Saturday, June 30, 2012

Making The Most of It...

When motivational posters meant the difference...

I've mixed it up a bit the last couple of days, but I never forget the real reason why I'm here. This is, after all, a Warcraft Blog first and foremost. So, why the WW2 Motivational poster this morning?

While I was looking for something else this week I came across this poster, and it was the tag line that grabbed me: 'Rationing gives you your fair share.' I'm old enough to remember the Three Day Week in the 1970's when electricity was effectively restricted. I understand the concepts of moderation in relation to gaming time too, especially with an 11 year old who loves playing in computing sandboxes. However, I feel that perhaps I'm being too cautious of late. Even if the player base has dissolved on my server, the game remains as it was, full of stuff that's most definitely NOT on ration. I'm not fighting anyone for anything, quite the opposite. I'm also fairly confident that the day we finally get to hear when Blizzard's releasing the Expansion, things will all go mad.

The last thing I should be doing is rationing myself. I need to get out and make hay while the sun shines.

As you are reading this, I am not here. When I return tomorrow it will be with a renewed sense of vigour, of purpose, and determination. Its time to finally press home the advantage before everyone else comes back and nicks all this stuff I can use to make money and set myself up for Pandaria. I've been making notes on what to do and how to do it and if you are interested I'll take you through my thinking next week. Consider this my commitment to sticking with the game and you through the summer months, which is traditionally the most fallow of times. Let's see if we can have some fun while we do so too.

After all, I might have quite a while to wait before we get a release date... ^^

Friday, June 29, 2012

Looking At Things Differently...

From The Guardian (Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe)
What's he going to do with the next 10 days...?

Anyone who knows me well will understand that I do love myself some sport.

Last night, two rather contrasting sporting events took place. This poor bloke ended up out of a rather important Tennis competition, beaten by a guy who frankly no-one expected to do so. There's also a European Football contest going on. My national side were playing but they lost on penalties in the last round to a side who last night, against most people's expectations, took out the tournament favourites. Both these events serve to demonstrate the complacency of assuming that previous performance is an accurate or consistent means of predicting future events. You should never assume that an outcome is secured or guaranteed.

Last night, someone I've only known for a while confided in me their dissatisfaction with the game, and that they are seriously considering leaving for good. The surprise this created in me may have only a passing association with Rafael Nadal and the Italian/German football teams, so that's not the main reason they are included in this post. They are here as examples of how looking at your world in different ways can be not only a revelatory experience, but can make you realise that your situation, however bleak it may appear, can be considered differently. I hope by doing this to show my friend that maybe, just maybe, things aren't as bad as they might seem right now, and he could consider giving the game another chance... because it's not Azeroth he's fallen out of love with, it is the people he finds playing within it, and that's a situation I know can be fixed.

A new home is a difficult step, however. What is there to gain from starting again?

Mr Nadal was well on his way to victory last night, but a crucial turn of events meant his game was suspended for 40 minutes whilst the roof on Centre Court was closed. When he returned for the final set his opponent, the unassuming and very less capable Lukas Rosol, pretty much handed him his behind. Although we can only speculate, I'd like to think that with nothing to lose, Rosol came out to play thinking, at two sets all, what is the worst that can happen?. He has one set to win, and he'd already won two. He was able to override nerves and the gravitas of the situation, and go on to secure a victory which will be considered by many as one of the greatest upsets in men's tennis.

There is nothing to lose by starting again. It can be difficult, especially if you've moved from place to place as my friend has, looking for a server to call home. It can be particularly difficult if personal circumstances mean you feel uncomfortable and are without a real direction, but knowing you have one chance to make a difference can be a fairly motivating experience, hence my desire to sit here and try and convince not just him but you that, even with everything else that's going on, there are many people in game who are very, VERY special indeed.

You just need to go and find them.

That in itself can seem daunting, but here I can speak personally and say the journey is worth the first step. I see all these people on Twitter every day and they come to my site, in increasing numbers. Yes there are the trolls and the timewasters but in the end they will be outed and discouraged, and maybe even set back on the paths they need to find their way. Knowing you are on the back foot can be crucial to turning a situation to your advantage. Even a negative can be considered a positive if you want it enough. There are many, MANY good people playing, and I am sure that there will be players in your region who would be happy to welcome you to their world, even if it means starting from scratch. You bring a wealth of experience and understanding to the table, even if you can't afford to transfer characters immediately. I think that should count for something.

Then I come back to the Italians, who played woefully in the Euro 2012 Group stages. England lost to them on penalties in a 0-0 game which, on the strength of what happened last night, makes us look a great deal more competent than we seemed at the time. Last night, frankly, they demolished Germany, a team who most people considered a sure thing for the Championship. They owe that to a man who has become a minor celebrity in this country and who is undoubtedly a footballing enigma. If you want to know more, go read his Wikipedia entry. Again, one man stepped up and made a difference. However, what I'm more concerned about in this is how preconceptions are never a guarantee of outcome.

I am well aware my friend may be at the end of their gaming journey with Warcraft, even if it isn't the game that's cause his woes. It is often easier to use the game as the crowbar to force you out of habits or routines that you feel have become destructive, but are often not the actual root cause of the problem. This is where the bigger picture can be useful in identifying where you are in relation to the many other issues that surround you. My national side can take a great deal of comfort from their performance in light of larger considerations: looking at your life across a wider canvas is often the best way of highlighting both positives and negatives. I urge my friend to consider all the good things the game has given him, and not to dwell in the darkness, because it can easily consume you. Find a way to look at everything as objectively as possible before you make your final decision.

However, when all is said and done, often it is just time to go. I have said this on many occasions in the last couple of months, as I have watched people leave the game, many for good. You must do what you feel is right. With the advent of technology the people who you really care about will still be friends even if you don't see them in game, but there is a loss in a world where personal communication is such a vital component of the gaming experience. It is not for nothing that even the lowliest of PuG's insist on voice chat these days: communication is vital to progression. I have one more thing to say therefore, and it is the most important thing of all, and it doesn't need to be backed up by 22 blokes in football blokes and two guys with racquets.

Whatever you decide, I respect your choice, but I urge you to consider all the possibilities before you do.

Consider this my attempt to make you think differently about the game I still love despite everything, and maybe, just maybe, I might help to change your mind and convince you to start again. After all, you never know what might happen if you take the chance.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Manipulating Your Markets

Barclays, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves ^^

As a rule, I steer well clear of current affairs in this 'ere blog, unless something pops up which I feel has a direct relevance to the Gaming World. I reckon this story qualifies as 'relevant.' It might also lose me some readers. We will see.

I've banked with Barclays for pretty much most of my adult life, and as a rule I've always considered them a decent bunch. It has emerged in the last few days that they have been fined a massive £290 MILLION POUNDS, for spending quite a long time trying to manipulate Libor, the world’s benchmark bank borrowing rate. If you are interested in the details, a report is here. I suspect the repercussions of this will be both widespread and damning for the bank and its Chief Executive, and it poses a lot of very serious questions as to how financial institutions continue to conduct themselves in the face of mounting criticism.

Manipulating markets, after all, can be a very profitable profession.

Having read the above, now go away and consider this report from Massively which details how a small handful of players in EVE Online manipulated the latest 'Inferno' patch to the tune of what would, if you could convert the online currency to cash, be about $175,000. When you look at the original forum post from the people concerned, they even go so far as to quote Gordon Gecko : Greed is Good. It is good if you are one of the people who happens to be on the receiving end of the fortune, but if you're not, or you are forced to suffer because of other people's actions... is it really that great? Barclays will no doubt suffer as a result of their actions, the EVE players lost all their cash (despite such exploits in game traditionally being tolerated to a point), but does it matter? After all, the latter is only a game...

There has been a lot of discussion of late concerning the breaking down of traditional gender stereotypes and the use/misuse of certain real life 'incidents' in a gaming environment to elicit sympathy/empathy (Tomb Raider, looking at you and saying no more) It has become clear that people expect their games not simply to deliver entertainment, but to do so in a way that does not rely on scandalising and sensationalising the environments the gamer plays in. If that's the case for these issues, should the case not extend to those games that allow the player to manipulate the virtual world to a point where it could be seen to give them an unfair advantage over others?

Should people have the opportunity to make massive amounts of 'money' in gaming worlds without consequence?

The subject is one I've considered in a Warcraft sense with Transmog. I am well aware through people I follow on the Blogroll that you can become very rich indeed via this method, but it effectively requires time, effort and ultimately the ability to buy out your competition. I should say at this point I have a grudging admiration for anyone who's capable of making money in this way: I still hear countless complaints at how difficult it is to generate cash in Azeroth, despite knowing full well it isn't. The question then becomes: just how much money is enough? What do you do once you have all the money you can get in game?

What is often easy to forget is that, for many people, the game is the money. Unlike the real world, where virtual currency has only limited consequence, there is as much enjoyment to be had from the process of building an gold-based empire as there is from killing a Raid Boss.

There was a guy in our Guild duringVanilla, who did only one thing once he hit 60. He used to make Hide of the Wild. He'd farm the mats religiously, back in the days when Larval Acid was a hard drop and a key ingredient, and he'd buy anyone else's cloak from the AH regardless of the price. In Vanilla this was considered the key healing cloak for anyone hitting 60, and if you wore on on my server the chances were he made it. At the height of his endeavour he sent me a screen shot of his personal fortune. I'd never seen so much money in game.

When TBC was announced he realised with horror his market was gone, wiped out overnight, and he quit, but not before he sold his account to a random gomer. I lost quite a lot of respect for him that day.

It is an irrefutable fact (in our current climate) that people making huge amounts of money causes conflict. It results in sit-ins and civil unrest for starters. I've seen screenshots posted by people that show that the same response can (and does) happen in game, but regulating such things is never going to happen, and nor should it. We are all very aware of the consequences of Gold Buying, after all, and how Blizzard try their best to promote people to be self-sufficient, but (of course) some people will be better at that task than others, just like the min/maxers and the theorycrafters. It has been clear for some time that the game misses important money-regulators, or as you know them better, gold sinks.

Enter, stage left, the Black Market Auction House in Pandaria.

Insecure for now, but not for long...

Loath as I am to admit it, this is a master-stroke by Blizzard. Aware of the amount of gold in the economy (they have spreadsheets, they will know) I find myself thinking that the developers are in a pretty tight spot. They can't prejudice those people with all this cash, but they need to find a way to make spending that gold attractive. One of a kind items with huge rarity values? Yeah, that should do it, and those who want to be conspicuous with their consumption can do so without it hugely impacting on the rest of the gaming community. Those who don't care and want to just keep making money and sharing their tips out of game won't stop what they are doing anyway, but this gives at least one way of removing some of the pressure.

Let us hope Blizzard ensures that gold does not give an unfair advantage to those who could theoretically buy their way to gear superiority. Time will tell.

As long as making gold in virtual worlds does not cause a destabilisation of the environment that creates said wealth, long may it continue. The real world banks have argued long and hard that conflict and creativity is vital to continue to fuel the marketplace and to promote a spirit of competition that, if managed successfully, should benefit everyone in the long run. Greed, avarice and anger should have no place in either virtual or real world financial decision making, but its clear that's still not the case. Barclays will inevitably pay the price for wilful deception, but whether it is enough will remain to be seen.

In the gaming world, I'd like to think people will make their own informed and educated decisons, as they do with all the other aspects of game play. However, as we discussed yesterday, there are those people who'll happily spoil it for the rest of us under the guise of entertainment.

Let us hope they're not making money at our expense to boot.

Not Ready Yet... ^^

Lack of New Content

Where has all of the updates gone. I can't remember the last time anything was added to this game. I know blizard is busy and blah blah, but nothing?? really? where does that 15 bucks a month go. I know most of you will say "Just quit" and I probably will, but I miss enjoying the game. The raids are easy and the content is old.

We're working on the next expansion. We understand that people want new content and are hungry for it, but we have to also be able to recognize when we need to put our efforts into the next expansion rather than trying to divide up our focus too much.

'Divide up our focus' eh?

If Diablo 3 has shown one thing, it is that people can be incredibly patient, if the payoff is strong enough. Yes, we waited a DECADE for that, and ironically that game is doing the job of new content for a large number of people, a fact that won't be lost on Blizzard. In fact, I find myself wondering that perhaps Diablo 3 was released a little earlier than maybe it would have been. After all, the RMAH wasn't ready in time, and this game doesn't hold nearly as much significance in the 'Long Term Development' department... but acts as a fairly potent distraction.

Now is clearly the time for Blizzard to 'manage' expectations. They're not ready yet.

Addons will finally be playable in the next version of the Beta, which is our biggest indicator yet that there is a distinct push towards release. Developers are being positively encouraged to pick up beta keys and are being moved towards the game (which is interesting, as this assumes many wouldn't have an Annual Pass and be already playing) However, as was pointed out to me in my last 'when is the Expansion coming' post, there's still not a sign of Pet Battles being playable. Everyone is assuming we'll get to test this aspect of the Expansion, but is it really necessary? Would Blizzard take the chance of releasing Pandaria without the general public having been able to digest ALL of the content beforehand?

Why do we now automatically assume that things need a 'public' test before release anyway?

Matticus has already floated the idea of launching the Expansion without raids. I doubt it would ever happen, simply because of the number of addons that now are almost 'as standard' to any raid encounter. There are huge changes in UI to consider, perhaps significant enough to delay the expansion itself if people can't adapt their addons to accommodate the changes. However, features like the Tillers Farm and Pet Battles are brand new, and Blizzard might deliberately eschew addons for these features initially. After all, the way we learnt how to raid in Vanilla wasn't with a bunch of bolt ons to assist us, it was trial and error.

Is it possible Blizzard might favour a return to this way of learning new game features?

This next beta release, whenever it happens (and I'm assuming it will be either today or tomorrow) could be very interesting indeed. Blizzard deliberately aren't giving anything away, but there's no faulting the logic of the progression.

When they're ready, you can bet everyone will know.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Metaphors For Life

No, you're not getting a second chance, or are you...?

Warcraft is a metaphor for Life, you know. :D

No really, it is. All human experience can be found within, the myriad of possibilities and outcomes, wrapped in a bunch of pixels and delivered to your desktop 24/7. Its got absolutely nothing to do with the actual game, of course. When you play with anyone else, there are inevitably moments when it stops being about which boss you're killing or the achievement you're chasing and it becomes all about the other people.

For example: I entered a Fall of Deathwing LFD this morning on my Horde Hunter. Bosses 1-3 ran very smoothly until we reached Deathwing, where it became apparent the Offtank wasn't aware of the boss mechanics. Three wipes later, and after an inordinate amount of bickering the (very impressive MT) deliberately instigated a wipe when the OT started the encounter in an attempt not to get kicked while we were two healers down. At the end of the first platform he asked everyone not to jump and (stunningly) at least half the raid complied. Much complaining and arguing followed, as we queued for replacements. One Warlock took it upon himself to check people's DPS gear as we waited, and discovered a Boomkin doing so with what was (very obviously) his healing set (it didn't take a genius to work it out). Some lively discussion ensued, the crux of which was simple: Blizzard lets him queue as a dps, and he can do that even in gear which is completely inappropriate for purpose. I suggested he might want to consider an alternative to LFR for gearing:

So, there you have it.

It's a beautifully simple response. Yes, we did kick him shortly afterwards.

I read this week a very interesting post from Kurn's Corner about how Blizzard could do more to adequately educate their player base on what is required from players. I think this is a prime example of how even the educated will act in an irresponsible manner if they think they can get away with it. Our 'healer' was very well geared, and clearly knew how to play that class, yet they wilfully decide to forgo all this as dps for the chance of some free upgrades? Of course they did, because in the 'metaphors for life' everyone's going to chance their arm now and again if it means they might get summat for (effectively) nothing. Those people who don't know squat about their class? Is it REALLY Blizzard's job to educate them so they are fit to play? Shouldn't it be that the players go and look for information themselves and learn about the game as they play, allowing their experience to further develop from their own exploration?

I see this argument a lot at present. This is an ongoing metaphor about education going on in schools across the UK. Substitute 'schools', 'government' and 'parents' into the above paragraph and suddenly we're in an entirely different sphere. It also matters a great deal more than a simple computer game, after all we're talking about children's futures here... yes, those same children who could well be playing this game, who see examples of people taking liberties in (seemingly) guilt-free situations. Suddenly these metaphors matter a lot more, especially to those of us who choose to play their games in the same way as we attempt to conduct their lives: with respect, responsibility and perseverance. Hang on, isn't that what the griefers and the idiots are doing too?

People like to apportion blame in game, and to know where responsibility lies, because... well, as in life, there are processes. Pointing the finger at someone else for a failure happens all the time. The wise and sensible will look at all the evidence before even considering judgement. Stubborn at Sheep the Diamond experienced the worst of human behaviour this week and I know from bitter experience that this kind of, for want of a better word, asshattery is alive and well and (sadly) not going anywhere. Like Stubborn, I find myself wanting answers to these people's increasingly inexplicable behaviour. I considered that it could be the age of people playing that was a contributing factor, and at what time of day people were running dungeons. From the brief field work I've conducted it could well be the case: play at times where you know the adult playerbase will be larger and things are less traumatic. Hence I ran an early morning LFR on my Priest and had literally no problems. As the day goes on and the possibility for 'younger' players increases... plus at weekends...

However, this is unfair. REALLY unfair, because age is not the sole reason for anyone to act in this fashion. The biggest ragequit we ever had in Guild came from a 50-summat guy who really should have known better (and left over a mace /roll he lost) and when I look back on what happened, it made a lot of sense. Certain personalities will cause trouble, regardless of where they are. When you stop looking at people as pixels and remember that behind the character is a real person, a lot of what happens simply acts as a metaphor for their real life personality. I am staggered even now at the number of people who don't consider this, that Warcraft really is just one huge social networking site when its all said and done. The only difference is, in most cases, these aren't people you would never willingly have on your Friends List, and as a result... anything could happen, and normally does.

There are a lot of arguments currently about what is wrong with the game. Blizzard are clearly at pains to ensure that when the new expansion is released, it returns to the experience a great deal of the enjoyment and fun that people feel has been lacking in Cataclysm. However, Blizzard can't change the players. It can try and make them happier, give them more things to do and increasing ways to gear and feel fulfilled. It has improved in beta the way knowledge about classes is communicated. It is giving lots of opportunities for people to 'learn to play' However if people choose not to take them, there is nothing anyone can do. If the game is a metaphor for life, sometimes it won't matter how good things are, some people just aren't happy unless they have something to complain about and a focus at which to direct their displeasure.

The only way that is ever going to change is completely out of Blizzard's hands.

[EDIT: Hello Druids, who point out to me that spirit works very well as hit for Boomkins. I am encouraged to see new people reading and responding, and so I add this postscript.

I have a Druid boomkin, so have some understanding of the mechanics at play. I also know I wouldn't play as DPS with a Maw of the Dragonlord or two healing trinkets, because there are better items out there (from LFG) which would maximise my potential in a raid. Mr Robot is my friend :D Needless to say, this then becomes an even better example of someone who knows how to play but hoped that the relative anonymity of LFR would allow him to capitalise on loot drops...]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Week I Will Be Mostly...

...eating Eggy Bread as comfort food as I feel rubbish \o/

Another week, and still no sign of a release date. At least I have the Fire Festival to distract me from the complete lack of actual content. As a result, I suspect the following will be the way things go until the weekend (FAIRE SATURDAY, won't be here but will start on Sunday)

  • Ahune runs for possible pettage, blossom pileage and the chance to mine/herb in an instance. Almost got a stack of Adamantite and Ancient Lichen :p
  • Once enough blossoms are acquired, will go honour/desecrate some fires to stack up 350 for pets.
  • Once we reset tomorrow morning, Horde Hunter goes all out to get to 378 ilevel with the Mogged #4 Hunter. Priest needs a trinket upgrade. This likely means some LFR. I AM A FOOL.
  • Banks need a proper sort. Dump all the stuff I won't need for levelling. Start stockpiling the stuff I do. CLOTH I AM LOOKING AT YOU.
  • Rearrange action bars on rogues so they are the same. Am getting confused.
  • Level cookery on the remaining 4 alts, who all need 15 points or less. Yes I know its probably a waste of time. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Beauty in All Things

I am still not right, but I am making the most of the situation as this weekend is going to be hard work and its probably an idea to try and enjoy myself beforehand. I'd rather be playing The Secret World on its release, lets be honest, but instead I have Inlaw Duties. Needless to say, you will get a review on my return. I'm still basking in the glow of Blizzard's climb down over account wide 'gold sink' mounts from last night, which is great news for everyone in The Family. Each toon will have access to a repair mount and a multi-person flying mount come Pandaria. That makes me happy.

Sunset over Dragonblight. Just because.

I'm also looking for the best in the Midsummer Festival. As is nearly always the case, the two alts who could actually use a cloak upgrade (meaning I can avoid the rubbish Thrall questline) haven't even got to the /roll stage. However, thanks to faffing last night (as it was all I was capable of) there are two Captured Flames in the Vanity Bank from blossom gathering. I noted this on Twitter and its worth repeating: the pets are Unique, which means if you intend on sending them to a bankalt to sell they can only hold one at a time in bags. However you can store multiples in a Guild Bank. I think this might be a deliberate move on Blizzard's part to try and prevent stockpiling or to push people doing so into spending money on Vanity banks. We will see if this is the start of a trend.

I managed to snag a spare Ice Chip (saved) and a Scythe on P. There is one overriding benefit for the Scythe as a mogging weapon: it will hide any weapon enchant glow and instead show its default icy chill. Therefore I felt duty bound to replace my current weapon mog, as it transpires the Scythe goes rather well with the existing outfit:

New pet insists on muscling in on shot...

I am going to miss having a hand weapon in Pandaria, if only for the opportunity to show off a complimentary look. I wonder (and I should check) whether guns will show permanently: I am doubting it, and it will be a bit of a loss, if only in vanity terms.

I will do a 'This Week, I Will Be Mostly...' post later today but for now I am going to drag my sorry behind to the gym in the vain hope it might make me feel better... ^^

Monday, June 25, 2012

Poorly Sick

Characters very popular in this parish.

I don't do ill very well, it should be said. It is particularly difficult with kids, though this morning there was some sympathy, despite the fact that's not a word that gets thrown about with much frequency.

If you want me, I'm going back to bed, and (hopefully) I'll see you later.