Neutral Blood Elves
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 April 2014, 8:00 am
The other day's post about the factionalism of some Pandaren led to an interesting comment which, among other things, suggested that Blood Elves should be neutral. The idea intrigued me.

Lore
It's somewhat of an accident that the Blood Elves are in the Horde. As High Elves they'd been part of the Alliance. Their 'conversion' to Blood Elves was recent. Their joining with the Horde was even more recent, and was not inevitable. There were doubts, and justifiably, that this more-than-devastated nation would be little more than a burden. Surely a Horde that had only recently broken away from demonic influence would be wary of a race that was dependent on demonic power.

In terms of personality, it fits as well. Elves are generally arrogant, and high elves perhaps even more so. Why would they not stand alone, away from the savages and corpses?

They have their own problems, trolls and the Scourge. Remember, BC was long before the Lich King was defeated. Could they really afford to go marching off to someone else's war with the many powerful Alliance armies on the continent? But perhaps that's irrelevant, since they have a powerful buffer zone against the Alliance: the Plaguelands and Lordaeron.

Gameplay
Who would become paladins? I still think tauren paladins sound ridiculous, even though I also think that Sunwalkers are a somewhat logical extension of druidism. There has always been a bit of a push for Forsaken paladins, but those also have various problems, even if they sound cool. Perhaps they'd be the inverse of the Blood Knights: rather than being so dark that even their brethren shun them, they'd be rejected for their embrace of the Light.

Geographically, Silvermoon isn't of much use to Horde players. Undercity already gives good access the north of the Eastern Kingdoms.

Most importantly, it's too late for World of Warcraft. The story already happened, not that that has necessarily mattered; Cataclysm was more than happy to erase player actions, such as killing Onyxia. Players are Blood Elves and I suspect would not react kindly to a forced race change. A splintering, as we saw with Pandaren is possible, but also sets an annoying precedent, because what race could not be justifiably picked apart? Break off the Dark Irons again, divide the orc and troll races, might as well just have every character pick its faction. Someone probably likes that idea.

Future Story
This is where I think the idea shines. Or, gets exceptionally ugly.

Despite regaining the Sunwell, I do not believe the Blood Elves are particularly powerful still. They were hit far too hard and were never a populous group. If no longer under the umbrella of the Horde, they'd end up with a potential enemy: Sylvanas.

I'd love to see this dark... darker.... black hole swallowed by another black hole, but without the huge energy releases from gravitational waves... darkerest turn by Sylvanas. Why should her former brethren not rejoin her? Perhaps the Forsaken could find some use for the Sunwell.

This leads to her army marching right back up along the Dead Scar and her journey to becoming the Lich King-lite is complete. Might the Alliance, seeing the risks of the Forsaken gaining such a powerful source of magic, intervene? Things could turn out ugly for Vereesa.

Alternatively, they just get overrun by trolls and breakaway undead.



How population affects the world
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 April 2014, 1:29 pm
Some quests are better with an empty world. The lone hero who saves everyone quests in particular work best when there isn't someone else also around saving the world. Waiting in line just gets to be ridiculous. "Excuse me, sir, but could you hurry things up a bit? I also need to destroy this threat to the world." Kills and spawns can get silly too when you've destroyed the threat to the world, only to have it pop back up again and fight you while you're riffling through its pockets. This gets doubly bad when the next guy in line to save the world has to wait because you've gone and tagged the threat to the world. It's not as if shared kills solve this, as then we end up with a handful of Lone Saviors of the World teaming up to repeatedly kill the threat.

On the other hand, if things are too empty, then quests can get to be too hard. Many quests with elites are of this sort. Many of those are gone. This can still end up looking silly, because the quests were clearly designed for multiple players involved and went from being a significant accomplishment to being lame. I'm looking at you, Jintha'Alor. On a side note, not only was that place tricky to run at level, but it's also the worst Archaeology spot in the history of ever. Quests for mass killing are simultaneously well- and poorly-suited to a high population. On one hand, if those rats/orcs/rarcs are such a problem, then it makes sense that there would be a ton of people hired to kill them. It makes it feel a bit more like a war/magically oversized pest control when you have a dozen people busily killing them. Yet this depends a great deal on the spawn rate: if they come back quickly, then all is good. But, if the respawn is slow, then you have a bunch of guys standing around drinking coffee and yet, none of them claim to be supervising or on break.

Population variance can take a turn for the comical, utterly ruining the quest, but creating an equally-great situation, if only you can see it from the right perspective. For example, Westfall is meant to begin with an investigation into a murder. This should mean the lone player carefully questioning various vagrants, possibly bribing them, a feature that I believe all quests should have. In practice, it means racing people for the opportunity to punch a homeless person. Perhaps not what the developers intended, but it works just as well. And the ragamuffins have a field day.



Finally got a pandaren off of Turtleland
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 April 2014, 8:00 am
Their quests made me angry. I'd make a monk, because frankly, a non-pandaren monk and non-monk pandaren just don't make sense to me. Then I'd play the monk for a bit. Then I'd get bored by the wonderful mix of "you are the greatest person ever" and "you must learn humility" and go play something fun.

I finally decided to go for it. I'm on my new server, so I have no shortage of character slots. I struggled through it all, until finally, I got in a balloon and talked to a turtle. This confused me for a couple of reasons. First, it was a bit out of nowhere. "Our turtle island is dying" didn't seem to come up much. There was some issue with the little element guys, but that struck me as being their own version of Cataclysm aftermath. Second, why had no one talked to him in so long? Surely a little check up would make sense. Maybe some small talk. Or big, slow talk. Perhaps ask permission to mine the copper nodes.

Then I went to a forest and suddenly... the trailer made sense. This was the strange island that the Alliance and Horde washed up on. Of course I then was wondering what ever happened to Turtle Island. Did it just go on its merry way and ignore all the problems in Pandaria? Did it get lost? Maybe I missed a bit of quest dialog somewhere along the line.

I greatly enjoyed getting to Stormwind and talking to Varian. He sold the Alliance very well, as what appeared to be an Azerothian NATO (an attack on one is an attack on all). The brawl, or the aftermath, was perfectly done.

It did leave me wondering through, is Pandaren society screwed? From the sound of it, there are a lot of Pandaren who are leaving to join the Horde or Alliance. Clearly joining one faction or the other, or being totally neutral, strike me as safer situations. In the former, there are allies to back them up. In the latter, each side has an interest in avoiding a conflict, since that could force them into the other faction. Being mostly neutral but losing new recruits to the factions surely must be causing some terrible societal divisions. When no one is joining anyone, then opinions about the factions don't matter too much. But what about when someone's offspring, siblings, or parents, want to leave to join a faction? Just the notion that they can leave, that they can abandon all they knew, can shake a society. Now make where to go not just a matter of choice, but of division, and things get messy. Even without outside manipulations, there would be those who want to promote or disparage a particular faction, and those people surely will not get along well. It isn't yet a civil war, but what is to suggest that it will not be?

Perhaps that's a good sign, when I'm left with more questions and caring what happens afterward.



Flying
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 April 2014, 8:50 pm
Falling cow
Flying crow
Waving at the fel cannon below
Flak clouds
Demons surround
Totally worth it, still

Flying high with angry tall women
Making our way to Ulduar
Circling a temple
Drake hopping battle
I remember Titans
In the mountains

Break the tree line and flying is worth it
Notice the tree lines and you're not so sure
Ironforge airport
Wallclimb exploit
Dance with dancing trolls
Until a Cataclysmic hole
And is it worth it anymore?

Flying serpents are ugly and hard to land
The end.



All of these things are not like the others
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 April 2014, 11:54 pm
Mr. Child had a fascinating post the other day about the so-called Match 3 style of games. He had some good points, but as they say "journalism is the first draft of history", which is of course not actually applicable here except to the extent that I need to have at least one famous quotation in every post. If you think you haven't seen them, that's because I'm attempting to make what I already say famous, thereby retroactively fixing my posts and allowing me to graduate from junior high. I've been running off a fake degree this entire time, despite having never mastered algebra, European History (section two: 1472-1532), or overuse of homophobic epithets to avoid having them aimed at me.

Anyway, the point I was trying to get at is that Match 3 games are misnamed, since, while the basic gameplay is directed at matching three, that's essentially like saying that World of Warcraft is about autoattack. Sure, it's there, and it was a 95% accurate description of a vanilla paladin (the other 5% was unspeakable things done between judgement cooldowns), but it's also simplistic and missing all the nuance. They really should be called Match 5, so as to correctly convey that matching three is, at best, a set up for fives, and at worst a level of noobishness that makes you unworthy to even own a phone that is clearly smarter than you. (did you know that AMD processors are physically incapable of running Match 3 games?)

In addition, he entirely failed to address the concept of not-Match 3. Consider the game Set. Some of you might know it as the game that is banned. Others might remember when an adult insisted that it have turns, which only makes it worse. If it's real-time then getting none means you're maybe just slightly slower. As turns, if you can't get the totally obvious one that everyone else can see is right there, it means you are stupid, and I hated you for it. Seriously, it's so obvious, how can you have been staring at these for this long and not gotten it? I've already figured out the next three sets and I can't even see the next cards.

In this game there is a sort of matching of three cards. They can be all about the same, such as three cards with three unshaded diamonds of different colors. Or, they can be more different, such as one, two, and three, but one is shaded, another is unshaded, and another is filled in entirely. It can even blow your mind with different colors, shading, and numbers. Like, woah.

Why does a Match 3 not break the mold and add this "all of these things are not like the others"? Obviously in a set of three this is going to be trivial,but that would be a boon to casuals who can't figure out how to keep their board going, and instead whine about "getting screwed by the RNG" rather than being prepared. This gives them a little less to whine about, but the score value can be low, so they aren't competing with their superiors. With so many available colors, this allows for highly-perceptive players to get extremely long matches, further differentiating them from their freakish color-blind inferiors.

Allowing non-matched matches, far from dumbing down the game, is in fact a brilliant way to appease the idiotic masses who 'financially' support games while giving a more complex game to the good players who truly support it with their enthusiasm and disdain for others.



The Joy of Anticipation, Heightened by Preparation
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 April 2014, 10:39 pm
As a student, and then unemployed person, I had a lot of time for gaming. I also had a lot of flexibility with my time. I could play pretty much any game at any time. Paradoxically, this would periodically cause me to become very bored. I could do too much and in the midst of trying to decide what to do would give up.

It also meant that, as much as I thought about gaming in general and my experiences in particular, I didn't think much about goals. Since I had so much time I tended to start a game and do... something. Maybe a random? Or conquer a city? It was a sort of aimless wandering. That's an activity well-suited to something like Skyrim, but not for a strategy game or reward-driven MMO (unless you're indifferent to the rewards, which I was not).

Now that I can't play whenever I want I find myself thinking about gaming in a much different manner. It is less generic philosophical rambling and thinking about how awesome I am, and more planning. It's not as if I have particularly limited gaming time. I am still single (ladies...) and my job is a nice 40 hours a week. But it's something that, at any given moment, I am not just not doing, but cannot do. That adds an element of anticipation. The Germans have a word for this, but I'm in a good mood and don't want to sound angry.

Yet the anticipation isn't merely "I will get to play this game". It's about my goals in the game. What do I want to do long-term? What can I do to move toward that? What are smart short-term actions? Are there short-term problems to deal with? In the abstract I suppose this sounds rather boring, like I'm planning an Action Strategy for Leveraging Strengths in Mental-Positive Recreational Activities. In practice it means thinking a about gaming and how cool it is and how cool it would be to accomplish this or that.

For example, I am currently trying to take over the world as Russia (little Novgorod is all grown up). In the abstract that means killing everyone. In particular, it means that at some point I need to directly confront France, Britain, and Castille in a sustained and successful conflict. Before I can do that I need to have an adequate military and economic base. Those mean developing technologies and acquiring land. The land means other wars, wars which I must carefully manage so as to avoid getting pulled into another world war that cripples my country. At an even greater level of detail, this meant trying to grab more land in Asia to connect my mainland with the areas I took from China, since otherwise they are considered very distance colonies and have been producing no income at all for at least a hundred years (I didn't know that this was the reason). And of course I'm always trying to shed war exhaustion, a task made more difficult by my extraordinarily bad reputation (due to the Asian land grab).

During breaks I can think about my empire, what weaknesses it has, what strengths it has, what opportunities are available. Then I can get home and set my grand plan into motion. Sometimes it is promptly ruined by an opportunistic enemy, such as when France attacked my European front with about three times my local army, while I was already deep in a huge Asian war (note to self: refusal of military access does not count as casus belli).

This isn't even an isolated example. In Skyrim I fund myself back into it and having a lot of fun after wondering which skill to make legendary (an ironic name, considering it resets the skill to 15 and strips the points). Then I came home and did that, spending the points from destruction to get more two-handed skills. I did a switch from caster to melee, if you were wondering what that was about.

Now, what to do next?



How to be a Scammer
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 March 2014, 1:44 pm
Step one: Advertise to sell something.
Step two: Sell it.

I had some extra heavy junkboxes sitting around for a few years. Since they're a box, they can't go in the AH, so it's a matter of finding someone online that wants them. If you do find someone who wants them and can take many COD over time, it can be a nice boring few hundred gold an hour, depending on what price you get.

Again, I advertised at my usual 25g. Someone offered 20g, which I took. I traded them over and then cringed as I saw it, "so and so looted empty poison vial."

I'd been in the habit of unlocking all my boxes. I could, and did, get a Teebu's Blazing Longsword out of one, so it was a good habit. As long as I kept auto-loot off I could safely and quickly unlock and check them before mailing them off for turning in.

At first I thought he'd mistakenly opened it. Then another opened. I was off to do my pet battles, so I dropped group. Then he whispered me, saying that it is rude to scam people. I asked, "what scam?" Surely someone wouldn't be so stupid as to use a level 60 box as a way to loot gold for the achievement. Surely someone would know what they're buying. And if they don't, they can see that it is their own fault.

The last time something even remotely like this happened involved someone buying a sword for transmog, only for them to realize they couldn't actually use it. They told me this, in an "oops, I screwed up" kind of way. I offered to buy it back, since it's not as if it was damaged just by being traded. They kept it, maybe for an alt. No accusations of scamming.

I'd have even kept the same policy. If he'd said "these aren't what I thought they are", then I'd have bought back the unopened ones. Of course that's unprofitable, but I can see myself mistakenly buying something that is almost what I wanted and I'd rather play in a game, and live in a world, where people offer an undo button. And maybe a world where people don't immediately assume it's a scam when they make a mistake.



Alternative Incentives for Returning Players
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 March 2014, 9:47 pm
Giving someone a reward is easy, but does it actually make any difference? I've analyzed all my data on new and returning characters in the top ten MMOs and found no effect. Note: I have absolutely no data. Since the traditional approach does not appear to be working, here are some alternatives.

Here's what changed
There are patch notes and maybe spell tips, but do those help? Of course not. If they did, then players would be all up ins that game.

Instead, give a narrative of what happened. Say which awesome abilities are gone, admit that the new ones aren't as good, and give a general idea of how the class is completely unrecognizable. To go along with this, check the most recent play time of more than ten minutes (that is just confused stumbling, like a drunk man with no light poles), and then say how things are different relative to then. Is your melee class now a spell caster? Does your spell caster use strength for some reason?

Bag Organizer
"What's all this shit in my bags?" Not only does the player not remember putting this stuff in there (reverse-hackers?), they have no idea if it is any good. You come back with three empty slots and end up rage-quitting immediately, or at best, spend two hours figuring it out, only to quit because your first new impression is that the game is a miserable mess of bag management.

To help, give returning players an automated analysis of the contents of their bags. What is the median sell price over the past month? Is this piece of gear better than something you'll get from the new content that drew you back in?

Here's how bad you are
Last time I played I was hot stuff. I was awesome and did cool stuff. Now I'm not sure what's going on. Rather than surprise players by leaving them to get horribly stomped in PvP and perhaps PvE as well, just bluntly inform them that on a scale of one to ten, their gear is now a zero. Then show them some options on fixing that, such as "go to noob island of free epics to get up to two" or "die a lot in absurdly unbalanced PvP to get to a four".

Your guild master was arrested for selling meth
Who hasn't come back to a disbanded guild? Or as GM of a guild that is inexplicably flagged as "kill on sight" due to some misdeeds in your absence? Give returning players some idea of what happened, whether that was a mass transfer, a mass quit because of the same expansion that made you leave, or the Rapture (nope, you're not in).

The Ancient
It's a title to indicate "I wasn't always this awful, give me a moment and I'll show you how good I can be. Or at least I will spend the entire run telling you how good I used to be, because let's face it, the years away due to a brief 'misunderstanding' the a mob boss did not make me a better gamer.



The End-Game Transition
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2014, 5:44 pm
Anyone who complains about an end-game transition is being stupid.

Part One: Inevitability

In any game with any sort of progress you're going to have a tendency toward an end-game. Either all measured progress stops or it changes in form. This is not necessarily by the design of the developers.

Consider a game such as Banished or Don't Starve. The initial game is a struggle to not die horribly. You try to get sustained heat or light and food. This means chopping trees, foraging, hunting, and hitting rocks. Eventually you've chopped so many trees, foraged and hunted, and hit so many rocks that you're not likely to die a horrible death at any given moment. You've stabilized your situation. Your people have shelter, they make enough babies that enough will grow up to make babies to sustain the baby-making cycle, and you generate enough surplus food that even if the houses are filled with babies you won't suffer from baby-induced starvation. Alternatively, you have enough trees and grass around to keep catching rabbits, your rock-based structures are set up, and you have enough non-renewable materials to last a very long time.

Now you're in the end-game. In a game that doesn't have one, but it does anyway.

Unless you do something actively stupid, such as switching all your farmers to the quarry, or going in caves naked with no torches, you're unlikely to die any time soon. With the basics taken care of you can focus even more on exploration and expansion. Now you can build another Market Economic Zone branching off from your original Capital Economic Zone, and eventually fill the entire map with housing and farms, altering their design to ensure the maximum number of non-starving people. The survival game has become a spreadsheet-based optimization game.

Part Two: Your Counter-Argument to Part One is Stupid

Part Three: By Which I Mean, Adding New Problems Isn't a Good Solution

Banished could figure out new problems to throw at you. Maybe you think you're such hot shit for having stone houses and locally-sourced plum brandy from a sustainable orchard. Well what about when the developer patches in alcoholism and makes the dead rise up and eat all your peppers? Now you have to divert your precious iron supply to swords rather than tools and your physician has to do something other than wait around for dirty nomads with their weird foreigner diseases. Bam, challenge returned! In a totally artificial and annoying manner.

At least for me, and my opinion is the best one, these sorts of games are about the struggle toward that stable point. You figure out the immediate crises (food), deal with those, work on the near-term problems (housing), figure those out, and amidst all of that work toward dealing with long-term issues such as not running out of tools next year. With that generally worked out, you create some guarantees for the future, such as a trading post, so that you can supplement your theoretically-limited supply of stone, iron, and coal, with pepper trades. Now you can survive forever. That's kinda neat.

If the game then added in a new type of problem, then I'd probably just get mad at it. I just built this town hall and now you're telling me I need to beautify the streets or get voted out? I'm the incorporeal dictator!

The game could add a decay mechanic, but how are you going to tune it? If the decay uses resources that can be unlimited, such as trees or rabbit corpses, then it's essentially just another long-term sustainability mechanic. I'll set up a few more traps and declare victory.

If the decay uses resources that aren't unlimited, then the game is essentially saying "this game is about survival and I am going to kill you, guaranteed." I don't mind the inevitability of death in a game, but can I at least go out with a bang rather than a whimper? Surely it is more fun to see that the end is coming and bravely stand against the onslaught of violent death than to mine the last rock and know that the next baby born will die shivering in the cold. Maybe that's just human nature, to want to face something that we can punch, such as Russians, rather than resource depletion.

Part Four: I Stop Writing Soon

A truly pure survival game sounds stupid to me. Survival is a limited thing. It is either a pointless struggle against the inevitable or a pointless struggle. I like it when a game has survival that can be overcome, and when it is, something can be built. In Banished I didn't just survive a winter, I also built a town that can survive many winters. Perhaps that is also a bit of human nature: while animals survive, humans build and develop. Even if the rules of the universe still call for survival, it is no longer at the front of our minds because we've built to insulate ourselves from it, with markets, laws, and literal insulation.

So I say to you, if you think "the end-game transition" is both bad and preventable, then you, sir or madam or other old-timey polite moniker for your identity, are an opponent of all human progress, and probably alien progress as well.



How your keybindings are killing you
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2014, 9:25 am
For years I've used ctrl as a modifier to get additional spells on my bars and ready to use. It's not so far away and with my pinky on it my normal keys were still readily accessible. It all seemed perfect. Then it struck me: I shouldn't be constantly twisting my hand to use common spells. I didn't have any symptoms of anything, but why push my luck? I'd never liked the two buttons on the side of my mouse, but I figured I'd give them a try.

Immediately that was two more readily accessible spells. That means two fewer spells that need ctrl to use. Most of my hand-twisting was gone. It felt good. It felt more relaxed and comfortable. It also felt smarter than destroying my left hand just because I didn't like two of my buttons.

I still use ctrl, but differently. First, it works well with the mouse buttons, since ctrl-mouse doesn't use the same hand, so my pinky moves down to the key but my other fingers aren't extended up to get at the numbers. Second, because I've effectively freed up four keys, I can save ctrl for things that aren't so frequently used.

I might even get one of those mice with a dozen buttons in various spots. They always seemed stupid to me, but perhaps not if they're going to be better for my hands.



Like Alexander, if he hadn't died in the field
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2014, 11:28 am
Last post I wrote about my utter failure at domestic policy. Maybe violence in games is more common than anything else because it's so much easier. Destroying things can be a matter of simple brute force or cleverly identifying a weakness, but once it's done, it's done. It helps that games, and media in general, don't portray the mess that is left behind. It's fun to wave the flag at the top of the Reichstag, less fun to figure out what to do with millions of stained consciences and a rubble-based country.

I had to deal with that aftermath. My wars gave me land and that land gave me some wealth, but those wars also gave me a bad reputation and a larger army that took that wealth. Strangely, this was a more immediate crisis than any battle. I'd made huge military mistakes in the past, but worst case scenario I could just end the war. Failing on the domestic front could destroy my country now and in the future. Action had to be immediate and on a large scale, before it completely overwhelmed my economy and foreign relations.

I had to take aggressive action. As much as I could, I trimmed my army. I switched my one national idea to the national bank (reduces inflation). I centralized my government (less inflation, more taxation). I stopped starting wars of blatant aggression and instead guaranteed the independence of small nations, waiting for them to be attacked (the tribute and vassals were too valuable, and necessary for my budget). I invested in government and trade research. Eventually I managed to balance my budget for the year and even started bringing down inflation. War exhaustion went to zero and the rebellions died down. Since then I've closed most of the tech gap with my rivals, built a navy, and cut overall inflation by more than two thirds.

Despite my switch to a domestic focus, I did still wage a few, highly-successful wars. They took down Castille and Lithuania, two countries with a long history of attacking me.

Things were looking good. Rebellions we down, revenues were up, everything was looking good.

I saw opportunity in the east of Europe: vast empires with backward armies. I went for it and it worked like a breeze. I looked south and saw the powerful Ottomans. They looked backward too. They turned out to be close enough in technology that I couldn't just knock them out in a single battle. The war dragged on, but my slight technological edge and rapidly-growing army won the day. All seemed to be okay. I even had a strategy to take down some of Castille's friends so that I could, someday, directly confront them again.

Then came the endless wars. I didn't start these fights, not all of them, or even most of them. But they happened and I had to win them. My vast armies marched all across Europe fighting everyone from Hungary to Sweden and even out to Asia for a fight with Persia. Countries, big and small, declared war. Algiers, my supposed vassal and ally, not that I blame them for their actions, supported rebels that knocked out my stabilization forces in northern Africa. The southern force was occupied with endless rebels. That was the theme: endless rebellions. As the war weariness inched upward so did the revolt chance, breaking 30%, and resulting in multiple provinces lost, though most regained before it was too late. I ended up losing two provinces in northern Africa, though at least they defected to a vassal, so it's not a total income loss. A terrible, tiny African country declared war, and with my African armies in shambles, managed to take a few provinces.

Tax revenues plummeted, leading me to use minting to balance my budget. Thankfully, I have two masters of the mint, centralization, and my national idea to keep inflation from growing. Army spending has to stay high as I am fighting constant rebellions and expect that one of these days the Ottomans are going to want revenge. Meanwhile, I suspect Castille and Austria are waiting for their moment.

Yet it is not all bad. I have the armies needed to keep down revolts. I am at peace. I'm returning some annexed provinces to vassals as a way to reduce the areas of revolt. Inflation is slowly creeping down. Except for Austria, the Germanic areas are almost entirely vassals. My colonies in Africa are growing and Brittany saved the day with its own armies. I crushed Sweden and liberated Norway and Finland. Newly-liberated Georgia is not very friendly, but at least it means that Persia is divided. France is stable, without debt, and at technological parity with anyone.

If it were not an absolute monarchy, I can only imagine that it would all make for some excellent spin from government and opposition parties. In retrospect, I wish I'd kept the administrative republic, but, "L'etat c'est moi."



You can play your own story of utter incompetence
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2014, 7:36 pm
I bought Europa Universalis III (not the new one) the other day. So far it's amazing (also, fun). The amount of choice is new to me.

In part, this comes from the game not pretending to be balanced in any normal sense. France is clearly the dominant power on the western European continent. But you can, if you want, play as Burgundy, France's smaller, weaker neighbor. I opted for Burgundy and then waged a long champaign to take control of France, so much so that I was able to declare myself to be France (that helped a lot with the French nationalist uprisings).

Yet, despite the "not balanced" nature of it, the game doesn't consist entirely of big AI nations devouring smaller ones. The diplomatic and domestic cost of a war of pure aggression is pretty steep, as I learned. In fact, things can go dramatically wrong for big countries. France was devoured by my upstart Burgundy. I won countless other wars and prizes, both large and small.

I probably sound like a pretty capable leader at this point. I mean, just look at me, making vassals of over a dozen small countries, gaining monopolies in over a half-dozen trading hubs, taking on everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Milan, and taking down the greatest power on the continent and then remaking it in my image. That's the thing: my image.

I had no idea how to actually run the country.

Before World War I the doctrine among the great powers that they should have an army large enough to fight any two other nations at once. I thought that sounded completely ridiculous. Surely that wouldn't be necessary, or even possible, since only at the trivial case of 0 can you assign values to y=2x and x=2y. Math says Europe was stupid.

Yet that is exactly what I did. I'd regularly check on the ledger to ensure that my army could beat anyone. It could. Yet I couldn't rely on my total, because I had rebels to put down, so I'd have half my army big enough to beat anyone, and the other half as the other half of an army that could beat anyone. Why did I dedicate so many forces to dealing with a handful of rebels? Because they weren't and handful of rebels.

For years I was essentially at war with my own people. Norman, Orleanais, and Breton nationalists were a constant problem. I almost wished I could have just killed all the Dutch, but they run a really great trading port. Throw in peasant uprisings and patriots from whatever war was going on and domestically I was facing a larger army than from the actual wars.

And then there were the wars. Sure, it made sense to unify France. But why was I constantly poking my head into the Germanic lands? A country here, a country there, and next thing I'm widely hated. The constant war also caused war exhaustion, which raises the risk of revolt.

Meanwhile my inflation was through the roof. I'd been messing with the treasury to pay for my absurdly oversized army and complete inability to create an annual budget. That didn't just reduce my research, but also caused inflation, which makes everything, including research, more expensive. I was killing two of my own birds with one stone.

I had even taken visible steps backward. To save on army costs I abandoned the defense of my Danish holdings. Those were eventually captured by rebels and returned to Denmark. I gave up on defending the small countries between me and Castille; I couldn't fight wars on their timetable anymore. Those small nations were captured and annexed. My holdings in North Africa were cut off due to my poor naval logistics, leading me to cede land to get a peace treaty rather than losing everything.

From the outside, newly-unified France-from-Burgundy (such a British name) was extremely powerful. It had won countless wars, made many vassals, and had an army so absurdly large that it could probably fight the entire continent to a stalemate. Internally that army was tied up with perpetual unrest. Its budget was an inflated mess. It was frequently borrowing to pay for wars that made the world hate it. This wasn't a country on the verge of collapse, but it was one facing stagnation and eventually, defeat.



Understanding Understanding BitCoins
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 March 2014, 10:15 am
I have a shiny new game to write about, but until I'm horribly burnt out and hate it I can't really give a fair assessment. In the meantime, here's a brief I wrote about how comprehension of BitCoins works.

Understanding of BitCoins operates with a complex system, but here are a few concepts to know. Some people try to understand BitCoin and will spend a great deal of time and mental energy trying to work out complex mental patterns. All understanding is tracked in the BitCoin Comprehension Ledger, a list that everyone has of people who understand BitCoins. Two people can agree to talk about BitCoin, with one transferring their understanding to the other, as illustrated here, which is then witnessed and recorded by others in the Ledger. In this way the system can carefully regulate how many people understand it, thereby creating value through scarcity.

There is some risk that too many people will understand it. The inventor has assured everyone that they will work diligently to ensure a sufficiently confusing system in the long term. However, the system has been shaken by some large events such as the FBI's Silk Road action and something happening with MtGox. Spreading through media channels, these resulted in dozens of additional people understanding BitCoin and dramatically increasing the popularity of trying to do so.



Banished
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 March 2014, 12:14 pm
"Don't Starve," I told my citizens. "We love that game," they replied. I attempted to clarify, "No, I mean you should not starve." "We sure hope not!" They did.

Tech trees are a lie. They suggest, incorrectly, that if you have built Structure A that you are ready, and should, build structure B. More likely you should have built three of Structure A before even considering Structure B, so it's a tech pyramid. Banished does not tell this lie. It instead says nothing. It stands there, watching you, without any expression. You look at the game and ask, "Should  build this yet?" It does not reply.

So you figure it out yourself. You stumble through getting enough food. Your first town starves. You try again and try harder with the food. They freeze to death, homeless. Finally you get it all worked out, with food, housing, and firewood. Now things are rolling. Until your tools break.

Rather than building iron monuments to your greatness, which unfortunately do not exist, you instead create quarries and tools. Then someone gets crushed by a rock. Your aging population is not making enough children. Meanwhile the few are growing up uneducated. Productivity suffers. You find that food reserves are low because someone has stuffed ten thousand deer carcases in their house.

Much of the game is a juggling act, trying to get workers in the jobs needed to get the resources needed. Eventually you realize that you have a labor shortage. Everyone has a job. There's so little slack that even if you wanted to build another farm you can't. But without that farm will you have enough food to feed a larger population? The coats run out.

I'm at a point where my town is stable. It has plenty of diverse food, high health and happiness, and plenty of resources. I could turn up the game speed and leave it to itself until the quarry ran out. But that's boring. I'm trying to grow the town. That means trying to get more housing so people can make more families, but I need enough food for them, so I must have a surplus and that must be sustainable enough to hold up with dozens more useless children. Meanwhile the infrastructure needs a step up, with more firewood for all the homes, nearby markets, and before long, another school.

I've noticed that a strange patterns emerges, almost like a boom-bust economic cycle. There are recessions. Things slow down, waiting, just waiting, for enough resources for something to happen. This might mean more people or more stone, but even if I have a plan, it isn't possible, not yet. These are less severe as the town develops, as I get more workers into stable jobs like mining, rather than the cyclical farmer/laborer division. It all becomes more predictable and manageable.

But I know one of these days those nomads are going to bring a disease.



Into a New Land: Part One: The Scout
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 February 2014, 5:24 pm
It's a near-certainty that I'm going to transfer servers. It's not a common experience for me, so I figure I'll write about it. Who knows what strange things I might encounter. Maybe they'll all use a different set of acronyms or have slightly different AH prices.

I log in. I log out to disable my pile of addons, many of which I do not ever use and did not realize even stil existed.

I log in. I pick frost specialization. I no longer have a 'finisher', since Blood Strike is supposedly replaced by Death Strike or Obliviate, not available until 56 and 58, respectively.

I get a guild invite. While I write this I get another one. The first was at least for my own server.

Auto-loot is off. This is the first thing that frustrates me with all alts. At least I didn't spent ten minutes grinding mobs and wondering why I wasn't getting quest drops.

Instructor Razuvious does not use Oxford commas when he talks. I regret that his words are allowed to appear on my screen.

I receive the second invite for a guild on Galakrond. He asks that I press Accept. I decline to inform him that the options are "Join Guild" and "Decline Invitation".

As I run through the DK starting area I find myself torn between being eager to run through Outland and eager to run through Northrend. I end up picking the fourth guild invite I got, a level 2 that, of course, has big plans. In the meantime I am getting 5% more xp and someone gets some free guild leveling. Their invite macro seems to be working well, with equal parts Blackhand and Galakrond.

It all looks promising, but I still have that nagging question, "Would I be better off spending my $25 on a flying mount?" And then a voice says, "No, that's a stupid question. One of these will improve your playing experience while the other is a flashy thing that you'd never use, just like every other flashy mount you own."



Looking for an Alliance PvE server
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 February 2014, 1:58 pm
My paladin is looking for a home. I'm not aiming for a particular guild, just a PvE server, within an hour of CST, where the Alliance isn't terrible and where the population is high enough to have a decent AH and guilds.
Quel'dorei, Blackhand, Draka, and Rexxar look promising: high population, decent faction balance (for the BG queues). Does anyone have any experience with of these servers?

Or does anyone have any advice in general? I've never needed to look for a realm, just found some friends and followed them for a few years.

I wish there was something like a 'realm preview' feature. Pay your money and then you get to play your chosen character on a selection of five realms, with a month to pick one.



"I'm not afraid." "You should be."
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 February 2014, 9:47 pm
The other day I got over my fear of meaningful roles in LFR. I tanked. Other players were generally helpful or at worst, indifferent. It was gloriously fun. In fact, the only bit that wasn't much fun was when I somehow got placed in the Gates of Retribution as... well as retribution.

Galakras made no sense. The Iron Juggernaut was a bit of fun thanks to the "step on the land mines on purpose" mechanic. The Dark Shaman was just awful. It's a chaotic mess of messes and chaos that never felt like we had the slightest bit of control of the situation. I'm all for a dynamic fight, but I don't like feeling like we're getting thrown around randomly. Maybe if I had been the tank it would have been different. Nazgrim was boring and I was annoyed that people kept attacking during defensive stance when there were still adds up.

Today I got in as a tank for The Underhold. Unfortunately, the queue popped as I was reading the fights, so I wasn't as prepared as I'd have liked, particularly since the first boss was already dead. Even worse, the Spoils of Pandaria fight sounds much different in text. I was much slower than I would have been had I seen the fight before; I'd thought the boxes opened on their own. People yelling at "tank" weren't much help, given that there were two tanks with much different situations and I couldn't be focusing on figuring out where the whiner was. Thok seemed to go okay, once started ignoring the jailers and letting the other tank figure out where they went. Again, a fight that didn't translate so well into text. We ended with me being yelled at to kite, so I kited, then I was told it was too fast, so I went slower. DPS died in the fire. He enraged. I left after someone started insulting both of us tanks. My ignore list grew. I have no time for people whose response to problems is senseless insults.

You might be thinking that I'm in the wrong for queueing without having watched a video first. To that I say, "fuck off." If I'd queued as DPS then my ignorance would be no issue. However, the queue times for me, and for all the other DPS, would be an issue. Furthermore, I'm not going to spend my time to please these sorts of assholes. Frankly, they should be grateful I queued as a tank at all to carry their mindless, abusive selves through the fights.

After a cooling off session involving a great deal of profanity I queued again. Again, I got a raid with the first boss dead. I jumped into the action and did a fine job of tanking the rest of the place with no issues. The tank switches were a glorious thing to see, if I say so myself.

I still find myself a little more reluctant to do LFR. I could run it as DPS for the visuals and then go again as a tank. Since I don't enjoy the DPS I might as well just watch some strat video and suffer through the awful explanations and accents that come from some part of the UK that is as indecipherable as the Welsh but without having the excuse of living inside a whale. Some part of me rebels at this idea. It seems contrary to the idea of LFR. Isn't it a place for less-geared, less-organized, less-prepared randomly formed groups to get some gear and learn a bit? Or is it just an awful alternative to real raiding? I intend to do some more LFR in order to get more gear and learn some more in anticipation of finding a guild. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.



Cowardice is the Killer of Fun
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 February 2014, 12:02 am
I'd been avoiding tanking in LFR. I didn't know the fights and didn't quite trust guides to get the ideas across. Obviously this was stupid. LFR is the training ground for raids. It's where people go to learn. Yet it all seemed so complex.

That's only because I'd been in as DPS and DPS are stupid. It's just something that happens when you switch role. Healers are smart. Tanks are smart. DPS are barely literate cave beasts. They run after a crowd hitting things. Sometimes they try to appear smart by quantifying their contribution with damage meters. It never works.

In actuality the fights only seemed complex because I was too stupid to see the basic patterns. Going in as a tank meant that I had to have some understanding of the fights. Stand here, keep aggro on these, interrupt that. Keep the holy power rolling and be ready with a CD in case there is a damage spike. A few mechanics are still over my head, but I don't play a draenei.

It turns out LFR can be rather fun to tank. It's a little more dynamic, a little more engaging, than DPS.

Oddly, people aren't as horrible as I thought. A more experienced tank gave me some pointers on a fight and things went well. A tank of my experience (lol, nub) hoped I could do the same, which I tried, and it worked fairly well. I stood in slightly the wrong spot, someone pointed it out, I moved, and they thanked me. Afterward I thanked them for their patience. I suspect I have a magical power to make people like my tanking, regardless of the quality of it. Perhaps they appreciate a quality transmog. I got a neat 2h sword and some vendor trash along with the opportunity to do more LFR.

During my daily shopping at the PvP vendor I was invited to do some arenas. I haven't done those since sometime in mid-Cata. They didn't go well or last long then. They never were my forte. I accepted, on the condition that they not mind that I am terrible.

Perhaps the matchmaking tool has gotten better. Maybe at this point in the season the arenas are filled with bad players. Whatever the reason, we won a bit more than we lost and I walked out with some conquest points, which I spent on a cloak. That then got me killed because a shaman knocked me off the lumber mill before I'd remembered to add a parachute to it. I don't blame arenas for that. In fact, they turned out to be a good bit of fun. Even losing isn't so bad when it doesn't take long. Lose, think about it, then get ready for the next fight. It's not like a BG where you can clearly see that your team is losing and yet it won't have officially lost for a few more minutes. Then you find yourself wishing the Horde would cap a fourth so you could get to another, less-losing match.

I'm going to find more arenas. I don't expect much winning, but the payout for a win is pretty generous, so I can't complain too much. Coupled with BGs and converted justice points I anticipate that my PvP set will steadily become less awful. In fact, I've even reached the point where my PvP and tanking sets are not identical.



Like an action movie set in Arathi Basin
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 February 2014, 5:12 pm
I have a habit of checking who is defending the less-active spots. Then I keep an eye on health and debuffs in the raid area. That way I can see if there is an attack even if they can't say anything.

I'm at blacksmith farming defender honor off the glorious zerg at farm. I see the priest at mine is getting hurt a lot. Mount up, jump down, and break out the parachute cloak. It looked to me like the priest was about to die. I hit the two Horde with my shield since I expected they'd be capping by then. The priest was not dead. So while still in the air I stuck sacred shield or her.

I landed and started hitting people. She still was not dead, but seemed sufficiently close that I'd expect two melee characters to kill her very soon. Hand of Protection made them laughably ineffective. Next thing she's at full health and casting with the uninterrupted cast bar of someone who can't be hurt by physical damage. That means the Horde are dead.

A second or two later and she'd have died before I got there. That is why you pay keep track of who's where and how they're doing.

It also helps to have a parachute cloak.



Hearthstone: The Light and How to Swing It
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 February 2014, 1:07 pm
Now that I've played it a bit, it's time to write about it.

First, go try it. The odds are pretty good that you own WoW, SC2, Diablo 3, which I think means you can get into the beta. It even pays you to play it. With in-game currency, of course.

This is an easy game to get started in. There are pre-made decks with starter cards. You can unlock heroes just by beating them in practice mode. You'll get flooded with gold early on, so you can expect to buy a lot of packs in your first few days. It slows after that, though it's still at a "fun" rate, in that you can get a pack about very other day.

It is not, however, an easy game to win in. Individual cards are not balanced. Your opponents, having played longer, will have cards that you can only dream of. Yet you can still win.

Luck is a huge component. If you get cards in the right order early on you can take control of the board and start hammering away at an enemy. If not, then the same can happen to you.

Games can turn around extremely quickly. This is not Magic: The Gathering where you have counterspells, blocking, or much of any ability to respond. If someone is rolling you over on their turn, you cannot stop them. The closest to a counter are Secrets, spells that you cast on your turn but which are triggered by a particular effect. For example, Frost Armor will give armor to the mage when they are attacked.

The result is that it can be hard to get any sense for how a game is going. You can be on the verge of death and facing a full board, only to draw a holy nova and completely turn things around. Card synergies can be impressive, such as a Northshire Cleric and a Darkscale Healer resulting in tons of card draw. A full hand means more ability to deal with what just happened.

Here's an example of how things can turn around very quickly, and how much luck can change things:

I'm playing against a warlock. We're going back and forth, but his Dread Infernals have caused a lot of damage, both with their battlecry and their heavy attack. I'm facing one and another demon, so I'm in trouble, but with a little luck I can use nukes and taunting minions to survive. It's not game over, at least not yet, though things do not look favorable. Then he draws Void Terror, which is just a 3/3, but it destroys adjacent minions and gains their attack and health, so now it is extremely powerful and tough. In two turns it can kill me. Even if I get lucky and draw cards with taunt the best I can do is stall. Or draw mind control. Yep, the very next turn that card comes out, and just in time for the 10th mana crystal. I steal the minion. The warlock is almost guaranteed to lose. He life taps, either to hasten the end or in hopes of getting something that can save him. It just puts him in kill range.

If I had not drawn the mind control it would have been game over. Or if he had not drawn the infernals. Or if I had gotten some of my heavier taunters. And so on. The game can be an endless string of what-ifs and you just have to hope that your luck with average out well in the end. And get a lot of card draw. But even that can kill you; with only 30 cards you can burn through a deck surprisingly quickly, especially as a warlock.

You might have noticed that this is all about priest cards. I've found that I very much enjoy playing the priest deck. The mage and paladin decks are pretty good too. I couldn't easily pick a favorite among them. That's a good thing, even if it makes it harder for me to decide which cards to disenchant. On that note, I don't know how much I like the crafting system since it relies on destroying cards at a very inefficient rate to make others, which is terrible for a loss-adverse person like me. I consider that a small part of the game and hardly a game-breaker.

One last thing to remember: Order of operations is critical. You can't heal a minion before it takes damage (well you can, but it does nothing), so my favorite card, Northshire Cleric, means that I have to get my minions injured first. A card like the Gurubashi Berserker has a fairly high health pool, so it can be hard to kill it without turning it into a raging monster of death. But, it starts with very low attack, so hit it with the things that you want to live, such as your important minions and hero. Save the burn spells and disposable minions for when it would kill whatever it touches.

All in all, I find that Hearthstone is a game that is well-suited to casual play. The quests can be stored up, so you don't feel pressure to play every day. They offer a choice of heroes, so you shouldn't often be pressured into ones you dislike (I'm pretty awful at rogue). Matches don't take a terribly long time. Even without spending money you can improve your decks. And the closest thing to trash talk is the person who emotes "well played" before they've actually guaranteed their victory.



What is a PvPer?
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 January 2014, 8:55 pm
The everlasting conflict between PVErs and PVPers is that the second group is quite happy to gank the first but there's no vice versa. - Syl on Twitter
 Pshaw, I say.

PvP and PvE are not separate groups. I usually do PvE. Sometimes I do PvP. The latter has about 95% of my gaming-related profanity. Strangely, in PvP my profanity is usually aimed at developers, while in PvP it is aimed at other players. As they say, "don't hate the player; hate the game developer who created such an unbalanced piece of total bullshit." Maybe that's relevant.

When I am in a PvP mood I do not gank. Just yesterday I was on my way to a mote cloud when I saw a level 80 fly toward it. He'd have beaten me to it, but he flew away. I was sad that I'd scared him off. Granted, I might have stunned him and taken the cloud for myself, but I wasn't going to press the entire extra button needed to kill him. Gear inflation is insane.

I take that back. I have ganked. Once upon a time that was a way to draw out the 60s. Swoop in and kill a quest giver or two, kill a few lowbies, and you've got yourself a battleground. Sadly, that no longer works.

In PvP I am often looking for a reasonably fair fight, or a fight that has a reasonable expectation of being fair. Those aren't the same, as anyone can tell from your average random BG that, despite being based essentially on random draws from both factions, has one failing in an almost impressive manner. I'd even claim that ganking and PvP are different activities, despite falling under the same mechanical umbrella.

Getting back to my pshaw, I suggest that Syl has drawn the lines all wrong. Since PvP and PvE are not separate categories of players, then what is the division? I propose decent human beings and bad people.

PvP has an obvious appeal for the bad people. They can directly inflict harm upon others.

Yet, is PvE immune? Is the loot ninja not a harmful jerk as well? How about the person who wipes the raid? What about the person who abuses the limits of vote-kicking to act as a parasite on a group, contributing nothing yet getting all the rewards for success? And surely the people who make glyphs are a universally awful group.

The problem is not PvPers vs. PvPers, but of horrible people vs. decent people. Maybe PvP has a higher percentage of horrible people. Fine. But do not stereotype an entire group because of that, or else you, Syl, will be in that group.

I'm saying you're a horrible person.



Lose your way to success or do something completely different
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 January 2014, 11:45 am
It appears that Ner'zhul is not a PvP powerhouse. My sample size is small because I had a hell of a time getting the informed consent forms from everyone in the BG and had to end the experiment early, pending an inquiry by the IRB. While there is a total lack of statistical significance, the magnitude of the difference between a 50-50 win-loss and what I experienced is such that I am confident that we are terrible. This suggests that the way to gear up is through repeatedly losing until I've been given more gear through honor pity points. That's a lot of losing that we'd have to do. I am, of course, part of the problem. And so, I am going to take the advance of Uncle Joe, "no person, no problem," and remove myself from this system.

At a 2-1 ratio, justice points can be exchanged for honor points. At 400-500 justice points per run, this makes random heroics a viable way to gain honor points. I've not calculated the time efficiency, but given the speed of instances these days and the shortness of tank queue times, I believe that heroics are close, if not possibly superior, as a way to farm honor. More important than the time involved, it's more fun to run something that isn't particularly hard and see some measure of success than repeatedly die to people with far better gear than me. Even if it weren't a psychological blow to die, waiting at the graveyard gets repetitive.

In a way, this makes sense. In PvE you can farm up gear from easier content to prepare yourself for harder content. You don't hit 90 and go wipe on Siege of Orgrimmar for a couple months. Instead you run easier content and build your way up. In this case, the easier content is PvE, since PvP has relative difficulty and can only be made easier by finding terrible people to play against. Then they feel bad that they're losing to slightly less terrible people. Before you know it everyone is sad and writing long emo posts about how their gear sucks and they used to fight with fishing poles. Indeed, PvE for PvP is surely the lesser of two sads.



A disjointed college essay about why the NSA should spy on games
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 January 2014, 1:07 pm
Remember when you'd need to write an essay about something but never quite had much to say? The general concept was there, but you didn't know or care enough to give it any depth. So you'd just keep branching out, giving shallow explorations of a dozen different related topics. Most of them would do nothing to advance your central theme. Those that did at least seem to advance it were so shallow that their actual contribution was negligible. If you were lucky this was a draft and the professor could point out the flaws. With a reality check you'd delve a little deeper and replace some of the width with depth. Sometimes it was the final draft. And sometimes it gets published.

This is what that looks like.
Virtual Worlds are Real:
Avatars have consequences offline. No wonder U.S. intelligence agencies are looking into them.

 In summary:
  1. The media mocks virtual worlds, thereby making it look ridiculous when government investigates them.
  2. These are new communication platforms and intelligence agencies should keep an eye on those.
  3. The appearance of avatars affects how we interact with them and therefore a virtual bin Laden would be a potentially useful recruiting tool.
  4. Online behavior affects our offline behavior.
  5. Offline behavior affects our online behavior.
  6. America's Army was an effective recruiting tool.
These are all worthwhile things to discuss. Given the headline and tag, points one and two seem to be the important ones. Point one gets a decent bit of space, while point two gets a few sentences. Surely this is where you'd want to discuss how to do this surveillance, based on the assumption that when governments see new forms of surveillance their second action is to spy on them. Is creating avatars in that world the best way to go about things? In most games that's going to give an extremely narrow view, restricted by in-game geography, social tools, and content. It's hard to properly interrogate the next bin Laden when he won't give you a guild invite, put you on ignore, and reported you to a GM for harassment. Some form of direct access to in-game communication seems like the logical way to go, but then you either need permission, something tech companies are starting to get wary of, or to break in, which has its own set of problems. The sixth point could tie into the first two. Surely it would be a good idea to keep tabs on players in Al-Queda's Army.

Yet there is the counter-point that is ignored: someone owns and controls these worlds. They monitor the communications. This isn't interception; it's directly sending messages to their servers, with their programs, and them sending it along. Even if intelligence agencies took no interest at all, there is still a Big Brother watching in the form of a company. They might not be eager to give the NSA access, but they're at least as eager not to give terrorists access. Virtual worlds just don't seem like a good place to discuss evil deeds, well beside EVE. On top of all that, shouldn't the agencies have defended themselves with some vague results? Not "we caught so and so", but at least "we've tracked some suspected guys and are continuing to track them." When even they aren't pretending it's worthwhile, that's a pretty damning argument.

The third point is a fascinating bit of psychology and definitely worth further study, but the recruitment angle is the exact absurdity that makes the media mock this sort of thing. Similarly, points four and five are worth studying. I've often been curious of how these virtual worlds with their different concepts of need and scarcity could affect our perceptions of real world economic systems, and how we bring those real world concepts into a place with a different context, where they may make no sense at all.

In conclusion: This is what happens when someone writes a book and has to promote it, not by promoting the actual book, but by trying to shoehorn everything into the latest media trend on why we should be spied on in every possible world.



When you get lapped it's hard to see just how far behind you are
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 January 2014, 12:43 am
Any runners out there? Not particularly good ones? Isn't getting lapped painful? It doesn't matter if it's a tenth of a mile track (my school had a tiny track) or a quarter mile; it just feels bad. But oddly, after the first one, the pain doesn't change much. It's hard to keep track after that. You're definitely losing and counting won't make you not be losing.

The other day I learned that prot paladins have started stacking haste. I'd never heard of this. It's something new to Pandaria. Clearly I've not done much reading on mechanics these days, by which I mean the past year or so, missing all sorts of important information. It's almost ironic. I can just picture myself laughing at a tank who thinks that DPS gear is good for him, and for a long time I'd have the facts on my side. Now I'd be that ignorant tank who thinks he should be stacking avoidance. Well supposedly we were supposed to stack stam anyway, but I always (usually) thought effective health was a load of shit.

I'd been a bit down about my potential prospects in PvP. I've not had anything near a fair fight in a few years. It's been a sort of downward spiral; at some point I stopped doing PvP, fell behind on gear, and never got into the habit again. Yet I had some hope; I could die my way through losing BGs to some gear, eventually. With my mostly altless playing these days I'd have time for it. That hundred thousand difference in health could go away, as could the vast gulf in damage.

I'd just killed Garr the Darkener in the Dread Wastes. He was kind enough to drop the pet this time. I headed for the other guy, a tough fight. There was a warlock there already. He had about 600k more health. That's when I started doing the mental arithmetic and trying to decide if that's closer to double or triple my health. I decided to see how the fight went for him, since it was tricky for me. It took a few seconds. I flew off to where I was going to farm rep for the Black Prince and spotted a rare on the way. I ran into the cave to fight it and a few seconds later the warlock showed up. I bubbled, stunned him, and ran until I was out of combat. That's my world PvP these days, not even bothering to pretend that I stand a change, just running for it and hoping they're too busy taking my kill.

I once had a fishing pole fight outside Everlook. I was on my shaman and had the overpowered Horde-only fishing pole. It was my fight to lose. And lose I did, because seals aren't weapon-based; they were a buff on the player. The paladin hit a lot harder, relatively speaking - it was a fight with fishing poles after all. We stayed far enough out that the guards wouldn't aggro. Just the two of us hitting each other with fishing poles.

I'd fought at Tarren Mill. Even after battlegrounds it still somehow turned into a battle ground. Someone would come to gank us and swarms of lowbies would gang up on them. There weren't so many AoE attacks back then, so we could just keeping biting at their ankles, figuratively-speaking, since we were Horde, not gnomes, and had no goblins yet.

I was in a farming group deep in the hives under Silithus when we ran into an Alliance group. It was no place for a fight, too many elites, too little space. We hastily backed away. I tried to drop another totem; we didn't have totemic recall back then. I was too slow. A single ball of fire went out from my searing totem. We died after putting up a moderately okay fight. The hives weren't properly linked to the zone and we reverted to the default graveyard for the Horde: the Barrens. The smart move was to use the spirit res and take a flight path; the debuff would probably be gone by then. The dumb move was to run, from the Barrens to Thousand Needles, to Tanaris, Un'Goro Crater, and finally into Silithus. I took the... well you guess.

People tended not to cause too much trouble at the cultist areas in Silithus. We all had stuff to do and some of that stuff involved fighting things that could easily kill us. This meant that we didn't want a fight, but if one started, we weren't going to waste time trying to do any more PvE. It instantly escalated into a full-scale war. We didn't need any sand for that, just something we wanted to do and someone getting in the way of us doing it.

We were about to win that arena fight. I had the match in my hand. Blessing of protection on the priest and the warrior would finish off the enemy who was attacking her. She'd heal up and then we'd have a wonderful 3 v some number that is not as big as three. I got it backward. I put blessing of protection on our warrior, preventing him from finishing them off. Our priest died. They healed up. One misclick and the entire match was lost. I'm not sure I ever recovered from that. Maybe from there it was straight downhill. Surely what they did to Alterac Valley did not help.

Before long I was thinking how next expansion I'd try again with PvP, with a nice reset to get me into things again. It never happened. I'd start late and that meant starting at the bottom of a mountain facing enemies who'd walked uphill up a hill, and despite what an old Pandaren would probably claim, they were the stronger for it.

At this point, I'm glad to even know what SoO even stands for.



PvP Should Have Gear Disparity
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 January 2014, 3:40 pm
The notions of balance, fair play, how to advance or now, they are all philosophy. As I said on Twitter, "As long as the eventual goal is to utterly crush your enemies, then use all the philosophy you want." Therefore, it is only logical that PvP should have gearing disparity. What is the point of winning if not to win harder the next time?

One might even argue that the point of war is to be able to win it. Look at how Israel fought, over control of the Golan Heights, an area which is felt was critical to its own defense, or the offense of an enemy. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in an attempt to protect itself from the US navy. Germany made a major push in the south of the USSR for the oil it needed to continue its war efforts. The notion of a preemptive strike is to start a war to prevent a war. When countries win wars they rarely decide to redraw the borders exactly as they were, but instead seek to increase their advantage, in anticipation of the next war.

Let's us consider this in the context of PvP. If I kill someone in WoW I do not do it out of a sense of malice. It is out of a sense of greed. I want a reward. That reward should exceed what I put into the fight, or it will not be worth doing. Simply getting gold might be nice, but would that actually get me anywhere? No. But gear, gear would help me to win the next time. I'd gladly forgo a bit of gold today for a victory tomorrow, and the next day, and forever after. That's called investment and it is the foundation of prosperity. It's also what wins wars. Any Starcraft player can tell you that.

Of course this has some side-effects. New players are in a tough position. Their gear is awful. In an open-world game they could try to compensate with numbers, in the manner of a hundred 0/0 marines taking on a 3/3 colossus. A brave gesture, perhaps even successful, but costly. Oddly, by trying to be fair and balance the numbers on each team, games often remove this possibility. The result is that new players may never join, or quit soon after.

Yet, is that not the point? If your enemy is too afraid to attack you, does that not mean that you have already won? And won forever? A long battleground queue is not a problem for a game; it is a victory. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot not stamping on a human face - forever.



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