Alternative Incentives for Returning Players
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 March 2014, 9:47 pm
Giving someone a reward is easy, but does it actually make any difference? I've analyzed all my data on new and returning characters in the top ten MMOs and found no effect. Note: I have absolutely no data. Since the traditional approach does not appear to be working, here are some alternatives.

Here's what changed
There are patch notes and maybe spell tips, but do those help? Of course not. If they did, then players would be all up ins that game.

Instead, give a narrative of what happened. Say which awesome abilities are gone, admit that the new ones aren't as good, and give a general idea of how the class is completely unrecognizable. To go along with this, check the most recent play time of more than ten minutes (that is just confused stumbling, like a drunk man with no light poles), and then say how things are different relative to then. Is your melee class now a spell caster? Does your spell caster use strength for some reason?

Bag Organizer
"What's all this shit in my bags?" Not only does the player not remember putting this stuff in there (reverse-hackers?), they have no idea if it is any good. You come back with three empty slots and end up rage-quitting immediately, or at best, spend two hours figuring it out, only to quit because your first new impression is that the game is a miserable mess of bag management.

To help, give returning players an automated analysis of the contents of their bags. What is the median sell price over the past month? Is this piece of gear better than something you'll get from the new content that drew you back in?

Here's how bad you are
Last time I played I was hot stuff. I was awesome and did cool stuff. Now I'm not sure what's going on. Rather than surprise players by leaving them to get horribly stomped in PvP and perhaps PvE as well, just bluntly inform them that on a scale of one to ten, their gear is now a zero. Then show them some options on fixing that, such as "go to noob island of free epics to get up to two" or "die a lot in absurdly unbalanced PvP to get to a four".

Your guild master was arrested for selling meth
Who hasn't come back to a disbanded guild? Or as GM of a guild that is inexplicably flagged as "kill on sight" due to some misdeeds in your absence? Give returning players some idea of what happened, whether that was a mass transfer, a mass quit because of the same expansion that made you leave, or the Rapture (nope, you're not in).

The Ancient
It's a title to indicate "I wasn't always this awful, give me a moment and I'll show you how good I can be. Or at least I will spend the entire run telling you how good I used to be, because let's face it, the years away due to a brief 'misunderstanding' the a mob boss did not make me a better gamer.

The End-Game Transition
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2014, 5:44 pm
Anyone who complains about an end-game transition is being stupid.

Part One: Inevitability

In any game with any sort of progress you're going to have a tendency toward an end-game. Either all measured progress stops or it changes in form. This is not necessarily by the design of the developers.

Consider a game such as Banished or Don't Starve. The initial game is a struggle to not die horribly. You try to get sustained heat or light and food. This means chopping trees, foraging, hunting, and hitting rocks. Eventually you've chopped so many trees, foraged and hunted, and hit so many rocks that you're not likely to die a horrible death at any given moment. You've stabilized your situation. Your people have shelter, they make enough babies that enough will grow up to make babies to sustain the baby-making cycle, and you generate enough surplus food that even if the houses are filled with babies you won't suffer from baby-induced starvation. Alternatively, you have enough trees and grass around to keep catching rabbits, your rock-based structures are set up, and you have enough non-renewable materials to last a very long time.

Now you're in the end-game. In a game that doesn't have one, but it does anyway.

Unless you do something actively stupid, such as switching all your farmers to the quarry, or going in caves naked with no torches, you're unlikely to die any time soon. With the basics taken care of you can focus even more on exploration and expansion. Now you can build another Market Economic Zone branching off from your original Capital Economic Zone, and eventually fill the entire map with housing and farms, altering their design to ensure the maximum number of non-starving people. The survival game has become a spreadsheet-based optimization game.

Part Two: Your Counter-Argument to Part One is Stupid

Part Three: By Which I Mean, Adding New Problems Isn't a Good Solution

Banished could figure out new problems to throw at you. Maybe you think you're such hot shit for having stone houses and locally-sourced plum brandy from a sustainable orchard. Well what about when the developer patches in alcoholism and makes the dead rise up and eat all your peppers? Now you have to divert your precious iron supply to swords rather than tools and your physician has to do something other than wait around for dirty nomads with their weird foreigner diseases. Bam, challenge returned! In a totally artificial and annoying manner.

At least for me, and my opinion is the best one, these sorts of games are about the struggle toward that stable point. You figure out the immediate crises (food), deal with those, work on the near-term problems (housing), figure those out, and amidst all of that work toward dealing with long-term issues such as not running out of tools next year. With that generally worked out, you create some guarantees for the future, such as a trading post, so that you can supplement your theoretically-limited supply of stone, iron, and coal, with pepper trades. Now you can survive forever. That's kinda neat.

If the game then added in a new type of problem, then I'd probably just get mad at it. I just built this town hall and now you're telling me I need to beautify the streets or get voted out? I'm the incorporeal dictator!

The game could add a decay mechanic, but how are you going to tune it? If the decay uses resources that can be unlimited, such as trees or rabbit corpses, then it's essentially just another long-term sustainability mechanic. I'll set up a few more traps and declare victory.

If the decay uses resources that aren't unlimited, then the game is essentially saying "this game is about survival and I am going to kill you, guaranteed." I don't mind the inevitability of death in a game, but can I at least go out with a bang rather than a whimper? Surely it is more fun to see that the end is coming and bravely stand against the onslaught of violent death than to mine the last rock and know that the next baby born will die shivering in the cold. Maybe that's just human nature, to want to face something that we can punch, such as Russians, rather than resource depletion.

Part Four: I Stop Writing Soon

A truly pure survival game sounds stupid to me. Survival is a limited thing. It is either a pointless struggle against the inevitable or a pointless struggle. I like it when a game has survival that can be overcome, and when it is, something can be built. In Banished I didn't just survive a winter, I also built a town that can survive many winters. Perhaps that is also a bit of human nature: while animals survive, humans build and develop. Even if the rules of the universe still call for survival, it is no longer at the front of our minds because we've built to insulate ourselves from it, with markets, laws, and literal insulation.

So I say to you, if you think "the end-game transition" is both bad and preventable, then you, sir or madam or other old-timey polite moniker for your identity, are an opponent of all human progress, and probably alien progress as well.

How your keybindings are killing you
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2014, 9:25 am
For years I've used ctrl as a modifier to get additional spells on my bars and ready to use. It's not so far away and with my pinky on it my normal keys were still readily accessible. It all seemed perfect. Then it struck me: I shouldn't be constantly twisting my hand to use common spells. I didn't have any symptoms of anything, but why push my luck? I'd never liked the two buttons on the side of my mouse, but I figured I'd give them a try.

Immediately that was two more readily accessible spells. That means two fewer spells that need ctrl to use. Most of my hand-twisting was gone. It felt good. It felt more relaxed and comfortable. It also felt smarter than destroying my left hand just because I didn't like two of my buttons.

I still use ctrl, but differently. First, it works well with the mouse buttons, since ctrl-mouse doesn't use the same hand, so my pinky moves down to the key but my other fingers aren't extended up to get at the numbers. Second, because I've effectively freed up four keys, I can save ctrl for things that aren't so frequently used.

I might even get one of those mice with a dozen buttons in various spots. They always seemed stupid to me, but perhaps not if they're going to be better for my hands.

Like Alexander, if he hadn't died in the field
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2014, 11:28 am
Last post I wrote about my utter failure at domestic policy. Maybe violence in games is more common than anything else because it's so much easier. Destroying things can be a matter of simple brute force or cleverly identifying a weakness, but once it's done, it's done. It helps that games, and media in general, don't portray the mess that is left behind. It's fun to wave the flag at the top of the Reichstag, less fun to figure out what to do with millions of stained consciences and a rubble-based country.

I had to deal with that aftermath. My wars gave me land and that land gave me some wealth, but those wars also gave me a bad reputation and a larger army that took that wealth. Strangely, this was a more immediate crisis than any battle. I'd made huge military mistakes in the past, but worst case scenario I could just end the war. Failing on the domestic front could destroy my country now and in the future. Action had to be immediate and on a large scale, before it completely overwhelmed my economy and foreign relations.

I had to take aggressive action. As much as I could, I trimmed my army. I switched my one national idea to the national bank (reduces inflation). I centralized my government (less inflation, more taxation). I stopped starting wars of blatant aggression and instead guaranteed the independence of small nations, waiting for them to be attacked (the tribute and vassals were too valuable, and necessary for my budget). I invested in government and trade research. Eventually I managed to balance my budget for the year and even started bringing down inflation. War exhaustion went to zero and the rebellions died down. Since then I've closed most of the tech gap with my rivals, built a navy, and cut overall inflation by more than two thirds.

Despite my switch to a domestic focus, I did still wage a few, highly-successful wars. They took down Castille and Lithuania, two countries with a long history of attacking me.

Things were looking good. Rebellions we down, revenues were up, everything was looking good.

I saw opportunity in the east of Europe: vast empires with backward armies. I went for it and it worked like a breeze. I looked south and saw the powerful Ottomans. They looked backward too. They turned out to be close enough in technology that I couldn't just knock them out in a single battle. The war dragged on, but my slight technological edge and rapidly-growing army won the day. All seemed to be okay. I even had a strategy to take down some of Castille's friends so that I could, someday, directly confront them again.

Then came the endless wars. I didn't start these fights, not all of them, or even most of them. But they happened and I had to win them. My vast armies marched all across Europe fighting everyone from Hungary to Sweden and even out to Asia for a fight with Persia. Countries, big and small, declared war. Algiers, my supposed vassal and ally, not that I blame them for their actions, supported rebels that knocked out my stabilization forces in northern Africa. The southern force was occupied with endless rebels. That was the theme: endless rebellions. As the war weariness inched upward so did the revolt chance, breaking 30%, and resulting in multiple provinces lost, though most regained before it was too late. I ended up losing two provinces in northern Africa, though at least they defected to a vassal, so it's not a total income loss. A terrible, tiny African country declared war, and with my African armies in shambles, managed to take a few provinces.

Tax revenues plummeted, leading me to use minting to balance my budget. Thankfully, I have two masters of the mint, centralization, and my national idea to keep inflation from growing. Army spending has to stay high as I am fighting constant rebellions and expect that one of these days the Ottomans are going to want revenge. Meanwhile, I suspect Castille and Austria are waiting for their moment.

Yet it is not all bad. I have the armies needed to keep down revolts. I am at peace. I'm returning some annexed provinces to vassals as a way to reduce the areas of revolt. Inflation is slowly creeping down. Except for Austria, the Germanic areas are almost entirely vassals. My colonies in Africa are growing and Brittany saved the day with its own armies. I crushed Sweden and liberated Norway and Finland. Newly-liberated Georgia is not very friendly, but at least it means that Persia is divided. France is stable, without debt, and at technological parity with anyone.

If it were not an absolute monarchy, I can only imagine that it would all make for some excellent spin from government and opposition parties. In retrospect, I wish I'd kept the administrative republic, but, "L'etat c'est moi."

You can play your own story of utter incompetence
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2014, 7:36 pm
I bought Europa Universalis III (not the new one) the other day. So far it's amazing (also, fun). The amount of choice is new to me.

In part, this comes from the game not pretending to be balanced in any normal sense. France is clearly the dominant power on the western European continent. But you can, if you want, play as Burgundy, France's smaller, weaker neighbor. I opted for Burgundy and then waged a long champaign to take control of France, so much so that I was able to declare myself to be France (that helped a lot with the French nationalist uprisings).

Yet, despite the "not balanced" nature of it, the game doesn't consist entirely of big AI nations devouring smaller ones. The diplomatic and domestic cost of a war of pure aggression is pretty steep, as I learned. In fact, things can go dramatically wrong for big countries. France was devoured by my upstart Burgundy. I won countless other wars and prizes, both large and small.

I probably sound like a pretty capable leader at this point. I mean, just look at me, making vassals of over a dozen small countries, gaining monopolies in over a half-dozen trading hubs, taking on everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Milan, and taking down the greatest power on the continent and then remaking it in my image. That's the thing: my image.

I had no idea how to actually run the country.

Before World War I the doctrine among the great powers that they should have an army large enough to fight any two other nations at once. I thought that sounded completely ridiculous. Surely that wouldn't be necessary, or even possible, since only at the trivial case of 0 can you assign values to y=2x and x=2y. Math says Europe was stupid.

Yet that is exactly what I did. I'd regularly check on the ledger to ensure that my army could beat anyone. It could. Yet I couldn't rely on my total, because I had rebels to put down, so I'd have half my army big enough to beat anyone, and the other half as the other half of an army that could beat anyone. Why did I dedicate so many forces to dealing with a handful of rebels? Because they weren't and handful of rebels.

For years I was essentially at war with my own people. Norman, Orleanais, and Breton nationalists were a constant problem. I almost wished I could have just killed all the Dutch, but they run a really great trading port. Throw in peasant uprisings and patriots from whatever war was going on and domestically I was facing a larger army than from the actual wars.

And then there were the wars. Sure, it made sense to unify France. But why was I constantly poking my head into the Germanic lands? A country here, a country there, and next thing I'm widely hated. The constant war also caused war exhaustion, which raises the risk of revolt.

Meanwhile my inflation was through the roof. I'd been messing with the treasury to pay for my absurdly oversized army and complete inability to create an annual budget. That didn't just reduce my research, but also caused inflation, which makes everything, including research, more expensive. I was killing two of my own birds with one stone.

I had even taken visible steps backward. To save on army costs I abandoned the defense of my Danish holdings. Those were eventually captured by rebels and returned to Denmark. I gave up on defending the small countries between me and Castille; I couldn't fight wars on their timetable anymore. Those small nations were captured and annexed. My holdings in North Africa were cut off due to my poor naval logistics, leading me to cede land to get a peace treaty rather than losing everything.

From the outside, newly-unified France-from-Burgundy (such a British name) was extremely powerful. It had won countless wars, made many vassals, and had an army so absurdly large that it could probably fight the entire continent to a stalemate. Internally that army was tied up with perpetual unrest. Its budget was an inflated mess. It was frequently borrowing to pay for wars that made the world hate it. This wasn't a country on the verge of collapse, but it was one facing stagnation and eventually, defeat.

Understanding Understanding BitCoins
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 March 2014, 10:15 am
I have a shiny new game to write about, but until I'm horribly burnt out and hate it I can't really give a fair assessment. In the meantime, here's a brief I wrote about how comprehension of BitCoins works.

Understanding of BitCoins operates with a complex system, but here are a few concepts to know. Some people try to understand BitCoin and will spend a great deal of time and mental energy trying to work out complex mental patterns. All understanding is tracked in the BitCoin Comprehension Ledger, a list that everyone has of people who understand BitCoins. Two people can agree to talk about BitCoin, with one transferring their understanding to the other, as illustrated here, which is then witnessed and recorded by others in the Ledger. In this way the system can carefully regulate how many people understand it, thereby creating value through scarcity.

There is some risk that too many people will understand it. The inventor has assured everyone that they will work diligently to ensure a sufficiently confusing system in the long term. However, the system has been shaken by some large events such as the FBI's Silk Road action and something happening with MtGox. Spreading through media channels, these resulted in dozens of additional people understanding BitCoin and dramatically increasing the popularity of trying to do so.

Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 March 2014, 12:14 pm
"Don't Starve," I told my citizens. "We love that game," they replied. I attempted to clarify, "No, I mean you should not starve." "We sure hope not!" They did.

Tech trees are a lie. They suggest, incorrectly, that if you have built Structure A that you are ready, and should, build structure B. More likely you should have built three of Structure A before even considering Structure B, so it's a tech pyramid. Banished does not tell this lie. It instead says nothing. It stands there, watching you, without any expression. You look at the game and ask, "Should  build this yet?" It does not reply.

So you figure it out yourself. You stumble through getting enough food. Your first town starves. You try again and try harder with the food. They freeze to death, homeless. Finally you get it all worked out, with food, housing, and firewood. Now things are rolling. Until your tools break.

Rather than building iron monuments to your greatness, which unfortunately do not exist, you instead create quarries and tools. Then someone gets crushed by a rock. Your aging population is not making enough children. Meanwhile the few are growing up uneducated. Productivity suffers. You find that food reserves are low because someone has stuffed ten thousand deer carcases in their house.

Much of the game is a juggling act, trying to get workers in the jobs needed to get the resources needed. Eventually you realize that you have a labor shortage. Everyone has a job. There's so little slack that even if you wanted to build another farm you can't. But without that farm will you have enough food to feed a larger population? The coats run out.

I'm at a point where my town is stable. It has plenty of diverse food, high health and happiness, and plenty of resources. I could turn up the game speed and leave it to itself until the quarry ran out. But that's boring. I'm trying to grow the town. That means trying to get more housing so people can make more families, but I need enough food for them, so I must have a surplus and that must be sustainable enough to hold up with dozens more useless children. Meanwhile the infrastructure needs a step up, with more firewood for all the homes, nearby markets, and before long, another school.

I've noticed that a strange patterns emerges, almost like a boom-bust economic cycle. There are recessions. Things slow down, waiting, just waiting, for enough resources for something to happen. This might mean more people or more stone, but even if I have a plan, it isn't possible, not yet. These are less severe as the town develops, as I get more workers into stable jobs like mining, rather than the cyclical farmer/laborer division. It all becomes more predictable and manageable.

But I know one of these days those nomads are going to bring a disease.

Into a New Land: Part One: The Scout
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 February 2014, 5:24 pm
It's a near-certainty that I'm going to transfer servers. It's not a common experience for me, so I figure I'll write about it. Who knows what strange things I might encounter. Maybe they'll all use a different set of acronyms or have slightly different AH prices.

I log in. I log out to disable my pile of addons, many of which I do not ever use and did not realize even stil existed.

I log in. I pick frost specialization. I no longer have a 'finisher', since Blood Strike is supposedly replaced by Death Strike or Obliviate, not available until 56 and 58, respectively.

I get a guild invite. While I write this I get another one. The first was at least for my own server.

Auto-loot is off. This is the first thing that frustrates me with all alts. At least I didn't spent ten minutes grinding mobs and wondering why I wasn't getting quest drops.

Instructor Razuvious does not use Oxford commas when he talks. I regret that his words are allowed to appear on my screen.

I receive the second invite for a guild on Galakrond. He asks that I press Accept. I decline to inform him that the options are "Join Guild" and "Decline Invitation".

As I run through the DK starting area I find myself torn between being eager to run through Outland and eager to run through Northrend. I end up picking the fourth guild invite I got, a level 2 that, of course, has big plans. In the meantime I am getting 5% more xp and someone gets some free guild leveling. Their invite macro seems to be working well, with equal parts Blackhand and Galakrond.

It all looks promising, but I still have that nagging question, "Would I be better off spending my $25 on a flying mount?" And then a voice says, "No, that's a stupid question. One of these will improve your playing experience while the other is a flashy thing that you'd never use, just like every other flashy mount you own."

Looking for an Alliance PvE server
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 February 2014, 1:58 pm
My paladin is looking for a home. I'm not aiming for a particular guild, just a PvE server, within an hour of CST, where the Alliance isn't terrible and where the population is high enough to have a decent AH and guilds.
Quel'dorei, Blackhand, Draka, and Rexxar look promising: high population, decent faction balance (for the BG queues). Does anyone have any experience with of these servers?

Or does anyone have any advice in general? I've never needed to look for a realm, just found some friends and followed them for a few years.

I wish there was something like a 'realm preview' feature. Pay your money and then you get to play your chosen character on a selection of five realms, with a month to pick one.

"I'm not afraid." "You should be."
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 February 2014, 9:47 pm
The other day I got over my fear of meaningful roles in LFR. I tanked. Other players were generally helpful or at worst, indifferent. It was gloriously fun. In fact, the only bit that wasn't much fun was when I somehow got placed in the Gates of Retribution as... well as retribution.

Galakras made no sense. The Iron Juggernaut was a bit of fun thanks to the "step on the land mines on purpose" mechanic. The Dark Shaman was just awful. It's a chaotic mess of messes and chaos that never felt like we had the slightest bit of control of the situation. I'm all for a dynamic fight, but I don't like feeling like we're getting thrown around randomly. Maybe if I had been the tank it would have been different. Nazgrim was boring and I was annoyed that people kept attacking during defensive stance when there were still adds up.

Today I got in as a tank for The Underhold. Unfortunately, the queue popped as I was reading the fights, so I wasn't as prepared as I'd have liked, particularly since the first boss was already dead. Even worse, the Spoils of Pandaria fight sounds much different in text. I was much slower than I would have been had I seen the fight before; I'd thought the boxes opened on their own. People yelling at "tank" weren't much help, given that there were two tanks with much different situations and I couldn't be focusing on figuring out where the whiner was. Thok seemed to go okay, once started ignoring the jailers and letting the other tank figure out where they went. Again, a fight that didn't translate so well into text. We ended with me being yelled at to kite, so I kited, then I was told it was too fast, so I went slower. DPS died in the fire. He enraged. I left after someone started insulting both of us tanks. My ignore list grew. I have no time for people whose response to problems is senseless insults.

You might be thinking that I'm in the wrong for queueing without having watched a video first. To that I say, "fuck off." If I'd queued as DPS then my ignorance would be no issue. However, the queue times for me, and for all the other DPS, would be an issue. Furthermore, I'm not going to spend my time to please these sorts of assholes. Frankly, they should be grateful I queued as a tank at all to carry their mindless, abusive selves through the fights.

After a cooling off session involving a great deal of profanity I queued again. Again, I got a raid with the first boss dead. I jumped into the action and did a fine job of tanking the rest of the place with no issues. The tank switches were a glorious thing to see, if I say so myself.

I still find myself a little more reluctant to do LFR. I could run it as DPS for the visuals and then go again as a tank. Since I don't enjoy the DPS I might as well just watch some strat video and suffer through the awful explanations and accents that come from some part of the UK that is as indecipherable as the Welsh but without having the excuse of living inside a whale. Some part of me rebels at this idea. It seems contrary to the idea of LFR. Isn't it a place for less-geared, less-organized, less-prepared randomly formed groups to get some gear and learn a bit? Or is it just an awful alternative to real raiding? I intend to do some more LFR in order to get more gear and learn some more in anticipation of finding a guild. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Cowardice is the Killer of Fun
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 February 2014, 12:02 am
I'd been avoiding tanking in LFR. I didn't know the fights and didn't quite trust guides to get the ideas across. Obviously this was stupid. LFR is the training ground for raids. It's where people go to learn. Yet it all seemed so complex.

That's only because I'd been in as DPS and DPS are stupid. It's just something that happens when you switch role. Healers are smart. Tanks are smart. DPS are barely literate cave beasts. They run after a crowd hitting things. Sometimes they try to appear smart by quantifying their contribution with damage meters. It never works.

In actuality the fights only seemed complex because I was too stupid to see the basic patterns. Going in as a tank meant that I had to have some understanding of the fights. Stand here, keep aggro on these, interrupt that. Keep the holy power rolling and be ready with a CD in case there is a damage spike. A few mechanics are still over my head, but I don't play a draenei.

It turns out LFR can be rather fun to tank. It's a little more dynamic, a little more engaging, than DPS.

Oddly, people aren't as horrible as I thought. A more experienced tank gave me some pointers on a fight and things went well. A tank of my experience (lol, nub) hoped I could do the same, which I tried, and it worked fairly well. I stood in slightly the wrong spot, someone pointed it out, I moved, and they thanked me. Afterward I thanked them for their patience. I suspect I have a magical power to make people like my tanking, regardless of the quality of it. Perhaps they appreciate a quality transmog. I got a neat 2h sword and some vendor trash along with the opportunity to do more LFR.

During my daily shopping at the PvP vendor I was invited to do some arenas. I haven't done those since sometime in mid-Cata. They didn't go well or last long then. They never were my forte. I accepted, on the condition that they not mind that I am terrible.

Perhaps the matchmaking tool has gotten better. Maybe at this point in the season the arenas are filled with bad players. Whatever the reason, we won a bit more than we lost and I walked out with some conquest points, which I spent on a cloak. That then got me killed because a shaman knocked me off the lumber mill before I'd remembered to add a parachute to it. I don't blame arenas for that. In fact, they turned out to be a good bit of fun. Even losing isn't so bad when it doesn't take long. Lose, think about it, then get ready for the next fight. It's not like a BG where you can clearly see that your team is losing and yet it won't have officially lost for a few more minutes. Then you find yourself wishing the Horde would cap a fourth so you could get to another, less-losing match.

I'm going to find more arenas. I don't expect much winning, but the payout for a win is pretty generous, so I can't complain too much. Coupled with BGs and converted justice points I anticipate that my PvP set will steadily become less awful. In fact, I've even reached the point where my PvP and tanking sets are not identical.

Like an action movie set in Arathi Basin
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 February 2014, 5:12 pm
I have a habit of checking who is defending the less-active spots. Then I keep an eye on health and debuffs in the raid area. That way I can see if there is an attack even if they can't say anything.

I'm at blacksmith farming defender honor off the glorious zerg at farm. I see the priest at mine is getting hurt a lot. Mount up, jump down, and break out the parachute cloak. It looked to me like the priest was about to die. I hit the two Horde with my shield since I expected they'd be capping by then. The priest was not dead. So while still in the air I stuck sacred shield or her.

I landed and started hitting people. She still was not dead, but seemed sufficiently close that I'd expect two melee characters to kill her very soon. Hand of Protection made them laughably ineffective. Next thing she's at full health and casting with the uninterrupted cast bar of someone who can't be hurt by physical damage. That means the Horde are dead.

A second or two later and she'd have died before I got there. That is why you pay keep track of who's where and how they're doing.

It also helps to have a parachute cloak.

Hearthstone: The Light and How to Swing It
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 February 2014, 1:07 pm
Now that I've played it a bit, it's time to write about it.

First, go try it. The odds are pretty good that you own WoW, SC2, Diablo 3, which I think means you can get into the beta. It even pays you to play it. With in-game currency, of course.

This is an easy game to get started in. There are pre-made decks with starter cards. You can unlock heroes just by beating them in practice mode. You'll get flooded with gold early on, so you can expect to buy a lot of packs in your first few days. It slows after that, though it's still at a "fun" rate, in that you can get a pack about very other day.

It is not, however, an easy game to win in. Individual cards are not balanced. Your opponents, having played longer, will have cards that you can only dream of. Yet you can still win.

Luck is a huge component. If you get cards in the right order early on you can take control of the board and start hammering away at an enemy. If not, then the same can happen to you.

Games can turn around extremely quickly. This is not Magic: The Gathering where you have counterspells, blocking, or much of any ability to respond. If someone is rolling you over on their turn, you cannot stop them. The closest to a counter are Secrets, spells that you cast on your turn but which are triggered by a particular effect. For example, Frost Armor will give armor to the mage when they are attacked.

The result is that it can be hard to get any sense for how a game is going. You can be on the verge of death and facing a full board, only to draw a holy nova and completely turn things around. Card synergies can be impressive, such as a Northshire Cleric and a Darkscale Healer resulting in tons of card draw. A full hand means more ability to deal with what just happened.

Here's an example of how things can turn around very quickly, and how much luck can change things:

I'm playing against a warlock. We're going back and forth, but his Dread Infernals have caused a lot of damage, both with their battlecry and their heavy attack. I'm facing one and another demon, so I'm in trouble, but with a little luck I can use nukes and taunting minions to survive. It's not game over, at least not yet, though things do not look favorable. Then he draws Void Terror, which is just a 3/3, but it destroys adjacent minions and gains their attack and health, so now it is extremely powerful and tough. In two turns it can kill me. Even if I get lucky and draw cards with taunt the best I can do is stall. Or draw mind control. Yep, the very next turn that card comes out, and just in time for the 10th mana crystal. I steal the minion. The warlock is almost guaranteed to lose. He life taps, either to hasten the end or in hopes of getting something that can save him. It just puts him in kill range.

If I had not drawn the mind control it would have been game over. Or if he had not drawn the infernals. Or if I had gotten some of my heavier taunters. And so on. The game can be an endless string of what-ifs and you just have to hope that your luck with average out well in the end. And get a lot of card draw. But even that can kill you; with only 30 cards you can burn through a deck surprisingly quickly, especially as a warlock.

You might have noticed that this is all about priest cards. I've found that I very much enjoy playing the priest deck. The mage and paladin decks are pretty good too. I couldn't easily pick a favorite among them. That's a good thing, even if it makes it harder for me to decide which cards to disenchant. On that note, I don't know how much I like the crafting system since it relies on destroying cards at a very inefficient rate to make others, which is terrible for a loss-adverse person like me. I consider that a small part of the game and hardly a game-breaker.

One last thing to remember: Order of operations is critical. You can't heal a minion before it takes damage (well you can, but it does nothing), so my favorite card, Northshire Cleric, means that I have to get my minions injured first. A card like the Gurubashi Berserker has a fairly high health pool, so it can be hard to kill it without turning it into a raging monster of death. But, it starts with very low attack, so hit it with the things that you want to live, such as your important minions and hero. Save the burn spells and disposable minions for when it would kill whatever it touches.

All in all, I find that Hearthstone is a game that is well-suited to casual play. The quests can be stored up, so you don't feel pressure to play every day. They offer a choice of heroes, so you shouldn't often be pressured into ones you dislike (I'm pretty awful at rogue). Matches don't take a terribly long time. Even without spending money you can improve your decks. And the closest thing to trash talk is the person who emotes "well played" before they've actually guaranteed their victory.

What is a PvPer?
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 January 2014, 8:55 pm
The everlasting conflict between PVErs and PVPers is that the second group is quite happy to gank the first but there's no vice versa. - Syl on Twitter
 Pshaw, I say.

PvP and PvE are not separate groups. I usually do PvE. Sometimes I do PvP. The latter has about 95% of my gaming-related profanity. Strangely, in PvP my profanity is usually aimed at developers, while in PvP it is aimed at other players. As they say, "don't hate the player; hate the game developer who created such an unbalanced piece of total bullshit." Maybe that's relevant.

When I am in a PvP mood I do not gank. Just yesterday I was on my way to a mote cloud when I saw a level 80 fly toward it. He'd have beaten me to it, but he flew away. I was sad that I'd scared him off. Granted, I might have stunned him and taken the cloud for myself, but I wasn't going to press the entire extra button needed to kill him. Gear inflation is insane.

I take that back. I have ganked. Once upon a time that was a way to draw out the 60s. Swoop in and kill a quest giver or two, kill a few lowbies, and you've got yourself a battleground. Sadly, that no longer works.

In PvP I am often looking for a reasonably fair fight, or a fight that has a reasonable expectation of being fair. Those aren't the same, as anyone can tell from your average random BG that, despite being based essentially on random draws from both factions, has one failing in an almost impressive manner. I'd even claim that ganking and PvP are different activities, despite falling under the same mechanical umbrella.

Getting back to my pshaw, I suggest that Syl has drawn the lines all wrong. Since PvP and PvE are not separate categories of players, then what is the division? I propose decent human beings and bad people.

PvP has an obvious appeal for the bad people. They can directly inflict harm upon others.

Yet, is PvE immune? Is the loot ninja not a harmful jerk as well? How about the person who wipes the raid? What about the person who abuses the limits of vote-kicking to act as a parasite on a group, contributing nothing yet getting all the rewards for success? And surely the people who make glyphs are a universally awful group.

The problem is not PvPers vs. PvPers, but of horrible people vs. decent people. Maybe PvP has a higher percentage of horrible people. Fine. But do not stereotype an entire group because of that, or else you, Syl, will be in that group.

I'm saying you're a horrible person.

Lose your way to success or do something completely different
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 January 2014, 11:45 am
It appears that Ner'zhul is not a PvP powerhouse. My sample size is small because I had a hell of a time getting the informed consent forms from everyone in the BG and had to end the experiment early, pending an inquiry by the IRB. While there is a total lack of statistical significance, the magnitude of the difference between a 50-50 win-loss and what I experienced is such that I am confident that we are terrible. This suggests that the way to gear up is through repeatedly losing until I've been given more gear through honor pity points. That's a lot of losing that we'd have to do. I am, of course, part of the problem. And so, I am going to take the advance of Uncle Joe, "no person, no problem," and remove myself from this system.

At a 2-1 ratio, justice points can be exchanged for honor points. At 400-500 justice points per run, this makes random heroics a viable way to gain honor points. I've not calculated the time efficiency, but given the speed of instances these days and the shortness of tank queue times, I believe that heroics are close, if not possibly superior, as a way to farm honor. More important than the time involved, it's more fun to run something that isn't particularly hard and see some measure of success than repeatedly die to people with far better gear than me. Even if it weren't a psychological blow to die, waiting at the graveyard gets repetitive.

In a way, this makes sense. In PvE you can farm up gear from easier content to prepare yourself for harder content. You don't hit 90 and go wipe on Siege of Orgrimmar for a couple months. Instead you run easier content and build your way up. In this case, the easier content is PvE, since PvP has relative difficulty and can only be made easier by finding terrible people to play against. Then they feel bad that they're losing to slightly less terrible people. Before you know it everyone is sad and writing long emo posts about how their gear sucks and they used to fight with fishing poles. Indeed, PvE for PvP is surely the lesser of two sads.

A disjointed college essay about why the NSA should spy on games
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 January 2014, 1:07 pm
Remember when you'd need to write an essay about something but never quite had much to say? The general concept was there, but you didn't know or care enough to give it any depth. So you'd just keep branching out, giving shallow explorations of a dozen different related topics. Most of them would do nothing to advance your central theme. Those that did at least seem to advance it were so shallow that their actual contribution was negligible. If you were lucky this was a draft and the professor could point out the flaws. With a reality check you'd delve a little deeper and replace some of the width with depth. Sometimes it was the final draft. And sometimes it gets published.

This is what that looks like.
Virtual Worlds are Real:
Avatars have consequences offline. No wonder U.S. intelligence agencies are looking into them.

 In summary:
  1. The media mocks virtual worlds, thereby making it look ridiculous when government investigates them.
  2. These are new communication platforms and intelligence agencies should keep an eye on those.
  3. The appearance of avatars affects how we interact with them and therefore a virtual bin Laden would be a potentially useful recruiting tool.
  4. Online behavior affects our offline behavior.
  5. Offline behavior affects our online behavior.
  6. America's Army was an effective recruiting tool.
These are all worthwhile things to discuss. Given the headline and tag, points one and two seem to be the important ones. Point one gets a decent bit of space, while point two gets a few sentences. Surely this is where you'd want to discuss how to do this surveillance, based on the assumption that when governments see new forms of surveillance their second action is to spy on them. Is creating avatars in that world the best way to go about things? In most games that's going to give an extremely narrow view, restricted by in-game geography, social tools, and content. It's hard to properly interrogate the next bin Laden when he won't give you a guild invite, put you on ignore, and reported you to a GM for harassment. Some form of direct access to in-game communication seems like the logical way to go, but then you either need permission, something tech companies are starting to get wary of, or to break in, which has its own set of problems. The sixth point could tie into the first two. Surely it would be a good idea to keep tabs on players in Al-Queda's Army.

Yet there is the counter-point that is ignored: someone owns and controls these worlds. They monitor the communications. This isn't interception; it's directly sending messages to their servers, with their programs, and them sending it along. Even if intelligence agencies took no interest at all, there is still a Big Brother watching in the form of a company. They might not be eager to give the NSA access, but they're at least as eager not to give terrorists access. Virtual worlds just don't seem like a good place to discuss evil deeds, well beside EVE. On top of all that, shouldn't the agencies have defended themselves with some vague results? Not "we caught so and so", but at least "we've tracked some suspected guys and are continuing to track them." When even they aren't pretending it's worthwhile, that's a pretty damning argument.

The third point is a fascinating bit of psychology and definitely worth further study, but the recruitment angle is the exact absurdity that makes the media mock this sort of thing. Similarly, points four and five are worth studying. I've often been curious of how these virtual worlds with their different concepts of need and scarcity could affect our perceptions of real world economic systems, and how we bring those real world concepts into a place with a different context, where they may make no sense at all.

In conclusion: This is what happens when someone writes a book and has to promote it, not by promoting the actual book, but by trying to shoehorn everything into the latest media trend on why we should be spied on in every possible world.

When you get lapped it's hard to see just how far behind you are
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 January 2014, 12:43 am
Any runners out there? Not particularly good ones? Isn't getting lapped painful? It doesn't matter if it's a tenth of a mile track (my school had a tiny track) or a quarter mile; it just feels bad. But oddly, after the first one, the pain doesn't change much. It's hard to keep track after that. You're definitely losing and counting won't make you not be losing.

The other day I learned that prot paladins have started stacking haste. I'd never heard of this. It's something new to Pandaria. Clearly I've not done much reading on mechanics these days, by which I mean the past year or so, missing all sorts of important information. It's almost ironic. I can just picture myself laughing at a tank who thinks that DPS gear is good for him, and for a long time I'd have the facts on my side. Now I'd be that ignorant tank who thinks he should be stacking avoidance. Well supposedly we were supposed to stack stam anyway, but I always (usually) thought effective health was a load of shit.

I'd been a bit down about my potential prospects in PvP. I've not had anything near a fair fight in a few years. It's been a sort of downward spiral; at some point I stopped doing PvP, fell behind on gear, and never got into the habit again. Yet I had some hope; I could die my way through losing BGs to some gear, eventually. With my mostly altless playing these days I'd have time for it. That hundred thousand difference in health could go away, as could the vast gulf in damage.

I'd just killed Garr the Darkener in the Dread Wastes. He was kind enough to drop the pet this time. I headed for the other guy, a tough fight. There was a warlock there already. He had about 600k more health. That's when I started doing the mental arithmetic and trying to decide if that's closer to double or triple my health. I decided to see how the fight went for him, since it was tricky for me. It took a few seconds. I flew off to where I was going to farm rep for the Black Prince and spotted a rare on the way. I ran into the cave to fight it and a few seconds later the warlock showed up. I bubbled, stunned him, and ran until I was out of combat. That's my world PvP these days, not even bothering to pretend that I stand a change, just running for it and hoping they're too busy taking my kill.

I once had a fishing pole fight outside Everlook. I was on my shaman and had the overpowered Horde-only fishing pole. It was my fight to lose. And lose I did, because seals aren't weapon-based; they were a buff on the player. The paladin hit a lot harder, relatively speaking - it was a fight with fishing poles after all. We stayed far enough out that the guards wouldn't aggro. Just the two of us hitting each other with fishing poles.

I'd fought at Tarren Mill. Even after battlegrounds it still somehow turned into a battle ground. Someone would come to gank us and swarms of lowbies would gang up on them. There weren't so many AoE attacks back then, so we could just keeping biting at their ankles, figuratively-speaking, since we were Horde, not gnomes, and had no goblins yet.

I was in a farming group deep in the hives under Silithus when we ran into an Alliance group. It was no place for a fight, too many elites, too little space. We hastily backed away. I tried to drop another totem; we didn't have totemic recall back then. I was too slow. A single ball of fire went out from my searing totem. We died after putting up a moderately okay fight. The hives weren't properly linked to the zone and we reverted to the default graveyard for the Horde: the Barrens. The smart move was to use the spirit res and take a flight path; the debuff would probably be gone by then. The dumb move was to run, from the Barrens to Thousand Needles, to Tanaris, Un'Goro Crater, and finally into Silithus. I took the... well you guess.

People tended not to cause too much trouble at the cultist areas in Silithus. We all had stuff to do and some of that stuff involved fighting things that could easily kill us. This meant that we didn't want a fight, but if one started, we weren't going to waste time trying to do any more PvE. It instantly escalated into a full-scale war. We didn't need any sand for that, just something we wanted to do and someone getting in the way of us doing it.

We were about to win that arena fight. I had the match in my hand. Blessing of protection on the priest and the warrior would finish off the enemy who was attacking her. She'd heal up and then we'd have a wonderful 3 v some number that is not as big as three. I got it backward. I put blessing of protection on our warrior, preventing him from finishing them off. Our priest died. They healed up. One misclick and the entire match was lost. I'm not sure I ever recovered from that. Maybe from there it was straight downhill. Surely what they did to Alterac Valley did not help.

Before long I was thinking how next expansion I'd try again with PvP, with a nice reset to get me into things again. It never happened. I'd start late and that meant starting at the bottom of a mountain facing enemies who'd walked uphill up a hill, and despite what an old Pandaren would probably claim, they were the stronger for it.

At this point, I'm glad to even know what SoO even stands for.

PvP Should Have Gear Disparity
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 January 2014, 3:40 pm
The notions of balance, fair play, how to advance or now, they are all philosophy. As I said on Twitter, "As long as the eventual goal is to utterly crush your enemies, then use all the philosophy you want." Therefore, it is only logical that PvP should have gearing disparity. What is the point of winning if not to win harder the next time?

One might even argue that the point of war is to be able to win it. Look at how Israel fought, over control of the Golan Heights, an area which is felt was critical to its own defense, or the offense of an enemy. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in an attempt to protect itself from the US navy. Germany made a major push in the south of the USSR for the oil it needed to continue its war efforts. The notion of a preemptive strike is to start a war to prevent a war. When countries win wars they rarely decide to redraw the borders exactly as they were, but instead seek to increase their advantage, in anticipation of the next war.

Let's us consider this in the context of PvP. If I kill someone in WoW I do not do it out of a sense of malice. It is out of a sense of greed. I want a reward. That reward should exceed what I put into the fight, or it will not be worth doing. Simply getting gold might be nice, but would that actually get me anywhere? No. But gear, gear would help me to win the next time. I'd gladly forgo a bit of gold today for a victory tomorrow, and the next day, and forever after. That's called investment and it is the foundation of prosperity. It's also what wins wars. Any Starcraft player can tell you that.

Of course this has some side-effects. New players are in a tough position. Their gear is awful. In an open-world game they could try to compensate with numbers, in the manner of a hundred 0/0 marines taking on a 3/3 colossus. A brave gesture, perhaps even successful, but costly. Oddly, by trying to be fair and balance the numbers on each team, games often remove this possibility. The result is that new players may never join, or quit soon after.

Yet, is that not the point? If your enemy is too afraid to attack you, does that not mean that you have already won? And won forever? A long battleground queue is not a problem for a game; it is a victory. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot not stamping on a human face - forever.

The PvP Paradox of Accessible Gearing
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 January 2014, 10:20 am
As I looked at the mage I realized something terrible. First, she had a lot more health than me, at least 120k more. Second, that first frostbolt wasn't exactly tickling me. Third, ice lance on a frozen target, such as me, hurts a hell of a lot more than a frostbolt. I ran over and hit her a few times. I didn't have the damage to burn through her ice barrier, let alone her health, and I didn't have the health to soak very much damage.

I did the logical thing and died.

As more gear is available, significantly unbalanced fights become more common. By that I mean fights where gear is the largest determinant of success, as opposed to tactics, reflexes, or class differences, and furthermore, decides the winner regardless of those other factors.

If we imagine a game in which gear is highly exclusive, then surely we'd expect more unbalanced fights. If only one or five percent of a game can get extremely powerful gear, then we'd expect a lot of unbalanced fights; since any interaction between them and the rest of the community will be unbalanced. Yet that is only one or five percent of the interactions. Even if we expect those highly geared players to be more active and therefore run into less geared players at an unusually high rate, we're still going to be dealing with a minority of fights. A newly-leveled player will be weaker than a more experienced one, but the difference in gear will not be particularly vast if they aren't in the minority of high-end raiders.

On the other hand if gear is more accessible, though not a Push Button for Loot, then we'll see more unbalanced fights. Not everyone will take advantage of this increased accessibility, due to still being locked out or not caring enough to get the gear (maybe they prefer pet battles). Since there is a time and luck component, gear will not be evenly distributed, even under conditions of equal motivation. Some will still be poorly geared, while a large number of players will have far better gear than under the exclusive scenario. In effect, unbalanced fights are made available to more players as more players have an opportunity to gear past their peers.

Insta-Level would be a terrible waste
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 January 2014, 1:12 pm
Jessica Cook asks, "which class will you insta-level?"
My response: None, because it's pointless.

Leveling a class takes a certain amount of dedication. It takes time. Less time than it used to, but 1-90 isn't a trivial investment. Not to be confused with I-90 which is currently undergoing a lot of investment. Similarly, gearing a class takes a certain amount of dedication. Less than it used to, but spending time in the Timeless Isle and running a few tiers of LFR aren't trivial investments.

As I see it, if I'm not going to have enough fun to level a class to 90, then I'm probably not going to develop it much at 90. In short, I'm going to be doing some short-term funsies playing. I can do that at level 15 just as much as at 90. I can run instances, BGs, do some crafting and fishing, and generally do a lot of what a max level character would do. If it's just to try out a class, then again, why not do that as I level up? You can get a decent feel for a class once you pick a specialization and leveling to that point is trivial.

You may have spotted the flaw in my logic here. No, it's not the subjectivity of my experience and perceptions.

Something useless cannot be wasted. If I can find no productive use for the insta-level, why not use it for something pointless? Why not snap my fingers for a max level... uh. Class. I lose nothing by it except the ability to use it for what I just used it for. If the insta-level is only useful to me for making a useless alt and I make a useless alt, then mission accomplished.

I just don't know which useless alt I'd make.

Perhaps someone else would find it useful for joining friends without burning vast sums of money on a server/race change. Suggestion for Blizzard: I would buy a server transfer if it included a race change, hint hint. Joining friends could justify the investment of time in leveling, but why not jump up and join them sooner? Of course by that logic, why not have recruit-a-friend give the new player matching gear? It's clear to me that friendship destroys all rules and standards. Friendship does not give meaning, but instead removes it and leaves nothing but nihilistic anarchy. That is why I don't like the insta-level.

A Mixed Beginning
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 January 2014, 12:53 pm
As I wrote my post that in part lamented the status of my paladin, I realized that my rogue main wasn't in such a great position either. Her guild isn't very active anymore. So why not play my paladin? I have nothing to lose.

So I hopped on over to level up. Eventually I'll finish the Jade Forest and write about my thoughts on the Alliance side of it. Pet battles meant that I hit 90 long before finishing the zone. Glorious 90.

I set off to the Temple of the White Tiger. I fought a legendary pet along the way, failing a couple times before recognizing that my pet selection needed some improving. The tiger let me into the Vale and in I went. Aha, a rare! I'd fought it before, a dangerous melee enemy. I wasn't geared for this. But paladins are not a melee-only class. I knew that with judgement, exorcism, and a lot of patience I could kill it.

I was interrupted in my kiting by a level 90 Horde paladin. A level 90 Horde paladin attacking the rare. I closed in to my now-safe melee range and killed it. The paladin did not kill me. I thanked him and looted the corpse. And then the third attack from the warlock landed and killed me.

PvP servers breed such paranoia.

Since it's the place to be, I went to the Timeless Isle. The shower of loot that my rogue had received was more like a trickle, but enough of a trickle that I was able to get into scenarios and heroics. Gear will come. Despite the slower pace, I might enjoy it more. Wearing plate rather than leather makes so much trouble so much easier to deal with; except those damn snakes. I'm also developing a healthy level of perpetual, comfortable, paranoia.

The giant groups aren't dangerous; those are the people farming rares or elites. They aren't going to cause trouble. Maybe they know that war is never in the best interests of the farmer. They know that a lone pissed-off enemy can be a major problem when fighting elites. It's the lone person who causes trouble, who sees that your health is barely higher than when you were 85, and who makes the economically rational decision to cause suffering to others.

And then there was the druid. I was fighting tigers near an ore node when he attacked me. I killed the tigers, stunned him, and ran away a bit. I bowed. If I could have said it, I'd have told him to take the ore, that he'd won it. I'd be a hypocrite to criticize him. He killed me anyway. I came back to find the node unmined and figured he was just a jerk. But then he started emoting sorry. Then I was just confused.

But that didn't mean I didn't use my cloaking device to get some distance before mounting up. I run with one on my belt, and if it's not on cooldown, another in my trinket slot. They've both come in handy. Damn it feels good to be an engineer.

An Immodest Proposal
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 January 2014, 4:15 pm
Ms. Sword and Glasses of Herding Cats is so happy about WildStar reducing the size of the breasts on their female characters. Even worse, she offers a terrible suggestion: putting the larger models in a cash shop. To top it off, she makes this insanely-biased, factless claim:
Most people either don’t care or are generally pleased with the decision, while a vocal minority are flipping out.
"Don't care" sounds a lot like "too scared to speak" while "vocal minority" sounds a lot like "the few who dared to stand up for having standards." I'm standing up. For too long we've had to deal with this nonsense and I've said nothing, beside some posts that I've probably written, but even if I have said anything, I'm going to say it again because it needs saying.

This is to you, Jessica Cook.

 I believe I speak for a lot of that "vocal minority" when I say this. Maybe they're afraid to say it, but someone has to say the words that are only being thought.

I think it is offensive that you would even suggest that a core gameplay element like absurd character models be stuck in the cash shop. Next thing all the armor skins (or lack of armor) to show off those absurd models will be placed in the cash shops. This is just a slippery slope toward needing to pay for the 'privilege' of sending creepy chat message. You can be sure I'll be boycotting this game until they fix their messaging toward women and make it a bit more against.

Pay attention to something other than your gear, such as yourself
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 January 2014, 11:36 am
Once I learned anything at all about gear there was never a time that I was not making fun of what people wear. I was provided endless amusement by the rogues in spirit gear, the non-troll warriors in spirit gear (back in the day a troll warrior who stacked spirit literally never needed healing). Sometimes I'd offer very basic advice on what to generally look for. Most of the time I'd just laugh to myself. But I did not insult them about it, unless they had revealed themselves to be worthy of insult, because I don't believe in being a useless jerk.

When it all comes down to it, it's their character.

Of course once they try to join a group with me then it is in my best interests to be sure that they aren't poorly geared, or worse, poorly played. I'll overlook a gem or a clearly outdated reforging, since I sometimes try to not be a hypocrite and those things are minor oversights, not fundamental problems. And what are a few ilevels between complete strangers?

It was a long time before I looked at a character and cared not just how they had geared, but also how much they had geared. I knew about better and worse gear, of course, but I also knew that content was designed for a particular level of gear and that level tended to be lower than what people had, particularly early in progression. I knew that player ability and attentiveness mattered more to the group. I was that person who would yell at people for watching TV while raiding.

In part, this may have been because gear could only go so far. If someone couldn't beat content level X, then they could not gear much higher than tier X. There were always ways to get ahead a little bit, but you couldn't get very far ahead of what your next boss dropped. I knew that gear wasn't the fundamental problem: the player's behavior was. Not the player; I don't like to separate players into good and bad. Of course there is variance in reaction times and visual perception, but I think the game is generally tuned such that those are rarely an issue. It is behavior that matters; checking out a fight ahead of time, paying attention to the fight, being mindful of how everything fits together.

Focusing too much on gear, demanding a particular gear level, runs counter to this. When people fail they blame gear, rather than behavior. One of those can change before the next attempt, the other cannot. In the short term, worrying about gear is pointless. While neither of these commands are diplomatic, surely "Pay attention!" is more useful in the long term than "Gear up!" After all, gear eventually comes just from playing, but paying attention to one's surroundings is a conscious decision. Gear will sort itself out, but only players can fix themselves.

Account-Based Advancement
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 January 2014, 1:17 pm
I've been doing a lot of pet battles recently. I must admit that I enjoy them. The collection, the searching, the little tactics, all fun to me. I also like that it is account-based. This has a few advantages.

It gives me greater flexibility on what character I play, and even where. Of course the pet battles don't really use my characters, so in effect it doesn't matter which character I play because I'm not playing one at all, during the battles. Ironically, this makes either my paladin or druid the best characters for this. My paladin has the benefit of extreme map mobility, having all manner of tricks for getting around the world. My druid has the benefit of extreme local mobility, what with having instant flight form and travel form for those few places where I cannot mount. Yet I cannot mind that the game accidentally encourages the use of particular characters, since all gain the benefits.

If I happen to get a pet on another character, perhaps while out questing, that's great. This sort of shared inventory is helpful for that. It also means that I can park characters all over the place to keep an eye out for those spawns that aren't common. In those cases, I grab the first pet I see and figure I'll use a battle stone. I hate the idea that someone was denied any shot at all because I felt the need to slaughter the few available spawns in a hopeless quest for an instant rare.

As this notion of multiclassing (no classing?) spreads like some sort of zombie-as-metaphor-for-Communism I find myself wondering, how far has it gone and how far would I want it to go? These account-based activities in WoW are perhaps a first step. I have many titles that I earned on that paladin, all available to a stable of alts. Mounts as well, though thankfully, not the engineering ones. I'd not like that. Some pets, no longer available, are now available thanks to this sharing. All of these things that I think of as secondary are all things that I am glad to see shared among my characters.

Except perhaps the Insane title. I used to find myself wishing I could use it elsewhere. Yet, now that I can, I find it to be a silly idea. But that too is silly. It was not my paladin who earned that title. Certainly my paladin was the Bloodsail Admiral, and the extremely persistent pirate-killer; so persistent that by killing a different pirate faction I managed to get her to a positive reputation with everyone except those stupid Southsail Pirates. But it was my druid who made the Darkmoon cards. It was my rogue who farmed the junkboxes. Without them I doubt the title would have been possible. Surely it makes sense that those characters would share the title. It was a group effort, after all. But why should that stupid hunter get anything? Or that imposter new paladin who is Kelpsacovic in name only? Obviously I can choose which characters to give the title, so it's not as if some alt stole the title; I'd have to have given it.

That's what irritates me about this entire discussion: it is ultimately about feelings and feelings tend to be a messy, changeable, illogical thing, often with no basis in reality. I'd prefer to make decisions based on something concrete. In games the cost of working off feelings can be a few subscribers. In real life it can be lives and rights. I suppose that's my response to Tesh's question on Twitter. And I still don't have an answer for myself.

PSA: Notepad is the greatest program ever created
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 January 2014, 6:32 pm
Did you know that Facebook stores unposted posts? Like many sites, it uses scripts to store what you type into its fields, even if you do not post. Some sites use this so you can recover from problems. Facebook uses it to gather more data about its users. I'm trying to develop the habit of writing everything elsewhere first, then post only the exact thing that I want.

Web pages in general, and blog comment sections in particular, are not perfectly reliable. They may fail to accept your comment, losing it in the process. Who hasn't run into an impossible or misloaded captcha and lost their comment as a result?

Excel can be finicky about the data it will import and the way it handles it, resulting in fun problems such as an entire spreadsheet contained in a single cell.

Games may have hidden preferences that are not easily changed from within the game, but are sometimes necessary. Or they may be of the sort that requires a game restart to change, so you have to launch it, change it, and relaunch it. If only you could directly edit those preferences

There is a solution to this: Notepad. It's a built-in bare-bones text editor. Use it to write your posts before you submit them. That way you can edit out all your unflattering grammatical mistakes before Facebook can use them for blackmail. Use it to save your comments before Blogger can devour them. Did you know that Google's servers are powered by the energy of failed posts? It's just like how you could hook up a battery to your landline and then write your number on bathroom stalls to get free electricity. Paste your oddly-formatted spreadsheets into Notepad and it can often strip out the problems. In my experience Excel can easily import text-based spreadsheets, even if you don't think you actually changed anything. And finally, preference files are often just long text files and may even have good labels, so edit away, on a copy.

Or as my grandmother sang to me as a child,

Posting can be,
a nightmare for me,
so remember the keys:
ctrl-a (pronouced cu-ter-ul)
and post

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