Category Archives: WorldofWarcraft

Drafter, Drawer, Moron

An artist friend was lamenting being called a drawer recently. Tongue-in-cheek he informed the fan of his artwork that he was not a drawer, a single container in a dresser or chest of drawers, but was rather a draughtsman, thank you very much.

This witty rebuttal sent me scurrying to check word meanings at my favorite quick-reference of choice, Wikipedia. When I got there I discovered that I couldn’t use Wikipedia as a reference for this subject, as I have discovered with previous subjects on this blog. Wikipedia defaults to popular word usage and doesn’t reference the word draftsman, or draftsperson if you insist on neutralizing the word. It doesn’t even reference the proper English Draughtsman that my friend used. No, wikipedia gathers all discussion of the field of technical illustration under the term…

Drafter.

The sound that you are hearing is the spinning of a million proofreaders in their graves. It’s quite a rumble, isn’t it? A drafter is a racing driver following a pack leader close enough to get a speed boost from the lead car’s wake in the air. In no way, shape or form is a draftsman a drafter. That just isn’t English.

An artist creates art. A draughtsman or draftsman produces technical drawings (which is where the slang drawer comes from) I was a draftsman for many years, I know what I’m talking about. Applying art techniques to technical drawings produces a “rendering,” something I have hired artists to do. I would never refer to an artist as a draftsman. That is an insult worthy of a good cuffing in my book. What artists and draftsmen do look similar on the surface but are in actuality two completely different fields of work.

The insistence on sounding like a moron when speaking has driven me crazy for years, drafter/drawer is just the latest insult that I’ve stumbled across, and that one has bugged me since I started drawing. As far back as I can remember I have tried to correct other’s poor word usage only to be rewarded with the label of smartass from most of the people I’ve tried to educate. I was either born a proofreader or a pedant and I’ve never worked out which group I’d rather be affiliated with, but it does remind me of one of the few times that I managed to get the last laugh on the subject.

In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added the inscription profession to World of Warcraft. I thought a scribe would be an interesting profession to get the Loremaster achievement with (Scribe. Lore. Get it?) so I spent a lot of time on the two ‘toons that I leveled as scribes. In World of Warcraft, like most MMO’s, you can spend a lot of time making things for other players. There are chat channels in the game where you can request needed items from or advertise your profession; and none of the players that I ran across in 6 years could figure out that someone who inscribes is referred to as a scribe. Inscriptors? Scripties? You name it. Never a request for a Scribe. In a moment of frustration I hit upon the right way to deal with this annoyance. I started explaining to the poor illiterate souls that a practitioner of inscription was referred to in a variation that reflected the sex of the practitioner. Like draftsman or draftswoman and many words found in romance languages. There was a sexual differentiation in the names and you needed to be sure to use the right one. Females were to be referred to as inscriptionatrixes. Males were only to be called inscriptionators. In six years of playing World of Warcraft, that never got old.

This is not the Warcraft it Used to be.

A week into the Legion expansion and I can tell I’m on the outs with Blizzard already.  The backing image on my Battle.net launcher has been changed to the Burning Crusade packaging image from the image that adorned the packaging of the Warlords of Draenor.

You may well ask “Why Burning Crusade?” at this point. Burning Crusade is the first expansion of World of Warcraft, not the vanilla version, the original version.

The answer to that is both simple and complex.  The simple answer is that Blizzard has dropped the myth that Burning Crusade is a separate expansion (even though you can buy packaged versions of it and later expansions from Amazon) and back in the days of Mists of Pandaria they bundled the two together, creating a default image for WoW that was different from the vanilla version of the original game.

With the current expansion they have dropped the pretense that any of the previous expansions were actually expansions to the original game in the online store. So why are they sticking to the Burning Crusade image? Because changing it would take work, and they are on a budget from Activision. It is either that or perhaps there is truth in advertising. Burning Crusade is what the current WoW experience seems most like. Burning Crusade is where the new class was the enemy of choice. Burning Crusade is where the Burning Legion was first assaulted directly.  Legion is a rehash of Burning Crusade in much the same way that Warlords of Draenor was a rehash of story content first introduced in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

In the online store you can’t get any of the previous expansions. You can only purchase World of Warcraft and Legion. There is a problem with this, and that is where the story really gets complex. It gets complex because there really isn’t two versions of the game.

Blizzard will tell you that there are two versions. There is the version of the game which includes preserved content from previous iterations of the game.  Then there is the version with the additional content that they want to charge you almost three times as much to play, as well as the cost of a monthly subscription.

Never mind that the content represents the smallest expansion of World of Warcraft to date. The problem is that what they are calling World of Warcraft isn’t World of Warcraft. What you are purchasing is a disabled version of the accumulated base programming that Blizzard has put into their World of Warcraft project. You are being asked to pay for what the programmers who first put together Blizzard gave away for free. A shareware version of content to whet your appetite for what Legion has to offer. That is because there really isn’t a version of WoW other than Legion.

Having played every version of the game since and including Burning Crusade, I can tell you the differences between each expansion it pretty gory detail. I won’t bore non-players with too many of these details.

It is worth noting that major sections of each expansion have been lopped out of the current game structure.  The legendary quest lines for Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor have been removed. It may not seem like much, but those quest chains marked the actual progress through the game as it was played when it was the current version of the game. If you are playing the game today and you wonder why certain factions, structures and islands still appear in the game, what you are seeing are the remnants of endgame content that has been bypassed and pruned.

This is aside from the fact that playstyles of the various classes have also been changed and simplified. If I was purchasing and playing the first game called World of Warcraft, I would have to have extra space in my bags for soul shards while playing a Warlock. Brew poisons as a Rogue. I would have to have arrows or bullets for my weapons. There would be no professions of inscription, jewelcrafting or archeology.  There would be no Pandarens, no Blood Elves, no Draenei. No playable versions of Goblins or Worgen. There would be no Death Knights or Monks. You would have to be in a particular faction to play Paladin or Shaman. I would not see a disabled option for creating and playing a Demon Hunter.

In short, it would be a different game if it was really World of Warcraft.  This is the bigger problem for Blizzard. Last year Blizzard shut down the fan-run server Nostalrius.  Fan run servers do present a threat to Blizzard’s intellectual property, and they had every right to shut that server down; but the existence of the site and others like it present the problem and question that Blizzard wants to go away.

Players want to play the games they purchased, and those games don’t exist anymore.

There really is no place to play the games that I have faithfully purchased from Blizzard over the years. I cannot play Wrath of the Lich King. I cannot participate in the battle at the wrathgate and then storm the Undercity in retaliation, facing off against the opposing faction in the throne room of Sylvanas herself.  That pivotal moment in the game is lost.  The Kor’Kron and the rise of Garrosh? Also lost.  Orcs no longer guard Undercity watching the forsaken, guarding against another attempt to turn all of the living into puddles of goo.

If you click one of the many links above (aside from the battle.net links) and purchase one of those products right now, you cannot play the game that is pictured on the outside of the box.  You will be forced to play the disabled version of Legion, the version now called World of Warcraft. There are no servers which run the historic versions of the server software, software needed to play the games historically sold under the World of Warcraft banner.

A consumer should be able to be assured that their purchases can be used in the fashion advertised. This is business 101.  That none of the expansions exist to be played in the fashion the game was intended to run at the time of publication and purchase presents a problem to Blizzard, specifically because they make noises about this being one of the longest running games in the history of computer gaming. Because they are still making money off the franchise they have created.  Because they have a lot of disgruntled fans out in the hinterlands who have previously purchased games they’d like to play but are prevented from playing them because Blizzard does not maintain a copy of previous integral parts of the game’s programming.

If this is one of the longest running Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Blizzard, why can’t the fans of previous versions still log on and play the game they played then?  I really wish someone at Blizzard would take the time to answer that question.

After Legion is Irrelevant

Top of my feed this morning Breakfast Topic: What comes after Legion?

I honestly find myself wondering how World of Warcraft could possibly top Legion. I mean, where do we go from here? A full-scale invasion of the Burning Legion a scant sixteen or so years after the last one. Considering it took them ten thousand years to return after their first attempt, it feels like the intervals are getting shorter 

Because they are. 

So I’m wondering what happens this time. If we beat back the Legion, it’ll have to be a pretty decisive win, wouldn’t it? Not just shutting down the portal they’re using to invade, we’ll also have to eradicate every last trace of them: every cultist and every demon that’s currently on Azeroth. That’s a mammoth undertaking. But if we don’t do it, when will the next invasion come? 

So what do we do after we accomplish it? Is it finally time for us to go to Argus? Take the fight to the Legion’s doorstep? 

I find myself wondering how many worlds are left out there. Are there allies for us to find? Is there a grateful cosmos waiting to be delivered from the Legion or are we one of a few ragtag holdouts, enduring in spite of the Fallen Titan and his army of annihilation? What else is there for us to do once we stop the Legion this time? 

What do you all think? What’s next, after Legion?

There are so many problems with this question, it pretty much requires that I wax literal in my attempt to unpack it.  Oh, you’d like me to do that? Here goes.

A quote from Terminator Genisys

Time doesn’t exist in the sense that Matthew Rossi at Blizzardwatch suggests, especially in fantasy worlds. Time isn’t a set interval marching in unmalleable increments down to the end of time.  Time is more gas than fluid or concrete. It can be compressed or expanded to fill whatever boundaries we place on it.

But we can set that aside because we aren’t talking about reality, but rather fantasy.  It has already been established that the Legion lives outside of time and space. They don’t see time as temporal creatures (like humans) see time.  Consequently the interval can be ten thousand years or next week, it is the same difference to them.

Blizzard can literally have every expansion after this one be The Burning Legion Returns and it can be factually defended from within established World of Warcraft canon.

So what comes after the current expansion is pretty much irrelevant, from a story perspective. It’s already been established we can travel to parallel universes and port to any world within the current universe of Azeroth. The Burning Legion can be there, mucking up the world. Or not be there, if the developers decide not to include them. Mists of Pandaria added the only part of Warcraft III that I felt was left out of World of Warcraft,  so I can’t suggest any new content just right off the top of my head.

The real question is, will the next expansion be something the player base will want to play? That is quite literally the multi-million dollar, multi-million playerbase debate.

Since I’ve still not bought Legion (#noflynobuy) I think they’ve already gone there. They’ve been headed that way for quite some time. The first hint of their direction was in Mists of Pandaria. In MOP  flight was an endgame-only perk. You had to be at top level in the game to be able to fly. Contrary to what the naysayers insist, this was a retrenchment from both Cataclysm and Wrath of the Lich King, where flight was incorporated from the beginning of the expansion, and a return to the old ways of Burning Crusade. With Warlords of Draenor the world of the original game, where no flight was possible, was reintroduced.

This is, to put it bluntly, going backwards.

I get it, the new owners (Activision) have a gameplan that requires Blizzard to milk every dollar out of the playerbase that they can get their hands on, while simultaneously devoting as little programming time to the game as they can get away with. This means simplifying the game in ways that are less noticeable if the players cannot simply fly over obstacles.

Here is an example.  The world of Outland is physically bigger than the old world of Draenor. I have proven this to myself by flying across regions of the game map in both areas. This fact is the reverse of established game lore, that Outland is smaller than Draenor because of the destruction wrought by the Burning Legion. The world can be smaller because in Draenor you were expected to fight across the ground for every inch of territory you wanted to traverse. Constraining the players in this way allows the developers and programmers to skip creating the larger worlds that Warcraft is known for, making it possible for them to economize on programming time.

The Broken Isles of Legion are demonstrably smaller than every single expansion that has come before in World of Warcraft. Why are we limited to just the Broken Isles? Why isn’t the invasion everywhere on Azeroth simultaneously? This is the Burning Legion, they have uncounted demons at their beck and call.  They could easily be in every city on Azeroth simultaneously.

But that would be one whole hell of a lot of programming.  It would equal the amount of programming that went into creating the first game.

Which is my overarching point here. The Legion expansion is the smallest addition to the game that has ever been introduced, and it comes at the cost of a complete reworking and simplification of every system in the game outside of redrawing maps for the game itself.  It is a lot easier to program simplified playstyles and constrain players to small sections of ground-based maps than it is to create new worlds with new areas to explore, complex and challenging playstyles to master.

Playstyles that include flight.

But it isn’t just flight.  I was disgusted at the garrison copout in the last expansion. Sending followers out to play the game you couldn’t take time to play.  Building ships that you never sailed on.  The one thing that might have saved Warlords of Draenor for me would have been allowing me to build ships I could sail where I wanted to go. But that too would have required an exponential investment in programming time, something Activision doesn’t want to spend money on.

Having all of Azeroth be under siege would also make the garrisons we’ve spent two years building have a use beyond becoming just another game hub no one goes to anymore. It would do something unprecedented in WoW, not abandon former content as being that old game we used to play. The garrisons have their own separate hearthstone. Draenor has been protected through our actions from invasion by the Burning Legion lurking out in infinity.  Why would we not stage our last defense of Azeroth in the one place we know the Burning Legion can never return to. Draenor of the past.

So it comes down to this for me. Until and unless they revise their development strategies, I can’t see them doing anything I will want to play.  I could be wrong, but I’m betting I’m not. Waiting and seeing is something I do well. 

6.2 The Patch That Ate World of Warcraft

Meaningless Punishment in Battlegrounds While Leveling

World of Warcraft suggestion/bugfix of the week;

If you level in a battleground and that level moves you to a higher bracket, you are now removed from the battleground and marked as a coward for leaving. That is either a bug, or a serious oversight on Blizzard’s part. The fun of leveling in battlegrounds is that moment when, for the rest of that one instance, you rock. Now it is a punishment to level that way. This needs to be fixed. This game is already punishing and boring enough.

Specifically this toon (My 17th, I think) confirmed what I had suspected with other toons that have hit 100 in battlegrounds. Several of which I have taken to battlegrounds throughout this xpac just for the pure fun of hitting 100 while in a PvP setting.

Not all the changes are bad in the current expansion. I like the fact that toons are scaled to max level for the bracket, it makes the heirloom twink problem that I’m sure was a frustration for players who didn’t invest in heirlooms less of a problem and more of a reward for playing the game with multiple toons. Now all players are the same level (instead of a potential 9 level difference in one battleground) the only variation is gearscore.

I’m really enjoying Ashran lately.  The latest patch seems to have fixed some serious problems with this world PvP area. I was actually able to get into a raid sized group after hitting 100 with my second paladin (linked above) and farm enough broken bones to keep my garrison building churning for a week or more.

So there are good changes; and then there are meaningless changes that just make the game less fun. This suggestion/bugfix request is the latter. Please Blizzard, I’m begging here. Remember, we play games for fun?

(posted on the forums here)


However, I have to say that 6.2 remains “The Patch That Ate World of Warcraft”

Aside from flight, I hate the content of this patch.  It simply adds insult to the injury that is Warlords of Dreanor, as I’ve gone into here, here and here.

It has ships, but they are ships that I can’t ride on. This is the sailing equivalent of a cock-tease if you are a sailing geek like I am.  Not only that, but these ships require oil even though they are sailing ships. And the oil? I have to quest for that instead of accruing it at a set rate like garrison resources, the other currency (one of several introduced this patch) specifically tied to the garrison.  Can’t drill for the oil as in the Real Time Strategy game this version of WoW is attempting to emulate. Well, you can, it just requires you to grind out reputations in the new content area, Tanaan Jungle.

This should have been your first clue, Blizzard. If you have to force players to work in an area, you really haven’t made the game fun enough to warrant play in the first place.

I should be able to sail my ships directly. Should be able to go with garrison quests to assist. Should be able to accrue oil without having to kill unrelated NPC’s that give access to oil that my ships shouldn’t need. This expansion, aside from Ashran, is a waste of time.

Here’s hoping that Legion will prove to be worth playing.

Flight Makes Everything Easier?

There is an active poll over on the WoW forums called The Friendly SkiesWhile I question the adjective friendly applied to almost anything MMO, I found the choices available on the poll amusing, even if the associated text is patronizing in tone;

Patch 6.2.2 is scheduled for release this week, allowing those of you who have unlocked Draenor Pathfinder to take to the skies on your most trusted of winged beasts, floating steeds, and flying machines. With this comes the added opportunity for you to handle your affairs with greater convenience and timeliness. 

Our friends over at Wowhead have put together a guide of Draenor Content Made Easier by Flying. We suggest you give it a look to glean the myriad activities made more accessible by flight, and let us know what you’ll be swooping down from sky to do first. 

Travel by flying mount on Draenor will be most handy for:  

  1. Accessing Archaeology dig sites  
  2. Collecting more battle pets 
  3. Exploration and sightseeing  
  4. Leveling alts to 100  
  5. Gathering herbs, mining, or fishing  
  6. Seeking out rare spawns  
  7. Adventuring further in Tanaan Jungle
  8. Locating the remaining treasures  
  9. Barrel rolls, duh  
  10. …Everything

As I’ve said in chat a million times (at least) easy is a four letter word.  I have an idea of what an easy fight would be, but I’ve never seen it in any game;

The boss draws his weapon, then trips and falls on it. That would be an easy fight.

Nothing that requires a group effort to achieve is easy.  The troll who taunts with “come on, this is easy”  deludes himself. Just because he finds his role lacks challenge doesn’t mean that getting 5 to 25 players together to do anything lacks challenge.  If you doubt this, see if you can get just 4 people together to play a game of cards at home; without bribing them with free beer, of course.

If you didn’t have a guild in earlier versions of WoW (Original & Burning Crusade specifically) you stood around outside the instance you needed to run and hoped that 4 other people would show up and want to run with you.  You could (and did) spend hours standing around hoping for a group.  Nine times out of 10 you would give up in frustration. The tenth time you would manage to get a group together only to discover that the tank couldn’t tank, the healer couldn’t heal, and DPS was a joke. About every third group you managed to get into an instance with would actually finish the dungeon.

Forget about ever raiding.  Raiding was for guilds; I mean, you could try your hand at assembling a raiding group yourself.  I tried it several times, never successfully, because of the next problem on the list. 

Then came Looking For Raid/Group and suddenly the impasse of just getting a group together was bypassed; allowing for an automated assembly process as part of the game design. However, finding a group of people who knows what they are doing still remains a challenge.  Being able to select the role you want to queue for has no bearing on your knowledge of what the role requires, what your classes gear spec should be, what the best spell rotation is, what to interrupt and when, etc; a near bottomless pit of knowledge that is required just to complete a raid with a moderate level of success. 

So Looking For Raid/Group didn’t make the game easier, it made playing the game possible for the average player, which just adds to the frustration of the elitist jerks who think the games should be designed for them.

In much the same fashion as LFR making group efforts possible in game, so too flight makes certain kinds of gameplay possible, not just easier.  Dismissing the constraints of time and frustration with the word easy is patronizing. Some people have real lives to live, they don’t have all day to spend grinding their way through repetitive content just to get to the thing they want to do today.

I am enjoying flight being added back into WoW.  Not enjoying it so much I have forgotten the threat on the horizon, though. When it comes to Legion, I am still in the #NoFlyNoBuy camp. I really do hope that Blizzard game developers are taking us seriously.

#NoFlyNoBuy Are You Listening @WarcraftDevs?

Once again the moderators have struck.  I had a pretty decent thread going over on the forums.  This morning at 4am or thereabouts it was 7 pages long.  I had managed to avoid blatantly violating any rules by directly discussing bannings that the moderators have inflicted on me in the past.  Managed not to talk blatantly about any of the rules which govern the boards. Managed to keep myself from fucking cursing every other fucking word, so they couldn’t pretend that bitching was something vulgar this time. Thought it was going swimmingly until I logged on this afternoon to see if anything else had posted.

Not only had nothing else posted, but the entire thread had disappeared into a black hole, like every other thread I’ve started on Blizzard’s forums. No matter how many times Blizzard’s customer service representatives in-game assure me that the developers want to hear from you, go post on the forums I know from experience that the opposite is true.  They really don’t want to hear from me.

I’m generally well-school in dancing around the sensitivities of others. Just last week I managed to piss of the acting Guild Master of my now-former Horde raiding guild (Crimson Retribution – Terenas) because I dared to suggest that not only was he wrong about flight always being a perk in World of Warcraft , but that if his training as a systems administrator instructed him that all hackers are criminals (right after he had called me a criminal for rooting my cellphone) I didn’t think much of the value of his education.

Funny part of that was that he stopped talking to me because I insulted his education.  The dust-up wasn’t over his accusation that I was a criminal.  No, that insult to me was completely overlooked. His tender feelings were hurt. So I left the guild, because that is what happens when those with lesser authority have a disagreement with higher authorities.  You move on.  It is not a threat, it is what reasonable people do.

Similarly, there is no winning when the entire structure of a company wants to silence what you have to say, when the only place you can say it is on their forums and have it reach an audience. If you read over the Blizzard forum guidelines it should become painfully clear that any subject that isn’t praise for Blizzard and World of Warcraft generically will not live very long on their forums. They have (like so many other forums on the internet) created an echo-chamber for self-congratulation.

…and why not? I mean, Blizzard has created what is inarguably the most popular game in all the history of electronic gaming. World of Warcraft (or WoW) still boasts subscriptions that are North of five million, which is a number that nearly any other gaming company would give their firstborn children to have access to.  Never mind that at its peak WoW  boasted a subscriber base of over twelve million people, or that the release of Warlords of Draenor did not lift subscriber numbers from their slow downward slide for longer than a month or two.

They have a certified hit, a cash cow. But how to keep milking that cow without killing it? That really is a tricky question, the multi-million dollar question that speaks to the future of the company. I mean, Blizzard isn’t alone out there. Some would say that they aren’t even at the forefront of gaming any longer.

My children only play Blizzard games because I play them. Left to their own devices, they like their Steam games, playing any number of them for pretty much as long as we allow them to play (him anyway, and only for a few years more) when the daughter heard that Legion would be the next expansion for World of Warcraft her only request was that I get her one of the art books.  The game? Well, if you are playing dad, sure.

Steam has tapped into something that only Facebook is doing better at; and that because it doesn’t require any real talent to be on Facebook. You just have to have the connection and you can share memes till the end of time, play flash games till you die of repetition.  Facebook is to the internet was TV was to broadcast. Radio was informative and entertaining, TV had pictures!

I can’t explain what it is that Steam offers.  I haven’t been impressed with many of the games. I’m certainly not impressed with their business tactics involving the children that make up a majority of their player base (I’ve mentioned this before) But they have a loyal following, and Blizzard has noticed this, which is why they introduced Battle.net and its launcher.

Battle.net is a pale comparison to Steam and it’s myriad of indepedent developers, though. Blizzard is now facing the same kind of broad-based competition that Microsoft laughed at when Linux was introduced.  Microsoft is no longer laughing now that Android (also Linux/Unix) runs on more systems than their software; similarly, Blizzard (or more accurately Activision/Blizzard) cannot long outpace a group which can essentially grow to incorporate all programmers who don’t work for them.

I had several players insist to me that Blizzard would stop WoW at level 100 for in-game characters, back in the days when I was writing about Cataclysm and its failings. I knew then just as I know now that there won’t be an end to World of Warcraft so long as Blizzard continues to see a profit. With the announcement of Legion and its 110 level cap, the notion that World of Warcraft might stop anytime soon has been left in the dust.

With new content needed, and the demands of the players for more and more challenging content to master, WoW programmers have a serious problem on their hands.  How to keep the players challenged?  How to make programming goals achievable in the foreshortened time that Activision was allowing for game development?  The developers, after seeing the new subscriptions and interest in WoD declared that they would exclude flight in all future expansions of WoW, reneging on their promise to introduce flight to the new content as this blue post goes into;

There’s a lot of discussion about flying/not-flying and I’d like to try to sum things up and maybe realign the discussion a bit. Some of the other threads are near-cap, some have really gone down tangents, so I’m just picking this one to throw a reply into. Apologies to the other threads.

Flying trivializes combat. A lot of people like to say we’re trying to force world PvP, or that we just really want people to look at the pretty trees we made, but those really aren’t the reasons that drive this same decision we’ve made every expansion. Flying allows you to escape or enter combat at-will. There’s a reason why flying isn’t allowed in dungeons and raids, or battlegrounds and arenas, and that’s because it would trivialize the core mechanic of the game in those areas – combat. For much the same reason it trivializes how content is approached in the outdoor world based on the simple fact that you can lift off and set down wherever you like 

So that’s the main reason. But sure there are a lot of other problems it can cause for content design such as zones having to get a lot bigger because flying mounts can travel so quickly (and thus making ground travel in them take much longer), it reduces the impact of elevation within zones, it completely removes the ability for us to pace or present content in any structured way, and in general removes our ability to determine how and when players approach a situation, see a vista or location, or charge into/out-of a combat situation. It just greatly reduces any gameplay we want to create by allowing infinite choice in how content is approached to best suit a player’s intention to (usually) avoid that content. 

I totally sympathize with people’s desire to do that, they want to be efficient and have it be their choice, but we have to balance our intent to create a game against creating a sandbox where anything goes. There’s a happy medium there somewhere, but flying mounts in most cases just do too much to undermine too many of our core intentions with the game world, the basis of the game: combat, or guiding players through a game experience, and for those reasons we have continually chosen (when we could) to disallow flying mounts in the ‘current’ outdoor content. In the past that’s meant only while leveling, but in our experiences with the Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle we feel like we can extend that for a bit longer in the new content, and have it be kind of a big deal again once you’re able to earn flying in the first big content patch, and in the meantime putting focus on flight paths as well as having some more interesting travel options for players to use.

I liked Timeless Isle, despite the lack of flight.  On the other hand I despised the Isle of Thunder and the clearly contrived lack of flight in that area.  Why not allow players to attempt to fly? Perhaps the more clever could have figured out how to make it work, that’s why (more on that in a bit) so given the success of Pandaria, the increased subs for WoD, the developers thought that they had a solution to their problem of too little time/too much programming. Not so fast, though.

The player base is now abandoning WoD in droves. It is boring, being limited to ground travel. Being restricted to a very limited quest chain (which is allowed by making sure that players go where you want them) Once again the developers reverse direction and work in a gated introduction of flight into WoD.  Players who got a secret pleasure out of denying flight to players who wanted to fly were outraged.  The developers have to recalculate programming requirements for content that will now have to include flight. Things are not looking good for Blizzard.

The sad part of all this is that the same developers are still beating the same dead horse that was the established lore for Warcraft more than a decade ago, and trying to draw out the final few dollars they can milk from this story before it stops being profitable.  They could re-invent parts of the game as they did with professions in the current expansion (much to their detriment in this player’s opinion) but that carries risk, and large companies are nothing if not risk-adverse. (I offer Overwatch as an example of this; a pretty game but essentially a re-hash of Team Fortress 2. Not that there isn’t room for more of the same kinds of games)

Risk adverse developers throttle player content, rather than expand playability.  Warlords delivered this in spades, extending the amount of work and time spent in the game to achieve even less than you could do in previous versions of WoW.  Only now, after the announcement of the next expansion, do they finally grudgingly give players the last piece of playability we had in previous versions of the game.  The next patch will finally give the players the ability to fly in Draenor, the ability to use the mounts all of us have paid for with time, effort and real money.  Finally fulfilling the implied contract when they sold us flying mounts a year and more ago.  Those mounts will finally fly.

But is it too little too late?  Speaking for myself, it might be. I’m thoroughly burned out now.  Try as I might, there just isn’t enough content in the game to keep me interested; or rather, there doesn’t appear to be any one type of play that the current game encourages aside from the narrow channel of developer intent to progress through the garrisons and outposts. Without flight, exploration, pet battling, archeology, etc all become tedious slogs through NPC’s you’ve already killed repeatedly.  Giving me flight now just reminds me how much of the game I liked in Pandaria that I’m already too far behind on to catch up now.

Which is why this article starts and ends with a hashtag. I’m not even going to contemplate playing WoW after the next expansion releases unless the developers include flight in the game from the beginning. Not just flight, but flight for all levels (as it was in Wrath of the Lich King at least) available at the time the expansion releases.

I’m done with being throttled, of playing Activision‘s version of a Blizzard game that reminds me more of Facebook games than it does of the MMO’s and RTS’ of previous years. Most of all, give me the sky to fly in, or I’ll find some other game to play in the future. #NOFLYNOBUY

“I don’t care, I’m still free, you can’t take the sky from me” – Sonny Rhodes

(Started another thread on the forums with this title that references the Confirmation Bias post) 

World of Warcraft & the Engineering of Scarcity

Was browsing the forums today and noticed a thread titled Can’t Do It AnymoreWhat is this it that someone can’t do? Against my better judgement, I clicked on the link;

I ran 20 instances yesterday, 17 of them had DPS pulling ahead of me and dying regularly. I managed to get a number of them removed from group but in 2 groups they removed me instead, once during the final boss fight. I simply can’t tank anymore. One less tank in your queues. I won’t do it, it’s not fun, it’s an exercise in total frustration.

Good luck to those that weren’t complete morons. I feel sorry for you on the queue times but I can’t be a part of this anymore.

The first responses were predictable troll responses to hurry up and pull then and so forth, the kinds of things the worst of the worst players might say. However the thread goes on for 17 pages and there are some real gems in there.

None of them really addressing the point I felt needed to be made.

I don’t queue as DPS (Damage Per Second. In a 25 man raid there are usually 17 of these spots, 2 tanks and 6 healers) DPS queues are astronomically long, a half-hour or more. I won’t wait to get into anything (Hearthstone has started popping up queue times and I’m going to quit that too if that keeps happening) one of the reasons I despise amusement parks and shopping centers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into instant gratification. I just despise the false scarcity forced on things which could be readily available if people were just more sensible. Amusement parks and shopping centers aside, most scarcity is engineered into the framework of the world outside; either by reality itself in the form of temperate zones on the surface of our planet that limits arable land, and through that, food and space to live in, or by the systems we humans create.

False scarcity, human engineered scarcity, is all around us.  It is present in the wasteful food systems we in the US enjoy (nearly half of all food going to waste while people starve right next door) It is reflected in the vehicles that we are sold (marketed as exclusive) the schools we attend, etc, etc, etc.

Group efforts in World of Warcraft are a hallmark of this. The reason that queues for DPS are so long is because DPS is relatively easy, whereas tanking and healing have specific duties which must be performed if the battle is going to be successful.  DPS’ers will argue that DPS is anything but easy, but the proof is in the structure that Blizzard has been forced to craft to cope with the relatively few people willing to heal or tank.  DPS queues are long specifically because DPS is relatively easy.  If it were hard, the structure would reflect that in tanking queues.

Tanks do not queue, and healers rarely queue. If you tank (and I do) you will be placed in a group almost immediately upon placing your name in the list as a tank. Be prepared though. No role is kicked more often (as represented numerically in raids) than tanks are. I mercifully am almost never kicked. I rarely let DPS die no matter how stupid they act. I try to pull as soon as the group is ready, try to keep damage off of my healers, who in turn try to keep me alive.

All DPS has to do is deal damage and move out of bad (if it’s on the floor, it is likely hurting your character, GET OUT OF IT!) the amazing part of this equation is how few of them can seem to do even that much.

So the queue structure in World of Warcraft accurately reflects your talent as a player.  If you don’t want to wait in queues, tank or heal.  DPS is where slackers and bots go to hide.  Don’t pull if your tank is slow, you will get nothing but grief from it. Patience is a virtue (my most typed phrase while tanking) learn to meditate, you’ll live longer.

Meditating is essential when caught in systems of engineered scarcity. Peace and serenity far more rewarding than being consigned to the prison queue when you finally snap after waiting half your life to get on whatever ride that is popular this year. Enjoy your summer.

Flight Has Always Been a Perk; An Example of Confirmation Bias

I love the way the brain works. I want that out front on this post. I’m fascinated by the ways that we humans craft our thoughts and feelings, while at the same time seem to be completely unaware that most of the facts we think are immutable are actually just feelings that we have emotional investment in.

The whole argument about flight in World of Warcraft that is currently swirling in game conversations across the internet is an excellent example of this completely human tendency.  For those people who think flight has ruined the game, a group filled mostly with game developers and troglodytes (my own confirmation bias) they point to game history and assert that

Flight has always been a perk. You always have had to pay for it.

While the cost of flight was quite steep when introduced in Burning Crusade, the first expansion of World of Warcraft,  in Wrath of the Lich King it was available at level 68 for a nominal fee for the Tome of Cold Weather Flight. Only your first game character had to slog to get to level 77 before flying, and then it was flying for the last three levels. The game was designed to incorporate flight into the mechanics in a rough approximation of the way I thought it should be, and the way I thought the game was going to progress into the future. In Cataclysm you could fly for the entire expansion, once again for a very nominal fee (about 300 gold) and even the dead could fly from graveyards to wherever you died last, a change that was made for Wrath of the Lich King in areas set up for flight play.

While I had a lot of complaints about Cataclysm, flight was one of the things I really liked about it. It wasn’t quite ideal, I couldn’t fly and fight or even ride and fight, but at least I could use the flight mechanic I had already paid so much for in Burning Crusade.  Flight is just another form of travel, no different than the riding mounts allowed in later levels of the original game.  Not too many players remember having to slog to level 40 on foot.  These days you can obtain riding skills and mounts at level 20, with fast ground mounted speed available at level 40 instead of the endgame perk that it used to be.

Imagine the complaints, if you can. What if the game developers removed the ability to ride mounts at all in the game? Riding is a perk, after all.  You have to earn your mounts, all of them, with each expansion of the game. How many people would willingly keep paying for and playing that game?  Not too many, in my estimation.

Then came Mists of Pandaria, and it was the reverse of Cataclysm. The rest of the game was engaging, but the fact that none of my characters could fly until the repetition of endgame made the entire game into a grinding endurance slog that I repeated 22 times through some crazy goals I had set myself 5 years previously. Not to mention the hair-brained idea of gating cloud serpent flying and requiring every single character you leveled in the game to have to grind that reputation in order to use those mounts; only to have that reputation grind removed as a requirement for the current expansion.  Imagine the frustration of those players who spent days working on that reputation for all their characters, only to have the work rendered pointless later.

I almost didn’t purchase Warlords of Draenor because of the announcement that flight wouldn’t be included. After I thought about it for awhile I figured that they would add flight at some point, otherwise the inclusion of a flying mount in the collector’s edition becomes false advertising. Bait and switch.

Now it is revealed that through game developers misjudging what the player base would put up with, they’re going to gate flight (if it is ever introduced at all, they still aren’t promising anything) with a long, long grind requiring you to play through all the content of Warlords of Draenor and the soon to be released patch 6.2 in order to qualify to use basic mechanics of the game that should have been included with the first release.

I say should have been included with the full understanding of what that means. Flight is a travel mechanic, just like a riding mount is a travel mechanic.  Before earning riding mounts in the game, you never understood what a time savings was involved in being allowed to ride. Once you have riding mounts, you’ll ride them right into buildings if allowed to, never dismounting unless the headers of the doors keep you from getting through them while mounted. In a similar fashion, a player never thought about why they had to navigate the terrain (alive or in spirit form) you just did that.

Now that flight is being withheld arbitrarily from players who are used to flying, the fact that a developer stuck an impasse between where you are and where you need to be becomes a major frustration specifically because you know that they keep you from flying just to slow down progress in the game.  No other reason, they just want you to spend more time working on game progress.

The idea that this increases immersion in the game, or makes the game more challenging are just excuses presented to mollify complaints.  They could include flight and make it more challenging. In Burning Crusade you could be knocked off your flying mount. While this was frustrating it was no more frustrating than currently being knocked off your riding mount by a frog or a flower (Which happens. Flowers can kill you in World of Warcraft) in Mists of Pandaria there was one area that allowed flight, but that flight could be canceled by crashing into an insect swarm.  It is only unimpeded flight, the status of flight as an endgame perk, invisible to everything but other players, that breaks immersion; makes the game too easy.

Gating flight is not giving the players what they want. It is holding the last remaining carrot out as bait to get us to continue playing (and paying for) the game. The manipulation is so transparent as to be insulting.  Taking a stance that flight should be removed permanently from the game so many years after it was introduced is so foreign a concept as to make me question the honesty of people who say they don’t want to fly.

What game have you been playing these past 7 years?  Not the same one I have, apparently.

(Deleted from the WoW forums once again, inspiring the current piece on the blog)

Banned From the Forums, Again. Don’t Mention Community Policing?

Blizzard (specifically Battle.net) has banned me from the forums again  This is the amusing part, pay attention.  I was banned from the forums for daring to link to my response to being banned from the forums previously.  Apparently Blizzard still isn’t interested in complaints in spite of their insistence that they are.

The real problem appears to be that they have a bad (as in faulty) language parser.  It’s not surprising, it’s actually the parser that got me banned the first time.  I was trying to illustrate how crappy their language parser was, and if I go into why the parser is broken/crappy/should be scrapped in this post, I won’t be able to link this post in the future if I forget that I poked fun at the parser here. It’s also worth noting that it only parses on new threads. It takes a flag from a user to get the bots attention on replies. (there’s no point in being cute here. More after the break. However, the next sentence remains true.)

The fix to this problem is simple. Don’t let your bots ban people. But that leads to another problem, Blizzard can’t afford to hire enough cops to police the communities they’ve created. The hypocrisy of Blizzard banning players for botting while using bots to ban people is apparently lost on the leadership at Blizzard.

Not that I bot, Blizzard. Don’t want to be banned for linking to an article that has the word bot in it. If they continue using the same stupid parser, that is liable to happen.

The solution to this problem, and many other problems, is a ratings system for the player/contributor base. Let the massive player/user community police itself. This isn’t even rocket science, a ratings system has been put in place in many other large online communities, and generally meets with some level of success based on how well the tools are implemented.  Whether there is oversight to come to the rescue of the scapegoated, for example.  Whether the tools are allowed to have an effect on the employees of the hosting company, for another.

I’ve mentioned community policing tools many times in the past. (including the last time I tried to start a thread on this subject by linking previous mentions of the subject. Don’t do that blindly.  The phrase “please sir may a have another” springs immediately to mind) Mentioned it at the end of the previous expansion pack. Mentioned it during the Cataclysm expansion. Mentioned it during Wrath of the Lich King while interacting with the GM’s. I don’t think I even understood how many people were playing the game while I was still playing Burning Crusade. If I did, I’m sure I mentioned it then too.

Because it is a glaring oversight on the part of online game developers, generally.  The understanding that large communities require policing, and that the best police are recruited from among the players; people willing to file reports, click buttons, whatever the tools in place allow.  Those are the game companies’ allies, and it is about time that the companies understood that they are shooting themselves in the foot by not allowing the communities to police themselves, and providing the tools for us to do it.

(The permissible last three paragraphs of this post have been restored to the forums here)


Won’t actually be able to link it anyway. Can’t discuss bans in any fashion on the forums. Not even tangentially. Can’t really discuss ANYTHING on the forums and not risk being banned if the mood strikes a moderator.

The real problem here is (not that Blizzard mods will read this) that the rules for the forums are not all in one place. The bot that banned my account sent me links to this page. It also linked this dead page for appeals (all the links for appeals are dead) The customer service interactions all refer to this page, and the forum rules are also stickied at the top of each forum.

None of the content of any of the pages agrees with each other as to what is allowed or not allowed aside from the notation that they reserve the right to suspend any account without reason.  Just another reason not to post on the forums.

Suggestions for Blizzard

I’m still playing Warlords of Draenor.  Not sure why beyond the fact that I can play for free now thanks to being able to purchase game time with in-game currency. Now that it doesn’t cost anything beyond time I was already spending in the game, the argument about paying for the game goes out the window.

Still, I’m not happy with it, since none of the complaints I’ve aired previously have lead to changes in the game. The professions are still cludgy and largely useless, my favorite class/specialization from Mists of Pandaria remains almost unplayable (more on that after the break) my toons all look different rather than simply more clearly rendered. Most importantly, I still can’t fly!

Noticed a post on my Twitter feed about a developer announcement concerning the addition of flight to Warlords of Draenor;

In an upcoming Public Test Realm build, we will be introducing a new meta-achievement called Draenor Pathfinder. You’ll earn this achievement in Patch 6.2 by mastering the outdoor environment of Draenor—exploring Draenor’s zones, collecting 100 treasures in Draenor, completing the Draenor Loremaster and Securing Draenor achievements, and raising the three new Tanaan Jungle reputations to Revered. Initially, this achievement will award a rylak mount: the Soaring Skyterror, one of the native beasts that roam Draenor’s skies. Players will remain ground-bound on Draenor until a small follow-up patch (6.2.x), when all players who have earned Draenor Pathfinder on at least one character will unlock the ability to fly in Draenor on all their level 90+ characters.

We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.

The blog post that I found the developer link in was ecstatic (to put it mildly) about the developers finally relenting and allowing flight in Warlords of Draenor, but my response to the announcement is a bit more tepid, if not outright QQ or open rebellion.

I already paid for flight.  Multiple times. I’ve already earned flight, multiple times. Flight should not be an endgame perk. That’s it, that’s all I have to say. I should be able to fly all the time on all my characters because flight is part of the game, not an endgame perk.  Not interested in playing a game that excludes flight. Flight was my goal from the moment I started playing in Burning Crusade and I resent having it taken from me each and every time a new version of the game comes out.

If that’s the way this game is going to be into the future then I really don’t have any interest in playing it any longer.

In Burning Crusade there was always the possibility of being attacked and killed while in flight, even though it was an endgame achievement in that expansion, flying was not without risk. You learned this with multiple deaths and frustrating runs back to your corpse. Frustrating runs are the problem in any game composed of impassable terrain, whether alive or dead as a character.  Limiting travel to the ground does not make ground travel any more enjoyable if there isn’t a direct route from questgiver to goal and back again.

Ghosts fly. Why can’t my ghost fly in game? Why force negotiation of terrain when you are dead and have no mass, no reason to be held to the ground at all? My ghosts could fly in Cataclysm, so could all my toons fly, fly for the entire length of that expansion. One of the few (very few) things I liked about Cataclysm. But that is beside the point.

The best thing about the Nagrand zone in Warlords of Draenor is having the corral and being able to fight while mounted. Combine the corral with flight through all of Draenor, and you have the ideal playstyle for the game I thought Blizzard was working towards way back when I started playing. The playstyle I envisioned? Battle while mounted and in flight.  There was even a quest in Burning Crusade, a repeatable daily, that required you to ride and do battle on a flying mount. On your regular flying mounts, not some silly vehicle interface as was added into the game in later expansions.

I really don’t care that some people don’t want to fly, or that the programmers or developers don’t want to develop a game that includes flight.  I’m not interested in a game that reserves flight to some endgame travel perk that isn’t part of the game’s regular mechanics. If that is the game they are intent on developing, then I’ve been playing the wrong game for all these years.

Would have been nice to know that sooner.

I am most definitely not interested in another long, long, looong grind to gain three reputations, completing all the quest content and finding 100 treasures in the game just to be able to use the mounts I purchased for this game in regions added to this game. If they weren’t going to allow people to fly from the beginning and are only now adding flight back in, why are they making flying mounts for this game?

If players really don’t want to fly, why do they buy flying mounts?  It certainly isn’t because they look good running.  Give us flight and stop toying with us.  Stop expecting us to spend more and more time in the game grinding just to be able to do the most basic things in the game. It’s silly and self-defeating.  I have no idea how anyone who has a life outside of WoW can even play the game as it is currently structured.  It takes days of work just to get basic stuff done on one toon. More time for this one game than most people are willing to invest, in my experience. The problem is not that this game is too easy or that the rewards are just handed out. The problem is very much the reverse.


What I’ve started to notice is there is an adversarial relationship in place between the employees at Blizzard and the customers that play their games.  This is quite obvious when you look at the amount of work required just to be able to get errors in the program reported, much less fixed.

At least there is a suggestion box and a bug report form in the game now. Why an online game wouldn’t have had this kind of feature from the beginning of the game rather than introduced many years down the road is just another example of Blizzard not actually being interested in feedback from the player community.

If Blizzard was smart they’d give gold out like candy. Gold for tickets opened.  Gold for suggestions. Gold for bugs reported. Gold for every complaint. Nothing soothes the soul like free stuff, and the best free stuff is currency you can use to buy other stuff in the game, from a developers perspective. But they don’t do that. What they do is punish players like yours truly for offering suggestions, pointing out bugs, agitating for change.

As it stands right now I am not allowed to reopen my own tickets because apparently I’m a nuisance player and don’t like hand waving explanations that really don’t explain anything. So after I reopened a ticket about a dozen times, I find myself suddenly unable to do that and Blizzard’s customer service blithely ignoring my questions about why my tickets cannot be reopened. I’m treated in this fashion for pointing out bugs in the game, rather than being rewarded for bringing their attention to something that isn’t working correctly.

I still haven’t seen the Hearthstone decks that the last bug I stumbled across cost me. Was not rewarded in any fashion for reporting the bug, documenting the bug, reporting the bug fixed.  That took real time and was the main reason I ended up abandoning the Hearthstone tournament I was in at the time.  Can’t win if you can’t get new cards.  Effort should be rewarded, even if that effort isn’t directly in-game. We all are not just happy to be here.  Some of us like a bit more appreciation for our participation than that.


I now have no less than 4 claw weapons for my Orc Shaman.  This is odd, because my Shaman has never used claw weapons, fist weapons, etc; because my shaman utilizes the correct specialization, elemental.  I know that the enhancement Shaman are convinced that their superior DPS means that enhancement is the only way to go, but mace and shield are the weapons for my shaman who is first and foremost a spell caster, so the melee loving enhancement shaman can go melee somewhere else.

Except that Blizzard broke elemental specialization in Warlords of Draenor. They made lightning bolt another spell that can only be cast while standing still, just like all other casters must stand still while casting. But not only must I stand still to cast all my spells unless activating spiritwalker’s grace in advance, the weights of the different spells have all be altered, making it virtually impossible to be effective in a fight while in elemental spec.

The game knows this.  When my poor shaman is granted one of the rare rewards of epic weapons, inevitably the weapon that is handed to her is one for healing or enhancement. Only once has she won a shield and a mace in the entire length of Warlords of Draenor.  She has gotten many, many times that number of fist weapons and staves, more than I can count.   So it is clear that Blizzard wants me to change to enhancement specialization just like all the other shaman I meet.

I could elaborate, in detail, what I’d like Blizzard developers to do with these claw weapons. Could elaborate in graphic, bloody, disemboweling detail, before I’d be willing to even contemplate changing to enhanced specialization.  Or Blizzard could just fix the elemental specialization. Maybe make all casters able to cast and move in the process, since they’ve decided that standing in one place and casting spells is too easy.

Every single fight in this game requires constant movement to avoid ground effects and insta-kill blows. Spell casters still have to stand and cast for several seconds at a time leaving them vulnerable to all kinds of damage if they want to actually do any damage themselves.  Why is this true of casters and not melee?  There is no answer for this aside from that is the way it has always been. Seems to me that magic is, ya-know, magic as in, not actually governed by any hard and fast rules.  So let casters move and cast all the time, or stop making every fight a Charlie Foxtrot of multiple effects and threats that can only be survived by running like hell constantly.


The problem with most expansions I’ve ever played for any game is that the developers run out of ideas for new things they can do with the game.  It’s understandable, especially in a game that is more than 10 years old and has required the developers to reinvent the game every two years or so.

But there is a distinct difference between doing something new and relabeling something old and calling it new.

Case in point, the new stats on characters introduced with Warlords of Draenor are just previously existing stats relabeled as other things. This doesn’t mean that the stats are weighted the same and that if you just know what the old label was you can apply the old weights to the new.  No, they did more work than that, but just barely.

What I’m saying is that they reshuffled the stat weights and renamed a few of them just to force the old players to relearn playstyles, stats and spell rotations rather than actually doing something different with the game. Different as in, say, letting us fight while mounted.  Attack opponents from the back of a fire-breathing dragon, perhaps.

I may be flight obsessed; but in my defense, I do know what I like.

(Posted in part on the World of Warcraft forum here. Don’t hold your breath on it still being there.  I have a track record with the moderators there)