Be careful what you ask for

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It has been commented, by myself as well, that it’s not really cool to lock all of the interesting lore moments behind raids.

Not everyone raids, so it is quite often the case that non-raiders find themselves relying on blogs, videos, and other venues to find out what actually happened, to find out what key lore elements happened outside of their view. After a while, upon hearing that there was some awesome stuff going on in there, I’d roll my eyes and comment, bitterly, “welp, there’s more lore we don’t get to see” —  because, you know, our guild could barely raise the headcount for Karazhan, much less a 25-man, at its peak.  And we ain’t at our peak.

Well, it looks like Blizz has been listening, to some extent, because guess what we got in 8.2.5?  Exactly what we were asking for.

Only, I wonder if they took it just a bit too far.

Without giving anything away, there are a number of cutscenes and one cinematic that get played, and in between are a number of fairly inconsequential and completely trivial quests that stitch them all together.  It’s as if they said, “well, we can’t just play a series of cinematics, we best put something in between and call it content.”  You can virtually see the outlet that the phone that they used to phone it in was plugged into.

Maybe I was expecting something more grindy, or at least something we might have to put some effort into.

Lest anyone accuse me of being a sore winner, let me say right now that I am very glad that everyone, no matter how not into it they are, will have the skill level necessary to complete these quests.  So assuming they made it through the various gates along the way, everyone gets to see it.

But maybe, next time, put a little effort in, guys?  It should feel like an achievement! Otherwise, yes, just play the damned video.


So what do I think of the thing? It’s … interesting. It’s setting something up. No telling what. And the Horde is now in a bit of a tizzy … there was nothing in the post-cinematics that really indicates that they have much of a plan going forward.

I’m more concerned for the Night Elves. Tyrande is out there somewhere, Night Warrioring things up, and – without giving too much away – she doesn’t really have much in the way of resolution. OK, I’m actually more concerned about her. How long can she contain that power without going critical? Are we getting another heel turn here? Will she go mad and take out anyone in her way to her objective? Haven’t the Kaldorei suffered enough, Blizz?

The dot-3 release is generally speaking the final time-waster release for most expansions – assuming they get that far. It’ll be interesting to see how they intend to fritter away our time this time around, or maybe they have something new and exciting, such as an additional content patch.   But right now, I’m banking on old tried-and-true.

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Looks smaller from above

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One of the little secrets of Vanilla was that there were three Stormwinds.

There was the Stormwind you saw when you approached from outside.

There was the Stormwind you saw from within the city.

And there was the city you saw when flying by.

One gimmick they could pull off this way was to make Stormwind Keep look ENOURMOUS.  I’m not even sure what that is behind the gate – a hill? But at any rate, the thing fades into the mist from the streets outside the Trade District.  In Retail, it’s a lot less imposing, because in Retail, there’s only one Stormwind.  And that doesn’t allow them to engage in any of those nifty little tricks of perspective.

That’s mah Queen

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OK, technically she’s not a queen. But as a priestess of the Moon, this is who I follow. And it’s nice to see her back in her traditional garb.

I don’t know about you, but that gaudy crap they stuck her with near the end of Cataclysm was a farce.  Especially those boots, which made her look like she had amazing cankles.

This is much, much better.

What Classic gets right (or very wrong)

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been puttering around on my Hunter and Priest (started five levels apart) and really enjoying myself.  It’s painful, inconvenient, slow, grindy, and painful. And yet I have not felt at all unhappy about it.

We’re looking back at a version of WoW that had perfected the Skinner Box model without realizing it, or taking much trouble to hide it.

If you’ve never heard the term, “Skinner Box” is named after a psychologist that theorized a thing called an Operant Conditioning Chamber, which is a fancy way of saying that it trained animals using mostly positive reinforcement.  Push the right button, get a cookie.

In WoW, this is illustrated by the  nearly constant positive reinforcement mechanism that kicks in after level 10. Every time you level up, you get something, often many somethings. You always get a talent point. And sometimes you learn new spells or abilities.  If you’re a Hunter the phenomenon is doubled thanks to your pet.

Contrast this to BfA and Legion, where I believe it’s fair to say that aside from the changes to the core game at the start of the expansion, you gained nothing new.

Hell, the last time I got a new Talent is at level 100 – the end of WoD.

Did leveling up mean anything to you in Legion or BfA?  I mean, did they even lock out zones based on your level? (spoiler alert: they didn’t).

The modern niceties of modern WoW are sometimes a curse in disguise.  A game based on conflict that has basically greased the rails to max level doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Yet here we are.

But … about that Skinner Box thing.

The Skinner Box scenario is generally looked down upon by most “serious” gamers. It’s the perception that, instead of making a good game, the team has created a grindhouse in which you respond like … well, like a rat in a Skinner box.  Green light goes on, you hit the button. A pellet of food comes out. Green light comes on, hit the button again.  Eventually, what you’re conditioned to do is to press the button whenever you see a green light, and expect a pellet of food.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories about “sick culture” work places. It goes like this.

Imagine a cage. In that cage are five monkeys.  It’s a big cage, don’t worry.

Now, hang a banana in one end of the cage.

Now, whenever a money approaches the banana, ALL the monkeys in that cage get hosed with a firehose.

Eventually, you’ll train them to never approach the banana.

Now, replace one of the monkeys with a new one.

The new monkey will approach the banana.  But instead of hosing the monkeys, you let the trained monkeys do your work: they beat the hell out of the new monkey until he too won’t approach the banana.

Keep doing this until you’ve replaced all the monkeys, then do a complete rotation again.

Now, you have a cage full of monkeys that have never been hosed, but won’t approach that banana.

And if they could talk, and you could ask them why they won’t go near the banana, they’d probably tell you, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done things.”

I wonder if Blizz did us a favor by getting away from the Skinner Box approach?

And then one day … I got in

Kharanos

Behold, traveler: Kharanos!

I wasn’t foolish enough to attempt to log in on Classic on Day 1.  Following days, however, I’ve been checking to see if there was a queue. Today, I got lucky and managed to log in on my bebe Hunter.

Some observations:

  • The starter zone is a good facsimile of the original, but it has been nerfed a little bit.  Back in the day, you couldn’t cut right across the starter zone to deliver that beer, you’d get ambushed! That was the entire challenge of the fedex quests.  The zone changed, but the quests did not.
  • You REALLY miss the mapping enhancements we have now in Live.
  • Bebe hunters can still die.
  • That dead zone can diaf.
  • There are a surprising number of addons that work in Classic.

A note about that.  I’m still salty over that LFG addon – again, not planning on using it, but to see Blizz bend the knee to a bunch of gatekeepers that were howling over functionality that was there in Classic all along is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. That’s right, the difference between now and then is that somebody thought of it this time.

And the number of “not in classic” addons out there that NOBODY is whining about is amazing.  TBag and WeakAuras, for example. WA is a game-changer for me.  How long was it before TBag came along? IceHUD, one of my favorites.  Even TSM is trying to make a showing.

Point being, “the classic experience” isn’t the addons.  It’s being level 5 and barely having a silver to your name.  It’s having to look around for the right kind of mobs to kill. It’s hunting around for those toolboxes without the aid of sparklies. It’s no blue highlights over your minimap telling you where your quest is. It’s reading quest text for clues about where to find that elusive   character.  It’s having to pay for training, and coming up short.

I haven’t even tamed my first pet yet, so I have even more to look forward to, but when I do there will be the need to train the pet, the need to find food it likes, the need to care for it or lose it.

I love that shit.

I’ve always been about little details in my games, and these all share that DNA. Little fiddly bits, like training up your defense and weapon skills. It rewards the detail minded, rather than the grandstanders.

I take the victories I can.

At any rate, I’m here. I won’t be playing this so regularly, at least not until my guildies show up (they’re currently engaged in Dragon*Con activities), but I’m still not sold on the whole “classic experience” other than, well, I still, at this moment, like it better than BfA, for reasons that make no sense.

But I won’t be neglecting my little toons, either.  I love a challenge, and Classic is all that.

Gatekeepers

brilliantI was sad to hear that an addon that was planned for use in WoW Classic is set to be sabotaged by Blizz itself.

The addon in question is a tool to aid in the process of finding others for dungeon and raid runs – a tool that more or less subs in for the current, modern game’s LFD and LFR tools.

Now, I’m pretty sure that Blizz, left to their own devices, wouldn’t have done anything about this tool. But there was a group of alleged purists – I say alleged because I bet they won’t last six months in Classic – that whinged about how this tool was taking away from the “classic experience” or some sort of bullshit like that.

And once again Blizz listened to a bunch of losers whining about how OTHER people play the game.

I wasn’t even planning on using it, but the circumstances piss me right off.

Listen, it’s simple.   I made a flowchart to help you understand.

A matter of Addons

Nobody forces you to use an addon that others are using. If you prefer to be one of the idiots hanging out in Stormwind spamming /y, you go right ahead. I thought they were idiots when I played through Classic the first time, and knowing that they had a choice and blew it this time, they’re even bigger idiots.

You can’t just dictate to others what “the classic experience” is.  For you it’s that stupid bullshit associated with LFG.  For me, it’s that scary level 13 run from Darnassus to Stormwind. Doesn’t mean I’m going to impose that terror on you just because that’s MY “classic experience”.

The sad totality of this is that all they’ve done is shift what they perceive as “the problem” to another venue. Somebody will come up with a website, or a database, or something else that will facilitate the gathering of players in dungeon and raid groups. We already have tools like that for cross-realm. It’s just a few lines of code difference and the gatekeepers will be thwarted.

I’m just waiting for them to come for WoWHead. You know, because “we didn’t have that back then.”

Effing wankers.

Here I am on Pagle

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Since I’m Alliance, and a filthy care bear, I’ve rolled my toons on the Pagle Classic server.  Right now I’ve reserved Grimmtooth, Jasra, and Floramel (the max possible for now). Looks like my current guild will be rezzing up there as well.  If you’re on there, feel free to drop me a private message (or public message me for contact info) for an invite.  Not guaranteeing we’ll do anything with it, but back in the day, this guild raided all the big raids.

Don’t make me use this.

imageTo my great surprise today, Jasra got a mace from a world boss that was an actual upgrade (coupled with a decent off-hand) over the staff she’d been carrying, like, forevar.

Unfortunately, the mace mog collection is unburdened by cool looking maces.

So we went with a two-by-four with a nail in it.

Don’t fuck with Discipline priests. I guarantee it’ll hurt.

It is Done

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Tonight I started at just over 2,000 reputation short of being Revered with the Mechagon Trudgniks. I wasn’t expecting to get all that rep in one night, but the “find the chests” WQ was up so I popped it with a quest to spare.

So I’m flying in the current content once again.  I wish I could say it wasn’t a slog this time, but it really felt like a slog.  This “pathfinder” business started, what, in Draenor? I think it was Draenor.  And the funny thing is, it took a month, grinding as fast as I could.  I think it took less time in Legion, and it definitely took less than a month this time.

But it FELT like a slog through two pointless rep grinds.

I wonder if others feel the same way about the duration and pointfulness.

It’s funny, in that it feels like it was deliberately time-gated to drag things out. But if it takes less than a couple of weeks before you see people zipping around on flying mounts, how much of a delay was it?

I know I’m not alone when I say that I feel that Blizz is introducing time-wasting content to try to engage players longer – by “engage” I mean “engage players in time wasting activities”.

Okay, listen. Nobody’s kidding anyone here. Of COURSE they’re trying to drag things out, keep you involved longer without any real reward.

But what Blizz needs to do at this point is maybe put more effort into making it look less like they are.

Next up: something like 1000 manapearls to max out my benthic gear.  And maybe by then they’ll have new content.

What to do when your Main doesn’t matter

!gt_portriat200When we started BfA, my “main” was my Glyphmonger, because no matter what, I felt I could sell glyphs (I wasn’t wrong).

Eventually, I “mained” my Priest, because that seemed to be the best way to serve my guildies and get us into raiding and shit.

After months of inactivity in our guild, we’ve reached Phase 3, which is where I realize that no matter how attractive I am to my guild, a guild that isn’t interested in raiding is a guild that isn’t interested in raiding.  So now, in Phase 3, I’m promoting my Hunter to Lead, which is really where he belongs.

When I advise someone, I always say, play what you like.

Time for me to take my own advice.