Thursday, December 31, 2009

Taking a Chance

Maybe it was a late night thing. Y'know, lack of sleep makes you do silly things sometimes.

Maybe it was curiosity. A "what would happen if?" kind of thing.

In any case, last night I decided to my try my brand new 80 Arms-specced Warrior in the Dungeon Finder. He was mostly geared in blues that Rokk had crafted for him, with a green Axe in his hands. I didn't know if his gear total would be good enough to get him into Heroics, or if his poor weapon would keep his DPS to the point where he would be allowed to stay if he did get in.

Poof, he got the call - Heroic Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom.

The initial few moments were oddly tense for me. Would someone notice the Axe the Warrior was swinging, do a gear check, and vote to kick? I pushed the thought from my mind. I would stay alert, mindful of my surrounds and rotations, and prove that I was a decent player looking to gear up rather than some scrub just along for the ride.

Like most PUGs, the folks were quiet. At the start, two people asked the Mage for an Intel buff. Other than that, not much was said. We trudged along, wiping out pack after pack. I was a little disheartened at my lack of killing prowess - the Mage kept AoE burning everything down. I had Recount running but not up, which I felt was probably a good thing. That Mage had to be right at the top, standing firmly on my poor Warrior's throat in the process.

We dropped the first Boss without much issue. Then, moving along, we picked up an extra pack during trash pulls and somehow the Mage was killed. We fought through, cleaned up all the adds, and I took a second to check my inventory while the Mage was rezzed.

Seconds ticked by. The Mage hasn't released. He was just lying there. Was he AFK?

I was a little surprised when we started to move on. I passed by the Mage's corpse. "That's our AoE DPS guy," I thought as I moved by the prone body. "What's taking so long in getting him back?"

The Paladin pulled the next pack without the Mage. The whole time, party chat remained silent. Why wasn't the Mage asking for a rez? Or even releasing so he could run back to the instance? Why wasn't the group saying anything to the Mage?

That's when the window popped up on my screen: Vote to Kick.

Just as quickly as it came, it disappeared. The Mage left the group.

"He wasn't very good," said the Paladin, finally breaking the silence.

He wasn't very good? He was burning down the packs! He wasn't pulling adds! What had he been doing, or not doing, to be considered "not very good" in the eyes of the party?

A second thought jumped up and slapped me in the face. The first time I die, I'll probably be left hanging and then gkicked. I had to be at the bottom of the DPS charts, so why keep me around when they'd probably have a better chance at getting someone with more punch in their punch.

We advanced, and it finally happened during a fight with some bloated humanoid thing. It released a poisonous gas cloud that I thought I could fight through. I couldn't. I wasn't paying attention to my health. It killed me.

Here it comes, I thought. Here comes the kick...

It wasn't the "Vote to Kick" window that popped up. It was the "Ready for Rez?" window.


The Priest apologised and made the obligatory "dangerous fart" comment. I said the death was my fault because I tried to light a match. That earned a couple of chuckles.

From that point on, I probably died five times. Two of those were on Boss fights, which were party wipes. There never seemed to be an issue with getting a rez when I solo died. When the party wiped, the Priest actually waited for me to zone in and ran back to the rest of the group with me. Nobody made any comments about the noob DPS Warrior. Nobody flashed a Recount result after a Boss fight. After all was said and done, my Warrior walked out with a new weapon:

I also came out feeling very lucky to have been running with some understanding strangers. This morning, I logged on for a second to check the Recount results. Had I done better than I thought I had? Did I have a stronger showing on the DPS chart, something that warranted the group keeping me around?

Hell no. I was fifth in line, right above the priest. Triple Digit DPS.

Yes, I was that guy.

Sometimes it pays to take a chance.

Too Much of a Good Thing

After much banging of head against keyboard, my Warrior has dinged 80.

And for the first time, I actually wish he hadn't levelled so fast.

A couple of weeks ago, I was so tired of getting him levelled that I took the plunge and picked up a Levelling Guide. It was good. Very good. For the first time, I was doing quests I hadn't done with either Rokk or Rukgut. That in itself made the acquisition worthwhile. Plus, my boy was eating up the XP. He even had the Heirloom shoulders with the 10% XP bonus.

Then Patch 3.3 rolled out and things went down the tubes.

Dungeon XP has always been good. So you take good XP and combine it with groups that like to blitz though encounters, and you get some quick levelling.

Too quick. Before I knew it, I was outpacing the guide.

On the surface, that might not be a bad thing. After all, he's getting closer to 80, right? Isn't that the point? Does it matter how he gets there?

It does if he bypasses all the phased content.

As luck would have it, he dinged 80 just as he received the quest to unlock the Sons of Hodir. I tossed him some relics to increase his rep with them, and he soon was able to reach Revered. That unlocked what would be an upgrade in the shoulder department. At 650 rep per 10 relics, it was easy.

However, the anvil is not back where it should be to unlock the dailies for it. That means he has to continue to quest, just to unlock more content. Which also means he has to do the questline to unlock Ebon Hold. That means questing without gains (other than cash, I suppose).

What should have been unlocked during natural progression, now has to be unlocked out of necessity. Piss.

The silver lining, though, is that I may try to use the Dungeon Finder to level my baby Druid. No questing, just instances. Curious to see how that little experiment goes.

But for now, Ding 80 x 3!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Economic Darwinism

It's always someone else's fault.

What is it about admitting you made a mistake that drives people around the bend? Is their ego so fragile that the slightest bruising has them slathering for justice? I don't know when it happened, but there came a point when society decided it was better to be a victim rather than a fool. And so, the idiot wheels continue to turn.

Late for an appointment? They blame the stupid cop who pulled them over for speeding. It had nothing to do with the fact that they waited until the last minute to leave home.

Missed the deadline on that big report for work? They blame the terrible cold they came down with the day before the report was due and couldn't get started. Somehow the part where they had three weeks to get it done manages to be overlooked.

Instead of accepting the fact that they made a mistake and learning from it, they pull their knees to their chest, curl up into a ball, and weep. "It's not my fault," they cry to anyone within earshot. They feel they did nothing wrong. They are simply a victim of circumstance.

Circumstances that they created. Again, a small matter that gets swept under the pity rug.

Now the poor victims are at it again. This time, they're crying the blues about purple.

With the release of Patch 3.3, a new faction was introduced to the game - the Ashen Verdict. This faction is related to the (also new) Icecrown Citadel. To grind this beast, you have to run the instances/raids associated with ICC. Plenty of nifty purple recipes can be purchased from the Ashen Verdict Quartermaster, including the two new ammo types - Shatter Rounds and Iceblade Arrows.

This new ammunition is very good, and very cheap to make. However, the controversy surrounding these ammo types comes from people using the Auction House. It would seem that there are some devious bastards out there. Generally when one posts character-created ammunition to the AH, it is done in stacks of 1000. These monsters are posting these new ammo types in stacks of one hundred, instead of the one thousand, but charging the full one thousand stack price.

I'll give you a minute to catch your breath. Take your time. Better? Let's continue.

The unfortunate victim of this so-called scam doesn't have a chance. They buy their arrows, rush to the mailbox, and are horrified when they find out they've paid too much for what amounts to one-tenth of what they were expecting. And who can blame them for being deceived? It must be the Sellers, who exploit the Auction House UI. Quantity numbers are truncated when they get too large, making it difficult to tell the difference between the two types of stacks. Really, there's no way to tell that the scam is in place.

Unless you pull your head from your sphincter.

Is this a scam? Well, if it is then it's the worst scam ever. All you need to do, if you don't want to be taken in, is read. But that's the problem right there. People don't want to read. They just want to click and click, and go on their merry way. They're lazy, and don't want to make the slightest effort. That's why people put Ice Cold Milk up on the AH for ten gold after buying it from a vendor for one silver, and make an insane profit. People don't want to research. That takes reading. Effort. Minimal, but effort nonetheless.

These evil sellers. They are the problem here, not the mouth-breather who can't take the fraction of a second to read some numbers. Even that isn't so much the issue as it is the buyer who loses their mind over being "conned". They were fooled into buying the short stack. How could they have known? It isn't their fault!

One-zero-dot-dot-dot, One-zero-zero. Who knew that's all it would take to melt brain cells? This is why Gevlon never has a shortage of Moron screenshots on his site.

Oho, but what of karma? Is the Seller going to be hurt in the long run? Will people not trust them anymore for perpetrating such a horrible injustice on the AH public?

Yeah, right. Think about it - if a Buyer can't take the time to tell the difference between a zero and a dot, do you think they're going to pay attention to an entire string of letters that form some character's name?

At the end of the day, the Lazy end up broke and with bruised egos. Sellers who short-stack continue the practice because people continue to fall for it.

Human Nature at its finest.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Present Wasn't Under A Tree

Now that the holiday season has begun it's death spiral, all the presents have been unwrapped, and I curse the sweets and spirits that have punished my body over the past seventy-two hours, I can catch my breath (wheeze) and reflect on some of the in-game events I have been privy to.

Winter's Veil

Haven't done a thing. Not one present, not one snowball. Nada. Don't care.

Dungeon Finder

Hello new best friend.

I'll be honest, I have never been a big fan of groups. Guildie groups, the rare time it happened, were bearable because they're a good crew (amazing for a guild our size) and forgiving to those who were more solo oriented. Don't misunderstand, I know what to do in a group. I assist the tank, kill what needs killing, keep control of my pet when I'm using my Hunter. It's just the people that annoy me sometimes.

Especially in PuGs.

Not so much with the Dungeon Finder. In fact, it plays to one of the more powerful drives in the WoW player base - Greed.

In the days pre-DF, you'd get a PuG and be picky about it. After all, it took time to put these things together and you essentially got one shot at clearing the instance for Emblems of Triumph. It could be slow, painful, and not very much fun.

Fast forward to the PuGs of the Dungeon Finder Era. Emphasis on FAST. First, it takes no effort on the player's part to find a group. They simply queue up as the role they want to play, then carry on with their business until they get a tap on the shoulder saying "Excuse me, but your group is ready."

Next, a teleport to the instance. No more summoning, no more waiting around for people to arrive. Everyone's there at the same time, ready to go.

The pace of these things are quick. People like to rush through them so they can queue up for another one as fast as possible, getting the most emblems they can. It's like they ducked into the bathroom to drop a deuce with their laptop resting on their thighs, and need to get their Triumph emblems before they flush.

This quick pace means people aren't too picky. The Dungeon Finder ranks characters by gear, so people aren't carrying lesser-geared toons through the instance, but they don't sweat that dude with the less than amazing DPS. They just want to get through the instance and start a new one. I have yet to see anyone be kicked from a group for sub-par DPS.

Needless to say, I've been having fun with the Dungeon Finder when I've had the time to use it. I've been testing the water with my Hunter, just to get the hang of dealing with people. Some, like the druid who humped Rukgut's wolf to kill some time, were more interesting than others.

Bloodybull, I will find you and you WILL be paying pup support.

Today, after stacking run after run through instances like a fleet of drunk sailors on a hooker during shore leave, I ended up with a few pieces of quality T9 Gear -

Those are the types of presents I can handle over the holidays. I've seen new content that I'm sure I'll be sick of seeing. I've met horny druids and and silent drones who storm through encounters without saying a word. I've gathered gear that'll be more than sufficient until the next expansion, and I'm gaining experience that can't be shown on a bar.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brief Friday Update

This has been my reaction to Patch 3.3 so far, and I haven't even done anything yet.

No, scratch that. I've been updating addons that have been mysteriously bringing up errors despite working properly post patch. Damn it.

Game-wise, I've logged next to no time yet. Anxious, in a morbidly curious kind of way, to jump into the PuG system and see what kind of car wreck comes out. While I'm at it, I will probably level up my warrior in both his xp bar and professions.

Speaking of professions, I'm about ready to dump inscription on my warrior. Originally I started it just because I heard you could make some scratch with it. Also, and almost more importantly, you could get the awesome shoulder enchants without having to grind up Sons of Hodir faction. Did it once, would rather french-kiss an electric fence than do it again.

Patch 3.3 comes along, and now reputation-obtainable buffs (a la SoH Shoulder Enchants) are bind on account. Therefore, Rokk can buy them and send them to everyone else. That, coupled with my lack of researching for the Warrior's inscription, and I'm considering getting him something else once he reaches 80.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Money Can Make Your World (of Warcraft) Go Round

I was listening to the WoW Insider podcast recently, and during their discussion regarding what people would like to see in Cataclysm, one of the listeners emailed in to say that they would like to see more character slots per server. Many people already have ten characters on a server, and with two new races being introduced they’re going to need more. Okay, maybe the word “need” isn’t the right word there. It should be used here: these people “need” help.

It was around this time that Turpster, somewhat jokingly, mentioned that since Blizzard is getting their feet wet with the whole “microtransaction” business model (oh god not this again), maybe they could allow people to throw down a few bucks and unlock some character slots. One certain Michael Schramm protested this suggestion at first, stating it wouldn’t happen because microtransactions are not supposed to affect game play.

A failed argument (sorry Mike) but that got me thinking a little more about it. What exactly could Blizzard add to WoW in microtransaction form? To find the answer, I did what World of Warcraft often does – ripped off ideas from other MMO’s. In this case, I simply went to the most recent success story of microtransaction-based games. This just happened to be a certain Dungeons & Dragons Online.

At first wash, DDO does have many functions that definitely affect the game, albeit in minor ways. There are things like limited use (charges) items that give a minor buff to xp or loot gained, for example. However, I do feel there are things that Blizzard could introduce for a few dollars that don’t affect gameplay, yet players would shell out real cash money for. So with this inspiration, I came up with a few suggestions.

- Shared Bank Space: Instead of having players go through the whole “offering 5gp for guild signatures” to get a guild, then boot all the people from the guild just to get a huge guild bank, let players buy one. On the one hand, it could bear an impact in that it lets profession gurus load up on mats. On the other, people could just as easily mail their junk to alts, or guild bank alts.

- More Hairstyles: Players want their characters to shine like unique little snowflakes. They would pay for more hairstyles, different colors.

- Cosmetics : Makeup, or tattoos. Tell me this wouldn’t be a hot ticket item.

- Dance Studio: This is a no-brainer. People have been BEGGING for this since Wrath came out.

- Veteran Status: Okay, now this one should be less of a microtransaction and more of a paid service. I’ll put this here just for clarity sake, but essentially what this does is allow the player to start a character at a higher level on a new server. My suggestion would be allowing someone to start a character at 55 (same as the starting level of Death Knights), limited to a character class that the character has at 56 and up. Have a 58 druid and want to start a new one on a different server? Pay the cash and get a 55 druid, clad in what would be generic greens. Unlike many other items, services, and transactions, this one is something that people HAVE actually asked for and HAVE admitted they would pay for it.

What about you? What kind of microtransaction / service would you pay for?