On Quotas

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I just read that a Classic WoW tech lead developer (Brian Birmingham, pictured) “Left Blizzard […] under protest” after refusing to give a lower than deserved evaluation to one of his  subordinates’ performance review in order to fill quotas.  Let me unpack that for you so that you understand … that this kind of evaluation process is evil.

So, it works like this.  At my company, you could get a ranking from one (worst) to five (best). One was “recommended for termination” and Five was “recommended for promotion.”  Three, as you might expect, was the general average rating (recommended for retention).  I personally was always happy with a 3 as I felt I wasn’t really exceptional – just a grinder, grinding away, and moving one day to the next.

Now the trick was, upper management and HR determined that you could have no more than x employees at a 5, y at a 4, and so on.  A variant of this is, of course, that you must have between x and y percent of your team in each bucket.  But let’s simplify to illustrate with this example.

  • 1% 5 – recommended for promotion
  • 4% 4 – recommended for advancement
  • 85% 3 – recommended for retention
  • 4% 2 – recommended for remediation
  • 1% 1 – recommended for termination

This is, I again emphasize, an oversimplified example but illustrates the situation quite clearly.  It’s not that you can’t have MORE than 1% as a 5 or a 1, for example – it’s that you are REQUIRED to have that number.

This is called rating stacking, and basically means that every team is competing against themselves for performance ratings.

But what if you have a really great team? I mean, sure, we all realize it’s competitive and they are competing against each other, but if they’re all great employees then why would you want to fill that lower 5%? Imagine you’re the unlucky one that is performing objectively well, but comparatively worse than others on your team?  You still want to keep the guy. But due to quota buckets, you have to put them in a 1 (recommended for termination) or 2 (recommended for remediation).

This is what Birmingham refused to do, and I applaud his moxie.  His unemployed moxie, that is, because Blizz just canned his ass and transferred his team under someone that they expect will be more pliable (especially considering the example of Brian right under their nose).

Again, I want to emphasize that I have no insight into Blizzard’s managerial playbook, but I recognize the performance eval type and absolutely loathe it, and know how it works to a point.

Apparently, Brian refused to continue to work under these conditions, and intended to resign, but was fired instead. Joke’s on them, that makes him eligible for unemployment (a fund he has been contributing to all his time there, so essentially he at least gets his own money back).  There are reportedly other managers there that asked if they could be assigned a ‘2’ so that one of their people could avoid it (they were denied).

To me, Brian is a Hero of the Revolution, even if the Revolution hasn’t quite happened yet.  I wish him Godspeed, and hope the rotten-ass managers that pushed him out get flea infestations in their public hair.

By the way, I can pretty much guarantee that there will soon be layoffs at Blizz, and that this “tool” will be used to guide who gets the axe. This is really what it’s all about.

It’s the Eleventh Annual Finding Jaina Day

It is the time of year that we celebrate the finding of Jaina, our little Bearcat, The Cat That Lived.  Diagnosed with FIP, she was expected to die within weeks of finding, but she bucked the diagnosis (i.e. it was WRONG) and continues to flourish to this day, eleven years later on December 21.

As is traditional, we’ll talk about her cohort, as well.  I’ve added a new flourish to that, as we apparently have three groups of cats to discuss now, and I’m using The Expanse as my model.

  • Inners are the cats that live inside full-time, including Jaina.
  • Dusters are the kitties that spend time both inside and out, such as Noodle and Monster.
  • Beltalowdas are the kitties that won’t come in, are too skittish to trust us that far.

Inners

Jaina 2022-12-20First of all, let us discuss Jaina. Last year we took her to the vet due to hair and whisker loss, and The Vet diagnosed allergies, and gave her a shot. I am happy to report that that made a huge difference, and even addressed her cough. Alas, the cough is returning now after nearly a year, so we’ll probably need to take her back in.  Sorry, vet techs. She’s brutal on vet techs.

Otherwise, she’s still in the same mental space as previously. She has three or four favorite spots to sleep at night. Right now, she’s taken to sleeping next to my pillow, which I just adore. She also still hates Tater like nothing else, but has started getting antagonized by Washburn as well, and will go after Zoey under certain circumstances.

The most remarkable thing about her is that she is now the second-most senior cat here.  How’d that happen?

Petey 2022-12-20The most senior cat, Petey (aka Repeat) has become more and more frail looking, but still conducts himself as the Alpha Cat in these here parts. He is very much Mommy’s Boy and will spend hours sleeping on her desk, adoring her whether awake or asleep. Every night, he comes to bed and spends the night cuddled up to her. He’s close to 18 years old now. Not bad for a country boy. After all these years, he still believes he’s the Boss Cat, and most of the other cats buy into it.

Butterscotch 2022-12-20Butterscotch AKA Professor Jiggly continues to be quite mellow about no longer being an outside cat.  We were worried that when we moved here, he would want to continue to be an outside cat, but he was quite content with Inner Life, though occasionally he does give a wistful look out a window or door, so we’re cautious opening doors in his proximity. He has no problem asserting himself, but doesn’t push the issue, either.

Wash 2022-12-20Wash and Zoey still continue to be happy we adopted them. Wash does miss being able to hang out in the sewing room, which is now the daughter’s bedroom. Zoey however has adopted our bathroom and we just don’t put towels on the lower shelf of the towel rack any more. She also enjoys licking the shower after someone uses it. Cats are weird, yo. Speaking of which, Wash does insist on us turning on the sink for him in the morning, because water poured into a bowl will just not do.

Tater 2022-12-20Finally, Tater continues to mellow out. She has attacked me far fewer times this year – whether it’s because she’s becoming less stressed, or that I’ve adopted a more cautious approach to her, is hard to say.  She does continue to come tuck us in at night, making a big plate of biscuits one or more times a night. and sometimes settling in for a nap in between us.  She continues to have a most glorious set of whiskers.  While she’s a bit of a chonker, it seems to be less flab and more just the body type. Our little psycho cat, incarnate.

Dusters

Monster 2022-12-20Monster continues to be friendly, and will spend many a night inside sleeping with either of us. She’s very clear on when she wants out, though, and usually delivers a request to be released around 4:30 in the morning. Fortunately I am very good at getting up, letting the cat out, and falling directly back into slumber.

Noodle 2022-12-20Noodle continues to be a success story. He spends most days inside with us, only going outside to bask from time to time. He, too, is very good at letting us know what he wants (food, pets, or out). We did get him fixed, so he is no longer a menace to society, as it were. He is a lovely little man, a gentle soul, and a most affectionate fellow. The funniest thing about him is when he comes to tell me he wants out at night. Note, I said me. He’ll jump up on the bed, stand on my chest, and inform me.  I’m his person, I guess, so when he wants something, I’m who he comes to see.  I just never expected it to be that personal.

Gremlin 2022-12-20From one of Stripe’s previous litters, Gremlin has become fairly comfortable coming in and hanging out with us. She  has a most amusing voice, kind of an Old Lady meow rather than what most people consider normal. It cracks me up listening to her vocalize, sometimes.  We were able to get her fixed, too. Recently, she has spent her nights sleeping on the ottoman. We hope this is a trend. She’s become a bit of a little terror, to the point that Monster will not walk past her if she’s in the doorway.

Scooter 2022-12-20Another one from Stripe’s previous litter, Scooter, has also grown accustomed to coming in and spending time with us. She has possibly the biggest eyes I have ever seen in a kitty.  She loves sleeping in the kitty beds we have set up next to Mrs Grimm’s desk, which we count as a win and a blessing. I named her Scooter because she doesn’t seem to have a slow speed setting. She just zooms everywhere.

Pip and Merry are an odd pair. Merry recognizes me as  an interesting person, but does not like to be touched. Her sibling, who we named Pip (short for Pipsqueek, which didn’t pan out for reasons) has settled into the Duster lifestyle, and is fairly friendly to our nefarious agenda. She’s spending nights with us from time to time as well. She’s one of those odd ones that prefers kibble to gooshy, and I think that’s one reason she grew so big.

Beltalowdas

Scooter’s littermate, Poof, is quite aloof, though she will talk to me when looking for foods. She has the most amazing blue eyes.  We got her fixed at the same time as Scooter, too. Sadly, she isn’t very social.

Her mom, Stripe, is still not fixed. She is wiley and has been difficult to trap. She has since had another litter and they are currently getting used to us, so we have high hopes of at least getting them fixed.

We really haven’t given those two proper names yet, but we call them High Brow and Low Brow because of the colorations on their heads. I’m fairly certain the former is female, but haven’t had a good look for harbles on the latter. The fact that the father hasn’t chased it off is a fairly good indication that it is also probably female.  Both kittens have what might  eventually be floofy tails, and signs of becoming fairly large, much like Pip.

Finally, there’s the daddy of them all, Goblin. He’s fathered all of the Dusters and Beltalowdas (well, we’re still uncertain of Monster’s litter since she’s so unlike the rest). When it comes to male children, he’s quite the jerk, and with his female progeny, he’s also a bit of a jerk but only in as much as he wants to procreate with everything cat-like.  We did manage to capture him once but when we did we also captured two other cats in the same cage and I was afraid he’d kill the other two if I didn’t open the cage, so if we didn’t get him fixed I’ll take the blame on that one.

Goblin is big, beat-up, scarred, but, at least to his kittens, a good daddy. I’ve seen him hungry as hell sit off to the side while the kittens eat their fill. He looks like someone hit him with the Ugly Bat a few times but he is, in his own way, a loving daddy. Hard not to love someone like that.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Every cat that I have described has no intrinsic value, and, yet, is valued uniquely. The Inners have a unique relationship with their humans. The Dusters, likewise, and the Beltalowdas as well, have unique relations with us.

The people that run the shelters might have no idea of the unique relationships between their charges and the people that adopt them. And, yet, I have to tell you, these people I support without hesitation. These are the people on the street. The people that are doing the work. If you are at all able, give your money to the local feral control and adoption agencies. Please.

See you next year, for the 12th celebration of our little bearcat.

Inscription: where is it going, what is it doing, and why is the rum gone

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I write this on the eve of the 2nd phase of the pre-patch roll-out, presumably with more pre-patch events.

The profession of Inscription has taken a drastic turn, but I have to say that most of that turn has nothing to do with the pre-patch, but rather the AH merging of commodities several weeks ago now.

Let me be more precise.

First of all, let’s recall how money making in Inscription works.

  • First, you determine how many inks you will need to produce your glyphs.
  • Then, you determine the best herb to buy and mill for maximum yield of necessary pigments (umbral, in this case) to support the creation of glyphs.
  • Then, you create said glyphs and sell them for a fixed percentage over cost of manufacture.  Basic economics, there, chief.

Since the introduction of the multi-realm commodity auction house, prices of herbs have crashed. Generally, what was hovering around 4g per, is now hovering around 1g per.

That’s a good thing, right?

Well, there’s a mirror to that, and that is that the cost of producing glyphs is likewise commoditized. Glyphs are also a commodity (stackable) across the same realms, so the sell price has in this case crashed.  Where we had a comfortable, sustainable market in glyphs (even though they were 100% cosmetic as opposed to functional), now it’s a market operating on razor-thin margins. And this is a problem.  Previously, Inscription was a very sustainable way to make gold with out really trying. Now, it’s starting to look a lot like work.

Now, I am not going to start freaking out just yet.

First of all, we are in the flux period between expansions. The Old is fading, the New has not begun. It is probable that there will be an increase in sale prices for glyphs once the new herb (and therefore the new inks, and therefore the new currency for ink traders) settles in.  That will not be a data point we can measure until 2022-11-28.

But let’s not forget the original source of this issue, that being the merging of commodity items into whatever realm “grouping” you might be in. That is the  existing cause of the market crash for glyphs, and I really don’t see it just going away for DF.  So, counter-point, the new market emerges with higher prices for glyphs, but also higher cost for mats and thus not much positive action for profits.

I had had hopes that Inscription would get a new coat of paint in this expansion. Sadly, I think the core crafting changes pretty much ruled out any fundamental changes to Inscription, which is unfortunate. While I feel we should move Inscription back from a cosmetic to a functional craft (similar to, but co-existing with enchanting), I understand that that will take a little bit of planning and such to implement. I just hoped it would be now. We already had our move from the broken tier system for talents, I figured, why not have glyphs re-enter the stage as enhancements on abilities, similar to how enchantments are enhancements on items.

At this points I run out of words, as even the PTR does not present me with options relevant to Dragonflight, but rather it is still anchored to Shadowlands and the old crafting system. I am not worthy of Beta, which, to be fair, I am not actively seeking, either. I have a moral code. But it is at moments like this that it all falls apart.

But currently, it appears that Inscription in Dragonflight will be identical to that in Shadowlands. Sure, the pigments and inks will be different, but it will still boil down to herbs –> inks –> ink trader –> glyph.  Now, for a couple of expansions the ink trader went AWOL without any forthcoming explanation, so it is not outside of possibility that the ink trader in Oribos will remain the MVP of Inscription for the next 18 months or however long it takes. I hope not. I hope many things in this regards, but, in all honesty, it really looks like we’re being sent to the back row for this expansion – possibly even worse.

I keep eating Crow because it’s so Darned Tasty

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Well, it’s official. Tuesday, October 25, 2022 is the date that the first of two (?) pre-patches dropped for the next expansion, Dragonflight.

And I cannot be more pleased to be wrong about it.

More specifically, I had grave doubts about the release date for Dragonflight – “by the end of 2022” – and figured if they didn’t have a prepatch by mid-November, they’d miss the date. And, as you can no doubt tell, they made that date, with a month to go, even. So basically here in the last week of October, even, we are with a prepatch all loaded up.

I cannot understate how much this says in favor of the dev team and the ops team together.  They’ve pulled off something quite unusual for Blizzard.

Now … it’s not perfect. As many have said, there are bugs. Many bugs. Although the way some are treating this, “it’s unprecedented and therefore Blizzard have failed”. This fits their chosen narrative so of course. Some people (see link) haven’t had anything kind to say about WoW in years, so we’ll not act surprised when they find the dark lining in a silver cloud. Again. Right, Elliot?

(Seriously, there’s busting Blizz’ balls because upper management are a bunch of anti-union fuckweasels, and there’s constantly harping on WoW because they’re perceived as the big boys in the genre and thus the Scrappy Little Blog can claim to be Speaking Truth to Power like the red-blooded patriots they think they are. I’m good with the former. Not the latter. Be better. Git gud.)

BUT … considering the timeline, considering the gargantuan amount of work that had to go into this, Dev and Ops did a pretty good job.

It is true, there are bugs.  But I’ve seen this for every prepatch for years.  Hell, listen up, you pups, I remember when BC came out and people entering Hellfire Citadel caused Wetlands to crash.  You wanna talk bugs? Let’s talk bugs!  Haha.

It’s gonna be a few days, is all I’m saying.  It’s going to take a while to get the core system cleaned up, and it’s gonna take a while to get all the addons working.  Some may not come back at all. Some won’t need to.

A propos, here’s a brief catalog of some of the issues thus far.

  • GupPet is dying on an obscure (to me) UI error. It may not be back. I’m pretty much at my limit here and may just punt and load up BeStride, which is still maintained and works fine.
  • TSM is having issues both posting and buying.  And crafting. And … well, it hates the rest of WoW.
  • Speaking of crafting, TSM and Skillet are both having issues in that regard.  The new crafting UI may be somewhat usable but you have to disable TSM first (it got better).
  • Dominoes is totally busted, but if you can make the new default UI work for you, you may not miss it.  About 90% of Domino’s features are in the new UI.  I’m not 100% sold yet but it does look promising. It would be really nice if I could move the experience bar, bags, and system buttons, though. (Really, guys? Really??)

Right now I have like 60% of my addons disabled, including ElvUI (however, that’s just to see if I can make the default UI work out).

But, bottom line, this is about where we’ve always been three days after a new pre-patch. I’m not Nostradummus but I’m willing to say that this whole thing will be good to go by launch day.

Then again, I’m the idiot that said they’d probably not be ready by the end of the year, so …

The lamentations of their goblins

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The “big” change in WoW 9.2.7 was the roll-out of regional commodity sales on the Auction House.

Lemme splain.

Commodities are WoW items that are generally used or bought and sold in bulk.  For example, metals used by smithys, herbs used by alchemists, and so forth.  In some cases this also applies to the things produced from them, such as glyphs, potions, bandages, and so forth.

Prior to this patch, linked regions shared auctions for non-commodity items.  This patch basically made the sale of commodity items work across the same regions.

Turns out that didn’t work out the way they thought it would.

Actually, I don’t know how they thought it would work out, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t the way it turned out to work.

First, let’s separate the functioning of addons from the actual functioning of the AH. There’s always a bit of lag there, especially if the addon author doesn’t test things on the public test realm (PTR) first.

Even so, given the circumstances, the live data was not available on the PTR, so any testing over there was what my QA friends call “Sunny day testing”. This is term used to describe testing of scenarios under the best of circumstances, usually said in a scornful manner, and rightfully so.  If there’s a “least you can do” in this scenario, then what the PTR represents is at least two orders of magnitude less.

Let me define that “less” a little more clearly. Imagine, if you will, that the PTR has 200 or so commodity auctions for a certain item.  Okay, fine. The actual system, at least for the connected realm region that I am part of, was showing over 700,000 commodity auctions alone when they rolled the patch out. That’s at least three orders of magnitude difference between the test and live servers. And that’s an order of magnitude greater than the production servers were experiencing prior to this patch.

And boy oh boy did that make a huge impact.

By the end of the second night, for example, Blizz decided that they could no longer deliver commodity data to websites and applications over the same channel that they delivered everything else, and opened a new API endpoint just for commodities.  Unfortunately, the AH doesn’t get to use that. But that does give you a small idea of what kind of issues they were facing. 

Oh, and did I mention that Blizz completely shut down the AH at least twice in the past week?  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen.

All of this due to a lack of testing of real data and “sunny day” assumptions in testing both at Blizz and on the PTR.

Now, the manifestation on the client side (i.e. in WoW itself) was that, for a time, it was nearly impossible to buy commodities. Items would appear on a search, for example, but by the time you clicked on them to buy, they were already gone.  At this point in time, addons such as TSM are nearly unusable to purchase popular mats (such as Death Blossom, as an example, which is very popular with Scribes because of the excellent yield of Umbral pigments).

In fact, I still cannot use TSM to buy Death Blossom, though I can at last buy it using the native interface which had been hit and miss up until now (a week after the 9.2.7 patch).

I’m skipping around the brutal reality of this change, though, so let’s face the music.

I can use a the previous example of Death Blossom as a benchmark.  Prior to the patch, it was running around 3g per item. After the patch, it’s running 1.5g per item.  This kind of price collapse for commodities is fundamentally happening across the board – enchanting mats, milling and alchemy mats, metals … and of course, the items derived from them, such as glyphs, potions and flasks, and so forth.  On the Alleria server, at least, we are looking at a universal price collapse over all disciplines, all professions.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what their expected result was, but they clearly didn’t intend that – or maybe they did, which means they are more bastardly than I expected. But I suspect that since Blizz tends to cater to unsavory characters – and you can’t get more unsavory than AH goblins – this was not the desired result.

That said, if they intend to fix this, then it looks like to me that they need to analyze each realm’s regional commodity market, and then shuffle some realms into different regions to stabilize this.

In the end, this will turn out to be a waiting game, in which the winners will be those that wait and see and then adjust appropriately. In my experience, this will require at least two, maybe as many as four, weeks to stabilize.

See ya then.

Ouch!

imageWelp, I got played.

A couple of days ago, TSM – an addon for auctions, among other things lost its data feeds.  These data feeds provide information about item pricing on the auction houses of specific realms.

This data is fetched live by a desktop utility which, incidentally, also keeps your addon up to date for you.  So the expectation is that, when the game launches, the data that the desktop tool fetched is waiting for it.

Now, normally when the feeds die, the addon refuses to function, or at least it refuses to do auction-related functions that rely on that data(1) without a very noticeable notification.  But this time, what we saw was that TSM threw an error when we logged in, and some – but not all – auctions that rely on TSM data feeds refused to post, or be cancelled, through the addon.

What I did not realize at the time was that some auctions were posting even though they relied on data feeds.

Now, there was an indicator in the AH window that there was a problem with the data feeds, but the desktop app insisted the feeds were up to date – though I noticed that they were last updated over 24 hour ago.

Anyway, unknown to myself, as I said, some of these dependent auctions were allowed to go through. But due to the vagarities of how the defaults were set up for these auctions (with a category called “dump” you can probably guess the nature of those vagarities) some of these auctions posted for less than 10g or, in one case, 1g.  These auctions were for items that were normally priced around 25,000 to 100,000 GP.

Now, I’m not going to point fingers here.  Ultimately, the driver is responsible for plowing into the side of a school bus full of kindergarteners. And I took out, metaphorically, about 10 busses. I took the defaults. I was lazy. I did not react to obvious danger signs. This was 100% on me.

But it is vexing – vexing! – that TSM has multiple publication channels and yet none of them were updated regarding this. Their blog was last updated in March. The Twitter feed, April. I don’t live on Discord(2) but just posting on Discord is insufficient and, not to put too fine a point on it, lazy.

So, yes, I do take full responsibility for losing around 200Kg in one night, but TSM bears responsibility for not being up-front about what just happened. 24 hours after this incident, nothing. It’s not like you can blame my computer. I am the master of this ship and know what happened on it. So let’s not go there and make TSM’s maintainers look stupid(3).

The main cause of this loss is something called “sniping”. This is an AH practice that involves finding ludicrously undervalued auctions and snapping them up to resell at the market value, which happens to be far higher – thus, a profit. You may think this is not something that happens a lot, but, in fact,  it does. In fact, it happens so often that TSM actually has a “sniper mode” built in. “Goblins” are expected to be “snipers” because Mammon forbid if they were portrayed as fucking geeks with fucking spreadsheets that happened to notice that something sorted lower than usual.

Listen, I loathe the concept of Sniping but I really don’t have a beef with them. Normally. In this, an abnormal situation, they ate my lunch. Good show. Go you. I still, unexpectedly, have no beef. Listen, in a month, I’ll have recovered all losses and then some. I knew these fuckers existed, and planned around it – based on known solid, accurate information(4), and my plan, as it were, is basically let them go do their thing while I focus on the long game. That has not changed.

Have lessons been learned? You bet your hairy ass they have. I will in the future be less cavalier in posting auctions when there are any indications at all that my AH addon is malfunctioning. For the simple reason that I can no longer trust that the people that maintain it and its infrastructure are doing so in good faith. And, if I notice that the data feeds are over 24 hours out of date? Best practice is probably to wait a day before doing any auction-related activities. This is something that would be de rigueur when, for example, transitioning from one expansion to the next. But In the middle of all the shit, with no expansion or even content patch? Unexpected.  At best.

I’ve been pwnt. Well played, pwner. You goblins got your pound of flesh. I’ll keep the metric ton of fleshage, though. Carry on. I am playing the long game. And I will be here long after this event. Regardless.


  1. It’s possible to do so, but it’s not the default.
  2. Discord is not an archive.  #IYKYK
  3. Somebody please tell me they aren’t stupid
  4. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

Talented

Prayer of Mending

Following up on some mock-ups, Blizz has started releasing information about the new talent trees for Dragonflight.

The first one that got my interest was Priest – I suck at the first two that they released, and that’s okay, folks, try not to be so judgey.

But I truly perked up and came into my own when they released the specs for Hunter – and WoWHead added it to their simulator (1).

This is not your daddy’s talent tree

First of all, let’s be clear – the talent trees of Cata and earlier are not going to happen. This is a new thing.

There are four key differences.

  1. There are actually two talent trees, with two “pools” of talent points to draw from. One which is just $class, and one which is relevant to your designated specialization – for Hunters, that is Beast Master, Survival, and Marksman, for example.
  2. In case it was not clear, each Specialization has its own talent tree, plus a generic $class tree.
  3. As you may have gathered from (1), there is none of this nonsense of going into a different spec’s talents for a specific talent.
  4. There are a LOT more talents to choose from, roughly 30-ish for each talent tree (class and specialization), for a real possibility of some fine-grained differentiation(5).

Okay, let me ‘splain (2) a bit. Let me ‘splain it in BM Hunter terms.

Back in The Old Days™, we’d go into the Survival spec to get a specific talent (Clever Traps, if you’re interested) and otherwise focus on BM talents.  In the case of Dragonflight talent trees, this is not a possibility – you can’t ‘borrow’ talents from Survival. However, since several talents have been mainlined as simply “hunter” this may change things a bit. Though I don’t see Clever Traps as a talent in the generic pool, that doesn’t mean that that won’t be the case at release date, or that we can’t effectively reach that same outcome with what we have in the “Hunter” tree.

The same applies to other classes as well, though the only one that I am interested in so far is Disco Priest. Yes, I do run an Outlaw Rogue, but since I suck at Outlaw Rogue, I am going to keep my big mouth shut on that topic and stick to what I know.

Disco Priest

To start with, Disco has the Disco again, baby. Prayer of Mending has become a baseline Priest ability, and I am all a-tingly over this. I mean, it’s not even an OPTION, you just get it as a priest. I don’t care if I have to share it with Holy and Shadow(3), I am just happy to have it back.

Long-term Beef Time. Ever since they relieved Disco priests of the ability to fling the Frisbee(2) around, I have been pretty emo about it. Disco without the Disco is just wrong.  Disco priests should be flinging the frisbee around, and if you don’t agree, feel free to go play FFIV or whatever that’s called. I’ll be here to accept your apology when you come crawling back. And you will.

Anyhoo. I’m sure at this point that there is someone out there dunking on me mentally because I am sooooo hyperfocused on Disco. And that’s fine. I am. Get over it. There was a time that I found Disco / Shadow to be an interesting and provacative dual spec, but once they made Disco survivable on its own, Shadow was kicked to the curb. Good luck being third-tier DPS, guys, I feel ya, but only a little bit since if you wanted to play Afflock you shoulda rolled Afflock. Which I did.

Cutting Cookies

I am not gonna prognosticate on the One True Way for Disco priest or BM Hunter. Not at this point. It’s clear that these talent trees are changing based on feedback, which is as it should be. But, also, I have little in the way to offer until I can actually bring up toons with these talent trees and test them.  I am not a mental theorycrafter. I am a grinder. A person that just grinds away at the work at hand until it is done. This was recently presented to me as a compliment, and I accept it in full appreciation of the perspective that informed it. There are people that excel at the theory and make it work for them, and there are people that try the theory out and iterate on it until it works.  That’s me. Put me in front of a training dummy, I’ll start to give you some decent real-world feedback. Show me a chart, I’ll tell you it’s pretty.

But I will say this. There will eventually be identified specific cookie cutter talent specs for every class. In some cases there will be multiples. I recall deeply the Destro Warlock variations of yore, which, I must be honest, basically were all the same on the combat logs, but it was great to  me to see that there were so many paths to excellence for Destro Locks at the time.

Let me be a bit less apocryphal, in the form of BM Huntery which I am the most invested in.

In the past, there were a couple of different routes to maximum effectiveness for BM hunters. One was a pure DPS spec. I’ve always been of the opinion that that spec was a poor substitute for a MM build that focused more on DPS than anything else, and was less effective. You wanna go MM, go MM, man. Ain’t no thang.

You may be asking, what is there to offer in a DPS spec, other than DPS? And the answer is, utility. This is an ill-defined term that can be used – or misused – in several ways. My own experiences in Karazhan are a good example, as exemplified by BRK’s own example. Basically, one of the things that classic BM Hunters excelled at was utility. You can see this in BRK’s video, which showed him using his pet as an off-tank for the sub-bosses in the Moroes encounter. Using his trapping and pet, he was able to occupy one of those four adds while assisting the rest of the team in burning down the others one at a time. As I mentioned earlier, Clever Traps figures into this largely. BRK was my BM daddy, I admit it. I was nowhere near as competent at this dance as he was, but, given his example, I volunteered to fill that role in the raid, and I more or less fulfilled it. (we will not discuss That Time Grimmy Pulled The Whole Room)

So like I said, there are some cookie-cutter aspects to this, Fer Shur. But I ask you, in the current system,  how is that not also true? The whole cookie cutter thing is a red herring. 

PS: A few days after I started writing this, I saw one of our “premier” MMO blogs posting about why the new talents were Bad and the tiered talents were Good. Ignoring, of course, that if something with 45,000 possible combinations could be cookie-cutter’d, then something with 30 possible combos could, as well, and would be 10000x more likely to be.  But I is not a Big Time Professional Blogger so please ignore me.

Can’t Get There from Here

One thing I’ve noticed from the talent trees is that you can’t get all the top-tier talents, at all. You can get, generally, two out of six or so, maybe three but I’m thinking that won’t happen unless you’re super-focused on those top-tier talents. This in a way simulates one of the features of the Classic trees, in that you had to make some choices along the way and that pretty much set your “specialty”. Nowadays, Blizz is more “tell don’t show” in their approach so rather than having your choices determine your specialty, your specialty determines your possible choices. Funny ol’ world.

I like it

At this time, in this place(4), I like what I see. Sure, there are many unanswered questions, such as:

  • Fluidity – as in, right now, the talent trees presented may change. That’s fine. Alpha is kinda like that, troopers.
  • Changing specs – will WoW preserve our builds, or will we need an addon?
  • Will we be able to save and swap out builds, or will an addon be required?
  • Will Specialization be a thing in 11.0? Okay, maybe that’s a long game question. But with the new talent trees, maybe we just chuck that concept. Specializations are, after all, an artifact of the tiered talents we currently have.
  • What’s the 11.0 game? Will new talents be added or will the current trees be re-scaled in a form of “level squish” sort of operation?

Some of these questions are abstract, others more relevant to our upcoming experience within the next four and a half months. Most are along the lines of “will I need an addon to get around this possible issue?”, I guess.  There’s actually a lot of room for a good addon here, I suspect.  I doubt I have the skill to write it myself, though I can see its outline in my mind’s eye.

But overall I feel like this is a step in the right direction. A way to make talents interesting and applicable again. I mean, you can trot out all the arguments in favor of the “tiered” approach, but the relentless unremitting response will be, and always will be, NOBODY CARES. Imma go to Icy Veins and grab my talent specs and that’s the end, because there’s nothing there to tinker with.

I have in the past been critical of “the illusion of choice” vis-a-vis the Legion weapon trees which were not trees and really were not choices other than in what order you went. This here is a different animal, and, while it may devolve down to cookie cutters, there is still the potential to be an individual and blaze a trail, no matter HOW WRONG it might be. As a BM Hunter, Disco Priest, and Demo Warlock, I’m used to people choosing wrong, and forgiving them. It takes all kinds, folks.


  1. Be aware, there are pending changes to all specs. What you see is not what you get.
  2. Apologies if I got the link wrong. As previously stated, these things are fluid. Trying to link to future abilities is dicey. Always in motion, the future is.
  3. I am somewhat intrigued at what a Shadow version of the Frisbee might do.
  4. As of July 14, the alpha launched, and we are getting, as they say in Mexico, mucho feedback.
  5. There are actually more than 30, but you get more or less 30 points to spend in each tree.

Tick tock, motherfrakkers

image

It is currently July, 2022, and I am concerned about Blizzard’s sense of time.

Let me set the stage.

The next expansion was announced in April, 2022.

Given past performance, everybody with most of a brain expected a 2023 release date.

Yet, apparently, they posted Dragonflight to the Blizzard Store with a “released no later than December 31, 2022” date.

What does this mean to us?

Well, first of all, a little math.

Dec 31, 2022 release date means that the pre-release for Dragonflight, aka version 10.0, will be pushed to accounts around November 26, 2022. That’s right, a full six weeks before the commercial release date. Which is (does fast math) around four and a half months from now.

fast math

I am beyond belief that this is achievable.  Sure, they’ve bought an entire company. But, as of this date, July 11 2022, they have yet to roll out Alpha.

As of the date of this writing, it is mid-July.  If we were expecting a release by end of year 2022, I would expect the Beta to be in full swing. Blizzard’s past performance simply doesn’t jibe with this proposed release date. The only way I can see this working out is that there is yet another wrinkle that we haven’t yet perceived. Maybe they’ve changed how they do things for the testing cycle and we’ll see a game far closer to complete when Alpha rolls.  I have no idea. I am well known for having opinions, but in this case the tank is dry. I got nothing.

If you’re a player that plays the long game, you are going to have some decisions to make real soon now. In my case, I have a lot going on in the AH that will change when we hit a certain point before the pre-patch, as will hundreds of other Goblins. There is a point where you shift from “current patch” to “outgoing patch” mode.  A large part of that involves dumping things you were saving for use in crafting and so forth. As an example, Jasra keeps one full stack of each kind of cloth, dumping the rest on the AH.  Soon that will need to change to “just dump it all” until expansion rolls, at which point we shift that to a legacy mode because we’ll be collecting DragonCloth and Super DragonCloth.

So there’s a dance of sorts that will play out. The interesting part will be, do you bet on them rolling the pre-patch on time, or do you bet on them missing the date completely?  To a goblin, this is about maximizing profits, and the discussion about the expansion is only in terms of financial opportunities.

The next two months are going to be so very interesting, because if there aren’t significant events between now and then, the Scandal will be something around the lines of Suspected Missed Deadlines.

People that habitually generate drama wear me out. But apparently game companies doing same do not.  Go figure.

Deja Vu All Over Again

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If you play this game long enough you start to see things repeat themselves.

I don’t mean in-game, but in the Blogospheric Echo Chamber(1) that we all operate within. There are themes, observations, and opinions that keep coming back. Sometimes, even on the same blog.

I’ve been hard on myself, trying not to be one of those blogs, where occasionally I circle back onto a topic and retread it. Though, of course. when you’ve dropped as many words as I have over the last dozen or so years(2), you’re bound to hit on similar things eventually. Hell, I’ll wager that I’ve used the title of this article before(3).

That being said, one does expect other long-timers – as few of them left that still blog –  to also remember how things were and not start going on about how this is neat or that is bad without realizing that it’s nothing new.

The same can not be said for players that aren’t, exactly, new, but haven’t been here for the duration. Say, that guy that started playing as a Panda rogue and just now discovered something that old timers would recognize as a riff on Reforging, for example, but which they feel is a Significant Discovery.

It is hard not to be cynical about this. How it seems that the only thing that you can count on is that someone else is getting mileage off of something that you’ve seen others – or yourself! – writing about years ago.

But how can this be avoided? You can’t just yell at people to do better research. First of all, how would they? Are we literally expecting them to go back and re-read all of Big Red Kitty before having an opinion on Beastmastery Hunters?  I mean, assuming it was possible, which I don’t think it is?  Heck, you can’t even point people to go read back-issues of WoW Insider’s Guild Watch column to get an example of “your guild’s not as bad as you think, this shit was happening long ago.”

I don’t really have an answer. It’s not really feasible to take on the mantle of “rememberer of things” if nobody actually wants someone to do so. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen someone on The Internet say “Boy I sure wish there was somebody around that remembered how things actually were.” People are more invested in providing their own interpretations of how things were and will actually argue with someone that was THERE about how wrong they are. Talk about “alternate facts.”

Now, with some of the new features for Dragonflight, we’re getting Deja Vu. The new talent trees, as an example, are going to present some of the Same Old Problems and these are going to be run up the flagpole as Fresh New Scandal. As an example, I’m sure we’re going to see “cookie cutter” specs come out of this change, where people look up a spec on Noxxic or Icy Veins or WoWHead even, and use it rather than do the thinking for themselves.

Us Olds are gonna say yeah, seen it, done it, and it was fine. And besides, how were the previous tiers any different?  But yeah the kiddos not going to get it, or appreciate it, and, likely, resent that we’re even saying that.

Another thing, as @Marathal pointed out, is how some of the features of the new crafting resemble nothing less than the old Reforging feature, and remembering the big bruhaha over Ask Mr Robot’s role in demystifying that feature(4).

Nobody cares. Not that it happened before, nor that we remember.

Pepperidge Farm Remembers - Album on Imgur

Yeah yeah. Go back to sleep, old guy(8).

All that aside, there’s meat in them oysters, and I’m limbering up for some – at least personal – theorycrafting. I will not be competing with these young whippersnappers in that regard. They fancy with they slicked back hair and backlit keyboards and solar calculators. I can’t compete with that.

But maybe I can apply a bit of perspective as compared with what we had before. Though, as I’ve said, I doubt it will matter. If they’re too lazy to rez up a toon in TBC-Classic (or Wrath-Classic later this year) to see For Reals what it used to be like, then they’re not going to be interested with someone deconstructing their carefully constructed constructs of How It Was, I Just Know It.

The most annoying thing about this, if there is to be an annoying thing(5), is the possibility that Blizz is counting on this.  That there exists a Machiavellian intelligence at Blizz that thinks that, if only they get enough “churn” in the playerbase, they can pull off a revisit to old game systems without anyone calling them into question, because the ones that remembered that have either moved on to other things(6) or are so few in number that nobody really pays them any attention(7).  To them, it isn’t about loyalty – it’s about numbers. They don’t care that there are 1,000,000 loyal customers, only that there are 1,000,000 customers. Done and done.

You won’t find me in the “Blizz has a Machiavellian Intelligence” camp because I don’t think The Suits are that smart, but they’re good enough at Faking It that they will claim credit for anything, be it good or bad, just to make it look like they’re smarter than a lump of coal. You can go along with that if you want, but I’m voting for the lump.

=======

  1. You’ve seen it a lot even if you don’t know what to call it. One blog espouses something, then another riffs on that, and then another riffs on that, and so forth. Eventually you have fifty blogs all talking about the same thing, only different.
  2. Not gonna look, not gonna look …
  3. Not gonna look, not gonna look …
  4. Called out by some as “cheating”.
  5. And there always is, isn’t there?
  6. /waves to FFIX players
  7. Hi.
  8. Hey!

Damage Meters Considered Harmful

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/goto.png

For years I have labored under the sad assumption that Goto Damage Meters are Considered Harmful, and it has pissed me off collectively for at least 15 years, so, yeah, let’s have it out.

Assumption: Damage Meters are BAD!

The basic underlying argument is that damage  meters allow certain toxic individuals to make LFD / LFR a toxic wasteland and therefore are bad in and of themselves.

As an engineer this upsets me in a number of ways.

  • Damage meters are a source of data. And ONLY a source of data.
  • Data is intrinsically GOOD.
  • People that make damage meters a source of shame / hate or other kind of disrepute are the problem here, not the meters themselves.

Okay, that last point is pretty much the sole point of this article.  Which is:

People are BAD!

In that, people are the problem. Damage meters are software. People using software are the problem.

There are a lot of people advocating that there are mitigating circumstances but I disagree.  Here are my Ultimate Thoughts on the topic.

  1. Damage Meters provide data.  And only data.
  2. Actual people use that data to improve things in some way
  3. Not actual people (from here classified as trolls) use that data as a method to harass actual people.
  4. Some people support (2)
  5. Some people support (3)

In case it wasn’t clear, we support (2).

“Metrics”

Ultimately, damage  meters provide a way of gauging one’s performance. In engineering terms, “metrics”. And anyone opposing that kind of data is, ultimately, in my humble opinion, on the wrong side of the equation. Basically, I view that kind of person as less interested in improving things in general, and more interested in forwarding some sort of undisclosed agenda.

This argument resurfaces occasionally. People not very involved in the game, or people with no history, tend to re-discover this topic from time to time.  All I can say is, locate a classic WoW blog, look at their blogroll, and educate yourself before opening the mouth.  I welcome the opinion, but prefer that it be informed. Right now, there is a lot of bullshit flowing on a topic that has been settled for years (as in, so what?).