Saturday, March 01, 2014

WARLORDS :: Us and Them

A wise man once said a game is a series of interesting choices. For some the takeaway from that is more choices mean a better game. In general I see the Blizzard approach as a focus on emphasizing what an interesting choice is. Interesting choices can offer depth and complexity without needing to be numerous and overwhelming for the sake of being overwhelming. It's easy to throw all of the paint on the floor and say it's done. It's far more difficult to properly mix, and restrain, and balance elements. Looking at chess, there are relatively few pieces with few "abilities", it's a near-infinitely deep and complex game, and strategies for it continue to evolve even hundreds of years later. Certainly someone could introduce dozens of new chess pieces, dozens of new choices, and there would be some subset of players who would enjoy it more purely due to an increase in complexity. 

Over time as new systems are introduced to WoW, others are removed, and iteration happens on current mechanics, these things tend to become more complex at no fault of their own. I think any designer would agree that it's not the fault of the player that the game's systems get more and more complex over time as changes are made. It's a snowball effect for sure, and it's not the player's fault when things get out of control over years and years of patches and iteration and inflation of complexity. It's just difficult to predict what the game will be like a few years from now, and only approaching design from that future-angle would likely mean less active design to help address current issues (something we wouldn't want to do). But at the very least we can recognize when we need to reevaluate the corner we've painted ourselves into, can enact that change in an intelligent way that makes the game better, and ideally be able to explain clearly why we're making it.

Perhaps inevitably, considering what is likely to change once Warlords finally hits, people have begun to question the choices Blizzard are intending to implement with the game. When you consider Thursday's Watercooler is being set out as a deliberate attempt to explain the philosophy behind the changes, it is inevitable that people will respond to this with legitimate concerns regarding that, and Bashiok's reply to one such thread is probably one of the most eloquent responses I've ever seen a CM give. It is a reiteration of the understanding (which players like Cynwise have so beautifully demonstrated in their posts) that actually, there is a shedload of stuff to grasp correctly before you even get to hit a mob in game. Making the process of understanding and the eventual comprehension of your abilities as simple as possible does NOT devalue the overall experience for the new player: in fact, quite the opposite. Making the journey fun, exciting and with the minimum amount of 'oh crud what does THIS do?' will mean people remain engaged. After all, you don't need complexity to create compelling gameplay. In fact, often the opposite is true.

No instructions. Just add user.

The thing with gaming, like it or not, are the Instructions. There's a reason every game experience starts with a Tutorial: to play there are rules and commands, and you need to grasp these to proceed. Except, in games like Journey, there ARE no instructions and you are left to pretty much work it out on your own, because it transpires that playing the game ends up as it's own instruction manual, and each time you come back to play it again you have a better idea of what to do. So actually, learning is repetition, and the reason why lots of people never make it to the end of games is that the repetition isn't enough to inspire you to progression. It is no real wonder that End Game has become as important in Warcraft as it undoubtedly is, why giving people incentives to reach maximum level becomes so important, because if you want your game to last a decade, the journey can really only be a part of the overall experience. What has become abundantly apparent in the last year is that many people have (quite rightly) pointed out that, after four expansions, there's too many bits bolted onto the basic framework of the game to allow it to function correctly. Blizzard had argued they'd do the item squish thing before Pandaria, but decided against it.

How different things might be now if they had.

Big line, little line, Abilities STILL ROCK.

And so we discover a few things as the dust settles from Thursday: many people are going to miss buttons that go, some of us (and I include myself in this) will wish there were no need to change anything because we're happy and the people who like to complain will reiterate the basics: change is bad, scary, I WILL be less uber and I'm BLAMING BLIZZARD. However, and this is crucial in understanding the nature of change, this reboot isn't just being done for the people that are here, now. The complete retool is being implemented to make the game more attractive to returning players. What needs to be considered after I say that is twofold: these people are likely not going to level to 100 via the 1-100 route at all, many WILL just start at 90 by buying the game fresh. Many of those players will have left sometime after The Burning Crusade too, if returning numbers on my server are any indicator. The past, at least for them will be utterly irrelevant, because all they'll have to do is clock ten levels to get to Endgame. That means making things quick, simple, BUT AT THE SAME TIME retaining the level of choice that this game has become synonymous for. When people drag the baggage of 10 years along to comment on this 'change' they're bound to end up feeling at a loss. What existing players forget, so many times it's depressing, is that the game isn't just them. IT'S FOR EVERYONE.

Twitch does Jigsaws but realises they'll need summat more complex...

The final key to success in all of this, and the reason why Blizzard may have deliberately decided to stick the brakes on with announcing a Beta before they've explained their rationale for changing things first, is if everything actually fits together and still looks like Azeroth when it does. Some of these changes sound drastic but in reality they're probably just sticking like abilities together. Giving less stuff to press and making us less uber always had the potential to freak people out: after all, one of the many reasons Blizzard didn't do this in Pandaria was the potential this fact alone had in disenfranchising the existing player base. That's probably got a lot to do with why Developers were answering questions on Twitter for hours after the Watercooler was published: if people feel included in the process, they're less likely to end up aggrieved. Talking about change is also important too, because it makes you feel a part of the process. They call it crowdsourcing, if you want the precise marketing term, and it is very effective. Give everyone a chance to feel they're being considered as an individual with an important opinion will mean less potential volatility when faced with change.

If it's Saturday, it's time for a quote :D

The decision by Blizzard to actively involve the Community in what is effectively a redesign process is undoubtedly a good move, and this will extend to Beta testing when their choices will come under the most intense scrutiny of all. What is less clear at this stage is why, when we were rushed through a series of patches in Pandaria, we're spending so much time discussing details and not actually playing the game yet. Best guess? They're still not in a position to do so because it's not all complete, and this is part of a process to allow the nuts and bolts of the game to be put in place. Maybe it is also because the Designers have realised that actually, these are a combination of changes we can't just rush through in the hope that everyone agrees. Perhaps now is the moment where content actually becomes LESS important, and choice becomes MORE, because if these changes are mishandled, it could truly wreck the status quo.

Whatever the reasoning, we're not doing anything until it's been explained first. Perhaps more people should be grateful that's happening at all, and take the opportunity to involve themselves in the debate as a result.

Friday, February 28, 2014

WARLORDS :: Change with the Times

The Avengers are ready... oh, hang on...

Late yesterday evening, Blizzard ACTUALLY ADMITTED THE BETA IS COMING.

They also published what was, by their own admission, the Patch Notes for the Expansion minus most of the actual detail, as part of the new approach to the game where it is explained WHY things are happening, not simply that they are. CM's also made themselves available for an utter barrage of questioning from players via Twitter, which all happened while I was asleep, and as a result Wowhead did a far better job than I would ever have done of gathering all the disparate elements together and making a blog post on it. I had considered staying up to blog this 'live' as it were but a CM told me to go to bed [*] as he didn't consider this worth losing a night's sleep over. On reflection, he's absolutely right. However, for those of you starved of any really 'new' details, there was a fair bit to take in. More of that in a second.

The thing is, very little of this is actually news, per se. If you've been following the events of the last couple of weeks you will know that stats were going to be squished, that racials would have to change because certain abilities granted by them would cease to exist, that crowd control was being reviewed. However, what the Twitter scrum afterwards did do was put meat on the bones of the racial changes, and those are clearly important. Overpowered abilities have been scaled back, and new ones give a bonus to a range of key stats. What these changes show is a statement of intent from the Designers, to remove bias from certain classes and to allow all races a chance to have a solid foundation of choice. I'm very happy to see Dwarves gain the ability to further self-dispel using Stoneform (and I'll live it won't break crowd control, that's what I have my pet for :D)

Ex Blizzard staff join in last night's inevitable bandwagon :D

If you want to digest the racial details go check out the Wowhead post, what I'm going to focus on are the changes to how we deal with mobs. Crowd Control is being 'streamlined' as follows (and this is taken directly from the Watercooler itself):

  • Removed Silence effects from interrupts. Silence effects still exist, but are never attached to an interrupt.
  • Removed all Disarms.
  • Reduced the number of Diminishing Returns (DR) categories.
  • All Roots now share the same DR category.
  • Exception: Roots on Charge-type abilities have no DR category, but have a very short duration instead.
  • All Stuns now share the same DR category.
  • All Incapacitate (sometimes called "mesmerize") effects now share the same DR category and have been merged with the Horror DR category.
  • Removed the ability to make cast-time CC spells instant with a cooldown.
  • Removed many CC spells entirely, and increased the cooldowns and restrictions on others.
  • Pet-cast CC is more limited, and in many cases has been removed.
  • Cyclone can now be dispelled by immunities and Mass Dispel.
  • PvP trinkets now grant immunity to reapplication of an effect from the same spell cast when they break abilities with persistent effects, like Solar Beam.
  • Long fears are now shorter in PvP due to the added benefit of a fear changing the players position.

When you look at that list it can appear a bit daunting, but actually it seems like a pretty solid solution to a problem that's built up over four Expansions. Some stuff has to go, and that appears to be the lot of disarm, with (unsurprisingly) Hunter pets being stripped of a great deal of  usefulness. Silence never interrupts and perhaps most significantly there are no more 'instant' CC breakers. As to what we lose... well, we will need an actual Beta for the real details of that, but I do know that Scatter Shot has gone for Hunters. No, I never used it ^^

No more pre-trapping. BOO.

In fact, information was spilling out all over the shop last night and although various news sites picked up bits and pieces, Mr Rossi on WoW Insider has probably got the most comprehensive list of what's vanished/changed from Dev discussion. There was even an admission in the chatroom of the Legendary Videocast that Marksmanship Hunters will be using Aimed Shot as their focus dump. What is clear however, at least from this view of proceedings, is that things appear to be pretty close to being decided on a vast number of fronts. What people are going to be asking however is when we'll actually see a Beta. If we work on the theory that we'll get a Dev Watercooler next Thursday and that will cover healing and health... how many more after that? I'm gonna suggest we have another three weeks of this to explain everything (with the professions/Garrisons Watercooler being deliberately last), which would mean the last Article is done on March 20th.

I reckon we'll get the Beta on March 25th :D

It also means that next week I'm planning to be up for the Twitter Q&A after publication :D


Thursday, February 27, 2014

WARLORDS :: Into the Valley

An interesting development...

It's not often I get stopped in my tracks by a Tweet, but it happened this morning. The OP, who's thread is referred to in the first message, is asking Blizzard not to call time on Challenge Modes because he has medical issues and has been unable to complete them. I'm suspecting he, and indeed everyone else, was not perhaps expecting the answer that Bashiok gave: vanity rewards will have a shorter shelf life in Warlords than they already do. That means if you wish to complete these challenges, the timer will be on, in more ways than one.

It makes perfect sense of course: items devalue over time if the content for which they are rewarded for becomes trivialised. This could be said to be true for all number of Raid Achievements for instance: getting my Skelly Dragon for Icecrown Raider may have made me insanely happy but, unless you're looking at timestamps, it now puts me on an equal footing to all those people who did it when the content was a challenge. That, I know, isn't really fair, and deep down I understand those people who say that all this old stuff should be scraped away from the game so that no-one else can achieve it. Now, whether the above statement means we'll lose all that in Warlords is probably open to some interpretation, but it has to be noted that if Blizzard do go back and remove everything from Vanilla, it would make completing achievements like Mount Parade for new players considerably more taxing. There are an AWFUL lot of mounts that are locked into old Instances, for example. Remove those, and life could get really funky indeed.

Not on time. Could this now stop?

Reading between the lines of Bashiok's post, I'm *hoping* they're going to draw a line in the sand starting with Warlords, because that gives everyone a fair crack of the whip. Having seen that Blizzard are reiterating you'll still need Cloud Serpent rep to buy the Mounts in Pandaria I sense there may not be the desire to go back and remove items, but you never know until the Expansion's in your hands. However, if you are one of those people who's spent over 200 trips trying to snag Anzu's mount (waves at J) without success, this might be of some concern until we have some definitive confirmation either way. The fact remains, mounts that are rewarded for doing something at a particular level of difficulty have been massively trivialised, and that's really not the way it should be.

There is also one other point to be made here: once retired, I hope any skin that was associated with gaming endeavour is NEVER then sold on, in ANY form, in a Blizzard in-game shop. Just because.

WTB Klaaxi Mount, PST.

I have to say, even though Challenge Modes fill an entire section of my Achievements pane, I don't have any regrets about only attempting them briefly: I simply don't have the time available to complete something for a set of rewards which were completely cosmetic. The mount wasn't even an incentive either, and part of me did think that if they were left in the game I could just go back in Warlords and polish them off. For me, at least, removing them isn't a real inconvenience, just one less mount I could conceivably own (like the PvP ones with titles attached, I'll never have them so I won't miss them.) However, Challenge Modes look set to change in Warlords with ACTUAL USEFUL REWARDS which would then make them a good use of time and effort. If this means I won something for doing that, I reckon I'd want to make sure no-one else got that ever again too. BECAUSE THEN ITS GENUINE EXCHANGE FOR MY EFFORT.

I'm really sorry about the guy who's not well and is going to miss his Challenge Mode gear, but rest assured there'll be something along soon to make up for it. After all, this is only a game, and the spoils simply pixels. Giving something a value is a far more important lesson than simply gifting people an easy reward, even if it may not see that way in the short term. One might argue that this should have happened a long time ago in Azeroth, but we live and learn.

If you want your Challenge Golds from Pandaria, time to get moving.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Alternative Chat :: Episode 17

So, as advertised below, here we have a NEW PODCAST EPISODE in what is now going to be it's regular weekly spot, because faffing in the studio for just one day a week gives me more time to ACTUALLY PLAY THE GAME :D

This week, I will be mostly chatting about:

  • Big Changes, many alterations, much different.
  • Don't worry about the stuff you can't do anything about.
  • Spoilers, Sweetie!
  • My GUILD ROCKS (\o/ for Progression)
  • At the sound of the beep....
  • Tell me what you'd like to hear now, please :D

If you have any comments or thoughts on this week's Podcast, or you'd like to abuse me for not having a clue as to what the Hell I'm talking about, please send your mail to:

alternativegodmother (all one word) AT gmail DOT com





All things being equal, the next edition of Alternative Chat happens after the recording of Azeroth in 5, on March 5th :D

Let's Go Round AGAIN

Don't get dizzy!

Change is good, I wrote about it yesterday, so IT MUST BE TRUE. As a result, it is time for some changes here at Alternative Towers, to accommodate the expanding nature of the Website and my ambition to conquer the world ad-free or be the best Warcraft Blog Site run by someone over 45 give people actually what they want. For those of you who don't listen to the Podcast, here's what is about to happen with the site. There are going to be some changes, most notably the following:

  • This Week, I will be Mostly moves from WEDNESDAY to MONDAY

  • The Alternative Chat Podcast will now be Published on WEDNESDAY (not FRIDAY)

  • To Build a Home, my Garrisons feature, will move from MONDAY to FRIDAY.

There are also a number of other features (Vogue, my Mogging stuff amongst them) which are likely to get considerably more pagetime in the weeks that follow. I've also organised myself to be able to start making videos, which I briefly flirted with back before Pandaria launched. Don't expect anything major or significant, but I do have some thoughts I'd like to translate to the medium of moving pictures.

Mostly I'm doing all this to make better use of the time I have for playing, which after all is what matters more than anything else (YES IT IS.) As a result, there'll be another Live No Script You can Tell this Week edition of the Podcast up shortly, and we'll be off on the new schedule proper starting Monday, March 3rd.

Right then, lets go see if this Podcast sounds okay or not ^^

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vogue :: Right Here, Right Now

On a Budget? HO YUS.

Mogging does not need to be a hugely time-consuming process, and it certainly does not need to cost you an arm and a leg. I feel that many people are initially overwhelmed by the concept, often because they don't want to gather their own items and can't afford the prices many BoE sets are sold for on their Auction House. The thing is, if you want a set for a sub-60, it does not have to be restricted by your cashflow. Rather than deliberately grinding for items it is possible to out together some pretty decent outfits with often the minimum of effort or outlay. This outfit here, for instance? Less than 500g from my server.

Pick colours to use as linking themes between pieces.

The key, at least in my mind, to a successful outfit is using a relatively small palette of key colours or textures. In this green-based ensemble, for instance, there is some purple, brown and gold, but they are accents and not the overriding focus. I try to pick accents out from multiple pieces and repeat them: for instance, the mail in the shoulders links to the legs, the banding of the gloves sits with the waist. Remember that Dungeon Finder 'Useful Goods' bags drop potential mogging items, which are reasonably easy to obtain if you're levelling. There is also the very rich vein of Quest Reward sets, which were completely redesigned in Cataclysm, most of which work well with the BoE drops in this level range. If you'd like a visual representation of what each set offers, check out this archive post from Wow Insider. Most significantly of all, they're FREE and collectable solo whilst you level.

Not too much clutter and sympathetic textures.

I used my hunter's hair colour as the basis for this outfit, I'll freely admit, and the gun (which is at level for her currently) gave me the gold/yellow accent that I then repeated across the rest of the pieces. The chestpiece is one that would show my midriff were it not for the Bold Yellow Shirt that I've utilised for the purple vertical stripe to help tie in elements from both gun, legs and boots. If you don't have shirts as a default part of your Mogging wardrobe you really should, because many have great details and accents that can change the more scanty items into something completely different. I am aware some of you like your midriff (P had hers on show for half an expansion) but sometimes it is nice to have the choice.

Engineering Glasses. They're the BEST.

Full List of Transmog Items as Follows:

Headgear is often a major stumbling block for my mogs, which is why that hat for P was such a gift. Having most of my Hunters as Engineers means that there's a lovely range of glasses available for them in a decent range of colours which will sit happily as an accompaniment. Please note that because C is 52 those are actually a Leather item she's wearing: there is a comparable item from Engineering, the Truesight Ice Blinders, but she'll need Engineering at 400 to make them and L72 to wear them :P This means as soon as I get an upgrade hat, we'll be hiding our helm for a while :D

PS: This character still has her Carrot on a Stick. SO EPIC.

Confusion the Waitress

From There are many kinds of Infographic, after all :D

Already I can see some of you wondering where I'm going with this. Well, if you didn't already know, you're about to be hit with one of the most significant infodumps this game ever creates, the Expansion Changeover. A cursory glance at yesterdays's MMO Champion and the details from just a few Developer Interviews has been enough to stick the wind up a number of my fellow players, and Blizzard are informing us there's about thirty three pages of data currently generated on Warlords that we're yet to be privy to. I think it might be an apposite moment to identify your Coping Strategy, grab a large cup of you favourite caffeinated beverage and start working out how all this is going to go down. It's also a good opportunity to start understanding that even though Blizzard will be reducing your active abilities by 20%, you still gotta cope with what gets taken away just as well as you do with what is new. Losing stuff for some isn't perhaps the blessing it's being trailed as either, especially if those abilities are those they use frequently...

It's time to grasp that you can cope with all of this, however immense it all seems. You just need to approach the entire thing in the right way:


Change is inevitable, folks, no more so in this game. It shouldn't come as a surprise therefore that all of this is happening, and you will at some point need to deal with it. Fortunately Blizzard will not expect you to learn everything overnight: we get a pre-Expansion patch where everything is applied, where Blizzard can test it all works, and we can rearrange our UI's to compensate. What you CAN do now is start thinking about what you'd like to do, and check whether the Addons you are using/will want to use will be up to date to handle the task. Even the task of thinking about preparation is a good one, it will mentally assist you when the time finally comes. There are some things in life you can't ever plan for. An Expansion is NOT one of them.


There may actually be an I in TEAM ^^

You are but one person, which for some is often forgotten when it comes to trying to keep up with your peers. This is one of those legitimate moments when focussing on what you need is in fact preferable to trying to attempt to keep up with everyone else, as it is abundantly apparent that the way in which every person processes information is different. You'll be able to identify I'm sure one or more ways you cope with new data in the infographic above, but the key in the weeks leading up to the Expansion is simple. Go at your pace, and no-one else's. I'd strongly suggest picking and choosing who you listen to as well, because there are some people who's advice/view of changes will end up as being detrimental. Most significantly of all, if you're concerned that someone close to you that plays isn't interested, don't take it upon yourself to share. At this point, focussing on you and what you're trying to learn/understand is a far better idea.


I never liked you anyway ^^

Believe it or not, there may be something that happens in the Expansion you're not happy about. You may well lose abilities you played with a lot, even if Blizzard maintain they've removed only the least used. You may find that the certain features aren't what you want or expect... the key here is to understand that it will take time to adapt to new things, and you can't be expected to change overnight. Only you know what you can and cannot do, and that means taking the time to sit down and assimilate the changes at your own pace. I find the best way for me to cope with big info-dumps is to read them and then try and summarise the main points on a word processing programme. That way you can isolate the relevant information that matters and cut away the other things you have no interest in. Also, and this is key if you want to keep playing, the loss of things is not the end of the world. It may seem that way, but it's really not. This is just a game, but it's also a good life skill to grasp that coping with loss makes you stronger. Closure is a thing, even in Azeroth.


20 points if you get THIS reference ^^

Change can have huge benefits, it really can. We've spoken about this before, and the Expansion may be the perfect moment for you to make some positive changes to your gaming life. Maybe it is time to admit you hate dps and want to tank (IT'S POSSIBLE) or perhaps you'd finally like to try playing for the Alliance after a long stretch with the Horde. The thing is, this is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to start from scratch and not to worry about your old gaming existance, and with things like Achievements now account wide there are reasonably few penalties for doing a complete 'life' change. This might be the moment when you decide you want to become a massive Gold Mogul to boot, it isn't just characters and abilities that are changing. The thing you ought to do, whatever you decide, is not see change as bad or wrong. IT'S JUST DIFFERENT. Grasp the changes, embrace the new, and create something exciting from your options. It doesn't always have to be the same old, same old you know...


So, we have a strategy. Your friends are here, but only if you need them. Then LET US MOVE ON. Prepare yourself for what you know is coming. Don't be afraid of change. Embrace the difficulties and find solace in the understanding that you are NOT alone, and that there will be people going through the exact same thing. For what it's worth, if you want to help me cope with it all you are more than welcome to grab a spot, make yourself comfortable and see how I cope with it all, because this time round I'm coming at an Expansion WITH A PLAN. This plan, the one I just spent the best part of two weeks trying to write up and get to a stage where it actually made some sense. In the end, you can find Self-Help Guides littered all over the Web, but only you know what's going to work for you. Needless to say, all this information is coming, like it or not. There's no avoiding the inevitable.

Let's see if we can deal with it together, shall we? :D

Monday, February 24, 2014

To Build a Home :: Seven Nation Army

I like this new logo.

Right, about Garrisons being a one-expansion deal...?

Are Garrison planned on the long term or is this more of a Warlords of Draenor specific feature? 
Garrisons are tied to Warlords of Draenor, they are bases that each player builds to help in the fight against the Iron Horde, the goal is to have players build an army. However, the technology we used to create Garrisons will most likely be reused in the future. 

So, we have to consider that this is an article that was translated before it became English and stuck on MMO's front page. However, there's a bit of a sea change here from what we've been told previously: the Garrison is going to help us fight the Iron Horde by building an Army? Is that an ACTUAL army of soldiers and ancillary services to beat the baddies in specific battles, or is this a metaphor for the place you will build and populate with people to help you in a purely personal assault? The thing is, it could easily be one, or the other, or indeed both, and if it is that puts a rather different spin on things than I'd previously envisaged. In fact, this could be a bit of a game changer, because if it IS the case we need this place to defeat the Iron Horde, it might not be the optional extra we've been used to from the Tillers.

This could change a great many things, as it happens.


There are possible implications for the wider game if we do get our 'Army' to assist us: individual NPC's maybe turn up and fight with us as help in harder situations. Maybe in a key Scenario Gerald Butler could turn up and defeat the massed ranks with four blokes and some pointy sticks. Maybe Bill Murray will appear and be laconic all over the shop. Just hope for all our sakes that Christian Bale doesn't turn up from the far future pursued by a bunch of sentient Sky Golems... but the point is, AGAIN, we don't know. We're probably closer than we have been at any point thus far to actually playing Garrisons but until we can get our XP bars working past 90, it is all moot. However, this little nugget could mean we're opening up to more possibilities than simply gathering materials and completing missions. It's not like we haven't used large armies before in game, or destroyed large numbers of foes in phased combat.

Could we really be preparing to become the saviour of Draenor with our own personal legion to command?

More significantly, if they're saying the technology can be reused, will they actually do so after Warlords is a memory?


Small steps.

One of my absolute favourite movies ever is Contact. It isn't because it's aliens or Sci-Fi or even that Carl Sagan's book sits behind it (which I've never read, I know) it's all down to the central conceit, which if I reveal it would pretty much spoil the entire point of watching the film. You really should, if you never have, because it uses a great many things to make the viewer question some fairly fundamental tenets of life. Belief underpins just about everything we do as human beings, and it isn't about the love of your deity of choice or that your team will carry away the top prize. Believing in yourself is pretty fundamental to a worthwhile existence, and that process begins early on for all of us.

Thing 1, meet Thing 2.

From time to time I am obliged to remind my eight year old that although the thing she cannot do may SEEM impossible at the current point in time, this will change. After all, not very long ago she couldn't walk, or read, or draw nearly as well as she can now. The things that have helped teach her self-belief are constants for all of us: I learnt from the good Doctor as I'm sure many of you did, and Richard Scarry, and all number of Classic Fairy Tales that reinforce the life lessons that as children we often return to as adults. As the number of choices we are forced to make becomes all the more complex, it is comforting to reflect on these constants as a reminder that however hard things may seem, there is always a way you can succeed if you really try. However, as grown ups it is easy to forget things can ever be that simple, especially when surrounded by circumstances that are often out of your control. Then it is often sensible just to walk away, and not push for success, because you can easily convince yourself that the effort is not worth what you perceive as the eventual reward.

Trust me when I say to you I know how this feels.

Wrath Hunter. NO clue.

I am constantly not good enough. Back in Wrath I used to hide behind my inadequacies with all number of excuses, but people would call me out. My Husband would encourage me to try the hard stuff, but I'd find an excuse to walk away. In fact, there's one Achievement in my log that still remains undone because of just that. It's Rapid Defense from Wyrmrest Temple just because I got SO frustrated at it I determined it was impossible. That's the problem when you don't believe you're capable, everything becomes increasingly more complicated to complete, even when the actions themselves are massively trivial. However, many things have improved since the days of bad co-ordination and stupidly out of proportion belts. I still have my days of self-doubt, but they are fewer and further between. I still get depressed at my inability to complete content, but instead of letting it beat me I find a way to beat it, because IT IS ONLY A GAME DAMMIT and if I can do it here I can achieve more taxing stuff in the Real World.... and you know what? It works! There are countless tales of people who have used games to help them overcome real-life issues. You can become more self-assured, find it easier to cope with life changes, and gain the confidence to pursue new directions in which to travel. The key to all this however isn't the game, or indeed life itself: it's you.

The Man means business. HE DOES.

There will be some reading who won't believe I suffer from such issues, I know there will, because you've heard me on Podcasts or read me on Twitter and will think 'nah, she's just doing this for attention.' You have to take me on trust when I say to you I get so nervous sometimes I'm physically sick. I still get depressed enough to lock myself away and cry for hours and utterly disbelieve my ability to accomplish ANYTHING, but then the small voice inside of me will kick in that is my reason, or my Husband will make me feel awesome, or my kids will remind me of just what a great place this is to live and be in. Letting fear rule your actions is often unavoidable, but it doesn't have to cripple you and it shouldn't be a reason to be less worthy than you are. All of these multiple fears can be used as fuel to feed your own strengths and make yourself understand that if you can believe in yourself, there really is nothing that is impossible, wherever you happen to be at the time. Yes, I sound like a particularly sappy Kids TV Show, but the fact remains the lessons from childhood are there for a reason. Actually, being in control of your virtual life's not a bad place to start in the business of self improvement, at least I don't think so. Now, if I could only find a way for it to pay the bills... ^^

But I digress, and finally we are back to the reason why I wrote this post to begin with.

To the person who is considering not buying the Expansion because they don't feel they'll be good enough in solo content, I find myself wondering how much in common we might have. To the Guildie who fights self-doubt and anxiety about their abilities: I hear you. Why we fight play is something distinctly personal and utterly unique, and this shouldn't be about people walking away because they feel they're not able to complete what's asked of them. This needs to be about helping these individuals to ask for help, and feel as if they can do this in an environment that is conducive to change. I will admit yesterday that maybe I was too harsh with my condemnation, that actually these has to be some measure of understanding that goes beyond the simple exclamation of 'you need to do X to do Y' For me, at least, the way I have moved forward is the return to the childhood values: when you fall down, you get up and try again. You don't walk away. You take strength from both victory and defeat. How can you make those who will not believe they are capable of great things ever grasp the power they can posses if they have belief in themselves? You can't. That is up to them, and up to us to help when they do. What you can do however is listen.

It is easy to assume that the people complain do it for one reason alone. The reality is often a long way from the perception. Perhaps when someone you know comments that the new restrictions are too hard or unfair, you shouldn't simply dismiss the comment or agree and change the subject. Maybe you should take the time to ask them WHY they think that way.

You might be surprised at the answer if you do.



Sunday, February 23, 2014

No Scrubs


Yesterday, many interesting things transpired on the back of the Silver Medal requirement, not least of which was the exchange between myself and Mr Alt when I passed onto him the news. Normally my husband is the model of unaffected disinterest when it comes to such nuggets of unimplemented content, but I was both surprised and amazed when not only did he gleefully welcome the introduction of such a requirement, but thought it didn't go far enough. He quite succinctly encompassed the imposition of ability to boot:

'No-one can impose their nubbishness on me and I can't impose my nubbishness on anyone else. People can still go afk, but at least I know at launch they have some ability to go with their gear. It is Blizzard's way of enforcing LTP, Nublet.'

And that, I have to say, is where I'm standing and planting my flag with the benefit of overnight thought. Of course, if the 'new' Proving Grounds in Warlords can be completed without any actual effort and or ability, then it's pretty much pointless. What we need is people having to extract the digit and doing their class some justice. What I really don't understand is why the whining has to start even now, because according to 'people' the Proving Ground mechanic is broken and ineffective for many classes. When I hear this, I must admit I find myself thinking one of two things:

1. You need to try harder.
2. You need to play better.

Even when these events are retuned and balanced for L100 there will still be people who will say they are broken or biased. There is a chance they may be right, but there's a far bigger probability they're just not able to do them, and therefore instead of looking at themselves for answers they will simply assume Blizzard is at fault, and frankly it's time people stopped the blame game with anyone but themselves.The fact remains that making things easier to understand does NOT make them easier to play. There is still a duty of responsibility levelled at the individual to turn up and put out. If you don't, and if you want to play all the games, now you'll be forced to present a badge of competence. The blame sometimes is yours to take, and that goes from the casual player to the most hardcore of raiders. No-one is perfect. Everyone has a bad day. Sometimes, you need to make an effort.
Guild looking for DPS. Must know CPR and carry Bandages.

The key for those unable to get the Medal and still wanting to play the Heroic Game is now simple: you'll need a Guild willing to carry you. Yes, I went there. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be offensive or mean, I'm just being honest. If you can't do the job, you'll need people willing to accommodate that fact. That's also going to introduce some interesting dynamics to proceedings in Guilds where there is a distinct gap in ability between players, especially where the level of gear matters. This is going to be crucial, because I am now willing to bet decent piles of gold that Heroic Gear will outstrip LFR gear this time around. What would be additionally awesome, to preserve the entry criteria throughout the Expansion, would be to ensure gear scales on a per patch basis inside Heroics so not only do they not lose their relevance, but they maintain their usefulness. I for one don't have a problem rerunning places for the Nth time if the rewards are better than they were the patch before.

Yesterday, when I announced this fact to a Guild of people who were not aware of current news, something interesting happened. People went off and got the Silver Achievement, even though there was absolutely no need to do so. Hell, I don't even have the Silver (I poked Bronze and won easily and then wandered off.) The general consensus, over a range of players was really simple: Silver's a bit taxing, Gold is insane. NOBODY complained or announced this was unfair. NOT ONE PERSON. Okay, we're a small Guild but really, honestly, this ought to be the standard reaction. It shouldn't be an objection that you'll have extra work to do, it should be about getting up, going out and meeting the requirements. Because until you try, you'll never know and you might well end up surprising yourself in the process. The other problem with this change will be that there will be those who will look at this and decide that people are being deliberately excluded (and possibly discriminated against) because of their ability.

Yup, they are.

Insert Aaron Sorkin line of dialogue here.

This is where everything gets murky and I bring to mind at least three people I know who will struggle to be able to participate on a Random footing. However, because of the way this change has been presented, this does not matter, and this is possibly why the idea is as clever as it undoubtedly is. You see, if you have friends and a sympathetic GM you need never do a Random. You CAN be carried, and people will be not simply willing but promoting this fact as a selling point for their Guilds. What it does then generate is the debate of whether you should do this to begin with, or whether it is in fact more liberating for individuals in the long run to be pushed outside their comfort zones. Of course, there will be players for which this is simply not practical, and I am absolutely aware of this fact. Then you're not simply asking one person to make a choice, you're asking four to be prepared to do the work of five, and that's quite a different proposition.

The thing is, and this is also fairly important, gaming is compromise for a lot of people. Unless you're on the edge of progression and can afford to rotate your team on an hourly basis, there will always be SOMETHING that doesn't work, every time. Ironically my Guild made progress in Flex last night with a sub-par team and working on the basis that we were going to practice wiping, not actually move forward. Sometimes the reverse psychology approach actually works better, and you end up making more gains than you thought yourself capable simply because you turned up expecting nothing to begin with. The problem comes, a lot of the time, with the fear of change, or the memory of the past where this happened and it was bad and so therefore this will be no better. In the end, it is individual perception that's the biggest killer of ability and potential. To the one person in my Guild who reads here and doesn't believe they are good enough, I want to publicly say this: you're brilliant, special and remarkably talented, but it matters not one iota that I say this, repeatedly. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IT. Maybe putting it in print will help make the point that whatever Blizzard do, it doesn't matter unless you want it to happen.

Also, and this is at the people who seem amazed at this turn of events, if you ask for something and it happens, don't be surprised when it does.

This week, you will be mostly objecting. Again.

People's default state should not be rigid and unchanging. You should bend with the wind, be the supple reed, and it's not just Pandaran thinking clouding my judgement. To be better really ought to be everyone's default state on everything: casual sexism, discrimination, narrow-mindedness... really, these things matter, especially when you live amongst children or influence others. You can't realistically decry the evils of smoking and then nip out the back for a swift puff. If you want gaming to change, and you want people to play better, when Blizzard move towards that promotes that you need to put the flaming torch and pitchfork away and get behind them. Try and understand WHY something's happening, rather than simply stick it on a stake and burn it for heresy.

Most importantly, understand the bigger issue. Remember you are never as good as you think you are. I know I'm not.