BloggyXmas? Thieves, all of them!

I’m getting this whole THEY STOLEZ MY IDEAZ!!! rant in before it’s too late, just so that when I post on the 11th I won’t have to open with it. I probably will, mind you, but this way I have a choice.

You can find the bloggy advent calendar here, and in the sidebar, probably until next July because it’ll take me that long to remember to remove the widget. In case you’ve never had an advent calendar before, click on each day to reveal adventy bloggy community goodness. And chocolate.

Oh wait, no, that’s only if you get a REAL advent calendar. Silly readers.

I was going to include the daily links for the supremely click-lazy but I changed my mind, because like Mr. Burns I am unpredictable and fickle. And also because Syl deserves much click-love for the idea.

And now for something completely different: a baby platypus. Happy holidays!

baby platypus

Get your ass off my NPC

This needs to be said, and while I’m annoyed by it specifically in WoW at the moment it applies to any game with mounts or vehicles, especially large ones.

Don’t be an asshole and park your big mounted ass on top of NPCs.

(Sub-rule: don’t be an asshole and hover your big mounted ass right on top of my head, m’kay? Or I may have to find out where you live and fling monkey poo at your windows.)

(Anyone know where to get a cheap supply of monkey poo?)

What irks me the most is that basically there’s a proportion of people who don’t even stop to think how their parking their big mounted ass on top of an NPC affects everyone else. (The ones who actually do it on purpose I ignore, because they’re assholes rather than stupidly oblivious.) It’s not that they don’t give a shit — they’re not even aware that there’s any kind of a shit to give.

Wake up! Realise that there are other people in the world around you, virtual or otherwise. You’re not a unique and beautiful snowflake and I can assure you the world doesn’t revolve around you. In fact, if you weren’t such an oblivious idiot, you might find people are generally nicer to you because you’re not passively impinging on their day by being so moronically thoughtless.

This applies to people on the road, too. I’m tired of having to drive not only for myself but also for the mind-bogglingly irritating people who are applying lipstick / texting / checking their phone / scratching their butt at 80 mph on I-40 on the way into Albuquerque.

Just sayin’.


Quest design – ur doin’ it rong

Here’s an example of how not to modify a quest that’s already in the game.

In WoW, there’s a daily cooking skill quest, one instance of which requires you to find 4 sacks of sugar for the poor orphans of the city. Up until about 6 weeks ago, these sugar sacks spawned in about 5 or 6 buildings around town, in a single location — it was a bit of a wait to get them all, sometimes, but mostly people would queue good-naturedly and just wait their turn. (You could also buy a sack or two at a time from certain vendors, though respawn is fairly slow. This hasn’t changed.)

A few weeks back, this was changed. The sugar sacks still spawn in the same building locations, but now they spawn in up to five different spots in each building, and they don’t spawn any faster than they used to. Which means that now everyone is running around like a loon  trying to be the lucky bastard who catches one of the 1-5 spawn locations in a given building. Any sense of good nature is gone as people snarl at and elbow each other out of the way — it’s like Sale Day at Bergdorfs, only with more F-bombs. Camping and queueing is more a case of spitting and clawing.

So the designers basically did one of two things: either they did a very well-meaning but insanely stupid thing, or they’re downright sadistic and someone thought it would be fun (for them, anyway) to make this irritating daily quest even more frustrating and time-consuming. If the former, then I’d have thought they were paid to be smarter than that, unless this got shoved off onto some noob designer; if the latter then thanks, and if I ever meet you, I will not be buying you a beer. Count on it.

Tol Barad 4.0.6 – SSDD

Patch 4.0.6 hit today, and here’s what it had to say about Tol Barad:

# Tol Barad

*         Attacking forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control 2 keeps.
*         Defending forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control all 3 keeps.
*         Daily quest creatures, herbs, minerals, etc. will only spawn when Tol Barad is in the quest phase between battles. [snip blah blah blah]
*         The weekly PvP quest “Victory in Tol Barad” now awards 200 Honor Points and 3 Tol Barad Commendations.
*         Players can now see the status of Tol Barad on the World Map no matter where they are. The time to the next battle is displayed by zooming into the Tol Barad section of the map. The current controlling faction can be seen on the Eastern Kingdoms map.

Gee, thanks. As far as I can tell, this makes zero difference. I’ve been in a battle to see for myself now, and all it means is that the capture points flip-flop so fast it’ll occasionally make you dizzy. Other than that… same shit, different day. Same place, same tactics, different cap mechanics. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or just laugh, because this is a typical MMO PvP “fix”. (Yes, PvP is hard to balance. No, I probably couldn’t do any better. However — unless you’re a dev with direct experience of doing this kind of thing, get the hell out of my armchair.)

(Actually, it means the Horde will have an easier time than ever taking it back on my server, on the rare occasions they let us have it, but I’ll get back to that.)

So basically, players who don’t hold TB continue to get bugger-all for trying to take it back, and the players who already hold TB continue to get commendations, extra honour, even more weekly commendations, a pat on the head and a chocolate biscuit for holding on to it. ALL the benefits accrue to the defending side, and somehow that’s just wrong. Note that I say this after several days of my side holding Tol Barad — if it’s not fair it’s not fair, whether I’m winning or not, and it’s just plain skewed.

From my perspective the motivation is entirely on the wrong side. Players who already have the place have every incentive to hold on to it, while players who don’t have only one incentive: take it so your side can get all the goodies. If you fail, however, you get nothing — too bad so sad, come back in 2 hours and try again, okay? It might be different!

The basic mechanic remains the same. The attacking force needs to split into 3 in order to have any chance whatsoever of winning, while the defending force could technically hold the zone as one single-unit zerg (though that would be really vulnerable to mistakes) — at worst they can split up into 2 major groups, which is usually what happens, and just play the round-robin “We grab the capture point you just took and can’t spare the people to defend” game.

Mistakes and poor fighting by the defending side remains about 80% of the reason Tol Barad changes hands, at least from what I’ve seen. When we’ve lost it, it was because we deserved to after playing like idiots, and not because the attackers deserved it after playing amazingly well. The attackers, for the most part, do play really well, but there’s only so much you can do to overcome the basic inequity, other than pray for a really crap team on the defending side. When we’ve won it, it was partly because we played amazingly well and mostly because the defenders somehow really fucked up. That’s just wrong.

And finally a few helpful tips for people in Icecrown TB teams, though I doubt anyone here really needs to hear them.

1. Moaning and whining in general chat about how awful we are and how we’re zomgqq going to lose — that just doesn’t help. STFU and make yourself useful by dying or something, but don’t mess with morale and don’t clog up chat.

2. Moaning and whining in general chat about how there aren’t any healers just means you don’t like dying. It’s PvP — get used to it. Hell, I hate hate hate dying and I’m used to it, to the point where it’s just a speedbump before I can get back in the fight. If I can suck it up, so can you. And if you’re dying a lot, maybe it’s not the healers’ fault, hrm? Maybe you’re squishy and NOT a priority. As a hunter I’m amazed and grateful when I do see green numbers pop up over my head, but I sure as hell don’t expect them. Healers have enough problems in PvP, like being the #1 target all the time.  STFU and don’t clog up chat.

3. This one is really important. FIGHT. ON. THE. FREAKING. FLAG! Is this rocket science? Is it nuclear physics? There is a flag, which is a big farking pole in the middle of the farking capture point, and you need to be near it. It’s like the dude with the thing. Not difficult. Do it. Here are the 3 main ways in which Alliance (the only team I’ve seen in action) fails to understand capture points:

a) The more people on a flag, the quicker it will flip. 95% of the time we attack a place and everyone fights about half a mile away, nonchalantly, like this is actually going to help. The Horde, who are ugly but a damn sight smarter, assault the flag and not the people around it. This means that once we clear the buggers from around a flag, fucking off to Timbuktu is not helping!! Stay and cap the damn thing! How hard can it be to understand that 10 people will cap a flag a million times faster than 2? How hard can it be to understand that capture speed is tactically vital?

b) Fighting miles away from the flag serves no purpose. I really don’t see how this can be stated more clearly. This is especially true if you’re attacking, since the defenders just rez right in the middle and can go wherever they’re needed. In fact, forcing them to rez and move on can be counterproductive rather than keeping them tied up at a specific place. Short-term gain offset by long-term loss.

c) Someone who mucks around at the edge of the capture point is trying to lure you away from the flag. Just because they’re waving their arms at you in a vaguely taunting way doesn’t mean you have to give in. Gosh, you know — if you let them come closer, to where 15 of your team-mates happen to be standing by the flag, the taunting bastard will die in about 3 seconds. On the other hand, if 75% of the flag defenders see a guy on the horizon and start chasing him, we’re going to lose.

This happens all the time, whether I’m attacking or defending. I’m seething with ire and a strange kind of puzzlement that such a simple concept — fight at the flag! — can seem so impossible to grasp, even when 5 people are repeating it calmly and rationally in chat every few minutes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been standing in flag defense, only to see 1 guy pop up in the distance and be immediately followed by most everyone who, seconds before, was at the flag with me. 3 seconds later I’m no longer alone at the flag — I’ve been joined by the half dozen Horde who were just waiting for my foolish team-mates to be lured away. It almost never fails, and now I watch it with a certain fatalistic resignation.

Here’s the main thing to know as far as TB on Icecrown goes: once the Horde outnumber you at a flag, you’re going to lose that flag. And everything that leads up to them outnumbering us at flags is a major reason why we usually lose. The major reason we hold on to the place when we do is because it’s really, really hard to lose Tol Barad — if victory were a little easier, I’m not sure we’d ever have it more than once in a row after a Horde defense fuck-up.

Yes, I’m moaning and whining, but at least I’m not doing it in general chat during a battle.

Blogging: the Chinese whipsaw effect?

Sometimes I love the blogosphere: it binds us together, it enables us to share and circulate ideas, and it allows us to have far-reaching and far-branching debates about all manner of gaming things under the sun.

Sometimes I loathe the blogosphere, for exactly the same reasons.

So as I read the various posts and discussions spawned by Eric of Elder Game’s original post — including my own (Eric link at top, everyone else at the end of the post) — I end up wondering: do we actually read each other, or do we just use each other as opportunities to bang on our own drums, grind our own axes, and stand on our own soapboxes?

I’m bemused and almost irked enough by it to be doing one of these petty, self-justifying set-the-record-straight posts, which in itself irritates me even further. (Doesn’t help that I’ve only had one cup of coffee, come to think of it.*) On the bright side it’s the weekend and nobody reads blog posts over the weekend, so I can mutter quietly and mostly to myself in my corner.

Record–straightening #1. I never said classes were better than not-classes. I said Eric said skill-based is hard, and I agreed with him based on my personal gaming experience. Actually, I do believe I said once or twice that classless is very rewarding, but it’s a lot more work — granted that my only “development” experience of that is for tabletop games, but while I didn’t mess about with million-dollar budgets, I do have some idea of the relative amount of work-time required between managing a classless, skill-based campaign and managing the opposite.

(For those who like this kind of thing underpinned by “evidence,” the tabletop game I ran for the longest time — about 8 years — was Ars Magica, which is pretty much a skill-based game with incredibly messy and open-ended rules, at least the ruleset we used, which was mostly 3rd ed with a smattering of 2nd, 4th and house rules.)

Once again. In a purely theoretical sense I still don’t see what’s so contentious about “skill-based is harder to design and balance than class-based” — I really don’t. As an extremely general statement, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Given the perils of speaking for others at this stage, I won’t — but I certainly never said that just because something is more difficult to design, nobody should bother with it.

Record-straightening #2. I never made any comments about easy/hard and choice/not-choice. Other people’s drums. Sure, I have stuff to say about those things, but I didn’t say them in that post.

I’m still boggling at how this has, once again, become a debate about easy-mode versus iron-man Mr. Real Player, even in terms of development. If you like structure, you’re a sheeple. If you like to be able to screw up your character without hope of recovery, you’re a brave pioneer forging ahead into the wilds of game adventure.

Yeah, whatever.

Yes, I’m paraphrasing rather inaccurately. I felt it was my turn.

I’m definitely starting to think it would be useful for the gaming community as a whole to lose the “if it made me want to chew my arms off, it was BETTER” elitist attitude we’re dragging around with us whether we notice it or not. There are arguments to be made for both simplicity and complexity and they’re a great deal more, um, complicated than simply saying one is better than the other, which is a pretty meaningless assertion without context, actually.

I’m done griping now. Move along. Nothing to see here, classy or otherwise.


* Please. No advice on how I should quit drinking so much coffee if it makes me that grumpy. Can’t a person even use hyperbole on her site anymore without being adviced-at? I’m really just grumpy by nature and coffee has nothing to do with it. Now get off my damn lawn!

LOTRO – “F2P” business must be good

I’m increasingly grateful that I bought Angmar/Moria/Mirkwood before LOTRO’s F2P model went live.

For one thing, it’s now almost impossible to find a copy of Moria outside major metropolitan areas (and Albuquerque apparently doesn’t count) or eBay – aside, of course, from the LOTRO store where it now costs 2495 Turbine Points. A few weeks ago I’d have said that was about $24.95, but that was back when 1 TP was worth $1.

The F2P launch must have gone really well, because all of a sudden Turbine Points aren’t worth 1:1 anymore. It’s more like 1TP = $1.5, which to me is just shy of highway robbery. I liked the 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to remember and easy to apply when you’re looking at stuff in Turbine Points — and it doesn’t make things seem all that expensive.

I’m rather shocked at the sudden 50% inflation in the cost of points. Shocked, but not all that surprised.

It also seems to be entirely impossible to find any copies of Siege of Mirkwood, anywhere, unless my Google-fu really has deserted me. Not even in the LOTRO Store and I’m very confused about that, but I could probably find an answer to it if I trawled through the forums a bit. Naaaah.

I’m loving LOTRO, yes. Loving how the spousal unit is getting fleeced because I didn’t get my ducks in a row before “F2P” went live? Not so much.

+ Gratuitous Basenji pic because we have one and they’re AAAAWWWESOME! (Ours is brindle though.)

Basenji duz not approov of fleacing playas!