Saturday, November 09, 2013

First Impressions

Ready to play 'Spot the Prominent Female NPC in this Expansion?'

Well, yesterday was interesting: and when I say that I'm not being sarcastic or controversial, despite these being default states I often return to when confused. It was the closest I've ever been to actually being there, and the most isolated I've ever felt when interacting socially for quite some time. I must thank EVERYONE who sat with me and discussed stuff in #TBLIZ, which as a last-minute ad-hoc experiment worked incredibly well, far better than even I could have anticipated (even if I managed to exceed my Tweet limit halfway through and do a quick account swap!) On reflection, I should have realised when Direct TV used a portion of the new Expansion logo last night before it had been 'formally' announced: sometimes, rushing things isn't the answer. A bit more thought goes a long way to making people happy. Not saying the first thing that comes into your head when someone asks you a question? Really sensible to consider your position.

Sometimes, being on time isn't as important as doing a good job.

I'd been warned we'd been getting Time Travel, but I didn't want to listen, and now it is apparent that the Warlords of Draenor is, in fact, the Mother of all Big Red Reset Buttons (although clearly it will have NO EFFECT on the existing timeline because, you know, we don't remake old content) I'm really not sure what to think. Genuinely, I woke up and the two things that had made it into my subconscious were my improved Dwarven Female model and the Garrison Feature. There had been concern when all I saw on the main page were blokes to examine, but it's okay, I was pulled out of bed last night to witness Gnome females. The fact that's been retweeted to death overnight should give the Devs at least SOME idea that the women in game get noticed when you lavish attention on them. Many, many of the ones outside however aren't as easily fooled: you can play the 'Community' card to death, but if this is really a 'boys trip' to Draenor as a certain Mr Metzen remarked to a packed hall of con-goers yesterday, someone's going to eventually see through your modus operandi.

I really hope that the hints of some strong female NPC's that I saw before I turned in last night aren't simply that: after all, how am I supposed to inspire my eight year old daughter to ravage the beautiful new continent we're beings sent to explore/conquer/save (delete where applicable) without some appropriate female role models? Remember, Blizzard guys, the Community Card covers both sexes.

What was probably of biggest interest, quite apart from the fact that everyone wants to play HoTS and that I suspect the Warcraft Movie's a lot higher in many people's thoughts than it was yesterday (new logo as well), is when all this happens. There is a PHENOMENAL amount of stuff on the table currently, across the entire family of games. There's currently no dates attached to ANYTHING actually releasing, as far as I can tell. In fact, it was a bit of a standing joke in the Opening Ceremony. There's no timeframes here for reference, and that says to me that there's SO much going on, they're not sure what they're doing. There's a lot missing too that people will be used to from previous expansions: no new race or classes to drool over, only one level of talents for 100, an implicit understanding that as you level you won't get anything new, just a consolidation/improvement of existing abilities. Also, we have hints of stats vanishing (hit, expertise) that cause headaches and new ones replacing them which I assume you just need a lot of to make them awesome?

Mostly, at least right now, all we have is the POSSIBILITY of much new stuff. Remember Path of the Titans: it can be introduced here, but it may not make it to live. However, I think we can bullet point what we can expect to make it to the end box without too much difficulty:

  • Models. Eventually, though looking at the effort being put in (and that is apparent) I think people will be prepared to wait. In fact, at least here, that one is a given. DWARF FEMALES FTW.
  • Garrisons: I'll do a separate post on this later. Player Housing's one of those Holy Grails Blizz said they'd not do but realise if they put effort into it, everyone will use it. GIEF GUILD GARRISONS KKTHXBAIBAI.
  • A Better Questing path. Solo immersion from the get-go. Sensible use of the technology. Still, YOU COLD USE IT ON OLD CONTENT *cough*
  • The Raiding changes are already causing people to QQ and cancel their accounts, of that I am sure, or just make every Twitter post a 'end of all things I'll go play HoTS.' Hey, haters, Blizzard will still be taking your money! They still win, so maybe STOP COMPLAINING?
  • PvP Timeless Isle is, I have to say, a stroke of UTTER GENIUS. Maybe you could put all the strong female NPC's in there and we can all practice butt whupping in a safe and controlled environment whilst the Boy's Trip pretend they're being real men /sarcasm

I'm lying if I don't say, that having spent a month deciding what I'd LIKE to see in game to have so little of it actually come to pass, that I'm disappointed with the overall plan. This is not enough to make me throw my toys out the pram, or become a Blizzard Hater (TM) overnight, but I have may things to pause and think about. It is very clear that the people making my game are listening to criticism, but what is now apparent is that where they think and what I want are pretty much in different places. I'm fine with that, because if I didn't want to keep discussing the game as I do, there's a very simple solution, and I'm not ready to give up yet. This is the key to all of this: when you love a game, you take everything, bad and good in your personal perception. You make informed judgements, value choices and only when you have ALL the facts do you settle down and form an opinion. Right now, we've got what Blizzard decided we wanted to hear. I wonder, now they realise that's not strictly true, some things might appear that haven't. Time will tell if that is the case.

I think now is the time to start discussing some of these new things, and see where that dialogue takes us. After that, I feel I might be forced to reassess my feelings on Beta tests. I'd kill for a Garrioson to play with right now, no word of a lie. Blizzard knew that part of me all to well. I have no doubt as a result this Expansion's going to be very interesting indeed...

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Test

I'd decided I was going to try and liveblog the first couple of hours of Blizzcon, but realised I can't actually cope with that and Tweeting AND actually paying attention, so I've come up with a compromise (thanks to @ReliqEU for the suggestion!)


I'll be using the hashtag #TBLIZ so that relevant tweets can be sent here, it will also give those of you on Twitter who don't want to be drowned in 'noise' a chance to mute me out to boot. It's a win/win situation!

So, I'll see you guys about 6.30pm GMT for the pre-show shenanigans.


[EDIT 19:59 GMT: Main Twitter account exceeded. I've switched to @TEAMFAFF for chatting!]

The Final Countdown (Day 1) :: Beautiful Day


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 2) :: Deeper Understanding

Cosplay. I approve.

Understanding WHY something happens is a vital part of any learning process.

Every time a Blizzcon takes place, I have the same conversation with myself. It goes pretty much like this:

[Me sees a picture of a female cosplayer wearing very little indeed.]

Me: How can that possibly be practical attire as ACTUAL ARMOUR?

[Me realises they are simply copying a bunch of pixels, and in fact have done a bloody good job of just that.]

Me: Why do woman feel the need to do this in public places?

Let's be clear about a few things here: I have ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with Female Cosplay like this (or indeed Male Cosplay because the point here I'm trying to make isn't the flesh on show.) I also have absolutely no issue with it happening either: after all, in pretty much every case, these costumes are incredibly faithful to the source material from which they have been taken. There is no faulting the skill and ability of those who have taken the time to produce the costumes. What I don't understand, and this continues to be the main issue I'm concerned with, is WHY people do it.

This has been the part of the equation that has continued to elude me, but thanks to the Community I now have a better idea of mentality than I ever have at any point in my life, and that's been quite a revelatory experience.

I was recommended some fabulous source material from many people for starters, and this led me off on a number of tangents: let me provide those links for you as well, so you can go away and do your own research as I did :

The fact this is the first year I've felt assured enough to ask for advice and help on gaining more information is an important step forward in my understanding/personal learning process . That I also feel confident enough to share those feelings, I suppose, is also a deciding factor in all of this... and it makes me realise that there are clearly some parts of my brain that aren't wired in the same way as other people. I have to admit, my first question to any scantily-clad cosplayer if/when I eventually meet one is likely to be 'aren't you cold?' (assuming that I met them in the UK and it wasn't the hottest day of the year.) I have a better grasp of the issues at play too, thanks to you guys (really do appreciate all the contributions yesterday) As is often the case, personal feelings are of far greater significance in the long run... because facts, such as they are, get mired in a really rather overwhelming number of grey areas.

I think we can all agree on a few basic principles, however:

Not everyone looks the same.  As a result, providing unrealistic visual aspirations (especially to the young or vulnerable) is neither wise or advisable. Objectifying ANYONE is never a state I want to advocate without permission or indeed without a sound reason... one could argue it should never happen at all, but with the way the world works, you could counter there are those who set out to do just that for very specific ends... and I don't want to debate these points without further understanding of the mindsets behind those who do this. I watch people build fabulously intricate costumes, but the pictures don't reveal to me either motivation or enlightenment as to the mindset of the designers. I suspect many people may not feel comfortable in revealing these feelings either, just as I didn't in talking about the subject generally.

Needless to say, I have no doubt I will be blown away in the next few days by the effort that people have placed in their creations, and at NO POINT do I wish to either belittle or cast aspersion on what I KNOW is the phenomenal amount of work. Part of me, I must say, wishes I had even a tenth of the talent these people do in their creativity, and perhaps that is what I should focus on more, rather than making this the more 'basic' discussion it inevitably devolves into. Needless to say, I'm hoping that when the Expansion hits, we'll see more female characters in less revealing outfits, just because if you're going to fight monsters you REALLY should have a decent set of armour in which to do it.


[PS: My Main looks like this:

A portion of her midriff, chest and arms are exposed. This is a conscious decision based on the items that were available to mog her to make her look, at least in my eyes, appropriate for her task, which is standing at the back and NOT GETTING HIT. If she were a melee fighter the choices WOULD be different, and that is undoubtedly based on a vast number of factors that would, I am sure, make a wonderful scientific survey all of its own.

I am well aware that I am as much of a victim of my own perception as anyone else. However, I am considering consequences. That, at least in my own mind, is progress.]

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 3) :: Ain't No Pleasing You

Ideas. With them, you can change the World.

Occasionally, an idea comes along which is pretty much ahead of its time, or is just so utterly brilliant in its simplicity it should not be ignored. The site uses a wonderfully basic conceit: whenever you post something using the hashtag #becauseofwow the relevant post is scooped up and stuck in a repository of memories, constantly evolving: there's pretty much zero work required, and the only limitation is people being aware the site exists, and by extension picking up and using the hashtag itself. This is the kind of web 'content' I can see becoming increasingly more prevalent as we get further and further into the age of instant communication: the only limitation is the users, and it's an almost infinite stream of new information if the tag remains caught in the public consciousness.

Anyone who reads here regularly will know I have more than a vested interest in the Community side of events in this Parish. The potential for this site is undoubtedly huge... but there are some questions to ask. Does the site have plans to include the 'bad' stuff with the good? Is there going to be any form of moderation if posts are deemed 'inappropriate'? I suspect some of my answers may well be answered by the interview Realm Podcast conducted with the site's creator, Jules from Tauren Think Tank but I'm hopelessly behind on my listening at present. My point here isn't to be critical of what is truly a fabulous idea, it is to use it as a starting point to muse on the notion of the Community, and how it might be time to stop allowing a 'group' mentality to drive our thinking. We touched on this yesterday, and I think that as the reporters of news and the discussers of topics in the Interwebs, it falls to bloggers, reporters and podcasters to set a sea change. If the Warcraft Community is going to be improved, then we are an important step on the journey to make this happen.

I'm at fault. Time to admit my culpability.

I've done my fair share of criticism on the LFR 'difficulty' since it was introduced: in fact, if we look at the wider chain of events that led to Flex being implemented, one could reasonably argue that it was exactly that kind of deconstruction of the issues that resulted in the introduction of an alternative. WITHOUT the criticism, Flex might never have happened. However, the now almost evangelical zeal some people are adopting in believing that LFR is a pointless exercise is neither correct or indeed accurate... it may not provide the best gear, but it is hardly a poor relation, and it allows a great many people access to the End Game Content that Blizzard have always maintained should be accessible by anyone who wishes to experience it. What we need to do, as a community, is not simply acknowledge that certain things don't work, but take the time to work out why and to explain them in a manner that doesn't devolve into, for want of a better expression, a vitriolic whinge.

This returns to a wider issue: community feedback. Yes, I'm looking at you, Twitter and Forums. The signal to noise ratio can often be staggeringly low, and the best criticism is often lost in a blast of 'OMG YOU NERFED MY FAVOURITE THING YOU BASTARDS'. We all know the types: the guy who's never happy with anything, regardless of how beneficial it might be. There's the girl who thinks that no-one cares about her problem and will spend her time incessantly trying to convert everyone to her point of view. Then there's that other guy who's just not happy unless he's preaching his brilliant plan to improve X by a set of measures that's so ridiculously complicated no-one really sure what he's talking about, including him. You can all pick a stereotype to point at, but the fact remains you can tell countless stories of how WoW has made you a better person, but you'll have your moments. I'm that person, I'll admit that for all the good, there's been bad.

I'm sorry to everyone for the hissy fits, because they've happened. I can be blinkered, and blind-sided, and as time has gone on the knowledge that this behaviour does have a negative impact on the Community I am a part of has begun to register. If I cant's sit down and write a reasonable and impassioned critique of the issue I'm experiencing, I will now go away and do my best to find a way to vocalise my ire as constructively as possible. No-one wins if I'm rude or arrogant. Nobody benefits if I start alienating or isolating parts of the community with my words. The responsibility of the individual in these situations DOES matter, far more I think than many people might yet grasp. You can have a positive impact on events if you choose to approach them in that fashion. It really DOES work.


With a new Expansion on the horizon, this is a perfect opportunity for everyone to take a good, hard look at themselves and make a change. Your input DOES matter, but not perhaps as much as the way in which you present it and the means by which you interact with others concerning it. You shouldn't need to make a 'sock puppet' Twitter account to lambaste the Devs, you should take the time to find the words that are what you mean, and you should believe in your convictions. Just moaning about what's wrong without being prepared to offer realistic and sensible solutions should NOT become the default state. It should be the exception, and eventually should be as socially unacceptable as those in LFR who think it's cool to pull a boss and then leave the party.

Every single action has a consequence. Perhaps it really is time for everyone to start making memories: #BecauseOfWoW I learnt how to make a difference in changing the game for the better.

#BecauseOfWoW I became a better person and learnt the value of a constructive argument.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 4) :: Wires

Crap. Tons and tons and TONS of CRAP.

I got into a discussion yesterday, in which a lot of very interesting points were raised. The subject matter is Warcraft-related, but I'll leave other people to argue those particular stances, because I'm aware my opinion may have some quite distinct gender and age bias... plus I like you guys too much to ruin both yours and my good mood this close to Blizzcon. However, one supposition appeared in the midst of all this that made me genuinely stop and think. To paraphrase:

Ask yourself: 'How does someone else (insert contentious topic)
affect my gameplay experience?'

You know, that's a really good question.

Most computer games are deliberate first-player experiences, and that's the way things were for a very long time. When it was just you and a screen, back in the 'Old Days', this didn't devalue your immersion, far from it. In fact, certain adventure styles distinctly benefit from a First person PoV. If you're not aware of the phenomena that is The Stanley Parable, I would strongly suggest you seek it out, because if you want an idea of what gaming can become when you ARE the only person being affected by it... well, I won't spoil the surprise, but you should seek it out and 'play' it, at least once. The choices you make in any game have a resonance far outside the environment, whether you like it or not, because the time you choose to engage in said experience is taken from your 'budget' of hours that you have to use on... well, your life.

When you introduce other people into your equation... things become considerably more complicated.

If you only 'exist' inside a deliberately restrictive sphere, multi-player may as well be single player. The problem with Warcraft, if we really want to pin down the focus of an issue, is that there are no restrictions at all on who can play, and although people like me might wish that the less savoury elements could simply be factored out of any equation that involved us, it is impossible to know who's going to be a 'bad apple': heck, when the red mist descends even the most calm and passive of people can become a monster. When you consider that, ANYONE else could affect my gaming experience, even someone I thought I knew really well. The only way to ensure you avoid any trouble is simply not to play. The problem with that, like it or not, is that you won't get the entire experience of the multi-player environment.

Some of my best moments in Warcraft, without a shadow of a doubt, have been with people I just don't know.

The best LFR experience. EVER? HELL YEAH :O

I did a MENTAL LFR last week, hugely draining, but ultimately a fabulous experience on reflection. The Spoils of Pandaria was a complete revelation, and an absolutely brilliant test of individual responsibility and group co-ordination... and I would NEVER had the chance to take part in a 25 man scenario in anything else but LFR. Timing, logistics and a lack of 'friends' means it would never transpire, and if I'd have decided not to take part because of the affect that other people had on me... I would have missed a brilliant Warcraft moment, like all those World Faction Leader Kills and the countless AV Battlegrounds. It's not just about how other people affect me either: if I'd not pulled my weight in the Spoils, regardless of what dps everyone else was doing, we would have failed. I have sway on the world, what I do does make a difference, what I choose to do can have consequences, especially if that becomes a part of a larger 'movement'.

Choice can have any number of consequences, after all.

There's one more issue to consider here, whilst we're taking about possible outcomes: the effect on the environment itself. If enough people chose to boycott LFR, it would cease to become useful. As it stands now there are obvious issues, which could be based on people's low tolerance of failure, rather than there being a simple shortage of healers and tanks prepared to complete certain wings. I've listened to at least one person on a Podcast argue passionately that the people advocating Flex over LFR have a choice that many other individuals simply don't get, based on time constraints and access to the player base, and they're right. The ONLY people with the numbers, the definitive indicator of just what is successful and what isn't, are Blizzard themselves, and you have to trust they are considering all the options, because they're the guys making the game.

Connecting everything to everything else, looking at a larger picture, considering every upshot... it can be confusing when you do it on an individual basis. In the end, it's easier just to reduce the World to a small, secure bubble around yourself, and although that's a brilliant principle to apply, the consequences can be considerable. What makes you happy may well be what makes your friends happy too, and if those you ask agree with your position it can become easy to believe that your point of view is the right one... when it is simply one of many possible standpoints. Tolerating everyone's opinion is a life skill many people would do well to learn, especially in public. The ONLY people with the facts in this case are the guys creating the content. They're asking the real questions that matter, and their decisions will be the ones we have to choose to live with, like it or not.

The fact remains, if you're not enjoying your gaming experience, or you feel it lacks something significant, blaming Blizzard is never the entire answer. Don't just ask how other things affect your eventual outcome, ask yourself what your outlook and attitude are doing to the way you view the gaming world. Nothing is ever as black and white as you might believe, or feel comfortable admitting. Just because it works for you, doesn't mean it's the right answer.

It's just a possible solution.

[FOOTNOTE: Read this Post by Tobold on whether people are just becoming tired of being in virtual communities when we play games.]

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 5) :: All I Know

HoHoHo, 2011 Stylee.

Okay, I admit it. I have nothing.

I've pushed myself solidly for the best part of a month to come up with a ton of possible content for the Expansion. I've covered pretty much everything I can think of that might change, both in post and podcast form, and I woke up this morning mentally exhausted, and we're NOT EVEN THERE YET. Therefore, this morning I'm going to give you a picture of me at Christmas, and admit I'm out of energy.

I need a bit of time to recharge the batteries, and I've probably picked THE WORST TIME to crash and burn. This folks, is just the way it happens sometimes.

Today therefore will be spent preparing myself for Friday without actually thinking about anything at all. I'll be trialling some live-blogging software later today, so if the site does odd stuff that's why, but it occurs to me that if it's gonna be a Thing on Friday I should probably be giving it a trial run. Those of you who are paying attention will also notice some subtle changes to the site's look and layout happening today as well, so I'm not sitting back and doing *absolutely* nothing.

However, if you want creative, I'd suggest you go look at somewhere else for a day :D

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 6) :: Coming Up

Northrend. Ah the Memories.

First up: congratulations to the Guild last night for beating Norushen a) without the use of a strategy guide and b) and being utterly AWESOME whilst doing so. We're not setting ANY speed records this time around but you know what, that's totally fine. Next up is the Sha of Pride. All we have to do is make the tanks remember the name of the boss, and remind them to stop trying to protect us from everything. Easy game!

With less than a week to go, I am sure there are those of you who will be quite relieved to see the end of the Blizzcon Countdown, because this time next week I fully anticipate having an AWFUL LOT of new stuff to discuss. As a result the site here will be undergoing a few (subtle) changes: the Podcast is going to get its own area, and I will be ACTUALLY INTRODUCING FEATURES. I never used to do this because that would mean having to find specific subjects to talk about on a regular basis, but I feel the time has come to perhaps start making an effort and to make this shed of a site look a bit more... well, coherent. Needless to say, as of November 11th, it'll all make sense. Oh, and if you're here because of the faff, it will finally be taking its place as a bona fide part of this experience.

Please don't expect proper news site's levels of organisation, in fact you'd be best set not expecting any level of actual competency at all. Just be aware if stuff looks like it's changed, that's probably deliberate.

We now return you to your normal Sunday experience :D