Tuesday, 30 June 2009

You Don't Know the Meaning of "Content" - More ATC Bitching

So one of the bosses in the Argent Tournament Colosseum will be the Argent Confessor who requires you to relive "memories" of past battles, allowing players to fight souped-up level-80 versions of Onyxia, Illidian Stormrage and of course Hogger.

The reaction to this news is split perfectly between two different sorts of moron.

Moron type A says "lol brilliant, this is the best news ever" or even better "hooray, now I get to fight those bosses without wasting time fighting miles of trash".

Moron type B says "I already killed those guys, I don't want to kill them again, I pay Blizzard millions of dollars [1] for new content and they're ripping us off by recycling old fights".

Both types of moron make the same mistake, which is failing to understand what "content" is.

Having a boss spawn a mob called "Memory of Onyxia" is not the same as fighting Onyxia. I haven't actually fought Ony myself - I came to the game too late for that - but a quick look at WoWwikiki reveals that Onyxia was a three-stage fight, which called for careful threat management and stacking Fire Resistance to deal with a taunt-immune boss and massively disrupting fear effects which interacted with environmental hazards.

The list of retro-bosses you can fight in this encounter is huge, and ranges from the deadly (Algalon) to the comical (Hogger, Mutanus). There are two possibilities. Either the players are required to remember, and instantly adapt to, the strategy for any boss that could conceivably be spawned in this encounter, which would make it the single most challenging raid encounter ever, because you'd have to snap immediately into the appropriate strategy for Onyxia, or Illidian, or Algalon without missing a beat. The alternative, of course, is that she just spawns a level 83 Elite mob with the same name as an old boss, who does a bit of AoE and hits reasonably hard on plate.

Place your bets?

What people - and by "people" I unfortunately mean "people including Blizzard employees" - don't seem to understand is that content isn't graphics. It isn't pictures. It isn't scenery or dialogue. It's gameplay. This fight doesn't allow you to fight old raid bosses at 80, it allows you to *remember* fighting them (which is, I suppose, appropriate). It's equivalent of having the boss randomly emote things like "Hey, remember the Black Temple, it's been totally nerfed".

The problem is that you can't really do Onyxia any more. Even if you do it at level, a 60th level character now is flat out more powerful than a 60th level character in vanilla WoW (especially if you have Outland gear) - everything is designed for level 80 content. When this news first came out I thought that Blizzard were actually finally going to retune the old instances for level 80 so that I can actually access the content I fucking paid for but no, they're going to put the name "Illidian" on a generic elite mob, and people are going to think that's the same as doing the BT.


[1] The Type A moron will always treat the combined income of any organization they have contact with as having come directly from their own purse.

Some Thoughts on Alts

Just to fill y'all in on a bit of background, Temitope - the eponymous deathtard and my only 80 - is actually my sixth or seventh alt (after an undead Warlock, a Troll priest, a belfadin, an Orc shaman, a belvish bank-alt, and a Drenai warrior (my only other Alliance character). I rolled Temi specifically to see how the other half lives, and like a vast number of other losers, I managed to get her to 80 faster and more efficiently than any other character (plate + self heals - mana = win).

I hooked up with a nice but new guild, and soon found that of our level 80 characters fully three quarters were Death Knights. This has made it impossible for the guild to break into raiding (we have exactly one healer) so I decided to roll a druid specifically to help my guild out with their healer/ranged dps/anybody who isn't a freaking DK shortage.

First thoughts: holy crap, low level WoW is *hard*.

Even in heirloom shoulders, there are quests in Darkshore that are *kicking my arse*. Cliffspring falls contains a cave full of Nagas which routinely tore me into tiny bite-sized druid bits, while I tried in vain to fill a little glass bottle with spring water.

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that I had virtually no tools at my disposal. I've got wrath, moonfire, some heals and a bit of bearform, and that's it. I finally managed to get the damned water when I got Swipe, which allowed me to deal with two things hitting me at once.

What this is all building up to is an observation about the levelling game, which is that not all classes level equally. More specifically, there are a lot of classes in the game whose core mechanics show up comparatively late.

Tricky as the first few levels of my drood have been, once I hit 20 I'll get kittyform, at which point I should be prowling and shredding my way to glory in short order. On the flip side, I've just started working on a Blood Elf shadowpriest and at level 22 I'm actually better off using Holy spells half the time (particularly because there's so much Shadow resist in the game).

Then there's my shaman.

My Orc Shaman is currently level 35. She's leveling Enhancement, but I'm one of those weird people who doesn't really distinguish between leveling specs and endgame specs. She's an Enhancement shaman, she likes to hit things with axes. She won't stop just because she hits 80, that would make her sad. Thing is, the whole basis of Enhancement Shaman gameplay is dual-wields and Stormstrike. Dual wielding isn't available until level *forty*.

I know leveling is easy, but it's the principle of the thing. The whole reason I specced Enhancement was because I like the idea of dual-wielding. I think it's my inner LARPer. It's really weird to basically not be allowed to play the spec you've picked until you're literally halfway through the game.

I had a similar problem with my Paladin. It's better now we've got the taunt and can use Exorcism on regular mobs, but for a good long while I was a tank who couldn't pull, which made the whole business of running instances rather complicated (party rogue sneaks forwards, throws a dagger, mobs come running and I hope to hell that Righteous Defence doesn't miss).

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, I just think it's an interesting observation.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled weblog.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

In Praise of Trash Pulls

The following is probably going to make me sound like a complete weirdo:

I prefer trash pulls to boss fights.

Yes I know boss fights give you the cool loot, and I know boss fights have exciting mechanics and scripted events, and I know that when you get right down to it every trash pull is the same, but that's kind of why I like them.

This might sound strange, but what I like most about WoW is the strategy. I know that the strategic element of WoW isn't terribly deep, particularly not when compared to serious wargames like Hearts of Iron or Europa Universalis and certainly not when compared to classic strategy games like Chess or Go, but none the less there's an element of strategy there, and those elements are primarily present in trash pulls.

Trash pulls are simpler than boss fights, but that's exactly why I find them more strategically interesting. Go is one of the most strategically complex games in the world, but it has precisely one type of piece, one type of move you can make, and a set of rules you can write on the back of an enveleope.

On a trash pull, you have access to your character's entire box of tricks. You can sheep, sap, shackle, root, hibernate, banish, seduce, kick, bash, silence, and generally do everything game mechanically possible to negotiate the pull. Tamarind wrote recently about an attempt we made to three-man the Blood Furnace (slightly above level, admittedly) with a Frost Mage, a Demonology Warlock, and a Boomkin. It was, as the frost mage kept whingeing, remarkably easy. The reason it was remarkably easy was that that's how strategy works. That, in fact, is why strategy is cool. It's about defeating the enemy with your brain.

In boss fights, on the other hand, your bag of tricks is rudely confiscated by the video game equivalent of an overzealous hall monitor and you're forced to play the encounter the way it is "supposed" to be played. You can't Death Grip Svala Sorrowgrave under her own sword, you can't silence Novos the Summoner with a well placed Avenger's Shield (in fact, checking his link on WoWwiki Novos doesn't even have a damned Aggro table, so you can't tank the fucker either sooo what am I supposed to do in that fight again?).

To put it another way, trash pulls are all about preparation. Proper marking, use of crowd control and so on can make the difference between a wipe and a walkover. A boss fight is all about implementation. There's usually only one way to approach it, and success is mostly a matter of stats, rotations and Not Standing In Fire.

Strategy aside, there's also immersion to consider. It's been said time and again but if there are only two trash pulls between bosses, I don't feel like I'm exploring a fortress or a ruined city, I feel like I'm, well, playing a video game. I don't want every single instance to be a vast, sprawling monstrosity on the level of Blackrock Depths, but I want them to look like the things they're actually supposed to be. My favourite Northrend instance is actually Violet Hold for that very reason. Sure it's the model for the new "all bosses no waiting" school of instance, but it feels like what it is: a magical prison complex under attack by the Blue Dragonflight. Trash pulls make you feel like whatever you're attacking has a function beyond just spitting loot at you, and difficult trash pulls, where you can't just run in and lol AoE noob make you feel like these places are actually defended.

Perhaps we'll get really lucky, and Blizzard is going to pull a bait-and-switch with the Colosseum, so that after the jousting we'll collapse through the bottom into the ruins of Azjol-Nerub, and find them swarming with Scourge and Faceless Ones.

I kind of doubt it though.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Screw You, Argent Tournament

More data about the Colosseum is coming out.

Where to begin.

It seems increasingly likely that it will involve jousting.

It seems pretty damned certain that it will be a static sequence of boss fights. Like the Ring of Blood. Or the Ring of Anguish. Or the Pit in Conquest Hold. Or Valhalas ... seriously what the fuck happened in Wrath, did their Outlook calender act up, causing them to schedule "implement arena quest" multiple times throughout the development process?

The details of the bosses that have been released so far are frankly laughable. Everybody has already mocked the fact that they include "not one, but two Jorgmungandr worms" but I'm not going to let that stop me joining in. Two worms huh? Wow. Feel the epic. There's also some scourge lieutenants which the Argent Crusade apparently managed to capture, but which will somehow take 25 Ulduar-geared raiders to kill.

Then there's the loot.

Weirdly, the loot is what annoys me the most.

All the Tier 9 sets are named after major lore figures. Alliance Warriors get Varian Wrynn's pauldrons, Warlocks get Kel'Thuzad's robe.

Thing is, these items have no connection to the people they're named after (except for looking a bit like them and being associated with the same class). If I want to get Defias Leathers I have to actually go into the Deadmines and kill members of the Defias Brotherhood. If I want to get Whitemane's Chapeau I have to actually kill Whitemane. But apparently I can get Kel'Thuzad's robes by fighting two (not one! but two!) Jorgmungandr worms. What the hell?

This isn't a big issue of itself, but it highlights an underlying problem with Blizzard's attitude to Lore and Progression (and for that matter "Content").

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw said of the text-based flashback segments in Lost Odyssey "that isn't interactive storytelling, that's just *reading*". WoW is in a similar position. We keep reading stuff about how the Battle Against The Lich King is Terrible And Epic but nothing you meet in Northrend really lives up to it. Okay, that's not entirely true, the Vyrkul are kinda cool, and Utgarde Keep is a decent introductory instance, and is unusual in Northrend in that it actually feels like a keep, instead of a loosely connected sequence of boss fights, but very little in the expansion makes you feel *part* of the story.

Oh sure, people spend a lot of time saying "you are awesome, you are a hero, you are doing all this really important stuff" but the moment it comes to the crunch, the second something actually needs to be done, you stand back and watch some other fucker do it (I am looking at *you* Tirion Fordring and *you* Darion Mograine). We spend a lot of time *watching* Lore happen and *reading* Lore happening (I'm looking at *you* Tribunal of the Ages) but we never get to actually *experience* any of it. And by "experience" I mean "experience through the medium of the game". When you go into Blackrock Depths, you really feel that you are in the heart of the Kingdom of the Dark Iron Dwarves. When you accidentally aggro the entire Greedy Guzzler by popping consecrate (not that this has *ever* happened to me) you really feel like you deserved to get your ass handed to you, because you just picked a fight with a bar full of dwarves on their home turf.

Increasingly, the Lore in WoW is something that is communicated to you through text blocks and cut-scenes, instead of being integrated into the actual gameworld. If I didn't already know the story of Anub'Arak, there's no way I would know from running Azjol-Nerub that he was supposed to be important. There's certainly no way I'd know that it was supposed to be the ruins of a whole ancient city.

By attaching the names of lore figures to loot that has nothing whatsoever to do with those Lore figures, Blizzard is making Northrend feel more an more like Warcraft III: the Theme Park. It even has fucking pony rides.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Endgame Raiding, Some Concrete Suggestions

For somebody who has been in precisely one raid group ever, I'm posting a lot about endgame raiding.

My basic problem with the current state of endgame raiding is that it's clearly not hard enough to challenge hardcore raiders, but it is also clearly not *easy* enough to be accessible for, well, guys like me. My Blood DK *just about* cracks 2000 DPS on a good day with a following wind. This is partially because I kinda suck, partially because my gear kinda sucks, and partially because I keep forgetting to use my damned cooldowns.

Anyway, point is that I'm just plain not qualified to run Naxx in a pickup, particularly now that most people only *want* to run Naxx in a pickup with people who have already cleared Naxx and got the gear.

I think the basic problem is that Blizzard tried to make the *entirety* of Raid progression accessible to casual players. Speaking as a casual player, this annoys me. If I wanted to do progression raiding, I'd join a raiding guild and do progression raiding. I don't. I'm interested in raids purely as an extension of being interested in 5-man content. I want to be able to poke my head into Naxxaramas with nine mates and have a crack at taking it down, even though we only have one tank and our healers are undergeared.

The thing is, I *also* want the hardcores to have what they want, and there's no reason they can't. I don't want to play in their playground, or rather I don't right now, and if I ever *do* I'll want to actually play properly, with flasks and food buffs and ready checks and wiping five times a night until you get the bastard down.

So, for the three people that might actually read this, here's my solution for endgame content:

One: Divorce Normal/Heroic from 10/25

Blizzard has already done this with the Colosseum, and it's a very sensible move. There was a while when 25-mans were easier than 10-mans (or so I understand - one raid group ever, remember) but dropped better loot. This was dumb. By distinguishing "is easy" from "requires you to have lots of mates" Blizzard can solve a lot of problems.

Two: Take Normal Modes Back One Full Tier

I'm not being masochistic here. Because "Normal" 10-man raids drop better gear than 5-man Heroics, they form a link in the progression chain: Levelling ---> Heroic Dungeons ----> Normal Raids ------> Heroic Raids.

The problem with this is that it has the knock on effect of making Heroic Raids easier, because you can run them in "Normal Mode" gear instead of "Heroic/Badge" gear.

Again, I'm not being an "elitist" here (God I hate that word, it's used almost exclusively by wankers who don't know what it means) - I don't think that casuals don't "deserve" better gear, it's just that I think most casuals don't want "gearing" to be something they actually have to devote time to. I want to be able to run Naxx in quest greens, and as such all I want to get out of it is gear that is an upgrade over quest greens.

Dropping "normal" modes back by a tier removes the necessity for "hardcore" guilds to gear up on "normal" before attempting "heroic".

Three: Make "Normal" Modes Even Easier

Tweak "Normal" modes so that you literally can run them in a pickup group in quest greens. Casual players don't want to farm for gear, we don't want to wipe fourteen times on the same boss. We just want to play the game at our own pace.

Four: Incorporate "Hard Modes" Into Heroic Mode

This is the change that I think's really important.

Hard Modes don't seem to be working, and I can totally understand why. I've said many times that one of the defining differences between "casual" and "hardcore" players is that hardcore players play not only *well* but *optimally*. Hard modes very frequently involve asking players to play the game using a *worse strategy* (facing a Frost Wrym with no Frost Resistance, randomly pulling adds, and so on). I can totally see why Hardcore players wouldn't want to do this. You might as well tell people that if they think endgame is too easy that they should run the raids naked or with their talents set to 0/0/0 - yes it would make the game *harder* but it wouldn't provide the kind of challenge the players are looking for.

To give some more concrete examples, Sartharion, on Heroic Mode could have the Drakes moved to a position where they *can't* be killed before engaging Sartharion. This would force guilds who wanted to do the encounter on Heroic to tackle the three-drake fight immediately, without the option to gear up on the one and two drake fights first. Heroic-Mode Heigan could be healed for - say 20-25% of his health every time somebody died on the dance, meaning that if you didn't do The Safety Dance properly you'd be near certain to wipe. Sapphiron could have his (or is it her) Frost damage changed to Frostfire damage, eliminating the usefulness of Frost Resistance.

The basic idea here is to have two tiers of raiding content, one of serious progression raids for serious progression guilds, and the other of much, much, much easier content, for dudes like me who don't have the patience to take the optimal route through the game.

Of course, this could all be nonsense.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


A little while back, Kathleena Kahleena over at Fel Deeds Awake linked my blog in a very kind post entitled "This, this, a thousand times this."

I've just checked her commentary on the 3.2 changes and feel it behoves me to return the favour.

Do You Want Large, Extra Large, or Titanic?

I've been thinking about Blizzard's current endgame policy, and I've come to a conclusion.

Raids don't need Hard Modes, they need *easy* modes.

Just to be clear, I don't mean that current raiding is too hard, I mean that the *baseline* for raiding should be higher, and that there should be options to go *down* as well as *up*.

The current raid content (from what I understand having not actually played any of it) is like soft drinks in a fast food outlet. In theory it comes in "Normal" "Heroic" and "Heroic Hard Mode" just like soft drinks come in "Regular" "Large" and "Extra Large". Nobody wants to pay for a small drink (and *absolutely* nobody wants to walk into a pharmacist and ask where they keep the small condoms). In fact "Normal" raids (from what I've seen, which is one Sarth-10 pickup) are genuinely easy - Sarth's basically an instance boss with more hit points and a few adds and from what I understand the "heroic" versions are exactly the same but with bigger numbers.

I genuinely think that the solution to this is to take the current "hard modes" and make them the *standard* version of the encounter (it should be fairly easy to make the "hard mode" acheivements a requirement for success rather than an optional extra - for example if Sarth and his drakes were linked so you couldn't pull one without the others) and to have an optional easy mode which removes those requirements.

Now I know that there's a sense in which this is exactly the same system with a different name, but I think there's a key psychological difference. I've said before that the problem with WoW isn't hardcore players (of whom I know many, most of them nice) or casual players (of which I am one) but rather wannabe-hardcores, who think that facerolling content means that you're awesome.

If "normal" modes were labelled "easy" then genuine hardcores could jump straight into the "hard modes" without feeling the need to gear up on normal modes first (Easy modes could drop gear equivalent to heroics, and have similar gear requirements), and the wannabe hardcores would have to either start off on Easy Mode, which would basically be admitting they sucked, or try the hardmodes straight away, which would involve directly confronting the fact that they suck.

Plus if you do it this way, you can make the "Easy" modes sufficiently easy that you genuinely can PuG them in Quest Blues, and make the "Hard" modes sufficiently hard that hardcore players feel challenged.

Friday, 19 June 2009

This Is Petty, But it Bugs Me

Lots of the news about patch 3.2 seems awesome. I don't even particularly object to the DK nerfs because, hell, we clearly needed it.

Unifying the badge system will allow people to get past the "can't run Naxx without Naxx gear" problem which is great. Anybody who complains that the time they spent raiding Ulduar was "wasted" because now other people can get the same stuff by running Heroics has *no fucking business* raiding in the first place.

I also really like the fact that the Argent Colosseum is going to have "Normal" and "Heroic" versions for both 10-man and 25-man content. I was really annoyed at the value judgment implicit in the old 10-man "normal" 25-man "heroic" distinction. Just because you can't get 25 people together doesn't mean you want the content to be easy. Just because you *can* get 25 people together doesn't mean you aren't a whiny scrub who wants other people to carry them through for free loot. Seriously, Heroic 10-man content is awesome.

What bugs me, however, is the fact that the new 5-man / raid / whatever is (a) connected to the fucking-argent-fucking-tournament and (b) a new tier of gear.

It's not a gameplay issue, it's a suspension of disbelief issue.

In Northrend I have fought Deranged Viking Giants and their genocidal leader, I have faced living rifts in space-time and ancient traitor kings. Current raiders have taken down the vanguard of the Lich King and an actual Dragon Aspect before moving on to take down the servants of the titans and one of the Old Gods of Azeroth

Where do we go from here? To a fucking sporting event.

Which will apparently drop the best loot in the game.

What the fuck?

I know that it's a game mechanic, I know that it isn't supposed to make any particular sense but seriously, if the Argent Crusade has all of these Tier Nine weapons kicking around, why doesn't it fucking USE them. Why are we being made to fight *each other* instead of fighting the actual damned scourge?

I can cope with the fact that the peasants in Grizzly Hills are tougher than archmages in the old world. I can deal with the fact that Arthas is going to be a bigger badass than Yogg-Saron and that King Ymiron could beat up Onyxia. But I can't take the idea of having a break from fighting the Lich King to play at being a knight.

This is basically my problem with the whole fucking Argent Tournament, it feels like Renley Baratheon in the Song of Ice and Fire series. They sit up there under the black skies of Icecrown with their comfy tents and their pretty flags charging at each other with pointy sticks. It's pathetic.

I do not play WoW to play minigames. I do not play WoW to fucking *joust*.

I would be less insulted if I didn't know that the Argent Tournament was Blizzard's idea of "content for casual players". Because clearly the fact that I don't play every day means that I don't actually want to play the game I *bought* but instead want to *ride around on pretty ponies*.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

That Guy In My Horde Guild: Update

I felt a bit bad about being so mean about the DK in my Horde guild so I decided to share an anecdote Tamarind had just picked up about a DK "Tank" in a heroic run who flat out refused to use Frost Presence because they "needed the health" from Blood.

It'll be a bonding experience, I thought.

"DKs can tank any presence" he said "it just depends on gear and what you do"

I wasn't sure about this.

"You only need to use Frost if you're having trouble holding aggro"

Well yes. This is true. But if you don't have trouble holding aggro when you're not in Frost presence then whoever is DPSing with you *sucks*.

"If you're blood spec, blood is more effective"


Okay, let's do the math.

Blood Presence, with 2/2 Improved Blood Presence gives you 15% increased damage (good) and 10% increased healing received (not bad)

Frost Presence, untalented, gives 60% extra armour, 5% flat damage reduction, and something in the region of a 60% damage increase.

And then, of course, he gives his sage advice:

"You can use Death and Decay"

Wow. Amazing. A moderate amount of AoE shadow damage on a longish cooldown which you would be fucking using anyway, or so I sincerely hope somehow makes up for cutting your overall threat generation *in half*.

"Or Blood Boil"

Wow, so your deep insights into DK tanking are "spam AoE".


Just to check, you know that Death Grip is for something other than showing off, right? And that you have another taunt with a less cool graphic?

And then he tops it all off with:

"Let me worry about my DK tanking, you learn how to play your pally so you can hold Aggro on the first boss in Azjol Nerub".

Here are several things that you cannot hold aggro through, you fucktard.

1) Anu'bar skirmishers. They shed aggro and attack at random. No ifs, no buts.

2) Death Grip. Yes, that particular run included a Death Knight. No that Death Knight didn't feel the need to follow kill order. Why yes, they did like to death grip things outside of my consecration range. Why do so many people think that because *they* have a Taunt, that makes *me* a bad tank when they get the aggro they *literally asked for*.

3) Being webbed and having nobody cut you out, because they're too busy complaining about the fact that the fight is actually taking some attention.

But of course apparently I should have just used AoE. How stupid of me.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Thoughts on 80

Temitope reached level 80 a little while back. In some ways it's more fun than I'd expected, in some ways it's less fun.

My two favourite things in WoW are mindless grinding and instances.

I like mindless grinding because I can sit in bed in my pants, stick a DVD on, and rack up a nice stack of gold/herbs/cloth while watching The Office. It's relaxing.

I like instances because I like teamwork, coordination, communication and generally actually playing the game.

So in theory, level 80 is tailor made for me. I can grind dailies and run heroics and I'm set.

The dailies, I'm loving. It's a bit of an adjustment but I can see how it works: instead of saying "I need to do these five quests and I'll level" you say "I need to do these five quests and I can afford another Bold Scarlet Ruby". It works, it gives you a sense of progression, I'm basically pro.

What I'm less sold on is heroics.

I like to run dungeons for fun. But my idea of fun is not most people's idea of fun. My idea of fun is running Razorfen Downs in full black tie or three-manning Kael'thas. Most people's idea of fun at Endgame seems to be running through Heroic dungeons as fast as is humanly possible because they're only doing them for badges, rep, or gear. Instances while levelling were an end in themselves, instances at 80 are a grind, but they're a grind that requires just enough concentration to be annoying.

I've had some good runs, and my Alliance guild is trying to recruit more healers, which should lead to more guild runs with more coordination and (and I know this is hypocritical) fewer Death Knights, but until then I'm stuck running soulless PuGs with people who are just in it for the lewt.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Oceana Has Always Been At War With Eurasia

WoWinsider pisses me off a lot of the time, not because of the content, but because of little throwaway things people say in their articles. For example, in today's Around Azeroth Elizabeth Wachowski says:

Remember the early leveling quests in places like Westfall and Redridge? Where you didn't have all this story and meaning, and all you had to do was deliver messages from one lazy jerk questgiver to another, or try to find a boar with an intact liver among dozens of boars with hepatic failure? On second thought, the early levels can go hang. Chasing Arthas across Northrend is way more fun.

I single this out not because it is unusual, but because it is depressingly common. There appears to be some kind of Ministry of Truth going around the WoW community, insisting that people cleave to the doctrine that Quests In The Old World And Outland Were Repetitive And Grindy Whereas Quests In Northrend Are Immersive And Story Driven.

This, if you will pardon my language, is complete fucking horseshit.

Let's take some common criticisms of Old World questlines, shall we?

First Criticism: They Just Had You Kill Hundreds of the Same Mob Over and Over Again

Whereas of course you never have to do that in Northrend.

Seriously, folks, killing shit and taking its stuff is what WoW is all about. It's the entire fucking premise of the game. If you genuinely find it boring to kill monsters for loot, find a new game. This one is *so* not for you.

Second Criticism: But They'd Make You Go Somewhere And Kill Something, Then Make You Go To The Same Place And Kill Something Else!

Which, again, never happened in Northrend. No sir.

And then of course there's all of the pointless delivery quests where you just talk to an NPC who tells to you talk to another NPC, which of course culminates in the biggest and most pointless delivery quest of them all.

But Questing In Northrend is Epic!

No, the Kolkar questline in the barrens is epic. You make a series of strikes against the Centaurs until, at last, you push them too far and they attack Crossroads, which leads to a pitched battle in which you can meaningfully participate and which happens where other people can see it instead of all this phased bullshit where you follow Thrall through the Undercity or watch Tirion Fordring have long conversations with Darion Mograine.

The Arugal plotline is epic. You gradually uncover more and more information about the work of the mad mage, slaying more and more of his minions, some of which will just eat you alive until you finally confront him in his fortress which by the way actually feels like a fortress, and not like a tiny hole in the ground.

But Northrend is Full of Lore!

Yes it is, and I love the lore, I really do. Particularly the bits relating to the Scourge and the Scarlet Crusade. I even quite like the stuff about the Titans and the Earthen and of course the Old Gods.

As you might have noticed there's quite a lot of Lore in the Old World as well, it just isn't rammed down your throat with the pommel of Frostmourne.

And before anybody says anything, I hated the fucking Wrath Gate.

Monday, 15 June 2009

I Do Hate People Who Brag

So my Horde guild did a spanner-run through Azjol Nerub recently: a level 79 Paladin healing a level 80 Death Knight.

The Death Knight opined that Azjol Nerub was the easiest of the Northrend dungeons. Somebody else suggested that this was only true if you overlevelled it.

The DK insisted that no, they'd done it fine at level 70 three days after Wrath came out, and that he'd tanked it at level 73 on his Death Knight no problem and that he'd "just used Death and Decay" which he informed me "does AoE threat".

I asked what he'd done about the skirmishers, and he insisted that he hadn't had any trouble with them.

How bad a tank do you have to be if you can tank an instance where some of the mobs randomly drop aggro and become immune to taunts and not notice.

He did, however, helpfully inform me that I just had to watch my threat.

Raiding, Logistics, and the Problem with Progression

In the marshmallow glow of hindsight, I feel I may have been a little hard on the Dickhead of the Week. I do, in fact, understand that running a raid with a bunch of people who haven't read the strategies and don't have the right gear must be infuriating. On the other hand, it's perfectly easy to say "sorry guys, I was looking for an easy, casual run, I'd rather not do this with folks who haven't done it before" instead of waving your bare-minimum Achievements around like a moron.

As well as "is that a real question, I'm so leet" guy, we also had somebody who kept insisting we should try Ulduar instead. Despite most of us being, to be honest, slightly undergeared for Naxx 10.

The thing is, I can totally see where she was coming from. Ulduar's the new thing, and we're being constantly told how what matters is seeing the content, man, seeing the content. Of course walking into Ulduar with ten guys in quest greens really would be a recipe for a big repair bill, but here's the question:

Why should it?

This is why I'll probably never get into serious raiding. I just can't be arsed with the logistics chain. I like the idea of more complicated dungeons with tougher bosses and more interesting fights, with more to pay attention to and more to co-ordinate. That strikes me as genuinely fun and interesting.

What doesn't strike me as interesting is having to grind Heroic UP until I get the damned Staggering Legplates, and grind dailies or farm herbs so I can raise the 60 gold a pop that it takes to fill out a red gem slot. I certainly don't want to be running Naxx every damned week just so that I can stand a chance at Ulduar.

A complaint that is constantly made about us casuals is that we "just want free epics". This is not true. I *don't* want epics. To be honest, I've have been perfectly happy to stay in the DK starting greens all the way to 80 (gotta dig the robe-and-cowl look). The reason I would actually like to raid is because I want to try some tougher fights, not because I want the phat lewts that drop from said fights. The problem is that *without* the loot from those fights, I can't do any other fights.

It's a basic flaw in the concept of progression raiding or, if you prefer, a basic flaw in Blizzard's insistence that progression raiding has to be *for everybody*. The hardcore raiders (that is to say, those who rate above 3 on the hardcoreness scale) find everything too easy, while casual players find that everything still has pointless, arbitrary requirements. The hardcores aren't happy, and the casuals still don't get to see the content.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dickhead of the Week

I recently hit 80 and, having spent the requisite length of time saving for epic flying, acquiring crafted epics and grinding rep with the Sons of Fucking Holdir, have started making tentative steps towards raiding.

My guild is basically a casual leveling guild, but we've got some 80s (80% of them Death Knights, make of that what you will) and one of my fellow renegades from the Scourge has started trying to get pickups together for the introductory raids.

We did Obsidian Sanctum yesterday, and it went quite well - we downed Sartharion on our second attempt, and I was only killed by Void Zones once.

The pickup started with somebody asking how many drakes we were leaving up, and I replied that since I had never actually so much as been in a raid group before, I'd rather we didn't leave any up thank you very much.

Everybody was completely stunned.

It seems to be utterly contrary to pickup group etiquette to admit that you haven't (a) done the raid before and (b) found it far too easy. Nobody is willing to ask if anybody needs - shock horror - to have the fights explained to them because nobody is going to admit not knowing anyway.

Today we tried to PuG Naxx, which is where I met the Dickhead of the week.

I don't normally name characters I complain about on this blog, because it's unfair, but I will say that the guy's name was a variant on the word "Elite" which I think is indicative. People with the word "elite" in their name are extraordinarily likely to be dickheads (newsflash guys, elitism <> merit, hereditary aristocracy is elitist, it doesn't mean the nobility have rigorous selection procedures).

When I asked who had done the instance before, TDotW replied by asking "is that a real question?"

I assured him that it was, at which point he laughed and, by way of an answer, linked an achievement.

The Undying perhaps? Or The Dedicated Few. Or maybe he could have just pointed to his Twilight Vanquisher title or linked Glory of the Raider

No, Dickhead of the Week linked The Fall of Naxxaramas.

Wow. I stand in awe of the fact that you have done the instance before.

I think he just thought that nobody should be PuGging something unless they'd already run it. To which I can only say this:

How much must you fucking suck at this game if you won't run a raid unless it's with people who have already done it. Is your DPS so shit that you need the entire raid to be in tier gear to compensate? Do you understand so little about the fights that you can't explain them to other people? Do you only want to raid if it boils down to free loot for you?

I got kicked from that particular pickup because - after waiting by the summoning stone for a fucking hour - I disconnected and they replaced me. They apparently wiped on the first boss, and the group collapsed. Later I got a tell from TDotW simply saying "Spec ap hit crit".

What I did not do was reply saying "fuck you, if you were as hardcore as you think you are, you wouldn't be in LFG" but I really should have done.

An Open Letter To That One Lowbie In My Horde Guild

Dear That One Lowbie In My Horde Guild,

I appreciate that going through WoW the first time is hard. I understand that there are lots of things that are annoying or inconvenient. I understand that part of the reason you join a guild is because people help you out with stuff. I am more than willing to send you spare crafting mats, potions, or anything else I have lying around that might be handy. If you ever need pages from the Green Hills of Stranglethorn, I'm your man.

If you want to run an instance, I have a variety of low-to-mid level alts, and I would be more than happy to heal your RFC run on my 22nd level Shadowpriest, or your RFK run with my 35th level Enhancement Shaman. It'll be fairly easy, it'll be kinda fun, and it might teach you a thing or two about how the game works.

But I am not going to give you free Frostweave bags. Those things go for 600 gold on the Auction House, and making that much gold requires me to grind dailies for about three hours, or farm ore and sell it. I don't want to spend three hours of my time saving *you* a trip to the nearest vendor. If you need bags, I am happy to make you up a nice set of wool or linen ones, if you'll send me the mats. Do not ask me for a free gift of 600 gold. It's rude.

Similarly, you do not need to run instances to level. There is literally twice as much experience in the game as you need at this point. If you have run out of quests in your current area, go to a different one. I would be quite happy to tell you where the best place to go next is for your particular character, and how to get there. If you want to run an instance because you want to run the instance, great, I'll get on my 26th level Resto Druid and we can have a shot at Shadowfang Keep or Razorfen Downs. Heck, I could get out my bank alt and we could try to do Deadmines if you like.

But please stop asking me to boost you through places. It'll take about an hour of my time, end to end, and that's an hour in which I could be doing dailies on my main or questing on my alts, both of which will directly and personally benefit me substantially more than following a 72nd level Paladin through the wreckage of the Scarlet Monastery will benefit you.

People like you, That One Lowbie In My Horde Guild, are what gets casual players a bad name. Every time something gets nerfed, or the requirements for something get reduced, people look at guys like you and say "it's because of the casuals" and when people demand Frostweave bags at level 28, I begin to think they have a point.

Love and hugs


Thursday, 11 June 2009

On Entitlement (more about 3.2 Mount Changes)

Something else that caught my eye about the 3.2 mount changes.

As well as making mounts require less gold and fewer experience points to acquire, apparently 3.2 is also going to reduce the casting time for mounts to 1.5 seconds.

Curiously, nobody is complaining about this.

Could that be because people only worry about "dumbing down" when it makes the game easier for *other people*?

3.2 Mount Changes and the Myth of "Difficulty"

I don't know if you've noticed, but Chess is getting totally dumbed down.

They've made it so that everybody gets to use the same pieces.

I know. It's totally stupid. Garry Kasparov works for years honing his skills and perfecting his abilities, but now they've changed things so that any noob can pick up a chess board and use all the same moves as him.

Just how easy are they trying to make this game?

And don't get me started on the double-move rule for pawns. They totally nerfed the early game. But no, casual players didn't have the skill to make the same pawn move twice in a row.

Umm ... yeah. So in case it's escaped your notice, Blizzard has made mounts easier to get (or will be in 3.2) - regular mounts at 20, Epics at 40, Flying at 60 - with cost reduced accordingly.

Naturally the hardcore community are up in arms about this.

Or rather the "hardcore" community are up in arms about this.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that the problem with WoW is not casual players (of which I am assuredly one) or hardcore players (of whom I have met many, mostly very nice people who take the game seriously and aren't dicks about it) but wannabe hardcore players.

Wannabe hardcores are the bane of WoW. These are the douchebags who ask you to link DPS meters in low-level instances. These are the guys that think that DPSing means doing as much damage as possible, completely ignoring party buffs, debuffs, or little things like whether you pull aggro. These are the guys who got boosted through every instance and still think they've "cleared the content". These are the guys who think that their skill at the game is measured by their character's gear. They're the guys who tell you to "hurry plz" in instances, because they don't actually want anything except the loot at the end. They're the guys who say that people should have to "work" for in-game rewards, like playing the game for long enough to hit level 30, or ground enough gold to buy epic flying somehow means you possess anything other than lots of free time.

Wannabe hardcores whine every time Blizzard makes the game "easier". And by "easier" I mean "less time consuming". Apparently getting your mount at level 20 will magically make it easier to heal Razorfen Kraul. Being able to fly in Hellfire Peninsula makes it easier to avoid the bombs in the Blood Furnace.

If the only metric by which you can judge the difficulty of a game is how many arbitrary hoops people have to jump through to get stuff done you suck. It does not take skill to gain XP. It does not take skill to farm gold. All it takes is time. If you don't realise that, it's because you have no idea what a "challenging" game is actually like.

Monday, 1 June 2009

I, Ferraro

I honestly didn't intend this to be a wow-feminism blog. I'm not totally comfortable with self-defining as a feminist anyway - it's too easy for men to use the "feminist" label as a way of insisting that everybody is sexist *except them*.

That said, in my last post I linked briefly to a WoWinsider (now WoW.com) article about a girl called Ferraro.

What I pointed out at the time was that Ferraro was a not-terribly-interesting WoW blogger who had the peculiar talent of looking pretty.

Except she, in fact, didn't.

As WoW Insider explains, Ferraro turns out to have stolen the hawt chick pictures (and, peculiarly, a number of personal blog posts) from another blogger.

This is kind of fucked up, but I can't help but think that this is a case of the internet reaping what it sows.

Specifically, "Ferraro" clearly pretended to be a hot woman in order to increase the profile of her (or, as many are speculating, his) WoW blog and it worked like a charm.

The reason it worked is twofold. Firstly, women are still judged almost exclusively on their looks and secondly, female gamers enjoy the dubious benefits of lowered expectations.

Paladin Schmaladin was - as I understand it - a fairly useful Pally blog. This makes it no different from about ten bajillion other fairly useful Pally blogs on the internet. Putting a hot woman on it turned it meant that instead of getting compared to five hundred blogs on the same subject it was being compared to ... well ... none.

Now as it happens, it looks like Ferraro went a good deal further than stealing a few pictures, essentially taking the whole online identity of TechDarling author Sarah Townsend, but in a sense that strikes me as a sensible (if creepy) way of creating a false online persona. Copy-pasting personal posts adds an air of authenticity to your alleged hot-gamer-chick identity which it would otherwise lack.

Terry Pratchett, in one of his later books, talks about a time in the history of Anhk-Morpok when it was overrun by rats, and the then administration attempted to solve the problem by putting a bounty on rat-tails. This led to the rat infestation getting even worse, until Lord Vetinarii solved the problem by uttering the famous proclamation "Tax the Rat Farms".

If there is a simple, obvious reward for doing something, people will do it.

I, Ferraro

I was halfway through this post when I realized something.

I do exactly what Ferraro did. I do exactly what Ferraro's readers did.

Specifically, one of the reasons I play female characters in WoW is that if you have a female avatar then people are nicer to you. I've even seen this as advice on the Auctioneer website: make your bank alt a hot female character, and you will be able to negotiate better deals.

There is an unconscious part of my brain that kicks in the moment I look at an attractive female avatar. I will automatically cut the players of female avatars more slack than the players of male avatars. If a male Hunter fires off a multi-shot before the tank can pull, or leaves his pet on Aggressive I'll write him off as a moron in two seconds flat. If a female avatar does the same thing I'll forgive and forget.

It's a stupid, sexist way of looking at things, but it's incredibly common, totally instinctive, and easy to exploit for your own benefit. All Ferraro did was play on the fact that an attractive female face elicits a positive reaction from an audience. Copy-pasting somebody else's life is *weird* but it was undeniably effective, and I'd feel more comfortable condemning him/her for it if WoWinsider hadn't just run an interview the entire *basis* of which was "look at this hot chick".