Friday, March 01, 2013

The Safety Dance

This single. IN MY GARAGE. Relevance below.

Yesterday's Twitter conversation was all about Server Populations.

One person in this conversation is likely a sockpuppet. You decide who.

There is no easy fix for the issue of the low population realm, at least if your name is Dave Kozak. There are many POSSIBLE solutions, yes, but the fact that Blizzard has not adopted any of the popular theories should lead the intelligent commentator to grasp some fundamental truths on the subject. By far the largest is wrapped up in the Twitter moment we reported on yesterday: the community and Blizz are tight right now, rather encouragingly so. The subject of Server Mergers and Low Population Servers is as big an issue as any others you are likely to find currently: if you don't believe me, go read this thread on the EU servers, which began my Twitter discussion on this subject with Mr K. If you wanted an issue that could totally destroy the fragile relationships being built at present, you could do a lot worse than this one.

What exactly are the options available? For every solution, there are a myriad of potential pitfalls. I touched on many with my Tweets, which included the following:

  • Merge servers and force people into renaming characters based on a first come, first served criteria. Yes, I know, but it's such a simple solution, when people realise this is a game... except after eight years it's simply unrealistic to even consider this. Even if Blizzard gave everyone months of warning and merged servers themselves people who haven't played for years would appear and complain their rights had been affected, because that's how these things work. This is what happens when you carry so much baggage with you: it becomes both a blessing and a curse.
  • Make Cross Realm Zones work better than they do currently: this is wrapped up in a myriad of problems, no two quite the same. It's not just people being dismounted [*], or people in Low Pop Servers being happy they didn't have to fight for mob spawns, or people levelling not wanting to be griefed by people on a server they chose not to roll on. It's embedded in the culture of a game where it has always been that your 'home' was where you began your life. Unless Blizzard could go back to Vanilla and make it irrelevant on what server you belong, CRZ has the potential to fail.
  • Give everyone a free server transfer, or indeed other incentives to move. Oh yeah, we have those already, but they cost money. Yes, like it or not, the cash issue is a major one, profits for Blizzard notwithstanding. However, giving people stuff for free may send the incorrect signals: like server transfers, which traditionally are the knell of one thing: GAME DEATH.

You know what, I feel pretty sorry for Dave Kosak. He's having to do a pretty mental version of The Safety Dance I'd want no part of: trying to keep everyone happy, but at the same time attempting to address the problem which they know, if they solve it, would be like having God himself open the clouds in a Terry Gilliam moment and handing them the Holy Grail. Cross Realm Zones had the potential to do this, but ironically they've made a whole different set of problems, some which broke the game permanently (we miss you Northrend Fishing Contest!) Going backwards is something Blizzard never seem particularly keen on either. The question then remains: is there a way to solve the issue?

It occurs to me that the fundamental 'problem' with all of this is the original perception of the 'Server Mentality': the place you 'roll' your character on is your home, for better or for worse, and because (in the beginning) you could not pay to move, this made your choice far bigger a deal than it is now. This means there will be an awful lot of old-timers (like myself) who associate having yourself on a particular server as having greater relevance than those who came later to the gaming party. What is abundantly apparent is that people's identity is contentious, even if people forget that a character name is only part of the story. What should be being focussed on (and this is an opinion that's shared by a growing number of people) is the identity BEHIND the character names. Battle.Net ID's should be how you ID a player, NOT their character names spread across multiple servers. Working on that theory, it might be time to introduce the Cross Realm Guild to introduce a new layer of player grouping, which could go a long way to helping certain people feel a greater sense of community than they currently do.

Needless to say, this one is going to run and run. What I found hugely encouraging from my discussion yesterday is that if you take the time to be reasoned and logical in your arguments, there's a pretty good chance that someone at Blizzard will listen to your concerns. Whether they can solve all the problems however remains to be seen.

[*] This issue is apparently fixed in 5.2, or so says Mr Kozak in a tweet from late last night:

YAY for Fixings!

[EDIT: Following a comment from the esteemed Mr G. Elf, there is a solution that might work with merges and names, assuming the chat system didn't collapse as a result: the surname, or perhaps more in tune with those who have been merged, the 'server name surname'.

Let us assume, for this example, that Server A becomes home for players from Servers B to D.

At the time of the merge, everyone who is merged with an existing character is given the suffix relevant to the server they merged from, which would theoretically allow four people to have the same name:

  • Atlantis of Server A
  • Atlantis of Server B
  • Atlantis of Server C
  • Atlantis of Server D
This should allow titles to still be tacked onto the end without too much hassle, AND would allow people to maintain their identities and a link to the server they have been moved from. When creating a new character on the new server you do not get the 'of Server A' suffix, allowing people to differentiate between merged players and new ones.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Say My Name

Topping the Meters does not mean you are a Good Player (TM)

As a rule, I am not a namer and shamer. It takes something pretty bloody spectacular for that position to be reversed, and last night (after about a week out from LFG and LFR) I got, in one instance, just about everything that is wrong with playing the LFG Game. In twenty minutes, our friend above may have done the most dps of us all but he/she singularly demonstrated what is wrong with certain people's attitudes to the game. Topping the meters is not a win if you fail everywhere else.

Let me give some context to these numbers.

Myself, Mr Alt (Tank) and C (Guild Priest healer) decided to do some LFG last night, primarily for the bonus VP reward from the first one, and found ourselves in the Gate of the Setting Sun. All was going fairly well until we'd downed the first boss, after which the Druid stealthed and decided to skip the 'adds' (as he/she referred to them as), and expected us to do the same. When we didn't, we were branded as 'idiots' and it was assumed it was our 'first time' in the dungeon. This is where Mr or Ms E made their first fatal mistake.

NEVER DISS a Healer or Tank for doing their job well.

My husband spends an inordinate amount of time gearing and making himself as good as he can be as a Tank. He has been doing this job on and off for 8 YEARS. He deserves far more respect than he gets as a result, and if you are stupid enough to assume you know better than him as a DPS there is pretty much a 99% chance you're gonna be made to look an idiot. You stay BEHIND THE SHIELD at all times and if you're better than that or don't understand why fights are supposed to have a Tank, you will die. It's that simple. Calling us (i.e., everyone else) stupid because we don't do as we're told will grant you short shrift and will make us fight all the mobs you just stealthed through to 'waste your time' because they're part of what you're supposed to do in the dungeon. This is not a Challenge Mode, after all.

At this point, the abuse had begun in earnest, and this is where I have to admit I went down to the Druid's level, and so am also at fault. This, however liberating, was inexcusable. I tell my kids this is not the way to behave and as a result I am publically chastising myself.  Therefore I apologise because I KNOW this makes me no better. However, I doubt anything that followed was as a direct result of my actions, and everything to do with someone who decided they'd have some fun with us whilst making sure we couldn't kick them from the group. Once we got to Boss Two, the games really began.
Cheating is neither Big nor Clever.

Our Druid friend didn't roll on the Boss loot for Ri'mok and deliberately let the roll expire. This is because as a player can't be kicked until after a loot roll has completed, and the time from Boss 2-3 and 3-4 is minimal enough that in most groups you can avoid the kick altogether. To ensure this happened at Boss 3 (Ga'dok) the druid pulled the boss him/herself. By this point the fact he/she was doing more dps than anyone else became utterly irrelevant, because it was abundantly apparent the only desire was to get his points on their terms and pretty much ignore the rest of his group. Apparently this made him/her a 'clever kitty.' No, it really didn't.

Respect matters more than Performance.

When Boss #4 was pulled by the Druid the nasty abuse began in earnest, and it was actually a relief to be finished. By the tone of the abuse (no, I am not sucking your dick, get over it) I would guess we were dealing with someone younger than ourselves and for whom I'd be embarrassed to have as my child. As a result you might think that all of this is a bit of a pointless exercise, that we should just ignore this and move on... but frankly, this isn't good enough any more. There NEEDS to be better ways to report and permanently ban people who play Warcraft as an XBox or PS3 game, there should be more stringent controls for punishing persistent offenders outright. There should at least be a system (which existed in the old Gear Score addon, back in the day) which would allow you to rate your compatriots' performance. Then you might realise that playing as a team is better than pretending you're a one man army.


However, there is a very big plus to last night's performance: the Shaman Panda we picked up as our 5th member. A huge thanks must go out to Chinghai of The Maelstrom who was our #5 in all of this and with whom we went on and did 3 more LFG's with two other single players who were, to a person, examples of why LFG does work. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that our initial bonding over the wanker was what made the experience subsequently more fulfilling, as we realised that this problem is far more common than maybe we ever take the time to report, because the action of doing so is just so tedious. Everyone accepts that 'these kind of people' exist and you just gloss over their actions. This is NOT how it should be, not now or at any point. Pretending the bad doesn't exist won't solve anything, and it won't make things better in the long run.


There are people who will abuse any system, and it is markedly unfair that the 'controls' that exist to kick bad or troublesome players can be exploited to the point where they become redundant. There really needs to be a simplified system to rate players post-Dungeons/Raid, and that people are aware that their performance in a multi-player will have a direct effect on their ability to play anywhere else. Blizzard might say this could be open to abuse, but I say that the bad players will always be bad and if you give the community a chance to self-police, the results might actually surprise you. I for one know I'd watch my language far more closely if I knew it could count against me in such situations.

I think we need better regulation, and I also think that if you want a game you can play without anyone else holding you back, it is time to go and get yourself a console. Warcraft can be solo player, but the moment you step foot in group content, the rules will change, and you'll need to learn them all, not simply the ones you think simply apply to you.

Finally, I will defend the players I think are decent and honest until my last log into this game: no-one abuses my husband when he works so hard to do his job, and the same goes for our utterly brilliant Guild healer. They DESERVE your respect, and if you won't give them that, you can expect a hard ride, because some of us play our game properly. If you don't like that, tough jubblies.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Little Help from My Friends...

Everyone knows. Don't you?

This afternoon, Warcraft tweeted the following:

Aaaaaand they're off!

Now looking at this, you're probably already wondering why I'm going to base an entire blog post on the fact Blizzard are simply doing what they do best. The key to my interest is the wording above: videogame press get first billing, but after that... fansites. Within 30 seconds of the tweet going live my feed was full of links, but only one came from a major name. This marks something of a sea-change for Blizzard, which we saw begin with 5.1. The net that is cast for spreading the news isn't just bigger, it has the potential to snare a far larger catch.

It occurs to me that Blizzard grasp social media far better than a lot of other developers. There's been a lot of muttering of late that the PR side of things for gaming generally could do with a bit of a kick into touch: major sites are restricted by such journalism concepts as embargoes, which is something a fan site is never likely to have to concern themselves with. There seems to be a lot of stories about bad PR choices and inappropriate behaviour by certain sectors of the industry. However, undoubtedly the most important factor in the dissemination of such information as new gaming trailers is speed: does it really matter who does the PR for you, as long as it's out there as quickly as possible and to as many fans as you can reach?

Suddenly, a lot more people have the opportunity to get the jump on the 'big boys' than was the case before, and it is encouraging to see that people are grasping these opportunities with both hands. Blizzard will know this as well, and I have no doubt that they are watching those people who are actively promoting this instant dissemination and that such sites will be rewarded for their loyalty in the future. Oscar Wilde grasped this over 100 years ago, and his comment is even more relevant in today's world than it was back then:

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

All publicity is useful, and it might amuse some to see loads of 'small' sites linking a video which in the last expansion you'd only see appear from the larger media outlets to begin with. I think this just goes to show that Blizzard really does have it's mind on the long-term game plans, and when your community forms such an integral part of your modus operandi, it seems the most sensible move to make sure when you have something to say, that everyone is listening.

It also shows only too well that certain large media sites have a set of priorities that doesn't fit with the 'instant' culture so many gamers live their lives within. Time to sit up and pay attention, fellas ^^

Monday, February 25, 2013

Warm Sound

Things to Look Forward to #425: White Mount.

Yeah, so: this weekend. Not a clue, frankly. A cold went to my chest, I paid back my kids for years of waking me up in the middle of the night and I'm now accepting the fact that I won't get another character to 90 before 5.2 hits. In fact, at current rates, I'll now be doing very much of anything until I can sit still for longer than 15 minutes without coughing my lungs up. I have managed some bankalt faffage (hooray for Mobile Armoury) and I did fail to win a Love Rocket, but that's hardly news. I'm going to do my utmost to take it easy this week and accumulate a smallish stack to take with me to the new places, and as I have said on Twitter I would hope to return to some kind of normality before the Patch finally appears next week...

This is, of course, assuming that happens. It could still all appear tomorrow I suppose, but I'm still betting I'll get a bit more lead time than that. This will allow me to be able to stockpile more honey and lemon, tissues and various sundry gubbins, coz I'll put money on me not having seen the end of this illness yet...