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.