Category Archives: Blogosphereic echo chamber

That Water Strider business; it’s all about control.

Imma not gonna lie, I never got the Water Strider mount  until BfA, and even then it was the Welfare Water Strider.  I was in no hurry, but until I got it I didn’t realize why so many people wanted it.

Take yourself back to Burning Crusade and the massive effect that flying mounts had on day to day questing. Now, there was a big difference between then and now. Then: you had to gain the flying ability per toon. Today: one toon gets it, all toons get is.

But there was a gate, and flying was that gate.

Before flying, you had to slog your way through any number of BC quests (flying didn’t apply to, well, anything on Azeroth), and that taught certain values about the value of flying in landlocked environments. Most importantly: quests that were difficult for landlocked toons were cake for those with flying mounts.

For some time now I have been ruminating on how water striding mounts fulfil the same role that flying mounts did, only instead of flying they offer the means to move freely in areas that water constrained the area of free movement.

And in the course of those ruminations, I have come to realize that water striding mounts fulfil the same role that flying mounts did on areas that relied on the behavior of ground mounts to restrict and control movement in a zone.

You see, this is all about control.

Control, and the complete lack of foresight on the part of software developers that are paid well to foresee such things.

The whole point of controlling flying in zones is to control the flow of the activities in that zone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is bullshit. The design of a zone that has flying as a factor must take flying into account, or the zone design itself is a failure.   So far, every zone that Blizzard has presented is a failure when it comes to flying. Flying overcomes all constraints designed into the zone. No zone designers thus far have designed with flying in mind. And as a result, we end up with artificial constraints on where you can and cannot fly. Shame.

shame

Water Striders are the next generation of this shit-show of design. When they were introduced in Pandaria, they were a cute little end-game perk for players that endured an endless shit show of a rep grind. The short-sighted designers of these mounts failed to foresee how useful they would become in future expansions, for the design didn’t have any level constraints.

And then all of the zone designers after Pandaria worked water into the constraints of the zones that they designed, because somebody had already removed flying from the constraints until endgame, and, surprisingly, nobody had notified them that someone on the MoP team had designed a mount that would blow right by any water-based constraints. I mean, they can’t be expected to play the game and, well, read WoWHead, right?

And, unpredicted by anyone except us filthy casuals, water striding mounts became the most popular mounts in the game. Why? Because they broke the constraints imposed by the Master of the Universe Top Men programmers of all zones after  Pandaria. The Top Men said “you can’t go here unless you fight through zillions of aquatic assholes” and we were like “lol I water stride the fuck over your heads motherfucker.”

I mean, this was the deal no matter your level. If you were able to earn enough rep to buy an Azure Water Strider (about a month’s work) then you had the ability to bypass a large part of any zone’s constraints that were based on water. You could just “fly” over the aquatic mobs’ heads and call yourself a mf’ing hero.

Listen, I’ve been doing. So don’t trot out any holier than thought bullshit. No time, no patience. It’s a thing that happened, and any player that employs maximum efficiency will do the thing. it’s natural.

What I’m getting at is that the changes to water striding in the 8.2 patch are kinda predictable. WoW isn’t about making game mechanics more fun, it’s about maximizing the amount of time the can keep you playing and Water Strider mounts don’t really help with that.

Now. Changes to the Water Strider mount are kinda weird in that light. What we’re getting right now is that the mount won’t be able to do the thing it was bought to do  – walk on water – until the character that uses it is level 100.

Okay, I get that, if the max level for the current expansion is 100, that makes perfect sense.

But it’s not. Current max level for BfA is 120.  So if you are level 100 and playing BfA, you are not in any way constrained when it comes to water walking mounts.

So I am in many ways questioning the changes to water walking mounts in 8.2.

Listen, I’ve been of the opinion that water walking mounts blew the level design of all zones since Draenor. But I’ve always envisioned a solution that … addressed the problem. As in only applying to max-level zones, not zones of the past.

The current solution is bullshit. Wrong. Punishing people other than the intended audience.

Though I have to say, if your mechanics design hinges on punishing people, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.

Or I’m playing the wrong game.

Getting close to option B, friends.

Yes, THAT Menethil

jas-port-110It never ceases to amaze me at how much it bugs me that people lump Disco and Holy together in the same bag. Even “professional” bloggers have that problem.

I can only assume that that’s a viewpoint that originated back in WotLK when Disco was viewed as the poor girl’s healing spec that people rolled so they didn’t die while questing, or something stupid like that.

I mean, look at our spell book and something should jump out at you. Are you looking at it? Did the thing jump out at you? No? Let me help: we have more spells in common with Shadow than Holy. Ain’t that a hoot?  Sure, it’s a close thing, and you have to ignore the talents for it to really jump out, but even Disco talents bias towards Shadow more than Holy, slightly.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from that other than the misguided practice of lumping Holy and Discipline should stop and go home. NOW.  I mean, we don’t even heal things the same way, any more.

Our shared workspace, the Netherlight Temple, is pretty nice, though, and so far it’s proven to be the most efficient of the order halls I’ve seen. One big room, everything’s in easy walking distance, no smegging multi-level mazes to negotiate or hellish terraces to ride around on your hellsteed, just a nice big work area arranged sensibly.

And while Shadow, Holy, and Discipline may be three completely different sorts of people, we can all agree to that and work together harmoniously – even if Disco doesn’t get its special room off to the side like the others do. C’este la vie, as Grimm is known to say – must be Dwarvish for “balls” or something.

Unlike the Hunters that Grimm was talking about, we priests seem to have a pretty good cross section of the leading lights (or shadows) of the priestly ways.

Moira

Being this tall makes it hard to take good pics of people that short. Sorry, Moira.

I was delighted and surprised to see that Moira, queen of the Dark Iron (it says that right on the tin!) was lending a hand in a leadership position. I am somewhat surprised she isn’t keeping a closer eye on her kin back in Ironforge, but maybe her pop inspired her to do more than sit on her stony throne.  I wonder who she got to babysit little Dagran? I see another kid with parent issues if she keeps this up. Why is it so hard to be a mother and a queen and a practitioner of the dark arts, for crying out loud?  Did anyone give Varian crap for that? I think not.

Callia

The missing heir. Also, does this camera make my boobs look big?

But before I met Moira, I met this lady, who was last seen married off to the Lord of the Black Dragonflight, though that was fortunately never consummated or even formalized, since “Daval Prestor” conveniently disappeared shortly after the battle of Grim Batol.  We’re still not sure where she’s been hanging out since then, but fortunately she avoided her father’s fate.

And yes, when you are introduced for the first time, she looks at you and sighs, “Yes, THAT Menethil” before giving you the rundown of the Disco priest amenities of Netherlight Temple. It occurs to me that that sigh might also be because she probably ran the show before this upstart Elf came along and shook things up.  But she turns around pretty quick and gets quite enthusiastic about our work. She’s been a stout ally and I’m glad she’s with us.  Sorry about that kingdom, though.  That’s gotta suck.

The New Hotness

As countless happy people log into the beta, I’m sitting  here looking at a bog standard login in battle.net. But there are compensations.

Once again, our internet angel Vidyala has reached out and provided me with a reason to be of good cheer, in this case a most excellent commission of myself and my favorite pet, Bumbles, in our favorite hunting grounds. She hadn’t been taking commissions, but for some odd reason accepted my moniez in exchange for this awesome artwork. As you can tell, no matter the price, I came out on top in this exchange.

I am not here to brag on my good fortune, but merely to a) explain why this image may appear in the headers from now on (it will), and b) to sing the praises of all things Vidyala.

And now, prepare to bask in the magnificence of my turbulence.

Grimm_full_resolution

Thanks, Vid! As always, it is a genuine pleasure!

Expansion Iteration: A visualization

I’ll be brief.

Blizzard Watch just posted a great analysis of the iteration times for all the past expansions.  I took that data and visualized it.

Expansion Iterations

Blue is the gap between the release of the previous expansion and the announce of the new one; red is basically the time between that announce and the start of beta; and the orange is the length of the beta to release.

Crunch it however you want, but the big takeaway for me is the damned heroic effort in getting MoP out in less time than all but one previous expansion, and that’s INCLUDING a total refactoring of The Jade Forest.

The Triumphant Return

drama horn

After the worlds-shattering drama following their announcement that flying would not be happening in Draenor at all, Blizzard has changed their minds and decided it bring it back, but only if you really want it.

At the heart of the initial plan to restrict flight in Draenor (even after players reach level 100) lies the design goal of providing the best moment-to-moment gameplay possible in the outdoor world. From navigating the lava flows of the Molten Front in Patch 4.2, to breaching the Thunder King’s stronghold in Patch 5.2, to reaching the heights of the Ordon Sanctuary on Timeless Isle in Patch 5.4, to uncovering secrets deep within Gorgrond’s jungles on Draenor, World of Warcraft is full of memorable moments that are only possible when players explore the world by ground. And as we’ve continued to develop content over the years, we’ve focused more and more on providing players with these kinds of experiences.

There will be chores to do; exploring, collecting, rep grinding, and so forth. It’s a little reminiscent of the attunements we had in BC, to be honest, and I like that. I’m not one for collecting piles of non combat pets I’ll never look at or mounts I’ll never or rarely use at all. I’m not as much an achievement monkey as some.  Give me a grind that will get me something tangible, however, then you’ve got my attention.

Naturally, no matter how you slice this, there will be mighty drama around this announcement as there was around the last. Where before it was all “Blizzard doesn’t care about what the players want raaaaeeeege”, now instead it’s “Blizzard gives in to every little whine raeeeeege!”  Blizzard can’t win with this bunch, and personally I think they should just do what they think best and shut down the forums, but that’s me. 

I’m still not missing flight in Draenor. But to some, the mere inconvenience is an insurmountable obstacle to inner peace, or something like that. This is not to say, I won’t use it if it’s there.  As I’ve said before, I won’t put myself at a disadvantage on mere principle.

The haters will always be around because they need an avenue to vent their frustrations in life in, and a bunch of nerds writing software is just the perfect target.  Well, people at Blizz get paid to read their drek, but I don’t. 

So flush twice, it’s a long way to MMO-C.

The Sound of Silence

A certain gaming website recently ran an article in which it noted that a LOT of people were piling on the pro-flight side of the scale with regard to The Great Grounding. Notable here was a complete absence if the pro-grounding camp.  Why? 

Well, the obvious and probably intended conclusion you could draw was that there weren’t any.

But given that I know for a fact that that’s not true, I’m entertaining another theory.

See, people that are basically okay with the status quo rarely speak up. Why would they? Everything’s fine! What is there to blog about? 

I am thoroughly content with the pace of content patches.

Or

I can’t find the words to express how perfect I find Garrisons as they are.

Nobody blogs how they think that the weather is perfect, or their soup was just the right temperature last night. Contentment isn’t interesting.

Bloggers, if we wish to aggrandize ourselves a little bit, are basically story-tellers.  And one of the core features of a story is conflict. Nobody wants to read how Frodo got to Mordor without incident, or how Harry caught Voldemort flat-footed before he had any real power, or how Kirk raised shields when the Reliant failed to respond to hails and Khan got clapped into irons right off the bat.  Nobody gives two shits about a story with no tension in it.

So my theory is – and I hasten to point out, it’s a theory – is that people that are okay with this aren’t really moved to express that they are, and thus it’s kind of hard to count them. 

But I suspect the number of people that this describes is somewhere north of where you think it is.

Wrong

This interview with Watcher has set the WoW social universe on its ear.

The first big bombshell is his statement that Flight will not only not be back in 6.2, but may quite possibly not reappear in-game ever again, going forward.

I am mixed on this.  I’m pretty much in favor of this because of the way that flight disrupts the quest design mechanics, but I want to state for the record that if Blizz had designed the quests with flight in mind in the first place, this wouldn’t be a problem. 

Let’s  consider the example that Watcher gave: without flight, you have to “fight  your way to the NPC you’re rescuing” to complete the quest, but with flight you can “just fly over there, land on the hut he’s in, and you’re done.”  And: agreed, that’s a lousy thing.

But why aren’t there flying Mobs around the hut?  This is a design failure in the quest, not a problem with flight per se. But, since Blizzard is apparently incapable of grasping that simple concept and fixing the problem, the simpler solution is just to ground everyone.

The quest designers done screwed up, so everyone has to get out of the pool.

And now, a moment of gloating.

Watcher confirms that 6.2 is not the final patch for this expansion.  There have been a number of intensely strident people swarzing up and down that this was the final content patch for Warlords, despite the fact that they had not a single fact to support this.  I have set aside a vat to collect their delicious tears, and have set aside an area for them to furiously backpedal without endangering innocent lives.  Because, sure as Moira’s got an agenda, these people will be claiming they said no such thing as soon as they can, as often as is legal in their home state and/or country, and and as loudly as local noise ordinances allow.

Let’s say this all together once again: MMO-Champion is not the gold standard of Blizzard predictions. They got it right exactly ONCE (Cata), and ever since then, Blizz has alternatively bought their silence with access bribes, or fed them misinformation.  Reddit isn’t a lot better, but at least there you don’t have a central point of failure like you do with MMO-C.

Honestly, the louder and more strident they are, the less likely they are to be right.

I myself haven’t made much in the way of predictions in this regard other than to express extreme doubts that 6.2 was the final patch.  For a number of reasons.

  • Two patches is atypical for Blizzard’s history.  Three to four is the general rule of thumb.
  • The story that I’ve been able to discern so far doesn’t really seem to be end-gamish.
  • e.g. I strongly suspect there’s a real WTF moment in our future, either at the end of 6.2 or in a future patch.
  • I don’t see the ultimate end-of-expansion time-waster-zone that we’ve seen in every expansion including BC (e.g. Money Island / Tournament / Firelands / Timeless Isle). Until they roll out that zone – which, you realize, will be yet another new and innovative way to while a way the post-expansion blues! – we’re not looking at the final patch.

As I have proven to myself a number of times, predictions are a tricky thing.  Smart people will couch these guesses as guesses and not FACT (actual quote).  There’s nothing wrong with speculation as long as it’s presented as such. But stating categorically with great authority on these topics is just silly.

Unfortunately, these people won’t learn, probably. They’ll just get shriller, louder, and more frantically self-defensive as this unwinds.  I’m not sure what the point of all this is – some weird form of territorial marking or something – but it’s lead to some serious paring of my social media feeds, let me tell you.

But I’m more interested in where this is going, lore-wise.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Grommash / Guldan story resolves this patch, or if it gets marched out to the next one.  I personally don’t think one zone and one raid is enough to include that and Archimonde, too. I’m interested to see what they do with that, too, and whether we get to see Kil’jaeden as well.  And will this all end in tears as Draenor Renewed gets blown up again?

All I know is that we are free of the tyranny of prophecy once again.

No fate but what we make for ourselves.

Pre-game

There’s been quite a bit of – well, “whinging” might not be totally inaccurate, but it might be viewed as some as offensive ((Not intended to be offensive, but A==B, B==C therefore A==C kinda thing. Sorry. Your baggage is your own, please claim it at the point of debarkation.)), so we’ll call it “whinge-like sounding critique” – about the pre-expansion event associated with Wierdos of Draenor ((Or whatever it’s called.)), and that puzzles me. It’s as if they remember other pre-expansion events that I do not. Neither Pre-WotLK nor Pre-Cata were all that big a deal, and were done after a handful of quests, unless you were the kind of jerk that liked to get the zombie curse and grief your own faction ((In which case, go spin on a stick.)).  I’d even say that the Cata event was much shorter.  And maybe I missed the Panda event, but I really don’t remember one. So whatsamatta for u? 

I just don’t get the haters. Well, I do. Haters gotta hate.  If they got nothing to hate, they make something to hate.  So yeah I get it, but I hatin. 

OH DAMN. NOW I BE A HATR!

(deep breath)

I do have one issue with the event, and it’s with the way that quest events are indicated in the game.  They’ve moved from a “sparkle” highlight or a “gear” highlight to a “faint outline” highlight that I absolutely hate.  Maybe I’ll get used to it, but right now I can see a LOT of trips to WoWHead in my future as I grapple with hidden items in Draenor.

If I had been ambivalent about the Iron Horde before, this would have changed it.

Keri

YOU KILLED KERI!  YOU BASTARDS!

Us Dwarves have a fairly low threshold of outrage when it come to killing off our booze vendors.

Clearly, somebody’s going to have to pay for this.

/cocks rifle

And I’m comin’ for payment, you bastiges ((Bastiges. It’s a Wildhammer thing.)).

Jasyla’s Gaming Questionaire

RE: http://www.cannotbetamed.com/2014/08/19/gaming-questionnaire/

I’m a sucker for a good questionnaire, and this one is relevant to my interests.

I’ll let the Qs speak for themselves.  And if you want to chime in, go over to her blog (link above) and give her an earful!

When did you start playing video games?

In the 1970s … when they started appearing in the Pinball arcades.  Yeah.  Pinball arcades were a thing back then, and as video games started coming out, the video cabinets started displacing the pinball machines.  But pinball was my gateway drug to video gaming, no doubt about it.

What is the first game you remember playing?

Video game: Pong … when I could find someone to play with me.

Game in general … checkers. 

But it was strategy (board) games like Squad Leader or Star Fleet Battles or Submarine (in fact, most of the Avalon Hill lineup) that positioned me to get into AD&D, and that was my gateway in general.

PC or Console?

Standup console … this was before we had video games in our homes.  But the first one of THOSE that I played was on a friend’s Sears Pong console.  The first one I actually OWNED was a Magnavox Odyssey 2.  It was wretched, even back then.

XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?

Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle, how young ARE you?  My first two vid consoles were the aforementioned Odyssey 2, and a used Mattel Intellivision 2.  Neither of which you probably heard of, from the sound of it.

/hipster glasses

What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

I would never be able to nail that down to one game. Railroad Tycoon on the Amiga ((A computer platform from the days of the Platform Wars. “Platform” used to mean something slightly more profound than “AMD or Intel”.)) kept me playing for years, until my miggy finally died from fractured PLCC socket woes. Close behind it, Civilization III on the PC. Civ I was great, and I played it until my miggy died, but Civ III hit a sweet spot.

What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

Sid Meiers’ Rails! was one of the biggest disappointments of all time. OF ALL TIME ((Anyone else think it’s funny that both my favorite and least favorite games come from the same guy?)).  In the vid cabinet world, I loathe and abhor Tempest.

Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Quake.  I enjoy the FPS genre, but I felt Doom2 was the pinnacle of iDs output at the time; Quake seemed to be a poorly executed implementation of Doom in 3D.

Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

I really liked Wizardry 8 and am really glad I got in on the pre-purchase … those that didn’t, didn’t even get the disks.

What are your favorite game genres?

God Games / Strategy games.  Games like Civ, RRT, Populous, Settlers

Who is your favorite game protagonist?

Jaina Proudmoore.  I keep hoping that someday, she’ll remember she is powerful.

Describe your perfect video game.

Keeps me coming back time and time again. Not story driven. Not scenario driven (unless those are randomly or procedurally generated). Has many layers (think of Star Fleet Command’s galactic versus tactical levels). Never ends.  Never plays the same twice.  Scalable difficulty.

What video game character do you have a crush on?

I prefer my own species, thanks.  "Crushing" on vid game characters seems to be a post-FF-VII thing, which was not my jam.

But Fanny Thundermar … she does make me think twice about that from time to time even if I don’t have an arse like an anvil.

What game has the best music?

Descent / Descent 2.  Can’t beat that with a stick.  I was le disappoint with Descent 3 for not carrying forward the tradition.

Most memorable moment in a game:

Most of the games I play have no real dramatic moments in them.  Sepiroth doesn’t reveal he’s Luke’s father as you take over his company in RRT.

But there’s the time my guild downed the final boss while he was still relevant. Or the Wrathgate event (which actually crashed my computer the first time). Or that time that (SPOILERS) Yoshimo turned coat in the big bad’s lair (didn’t see that one coming).

Scariest moment in a game:

Eye of the Beholder on the Amiga … the sounds of lurking monsters, just around the corner or on the other side of that wall? The Amiga team for this game did an outstanding job of making the ambient sound dial up the creep factor.

Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

I have no heart.  For otherwise I would care about video game characters. Baldur’s Gate II tried real hard for me to care about the wingless elf’s plight, but she just came across as whiney and clingy and resentful.  Note to dialog writers (and this is true especially of Blizzard’s): show, don’t tell.

Well, there’s Socks ((Socks! Nooooooooooooooo!!!)).

What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?

I have a giant list.  Perhaps you have seen it in the sidebar.  I am somewhat voracious.

What’s the last game you finished?

The kind of games I generally play don’t have "finishes". But if I look back far enough … Descent 3. I think that’s the last story-driven game I purchased that I actually played all the way through. Maybe Riven on the PS2, but I don’t think I actually finished it. Wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember, if I did.   Homeworld 2, possibly, though I might have stopped playing because of the interface.  But I did finish Homeworld. Was that more recent than D3?

What future releases are you most excited about?

Elite: Dangerous.  Between this and Star Citizen, I have hopes of finding a space trader game that isn’t Eve.  If Braben can find the sweet spot between Frontier and Eve, that would be great.

Do you identify as a gamer?

Sure. Yeah.

Why do you play video games?

Not because I feel obligated.  I play for fun.  And the daystar burns, so outside is not an option.

Is that a cop-out?  Am I supposed to write something deep and interesting here?  If so, I fail, for it’s nothing more than that. It’s recreation. Nothing more than that.

Identity Crisis

When I was created ((Floramel is having a Bob Dole moment, obviously, and is talking about herself in second person.)), there was a certain look we were going for. A kind of not-quite-pissed-off-at-everyone-but-I-might-start-with-you mien, if you will.  It seemed that would be a good fit for a warlock, as opposed to the so-happy-to-be-burning-you-to-cinders look cultivated by Hydra.

True, there was the regrettable incident of the ten thousand yard stare that happened waaaay back in 2.4, and the not really successful foray into Neverwinter, but overall we had a look and demeanor we were shooting for.

Flora in MoP

A Warlock at work

So there’s this fine representation from the current content. Note that a sensible warlock dresses sensibly when roaming the countryside. I’d lose the pauldrons if I could, but that’s the shakes right now.

As you probably know, WoD is revamping all the character models, which, apparently, includes me.  WoWHead has a way to view your characters by loading them off the Armory. You can probably see where that’s headed.

Flora's WoD (Alpha) Look

Not my home planet

Now, if you were I, which I am, you might recoil in shock at the changed visage.  And possibly be a bit angry, for a good reason. No, it isn’t because I hate change, but because Blizzard made a promise – we would not need a free character modification token, they said, because they were going to make the new models true to the old ones, and thus our new models would be entirely satisfactory.  As you can see, this is not true, and thus a LOT of people are upset ((Not illustrated literally: a “lot” of people. On account of I’m lazy.)).

However, it turns out that the work on the new models is not yet complete, and in most cases we are limited to the default faces.

I’m a little annoyed because this just means we’ll get fewer opportunities to see what’s what before it goes live, and I know how eager these people can be to grab at any excuse to do a half-assed job and then shrug ((Or worse – remember “Dance Studio?”)). Call me a cynic if you must, but therein is where my withered heart lies.

And then there’s this.

Flroa's WS Look

Wildstar chicks be like

Due to the incredible inanity of Blizzard’s senior staff’s behavior, I’ve actually taken to looking elsewhere for a new home, starting with a promising new game called Wildstar ((Which I may or may not review someday.)). I don’t think this is going to be home for a number of reasons ((Which I may or may not go in to someday.)), but I haven’t given up on it yet.  Here is Flora the Spellslinger, and she looks pissed.  Perfect. That’s the Flora we all know and loathe.

In this case, I think, we’re pissed about the incredibly tiny booty shorts.  Because, omigawd. Have they forgotten how to make Levis in the distant future?

As with warlocks, leveling with a Spellslinger is hella fast, and it’s been a real joy blowing the bejeebus out of everything that comes near.  I do miss my minions, but having gone the Science path, at least I have a little Scanbot.

I shall name him Impy.