Monday, May 3, 2010

Game Over

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there's not much going on here.

That's because I'm over on the new site, where there's not much going on. But it's new, so you should check it out: Herc the Merc

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Epic Fail

It would appear that my apathy towards the new items going up in the Blizzard Store led me to drop the ball on a couple of items. First, Lil' XT is the new vanity pet that went on sale, not Lil' KT as I reported. Also, the Celestial Steed has a price tag of $25, not the $20 I said.

No comments to correct me, though. Guess folks were too polite to point out my glaring errors.

Herc the Merc

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cataclysmic Events? Only For The Overdramatic.

I'd throw twenty bucks at this just to keep it from haunting my dreams.

It's been a busy week, but to be honest I just haven't been bothered. All week I've been listening to podcasts discussing the various class changes coming in Cataclysm. Some players rejoiced at the changes, others complained that everyone got something good expect their class.

Well that's all well and good, but people tend to forget that these are not etched in stone. That's what the Beta is for. The Dev's will run these changes in-game and see what's going to stay the same, what needs to be tweaked, and what's going to be removed outright.

So before you fall in love with your upcoming talents, just remember this: Blizzard also promised you a Dance Studio. Nuff said.

You can find a list of the Cataclysm changes over at MMO Champion.

Space Ghost approves of this mount.

Yep, Blizzard added two more pets to their Store - Lil' KT and the Celestial Steed. Once again, the player base lost their minds. The Steed, a full-blown mount that scales with your Riding Skill (both on land and in air), was the more expensive pet this time around at $20.

You know, I'm not even going to bother discussing this thing. I've covered this same, idiotic garbage when Blizzard did this the first time. The arguments haven't changed at all, so I see no reason to rehash the same old trollop.

After looking at everything, there's not a whole lot that needs going over. The big stories of the week were either things that may or may not happen in full, or have little impact on the game.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ideas Make My Thinking Box Hurt

I have been contemplating various ideas with this blog, given my limited playtime and rather obscure feeling towards it and its players. But it's late, I'm tired, and I have a splitting headache. Perhaps I will take some time to gather my thoughts.

Edit: If you would take a moment to add a comment to this post, I would find it very helpful. It doesn't have to be anything relevant; leave a comment mentioning the weather in your neck of the woods would be fine. Let's just call this a social experiment, shall we?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Starcraft II Perks for WoW Players?

The word that is making the rounds is that Blizzard will be releasing a Starcraft II Collector's Edition. As is their custom, the CE will have things like Concept Art book, Soundtrack CD, a "Making of" DVD, and a USB Stick that looks like dog tags.

All this for One Hundred Dollars.

Not interested, huh? How's this for a hook - if you happen to be a World of Warcraft subscriber you also get an in-game mini-pet: THOR!

Zounds! The God of Thunder is no man's pet... unless his name happens to be Stan Lee. Make Mine Marvel!

No, not that one. The Starcraft Terran one -

No magic hammer here folks.

And people those the Monk Pet was expensive. Ouch.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fixing Stupid

Stupidity knows no bounds.

When a game with a player-base as big as World of Warcraft, it is inevitable that you're going to share time with someone that has "Thinking" as a second or third language. The kind of person who saw no problem with eating paint chips as a child.

Don't stand in the what again?

Then again, you will also meet people who simply don't care about the socially accepted rules of the game. These gems of humanity will do things like ninja-loot gear, gank mobs from you, and otherwise pee all over everyone else's social gaming experience. (Editor's Note: Would they really be considered Ninjas? A Ninja would steal something and you'd never know it was them. Pirates would rob you blind, and do it to your face.)

Also, Pirates can be kinda sexy.

You see these people outside of the game as well. Sometimes you run across a rare specimen that has qualities of both!

Burning Ninjas?

For an example of such a creature, let's put on our safari hat and wade into the thick nerd jungle that was the recent PAX East event. Much as you would expect to find at a gaming industry convention, there are the anxious army of gamers (and probably the funk that goes with it) -

Cosplayers -

Industry panels where players can ask developers and designers questions.

It was at the Enforcement on XBox Live panel that we catch a glimpse at this rare breed of both stupid and arrogant gamer.

At about the forty minute mark of the panel, 20-year-old Justin May approached the mic and asked if his Gamertag could be unbanned. When asked why his tag was banned in the first place, he told the panel that he played Forza 3 "early", and during the minute long discussion it became clear that May obtained his copy of the game "illegally". Mister May should not be expecting to receive his MENSA membership card anytime soon.

Justin May - Criminal Mastermind

Dejected, May did not want to leave PAX East empty-handed. One of the games being showcased at PAX was Atomic Games' upcoming title "Breach", scheduled for a Summer 2010 release. It will be a download-only title for the PC and XBox Live. However, May decided that it would be fun for he and his friends to be able to play the game "early", so he plugged his laptop into their network and started downloading the code for Breach.

"The suspect did admit to us several times, including as he was doing it, that he was stealing the code. He said to myself and several other team members, after being caught, that it was not a big deal, he just really liked the game and wanted to play it with his friends," David Tractenberg, a spokesperson for Atomic, explained.

Perhaps something good can come of this. With someone this witless in custody, one can only hope that Science gets their hands on him. Maybe, with a little luck and a lot more separating into easy to study pieces, May can best serve society as a whole by discovering what makes him tick. With this vital information, one day we might just be able to "fix stupid".

Oh wait, May isn't in custody. He skipped his court date because he was busy playing Modern Warfare 2.

At this rate, May could end up being studied in a way that he'll find most uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, there's more than one way to deal with stupid gamers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Killing Those Who Admire You

Markco, you beautiful bastard you.

Faeghleis, a member of the Call To Auction Podcast crew (consider it required listening), is stepping away from the game until Cataclysm. However, since Fae is such a gentleman, he proposed a contest in which competitors would create a level one character, track him down in a cave located in the Dwarven starting area, and open a trade window with him. The first person to do this would receive TWENTY THOUSAND GOLD!

Simple, yes? Of course, there was one catch - Markco!

Now what happens when the shocking arrogance of a guild of Level One Alliance folk take on a humble yet throat-ripping PVP Monster, all in the name of TWENTY THOUSAND GOLD? Peep out the video and watch the fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blizzcon 2010 - Here We Go Again

The writing was on the wall back in February, and now it has been confirmed - so sayeth the official Blizzcon 2010 Website:

If you've been holding your breath waiting to find out when and where the next BlizzCon would be held, then... you've probably passed out by now. But if you've just been patiently watching for an announcement, then we've got good news for you: BlizzCon will be returning to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday, October 22 through Saturday, October 23! Just as in years past, BlizzCon 2010 will feature an exciting mix of discussion panels, tournaments, hands-on gameplay, contests, and much more. Check out the announcement press release, and keep an eye on in the months ahead for further details, including ticketing information.

I was stoked about the possibility of attending last year, only to end up being denied. However, as Blizzcon '09 wrapped up, I started preparing to attend Blizzcon 2010.

I am excited. Nerds Unite!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Recent events have prompted me to share this story with you. There's a good lesson to be had, and one that many gamers need to be reminded of.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning.

He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32.

When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

My additional thoughts would only be that so many people do things because they are "fashionable" that they forget to look at things with their own eyes, listen with their own ears, and appreciate anything with their own hearts.


Be your own person, and take that person for a walk today. Spring is just around the corner. Step away from Raids and Dailies and take a look at the World around you. You could be overlooking something, or someone, very important.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Picking a Peck of Podcasts

I know I haven't written in awhile. I've been putting in some long hours an the True Grind that I call work. What can I say? I like getting paid.

I've also been a little slack in keeping up with the goings on in the WoW community. I have to deal with poor internet connection when I'm working out of town, and limited internet time when I do manage to squeeze in a few hours at the homestead. Trying to catch up via blogs is quite time-consuming (I like reading many blogs) and I generally try to avoid things like the World of Warcraft official forums because I value my time (and I don't speak "paint-sniffing hamster").

However, one of the perks of my job is that I have long commutes to and from work. Yes, for me that's a perk. No, I'm not well in the head. Moving on. This commute gives me the opportunity to listen to as many podcasts as I can. In fact, I often don't have enough time to listen to them all during my three-plus hours of travel time a day. What I'll end up doing is slapping the iPod buds in my hears while I'm killing time in the evening (shopping, cleaning, etc).

I admit that podcasts might not keep me on the cutting edge of gaming news. I might be a few days to a week behind, depending on when I download them from ITunes, but 99% of that news either doesn't affect me or doesn't concern me to the point where I feel the need to immediately address the issue.

Plus, there's times when I just want to be entertained. Just like WoW itself, with all its theorycrafting and min/maxing, the bottom line is having fun (and not Deeprun Tram fun like that one time with that drunk lady gnome with the sweet, cottn candy hair and full red li-)


Allow me to share with you a couple of my preferred listening podcasts:

- The Instance: About a year and a half ago, the evening before I was to go in for LASIK eye surgery, I searched iTunes for a World of Warcraft podcast. LASIK laser eye surgery would allow me to live without my glasses for the first time in decades. It meant I had to make the small sacrifice of spending twenty four hours in darkness to help the eyes recover from the procedure. I knew I wasn't going to be able to read, and playing WoW would be out of the question (twitch twitch). The next best thing would be to listen to people talk about WoW. Hence, my search for a podcast.

During my search, I came across The Instance. I listened to part of one of them, and immediately downloaded about the previous fifteen episodes. The next day, after lasers burned my eyes, I joined the gamer stereotype for one day only and crawled into the basement to get my (audio) WoW on.

About a hundred episodes later, I'm still a fan.

I joined their guild.

I'm still entertained by Scott and Randy. They give me the news, tips, and are a pleasure to listen to. They support the fans that support them with a guild, giveaways, and let's not forget the yearly Nerdtacular event.

- CASTaclysm: A recent addition to my playlist, CASTaclysm is a podcast hosted by Thunderer, Jhaman, and Markco With two arena competitors and a PVE dynamo, CASTaclysm covers a wide variety of topics including making gold via Markco's two copper, so to speak.

Two podcast from my playlist. Put them on yours.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

World of Wifecraft

It's only a matter of time, gentlemen.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Work, Play, and Submarines

The vacation is over. And by "vacation", I mean "time not spent at my job".

Since the beginning of January, I've been attending a work-related course at one of the local technical colleges. That meant I was home every night. THAT meant I could get my WoW on with more frequency!

Naturally my wife loved that. She's sweet.

In that time, what did I manage to accomplish?

- Geared my three 80s in various quantities of T9 gear, courtesy of the LFD system.

- Slapped some heirloom items on alts and levelled them up a little.

- Swapped professions on a few characters and powerleveled them up.

- Made and lost (see previous comment) copious amounts of gold.

Not a single character has set foot in a raid. Not yet, probably not ever. Or at least, not in the forseeable future. You see, now that my course is over I must return to the glorious workforce. That means spending most of the week out of town. Back in the fall, I took a laptop with me and in those cold, lonely evenings I would log into World of Warcraft on an Internet connection that felt like the equivalent of strapping the signal on the back of a carrier pigeon.

Seriously. I would get disconnects if I even thought about scanning the Auction House. I would be half through combat before my character started moving. I didn't even think about running the Argent Tournament dailies. It was that bad.

Over the holidays, there was a bit of a computer mishap. As a result, the laptop must now stay in the City while I travel to the Country to work. I am curious to discover how long it takes before I start twitching. Seeing as how I haven't logged on very often over the course of the weekend, I'm not sure I'll miss it very much.

I wouldn't say I've hit the wall. There's still plenty that I can do, and I'm not even on a Raid team. I did try my hand at tanking on my baby Druid. I loaded him up with Heirloom items, read a few blogs so I knew what to do, then queued up as a tank.

As someone who has run LFD's as three separate DPS classes, it's ridiculous how fast tanks get groups. It's also funny to watch baby DPS classes act the total fool. I ran two groups back to back, and in both cases we had wipes because everybody that could do damage, immediately targeted the nearest mob and started unloading on it. They didn't try to pull it, they tried to solo it.

Well and good until they see they've just pulled three mobs each.

By the time I rounded them up, there were usually a few people dead (including myself at times). After that, they had the nerve to ask where the healer was.

Uh, he was doing his job - keeping the tank alive.

Anyway, with that out of the way for the time being, I'm back to the Real Life grind. Maybe during the time away I'll be able to sneak onto a computer somewhere and round up some ideas for blog content. I was going to put something together regarding the Authenticator-protected account getting hacked, but it hasn't generated the widespread chaos I expected. In fact, it's been addressed (at least, as good as it can be).

Until later in the week, here's something for you to chew on - If you thought Bear Tanks with freakin' rockets strapped to their butts was funny, wait until Cataclysm drops and you can go down on... submarines!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Boom De Yada

Don't ask silly questions. Just watch the video.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blizzcon 2010: Coming Soon?

It's getting to be that time again.

Last year, people were questioning if there was going to be another Blizzcon so soon. After all, Blizzcon '09 had just wrapped up and Cataclysm had been announced. The player base was in a tizzy as they left the convention with visions of New Barrens and Grunties dancing in their heads. Would Blizzard have another convention right on the heels of the announcement of WoW's big expansion?

That question appeared to be answered in November when a Las Vegas hotel mistakenly posted that they would be hosting Blizzcon in July of '10. The posting was quickly yanked, but it was enough to get people vibrating. It might have been a mistake, but at least it meant Blizzard had been toying with the idea of another convention.

Fast forward to February. Another posting, this time back in Blizzcon's old stomping grounds of Anaheim. Word of a October 22 Blizzcon emerged, but much like the Las Vegas posting it was quickly taken down. However, the venue still shows that weekend as "open" when every other weekend around it is booked. Seems strange, unless they have something booked and just don't want to tell folks about it.

That, and Jay Mohr tweeted that he was hosting Blizzcon - a tweet that was quickly removed.

I bring this up because it was around this time last year that Blizzcon was announced for 2009. As I said at the beginning of the post, it's getting to be that time again. Will we get a Blizzcon announcement, an official one this time, within the next month or so?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where the Real Money Is

Walk with me while I take you on a journey.

First stop is HERE, where we learn that Upper Deck has lost the license to World of Warcraft - Trading Card Game. Blue Poster Zarhym had this to say about it on the World of Warcraft Forums:

As some of you may already be aware, we will not be renewing the World of Warcraft: The Trading Card Game license with Upper Deck. We want to assure you that we are committed to supporting the TCG, and players can look forward to new content and strong organized play support in the near future. We will share additional details about the game’s transition to a new partner as soon as possible. For those awaiting tournament prizes, we will ensure you receive them.

So Blizzard is leaving Upper Deck. Which is funny, because to hear them tell it Upper Deck dropped Blizzard due to poor sales.

The card game seems popular enough. Listen to anyone who talks about it and they seem to know a guy who knows a guy who plays. A few people will come out and tell you that they have personally tried the game but just didn't get into it. Sounds like Upper Deck's poor sales claim might have some footing after all. Locally I've tried to find packages of cards but they're incredibly hard to come by. I've even looked on eBay and found cards online. Since I don't play, I don't know if the value placed on these pieces of colored cardboard is worth it. But the loot cards that come with the game, well that's another kettle of fish.

Now let's stroll over HERE, where Blizzard gives the Make-a-Wish Foundation a 1.1 Million Dollar donation, raised by the sales of the Pandaren Monk pet found in Blizzard's own Pet Store. For two months, half the money from the sales of the Monk went to the charity. Needless to say, alot of people bought that Kung Fu Panda.

See where I'm going with this? No? Okay, let's make one more stop. Here we are at the Blizzard Pet Store itself. Don't mind the smell, Game Developers tend to kick up almost as much funk as gamers at Blizzcon. Now if you look to your right, you'll see the Blizzard Pet Store FAQ. Scroll all the way down to the bottom where the question is asked about people being able to buy weapons and such.

"As with the pets, mounts, and other items players can obtain through Loot cards from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, Pet Store pets are purely cosmetic and just for fun."

Back to my story about eBay. Look up the TCG cards and see how much they sell for. Now look up TCG Loot cards and see what those sell for. You do the math and figure out where the money can be made with the TCG itself.

I suspect that the TCG will go on, and I suspect that it will be Blizzard itself that will release the game. I also suspect that there won't be any loot cards to be found in any of those packets. All loot codes will go on sale in the Pet Store (or Loot Store), and any money lost on the TCG itself will be reimbursed by the Loot sales.

That's right: within the next year, you too might be able to ride off into the sunset with your very own Spectral Tiger Mount... if the price is right.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Secret MMO - Not So Secret?

Wasn't I just talking about Bobby Kotick? When will I learn to keep my head in the sand, so I avoid digging up more reasons to really dislike this guy?

During the quarterly conference call, The 'Tick dropped some knowledge about a good way to make money using his M.O. of milking people when they like something. He's got a popular franchise, and a good way to generate revenue. Why not put those two together? When asked about Call of Duty, from Kotick's own heart he stabbed at thee -

"If you think about the success we've had in other product categories on subscription, you can get a sense of the direction that we want to take that franchise."

Monthly subscription to play Call of Duty? Is there some what they could turn CoD into the new Mystery MMO, ensuring Bobby's river of blood from the player base to his hungry lips? I'm sure there is. They was talk of making the new Mystery MMO more modern, more futuristic. "Call of Duty: Future Warfare" perhaps?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bobby Kotick Loves You

Bobby Kotick is a bit of an asshole.

He's also a smart businessman.

Activision's latest love-child, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" sold over $1 billion dollars worth of product worldwide. They also have another profitable franchise in Guitar Hero, which is also a strong earner. After all, you don't really need to reinvent the wheel with Guitar Hero expansions. Just add different tracks, reskin the models, and release it as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, or Guitar Hero: Money Grab.

In an article written in Ars Technica, the author described what hard lessons were gleaned by the success of Modern Warfare 2. I read it over, felt an unfortunate case of deja vu, and immediately felt the grip of Kotick on my stomach.

Clearly his aim was off. The man generally makes his money by grabbing players by the proverbial testicular region.

The Bottom Line: You Will Pay

There was a backlash from the PC gaming community when they were told that the PC version of MW2 was going to cost $60. That's the same price the console version sold for. Traditionally, when a PC version of a console game is released it sells for less. Players were expecting a $50 price tag for their PC copy. They lost their minds when they heard it was not only going to cost as much as the console copy, but it wasn't going to have the dedicated server option that most PC multiplayer games allow.

Activision was well aware of the controversy this was going to create, and they weren't concerned. They claimed their new matchmaking service would more than make up for the anger the PC gamers were feeling, and they sang the praises of the IWNet system. Yet for all their talk, they never addressed why they raised the price. Never tried to justify the increase. They could just as easily have kept the price tag at $50 and introduced the new system. It would have taken the sting out of the inability for players to host and mod their game, and eased them into the new system. Try to maintain a little goodwill with the more hardcore players.

Instead the "hardcore players" were slapped in the mouth with a price hike, then kicked them in the groin by stripping away the hosting options. If you were a PC gamer, you were going to pay what they wanted you to pay, play how they wanted you to play, and damn well like it thank you very much. So why the price hike?

Bobby Kotick knew the players would pay. And they did. If the illustrious Robert K had his way, he would have raised the price even further.

World of Warcraft has this stink all over it.

It started off small at first - server transfers (PVE/PVP to PVE), name changes. Minor types of things. Then came full Character Customizations (including OMG SEX CHANGE), complete Server Transfer service (OMG PVE to PVP), Race Change, and Faction Change. Some were services that had been requested for a long time. Others were things that the player base was told would never happen.

Bobby K: Can I make a buck by offering this service?

Developers: Well, yes but we said -

Bobby K: Peon, make it so. Also, find me more ways to liberate these player-type people from their disposable income.

Pet Store, I'm looking at you. Folks paid $10 for vanity pets that did nothing except make noise and annoy other players in their group or raid. Okay, the Pandaran Monk gets a sliver of a pass because he bowed when you bow to him, and more people need to learn that kind of respect. However, they are completely unnecessary, and don't give me that garbage about using them to buy the non-combat pet Achievements or the fact that the Monk was partially for charity. The charity lasted a couple of months, and the price never went down after it was over. And between getting a Pug for running PUGs and a baby Corehound for owning an authenticator, Blizzard is practically throwing these pets at you. You don't need to spend $20 for two more pets.

But people will. They will shell out that money for a lousy ten Achievement Points. At least they get something out of the deal, other than the pet. Other people will fork over the cash because the pets know Kung Fu, or occasionally zap nearby critters. They are cute, and Blizzard knows there are people who will pay for cute.

To accentuate the fact, they're going to be adding cute Plush Pets to the store. These are real, physical items that you can prop up beside your keyboard or monitor so they can watch players diddle their keys or stroke their mouse. The plan is to release a Wind Rider Cub and a Gryphon Hatchling for purchase, with a code attached to each to get a matching in-game pet. You can bet these things are going to cost more than ten bucks.

You can also bet that people are going to pay whatever it costs. Many will complain, but many more will buy them.

However, none of this directly affects game play. The corporate mouthpieces will tell everyone that these paid items are just extras. You don't need to buy them. They are not important, nor will they ever be. Theoretically, they are correct. The player base is far from what could be called "rational thinkers" when it comes to such matters.

Right now, Blizzard is playing by the rules of engagement. If players stopped buying these extras, Blizzard would stop putting them out. It's like cigarettes. They stain your teeth, make you clothes stink, give you the breath of a bus depot ash tray, have no redeeming qualities at all, and will most likely end up killing you straight to death. If people would just stop buying them the cigarette companies would go out of business.

Yet here's the WoW player base, lighting up again and again, all the while complaining about the people who simply make the cancer-sticks available. As if "we wouldn't buy these things if Blizzard would just stop offering them" is somehow a valid excuse.

Here's the punchline: Bobby Kotick doesn't care what you think.

In fact, Bobby doesn't even play videogames.

The man is in it purely to make a buck, and does so quite well. The key is that he knows the weakness of the player base. He knows that you will pay if he dangles the right carrot in front of you. First, it was vanity pets. On the horizon, a premium service IPhone app that will let you access the Auction House from your IPhone. This won't be the last money-grab to come down the pipe, either. You can bet on that, if you have any cash left over.

Are any of these pets/services/novelty items necessary? Absolutely not.

Can you play World of Warcraft without buying them? Of course you can.

But will you?

Or will you squeeze your authenticator between yellow-stained fingers and light up?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Main Man

I have a problem.

I'm a Main-a-holic.

I know what you're thinking. Most likely, it's something along the lines of "He's done gone crazy. He must mean he's an Altoholic."

I posed the question to the Twitter-verse: If you two-box characters, would you consider both characters to be your Main? Granted, I didn't get a single reply but it's still a good question.

People have "Mains" and they have "Alts." Alts are the toons that get played when the Main gets a little stale, or when they "just need a break." The mistress they court when they tire of the "ball and chain." The Mains are the characters that get first crack at the good gear, have more /played time, and are the characters that the player associates with as "their own".

It turns out I have three characters like that. All of them enjoy killing - a Hunter, a Death Knight, and an Arms/Fury Warrior. Each of them have different tools, different methods to get the job done. Each of them, special in their own way. I have tried to designate one of them as my central focus, my "Main". Hasn't happened yet.

This is not as cool as you might think.

Playtime is tricky, especially with the LFG Tool in full effect. That's three characters that need to run dungeons to get their Frost Emblems. Three characters who need their T9 gear. Just getting that done can take a couple of hours, depending on the queue time to get into the dungeon.

The wait time is not always in vain. One might run their Tournament Dailies, while another fishes to earn gold and round up mats for stat food. Another might take that earned gold and use it to level up professions.

At any one time, one of the three is working on a profession. What a gold sink. When you have three Mains, you want to make sure they have the best gear they can get their hands on. That means buying epics, or mats to make epics. Those are the kinds of purchases that doesn't leave much leftover change to throw at a profession. Is it really that important to max out a profession? You want the best for your Main, right? When you've got two DSP Plate class, those extra sockets help out for gemming. Every little bit helps.

Only the best for the Mains.

My entire evening can be spent jumping between those three. It takes management skills I really don't want to have to use when I'm playing a video game. Each of them needs their Frost Emblems. Two need to work on making gold for the third, who happens to be burning it up with getting his Blacksmithing off the ground. Oh, but he also has to work on his Argent Tournament dailies to get weapon upgrades. Then again, Tournament dailies are good gold so one of the other ones should be working on that as well. But how many times can you joust before you just want to gouge your eyes out?

I've put serious effort into each of the three. I've put in time, gold, research. I get them what they need. I get them the best things I can, with what I have. They're like my kids.

Now I just want my kids to lock themselves in a room and fight until there's only one survivor. He will be my Main.

Since I cannot find a way to make that happen (damn it), my only other hope is that one of them really needs to get my attention. One of them needs to break away from the other two in some form. Maybe a huge weapon upgrade puts one of them head and shoulders above the rest. Something. Anything.

This is how burnout happens. Right now, I can't let my kids down.

... sounds like I've already reached "full scorched" status between my ears.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tales from the PuG - You Are Not Your GearScore

"Do you know what your GearScore is?"

I honestly had no idea, and said as much.

"Yeah, neither did I." Rukgut shrugged his big green shoulders and looked down at his pet Blighthound, a smouldering scamp named Dexter. "Still not too sure, actually. Didn't care before, don't rightly care now."

He plucked a blade of grass and studied it for a moment before wadding it into a ball. He sighed and flicked it away. Dexter's ears perked up and he snapped at it as flew by him. "Apparently that mess of numbers means the World to some folks though."

We shared a bench in the Antonidas Memorial Garden in Dalaran. Despite being only a few yards away from the hustle and bustle of the Horde's Bank of Dalaran, Rukgut sat alone in the garden. It seemed that was how he preferred it, being alone like that. Just a Hunter and his pet. An Orc and his Dog. There was just a hint of a smile visible from beneath his helmet, watching his pet Blighthound sniffing at a white rabbit. The softer side of a sniping killer.

For as long as I've know him, Rukgut has never been quite right in the head, even for an Orc. The fact that he's a Grand Master Engineer says all that needs to be said about the Hunter. Still, despite the fact that he's been in so many Pick Up Groups that he has been awarded the title "the Patient", he proudly wears the title "of Orgrimmar" over his head. He's proud of his people, not the people.

Crazy, but not stupid.

"I'd never been in the Oculus before, but I'd heard the stories. People get scared. Say it's too hard. Turn tail and run before they even give it a chance. I figure, what's the worst that can happen, right?" He nudges Dexter's rune-scarred haunch with the toe of his boot. A smoky mist escapes the Hound's nostrils. "We've never been afraid of anything."

Tweeddledee, a blond Blood Elf Rogue, rides up to us. She's a guildmate of Ruk's, and the Orc rises to greet her. "Gimme a second." He walks over to her, Dexter anxiously following behind his master. The Rogue hands him a few stacks of leather, and a few moments later he hands a thicker stack back to her. The Rogue departs and the big Orc makes his way back to the bench. "Sorry 'bout that. Just helping out a guildie. Where were we?"

GearScore, I remind him.

"Yeah. Bad enough that I'm in the Oculus, but I'm running it with a bunch of strangers. To add to my aggravation, I'd just started training as a Marksman and was still getting the hang of shot rotations and such. Strangers or not, I owed it to these people to bring the pain as best I could."

Actually giving a damn about doing his best for a bunch of strangers. See? Crazy.

"We get the pleasantries out of the way, the tank runs out like a madman to start the fun. I send Dex in to help out, bring my rifle up to my shoulder, and someone in the group asks if I've been eighty for long. That seemed like a strange question to ask. The kind of question someone asks when they think you don't know what you're doing. I hadn't even pulled the trigger yet, so it's not like I'd had a chance to do something wrong. I asked why he was asking."

"Your GearScore is kinda low, so I was just wondering."

"Just wondering." The Orc spits the words out as if they were made of, well, whatever an Orc might find distasteful. Feces-covered balls of Fail, perhaps. "This guy had never met me before, had no idea what Dex and I could do. Instead of waiting for us to prove ourselves, he summed up our total experience and skill by the amount of crap I was wearing."

What did you say?

"Nothing. I wasn't going to argue, get into some kind of dick-waving contest. What was the point? We were there to fight dragons and dragonlings, not flare our egos at each other. I let my rifle do my talking for me."

And did it speak well of you?

"According to another stupid batch of numbers, I had the top DPS in the group." He smiled again. Fangs creeped out from between his lips. "Maybe those numbers aren't all that stupid."

I take it you're not a fan of GearScore.

"Don't really see the point of it. I'm sure it has a purpose. Real important to brainy folks. Raid Leaders, probably. Make sure people can handle the content or something. But the fact that I was wearing three pieces of Windrunner's gear of Conquest, not to mention some Deadly Gladiator gear, all that gets boiled down to a number that someone uses to judge how well I do my job. That's bull. I can kill just as well as anyone. Better, if the mood really strikes me."

Rukgut turns his head and watches Taurens and Orcs, Blood Elves and Trolls, hurrying in and out of the Bank like ants in an ant hill. "It's why I don't have much use for folks, y'know? They have it backwards. Make important stuff seem useless, and the useless stuff important. Appease the Ego, not the Brain. I don't need that kind of clutter in my life."

For an Orc Hunter, he makes alot of sense.

"You are not your GearScore," he tells me. "I wish more people would understand that. Understand that there's more to life than pretty Epic gear. You can't judge folks by what they wear. See what they can do before you look down your nose at them."

I watch Ruk as he reaches into his backpack and pull out a bloody slab of Salted Venison. He tosses the meat to Dexter, who anxiously gobbles up the chunk of seasoned flesh. Some people need to be the top of the Recount charts to be happy. Others need to have a high GearScore.

Folks like Rukgut seems happy just facing a new challenge with good people. Or a burning dog that smells like sulphur, as the case may be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Pug is The End

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on gearing up my Arms Warrior. The mighty Tauren is in line for a server / faction transfer to play with some people I know IRL. I wasn't sure how long I was going to maintain the grind, forsaking my other characters for the Warrior. He's been fun to use, and I've enjoyed running the LFG tool with him. Still, was I going get him a full T9 suit before making the move? Or, how would I know when it was time to let my other characters sink their teeth into the Emblems and mouth-breathers who farm them?

It came as a bit of a surprise. I'd forgotten that he'd already earned his title "the Patient" (he doesn't wear the title - why would he?), but I hadn't been paying attention to how close he was to the next part of the Achievement.


After returning from the completed PuG, the mighty Warrior checked his mailbox. Seems the jokesters at the WoW Dev Team decided to celebrate the achievement by taking a small, rodent-like canine and stuffed him in a box.

Looking down at the slobbering, bug-eyed pooch and watching it drag its butt across the snow, it hit me. Time to take a break. Perhaps the Tauren might put in his papers and ship off to Parts Unknown in the near future. His departure will cause some adjustments to be made in those left behind. Being an Inscriptor & Jewelcrafter was nice, but maybe the Inscription will have to be replaced with Blacksmithing. More gold going his way...

... and he'd just picked up Epic Flying, too.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Authentic Security

About ten days ago I was reading my favourite World of Warcraft tabloid site, One of their bloggers, Adam Holiski, was going apeshit about a leaked Blizzard policy regarding restoring items and characters on accounts that have been hacked. Another one of his articles suggested that Blizzard wanted to make it mandatory to have an authenticator attached to every account, and that it was a "virtually forgone conclusion that it will happen."

Dramatic. No evidence to back most of this up except the word of an unnamed source. But one does what one can to draw viewers to an ad-driven site.

I've read many of the account security arguments, how Blizzard should just give everyone an authenticator for free if they want to make sure accounts are secure. Others say they'll play the game how they want, and Blizzard isn't going to tell them what to do. The paranoids usually trickle in and say it's all a conspiracy, that the whole thing is just a scam from Blizzard to get more people to buy the authenticators.

Jesus. The player base is stupid and lazy, while Blizzard is greedy and uncaring.

I have an authenticator on my account. I have protection for my computer, the cyber condom as it were, that I downloaded for free. It always updates itself, and it has thrown a red flag on a couple of sites that had potentially harmful content.

Not a peep on Two Girls - One Cup though. Lesson learned.

It's obvious what the player needs to do to make sure they keep their account safe. Many don't do it, but it's not because they don't know what to do. Again, lazy. So is there something Blizzard can do to improve account security?

Adding an authenticator to every shipped box of Cataclysm will not cure the problem. It might help the paranoids who think Blizz is just looking for another way to get cash out of them. God knows we want those people happy and, more importantly, playing the game.

You can take an authenticator and place it in every sweaty gamer palm, but that won't get them to go through the procedure of attaching to their account. Yes, it is a stupidly simple procedure to do so. But many of the folks who play this game are easily boggled, and the concept of typing a serial number into a text box sends them around the bend.

What I hope they don't do is to make it mandatory to have authenticators. That way, my account will always be safe. The people who hack accounts spend all their effort designing fake web pages and writing bogus emails. They're not using brute-force hacks, they simply troll the waters and hope they get a bite. When they do, they get the info they need or drop a keylogger on the Darwin-nominee's system and wait for the account info to roll in. So that fifteen character password that's changed all the time, mixed with letters and numbers, that seems virtually impossible to figure out? Well that's getting sent right to the Hacker, who will immediately change it to "sucker" once he slaps HIS authenticator on the hacked account.

With the account-acquisition business booming, there's no need for Hackers to step up their game and try to beat authenticator-protected accounts. They will continue to pick on the easy prey, rather than try to improve their methods. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

There is no valid excuse not to have an authenticator. The cost is the same as a burger and fries at your local fast-food joint. If you don't want to give your money to Blizzard, you may find out that it's easier to protect your pride than it is to protect your account. If you're worried about breaking it or losing it, well you probably aren't reading this anyway because you've lost your keys and are locked out of your house.

Another perk of having an authenticator is being superior to others. I logged on to my guild toon today and watched a guildie's girlfriend post that his account had been hacked. She wrote in CAPS to make sure her point got across. She was promptly Silenced because of the "no caps" guild policy, followed by people pointing out that THEY have authenticators. Don't you want to be one of the cool kids in your guild, who can thumb your nose at people who don't have authenticators? Sure you do.

Bottom line is that there's two ways to make sure your account remains safe. You can either constantly change your password, install malware and virus protection, make sure it is always up to date, ensure you only log onto your account on a computer that you know is equally as protected as your own.

Or get an authenticator.

Hackers aren't putting in much of an effort to hoodwink the player base. You can walk to stay one step ahead of them.

But for those who have trouble putting one foot in front of the other, I thank you. Folks like you will ensure Hackers never have to break into a jog to catch the rest of us.

Remember Kids - If you're being chased by a grizzly, you don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun your slower friend.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WoW - The Porn Killer

Who would have thought it would be the Night Elf mailbox dancers to take down the Adult Entertainment Industry.

One of the strangest challenges porn faces is competition from online games like World of Warcraft, though the connection may at first seem random. “It is all entertainment that you are getting involved in the same way as porn is entertainment,” said Aiden. “I won’t say everyone, but a lot of people in the industry play videogames. The games are competition for porn. Fans jerk off to porn and are done, but you can keep playing a game.”

Aiden (no last name, this is porn!) should know, as he is also Webmaster for his wife Belladonna’s successful site As for his online gaming, his wife wants him to cut back. “Yeah, my wife and I occasionally argue about the amount of time I spend playing.”


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Tale of Tragon

There's hundreds of stories that come out of PuGs. Some of them are uplifting, showing the better side of humanity that seldom gets representation in the World of Warcraft. More often, the stories reflect the more common, ignorant and self-serving side.

This is the story of Tragon, the Human Warrior.

Tragon happened on the group as it was running Utgard Keep. They'd suffered numerous wipes and, as was often the case, when the going got tough, most left the party. There were two from the original party - a DPS Pally and a BM Hunter. It was a non-heroic group, mostly around the 70 range, except for Tragon who was 69. Clad in greens and a few blues, gemmed as best he could, Tragon asked how far along they were.

"End boss", the Hunter said. "We wiped on Ingvar the Plunderer."

It was the first time tanking the heavy hitter, so the group was somewhat prepared for hiccups with Tragon. There were two or three, which resulted in party wipe after party wipe. Each time meant a long run back to Ingvar. Plenty of time for reflection on what went wrong, and after the second wipe, who was to blame. The Priest took some heat, but Tragon was constantly getting crushed during the encounter. People weren't coming out and saying it, but the feeling was there that maybe, just maybe, this lowbie Warrior wasn't going to be able to pull it off.

The tension finally bubbled over, which lead to a dick move by the druid who pulled Ingvar and then dropped the group. (Why did you do it, Skunktank of Scarlet Crusade? Were you trying to wipe the group? Or bug the encounter? Or does being a jagoff just come naturally to you?)

Even with all the chaos swirling around him, Tragon kept his cool. He never complained about late heals. He never tried deflecting criticism. He never showed that the repeat wipes were getting him down. He was in it for the long haul, despite being the lowest level in the group.

The Priest finally showed doubt when a Warlock joined the group, and said they'd never pull it off because the Warlock was within 1k Health of the tank. I suppose that means FAIL in some languages.

Tragon didn't know that language. He soldiered on, encouraged by the Shaman who was confident they'll score the win the very next pull. With that, Tragon charged forward...

Tragon held firm but died during the Undead Ingvar phase. So did many others. But the group didn't wipe, they held strong, and managed to pull out the win. Achievement for Tragon - Utgard Keep.

I don't know if he got any loot from Ingvar. What I do know is that he never showed doubt in himself. He never offered to drop the group so they could get a better geared tank. HE was the tank, and by God he'd be the one to get the job done. That's the sign of a good meat shield, and that "never give up" attitude is probably why there's such a tank shortage.

After all, the easiest route is to drop and get a better group.

Unless you're Tragon, vanquisher of Ingvar the Plunderer.