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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Closing Time




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Thank you.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

You're History



You know I said I was done with the Vanilla Server 'issue'? Well, my subconscious has decided I'm not. Last night I dreamt about clearing out history, throwing away broken and old items, and selling things from the past as some kind of retro nod to the present. I had a shop full of other people's memories, and watched people change them before my eyes: old dresses ripped apart and remade, furniture broken and rebuilt. From the ashes of someone else's history came the momentum for the future. Here's where the whole ridiculousness of this situation with Vanilla Warcraft comes in: if I really thought players wanted to go back to live in that era and would be happy just as it is?

Part of me could accommodate the change. Those who say they're unhappy with the alterations that Blizzard have wrought and who want to live in aspic forever, like a social experiment trapped in the haze of good memory and happy reassurance that the reason why Warcraft now is crap is because the company had to go and change it. There's a reason that happened too guys, and it has absolutely nothing to do with driving you away in droves, and everything to do with this Company having a different long term objective than you hold as dear.

007's salty as fuck and is quietly reconsidering his position. 

It doesn't matter how many important people come out in support of your 'request', this isn't the same company who made that game back in 2004. Sure, they'll jump on the bandwagon of nostalgia when it suits their own ends, but to expect them to accommodate you when they're already fundamentally altering the Lore and looking ahead and not backwards? There's also a crucial other point that's just not being talked about right now and should be: so, you get Blizzard to legitimise you. What happens when people get bored with the same world and begin to drift away?

What happens then?
I've seen people tell me that they'd play maybe once in the old style but after that they're going to lose interest too and if that's not where Blizzard are channelling development? You really think that an 'AU' Azeroth will work, and that you could do the job better than Blizzard did because at least this time you'd know what NOT to do?

I hate to break it to you, but life doesn't work like that.

You started this. 

You guys started this. Those of you out there who complained about Blizzard's methods and approach and now are playing Vanilla because you don't like what's changed. If you hadn't complained back when you did? If you'd not been the architects of doom and gloom? That's why the expression 'be careful what you wish for' actually exists, because it grasps the implicit understanding that when you make a change, there are consequences. It is the most ridiculous of ironies that having made all these things change, this is where we now sit, in a World that nobody says they asked for and yet everyone embraced with open arms at Warlords launch.

10 million people bought the game, and although Blizzard have to take some of the blame for the exodus that followed, it appears that actually, the player base also have their own responsibility to shoulder. If you choose not to stay and go back to a previous version of the saved game, and then complain Blizzard won't let you do what YOU want with it?

Have you any idea how fucking entitled that sounds right now?

Shoo.

The most significant turning point in this whole sorry affair, at least for me, was the moment last year when Blizzard caved on allowing flying in Draenor. That shows a group of people that if they complained long and hard enough, the Company would realise the error of their ways and simply concede to demand. Now there is a storm coming, where it is acceptable to diss the company whose code you're using outside the Terms of Service despite the fact that's just such a massive insult to begin with. It's asking a company to accept you refuse to move on with your life and their concept and need to remain in a place where gaming is strictly on your terms. It is, without doubt, a spectacular display of arrogance from a portion of the player base who have probably as many demons to face as those who think it's acceptable to shit on people from a great height for not being hardcore raiders.

Mostly, it is the sad and indicative state of gaming generally, where there's always some entitled arsehole willing and capable of spoiling it for everybody else. If you didn't know already, I have no sympathy for people who feel this form of gaming has any legitimacy. I don't hate you individually, and I certainly won't be making sock Twitter accounts to anonymously abuse you for your life choices. However, I'd ask you to consider what you're asking, and why if I was making this game, I'd consider this an unbelievable act of abuse.

However, as you're not listening? There's probably no point.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Your Town


What have we learnt? 

Been an interesting couple of days, and I missed Azeroth, so yesterday I went and flew to places that normally give me comfort in difficult times, thinking long and hard about the notion of Community. This game has always been about two kinds of people: those that give and those that take, and for a while now there's been a struggle to accurately categorise the two. Some people might argue you don't want to put labels on anyone, but it helps sometimes to know what you're dealing with. The problem is for a lot of people that when you tell them that you know what the problem is and they don't like the suggestion you give? That's a bigger issue. Mostly, it transpires you're an insignificance anyway That's the big one to grasp, folks: however significant or important you believe your problem is?

It's really not.




This weekend, I will Timewalk my way a step closer towards a second mount. I'll make gold, grind some claws for another Mount, and generally faff about. Then I'll go do some levelling on the US alts... and that's that. We're a step closer to Legion with the latest Alpha build, and I'll do my best to get to try the Broken Shore quest line when I know it will be busy and I can give the whole thing a fair airing. I'll do what I've always done when the people who play this game has provided me with personal issues, I'll just carry on doing what I do and work through it.

That's how this has always worked.




What I won't do is feel sorry for myself. I won't assume other people are the problem. I won't try and blame players for being different or awkward. Some of these things will be harder to accomplish than others, but the idea is to get better and learn, not go backwards. Mostly, I have come to realise that for the people I don't have an affinity with in this 'Community' there's an equal number of people that I have more in common with than I realised. I owe it to them therefore to keep at this, to push forward in difficult times, but more importantly to hold the courage of my convictions. Nothing may change, of course, but that's no surprise in the end, because remember that thing that wasn't a great big deal? It still isn't, so let's move on.

I'll see you in game this weekend :D

Back for Good


Look, there's NOTHING THERE ^^

Just because you look at something and can't see anything odd, doesn't mean that's all there is to it.


Hang on, you get XP for EXERCISING?

Being a computer gamer does not mean you never have to move or sweat, or neglect fitness.


OMG RICH oh hang on

Sometimes, having a pile of money won't make you rich.


One Troll and 1000 hits doesn't make drama.

Last night, as a result of my post yesterday, NO DRAMA HAPPENED. One troll blocked is not drama. A decent, adult and sensible conversation with one person on Twitter is not drama. 1000 people reading my post is not even a surprise. To all of you people out there who like to gossip and sneer, but don't have the balls to come actually discuss my assertions like grown ups?




Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Favourite Waste of Time

Yesterday, there was some drama. This morning, I think I'm up to tackling it.




Obviously we've been experiencing significant technical issues. We've been trying to diagnose them, but they're beyond the scope of anything that can be addressed in the short-term (infrastructure/back-end issues, as opposed to just a simple code bug that can be fixed). As such, we're canceling today's tests. They'll be rescheduled.

I realize it's frustrating to carve time out of your schedule and then be unable to actually play. If there were anything we could do to prevent this, we would, but an alpha/beta environment is inherently less stable and polished because of how things are changing constantly, both in obvious player-facing ways but also in terms of behind-the-scenes tech. I apologize, but I honestly can't say that it won't happen again - it might. The disclaimers that accompany each raid testing announcement aren't just empty words. 
SOURCE

Yesterday, a lot of people got their Calvin Kline's all tangled over a series of events that arose from Blizzard having technical issues. Some of the original arguments have subsequently vanished, but the gist is simple: people expect Blizzard to test when they say and when stuff gets cancelled players get upset. One particular person got so upset that there were Videos and Forum posts and the upshot is that many people who were previously owners of Alpha access no longer own it.


That's that, really. Ironically, the streamer who seems to have lost their shit over all this was someone I'd only heard of in passing. I'm reliably informed he's an 'influencer', but here's where I stop you and point out some home truths that I think perhaps some people have just failed to overlook. The first one is that, considering how much of a shit storm this *could* have been? I think Blizzard Devs have been exemplary in not only their conduct but their actions in making sure this issue was dealt with appropriately. No, it's nowhere near perfect, but it's a decent fist considering the circumstances.


Then there's the question of whether a 30k streaming 'audience' makes someone 'influential' or not: I'd argue that with the new players Blizzard's looking to try and pull into the MMO? Many of them won't have a clue who many of the 'established' personalities actually are, and may not even care. Those firmly entrenched in the Community, of course, will argue all day and night that this matters, and to them I'll stand and look dismayed, and point out that they are as much a part of the problem as the person being highlighted. Just because you shout the loudest does not give you the right to have a bigger say. Blizzard now have to be careful of creating or reinforcing double standards out to players and community members alike, because when I read a tweet from a Dev that praises someone in the Community for a service I think has done more to the detriment of the game from where I stand?

There's an argument that a lot of double standards here need addressing.


At some point in the last year it has become apparent that Blizzard clearly need some parts of the 'Community' more than it does others. That's not a problem, per se, until the moment that this relationship becomes damaging, and in many ways the interplay between data miners and Development is actually more concerning than the odd rogue streamer who gets his head stuck where he can't see the sun. However, and this is crucial, Blizzard are the ones who are capable of preventing these situations from ever occurring to begin with. That means that you think before you Tweet, and you consider your professional position first. I'm more than prepared to kop flack for citing this tweet as an example of what I consider is inappropriate, but in the end I believe that the data miners may have made Blizzard's job easier, but they've fundamentally damaged the game long term. Please note, I DO NOT point or infer ANY ill will or personal criticism at ANYBODY doing this job, on ANY datamining site.

I'm just stating, for the record, that if we'd not opened Pandora's Box of Data, the World would be a very different place. This part of this Community does not make things infinitely better, the WHOLE only thrives and survives when everybody is dealt with and considered equally. At least, that's how I see it. Your experience, undoubtedly, will vary.

Sometimes, knowing everything will not help you solve the problem.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Shut Up


There's been a lot of Drama in the Warcraft Community today. If you've created this, or contributed to it in any way, shape or form? I have only one thing to say to you.




Yup, I'm done now.

Revolution

It only works if you're willing. 

I thought I'd done with the whole Vanilla Servers/Nostalgia thing, but actually I'm not.

If you read Twitter using Tweetdeck, you won't see Polls appear unless you click through to the post on the Web platform. That means yesterday, I didn't see the answers associated with the official Warcraft account's post, just the text that proceeded it:




When I read this?
I have no fond memories of those dungeons, just as I possess no real joy from Dragon Soul or indeed any organised raiding after that point. Why is that? Well, that's simple: that's when the soul of my Guild was effectively destroyed. I know the exact reasons behind this, and because I'm not a fan of drama, you don't get the details. Needless to say, I remember what happened, and last night's (completely innocent) post started something of an epiphany. The past is a great place if it's welcoming, if you can find happiness in what's presented, but for many of us it is a place we never want to return to, and for good reason. For every person who loves the idea of going back to when things were better?

Individual perception is something a lot of players singularly fail to appreciate.




You're living on your own Planet, you know. It may be inhabited by billions of other people but the individual reality that you exist within can often make some things look vastly different. There are massive areas of collective overlap, and Warcraft is one of them. However, what people see as 'similar' and 'different' inside that 'sphere' can be staggeringly at odds. When someone tells me how great a Vanilla server would be, I get cross. That anger's lost me both respect and understanding in the last week, and I realise I ought to actually explain the deeply personal reasons why I won't ever support the long term use of Vanilla content as 'acceptable' or 'sustainable.' My last post on this subject explains the artistic reasoning, but there's one deeply personal additional point that needs to be made. A lot of that has to do with what I had to deal with as a GM, why I ultimately quit, and why I doubt I will ever competitively raid ever again.

I'm looking at you, people who refuse to practice what they preach.


Actually, there is more to it than that.

I lost track of the number of people who threw hissy fits when they couldn't get what they wanted, who'd leave and come back and leave again when it was apparent they'd have to do some work. I can remember every person I had to assuage or talk down from being a Class A Twat, and this wasn't just guys. Mostly, the problem was simple: Person V would tell you what needed to change so that they were happy. Probably three times out of ten if that happened, you'd make progress and the individual became a better raider. For the other seven times the person just carried on as normal, but continued to blame others for their shortcomings. It was always somebody else's fault, and never theirs. You are the people who continue to spout the belief that if Activision Blizzard had just left things as they were at the end of (Insert Expansion Here) nothing bad would have happened since and it's clearly the fault of the design team the whole MMO's in the mess it undoubtedly is.

Warcraft changed when you asked it to, and yet you still hate the MMO as it stands now.


You'll never be happy, JUST ACCEPT IT.

The game changes, as it is asked to, and yet you remain the same. You refuse to accept that life is a process of self-discovery and evolution, and expect others to cover your own arse. That's the major point here: this isn't about you stepping up and offering to improve the situation. It's the job of the MMO to accommodate YOU: heaven forbid someone suggests that you might need to practice any form of self-improvement to better appreciate what's on offer. In the case of Vanilla Servers, it was just easier to rip off the code and go back to an earlier save game, where not only had other stuff not been thought of, but where you hadn't fucked up as a player. Then you could recall the glorious days you still yearn for whilst struggling through adulthood singularly failing to grasp that nostalgia is often a metaphor for being unable to mature. I love my Retro Gaming friends to pieces, and I have nothing but respect for anyone making a living from ancient gaming tech, but you're living in the past for a reason. Remembering a simpler time is what we all do occasionally to remind us of how far we've come. It shouldn't ideally become a place where you refuse to leave.

That is neither healthy or largely practical in the long term.


Have your revolution where you can. 

I appreciate many players will be wanting to 'stick it to the Man' whenever possible, because HEY WE ALL LIKE REVOLUTION but if you're doing it with a video game? Honestly, this is not the answer. The World desperately needs more people out in reality trying to change it, not trying to become You Tube streaming sensations or Twitter celebrities. I know what's not what you want to hear, but actually it is at least partly the truth. This is not a popularity contest, neither is it an episode of 'Who's Right Today' because this opinion is no different to yours. I hold only one card that the majority of you guys don't, and that's the 'I'm 50 this year and have been gaming since the 1970's' Joker. I've seen a lot of things in my time, and I've learnt a fair deal of stuff too but you know what? I still don't have a fucking clue. I have changed the way I do many things in my life only to watch other people fail to keep promises, lie and cheat to make sure they don't have to live up to the standards they set everybody else. If you want to be respected for your choices, take time to consider them and when you promise to do something? Expect abuse when you don't. I've failed this Community on that front on more than one occasion (before my trolls appear and try and point out what is already well known) and now, I'm going to do my utmost to be better.

It isn't just what you want in life, people, and especially not in gaming. When you tell a company what it can and can't do with it's own product without considering the consequences? 

Time for a reality check.

Monday, April 11, 2016

ALPHA :: Not Fade Away

Here is a space, shall we start here? 

Garrisons are not going away in Legion: they'll remain as Farms did before, testament to the project that was begun back in Pandaria to provide players with limited playtime an activity that can keep them engaged in the client. The retention mechanic is nothing new, but what Garrisons gave a certain percentage of the populous was the encouragement to exploit this 'mini game' to their advantage. I know you guys still are, I can see you every day continuing to rack up the golds. If you care, someone's done a write up on the new Class Hall campaigns. I've not read this at length, and I don't actually intend to until the feature goes Live, and that's because I learnt my lesson back in Warlords.

If you want to maintain a level of interest in your game of choice, spoiling yourself beforehand has consequences.

Getting angry doesn't solve anything. 

Part of my joy in Azeroth has always come from the element of surprise, and what has happened in the last few years is that joy has been systematically eroded by my own (mistaken) belief that being able to produce guides for people was the right thing to do. I come from a generation of players who never had the Internet to use as 'cheating' and had to work it all out for myself. Now I'm seeing players who won't even get up in the morning unless EVERYTHING is not only organised for them, but set out in a fashion that is easy to understand and comes without consequence. You may decide this is something to do with generational differences, but I know the real truth. People are lazy. You'd far rather I did the work for you than think about the processes myself. Ironically, Blizzard rely on people wanting to spoil stuff now in order to elicit additional feedback and bug testing, and that too is something of a concern. If I write a novel I don't expect the Internet to proof read it, that's my job to pay for. 

Ultimately, that's not the bigger problem for some.


HERE BE PLACEHOLDERS.

Garrisons have become the focus of many people's ire, and what the Campaign 'development' is doing is not ignoring that, far from it. This is the logical development of the process begun with your Farm, like it or not. It is an evolutionary process that will allow players to take their personal space and alter it in a fashion that makes the structure retain meaning over the entire lifespan of an Expansion. It's happening in the way Blizzard knows best too, and as far as I can see that means absolutely NOTHING to do with the cosmetic changes so many of us would have loved to have seen placed in the Garrison from the get-go. I think it is fair to say that the only Cosmetic changes Blizzard are ever going to entertain are the ones they create themselves. You will never see dyes, or player housing, or indeed anything that allows the individual to take elements of Blizzard's UI and design with them yourself. Transmog remains the only legitimate means of pushing the envelope of game design. Warcraft will NEVER become a sandbox, however hard some of us wish this could happen.

Knowing that, I'll predict Class Order Halls will be a disappointment for many.


Take your victories where you can find them.

If you look at Blizzard's current output, it should not come as a surprise stylistically that your wheel only ever gets reinvented and never replaced. It's a brave man who'll rock the boat when you've already lost the vast majority of your subscriber base to inertia and inactivity, after all. The Class Order Hall brings the 'more of the same but different' ethos than Blizzard's worked so hard on over the years and is proven to work, so why should you try and change it dramatically? The problem is, of course, that over time there needs to be some effort to shift everything forward, if you want to pick up new audiences along the way. What Blizzard does, from what I'm able to glean myself without spoiling, is link spec-wide Artefact weapon progression to the Class Order Hall in the same way your Legendary Ring quest was indivisible from your Garrison. That for me is already raising some concern, because that means that it could end up as mandatory to involve yourself with both.

I really hope Blizzard have thought this development through enough this time around.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eighth Day

DANGER WILL ROBINSON. 

Yesterday, I played as a newbie, and it was (as it happens) quite tolerable.

I did my first Dungeon (see above) and nobody spoke the entire time. I said 'hello' and was met with silence, and when I said 'thank you' at the end, it was exactly the same deal. I was the only one who needed an item because everybody else was only there for the XP. I never got a chance to kill anything either because all the other people were in Heirlooms and by the time I'd caught up to the Paladin Tank? Mostly everything was dead. The only exception were bosses where mechanics never actually happened, because by the time I'd even tried a routine? Dead too. Then I went and quested and promptly gave up after L100's camped the Crossroads and despite numerous cries for help? Nobody came to eliminate them. So, I decided I'd go to bed, which was more appealing than sitting waiting for an NPC to respawn.

It is a sad state of affairs at the low end of the levelling experience.



Not just the End Game, boys ^^

What's probably more worrying is that for anyone coming into the game new, it doesn't actually matter, because when you stick all your best content at max level and then provide a free Fast Pass to get there with the game? You only discover 'traditional levelling' when you get bored, effectively, or you can't afford to buy boosts. Listening to players joke about how boosts make them lazy is quite telling, on reflection, and for most there is no incentive to either learn their specs well or even care about being better players when the path to max level has effectively become so ridiculously easy. In fact, unless you're boosting an alt to join a Raid Team? You can get away with autofire on a Hunter and never learn any finesse at all. I'm sure the same is true for many other classes, and the ones that are too complex? People simply don't play. Simplifying rotations isn't going to change that any time soon either, if all players want is to get gear and pick up what they consider is 'cool', which from what I can make out remains mounts, transmog trinkets and gear. I have to admit though, I laughed at the PvP ganking Warrior last night wearing the purchasable Transmog helm as some kind of badge of honour.

It takes all sorts, after all.


Why should I level from scratch, again?

I am well aware of people attempting to make Blizzard aware of the disparities, and campaigning for change at the lower end of the scale, but when the L100 Boost is often the only reason people are upgrading now, and they don't care how badly they play? The argument is largely academic anyway. As I have no heirlooms or in fact no 100's in the US, but I do have a 90 boost from Warlords, I now totally understand why people would simply skip the levelling process completely. Except my bigger problem as a long term player is that actually, I DO NOT enjoy being funnelled straight to the point where I no longer level. The reason why I lost the plot this time in Draenor is because once that stopped? There was nothing else to save me from total and utter repetition. Levelling at least gives the impression ofr forward momentum, whilst the 'daily' circuit at max level becomes, like it or not, a repetitive action. Blizzard know this too, and Legion is at least attempting to address some of the disparities. However, the content that remains is not touched, and it's become almost dangerous to suggest it would be because of what history has taught us about screwing with the Old World.

It's a real shame, because there's so much brilliant stuff between 1-99 that could be recycled.


Nostalgia sells. Discuss.

There will be those looking at Timewalking as proof that the past can be effectively repackaged and made to be popular again. Undoubtedly if there is a massive influx of brand new players, the problems Blizzard will have to deal with will change, and (presumably) they will attempt to compensate accordingly. For now, I'll see how long it takes before someone actually talks to me in a Dungeon, or indeed anywhere else outside of my Guild. It can be a pretty lonely world for the new player in Warcraft.

The experienced would do well to remember this

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Three Words


I even made a graphic :D 

There's been a bit of interest in the possibility that Warcraft could run with a third faction around the Blogsphere of late, even including the suggestion from a Warcraft Dev. Having discussed this back in 2015 (and even beforehand, if truth be told, I just can't be arsed to find the post) I've had some time to consider the possibilities (look, there's even specific graphics.) Mr Feasel suggests that there ought to be consequences for your actions too: no AH access and no Guild were two very clever caveats in his choice, and I like this idea a great deal. The decision to be faction free should come with repercussions, of course it should, because then as a player you are forced to lose things that matter to attain a state you desire. This is the concept, after all, of reward v consequence. You'll be all to aware of the 'carrot' that rewards are supposed to signify, and that this is often not enough to entice many players to participate. However, there's another concept wrapped up in your faction choice, and that is worth exploring.

ORANGE v BROWN

In its simplest form, Carrot v Stick is Reward v Punishment. The problem is, at least in the current sociological climate, even using the P word is tantamount to condemning you to being labelled old fashioned and unaware of the long-term psychological damage punishment can cause. Speaking as someone with first hand experience of this, it is a very fine line to tread. In the modern gaming world, pretty much everything needs to be a carrot, because for some players if they're not drowning in incentives, there is literally no point to the exercise. That in turn leads to boredom and laziness very quickly indeed, because if you can have all you want, when you want? There is no point long term in playing. Building a relationship with the player base where they are made to choose from the outset serves an extremely important and significant purpose in Warcraft: this is about a fight. As a result, you have to choose a side because you understand you'll be forced into competition.

After eleven years, however, there are those of us who have just had enough.


There's always somebody.

Supporting a Third Faction is not an impossible ask. It would, however, need to come with a fairly hefty price, and Mr Feasel's assertion you'd be both guildless and without an AH are hardly losses to those of us who understand the ways and means this can be 'accommodated.' So, for me at least there would be no real stick, it's just the Mother of all Carrots. That means therefore this isn't enough. There'd need to be a real consequence to create the schism required in game play terms, at least in my mind. How much would I be prepared to lose? Having had some time to think about this, resetting reputation back to Neutral for all Alliance races (or Horde on the flip side) ought to be at least one consequence of my decision: after all, if I'm not standing with my initial choice of faction, I don't deserve to be considered Exalted. That's where my new, unique reputation bar could come in (see graphic above) and by completing dungeons I'd decide who I was doing them for. Losing five reputations isn't exactly a stretch either, so what if ANY Reputation that had been gathered with Alliance forces was wiped clean? That would mean my time in Northrend would see the reputation for the Alliance Vanuard wiped, but I'd keep it with the Explorer's League and  Northrend races such as the Sons of Hodir. I'd also lose all my Alliance PvP reputations, and that's HUGE.

I think if that were the way forward? I'd be happy to take the consequences.

I like to think, it keeps me happy.

The fact this question keeps coming up says to me that there could eventually be enough support in a new audience to make it work. I'm not talking about those of you who've been here as long as I have, but the new generation of players who Blizzard is attempting to pull in via the Movie. Factions are, like it or not, quite an old-fashioned concept for many, and using them simply as loot pinatas and gating mechanisms (and let's face it, that's why they're there in Legion) is getting sadly predictable. If my new 'Neutral' faction was able to move and shift as I dictated, and I could use rewards as a result of this? That has the potential to be far more interesting, and would mean I'd be forced into far more meaningful decisions than 'oh yeah, just need to grind this to Exalted so I can fly.' In fact, if those are the only real point to having Factions now (and I hate to say it but this is how it looks in the upcoming Expansion) then I'd argue the system is broken to begin with.

Maybe it's time ALL Factions got a do-over and we had to do something other than just kill things to unlock rewards.