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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BETA: To Build a Home ::
This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us


I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR.

So yesterday, I saw my first overridingly negative review of the Garrisons via a three part Warlords overview in Massively. Of course Eliot Lefebvre can be as scathing as he chooses, and look, there he goes. By the way, there's a word missing from that second sentence, I'm going to guess it's 'when'; I always try and double check my work but as I don't have an Editor, mistakes sometimes do happen. I'm sure this lovely little insight into what currently exists on Beta is going to be met with open arms by those who'd like to see this 10 year old game buried into the ground along with all of the outdated, exclusive ideas it carries with it. Except there is one KEY factor in this entire 'review' that the OP patently fails to grasp, or indeed mention at any point in his article.

He's reviewing a product that isn't finished, and isn't close to being so by some distance.


NYI, and inaccurate on Alliance Side.

Warcraft baiting isn't new by any stretch of the imagination, and poking holes in one of the the oldest MMO's on the block might be considered as an easy target. After all, Blizzard have a historical record of dreaming up fabulous new 'features' at the start of each expansion that rapidly disintegrate or are totally disregarded by their end. We don't have to remind you of the Golden Lotus 'grind' but we will anyway, because I'm pretty sure that memory is still very fresh in the minds of Blizzard's designers. If you can't maintain a level of 'fun' in your product, people will stop playing. What is very apparent in current content is that things are not simply being built differently but that designers are far more open than they have ever been to the concept of 'constructive' feedback, and by that I don't mean sitting in the forums complaining until what you want gets changed. Talk to Blizzard 'in the right way' (sensibly, rationally and with evidence as backup) and things do happen.

The quest above is one piece of a large body of evidence that confirms Mr Lefebvre has reviewed something that's not finished: this is the starter quest to introduce the 'Garrison Invasion' portion of the content which doesn't even exist as complete game files at time of writing and is (presumably) being internally tested as I type. Although I can completely grasp the reason why this portion of the Expansion has been compared to a half baked Facebook game, I feel that a lot of players (and I'm not just talking about the OP here) are approaching Warlords with expectations of this feature that simply aren't going to be realised at any point with the game as it stands. The best way to describe this, at least for me, is going to be visually.



SHINY MO-TAHHH.


This is a picture of a Car. It's quite a stylised thing (I believe this is a Mustang) which means underneath, it is just a Ford. It doesn't really matter what else you bolt on top of the engine and the wheels, you can't transform into a Volkswagen or a Renault. It remains a Ford. The same is true for Warcraft: it doesn't matter how much stuff you stick on top over a decade, the basic construction underneath remains Azeroth. So, expecting a 10 year old MMO to present you with The Sims with an infinite customisation set when there's a bunch of other features that come as standard and players are expecting designers to work on is probably being a *tad* unrealistic, if you ask me (and I did.) More importantly, if the designers don't work on those features too then the original game will fail to operate as part of the overall design and everyone will stop playing. That's the bigger issue for Blizzard whenever they decide to pitch in with a new feature: managing player expectations. I reckon they're not doing a totally woeful job after a decade: that persistent rattle from the diversity trunk is finally being looked at, the failure of the PvP rear lights to engage at night has a man in overalls working on it.

In essence: Garrisons are a new paint job, the re-upholstery of the questing experience for those who have been hoping it will happen. However, it is NEVER going to make your Mustang a Porsche, and expecting that really is a bit unrealistic.


The potential is there.

This is the point where, almost inevitably, someone pulls the 'well you're biased, you're a Fangirl' argument out as a last resort as a means of derailing my enthusiasm and belief, but maybe it would just be fairer for everyone to criticise this new feature when it is actually live. I'll accept I've followed this development cycle pretty much from inception, and I would like to think I'm not being totally blinded by something that's attempting to masquerade as Player Housing in the way you'd encounter it (for instance) in something like Wildstar. There is very little emphasis on fixtures and fittings at this stage and very much a means by which Professions become a part of the architecture. There is a clear and distinctly alluded-to real time strategy element of this process which has yet to be properly introduced. It is also completely possible to totally ignore this feature and just level to 100, because Blizzard are acutely aware a bunch of people only bought this model for the End Game Raiding feature and beverage holders. I'll happily fangirl on this feature on this blog, on other people's blogs and even on your Podcast (poke me in comments for details!) but when it comes to simply stating a fact, Garrisons aren't ever going to be that simulation experience for players, so don't expect them to be. Have a sense of proportion, look at the vehicle you're driving, and be mindful of the limits that chassis places on your choice of destination.

Also give Blizzard two years and they'll make you a Mini Garrison on a mobile app. JUST YOU WATCH ^^

Pet Battle Trophy acknowledges Blizzard understanding their audience.

The last point to make here is simple: Blizzard really do understand their audience. That's *why* professions are in the mix, why the latest round of Monuments includes one for Pet Battling that actually isn't that bad at all. If you don't like Warcraft, it is almost as obvious in the way you write and talk about it as it becomes from someone who remains enthusiastic and engaged with the game. The experience is after all, is a beautiful terror that can do strange and inexplicable things to a girl's soul. I keep saying to people who ask me how I can be so positive about something that isn't even finished that my enthusiasm comes from potential: I can see what this feature could evolve into, just as Pet Battles have done since Pandaria. The *possibilities* for long-term development of this area are HUGE, but Blizzard will not commit to anything long term until they can guarantee a short-term success. That has always been how this company works, and in business terms it makes a huge amount of sense. Expecting EVERYTHING NOW is just unrealistic, which includes a customisable set of every Faction's buildings that fits into this new layout. Expecting that in a year, however? Perfectly feasible, at least in my mind.

This feature was never developed to be The Sims, or Animal Crossing: A New Leaf: it is a Warcraft take on Housing, a mini-game like Pet Battles, but more important than both of those a way to integrate and update Professions into Levelling as one of an increasing number of player-chosen options for effective gameplay. If you're coming here expecting it to change everything, you clearly need to understand how Blizzard works, and that at the end of a decade it isn't about reinventing the wheel, because the game doesn't need a new way of moving forwards. What it requires is to try and keep pace with the changing world of MMO's whilst remaining the same gaming experience it has for ten years. On that front, I believe Garrisons have the ability to be an unqualified success. It depends if you come to the experience with an open mind or not when you personally review them.

Play them once, COMPLETE, before you begin to pass judgement.

Monday, July 21, 2014

BETA: Notes from a Small Island :: 21/07





To say the Beta was frustrating this weekend is something of an understatement. However, a great deal has been done, and even more has been explored. Also, many things are not doing as they should.


Latest sensation, sweeping the nation.

I dragon surfed my way from Shadowmoon to Gorgrond as soon as I unlocked the quest inside my Garrison to do so at 92. However, I didn't stay. I'm nowhere close to completing the Shadowmoon portion of questing and that was my priority, but I wanted to go take a look at what the new zone looks like. I am a bit concerned at what I saw on the trip.


Needs more texture.

Yes, I KNOW this is Beta and stuff isn't done, I get that we're only allowed access to certain places and I also understand that part of the main artwork team's recovering from a hand injury. All that in consideration, this stuff looks like it needs work. A LOT of it. That actually unsettled me quite a bit and made me realise just how I've gotten used to the finished product over the years NOT looking like its partway through the rendering process. It also gave me some pause for thought on just how much isn't done with it being quite some time since we had any new content. I'd really like to see this when it's actually finished. They should probably remember to delete those as well.


YOU HEARD THE WOMAN!

However, as we have already discussed today, we're not here for the looks, we're here for the game-play, and I have to say I'm very, VERY impressed with how Shadowmoon has shaped up in terms of plot progression. There are some real signs of interest and I've not played through any set of quests thus far I've not enjoyed. The frustration comes, inevitably, when I try and complete something and the game breaks, which (in the case of a certain area) means that for two days I've not been able to complete a fairly important sequence and recruit a Follower. However, on that front in other places I am enjoying HUGE amounts of success and satisfaction.


XP FOR EVERYONE! HUZZAH!

As long as they keep adding missions and we get new Followers, I *love* this system. I enjoy levelling people, I'm not bothered I don't get a reward every time. I'd like to know what Blizzard are planning to offer once you cap XP for everybody. I'd like to suggest tokens that can be exchanged for purchasing items for your Garrison [*], or maybe a 'Loyalty Card' system that will allow you to exchange Mission 'rewards' for a selection of Battle Pets or Mounts.

Frankly, I'd play Warlords at this point just for the Garrison. It's not a RTS game yet, that bit is yet to be added, but as it stands just now I have my own 'home' in the game for the first time in a decade. Everything else, at least at this stage, is gravy. If it continues to be this good, I don't care if I have to learn to defend it. It'll be worth the effort.

==


[*] Carpets, chairs, sun loungers, BBQ equipment, Food Items, Classic Props, Construction Signs (when redeveloping areas), Gazebos, stuff for RP people, Trees, plants, shrubs, GIANT ROBOTS, Pictures, DIY construction kits, Tickets to Daisyworld, Portable things and anything else I can think of that makes the Garrison MOAR AWESOME.

BETA: Open Up


Now I understand.

In my early days of Alpha questing, I was amazed to find that what I thought should have been a normal quest reward had dropped into my bags as Epic quality. On closer inspection it became apparent that this was the same item, but it was 'available' as a rare 'option' and would be awarded in the same (frustratingly) random manner as your Draenor Perks are from 90-100. I say frustrating not because I think everything should be purple, or indeed that all my abilities should be more easily assessed or awarded. I say it because I'm frankly fed up of people judging other people in game on what they wear, and Blizzard using items to 'award' status to players when what it really ought to be focussing on is making people better players.

I'll wait until you've stopped laughing before I continue.

I can see why this is taking so long.

...

Ironically, if I asked you to stop judging me by my colour and my looks anywhere else than in Warcraft, this would be an ENTIRELY different argument. It would also seem fairly incongruous considering there's an entire section of my website that is devotes to making people look different via the medium of Mogging. Well, yes, I am here and I make a particular effort to alter the way I look from the armour that I am provided with by the game, and I'll freely admit that the motivation for this on several occasions has been to hide the fact I'm wearing gear that is less than optimal. That is because I really grasp the fact that people know what certain gear looks like and will make assumptions based on whether you are wearing it or not, even after 10 years. It is only the equivalent of Gear Score back in the day or that twat stuck on the Ironforge Mailbox on the Meta Mount that no-one else will own until the next Expansion.

Then, of course, you can label me as jealous that I can't do that content right now, and today you'd be absolutely right.


Shiny. Well, yes it is.

I'd love to have six weeks off where all I could do was play the game. I'd be able to get every Achievement done I'm missing, go farm for gear on a multitude of alts, and collect things that I'd go and show off to anyone who noticed. However, I don't live in that world. My world has two young adults who I still wish to put before the game, and responsibilities that I feel are more significant than the pixels that persuade me to stray from the path of Good Intentions (TM) But yes, absolutely I get why this gear looks better thand the other Tier Sets in game, because if you're advertising Mythic you are an aspiration, and without THOSE every single MMO on the planet ceases to have an allure. The problem for me I suppose is understanding only too well that there are many sides to the issue of judgement, and even if I maintain that I mog because I want to dress a certain way and NOT the way in which Blizzard gives me, that's still playing the 'game', just in a more unconventional manner.

Oh, and for the record, if I earned Top Tier gear when current I'd STILL mog it to something else. That's MY point.


WHERE IT COUNTS.


I will admit that I ascribe to the Millennium Falcon School of Looks and Usefulness: don't judge me on what you see, know I can do the job when it matters. I'm not mogged like this for your benefit, I'm wearing this because it makes me happy, and that pretty much extends to most of my reasoning for playing. There are days when I let negative desires get the better of me, I'll freely admit, but I'm pleased to report that I'm making some lifestyle changes in game on that front and it's been much better recently, thank you :P However, and this is important, the only way you liberate yourself from the negative is to understand WHY there is an issue to begin with. That means identifying the issues at a more basic level, and for MMO's that is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Often, it is finding the right word to describe the feeling or to identify the problem. After a bit of a ranty spat yesterday on Twitter, someone very kindly provided me with the answer.

Monty Python 'God 'Spot Moment #214

Of course, this is the word that eluded me. The Purple Bracers are a trophy, just like the Achievement for 200 mounts or the Mythic Gear. To keep them relevant is probably as important as having them to begin with because they represent the need to keep playing and the desire to pursue the end goal. Although I may vehemently deny the need for something that defines a playing skill I still continue to crave some meaning to the things I do: 1,000,000 gold is a Trophy. Getting to the next Mount multiple for an achievement is a Trophy. In fact, hitting 17000 Achievement Points makes me no better in my own way than anyone I am critical of for deliberately flaunting their bleeding edge content. We are just as committed as each other, but the goals are different. Therefore I ought to apologise to the person I had an argument with about this. He thought I was doing it as part of an agenda, but I would beg to differ. What matters most, at this point, is me grasping something that Blizzard are clearly going to make considerable capitol of in the next expansion.

This game is absolutely all about the trophies.


This is my Trophy.

This now presents me with an interesting dilemma: depending on what 'Monuments' Blizzard provides as subjects for your plinths in in the Garrison, will I consider displaying my prowess in Battle Pets as a 'mark of dedication'? If we have Feats of Strength being able to be displayed, which one would I consider as my most notable? Is the fact that when anyone on a Podcast asks me 'What has been you best moment in WoW?' I NEVER have one I jump to automatically because I don't look at the game in those terms to begin with? I can't sensibly judge other people's lives with mine as a yardstick to begin with, I'd be on a hiding to nothing if I did. The Beta is ample proof that however much information you provide for players, some aren't listening, many just don't care and the rest are off looking for the answers themselves anyway. It shouldn't JUST be about the prestige or the looks, that I think I'm still going to hold onto, instead what your trophies should do is mean something to you BEFORE the rest of the world.

I still maintain that if you're not playing the game to be happy before anyone else, you're not getting the point of playing at all.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

BETA: Come as You Are

I woke this morning to a tip-off in my Mailbox from a regular reader, who had spotted this message on Blizzard's Customer Services Facebook account... ^^





That was posted 1am UK time (or thereabouts) which translates to teatime Saturday. It also means that Blizzard is starting a media campaign ON A WEEKEND. That might seem a tad odd, but we know that Blizzard are often wont to do stuff when the mood strikes (or indeed when they are on a timer.). It is also perhaps unsurprising on the back of Saturday's announcement that Raid Testing will be beginning on Monday:




Blizzard Devs were actively tweeting and favouriting notable items yesterday too: I suppose they could be at home on their mobile devices but I'd like to think that yesterday was also a work day, especially with an announcement of this significance coming out with such a short lead time. It is apparent these fights have been ready for some time as a result. Many people were speculating that without having seen any raid testing, Blizzard could not reasonably be expected to 'be prepared' to launch Warlords any time soon.

I think we can safely say that the clock really is ticking.


JOB DUN.

It's not the norm for me to be on Battle State Russet on a Sunday, but I am here, waiting to see what develops on the Blizzard CS Facebook page. Considering what's already transpired in the last 24 hours, I reckon this might be the start of an interesting couple of weeks.

Needless to say, Raiding People, I hope you didn't have anything important planned for the Summer...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Seventeen


Aaaand breathe :D

In an attempt to restore the 'Fun' into my gametime in this quite long, fallow period, I have returned to a mainstay of historical interest. This week, as a result, I now have 17000 Achievement Points.

Even though the PvP playtime I managed was woeful, I was able to pick the two achievements up in the same game. I declined a spot on Progression last night (well done Guild for killing Blackfuse in Flex) and started Felwood. About thirty minutes ago I finished 1000 Needles. The sense of satisfaction is actually considerable as that means there is no more to do in the Old World at all. It also means I should have sufficient pieces of 'Sundering' Mail Armour from the 1-60 rewards to make up a complete Transmog for P. I have a bag of bits to sort out after I've written this, but I'm tempted to wear something as a 'celebration' of finally knocking this off for the run up to the Pre-Expansion Patch.

I'd like to thank Wowhead for helping me by the means of their Character Planner tool, I'm grateful I was able to do this WITHOUT Archaeology (though that is next on the list) and it means I'm into a whole new number in my search for TOP QUALITY POINTAGE.



It's a Firestarter. Jaina's Firestarter (hey, hey, hey!)

Part of me is really sad more people didn't embrace the redesign Blizzard instigated during Cataclysm for the 1-60 content. Both Felwood and 1000 Needles are great examples of new stories in old spaces, even if some of the time I found myself thrown back to Vanilla (especially when looting corpses underwater in the latter zone.) I also realised just how trivial content becomes, regardless of level, when you throw flying into the mix. I'm not just talking about travel times (which are stupidly small) but the ability to avoid all killing completely in many cases by simply swooping in, 'acquiring' your Quest items and moving on. It is a salutatory reminder to anyone who thinks that flying as a mechanic isn't capable of completely altering the landscape of an Expansion, because it really can. Having said all that, of course, the convenience it brings is pretty much without question.


One Woman (Wyvern) Army.

It has been quite liberating playing in a space that doesn't crash every ten minutes, where I'm not expected to perform to the best standard I can, and where the green drops I have could be worth four figures at current AH prices (I had THREE bits of Tyrants Armour drop within 10 minutes of each other) It is easy to forget that current content isn't ever all there is in Azeroth, and when there is no pressure to level and only your own expectations to consider, things take on a fairly relaxed pace. After all, I didn't come here to try and grind a mount that is a difficult drop, or to do a complicated achievement sequence. I just came here to Quest, and on its simplest level that still remains for me one of the most consistently enjoyable parts of this game's allure. THIS is where I find fun, and as long as remains true I'm not going anywhere.


Illidan v Arthas IN FELWOOD :O WHO KNEW? ^^

Of course, what this does mean is that the number of achievements I can grab alone is becoming rapidly smaller. There may need to be actual plannage as a result in order to make my way to 18000.

I'll get on that right now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

BETA :: Notes from a Small Island :: 18/07




This latest build of the game has opened up Ashran on the PvP only servers deployed for this purpose. I don't have enough time to test the NORMAL PvE servers currently, let alone get myself thrown into this side of things, but there are a couple of things to note at this juncture in the interests of full disclosure:


OMGOMGOMGOMG :O

Season One PvP Gear looks UNBELIEVABLY good for Hunters. Minimalist, elegantly co-ordinated and frankly UTTERLY KICKASS. You don't need all that fiddly gubbins with accents and decoration, really, this is the stuff. Maybe, just maybe, I found a justification for grinding stuff for PvP after all. Well done, Blizzard. WELL DONE.




This gear's composition has also sparked some lively debate. This is the DEFAULT Hunter set I was given on rolling a 100, and yes, it's just like TBC all over again insofar as this gear has Intellect on it. Yes, that stat is greyed out too and that means this set is good for any flavour of mail wearer, ofc I'm not utilising this stat so the game ignores it on me. There's two sides to this change: if you happen to be the only mail wearer in a 10 Man Normal and Shaman Mail drops, you can at least use it for the iLevel. On the flip side, this will promote more people rolling Need on Hunter gear and THAT JUST AINT RIGHT GURL. Everybody knows its our job to roll Need. Let's see how this one works out in a year, shall we?

PS: PvP iLevel is gonna be a HUGE thing, especially in places like Ashran. This isn't going to mean I can use one set of gear for everything. Better make some space for a PvP set, then ^^


Yes.

Logging on for the first time to the PvE Server today, a number of things jumped out at me:



1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's made that typo :P




2. We get a new splash screen for the Adventure Journal. See, they spelt it right there ^^




A tooltip was added to alert players that your 'main' bag now has an option for 'cleanup' (that is to organise everything and to maximise for space. All bags that are not your 16 slot 'Backpack' also have this option, where you can specify (in general terms) what items are placed in them. I don't have any bags in my bank as yet, so I can't tell you if this extends to banking, but I'm going to guess it does. Also, the Toybox has had another 5 items added to it. No, I'm not going to work out what they are.

What I will try and do though is to finally get myself to 92 so I can get some more Garrisons gubbins done... :D

BETA :: To Build a Home :: Main Offender


You win this round, Beta Server!

There's a new Beta Build (18566 for those counting.) Many things are fixed, but one thing remains a rather depressing constant:

YEAH YEAH I KNOW.

Your Garrison is effectively instanced content. You don't see a loading screen, and the process of 'transferring' between it and Shadowmoon is supposed to be seamless. Except, ever since the first iteration of Alpha and the Horde base, it hasn't been. There's always been an issue involving the movement in and out of it on foot. Flying isn't nearly as much of  a problem, but after the hour it took this morning to get out of my Garrison and set my Hearthstone somewhere else I proved this point and wondered why the Hell I didn't do this sooner. Needless to say I had planned to get to 92 before I wrote this post, and I'm still 91. Ho hum.

However, I come with many nuggets of news on how 18566 has changed the Garrison Experience. Let's start with the changes to Missions:

NOT Six? :O

For many, MANY builds the Mission Report has been incorrectly reporting the number of completed events. Not only is it now accurate, but we have some important changes to the interface itself.


64%, you say? /waggles hand


All your Missions, as you select Followers to complete them in the relevant screen, will now report the percentage chance of success if you use a particular member of your personal army. You can 'drag and drop' every member and check the best chances if you can't work out which abilities counter each threat too, so don't worry. For the first time of asking this morning I logged on to find the number of missions I had actually exceeded the number of followers I possess. Even more satisfyingly, whenever you level a follower, they get their own Mini-Ding animation. This pleases me a GREAT deal, though I am sad I will never see Archmage Vargoth get the golden glamour in this Expansion :(


NOMS CHEWY XP :D

This means looking at your Garrison Report can now be quite a worthwhile experience :D You'll find it attached to your minimap, and it lists everything currently 'in progress' inside the structure:




As you can see, I've done a Transmute, there are two missions on the go and YES I BOUGHT THE PATTERN FOR A STOREHOUSE:


Yes, I built it there!

I decided on the Storehouse not simply because I don't have another readily fuellable profession to stick in its place: as you can see by the details this Building will be granting me bank and Void Storage access without the need to visit a Capital City, which while levelling would be a considerable diversion. Plus this will allow me to produce more Work Orders in the subsequent Buildings I place. You'll also notice that the Fishing Shack has vanished as an unlockable. It may well return at 92, but for now I only have the Mine and the Herb Garden to consider.



The Herb Garden has gained a Night Elf NPC, and an interesting yellow intractable box labelled as shown. Although you can do nothing with it of now, I'd bet that this will link into the Trading Post once it is active.

There's also an interesting change in the Plots menu away from the deliberate removal of some unlockable content:


Making things easier.

Clicking on an empty plot will now call up the list of available buildings you can fill it with. Also, it is now possible to allocate a follower to the Alchemy Lab, and (if you can find the plans and unlock the building) it is ready to upgrade when you secure the required number of Garrison Resources:




That's a lot of changes and I've only scratched the surface of the new Build in a couple of hours. I'll be summarising all of this on the Garrisons Blog, and watch out for me talking about this feature LIVE at the weekend on 8BitBruce's Podcast! More details at the weekend, but if you wanna hear me ramble, I'll be doing just that!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wish You Were Here


Perspective as humour, discuss.

I often like to pass comment on current news items, and this week's been a real eye-opener in terms of a topic that's become contentious in my game as well as in other places: diversity. Earlier this week, Marvel decided that Thor's tenure as Norse God in Residence was up for negotiation, and in what is already shaping up to be a master-stroke will be handing the hammer over to a woman. YES, A WOMAN. Just so we're clear: NO, this does not mean they're altering Norse Mythology, simply their own canonical version, where Thor has already been a horse, and a frog. After that, being a woman shouldn't be a stretch, but the whining OH THE WHINING is still going on. Again, just so we are clear: Marvel's VERSION OF CANON, their rulez, they can do what the heck they like because they invented Thor in Comic Books. Late last night US time the company also announced the first officially sanctioned African American Captain America. Needless to say, I think the Market Research Marvel have done on this is sending some EXTREMELY interesting signals through the ether.


Yes. THIS. Because Diversity is... well, diverse.

The clock appears to be ticking for anyone who thinks that the issue of diversity in 'geek' culture isn't either relevant or powerful, and we're not simply talking about comics bought or merchandised purchased. 'Traditional' values (whatever the Hell they actually are) are all well and good, but as your society evolves over time it becomes increasingly important to accept that everything has a relevance, even if it is something you can't personally ascribe to. I kopped flack this week for suggesting those who complain about such changes need to 'grow up' and I'm sticking by that line quite vehemently: there is a distinct lack of maturity in a great many people's outlook currently, and it is very depressing indeed. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to demonstrate you are willing to show you both understand and grasp opposing points of view first before you dismiss them. Needless to say, when it comes to Blizzard's take on the subject of diversity, it is hard to accurately gauge the landscape across all the titles they produce. There are no clear opportunities to 'showcase' a particular NPC in an obviously 'diverse' manner in the manner Marvel has, plus Azeroth is a very long way from the 'modern' world: as has been discussed here before, their latest major Expansion wasn't really waving the diversity flag from the word go.


Saved on my PC as 'nowomen.jpg'. GO FIGURE.

There's been a lot of argument since announcement of the 'all male' lineup of Warlords at Blizzcon, and if we use the Marvel Canon argument that we have above, all of it is remarkably justified. When you're guys making games it is easy to cast characters in your own 'image' and when your Expansion is returning a bunch of characters from an old game you made... well, it makes a lot of sense to not 'update' your backdrops or characters. This is where understanding the context of situations becomes important, and speaking with my writers hat on it is far easier to invent something you can identify with and that has your passion injected into it if you are able to present your audience with something that is convincing for you as content producers to create. All our Warlords have rich, complex back-stories, and that's because they were 'built' with obvious passion and commitment. Is it a problem the people that did that job them are all men? Should it even be an issue that you need to 'identify' with any of them on a gender level if the story is well-produced and the entertainment value that is derived from them is satisfying?

The bigger issue, I think, isn't just diversity in terms of race or gender preference. I think it is the job of creativity, in whatever field we happen to be considering, not simply to reflect the one person who creates that content. For it to be grasped by the majority there needs to be a bigger stage, a larger backdrop, and for it to gain more relevance there needs to be the understanding of the complexity the human race brings to the table in absolutely everything it is involved in. Ultimately, stories that are set in very insular circumstances succeed because people are able to grasp an affinity in the telling that mirrors their own struggles with the human condition. Shakespeare, as an example, maintains a relevance because the stories he told were universal themes on the emotional problems that plagued and created beauty in people's lives in the 16th Century, and remain relevant today. To make things really count you need to NOT focus on the faces or the names, but the feelings and the consequences, but to do that you need to engage an audience first, and absolutely the best way of doing THAT in the modern world is using the right image.

For a company who prides itself on visuals, Blizzard really has missed a trick or two in the last year.


ONE WOMAN ARMY.

I think, like a fair few woman I know who play games, the sex of my protagonists isn't the end of the world. After all, I've lived through decades of gaming when female heroes weren't anything close to the norm... but if I'm honest I'd not pick my games on the strength of their protagonists. I'd go for stories and good gameplay and the ability to get lost in a good piece of work. However, it is definitely pleasing for me to be able to run my (still) all-female team through Missions in the Garrison in Beta. I don't know if its wish fulfilment, or simply a case of just feeling more comfortable that I am at least catered for now in terms of choice. In the end, I suppose, it would just be nice to be asked what I'd like a bit more and to be offered the option to specify rather than be presented with what I get. In the end, I think that for a lot of people that's all diversity is for them, the power back into their hands and decisions not being made by somebody else.

If Marvel can justify their choices, that's all that really matters. I wonder if the same can be said of Blizzard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alternative Chat :: Episode 30 ::
(Welcome to the) Hotel World of Warcraft


What a nice surprise!

We've hit 30 episodes (though there's probably more but we stopped keeping accurate records somewhere in the teens) and as a result there's going to go for a bit of a change of online 'format': to match the Blog's trend of song titling it's way to greatness (Thanks Bob!) we're gonna do the same with the Podcast. This time around, it's the 1977 classic from the Eagles. The relevance will become clear as we go along, honest.





This Week, I am Discussing:
  • Being a Comedy Raider and getting pissed off at Moaners.
  • What you can do to prepare for the Expansion.
  • Realistic goals and attainable rewards.
  • Putting your Toons 'to bed' for the expansion.
  • 25 Dailies? Yes I still do it!
  • Garrisons 101 is all about how we got tons of patches and everything went HIGH DEF.




Contacting the Show:

E-mail:

alternativegodmother (at) gmail (dot) com



Social Media Gubbins:

@AlternativeChat on Twitter

http://www.facebook.com/alternativeblog on Facebook

Other Notes:

The link to my 'Instant Bags for No Dosh' post is here.

==


As a reminder: nothing next week, then TWO WEEKS OF SUMMER HOMEWORK, then away again until September. See the previous Blog Post for more details.

Black Hole Sun


When you put it like that...

I don't need to lament the stupidity of the RNG in this Parish. If you wanted a better example of how the game likes to screw with people's desires, then you're unlikely to find a more damning one than this. The fact that our poster (/waves at @alaphnull) uses real life as the most disturbing of contexts just makes the futility of the RNG roll even more obvious. However, this post isn't just about not getting what you want, at least not today. We will be using the RNG as an example of a bigger issue inside gaming specifically and with people in particular, an issue that designers are all too aware of and I think people often forget in the focus for what they believe they are actually playing for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm here today to discuss the notion of 'fun' in your online MMO experiences.


What, you're removing them all completely? /SARCASM


One of my oldest Guild friends made a telling comment on the 'serious' blog post about raiding yesterday: she added a 'point zero' as follows: 'Have a lot of fun.' I'd not even considered the f-word in the context of that post, because (I'll be honest) I don't tend to view raiding in that manner, and pretty much have stopped doing that since large parts ceased to be be optional content for me. [*] In fact, 'fun' is such a generic word it can be a bit difficult to adequately quantify without more context than you can shake a large wooden implement at. For instance, there are those who would argue that the only way Holiday Events become fun is when Blizzard remove the mandatory PvP from the equation. Of course, that's only one small part of a larger whole, but as our RNG woe demonstrates, it only takes one thing not going your way to change an outlook.

Then it boils down to what players actually define as fun to begin with:


Plenty of words to play with there.


Gaming is supposed to be all about the Noun: amusement, entertainment and often the creation of the shared group experience as a way to help solidify a bond of joint attainment. What it *should* be is satisfying are those bits of your brain that get pleasure from a good book, a great song or a fabulous piece of art. More and more however, people maintain you're getting the same kind of pleasure when gaming as you would from addictive substances, and that's frankly bad. There's going to be a LOT of research on this in the next ten years, and a great deal of debate about what gaming does (or doesn't) do to people's brains. The bigger problem is that actually Gaming SHOULDN'T be about the noun for fun, it should be far more adjectival in what it sets out to achieve, and suddenly we're back in context definition territory.

There is a VERY fine line in most cases between HAVING fun and something BEING fun, and building that in a design context is actually quite complicated. If we take Pet Battles as an example of this, frustration will come into play in some fights where the RNG is used but if you didn't use a random option, everything would end up as being so horribly predictable that every fight could (and would) be laid out with such ease that the only fun you could reasonably derive was laughing at your foes as you crushed them all with 100% certainty. Life proves that, after a while, even this gets boring. You don't want people 'winning' in a game like Warcraft and simply wandering off, that's much of the entire point of being here to begin with. So the RNG is added to ensure you root a player in the need for repetition. However, even the designers have admitted this only works to a point, and giving all gear a use to the majority of players in Warlords is a really sensible idea to counter the 'gestation period of a human and STILL no item' argument that is anything but peculiar to @alaphnull.

For the rest of us, however, fun's a tricky beast. Finding the best way to deliver it, at least for game designers, is a bit of a hit or miss affair.


CAKE IS FUN FOR EVERYONE.

I don't think anyone will argue that Holiday Events could do with an overhaul. Doing the same thing every year isn't fun, and in the case of 'School of Hard Knocks' forcing players to have to PvP was NEVER going to end well. Making events like this an interesting diversion from normal play is far more preferable, in the same way that the Darkmoon Faire allows a monthly distraction with useful things for players to use (should probably work on some new prizes there as well Blizzard.) Removing the RNG would not be fun either, despite what anyone might tell you. However, having the guarantee of items so you won't feel you're hindering a team makes your experience a lot MORE fun, because it stops being about a gameplay issue serving as restriction. Optimally geared means no need to worry about your teammates having to carry you, it is down to things you can control as a person and not about loot limitations in-game. That matters a very great deal.

Then we can just worry about where you're deriving your fun, and if you're still not enjoying everything it could well be that it isn't the game's fault to begin with. The problem could be somewhere else entirely.


My fun currently? NYI :P

I realised last night that I'm gaining most of my fun from Warcraft in a feature we don't have on Live at all. That makes focussing on what needs to be done in 5.4.7 a bit tricky, but I've done a Podcast this morning as an exercise in helping both you and me shift some emphasis on what matters in the weeks that follow. You'll see that shortly (once I've edited it) and hopefully, I can convince everyone that clearing out your bank and selling things to make money come the Expansion is also a 'fun' task and not an utter chore.

Enjoyment is a horribly subjective topic. What I think we can all agree on however is the understanding that whatever you do, however you do it, if it makes you happy that is really all that matters in the end. There should be far more respect for this position than there already is, and considerably less whining when fun becomes a chore.

The impetus for change, after all, starts with YOU.

==

[*] Being a GM has done a great deal to completely destroy the notion of 'fun' in a large number of things I do in game. There's a blog post in there too.