too clunky. They are dated. It’s hard to convince someone new to become that character when they could become a much better looking character from a game they could play for free.
Of course Blizzard has the additional problem of existing characters and expectations as to their character continuing to look like their character. I don’t think this would be terribly difficult. I hope they also offer new options for character looks that would be made possible by the new models (I think, for instance, there could be a greater variety of faces if those faces were more detailed).
Jana carries two books around Stormwind with her. When she’s got a moment, she will occasionally sit at a table and begin to read one of them. The larger and more impressive of the two books is called “History of Scorch”. It is a large leather bound volume that one might imagine in a mage’s library, full of minutiae of the development of the scorch spell, the enhancements proposed to it, which ones got accepted as part of the standard mage toolkit, and why it changed over time.
The second book is one of the many Steamy Romance Novels you might see around Azeroth. Jana generally uses the much larger book on Scorch to hide the smaller pulp book. One of Jana’s many vices is a love for steamy romance novels and she’d generally prefer to hide that from the judgmental mage elite.
This post is not about steamy romance novels.
Instead, it’s about the Scorch spell, how it has evolved within the game from Vanilla onwards, and some ideas for the justifications behind the changes. The story of the evolving Scorch spell will be told in a narrative format, as if a mage within the Warcraft universe were telling it, as opposed to a more mundane list of the changes and the actual numeric values used by the game.
Long ago, early in the development of a standard fire mage toolkit, fireball was the only significant spell. Fireball represented what was accepted as the proper combination of power, speed and mana cost to be used in most circumstances. There were other circumstances, however, that called for other spells. Mage elders researched different ways of using fire and came up with several different spells as possible alternatives within a standard mage spellbook.
One of those spells was Scorch. Compared to fireball, it was much quicker, did a lot less damage absolutely and a significant amount less damage if it were to be continually cast. Its mana cost was roughly equivalent. It also had an important but often overlooked feature of applying fire damage directly at the targeted point rather than having to travel from the mage to its target. The suggested use case for the Scorch spell was when something needed to be hit quickly, without that much concern for whether it would be hit hard or efficiently. This spell was sufficiently valuable on its own that it found its way as one of only four direct damage spells into the fire mage spellbook.
The primary competition to Scorch at the time was a spell called Fire Blast. Fire Blast was an instant cast spell that did about the same damage as Scorch. Like most instant cast spells, there was a short amount of time after which the spell was cast that no other spell could be cast, and this time was by coincidence the same length of time it took to cast Scorch. The advantage of Fire Blast was that it did its damage immediately, while Scorch had to wait until the end of the spell cast. Fire Blast was thus seen as a more effective means of doing damage quickly. The downside of Fire Blast was that it was much more costly in terms of mana to cast (roughly three times as difficult as Scorch) and it could not be cast successively, requiring about eight seconds of waiting time before it could be cast again. Because the use case for these two spells was rare enough, these downsides generally proved immaterial and the preferred spell for a fire mage who needed to damage something quickly was Fire Blast.
The developers of the Scorch spell thus began working on ways to improve the spell to make it more useful to mages willing to train specifically in the spell. (At the time this was absolutely normal; most spells could be improved through additional specific training, and the developers of all spells competed to make their own spells more useful.) In what was a shortsighted decision, however, the developers of the Scorch spell aimed their efforts at replacing Fireball rather than Fire Blast or carving out a new purpose for the spell. The developers added a feature to the spell which made the target burn for additional damage over time. This increased the damage quotient of the scorch spell to a point where it rivaled an unimproved fireball in terms of overall damage per unit time. This improvement, however, went against the purpose of the scorch spell (to apply damage quickly), unreliably applied its increased damage, and ended up not being effective versus an improved fireball, as the developers of the fireball spell created a way of speeding up the casting time of the fireball spell, an improvement that practically every fire mage took.
This result caused vociferous arguments within the Scorch spell developers. One camp continued to insist on making Scorch better than Fireball. Another camp insisted that this was a foolish approach and that Scorch had to offer something different than pure damage to survive. The non-use of Scorch during this early period led to the latter camp winning over the leadership. The team struck a new path that ensured that Scorch would be an active part of every fire mage’
The team embraced the notion that Scorch would not be cast in its own right in preference to Fireball or Fire Blast. Instead, they developed an improvement to the spell that improved every other spell a fire mage would cast: in addition to doing its minor amount of damage, Scorch would weaken the target to make it more susceptible to fire damage from any spell and any source. Suddenly Scorch became a must-cast spell, enhancing spells cast primarily by fire mages but also some warlocks. It became the spell cast most often by fire mages save for the standard fireball itself. This represented a huge win for the team.
This version of the Scorch spell lasted for quite a while and its utility was unquestioned. This did not mean the Scorch team sat on its hands; indeed, it was looking for new and different ways to enhance the Scorch spell. Specifically, there were two complaints about the Scorch spell. One was that to get the full effect of weakening the target, Scorch would have to be cast five times before other spells could be cast. Since the effect lasted thirty seconds, Scorch would then need to be recast within that thirty seconds to maintain the effect; if, for some reason, it fell off the target, Scorch would need to again be cast five times. Most mages didn’t mind having to cast it once, but having to cast it five times initially was seen as burdensome.
A second complaint was the Scorch’s utility was limited to the few types of adventurers that did fire damage. It was generally felt that if Scorch could expose the target in a different way as to be more susceptible to all damage, that would improve the case of a fire mage as far as being a part of a large adventuring group.
At the time of the beginning of the Northrend invasion, the Scorch team cracked both of these problems. The first was applied with a glyph that required only two applications of the Scorch spell to provide full vulnerability on the target. The second was a modification of the effect on the target to make critically damaging strikes more often for all spell casters. While the first alteration made a fire mage’s life easier, the second alteration made a fire mage much more desired within the larger teams of adventurers.
The Scorch team continued to develop along both fronts. The first team managed to collapse its efforts so that the full effect of weakening the target could be had in one cast, and eventually to the point where no glyph was necessary to provide this benefit. The team developed a new glyph making the Scorch spell more powerful, but this glyph was never that popular as Scorch was properly seen as a utility rather than damaging spell.
Meanwhile, the effect of weakening the target was running into trouble. As typical mages became more and more powerful, applying the weakening effect made the spell less reliable. The Scorch team saw the writing on the wall and recognized that the target-weakening effect would no longer become sustainable as the mages’ power increased. The team staved this off for a little while by reducing the power of the weakening effect by 50%, and this compromise lasted through the Northrend offensive.
At the time of the Cataclysm, the Scorch spell was in significant flux. The ability of the spell to apply a meaningful weakening effect was seen as nearly impossible. This effect, which had given Scorch its purpose since the days of Molten Core, was gone. The Scorch team scrambled to find a new purpose.
With new blood came that new purpose. The Shen’dralar of Eldre’thalas brought their research and offered two new improvements to the Scorch spell to maintain its viability. First, the mana cost of the spell itself was reduced dramatically, to the point where most mages could cast it and regain mana while doing so. Second, and more importantly, the spell could be cast while the mage was in motion. This gave a fire mage a means of sustaining significant damage even when she was moving and/or without mana.
This version of the Scorch spell effectively lasts until the present time, although not without some hiccups. With the invasion of Pandaria and the retooling of all spell books, Scorch became an optional spell for all mages. Many fire mages and a significant amount of arcane and frost mages recognized its utility in fights that required a lot of motion, but there were several fire mages who abandoned the spell altogether. This experiment was short-lived, though, as scorch quickly returned to the standard fire mage spellbook (and, out of spite, was removed as a possible choice from frost and arcane mages spellbooks).
The history of the Scorch spell is almost certainly the most interesting and varied of any mage spell, and perhaps any spell altogether. It developed from a little used spell into a mandatory cast, into an essential spell that gave fire mages utility within a group. From this came its tragic collapse as those effects were overpowered, followed by a complete repurposing of the spell as a means of maintaining spellcasting during high movement or low mana phases. Almost certainly it will continue to remain one of the most interesting spells to watch, as I am certain that its development is not complete.
Now that our raid team has cleared ToT, gotten two heroic bosses and looking at a rather large jump in difficulty to try for the third, silly ideas are coming out as to what to do to maintain interest until we get to give Garrosh a piece of our collective minds.
Longtime readers of this blog know that I am a fan of silly. The one idea that seemed to resonate (and sadly, I don’t know who said it first and about five people are likely to claim credit, including me) was to run ToT in the most horrible transmog outfits we could put together.
I knew what I had to do right then and there. I had to put together my throwback outfit, one based upon the Spellfire set and the Spellstrike set. The thing about these sets is that every fire and arcane mage had these at one point. Both of them were so good that you wouldn’t want to replace them until you got T5 out of SSC and TK. This was back in the day when there were a billion attunements, strict progression and fights designed to take weeks to master, all of which made it such that quite a few people never actually got it that far. I never did, which made it such that I had these sets all the way up until 2.4, when Magister’s Terrace and valor gear finally brought me items that were undeniable better, if only by a little bit.
And these sets looked horrible together. Absolutely horrible. In 2.0 it was the worst thing of all, because the Spellfire set had a vest and not a robe, meaning the red and gold of the Spellstrike pants that clashed horribly with the pink and yellowish-green of the Spellfire set was painfully there for everyone to see. In 2.1 the Spellfire Vest turned into a Spellfire Robe after quite a few complaints. It would not surprise me to learn that the clash between these two sets was the seed that led to Transmogrification.
In any case, I had my idea for a set. Alas, I had long since vendored the set from my bank, and had to create it anew. This was a bit of a problem because the set takes a lot of materials from BC area drops:
Bolt of Imbued Netherweave: 3 Bolts of Netherweave, 2 Arcane Dust;
Bolt of Netherweave: 5 Netherweave Cloth.
So, in total for these two sets you need: 46 Spellcloth, 10 Primal Might, 2 Primal Nether, 10 Netherweb Spider Silk, and 38 Primal Fire, which breaks down into 690 Netherweave Cloth, 92 Arcane Dust, 94 Primal Fire, 56 Primal Mana, 10 Primal Earth, 10 Primal Air, 10 Primal Water, 10 Netherweb Spider Silk and 2 Primal Nether.
That’s a pretty long shopping list, but before I could even start that I had to face one reality. I didn’t have the pattern for the Spellstrike Hood. This turned out to be a bit of a blessing mixed with the obvious cursing. The pattern drops off a guy with the unfortunate name of Grand Warlock Nethekurse, with a 1.3% drop chance (and not the 1.6% drop chance I had feverishly imagined when I started the process). He’s the first guy in Shattered Halls, and the pattern drops in both normal and heroic mode. This was fortunate because it meant I got five tries per hour at him rather than the one try per day (which likely would have ruined the outfit). While I was farming the pattern I collected the greens and the cloth off the numerous mobs that led to him, and I quickly amassed all the Arcane Dust and Netherweave Cloth I needed. It took me 27 tries before the pattern dropped, which I consider lucky.
After this I had two goals. One was to get the items I needed to craft the set, and the other was to get the pieces I needed to complement it. I decided to go with reputation items and items that dropped from normal BC instances for two reasons. First, with how difficult heroics were in BC there was a reasonable possibility that someone would have actually built this set and certainly would have had all of these items at some point. Second, because I had only a few days to do it I couldn’t guarantee a drop from Karazhan or a heroic dungeon. So I created a list:
Mantle of Three Terrors from Black Morass;
Baba’s Cloak of Arcanistry from Mechanar;
Bindings of the Timewalker from Keepers of Time Quartermaster;
Sigil-laced Boots from Arcatraz;
Blade of the Archmage from Honor Hold Quartermaster;
Lamp of Peaceful Radiance from Arcatraz.
Of these, the only one I had a serious problem getting was the Sigil-laced Boots in Arcatraz. They drop off of Harbinger Skyriss (as does the Lamp of Peaceful Radiance, which I think I got five times in the process), which means I had to run all the way through the instance every time and go through that timed event involving Millhouse Manastorm that was such a pain in the butt. (I mean, it’s great once in a while, but it starts to grate on the nerves when you do it five times an hour). Twenty times later, I still didn’t have it.
I had another option and I tried it. Quagmirran in heroic Slave Pens drops an epic item called Boots of Blasphemy, which would work even better with the set theme. I ran it about an hour before the reset, thinking I could get two or three shots at it, and thankfully the boots dropped on the first try. I crossed Arcatraz off the list and I sincerely hope it will be a long time before I ever have to go back there.
That left the grinding for primals. This just took time. I managed to get a fair bit of help from a few people in my guild (Law, Aessiria and Qaaliaa: thank you), and Primal Mana was readily available on the AH for dirt cheap, but I still needed to farm a few Primal Air and a bazillion Primal Fire myself. For the Air and a bit of the Fire I went to the Elemental Plateau in Nagrand, where the respawn rates were not quite quick enough to ensure a steady supply of mobs to kill. Once I had the air, I switched to the Throne of Kil’jaeden, where the respawn on the fire elementals is such that I could circle the place ad infinitum to get motes of fire.
Late Friday night I had completed my primal farming and started to put together the set. It was at this point I realized something horrible: I had accidentally vendored the Mantle of Three Terrors. Back I went to the Black Morass, slightly hopeful because the darned thing dropped on the first try the last time.
Not so much this time. 18 tries and a little over three hours later, I finally got it again, and my set was complete:
Remember, in Burning Crusade at some point, every single fire and arcane mage looked something like this, and thank Blizzard for putting in transmogrification.