Pondering Pardo's Unpardonables

(Please do bear in mind the comment policy here at Kurn’s Corner. Thanks!)

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Todd Harper wrote a piece over at Polygon on Thursday, May 22, about diversity (or the lack thereof) in various video games. In the piece, he spends time discussing Blizzard’s values, as well as Nintendo’s recent troubles to do with the lack of same-sex marriage support in Tomodachi Life. Since I’m not a Tomodachi Life player, I’m going to skip over that and just say that including LGBTQ content (at least the options!) in games (and other popular culture) is an important step towards equality. I think any kind of game where you adopt a character as your avatar and there’s romance should have some kind of LGBTQ representation and choice. (The Sims, for example, has supported same-sex relationships since its first incarnation.)

Anyhow, as troubling as Nintendo’s reaction has been, what was new to me in the Polygon piece were the stated values belonging to Blizzard, espoused by Dustin Browder (Game Director for Starcraft II) and Rob Pardo (Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard).

When pressed on the sexualization of women characters in MOBA games, Browder argued “We’re not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that.” The message just below the surface here is: why can’t we just have fun? Why do we have to be responsible for being respectful?

… seriously?

After his talk, I asked Pardo to talk about how Blizzard’s values — “epic entertainment experiences,” emphasizing the Blizzard brand, focus on gameplay and de-emphasizing narrative — and the company’s perception of their audience might impact how they portray socially progressive content.His answer was disappointing. “I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not something that’s … something we’re trying to actively do.”

Why the eff not?

“We’re not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that,” he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.Pardo notes that “because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books,” Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that “is offensive to, I think, some women.”

Gee, ya think?

It’s a really good article that everyone should read, but, shockingly, I’m going to discuss my views here. ;)

I play games to escape. They’re fun, they take up space and time in my life, they give me a sense of satisfaction I don’t easily get outside of them. I’ve played video games since I was 5, playing on my Atari 2600. River Raid was my favourite game. I loved the King’s Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest series from Sierra. I kicked some ass at Double Dragon on my Atari 520ST computer and absolutely adored both Déjà Vu and Déjà Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas. Sneaking around as Garrett in Thief and Thief 2 was spectacular (less so in the sequels, but anyhow). Eventually, I came to World of Warcraft and found that I quite enjoyed playing a hunter and, later, a holy paladin. All of these games made me an involved player, made me think outside the box (seriously, using an athletic supporter as a slingshot in SQII?) and served to entertain me while rewarding me for my efforts by finishing chunks of the game.

That’s not to say that the Quest games from Sierra didn’t have horribly sexist moments. They did. The Latex Babes from SQIV? The fact that Sonny’s girlfriend in PQ was a hooker? A lot of it went over my head until I took the time to think about these things from the perspective of an adult and it wasn’t limited to the Sierra stuff. It’s disappointing to look back at the Déjà Vu games, for example, and realize “holy crap, I had to beat the crap out of a hooker lest she shoot me in the face”. (I can’t even think of another woman from those games, to be honest.)

So, I’m coming from the perspective of having grown up with sexism in video games. It’s pretty much normal to me, or at least it was until I started looking at games more critically. (And part of that was thanks to Anita Sarkeesian and her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series.)

I remember levelling my holy paladin, Madrana. She’s a human female. As a paladin, she wore mail until level 40, at which point she could wear plate. Here. Have a look at some actual screenshots of Madrana in plate armor. (click for bigger pic)

platearmor

The two on the left are of Madrana wearing the Shadesteel Greaves, which were part of the Shadow Resistance gear from Burning Crusade. Notice a difference when you compare them to the human male wearing them?

platemale1

The chest piece my toon is wearing is the heroic T13 chest, the Breastplate of Radiant Glory. Nice exposed stomach. That makes OH SO MUCH SENSE for a plate-wearing class, who can also be, you know, tanking things. Oh, look. They actually took into consideration that armor should cover one’s soft, squishy bits when they decided what the male model would look like with it.

platemale2

I included the Lightforge set on the far right because it’s my transmog (and has been since transmogrification was introduced). Yes, I love Lightforge, but one reason why I love it so is that it covers my character’s body in an appropriate fashion.

These discrepencies between armor on a male model vs. a female model have always pissed me off. (Just play with the 3D model viewer for the Glorious Breastplate and Glorious Legplates if you doubt that there are dozens of other examples.) However, I dealt with them because I knew that the designers were men and that the target audience also consisted of men.

In other words, I’ve known Blizzard has been sexist, at least in some ways, since I started playing. Half the reason my night elf hunter is a male is because I didn’t like how the female night elves bounce as their idle animation!

What’s really troubling about the Polygon article, for me, is that not only is this kind of junk still acceptable, but it’s coming from the top. Pardo is the Chief Creative Director. While I’m sure not everything we see in the games goes by him, he (and the others at that level) are responsible for the overall culture and sentiment in their company. That Pardo (and, presumably, the other executives at Blizzard) think that “fun” and “entertaining” are diametrically opposed to “socially responsible and progressive” is, well, not cool.

Let’s look at Hearthstone, which was just released a couple of months ago. You’ve got nine heroes, one for each class that existed in World of Warcraft in the original release. They are:

Malfurion – Male Night Elf Druid
Rexxar – Male Orc Hunter
Jaina – Female Human Mage
Uther – Male Human Paladin
Anduin – Male Human Priest
Valeera – Female Blood Elf Rogue
Thrall – Male Orc Shaman
Gul’dan – Male Orc Warlock
Garrosh – Male Orc Warrior

… really? Just two females represented among all of those classes? Is it really that there aren’t other epic female druids, female hunters, female paladins, female shaman, female warlocks or female warriors? Let’s take a look.

Apparently there are no notable female druids. But HEY, how about, oh, I don’t know, ANY OF THE WINDRUNNERS for a female hunter? Lady Liadrin or Aponi Brightmane as female paladins? Tyrande as a female priest? Okay, I kind of get Thrall as the Shaman, but did Magatha Grimtotem get any consideration? And, shocker, there don’t seem to be any notable female warlocks. Nor any notable female warriors. (Note: I’m not big on lore. I may be missing some, but still.)

So two of the heroes are women in Hearthstone, which is about 22% representation. Which sucks. They could have had a different hunter, paladin and priest. It could have been ~56% representation. But it’s not. And at some point, you just have to ask… why isn’t it?

Look, I’m not asking for any portion of any game to change in terms of gameplay, not at all. But how does it negatively impact the game when 4 or 5 of your nine heroes are female? How does it negatively impact the game if, for example, my Tier 13 Heroic Breastplate of Radiant Glory actually covers my character’s abdomen? Neither of those things have anything to do with the game mechanics.

Blizzard, you can have your epic gamplay. You can have your fun and entertaining games. But you can also make better decisions about the representation of women in your games. (I’m not even going to touch Heroes or SC or Diablo with a ten-foot pole since I have 0 interest in Heroes, I’ve only played a little SC in my life and haven’t touched D3 since last year.)

If anyone thinks I’m overreacting, rest assured that I’m not. I’m not even angry. I’m disappointed, troubled and resigned, but I’m still playing World of Warcraft and playing around with Hearthstone for the time being. Just because I’ve learned that there is a sexist culture at Blizzard that comes from the top isn’t going to cause me to go running into the night, mostly because I’d always suspected that. (And if I hadn’t, Metzen’s “it’s a boy’s trip” comment at the last BlizzCon would have tipped me off. (See Fan #16’s Q/A section.))

You know what, though? Of all the reasons to quit, this is a really good one. I’ve already seen two people on my Twitter feed decide that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Cynwise has been a fantastic community resource. Osephala’s been a great player that I’ve personally played with off and on for years. I commend them for taking the steps they feel they need to after Pardo’s comments, but the community will be worse off without them both.

As a former guild master, it’s ingrained in me that if someone leaves, someone will be around to replace them eventually. There’s churn. But losing Cynwise? Big blow for the community. Losing Osephala? That’s one more talented player the community will need to do without. In this day of boosted 90s with clueless yahoos behind them, the community can ill-afford to lose the good ones.

Since I’ve come back to WoW, I’ve been buying one month of game time as I go, because it’s a tentative re-entry to the game. In the two and a half months since I’ve been back, I haven’t ever been so pleased I’m not on a recurring subscription and, to be honest, my future in this game is in doubt. (For this and other reasons, but anyhow.)

So… confirmation of what I’ve always thought — Blizzard is a boy’s club. Representation of women doesn’t matter to them. Social responsibility doesn’t matter to them. Hiring more women doesn’t matter to them. It’s nice to know this stuff for sure, but it’s pretty disappointing that this is where they stand. They could be so much more and that’s what’s so disheartening about all of this. The wasted potential just makes me sad.

*** ETA: Here’s a link to a video of the response the article was based on. It doesn’t really change my mind, but definitely have a look. ***

(Please do bear in mind the comment policy here at Kurn’s Corner. Thanks!)

Old Habits Die Hard

With the news that Patch 5.4.8 would bring with it the ability to add two more upgrades (4 ilvls each) to 5.4 gear, I laughed to myself. Why? Well, because there are several instances of Blizzard saying they won’t nerf Siege of Orgrimmar (at least not in the blanket-nerf sense of the word). The most recent one was just a month ago, back in April.

And yet, they’re adding up to 8 more ilvls to every piece of SoO gear, every piece of Timeless Isle gear, every piece of SoO crafted gear… Granted, as Watcher states, it’s “nothing” compared to a zone-wide 30% aura:

But Valor upgrades are still a nerf. I went through that in this old post of mine from last September (wow, was I ever off on the timing of the expansion…) and I still maintain my opinion that it’s a nerf. That said, I am also still a fan of the fact that the onus is on the player to make their raids easier.

Anyhow, I laughed to myself at all of this and was, once again, pleased that I’m not raiding in any serious capacity at all.

That said, I had the intention to cap Valor so I could walk into 5.4.8 with 1000 or 2000 VP and upgrade the crap out of what I’m wearing. I figured we still had a week or two.

And then we were told on Monday that, OH HEY, PATCH DAY TOMORROW.

Wanna know how much Valor I had earned in the last, oh, two weeks?

Five.

That’s right. Five Valor. I did one quest for 5 Valor or something. That’s it.

So, forgetting for a while that I am no longer a progression raider, I got online and did my 200 VP Epoch Stone quest on Timeless Isle. In so doing, I also earned 50 VP from killing 20 elites on Timeless Isle.

Total VP: 255.

This was substantially less than 1000.

So I did the unthinkable. I queued up for the first couple of wings of Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. Late on a Monday night.

Wing 2 popped for me.

By some miracle, we didn’t wipe on Galakras, despite there being ZERO tower group organization.

Both tanks left shortly after that mess. And then we got some extremely talented players who were, and let’s be fair to them, total douchecanoes. One of them was the tank, the other was a DPS warrior. Both were very well-geared and knew their stuff, but oh my God. The language. The foul, foul, FOUL language, full of slurs and pejoratives!

I was going to leave, but I didn’t. I’d already put in 30 minutes of waiting for the queue, plus 20 minutes on Galakras, plus another 10 of waiting for two new tanks to show up.

Someone ninja-pulled on Iron Juggernaut and we wiped. Then we actually had a good pull and killed that. Killed Dark Shaman. Then wiped on Nazgrim because people still apparently don’t know how to kill adds… Finally got Nazgrim down, adding 90 VP to my pathetic collection, bringing me to 345 total. (Also, no Secrets through those bosses.)

My other queue popped for the first wing and I was going to take it, except I was still annoyed and I was tired and…

… and I’m not a raider.

It’s as though a lightbulb went off. Who the eff cares if I don’t max out my VP? I certainly didn’t care until faced with the fact that I could do more stuff with my VP today. Guess what? I haven’t even fully upgraded most of the gear that I’m wearing. (Part of this is because I want to get better gear before upgrading.) So, really, what the heck is the point in trying desperately to cap to get to 1000 VP before servers go down? There’s no one relying on me to “do my part”, there’s nothing driving me to do it, except my own expectations.

I declined the queue and thought about this.

Even though I haven’t raided seriously (as in, not LFR) since the end of Dragon Soul, I am still wired to try to maximize my potential. It took a lot of effort in the first place to stop VP capping even when I didn’t want to any longer. For so long, it’s just been part of my WoW life to do unpleasant tasks “because I have to!”

But I don’t “have to” any longer. (And true, strictly speaking, I never “had to”, but I felt I had a responsibility to my raid teams to do whatever I could.)

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this whole “I can do whatever I want” thing. Breaking such a long-standing old habit is definitely not as easy as one might think. Even now, I’m filled with residual “dammit, why didn’t I cap VP for three weeks prior to today?!” thoughts and I even have a bit of guilt resulting from it.

You’d think that not having played for ~17 months would have cured that right quick, but no. It’s as though my “decompression” from being a raider was just on pause until I got back into the game and NOW I’m dealing with what it’s like to not be a raider.

It’s still so very, very strange.

Thought I’d share. :)

I Wasn't Going to Say Anything…

As a rule, I try to pay very little attention to April Fool’s Day. I don’t usually participate in gags or pranks or what-have-you, myself. This year was the most involved in April Fool’s Day I’ve been in ages, and I wasn’t even very active. All I did was tell Rho that yes, he could tell people listening to Realm Maintenance that Blessing of Frost was coming out of retirement. (Which it’s not, by the way, but I do appreciate the comments from various people wishing that were the case — as does Maj!)

Yesterday’s April Fool’s jokes by Blizzard had two reactions from me:

1) Hah, these “patch notes” are hilarious! Love the Calvin & Hobbes references, among others.

2) … oh, right, it’s April 1st. I will ignore this “artcraft” post pretty much entirely.

I wasn’t going to talk about how the female draenei post was somewhat insulting towards women. I wasn’t going to talk about how intolerant people can be when the representation of a woman is less than a straight man’s “ideal”. I wasn’t going to talk about how the fact that Blizzard decided to make fun of the female draenei can be considered a statement that they find it funny to screw with the players’ heads in introducing a model that is not the straight man’s “ideal”.

And then Twitter exploded with reactions. Particularly on my timeline today, April 2nd, there’s all kinds of hate and anger — not just restricted to the joke. Backlash for the joke is fair, assuming it doesn’t cross over into abusive insults or threats. Saying “I didn’t find it funny” is fine. Saying “I didn’t find it funny because of points a, b and c, that I will explain below” is also fine. Saying “YOU #)*%_@#% PIECES OF #(&)!% I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU @)*$)!@* THAT #)*@% UP” is not fine. Hopefully, you get the point.

However, what’s happening on my timeline today is hate and anger directed at people who didn’t find the joke funny and decided to say something about it.

Dudes. (And I don’t mean just guys, I include girls there, too.) That is uncool.

Now, believe me, I have zero interest in defending WoW Insider in general. I’ve had my issues with them as a website and, in fact, make it a point to basically never read it. That said,  they posted an interesting article called The Joke is On Women and, subsequently, had to turn off the comments. Why? Because of all the awfulness that was cropping up. (Another great read, from The Godmother: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.)

Look, I’m a woman, but do you know why my character, Kurn, is a male night elf? Apart from the fact that I instantly hated the female night elf idle bounce animation (for various reasons such as I don’t actually do that myself and, frankly, never would), it was to blend in with the masses. I never wanted to stand out as a woman among players, because I’ve been treated terribly in the past by a variety of people who thought that, because I’m a woman, it’s okay to objectify me and to treat me like I’m there for their pleasure. I worked as a writer on a high-profile website for four years in the late 90s and into the 2000s and part of my daily routine was weeding out the creepy messages from guys who were offering me a life of luxury to come be their fourth wife or concubine (I’m not kidding) or guys who demanded I spend some one-on-one time with them on the phone (which was not at all part of my job, but they insisted it was).

Due, in part, to those experiences, I decided “nope, I’m going to make Kurn a guy”. And it was lovely. I was left alone when I wanted to be. It was only when I rolled Madrana, a human female, that I started getting lewd whispers and inappropriate comments from people. I have actually said to people “I’m a dude” to get them to back off. (I once had an opposite-esque experience, actually, which broke my brain for a few different reasons, but anyhow.)

So, within WoW,  I took steps to make sure I wasn’t particularly bothered as best as I could (male night elf, telling people I’m a dude if they persisted, etc). Even on this blog, I have a comment policy that I stick to and ask others to adhere to, as well. Further, I’ve gone out of my way to be a good player, to help dispell all the “girls can’t play” crap that goes flying around out there. Basically, I’ve done what I can do to make sure that being a woman who plays a video game doesn’t adversely affect my gaming experiences.

Think about that for a minute. Being a woman can adversely affect my gaming experiences.

Being a guy does not inherently do that in the same way that being a woman can.

Guys automatically “fit in” with gaming culture because so much of the content is created by guys and, like it or not, for guys (even though female gamers are about half of the gaming population). In order for me to fit in and be comfortable, I have to do X, Y and Z first. I shouldn’t have to, but I accept it because to not do those things, to not protect myself, will result in uncomfortable, awkward and downright creepy experiences. If I want to play and have a good time, with other people in the mix, I must first take those precautions.

I’m not even complaining that I feel that I have to take these kinds of precautions, although it would be nice to easily fit into a culture I am definitely part of without doing so. The truth is, I’ve experienced this stuff my entire life. I was the girl who spent her teenage years calling local Bulletin Board Services and playing Trade Wars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon while moderating a forum about Star Trek. So, whether I like it or not (and I don’t), I generally don’t make a big deal about it because I’m used to it.

So, ultimately, if Blizzard (or any other company) wants to make a joke about a previously “attractive” character (how attractive is a female draenei, really? Horns, hooves and a tail??) being made “less attractive”, by changing the face, adding fur and the like, that’s their decision. My decision is to not like it and, as long as I do so respectfully, there’s no problem with my opinion.

The problem comes when either I am disrespectful or when others are disrespectful towards me.

You don’t like that some people are offended? Fine, feel free to disagree. Just do it politely and with respect. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, particularly if you are the straight male for whom the joke was obviously intended.

If you don’t know about Anita Sarkeesian, by the way, you ought to take a look at her stuff. She has had the most vile and horrific abuse levelled at her simply because she wants to deconstruct anti-feminist tropes in video games.

Oh, and one more thing, while I’m thinking of it: “feminism” is not a dirty word. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you want women to be the dominant gender. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a crew-cutted, man-hating lesbian. Being a feminist simply means that you believe men and women are equal and should be treated as such. I once shocked the hell out of a friend of mine by saying “no, I’m not really a feminist” and she was like “… do you think men and women are equal and should be treated as equals?” I replied that I did. “Then you’re a feminist.” So go read some of these quotes about feminism to perhaps better understand what feminism is, but this is probably my favourite.

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

– Marie Shear, reviewing Kramarae and Treichler’s A Feminist Dictionary in the news journal New Directions for Women (1986)

So when people — women, in this case — talk about being offended, look at why they’re being offended. You can disagree with them, but do it respectfully and with the understanding that this isn’t the first time they’ve had to deal with being the butt of a joke like this. As for myself, I simply didn’t find that portion of Blizzard’s April Fool’s Day funny and, really, I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but now I have. And I hope the Internet is better for it.

(As always, the aforementioned comment policy is to be adhered to, thank you kindly.)

Sentry Totem Stuff, Plus Pally & Priest Adventures

So a little while ago, as in just about two weeks ago, someone named Tickle on Twitter was saying stuff about needing writers and class experts for a new WoW site she was starting up. Naturally, I wanted details. So I asked her a few questions, she sent me a few answers and, well, the next thing you know, I had applied to be the guild leadership columnist over at SentryTotem.com. (Twitter: @TheSentryTotem) Oh, yeah, and I was accepted, too. ;) More details will be forthcoming in the next few days, I suspect, but keep an eye on the site as content should be popping up Soon(tm) and definitely follow the site’s Twitter account!

In the meantime, I’m still screwing around in WoW. After farming almost all of the ore I needed for Blacksmithing and Engineering for my newly-boosted 90 warlock, I decided to take a break for a bit… and I found myself levelling my paladin. Levelling was hilarious in that I found myself either healing instances (so. many. instances.) or exploring and doing some quests — in 4pc T13 heroic gear… with a heroic Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps. (I suppose I should thank Serrath, who was the loot master of Apotheosis at the end of Cata, for giving me unwanted retribution gear without my permission. Thanks, Serrath!)

Most stuff was okay, it was just long. I had some pretty fail dungeon groups but I also had some pretty awesome ones. I definitely don’t like a lot of the “new” (I put that in quotes because they’ve been out for what, a year and a half now?) dungeons, but the worst, the worst, was doing Siege of Niuzao Temple and getting to the third boss (Pa’valak) with a group that was, and let’s be fair to them, sub-par.

How bad was this? Well, we didn’t wipe to the boss, but the moonkin and the DPS warrior both died about a minute or so into the fight because they stood next to the bombs and got blown the eff up. Of course the druid didn’t think to give me Symbiosis (I’ve had it given to me about three times AND LOVE IT EVERY TIME I GET IT, BECAUSE REBIRTH IS AMAZING.), so the pally tank and the mage and I were left to fend for ourselves.

Here’s a screenshot from Skada, after the fact.

pavalak

Yeah, see the duration there? From 14:41 to 14:53? That, my friends, is a twelve-minute fight, which I haven’t done since the freaking Heroic Spine of Deathwing fight.

We probably should have wiped it, as it likely would have been faster, but you know what? WE KICKED ASS. I felt really good about keeping us alive, considering I was still wearing tons of T13 gear.

So there was that. Anyhow, I dinged 90 relatively quickly (although 89 felt like it would take decades to complete) and started opening up all the Timeless Plate stuff I’d gotten with Kurn over on the Timeless Isle. I got to ilvl 476 or something like that pretty quickly and then, because I’d just gotten Gold Damage in Proving Grounds on Kurn, I thought I’d see just how bad the healing Proving Grounds are, even though some of my gear wasn’t even 463. (I mean, I had a 410 ring, a 410 trinket, a 450 mace and shield, a terrible neck…) Got through Bronze without issue. Got through Silver pretty easily. And then Gold just DESTROYED me, ahahaha. I’m now over 463 in each slot, so I should be able to go back and get Gold without issue, but WOW, that was not easy. It’s been a long time since I got my ass handed to be that badly.

I’d mentioned to my brother that I was playing WoW again and he was like “should I resub?” and I told him not to. So what did he do? He signed up for a month, just like I did. He had a hell of a time getting the game to update and eventually had to open a ticket for a call-back(!) from Blizz, but everything got sorted and the next thing you know, he’s in the game and rolling a brand-new rogue. Why he would do this when he HAS a rogue at 85 is beyond me, but he kept claiming that he wanted to re-learn how to play and that re-rolling is the best way for him to do that. I don’t really disagree, but it’s not like the game has changed that much. Hell, if I can still play Kurn and Madrana worth a damn, he can play his rogue.

So he gave up on the rogue when he realized he didn’t have all the heirlooms and he encouraged me to level a higher-level toon with him. Choices included my warrior (80) with his druid (78), his warrior, priest or paladin (85, 85 and 86 respectively) and my priest (85) or my mage (85, on Skywall) or my druid (85, on Proudmoore). We elected to go with his warrior and my priest combo, so he could tank (if he wanted to) and I could heal (because, well, that’s what I do).

We hit 86 on Saturday night. As we started out in the Jade Forest, I noticed my brother was, well, spawning flowers all over. “Are you like, GROWING FLOWERS around you?!” I demanded. “What the hell is that?”

“Wait, is that me?” he asked.

“Well, it’s not ME!”

“Ohhhhh, hang on… I think it’s a macro. Yeah, my herbalism haste thing is macroed to my charge.”

This still cracks me up. We legitimately did not know why, for a good half an hour, why there were flowers blooming everywhere, apparently at random. We obviously still have some rust, but we’re not so rusty that our muscle memories have been forgotten. I found myself using Penance and Prayer of Mending without even thinking about it, although it took me a minute to find my defensive dispell button/clique combo. (Shift-Mouse Button 4, FYI.)

On Sunday, I slept in. In the two hours between my brother’s first text message saying “WAKE UP AND HEAL ME” and when I actually woke up and got the message, my brother had given up on me, pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor and had boosted his own priest to 90. He was in the battlegrounds when I logged in.

We’re now halfway through 87 on the warrior and priest. (Void Shift is awesome.)

The hilarious bit is that my brother had been DPSing the first couple of Temple of the Jade Serpent runs we had, but then he decided to start tanking for the faster queues. So we did maybe two Temples and maybe one run of Stormstout Brewery and my brother is complaining about aggro. Sure enough, various other members of the group had aggro, according to my Grid. We’re halfway through a Temple of the Jade Serpent run when he says to me, over Skype, “oh, shit.”

“What?” I ask.

He types to the group: “Sorry about the aggro problem, I fixed it.”

“What, what did you fix?”

He pauses. “Well, I hear Defensive Stance helps.”

I burst into laughter. My brother had tanked something like three dungeons — all in Battle Stance. And he’d done WELL as a tank, too!

About ten minutes after he swapped to Defensive Stance, he said, “Well, this is BORING now. I should just stay in Battle Stance!”

So I’ve had some fun in the last week. More stuff forthcoming, what with Sentry Totem news, more adventures as my priest (ahahaha, totally forgot about Atonement healing for a while there, plus Spirit Shell!) and the upcoming adventures on my WARLOCK. It’s definitely more fun with my brother around. I wonder if he might be into doing some challenge mode-type stuff. I also wonder if we might convince a certain Maj Maj to join us… ;)

All KINDS of Warlords Stuff

I have not one, but two post about the Warlords of Draenor healing changes sitting in my drafts folder, but then I took a nap and when I woke up, the Warlords of Draenor pre-order (and included boost to 90) had gone live (along with the $60 paid version of the boost to 90).

It’s as though I have too many thoughts racing through my head to get any of them down, but, by golly, I’m going to try.

“On or Before December 20, 2014”

The thing that seems to be causing people’s heads to explode is that, on the pre-order page, it says quite clearly “Game is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014.”

First of all, they’ve already said that’s not the release date. They’ve said fall of 2014. So that’s somewhere between September 23, 2014 and, shockingly, December 21, 2014.  My money is on early fall, but they’re obviously being very Blizzard about things and hedging their bets, as per usual.

Still, people are upset because that means more than a full calendar year in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid instance.

This isn’t new, though. Icecrown Citadel, the final major raid of Wrath of the Lich King (no, Ruby Sanctum doesn’t fully count), launched on December 8, 2009. Cataclysm launched one year later, on December 7, 2010. Dragon Soul, the final major raid of Cataclysm, launched on November 29, 2011. Mists of Pandaria released, surprisingly, on September 25, 2012. Siege of Orgrimmar, the final major raid of Mists of Pandaria, launched on September 10, 2013.

Given that track record, it’s hardly news that people are going to spend a year with Siege of Orgrimmar as the “current” raid content. It is, however, quite disappointing to a lot of people, I would imagine. I would further submit that this is probably the entire reason why pre-ordering now gets you the level 90 boost immediately.

On the bright side, Blizzard typically has beta periods that last approximately 6 months. 6 months from now is, you know, September. In my opinion, this means we are very likely to see beta launching in the next month or two. So they’re going to try to keep players occupied with new toons at 90, the beta launch, plus their other properties. (D3’s expansion is coming out soon, Hearthstone is certain to be ending beta soon, Heroes of the Storm is on its way…)

I’m not surprised. I’m not even disappointed, although I know a lot of people are. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve not played much of this expansion and I’m fairly separated from what’s going on, or maybe it’s because I’m just that jaded, hah! I actually thought it wouldn’t be impossible to get things going for a June release, but apparently I was wrong. Ah, well. I do think it’ll be closer to late September than late December, but what do I know, eh? Clearly not a lot. ;)

Healing Changes in Warlords of Draenor

Honestly, over the last few days, I’ve written over 3500 words talking about these healing changes and I can’t make up my mind about them.

On the one hand, I’m in favour of absorbs being less potent (I’ve always hated absorbs and yes, I’ve played a holy paladin), I’m in favour of smart heals being less smart, I’m in favour of having time to make intelligent decisions about on whom to cast which spell.

I’m not in favour of the cast-times being added to Light of Dawn, Word of Glory/Eternal Flame, Wild Growth, Prayer of Mending (and other priest spells) and Uplift.

I’m not in favour of healers having to relearn how to do their jobs all over again. My previous drafts rambled a lot about this point, but here’s the thing: DPS basically still does today what DPS did when WoW launched. Tanks have changed a lot, I’ll grant you, especially with this whole “active mitigation” thing. But healers had to relearn how to heal for Cataclysm. I’m not saying that was a terrible thing or that healers didn’t need a serious retooling, but here we are, just 3ish years later, and they’re removing the “mid-level” heals (or whatever you want to call them). So much for the three-heal system. (Actually, I’m well-aware that the three-heal system was already out the window come the end of Cataclysm, with healers spamming AOE and smart heals, and I can’t imagine that’s gotten any BETTER throughout Mists.)

It’s not that healing doesn’t need to be reworked, because I’m certain it does. I just think it sucks that the burden of relearning falls to the healers. Again. As if relearning your specific class again doesn’t suck enough (and it can!), learning how healing works in a whole new system of healing can be painful. Blech. I read the healing changes and immediately did not want to heal, period.

Out of the many words I’ve written on the subject, perhaps the most poignant (for me) were those that made me see that perhaps I’m just too old for this stuff. I mean, not necessarily because I’m old (because I’m not, shut up!), but because I’m weary. Part of the reason I stopped playing is because rolling with Blizzard’s punches just got really exhausting after a certain point. After seven years of adapting to every change and all the retuning and retooling and redesigning, I was just tired. Heck, I still feel tired. It used to energize me to know that changes were on the horizon. I’d jump at the chance to learn anything new.

But I just… don’t, anymore. That lack of passion, lack of desire to learn, it kind of indicates to me that maybe I’ve truly outgrown the game…

But You Just Pre-Ordered! WTF?

Warlords of Draenor Pre-order
… yeah, I did. Guilty as charged. I bought the pre-order for two main reasons:

  1. I’m going to at least check out the new expansion. That’s never been in doubt, even if my lifelong dream of getting server-first skinning has been crushed. I also had the money to pay for it now, so why not spend it now on something I know I’m going to want to have later?
  2. Even if I don’t play much for Warlords of Draenor, I want my stable of alts to be ready for the expansion for money-making purposes. (I’ve quite enjoyed having a stash of over 220,000 gold sitting there, ready for me if I ever wanted to come back and raid seriously again.)

I’m also seriously considering resubbing for a bit, but I wouldn’t expect that to last through to release. Maybe I’ll spend the next month or two playing around a bit and then let things lapse before coming back at the 6.0 patch, at which point I will endeavour to learn how to heal all over again, unless it really makes me want to cry. (Which is a possibility.) Still, I feel as though I owe the community at least a 6.0 holy paladin primer. We’ll see.

That said, because I pre-ordered, I have a shiny new boost to 90 I could use, if I resubbed, and I am incapable of deciding. Here’s a poll. Vote for your favourite options and I promise to take them into consideration.

Paying the Way to Dinging

Man, you play one week of WoW and you have blogging material coming out your ears!

Today’s topic is about that survey some players are getting, about how much you might be willing to pay to have a character instantly boosted to Level 90 (in Warlords of Draenor, where the level cap is 100).

During this year’s BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that purchasing Warlords of Draenor would come with one free character boost to 90. Why 90? Because that would enable you to skip all the previous content and jump right into content that comes with the expansion and, ultimately, that’s what they want you to do — get through previous content and be able to play with your friends faster if you ever took a break from the game.

So there’s a survey going out that’s asking people what they think a fair price is for the expansion (with and without the one character boost to 90) and what they think a fair price is for the boost alone.

Naturally, I have Things to Say. ;)

On the One Hand: No. Just… No.

While I do think there are some good points (which I will explore below), let me first tell you the story of Gneiss.

My brother, Fog, played a resto druid for most of Vanilla. Actually, he played a feral/bear druid and then was forced to swap specs to heal for raiding (as was the way of things back then) by the guild he joined. In order to avoid being asked to heal MORE often, he decided to level a dwarf priest (fear ward!) for fun, not yet understanding that he’d still have to heal as a priest at 60. So he played the priest, Gneiss, as his alt, playing as shadow, primarily. He soon tired of people asking him to heal in groups (this was pre-LFG, remember), so he abandoned Gneiss and started playing Slovotsky, a rogue. He loved his rogue and got him to 60 and geared him pretty well and showed up to some raids as a rogue (although he’d usually heal if asked). Gneiss lay abandoned and unused.

When Burning Crusade came around, my brother was focused entirely on his rogue, abandoning his druid, Fog, and never touching his priest.

Meanwhile, I was interested in learning more about the priest. So I took the priest and levelled Gneiss (who I name-changed to something else) to 70 and spent a lot of time running around Nagrand mining ore and collecting motes of air (Gneiss was a miner/engineer) after my raids, chatting with my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid as she wiped her way through Black Temple and Sunwell progression.

I didn’t do a whole lot with the priest, although I joined a guild for a short period of time and did a tiny bit of Tier 4 raiding as a holy priest.

Still, I never felt as though I really understood the class. So when Wrath of the Lich King had been out for a while, my brother reclaimed his priest, but then promptly abandoned it again to level a paladin tank. And, naturally, this meant that I was going to level a character with him. As I already had a paladin, a shaman and a druid, I elected to level a priest. We dungeoned our way through everything together and eventually both got to 80.

I thought I knew “enough” about priests during the bit of time I did stuff (apart from mining and such in Nagrand) in Burning Crusade, but I hadn’t really levelled the toon. My brother had. He had learned some important bits that I felt I didn’t know. I know I didn’t know that Dispel Magic was able to be used offensively until someone informed me of it. (Should read tooltips…)

I never really felt “prepared” on Gneiss. Not the way that I felt “prepared” on Kurn or on Madrana. But when I created my own priest, that sense of preparation came back. It’s as though the levelling process allowed me to really acclimate to the character and learn how to play it better than when I’d basically taken over my brother’s priest somewhere in the 40s or something.

So while I find the idea of instantly dinging 90 to be fairly appealing, I can’t help but think what it means for the community at large. Is the community going to suffer because of brand-new 90s running around who don’t know how to play their new classes at all? I can only guess that the answer is “yes”.

On the Other Hand: Hells to the Yes!

At present, I have several characters in World of Warcraft spread out over three main servers (Eldre’Thalas, Skywall, Proudmoore).

90s: Kurn & my shaman alt.
85s: Madrana, Baby Pally Madrana, mage, disc priest, guardian/resto druid
80: Prot warrior
58: Death knight (bank alt)
53: Mage
5: Rogue (bank alt)

And then I have a bunch of level 1s for storage/bank alt goodness.

I still don’t know who is going to receive my level 90 boost for Warlords of Draenor, but it might be the prot warrior (since I literally keep her around for inscription/profession stuff). Or maybe I’ll roll a DK on Eldre’Thalas and boost that to 90 and pick up engineering/blacksmithing, which are the only two professions I don’t have covered. However, it’s clear that I have a lot of characters who would greatly benefit from being bumped up to 90 instantly. And I still think it would be hilarious if my rogue bank alt hit level 90. Hilarious. He’s been level 5 for, oh, seven years. And he’s only level 5 because that was the level you needed to be to pick up a profession. So I picked up enchanting and was able to disenchant just about anything — until they put in a level restriction for the professions, meaning he will forever have enchanting no higher than 75 unless I ding him.

Anyhow, I digress.

For the experienced player, perhaps, a level 90 boost isn’t terrible. But even then, I wouldn’t queue up as, say, a death knight tank if I boosted to 90 on that character, because I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on others.

Other people are perhaps not quite so polite.

But would I make use of a pay-to-ding feature? To avoid going through umpteen expansions? Almost certainly. Hell, back in 2010, I was writing about how I would pay Blizzard $25 to start a toon at 68

It’s not an elegant solution to the fact that you have to go through Vanilla content (1-60), BC content (60-70), Wrath content (70-80), Cata content (80-85) and then MoP content (85-90) before you’re ready to participate in Warlords of Draenor, but it’s a solution. There are two kinds of people I think would take advantage of this: the new people who want to play with friends who are already there and people like me who have been through the other expansions’ content so often they want to cry at the thought of saving Corki again or trudging through Grizzly Hills once more or dealing with Vashj’ir yet again or even slogging through the Dread Wastes even one more time.

So is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Selfishly, I think it’s wonderful. If I were playing consistently and that was available, I would probably take advantage of it more often than not, were it something able to be purchased from the Blizzard store. If I ever wanted to roll a monk (not really something that’s interested me), that’s certainly something I would do.

But as I explained above, I do think it’s not going to be great for the community as a whole. Will it be good for Blizzard and for their bottom line? Sure. People get to play with friends, people can pay for a shortcut to the current expansion, all that jazz, it’s great. People are happy they don’t have to do Borean Tundra (and let me tell you, there is a LOT boring about Borean!) and Blizzard is happy to take their money. Everyone wins, right?

But I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’m concerned that it will lower the overall skill of the playerbase which, to be honest, is already pretty poor, when you look at people in random, transient content (LFG, LFR). I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but in one of my LFR adventures last week, there was another survival hunter in the raid with me… who used Explosive Shot a single time. Once.

I would argue that, as painful and tiring as the slog is, levelling is worth the time and effort if only to learn how to play your class.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t bothering to do that now. They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.

It’s not a “casual” vs. “hardcore” thing, either. We’re talking about the core ability for a survival hunter. Not using Explosive Shot is, well, not how the spec was meant to be played. It’s like Cory Stockton said, about the talent trees when they announced Mists of Pandaria, a fury warrior who didn’t take the Raging Blow talent wasn’t being unique, but was being a bad fury warrior. Now you have people who have the abilities given to them, baked into the specs themselves, and they’re still not using them.

Is boosting these people to 90, throwing them into the deep end, really going to make those people worse players? I’m not sure that’s possible. But what boosting people to 90 will do is it’ll inflict them upon other people more quickly. Hit 90, start questing, queue up for new dungeons and then wipe your group because you are doing 300 DPS instead of 3000 DPS. Or, worse, they queue up as tanks and healers (for the faster queue) and then wipe their groups because they don’t know how to hold aggro on more than one mob at a time or don’t know how to cast on someone. (The latter does happen, even now. Trust me.)

I guess what I’m saying here is that the underlying problem, which has been increasingly apparent ever since LFG came to be in Wrath of the Lich King, is that people don’t know (or care) how to play their classes and these people are being let loose upon the game. Boosting to 90 will be incredibly beneficial to a lot of people, believe me, but, especially at the start of the expansion when so many people will have that boost to 90, I expect to see a lot of failure stemming from fresh 90s.

I don’t think it’s a problem that’s easily solvable, per se, but one way it can be addressed is to force the boosted 90s to pass Silver Proving Grounds for any spec they’re going to queue up for, forcing them to repeat it for a spec they haven’t queued up for yet. Silver is something most people should be able to easily attain and since Proving Grounds were made for 90s, it’s perfect for fresh, boosted-to-90 characters. Let them quest alone, sure, but make them prove themselves before inflicting them on other people who play the game. Even if the person is level 96 before they queue up, scale up the Proving Grounds for that level and make them work for it a little bit.

I’m someone who spent something like six months straight doing a daily heroic dungeon on Madrana once that feature launched in Wrath of the Lich King. I would queue up as a tank AND a healer (because I had enough gear and knowledge at the time to be able to tank or heal “heroic” dungeons adequately) and would invariably have anywhere between 1 and 3 people who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve done my fair share of random dungeons throughout Cata. I did a bunch of LFRs back when that was first introduced. I’ve just spent a week doing a bunch of LFRs of MoP content. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with random people in this game and, honestly, I’m not looking forward to fresh 90s who don’t know what they’re doing at the start of Warlords of Draenor. If Blizzard isn’t willing to educate them, I hope they’ll use the existing technology to restrict people from inflicting themselves on others. It’s an artificial barrier to entry, but if you just skipped 90 levels, can you really complain about the idea of doing proving grounds to show you know how to do your role appropriately? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would welcome the challenge, myself. If that (and, say, $25) was the price to pay to skip 90 levels? Bring it on!

What are your thoughts about boosting to 90? What repercussions do you think this could have on the larger community? Would you pay for a boost?

I caved.

I wrote about temptation a couple of weeks ago, in that I had been severely tempted to play World of Warcraft, in a way that didn’t seem to be abating.

Well, I also saw in my Battle.net account, under my WoW account, under the Rewards & Referrals section, that I had a 7-day free trial that I could apply to my account.

While it’s not about the money, I eventually caved and took the offer of a free, short-term return to WoW. I think it’s so tempting because it’s so short. A week? That’s barely enough time to do stuff, if indeed there is stuff to be done. A month is a long time and while one doesn’t have to play for the full month, it sort of felt to me as though I’d be chaining myself to the game for a month if I resubbed. I know, I’m weird. But I’m someone who tends to binge rather than do things in moderation. For me, it’s often safer to abstain entirely than try to indulge myself on occasion. And WoW is definitely proof that when I do something, I go all out.

So late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, I caved and applied the 7-day trial to my account.

What have I done?

– I have spent a crapton of time over at the Island of Free Lewts.
– I have done both halves of Mogu’shan Vaults in LFR.
– I’ve got three each of the sigils I need for the first step of the legendary questline.
– I’m also honored with the Black Prince.
– I’ve done a couple of heroic dungeons.
– I’ve done Bronze and Silver Proving Grounds for DPS.

The Timeless Isle is a ridiculously fast catch-up mechanic. I’ve never seen anything like it. Badges in BC pale in comparison to how quickly you can gear yourself up on the Timeless Isle. Even better, you can mail your alts the drops that aren’t for your armor class. While my paladin is still 85, she has no less than three Timeless Isle plate pieces waiting for her to open if she ever gets to 90. My shaman has two Timeless Isle resto pieces (since Kurn had already picked up pieces in those slots). My druid, who is level 85 and on Proudmoore, still, even has a couple of pieces waiting for him if he ever hits 90.

I don’t remember my precise item level before I started, but I know it was less than 463, because I remember thinking to myself that Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds were kind of out of the question until I had gear that COULD be scaled down. So let’s imagine I was somewhere around 458 or thereabouts.

I’m now at 492.

RIDICULOUS.

As such, I have spent a lot of time reforging. And transmogrifying. And reforging some more. Oh, and enchanting. And gemming. Did I mention reforging?

Even with the help of something like AskMrRobot, reforging is a serious pain in my ass. Adios, muchacho. I won’t miss you.

I’ve never really been able to take advantage of a catch-up mechanic, such as the Timeless Isle, because I’ve just never needed to catch up. I’ve always been subscribed! It’s interesting to come back after a year and see what mechanics are in place for me to enjoy myself.

That said, while I’m pleased to be acquiring gear, I don’t feel accomplished. I feel lucky. I lucked out by getting most of my Timeless Isle stuff. I got lucky by coining my new bow off Will of the Emperor. I don’t feel as though I worked for any of it.

As to LFR, here’s a secret: I didn’t do any research at all on any of the bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults. I just dove in head first and winged it all. Hell, I didn’t even realize Stone Guard was a boss fight! I thought it was a slightly more difficult trash pack.

Overall, I felt moderately badly at my lack of preparation but then I realized two things.

1) LFR is easier than I remember.
2) People are dumb.

Even if there was a mechanic I didn’t really grasp, I still figured out how to move out of it. Flanking orders or whatever? Yeah, not hard. Get off of the platform before it drops? Not very difficult.

And yet, people died to everything imaginable. Tragic, really.

Further, I seem to be ranking. Granted, it’s LFR. Plus, I’m playing as survival and I imagine most hunters are being Beast Mastery (?), so there’s more opportunity for me to rank on fights if there are fewer people who have done the fights as those specs, but good God, there’s no way I should be ranking after never seeing the fights and being so very rusty. (I may or may not have done the second half of Mogu’shan Vaults LFR with a +Strength leatherworking embossment instead of a +Agility…)

I’m hoping to see the rest of the LFRs this weekend before my week comes to an end, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to swing it. It would be nice to see Siege, though.

So I also did a couple of heroic dungeons. Heroic Stormstout Brewery which was pretty much the same as normal, from what I remembered, and the other was Heroic Scarlet Halls. I miss my old Scarlet Monastery, but this was all right, I guess. (I was not pleased to see what they’d done to Scholo, back when that change happened, so at least SM isn’t too different.)

I quite enjoyed the Proving Grounds that I did. I honestly wish that my paladin were 90 so I could go in and heal forever in the Proving Grounds, but she’s not and I’m not going to ding her 90 during this trial. Next up will be Proving Grounds Gold DPS for Kurn.

Honestly, I’m not sure that this trip back to WoW is going to stick. As of right now, I don’t think I’ll resubscribe once the week is up, at least not until closer to the expansion. Maybe I’ll change my mind, maybe I won’t.

All of that said, though, it’s been nice to revisit WoW for a bit. My brain needed it, I think, but once this binge is over, I think I’ll be satisfied for quite a bit of time. :)

I have a few projects in the works while I still have access, by the way — just a matter of finding the time to put them together.

Lastly, I wanted to pimp out Brutall’s YouTube channel. Brutall is the guild master of Static (H) on US-Arthas and has some amazing videos up on his channel. You can also follow him on Twitter @brutallstatic. I highly recommend doing so. His Life of a Guild Leader series and Backseat Raid Leading series are great and he even wrote and sang a couple of songs. (The LFR one was HILARIOUS.) So check out Brutall. I found myself nodding and agreeing with him as I went through ALL his videos (seriously, all of them!) and he seems to be someone who really understands stuff. I spent 358 pages in my GM guide covering a lot of stuff that he covers, but he does it in short videos that are probably easier to digest, unless you’re a fan of my long-windedness.

Hope everyone is having an awesome holiday season! :) I shall doubtlessly have more to say soon…

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 4

Over the last week or so, I’ve been discussing my reasons for my retirement from raiding and, thus, my departure from World of Warcraft. I’m not trying to tell anyone else to quit as that remains a very personal decision and it’s not one anyone can make for you. I’m just trying to share my reasons and help myself (and anyone else, I guess) gain a better understanding of why, exactly, after seven years of playing this game, I’m pretty much done.

As always, please do respect the comment policy. :)

Reason 4: Not being excited by the new expansion and new changes.

I wasn’t thrilled when, while watching the live Blizzcon stream, I discovered that the new expansion was Mists of Pandaria. PANDAS? Really? I wasn’t thrilled. Nor was I thrilled with the new talent system. Nor did I particularly like the idea of not really having one “big bad”. I didn’t like that it was “only” another five-level expansion (although I had expected it). So my initial impression was disappointment and that certainly coloured my views going forward.

So let’s talk a little bit about each of those things.

1) The Pandaren (and monks). Wasn’t thrilled. Still am not thrilled. I think the Pandaren seem fairly goofy. I do, however, love that they can be either Horde OR Alliance. That is pretty great. As to monks, I gave monks a lot of thought. I compared them to death knights in my head, remembering the introduction of the DKs in Wrath of the Lich King. DKs were completely overpowered and unbalanced in virtually every single encounter, including Sartharion with three drakes. Hell, DKs were still OP even in heroic Dragon Soul content, if you ask me — both DPS and tanks, but particularly tanks. So I knew that, come this expansion, monks were going to be pretty powerful. I haven’t done a lot of reading about monks in general for Mists, but I had an idea that we’d see similarities between the power of DKs and the power of monks. What I’ve ascertained through reading various blogs is that mistweaver monks, the healers, are very OP. I think the tanks are doing well also. The issue appears to be with the windwalkers, the DPS spec, as apparently there’s a learning curve that many people are not quite grasping and, even if you’re great at it, they’re kind of middle of the pack in terms of damage. All of which is fine except that monk healers are dominating pretty much every other healer out there, which is problematic for a variety of reasons.

Having a new race is fine. New continent, new race, okay, I can deal with that.

Why did we need a new class? Did we really need a sixth healing spec and a fifth tanking spec and what is technically a 23rd DPS spec? Seriously, 11 classes, all with 3 (except druids who got guardian to separate it from feral which makes sense, I think) specs + guardian = 34 specs in the game, spread out over a total of 13 races? Good God. The combinations are getting pretty nuts, too, especially after old classes were able to be new races in Cataclysm (night elf mages, for example, or dwarf warlocks).

I don’t know why this bugs me, which is partly why I’m writing about it. I guess the monks are integral to Pandaria and the Pandaren or something, but with the dilution of 25-man raiding, is there really a huge need for a 5th tank, 6th healer and yet another DPS? I mean, even in 25-man raiding, you can’t support all five tank specs and it would be rare to support all six healing specs.

Maybe the introduction of a new class of healer and tank was in order to help reduce queue times for all random group content? It never hurts to have more tanks or more healers in the population. But if that’s the case, that hasn’t really worked out particularly well. My hunter still faces queue times anywhere from 20-30 minutes for any random heroic dungeon, just like in Cata.

Anyhow. I wasn’t thrilled with the Pandaren and the monks. I still remain unimpressed, although the fluid animation of the Pandaren models make me jealous as all get out.

2) The new talent system. The big complaint everyone had was “oh, it’s dumbed down” because we went from 41 points to spend to a grand total of… six. One every 15 levels. Which is a far cry from Vanilla. But no, it’s not dumbed down so much, because you are now expected to change your spec frequently. As well as your glyphs.

I admit that it was challenging for me to remember to change my glyphs around in Cataclysm. I would occasionally forget to swap glyphs and would inadvertently take more damage than I needed to for glyphing/not glyphing Divine Protection and the like. The glyphs didn’t seem to matter too much for me in 5-man content, but in raiding, I did have to occasionally change out glyphs and even had a second holy spec for pretty much the whole expansion so I could have a “standard” spec for most fights and whatever progression fight I was on would have its own custom spec, basically. (Like Chimaeron and Yor’sahj, for instance.)

But there was always so much going on in my raids, particularly for me as the raid leader, that it was really easy for me to forget to swap glyphs/specs/etc. So the idea of doing that but also with talents is, in a word, daunting. I’m very used to a “set it and forget it” type mentality when it comes to my talents. The game has taught me that over the last seven years. It’s a hard habit to break and while I’m sure I could do so, that’s not particularly engaging gameplay for me. “Oh, hold on, I need to swap that and that and dammit, hold on, let me reload my UI. And crap, does anyone have any Tomes?” The actual process of swapping things out is not engaging to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing something and going “man, this talent/glyph would be GREAT for that fight!” and I enjoy tailoring my abilities to a specific fight. I’ve been doing this on Kurn as I swap between dungeons, dailies, rares and such. But in a raid situation? When you can’t do the swaps in combat? When it’s just one other thing you have to remember to do in addition to your food buff, watching your flask timer, listening for or reading your assignments, trying to remember when to best use various cooldowns on this fight…? Ugh. If I could plan out a “by fight” plan for my toon, like “as soon as I see Morchok, unglyph Divine Protection” and “as soon as I see Yor’sahj or Zon’ozz, reglyph it” and it would DO it for me, that would be great. That would take the busywork out of the equation and just leave the planning in place. Which I really enjoy. But at the same time, pre-programming your spec and glyphs sort of automates stuff in the game and I know the devs don’t like that. Still, there must be a better way than manually opening your talents up and doing all that in the midst of prepping for a pull.

So while I don’t think the talent system is particularly dumb compared to the talent trees of old, I don’t think it’s particularly efficient, nor do I find it engaging at the mechanical level. A small complaint, perhaps, but that’s my two cents.

3) No “big bad”. The last time I raided without a “big bad” was in Vanilla. The big villain in Burning Crusade was Illidan and then, later, Kil’jaeden. In Wrath, it was Arthas — he was everywhere. He taunted you. Youwanted to kick his frozen ass. In Cata, it was Deathwing — this is the jackass who obliterated Auberdine, who fried us as we were out in the world, innocently doing our thing. Vengeance would be ours!

I don’t always need a reason to kill things. I’m not big into the lore. But it helps to engage with “the big bad” as you level up to encourage you to do what you can to get to That Fight, you know? Vanilla raiding, for me, was trying to clear ZG (done!), AQ20 (3/6), kill Onyxia (guild never did it) and Ragnaros (we spawned Domo, never got him or Rag down, as a guild). Why? BECAUSE IT WAS THERE.

It’s likely the same kind of attitude today (I haven’t read anything about the raids), but I feel a big bad sort of ties things together in a way that made things more cohesive and coherent in BC, Wrath and Cata than in Vanilla.

4) Five levels. Again. I hated the five level part of Cataclysm. I really did. Levelling was clumsy, gearing was awkward and the levels were insanely long with very little reward, it felt like. And it feels exactly the same way to me in Mists. I’ve got two 90s now, my hunter and my shaman, and while I used to really enjoy the levelling process in previous expansions, it felt like such a chore to do it this time around. Some of the quests are great. Some of the zones are amazing. But the levels are so long and again, there’s little to no reward for dinging. Grats on 86! You get… nothing. Grats on 87! You get one new skill. Grats on 88! 89! And you get nothing for that. At 90, you get your level 90 talent and the ability to fly and that’s great, but it’s like, what is the point of 86, 88 and 89? Now, more than ever, to me, the levelling process has felt like an artificial barrier before dinging max level.

Now, a 10-level jump would have brought us to 95, so I can understand why it was another 5-level expansion, but the levelling process in, say, BC, meant abilities every couple of levels and talents every other level and it was spread out over 10 levels with only the last one before max level was really particularly bad. Same for Wrath. But I felt it was a chore in Cata and even moreso in Mists. Which makes me sad. It took me 30 days (THIRTY DAYS) of /played time to get Kurn from 1-60. I took my time, I enjoyed things, I explored the world and I eventually got to 60. It was an accomplishment on its own. Now, max level is a pesky pre-requirement for all the “content” they’re putting out, I find.

So those were all things I was concerned about before the game even launched. Since the game has been out, there’s one more thing that has caused me to think that I’m making the right decision in quitting.

5) The devaluation of organized raiding. (While I’m a proponent of 25-man raids, I think what I’ll be discussing also affects 10-man raiders, for once!)

Mists of Pandara has a crapton of PVE things you can do at max level. I mean, a crapton.

– Dailies
– Scenarios (still haven’t done one since Theramore and I’m pretty pleased about that, to be honest)
– Dungeons
– Challenge mode dungeons
– LFR
– Organized raiding

There are more things, of course, but all those things give you Valor Points, which is basically the upper-tier PVE currency. The current VP cap is 1000 VP, with a hard cap of 3000 VP.

The ways in which you can get Valor Points is pretty crazy, with all kinds of “bonus” VP for the first time you do a certain task. Here, Wowhead has you covered.

It says that the first LFR of the week that is completed gives you 90 VP. Assuming that’s, say, the first half of Mogu’shan Vaults (3 bosses), that’s approximately 30 VP per boss.

That is more VP than in 10/25 normal/heroic modes, which only garners you 25 VP per boss.

That is only the first LFR of the week, though, true, but a daily Challenge mode is 60 VP, plus other amounts if it’s your first gold/silver/bronze of the week.

Scenarios net you 60 for the first, 20 for the second every day.

And don’t forget the dailies where you get 5 VP for each daily, up to 48 dailies a day.

Valor Points are needed (along with reputation with various factions) to gain some of the top PVE gear available, particularly in the early stages of the expansion. Previously, you could cap (or come close to it, at least) by doing dungeons or raiding or a combination of the two.

Now, you cannot VP cap by killing 18 bosses at 25 VP apiece. That’s only 450. In order for raiders to get another 550 VP, what should they be doing? Well, that’s where we run into problems with time and effort and the like. Right now, there are “only” three LFRs open, as I understand it: Mogu’shan Vaults 1 and 2 and HoF 1. So, if you full-clear MV and HoF, which is the entirety of the raid content right now, that’s 12 bosses at 25 VP per for 300 VP. Then if you do all three LFRs successfully, you get 90 + 45 + 45 = 180, so that’s a total of 480.

But what if you kill all 18 raid bosses and then all FIVE LFRs?

18 raid bosses = 450 VP
LFR x5 = 90 + 45×4 = 270

Total Valor Points available through only raiding: 720.

Well, gone are the days when you could even come close to capping out VP by solely doing raid content.

In Blizzard’s desire to make things accessible and give people choices, they have (perhaps inadvertently) forced people to do content they don’t want to do in order to get the rewards they want to better equip themselves.

Let’s say you want something pretty from, oh, the Shado-Pan. Let’s say you want a helm, like Six Pool’s Open Helm. It requires Revered with Shado-Pan and 2250 VP.

In order to get Shado-Pan rep, you have to open up their faction and I believe that means first getting to Revered with the Golden Lotus.

So you have to do the Golden Lotus dailies until you’ve gotten all the way through honored (which is, frankly, when I gave up). Then you have to do Shado-Pan dailies until you get to revered with these guys. And then, you have to make sure you have 2250 VP. If you’re capping, that won’t take too long, but in order to cap, you will probably default to doing the dailies which you have to do ANYWAY in order to get the rep. (Plus, DPS players don’t have to wait 30 minutes in queue for dailies, so it’s something you can do more quickly and perhaps more efficiently than waiting in queue for a dungeon, unless you do dailies while you queue. Anyhow.)

And then when you’re exalted with everything and a new bunch of VP gear comes out with the next tier, then what? Are you still going to be unable to cap while solely raiding?

Sure looks like it judging by this tier.

Let’s be clear, Valor Points are the successors to “badges”. Back in Burning Crusade, the developers realized among other things that there existed a huge gap in gear. You often had a bunch of people who were geared from Karazhan (T4 gear) and a bunch of people who were geared from Mount Hyjal, Black Temple and, later, Sunwell (T6 gear) with few people in between. Many guilds and raiders who tried T5 content simply broke up or gave up. This led to a major problem for guilds in T6 content — they couldn’t recruit anyone and expect them to keep up with healing or DPS or even threat/survivability for tanks.

I’m not saying this was the sole reason for the introduction of badge gear, but that’s when badge gear was introduced. You could take your Badges of Justice and go purchase gear with this currency that dropped in ALL the raids. You could farm the crap out of Kara with its 12 bosses or whatever and use that to buy near-T6 equivalent gear. Voila, people pushing T6 content could now recruit people with halfway decent gear without keeping T5 instances on their raid schedule specifically to gear up the recruits.

That’s the start of the Valor Points we use today. It was used to allow raiders — raiders! — an opportunity to gear up for the current content without having gone through the previous tier. That was new, it was ground-breaking and it was probably a really good thing.

But nowadays, everyone can get VP gear and raiders no longer can get capped exclusively through raiding.

For me, this is indicative that there is less value being placed on raiding. The way I’ve always seen raiding has been the pinnacle of PVE content, where you see the most challenging encounters, requiring the most people. It’s changed, obviously, because now you can raid in LFR with 24 people you don’t know OR you can spend 10 hours a day raiding heroic modes trying to get world firsts. Either way, however, by trying to make sure raiding is accessible and trying to give people “more things to do”, they have, perhaps mistakenly, removed some of the incentive to raid in an organized group.

If you want to see the content, do LFR.

If you want to cap VP and get VP gear, do LFR and dailies and dungeons and scenarios, whatever.

If you want to raid, you can pick your kind of group (10 or 25) and difficulty (normals or normals and THEN heroics) and raid.

People used to raid for a lot of reasons — to see the content, because normal raids were the only way to do it (pre-heroic raids, of course) or to get gear (because you didn’t used to get badges from dungeons or anything except raiding) or to work together as a team.

Now, you can see the content elsewhere, you can get gear/VP elsewhere… and all that’s left is the “working together as a team to defeat encounters” aspect. Don’t get me wrong — that’s why I raided. But I was always aware that people raided for other reasons as well.

By giving us so many choices, did Blizzard shoot themselves in the foot? Did they give us too many methods to cap out VP without thinking about how that will affect raiding populations?

I guess my point here is that, due to the variety of issues I’ve already outlined, I don’t trust that Blizzard has thought this stuff through adequately. I don’t trust them. At all. They’ve eroded it over the years and now it’s just gone. While I don’t know that people will stop organized raiding, I think it’s a possibility. I think the amount of stuff to do out there devalues what I always felt was the pinnacle of PVE content, was always the end goal of any PVE-oriented person.

Along with the nerfs, this kind of lack of respect for raiding and raiders really underlines why my decision to quit is the right decision for me.

The next, and likely last, post in this series will discuss the fact that I feel fairly well-accomplished and how I feel as though I’ve met most of my goals that I set out to achieve in this game, leading to an overall lack of incentive to continue playing.

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 3

My subscription runs out on Saturday, November 10th, just a few short days away. So I’ve been writing this series about the reasons why I’m retiring. Part 1 talked about raiding nerfs and how I feel the developers and I don’t see eye to eye on a number of issues to do with raiding content. Part 2 talked about how I don’t feel as though I have many of the same views as the majority of the playerbase, in terms of researching my classes and basically learning how to play. My last post, while not a full-fledged part of this series, demonstrates pretty clearly that not only do the vast majority of players of the game and I have little in common in terms of how we approach our play, but in terms of their social skills and abilities to not be total jackasses, we also tend to differ. As always, I’m not trying to convince anyone to quit. Play or don’t play, that’s your choice. It’s your $15 a month. I’m merely documenting my reasons why. And please do note that there is a comment policy in effect. Thanks. :)

Reason 3: The Bugs, oh God, the Bugs

Okay. I get it. I really do. World of Warcraft is an enormous game. I’m not a programmer of any kind, but I’ve done website coding for a living, so I understand how finicky even basic HTML/CSS code can be. I can only imagine how insanely complex the code within World of Warcraft is. As such, I am generally really, really forgiving of in-game bugs and issues. Not only that, but the devs are usually really good at hotfixing things once they recognize something is wrong.

Having said that, Cataclysm was the buggiest expansion I have ever seen. We’re talking brutally buggy in some cases. Let us examine some of the worst cases I experienced.

Tier 11 – Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds

The biggest issue we found in this tier of raiding was the “flexible raid lockout” system. We had a brutal night fighting with the raid lockout system last April when myself, Hestiah and Tikari were all saved to a different heroic ID than the other 25 people in the raid, despite no one killing any heroic bosses. Go ahead and read it. It’s a fun blog post. But it meant we were insanely careful about raid lockouts for the rest of the expansion, even going so far as to not swap specific people just so that we wouldn’t have to change who had the title of “raid leader” in the raid group, just in case another screw up like that happened.

In terms of specific fights where we encountered issues…

a) Heroic Magmaw: I have a video of this SOMEWHERE, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I can’t find it anywhere. On one of our progression attempts, Magmaw, instead of slumping FORWARD for a burn phase, instead bent over BACKWARDS. I wish I were kidding.

b) Conclave of Wind (both difficulties): Okay, this is less of a “bug” but is perhaps a technical limitation… We had to have people logging on every single platform in order to ensure we had a complete view of what the hell happened on this fight. Terrible design, that the combat log from one platform didn’t reach to the others.

c) Heroic Valiona & Theralion: Similarly, and we saw these issues through ICC and Ruby Sanctum as well, combat logs don’t work from one realm to another. This is still happening in current raid content with Gara’jal.

Okay, that’s not so bad, despite the raid lockout weirdness.

Tier 12 – Firelands

a) Rhyolith: I can’t point to a specific moment, but there were times when he was not moving the way he should have been. Honestly.

b) Alysrazor: Do not get me started on bugs with flying, bugs with tornadoes and other environmental stuff. People would fall out of the air despite having gotten their rings, people would die to a tornado and not actually be anywhere near one… The words “look at where I did! Just look!” were said in our raid more than once.

c) Heroic Baleroc: Touching people was always, well, touchy. Sometimes to pass on your debuff, you had to stand on top of someone, sometimes you only had to be a few yards away. Latency? Possibly, but unlikely when most people are standing still during these times…

Actually, again, not so bad, although adding this persistent issues to the Tier 11 frustrations.

Tier 13 – Dragon Soul

Here’s where the “fun” starts.

a) Zon’ozz (all difficulties): The Void of the Unmaking is buggy as fuck.

b) Hagara the Stormbinder: Two major issues here, but the first has to do with chaining the lightning. The second is that, and yes, I opened tickets about this and posted bug reports about this, if you cast Hand of Sacrifice on the person about to take the Focused Assault BEFORE the Focused Assault starts, then it fades prematurely, before transferring 100% of your maximum health or lasting the full 12 seconds. This happened to me on two separate holy paladins, in two separate raid groups, on a variety of different tanks.

c) Warmaster Blackhorn (heroic): Deck Fire. Do I REALLY need to say more?

d) Spine of Deathwing (all difficulties): Cut scene disconnects, getting stuck on the boat and having to relog, Grasping Tendrils not actually holding you in place.

e) Madness of Deathwing (all difficulties): Thrall drops people. This From Draenor with Love comic is perfect.

All of these bugs from Dragon Soul are either commonly experienced (Madness, Spine) or are easily visible in some videos I posted in this post about bugs in Dragon Soul or in this first Heroic Blackhorn kill video of ours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwllU3Kqce8. Look at all that delicious Deck Fire when Goriona is on the ship. Terrible.

There are, doubtlessly, other bugs, including things like previously-mentioned logging issues (figuring out who pre-potted on Ultraxion when you ditched into the twilight realm to do a healer-only heroism? Nightmarish.). As an example, there’s a “bug” (or perhaps it’s working as intended, I have no confirmation) where right now, the Holy Avenger talent doesn’t work right for holy paladins, where it grants 3 holy power when you drop a Flash of Light or Divine Light on a beacon target, but those heals aren’t boosted by the 30%. It’s like, it listens to the tooltip for some of the spells, but not all the spells. And I’ve opened tickets, posted bug reports, even tweeted Ghostcrawler, all to no avail.

Anyhow, the game is immensely complex. I get that. But many of these issues are repeatable. They are problematic. They are broken. The broken Hagara chaining mechanic was ludicrous. Why not fix problems in current raid content when it’s current? Those fights were out from November 29th, 2011 until the launch of Mists of Pandaria on September 25th, 2012. That’s 10 months. Are you seriously telling me they couldn’t fix Deck Fire issues, lightning issues, Thrall DROPPING people in ten months?

The lack of quality control has been problematic for a while. All you really need to do is ask rogues about vanish, right? ;) But it really made its mark on me during Dragon Soul. I’d previously seen things that weren’t that dire or were eventually fixed. They even fixed the old demon, Klinfran the Crazed, in the Burning Steppes, to work with the “new” Scorpid Sting not too long after they revamped Scorpid Sting entirely.

But you don’t really see that kind of attention anymore. Yes, you see hotfixes, bug fixes, tooltip fixes, but not a single one of my Dragon Soul issues were fixed. Why not? It’s just gotten worse, from my perspective. I hear there are some painful phasing issues to do with some dailies these days too. These issues are ongoing, so that’s one more reason I’m not interested in renewing my subscription.

The next part of the series will address my lack of enthusiasm for the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

A Comment that Helps my Arguments

So someone didn’t read (or read and didn’t care about) my comment policy after reading an old post I linked in yesterday’s Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 2 post. He left a comment on the old post (we’re talking April of 2010 here). The posting of this comment actually helps to add to my point from yesterday’s post about not thinking like most other players. I won’t approve the comment, but I screenshotted it and thought I would take a moment to rebut it.

First of all, despite the fact I blurred out the poster’s email address and IP address, let’s be clear — I know exactly who the poster is. He plays a warrior named Daxia on Turalyon. (In addition to this and, obviously, his email address and IP address, I have the guy’s name and a variety of other bits of information that I am too kind to share here, all gathered in the span of about ten minutes.)

So now that we’ve determined who this guy is, let’s look at his comments.

a) According to this dude, I am a whiny, whiny baby. Well, given that I’m in my 30s, I would have to disagree with this point. Do I whine? Sure, on occasion, as does everyone. Do I bitch? A lot, probably more than most. But “baby”? Nope, don’t think so. Yay hyperbole?

b) Someone who used to raid with me linked him to the blog. Well, based on the roster of his guild on Turalyon, this comes down to one of two people. The first is the current GM of his guild, who stepped down from raiding with Apotheosis in early November of 2011. The second is a friend of that individual, who raided with us also until about early November of 2011. We kicked that second individual’s ass out of Apotheosis in early December of 2011, after finally receiving enough complaints that were severe enough to warrant it, in the officers’ estimation. I would presume that the commenter is just a wee bit biased by the individual who had the “honour” of being the first person to be removed from Apotheosis due to behavioural issues. (The GM of the guild in question actually tweeted me a couple of weeks ago to say: “I didn’t appreciate it before, but your style of raid leadership made me a better player and I thank you. Cheers to you Kurn” so I’m guessing it was the second individual who attempted to get the poster to rile me up.)

c) I had another post berating my old guildies. Well, if you look at the other posts around April of 2010, why yes, yes I did. But I wasn’t in Apotheosis back then. That was in Wrath, when I was burning out so hard that six weeks later, I was posting about how I was completely burnt out and hated 90% of the people in that guild.

d) He claims my old guildies, the ones I was apparently berating, are now pushing heroic content with him in his guild. Hm. Ignoring the fact that the only people in that guild who ever raided with me in Apotheosis are the two I mentioned above… The armory says 6/6 normal Mogu’shan Vaults and 1/6 normal Heart of Fear. Hm. According to the World of Logs reports for the guild (corroborated by the armory), they have one Will of the Emperor kill. The logs don’t have any record of them “pushing heroic content” — literally, they have 0 recorded wipes on any heroic bosses. (Hey, fun fact, Apotheosis is actually 2/6 normal HoF, so technically, they’re ahead of them in progression. Funny, that.)

e) This blog is horrible. Well, you know, that’s a personal opinion. He’s entitled to it, sure. I’ll grant him that. No skin off my nose.

f) This might be my favourite part: “gearscore!=skill”. I’m talking about Halls of Stone, an instance from two expansions ago. And using old gearscore numbers. And this guy thinks the post is remotely relevant to current content? Oh, man. I laughed.

g) “many tanks do this” (use non-tanking gear, I presume) “because the DPS players with them are so shit that without good tank dps the instance will take 2 hours”. Hang on, wait, I’m sorry — did you just prove the point I was making in yesterday’s post about people not putting effort into how they play? Why yes, yes, I think you did.

h) “I also top the meters and clear any Mists heroic in under 20 minutes”. Well, I can’t prove or disprove this, but hey, if you can do that, great for you, although I would wager your healer is generally either raid-geared, a guildmate or cursing your name but not wanting to wait for another tank in the queue. Just my two cents on that. I could be wrong.

i) “Die in a fire.” Lovely! Thanks so much for closing with such utterly… inspirational words?

You may be wondering why give this guy the attention he obviously so desperately craves. The reality of the situation is that he inadvertently proved the point I was making in yesterday’s post and brought up a new point that I wanted to briefly address. Not only do I have very little in common with the vast majority of the playerbase in terms of how they approach their character and their play, but the vitriol displayed in his comment, especially his parting words, just reinforces to me that the vast majority of players out there aren’t people with whom I care to associate. Apotheosis has a strong set of policies about language and such and all you have to do is sit in Trade for 10 minutes on any medium to large server to see just about all of them smashed by various players (not my guildies, obviously).

So I’m tired of the playerbase in general; their continued laziness and incompetence as well as their “social skills”. I mean, really, why is it so common to see racist slurs in Trade? Why is it so common to see homophobic language? I’ve spent seven years reporting people for what I feel is inexcusable language and offensive names and I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of the “make me a sammich” jokes, I’m tired of the fact that so many people use “rape” to indicate total domination over an enemy in a video game, I’m tired of wading through the crap from trolls and jackasses.

I’m just tired of it.

Obviously, there are more people out there than the mouthbreathers such as the commenter I responded to above. This guy is not necessarily representative of everyone, clearly. But finding the people who aren’t like this guy? That’s difficult. It’s tiring. It’s draining. And it’s something I’m done with.

(Also, inflammatory comments will not be approved and will, possibly, be picked apart and mocked by me in this space. Remember the comment policy! :))