Archive for facepalm

Pondering Pardo's Unpardonables

(Please do bear in mind the comment policy here at Kurn’s Corner. Thanks!)

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Todd Harper wrote a piece over at Polygon on Thursday, May 22, about diversity (or the lack thereof) in various video games. In the piece, he spends time discussing Blizzard’s values, as well as Nintendo’s recent troubles to do with the lack of same-sex marriage support in Tomodachi Life. Since I’m not a Tomodachi Life player, I’m going to skip over that and just say that including LGBTQ content (at least the options!) in games (and other popular culture) is an important step towards equality. I think any kind of game where you adopt a character as your avatar and there’s romance should have some kind of LGBTQ representation and choice. (The Sims, for example, has supported same-sex relationships since its first incarnation.)

Anyhow, as troubling as Nintendo’s reaction has been, what was new to me in the Polygon piece were the stated values belonging to Blizzard, espoused by Dustin Browder (Game Director for Starcraft II) and Rob Pardo (Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard).

When pressed on the sexualization of women characters in MOBA games, Browder argued “We’re not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that.” The message just below the surface here is: why can’t we just have fun? Why do we have to be responsible for being respectful?

… seriously?

After his talk, I asked Pardo to talk about how Blizzard’s values — “epic entertainment experiences,” emphasizing the Blizzard brand, focus on gameplay and de-emphasizing narrative — and the company’s perception of their audience might impact how they portray socially progressive content.His answer was disappointing. “I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not something that’s … something we’re trying to actively do.”

Why the eff not?

“We’re not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that,” he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.Pardo notes that “because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books,” Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that “is offensive to, I think, some women.”

Gee, ya think?

It’s a really good article that everyone should read, but, shockingly, I’m going to discuss my views here. ;)

I play games to escape. They’re fun, they take up space and time in my life, they give me a sense of satisfaction I don’t easily get outside of them. I’ve played video games since I was 5, playing on my Atari 2600. River Raid was my favourite game. I loved the King’s Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest series from Sierra. I kicked some ass at Double Dragon on my Atari 520ST computer and absolutely adored both Déjà Vu and Déjà Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas. Sneaking around as Garrett in Thief and Thief 2 was spectacular (less so in the sequels, but anyhow). Eventually, I came to World of Warcraft and found that I quite enjoyed playing a hunter and, later, a holy paladin. All of these games made me an involved player, made me think outside the box (seriously, using an athletic supporter as a slingshot in SQII?) and served to entertain me while rewarding me for my efforts by finishing chunks of the game.

That’s not to say that the Quest games from Sierra didn’t have horribly sexist moments. They did. The Latex Babes from SQIV? The fact that Sonny’s girlfriend in PQ was a hooker? A lot of it went over my head until I took the time to think about these things from the perspective of an adult and it wasn’t limited to the Sierra stuff. It’s disappointing to look back at the Déjà Vu games, for example, and realize “holy crap, I had to beat the crap out of a hooker lest she shoot me in the face”. (I can’t even think of another woman from those games, to be honest.)

So, I’m coming from the perspective of having grown up with sexism in video games. It’s pretty much normal to me, or at least it was until I started looking at games more critically. (And part of that was thanks to Anita Sarkeesian and her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series.)

I remember levelling my holy paladin, Madrana. She’s a human female. As a paladin, she wore mail until level 40, at which point she could wear plate. Here. Have a look at some actual screenshots of Madrana in plate armor. (click for bigger pic)

platearmor

The two on the left are of Madrana wearing the Shadesteel Greaves, which were part of the Shadow Resistance gear from Burning Crusade. Notice a difference when you compare them to the human male wearing them?

platemale1

The chest piece my toon is wearing is the heroic T13 chest, the Breastplate of Radiant Glory. Nice exposed stomach. That makes OH SO MUCH SENSE for a plate-wearing class, who can also be, you know, tanking things. Oh, look. They actually took into consideration that armor should cover one’s soft, squishy bits when they decided what the male model would look like with it.

platemale2

I included the Lightforge set on the far right because it’s my transmog (and has been since transmogrification was introduced). Yes, I love Lightforge, but one reason why I love it so is that it covers my character’s body in an appropriate fashion.

These discrepencies between armor on a male model vs. a female model have always pissed me off. (Just play with the 3D model viewer for the Glorious Breastplate and Glorious Legplates if you doubt that there are dozens of other examples.) However, I dealt with them because I knew that the designers were men and that the target audience also consisted of men.

In other words, I’ve known Blizzard has been sexist, at least in some ways, since I started playing. Half the reason my night elf hunter is a male is because I didn’t like how the female night elves bounce as their idle animation!

What’s really troubling about the Polygon article, for me, is that not only is this kind of junk still acceptable, but it’s coming from the top. Pardo is the Chief Creative Director. While I’m sure not everything we see in the games goes by him, he (and the others at that level) are responsible for the overall culture and sentiment in their company. That Pardo (and, presumably, the other executives at Blizzard) think that “fun” and “entertaining” are diametrically opposed to “socially responsible and progressive” is, well, not cool.

Let’s look at Hearthstone, which was just released a couple of months ago. You’ve got nine heroes, one for each class that existed in World of Warcraft in the original release. They are:

Malfurion – Male Night Elf Druid
Rexxar – Male Orc Hunter
Jaina – Female Human Mage
Uther – Male Human Paladin
Anduin – Male Human Priest
Valeera – Female Blood Elf Rogue
Thrall – Male Orc Shaman
Gul’dan – Male Orc Warlock
Garrosh – Male Orc Warrior

… really? Just two females represented among all of those classes? Is it really that there aren’t other epic female druids, female hunters, female paladins, female shaman, female warlocks or female warriors? Let’s take a look.

Apparently there are no notable female druids. But HEY, how about, oh, I don’t know, ANY OF THE WINDRUNNERS for a female hunter? Lady Liadrin or Aponi Brightmane as female paladins? Tyrande as a female priest? Okay, I kind of get Thrall as the Shaman, but did Magatha Grimtotem get any consideration? And, shocker, there don’t seem to be any notable female warlocks. Nor any notable female warriors. (Note: I’m not big on lore. I may be missing some, but still.)

So two of the heroes are women in Hearthstone, which is about 22% representation. Which sucks. They could have had a different hunter, paladin and priest. It could have been ~56% representation. But it’s not. And at some point, you just have to ask… why isn’t it?

Look, I’m not asking for any portion of any game to change in terms of gameplay, not at all. But how does it negatively impact the game when 4 or 5 of your nine heroes are female? How does it negatively impact the game if, for example, my Tier 13 Heroic Breastplate of Radiant Glory actually covers my character’s abdomen? Neither of those things have anything to do with the game mechanics.

Blizzard, you can have your epic gamplay. You can have your fun and entertaining games. But you can also make better decisions about the representation of women in your games. (I’m not even going to touch Heroes or SC or Diablo with a ten-foot pole since I have 0 interest in Heroes, I’ve only played a little SC in my life and haven’t touched D3 since last year.)

If anyone thinks I’m overreacting, rest assured that I’m not. I’m not even angry. I’m disappointed, troubled and resigned, but I’m still playing World of Warcraft and playing around with Hearthstone for the time being. Just because I’ve learned that there is a sexist culture at Blizzard that comes from the top isn’t going to cause me to go running into the night, mostly because I’d always suspected that. (And if I hadn’t, Metzen’s “it’s a boy’s trip” comment at the last BlizzCon would have tipped me off. (See Fan #16’s Q/A section.))

You know what, though? Of all the reasons to quit, this is a really good one. I’ve already seen two people on my Twitter feed decide that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Cynwise has been a fantastic community resource. Osephala’s been a great player that I’ve personally played with off and on for years. I commend them for taking the steps they feel they need to after Pardo’s comments, but the community will be worse off without them both.

As a former guild master, it’s ingrained in me that if someone leaves, someone will be around to replace them eventually. There’s churn. But losing Cynwise? Big blow for the community. Losing Osephala? That’s one more talented player the community will need to do without. In this day of boosted 90s with clueless yahoos behind them, the community can ill-afford to lose the good ones.

Since I’ve come back to WoW, I’ve been buying one month of game time as I go, because it’s a tentative re-entry to the game. In the two and a half months since I’ve been back, I haven’t ever been so pleased I’m not on a recurring subscription and, to be honest, my future in this game is in doubt. (For this and other reasons, but anyhow.)

So… confirmation of what I’ve always thought — Blizzard is a boy’s club. Representation of women doesn’t matter to them. Social responsibility doesn’t matter to them. Hiring more women doesn’t matter to them. It’s nice to know this stuff for sure, but it’s pretty disappointing that this is where they stand. They could be so much more and that’s what’s so disheartening about all of this. The wasted potential just makes me sad.

*** ETA: Here’s a link to a video of the response the article was based on. It doesn’t really change my mind, but definitely have a look. ***

(Please do bear in mind the comment policy here at Kurn’s Corner. Thanks!)

Old Habits Die Hard

With the news that Patch 5.4.8 would bring with it the ability to add two more upgrades (4 ilvls each) to 5.4 gear, I laughed to myself. Why? Well, because there are several instances of Blizzard saying they won’t nerf Siege of Orgrimmar (at least not in the blanket-nerf sense of the word). The most recent one was just a month ago, back in April.

And yet, they’re adding up to 8 more ilvls to every piece of SoO gear, every piece of Timeless Isle gear, every piece of SoO crafted gear… Granted, as Watcher states, it’s “nothing” compared to a zone-wide 30% aura:

But Valor upgrades are still a nerf. I went through that in this old post of mine from last September (wow, was I ever off on the timing of the expansion…) and I still maintain my opinion that it’s a nerf. That said, I am also still a fan of the fact that the onus is on the player to make their raids easier.

Anyhow, I laughed to myself at all of this and was, once again, pleased that I’m not raiding in any serious capacity at all.

That said, I had the intention to cap Valor so I could walk into 5.4.8 with 1000 or 2000 VP and upgrade the crap out of what I’m wearing. I figured we still had a week or two.

And then we were told on Monday that, OH HEY, PATCH DAY TOMORROW.

Wanna know how much Valor I had earned in the last, oh, two weeks?

Five.

That’s right. Five Valor. I did one quest for 5 Valor or something. That’s it.

So, forgetting for a while that I am no longer a progression raider, I got online and did my 200 VP Epoch Stone quest on Timeless Isle. In so doing, I also earned 50 VP from killing 20 elites on Timeless Isle.

Total VP: 255.

This was substantially less than 1000.

So I did the unthinkable. I queued up for the first couple of wings of Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. Late on a Monday night.

Wing 2 popped for me.

By some miracle, we didn’t wipe on Galakras, despite there being ZERO tower group organization.

Both tanks left shortly after that mess. And then we got some extremely talented players who were, and let’s be fair to them, total douchecanoes. One of them was the tank, the other was a DPS warrior. Both were very well-geared and knew their stuff, but oh my God. The language. The foul, foul, FOUL language, full of slurs and pejoratives!

I was going to leave, but I didn’t. I’d already put in 30 minutes of waiting for the queue, plus 20 minutes on Galakras, plus another 10 of waiting for two new tanks to show up.

Someone ninja-pulled on Iron Juggernaut and we wiped. Then we actually had a good pull and killed that. Killed Dark Shaman. Then wiped on Nazgrim because people still apparently don’t know how to kill adds… Finally got Nazgrim down, adding 90 VP to my pathetic collection, bringing me to 345 total. (Also, no Secrets through those bosses.)

My other queue popped for the first wing and I was going to take it, except I was still annoyed and I was tired and…

… and I’m not a raider.

It’s as though a lightbulb went off. Who the eff cares if I don’t max out my VP? I certainly didn’t care until faced with the fact that I could do more stuff with my VP today. Guess what? I haven’t even fully upgraded most of the gear that I’m wearing. (Part of this is because I want to get better gear before upgrading.) So, really, what the heck is the point in trying desperately to cap to get to 1000 VP before servers go down? There’s no one relying on me to “do my part”, there’s nothing driving me to do it, except my own expectations.

I declined the queue and thought about this.

Even though I haven’t raided seriously (as in, not LFR) since the end of Dragon Soul, I am still wired to try to maximize my potential. It took a lot of effort in the first place to stop VP capping even when I didn’t want to any longer. For so long, it’s just been part of my WoW life to do unpleasant tasks “because I have to!”

But I don’t “have to” any longer. (And true, strictly speaking, I never “had to”, but I felt I had a responsibility to my raid teams to do whatever I could.)

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this whole “I can do whatever I want” thing. Breaking such a long-standing old habit is definitely not as easy as one might think. Even now, I’m filled with residual “dammit, why didn’t I cap VP for three weeks prior to today?!” thoughts and I even have a bit of guilt resulting from it.

You’d think that not having played for ~17 months would have cured that right quick, but no. It’s as though my “decompression” from being a raider was just on pause until I got back into the game and NOW I’m dealing with what it’s like to not be a raider.

It’s still so very, very strange.

Thought I’d share. :)

I Wasn't Going to Say Anything…

As a rule, I try to pay very little attention to April Fool’s Day. I don’t usually participate in gags or pranks or what-have-you, myself. This year was the most involved in April Fool’s Day I’ve been in ages, and I wasn’t even very active. All I did was tell Rho that yes, he could tell people listening to Realm Maintenance that Blessing of Frost was coming out of retirement. (Which it’s not, by the way, but I do appreciate the comments from various people wishing that were the case — as does Maj!)

Yesterday’s April Fool’s jokes by Blizzard had two reactions from me:

1) Hah, these “patch notes” are hilarious! Love the Calvin & Hobbes references, among others.

2) … oh, right, it’s April 1st. I will ignore this “artcraft” post pretty much entirely.

I wasn’t going to talk about how the female draenei post was somewhat insulting towards women. I wasn’t going to talk about how intolerant people can be when the representation of a woman is less than a straight man’s “ideal”. I wasn’t going to talk about how the fact that Blizzard decided to make fun of the female draenei can be considered a statement that they find it funny to screw with the players’ heads in introducing a model that is not the straight man’s “ideal”.

And then Twitter exploded with reactions. Particularly on my timeline today, April 2nd, there’s all kinds of hate and anger — not just restricted to the joke. Backlash for the joke is fair, assuming it doesn’t cross over into abusive insults or threats. Saying “I didn’t find it funny” is fine. Saying “I didn’t find it funny because of points a, b and c, that I will explain below” is also fine. Saying “YOU #)*%_@#% PIECES OF #(&)!% I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU @)*$)!@* THAT #)*@% UP” is not fine. Hopefully, you get the point.

However, what’s happening on my timeline today is hate and anger directed at people who didn’t find the joke funny and decided to say something about it.

Dudes. (And I don’t mean just guys, I include girls there, too.) That is uncool.

Now, believe me, I have zero interest in defending WoW Insider in general. I’ve had my issues with them as a website and, in fact, make it a point to basically never read it. That said,  they posted an interesting article called The Joke is On Women and, subsequently, had to turn off the comments. Why? Because of all the awfulness that was cropping up. (Another great read, from The Godmother: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.)

Look, I’m a woman, but do you know why my character, Kurn, is a male night elf? Apart from the fact that I instantly hated the female night elf idle bounce animation (for various reasons such as I don’t actually do that myself and, frankly, never would), it was to blend in with the masses. I never wanted to stand out as a woman among players, because I’ve been treated terribly in the past by a variety of people who thought that, because I’m a woman, it’s okay to objectify me and to treat me like I’m there for their pleasure. I worked as a writer on a high-profile website for four years in the late 90s and into the 2000s and part of my daily routine was weeding out the creepy messages from guys who were offering me a life of luxury to come be their fourth wife or concubine (I’m not kidding) or guys who demanded I spend some one-on-one time with them on the phone (which was not at all part of my job, but they insisted it was).

Due, in part, to those experiences, I decided “nope, I’m going to make Kurn a guy”. And it was lovely. I was left alone when I wanted to be. It was only when I rolled Madrana, a human female, that I started getting lewd whispers and inappropriate comments from people. I have actually said to people “I’m a dude” to get them to back off. (I once had an opposite-esque experience, actually, which broke my brain for a few different reasons, but anyhow.)

So, within WoW,  I took steps to make sure I wasn’t particularly bothered as best as I could (male night elf, telling people I’m a dude if they persisted, etc). Even on this blog, I have a comment policy that I stick to and ask others to adhere to, as well. Further, I’ve gone out of my way to be a good player, to help dispell all the “girls can’t play” crap that goes flying around out there. Basically, I’ve done what I can do to make sure that being a woman who plays a video game doesn’t adversely affect my gaming experiences.

Think about that for a minute. Being a woman can adversely affect my gaming experiences.

Being a guy does not inherently do that in the same way that being a woman can.

Guys automatically “fit in” with gaming culture because so much of the content is created by guys and, like it or not, for guys (even though female gamers are about half of the gaming population). In order for me to fit in and be comfortable, I have to do X, Y and Z first. I shouldn’t have to, but I accept it because to not do those things, to not protect myself, will result in uncomfortable, awkward and downright creepy experiences. If I want to play and have a good time, with other people in the mix, I must first take those precautions.

I’m not even complaining that I feel that I have to take these kinds of precautions, although it would be nice to easily fit into a culture I am definitely part of without doing so. The truth is, I’ve experienced this stuff my entire life. I was the girl who spent her teenage years calling local Bulletin Board Services and playing Trade Wars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon while moderating a forum about Star Trek. So, whether I like it or not (and I don’t), I generally don’t make a big deal about it because I’m used to it.

So, ultimately, if Blizzard (or any other company) wants to make a joke about a previously “attractive” character (how attractive is a female draenei, really? Horns, hooves and a tail??) being made “less attractive”, by changing the face, adding fur and the like, that’s their decision. My decision is to not like it and, as long as I do so respectfully, there’s no problem with my opinion.

The problem comes when either I am disrespectful or when others are disrespectful towards me.

You don’t like that some people are offended? Fine, feel free to disagree. Just do it politely and with respect. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, particularly if you are the straight male for whom the joke was obviously intended.

If you don’t know about Anita Sarkeesian, by the way, you ought to take a look at her stuff. She has had the most vile and horrific abuse levelled at her simply because she wants to deconstruct anti-feminist tropes in video games.

Oh, and one more thing, while I’m thinking of it: “feminism” is not a dirty word. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you want women to be the dominant gender. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a crew-cutted, man-hating lesbian. Being a feminist simply means that you believe men and women are equal and should be treated as such. I once shocked the hell out of a friend of mine by saying “no, I’m not really a feminist” and she was like “… do you think men and women are equal and should be treated as equals?” I replied that I did. “Then you’re a feminist.” So go read some of these quotes about feminism to perhaps better understand what feminism is, but this is probably my favourite.

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

- Marie Shear, reviewing Kramarae and Treichler’s A Feminist Dictionary in the news journal New Directions for Women (1986)

So when people — women, in this case — talk about being offended, look at why they’re being offended. You can disagree with them, but do it respectfully and with the understanding that this isn’t the first time they’ve had to deal with being the butt of a joke like this. As for myself, I simply didn’t find that portion of Blizzard’s April Fool’s Day funny and, really, I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but now I have. And I hope the Internet is better for it.

(As always, the aforementioned comment policy is to be adhered to, thank you kindly.)

Sentry Totem Stuff, Plus Pally & Priest Adventures

So a little while ago, as in just about two weeks ago, someone named Tickle on Twitter was saying stuff about needing writers and class experts for a new WoW site she was starting up. Naturally, I wanted details. So I asked her a few questions, she sent me a few answers and, well, the next thing you know, I had applied to be the guild leadership columnist over at SentryTotem.com. (Twitter: @TheSentryTotem) Oh, yeah, and I was accepted, too. ;) More details will be forthcoming in the next few days, I suspect, but keep an eye on the site as content should be popping up Soon(tm) and definitely follow the site’s Twitter account!

In the meantime, I’m still screwing around in WoW. After farming almost all of the ore I needed for Blacksmithing and Engineering for my newly-boosted 90 warlock, I decided to take a break for a bit… and I found myself levelling my paladin. Levelling was hilarious in that I found myself either healing instances (so. many. instances.) or exploring and doing some quests — in 4pc T13 heroic gear… with a heroic Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps. (I suppose I should thank Serrath, who was the loot master of Apotheosis at the end of Cata, for giving me unwanted retribution gear without my permission. Thanks, Serrath!)

Most stuff was okay, it was just long. I had some pretty fail dungeon groups but I also had some pretty awesome ones. I definitely don’t like a lot of the “new” (I put that in quotes because they’ve been out for what, a year and a half now?) dungeons, but the worst, the worst, was doing Siege of Niuzao Temple and getting to the third boss (Pa’valak) with a group that was, and let’s be fair to them, sub-par.

How bad was this? Well, we didn’t wipe to the boss, but the moonkin and the DPS warrior both died about a minute or so into the fight because they stood next to the bombs and got blown the eff up. Of course the druid didn’t think to give me Symbiosis (I’ve had it given to me about three times AND LOVE IT EVERY TIME I GET IT, BECAUSE REBIRTH IS AMAZING.), so the pally tank and the mage and I were left to fend for ourselves.

Here’s a screenshot from Skada, after the fact.

pavalak

Yeah, see the duration there? From 14:41 to 14:53? That, my friends, is a twelve-minute fight, which I haven’t done since the freaking Heroic Spine of Deathwing fight.

We probably should have wiped it, as it likely would have been faster, but you know what? WE KICKED ASS. I felt really good about keeping us alive, considering I was still wearing tons of T13 gear.

So there was that. Anyhow, I dinged 90 relatively quickly (although 89 felt like it would take decades to complete) and started opening up all the Timeless Plate stuff I’d gotten with Kurn over on the Timeless Isle. I got to ilvl 476 or something like that pretty quickly and then, because I’d just gotten Gold Damage in Proving Grounds on Kurn, I thought I’d see just how bad the healing Proving Grounds are, even though some of my gear wasn’t even 463. (I mean, I had a 410 ring, a 410 trinket, a 450 mace and shield, a terrible neck…) Got through Bronze without issue. Got through Silver pretty easily. And then Gold just DESTROYED me, ahahaha. I’m now over 463 in each slot, so I should be able to go back and get Gold without issue, but WOW, that was not easy. It’s been a long time since I got my ass handed to be that badly.

I’d mentioned to my brother that I was playing WoW again and he was like “should I resub?” and I told him not to. So what did he do? He signed up for a month, just like I did. He had a hell of a time getting the game to update and eventually had to open a ticket for a call-back(!) from Blizz, but everything got sorted and the next thing you know, he’s in the game and rolling a brand-new rogue. Why he would do this when he HAS a rogue at 85 is beyond me, but he kept claiming that he wanted to re-learn how to play and that re-rolling is the best way for him to do that. I don’t really disagree, but it’s not like the game has changed that much. Hell, if I can still play Kurn and Madrana worth a damn, he can play his rogue.

So he gave up on the rogue when he realized he didn’t have all the heirlooms and he encouraged me to level a higher-level toon with him. Choices included my warrior (80) with his druid (78), his warrior, priest or paladin (85, 85 and 86 respectively) and my priest (85) or my mage (85, on Skywall) or my druid (85, on Proudmoore). We elected to go with his warrior and my priest combo, so he could tank (if he wanted to) and I could heal (because, well, that’s what I do).

We hit 86 on Saturday night. As we started out in the Jade Forest, I noticed my brother was, well, spawning flowers all over. “Are you like, GROWING FLOWERS around you?!” I demanded. “What the hell is that?”

“Wait, is that me?” he asked.

“Well, it’s not ME!”

“Ohhhhh, hang on… I think it’s a macro. Yeah, my herbalism haste thing is macroed to my charge.”

This still cracks me up. We legitimately did not know why, for a good half an hour, why there were flowers blooming everywhere, apparently at random. We obviously still have some rust, but we’re not so rusty that our muscle memories have been forgotten. I found myself using Penance and Prayer of Mending without even thinking about it, although it took me a minute to find my defensive dispell button/clique combo. (Shift-Mouse Button 4, FYI.)

On Sunday, I slept in. In the two hours between my brother’s first text message saying “WAKE UP AND HEAL ME” and when I actually woke up and got the message, my brother had given up on me, pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor and had boosted his own priest to 90. He was in the battlegrounds when I logged in.

We’re now halfway through 87 on the warrior and priest. (Void Shift is awesome.)

The hilarious bit is that my brother had been DPSing the first couple of Temple of the Jade Serpent runs we had, but then he decided to start tanking for the faster queues. So we did maybe two Temples and maybe one run of Stormstout Brewery and my brother is complaining about aggro. Sure enough, various other members of the group had aggro, according to my Grid. We’re halfway through a Temple of the Jade Serpent run when he says to me, over Skype, “oh, shit.”

“What?” I ask.

He types to the group: “Sorry about the aggro problem, I fixed it.”

“What, what did you fix?”

He pauses. “Well, I hear Defensive Stance helps.”

I burst into laughter. My brother had tanked something like three dungeons — all in Battle Stance. And he’d done WELL as a tank, too!

About ten minutes after he swapped to Defensive Stance, he said, “Well, this is BORING now. I should just stay in Battle Stance!”

So I’ve had some fun in the last week. More stuff forthcoming, what with Sentry Totem news, more adventures as my priest (ahahaha, totally forgot about Atonement healing for a while there, plus Spirit Shell!) and the upcoming adventures on my WARLOCK. It’s definitely more fun with my brother around. I wonder if he might be into doing some challenge mode-type stuff. I also wonder if we might convince a certain Maj Maj to join us… ;)

All KINDS of Warlords Stuff

I have not one, but two post about the Warlords of Draenor healing changes sitting in my drafts folder, but then I took a nap and when I woke up, the Warlords of Draenor pre-order (and included boost to 90) had gone live (along with the $60 paid version of the boost to 90).

It’s as though I have too many thoughts racing through my head to get any of them down, but, by golly, I’m going to try.

“On or Before December 20, 2014″

The thing that seems to be causing people’s heads to explode is that, on the pre-order page, it says quite clearly “Game is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014.”

First of all, they’ve already said that’s not the release date. They’ve said fall of 2014. So that’s somewhere between September 23, 2014 and, shockingly, December 21, 2014.  My money is on early fall, but they’re obviously being very Blizzard about things and hedging their bets, as per usual.

Still, people are upset because that means more than a full calendar year in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid instance.

This isn’t new, though. Icecrown Citadel, the final major raid of Wrath of the Lich King (no, Ruby Sanctum doesn’t fully count), launched on December 8, 2009. Cataclysm launched one year later, on December 7, 2010. Dragon Soul, the final major raid of Cataclysm, launched on November 29, 2011. Mists of Pandaria released, surprisingly, on September 25, 2012. Siege of Orgrimmar, the final major raid of Mists of Pandaria, launched on September 10, 2013.

Given that track record, it’s hardly news that people are going to spend a year with Siege of Orgrimmar as the “current” raid content. It is, however, quite disappointing to a lot of people, I would imagine. I would further submit that this is probably the entire reason why pre-ordering now gets you the level 90 boost immediately.

On the bright side, Blizzard typically has beta periods that last approximately 6 months. 6 months from now is, you know, September. In my opinion, this means we are very likely to see beta launching in the next month or two. So they’re going to try to keep players occupied with new toons at 90, the beta launch, plus their other properties. (D3’s expansion is coming out soon, Hearthstone is certain to be ending beta soon, Heroes of the Storm is on its way…)

I’m not surprised. I’m not even disappointed, although I know a lot of people are. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve not played much of this expansion and I’m fairly separated from what’s going on, or maybe it’s because I’m just that jaded, hah! I actually thought it wouldn’t be impossible to get things going for a June release, but apparently I was wrong. Ah, well. I do think it’ll be closer to late September than late December, but what do I know, eh? Clearly not a lot. ;)

Healing Changes in Warlords of Draenor

Honestly, over the last few days, I’ve written over 3500 words talking about these healing changes and I can’t make up my mind about them.

On the one hand, I’m in favour of absorbs being less potent (I’ve always hated absorbs and yes, I’ve played a holy paladin), I’m in favour of smart heals being less smart, I’m in favour of having time to make intelligent decisions about on whom to cast which spell.

I’m not in favour of the cast-times being added to Light of Dawn, Word of Glory/Eternal Flame, Wild Growth, Prayer of Mending (and other priest spells) and Uplift.

I’m not in favour of healers having to relearn how to do their jobs all over again. My previous drafts rambled a lot about this point, but here’s the thing: DPS basically still does today what DPS did when WoW launched. Tanks have changed a lot, I’ll grant you, especially with this whole “active mitigation” thing. But healers had to relearn how to heal for Cataclysm. I’m not saying that was a terrible thing or that healers didn’t need a serious retooling, but here we are, just 3ish years later, and they’re removing the “mid-level” heals (or whatever you want to call them). So much for the three-heal system. (Actually, I’m well-aware that the three-heal system was already out the window come the end of Cataclysm, with healers spamming AOE and smart heals, and I can’t imagine that’s gotten any BETTER throughout Mists.)

It’s not that healing doesn’t need to be reworked, because I’m certain it does. I just think it sucks that the burden of relearning falls to the healers. Again. As if relearning your specific class again doesn’t suck enough (and it can!), learning how healing works in a whole new system of healing can be painful. Blech. I read the healing changes and immediately did not want to heal, period.

Out of the many words I’ve written on the subject, perhaps the most poignant (for me) were those that made me see that perhaps I’m just too old for this stuff. I mean, not necessarily because I’m old (because I’m not, shut up!), but because I’m weary. Part of the reason I stopped playing is because rolling with Blizzard’s punches just got really exhausting after a certain point. After seven years of adapting to every change and all the retuning and retooling and redesigning, I was just tired. Heck, I still feel tired. It used to energize me to know that changes were on the horizon. I’d jump at the chance to learn anything new.

But I just… don’t, anymore. That lack of passion, lack of desire to learn, it kind of indicates to me that maybe I’ve truly outgrown the game…

But You Just Pre-Ordered! WTF?

Warlords of Draenor Pre-order
… yeah, I did. Guilty as charged. I bought the pre-order for two main reasons:

  1. I’m going to at least check out the new expansion. That’s never been in doubt, even if my lifelong dream of getting server-first skinning has been crushed. I also had the money to pay for it now, so why not spend it now on something I know I’m going to want to have later?
  2. Even if I don’t play much for Warlords of Draenor, I want my stable of alts to be ready for the expansion for money-making purposes. (I’ve quite enjoyed having a stash of over 220,000 gold sitting there, ready for me if I ever wanted to come back and raid seriously again.)

I’m also seriously considering resubbing for a bit, but I wouldn’t expect that to last through to release. Maybe I’ll spend the next month or two playing around a bit and then let things lapse before coming back at the 6.0 patch, at which point I will endeavour to learn how to heal all over again, unless it really makes me want to cry. (Which is a possibility.) Still, I feel as though I owe the community at least a 6.0 holy paladin primer. We’ll see.

That said, because I pre-ordered, I have a shiny new boost to 90 I could use, if I resubbed, and I am incapable of deciding. Here’s a poll. Vote for your favourite options and I promise to take them into consideration.

Paying the Way to Dinging

Man, you play one week of WoW and you have blogging material coming out your ears!

Today’s topic is about that survey some players are getting, about how much you might be willing to pay to have a character instantly boosted to Level 90 (in Warlords of Draenor, where the level cap is 100).

During this year’s BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that purchasing Warlords of Draenor would come with one free character boost to 90. Why 90? Because that would enable you to skip all the previous content and jump right into content that comes with the expansion and, ultimately, that’s what they want you to do — get through previous content and be able to play with your friends faster if you ever took a break from the game.

So there’s a survey going out that’s asking people what they think a fair price is for the expansion (with and without the one character boost to 90) and what they think a fair price is for the boost alone.

Naturally, I have Things to Say. ;)

On the One Hand: No. Just… No.

While I do think there are some good points (which I will explore below), let me first tell you the story of Gneiss.

My brother, Fog, played a resto druid for most of Vanilla. Actually, he played a feral/bear druid and then was forced to swap specs to heal for raiding (as was the way of things back then) by the guild he joined. In order to avoid being asked to heal MORE often, he decided to level a dwarf priest (fear ward!) for fun, not yet understanding that he’d still have to heal as a priest at 60. So he played the priest, Gneiss, as his alt, playing as shadow, primarily. He soon tired of people asking him to heal in groups (this was pre-LFG, remember), so he abandoned Gneiss and started playing Slovotsky, a rogue. He loved his rogue and got him to 60 and geared him pretty well and showed up to some raids as a rogue (although he’d usually heal if asked). Gneiss lay abandoned and unused.

When Burning Crusade came around, my brother was focused entirely on his rogue, abandoning his druid, Fog, and never touching his priest.

Meanwhile, I was interested in learning more about the priest. So I took the priest and levelled Gneiss (who I name-changed to something else) to 70 and spent a lot of time running around Nagrand mining ore and collecting motes of air (Gneiss was a miner/engineer) after my raids, chatting with my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid as she wiped her way through Black Temple and Sunwell progression.

I didn’t do a whole lot with the priest, although I joined a guild for a short period of time and did a tiny bit of Tier 4 raiding as a holy priest.

Still, I never felt as though I really understood the class. So when Wrath of the Lich King had been out for a while, my brother reclaimed his priest, but then promptly abandoned it again to level a paladin tank. And, naturally, this meant that I was going to level a character with him. As I already had a paladin, a shaman and a druid, I elected to level a priest. We dungeoned our way through everything together and eventually both got to 80.

I thought I knew “enough” about priests during the bit of time I did stuff (apart from mining and such in Nagrand) in Burning Crusade, but I hadn’t really levelled the toon. My brother had. He had learned some important bits that I felt I didn’t know. I know I didn’t know that Dispel Magic was able to be used offensively until someone informed me of it. (Should read tooltips…)

I never really felt “prepared” on Gneiss. Not the way that I felt “prepared” on Kurn or on Madrana. But when I created my own priest, that sense of preparation came back. It’s as though the levelling process allowed me to really acclimate to the character and learn how to play it better than when I’d basically taken over my brother’s priest somewhere in the 40s or something.

So while I find the idea of instantly dinging 90 to be fairly appealing, I can’t help but think what it means for the community at large. Is the community going to suffer because of brand-new 90s running around who don’t know how to play their new classes at all? I can only guess that the answer is “yes”.

On the Other Hand: Hells to the Yes!

At present, I have several characters in World of Warcraft spread out over three main servers (Eldre’Thalas, Skywall, Proudmoore).

90s: Kurn & my shaman alt.
85s: Madrana, Baby Pally Madrana, mage, disc priest, guardian/resto druid
80: Prot warrior
58: Death knight (bank alt)
53: Mage
5: Rogue (bank alt)

And then I have a bunch of level 1s for storage/bank alt goodness.

I still don’t know who is going to receive my level 90 boost for Warlords of Draenor, but it might be the prot warrior (since I literally keep her around for inscription/profession stuff). Or maybe I’ll roll a DK on Eldre’Thalas and boost that to 90 and pick up engineering/blacksmithing, which are the only two professions I don’t have covered. However, it’s clear that I have a lot of characters who would greatly benefit from being bumped up to 90 instantly. And I still think it would be hilarious if my rogue bank alt hit level 90. Hilarious. He’s been level 5 for, oh, seven years. And he’s only level 5 because that was the level you needed to be to pick up a profession. So I picked up enchanting and was able to disenchant just about anything — until they put in a level restriction for the professions, meaning he will forever have enchanting no higher than 75 unless I ding him.

Anyhow, I digress.

For the experienced player, perhaps, a level 90 boost isn’t terrible. But even then, I wouldn’t queue up as, say, a death knight tank if I boosted to 90 on that character, because I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on others.

Other people are perhaps not quite so polite.

But would I make use of a pay-to-ding feature? To avoid going through umpteen expansions? Almost certainly. Hell, back in 2010, I was writing about how I would pay Blizzard $25 to start a toon at 68

It’s not an elegant solution to the fact that you have to go through Vanilla content (1-60), BC content (60-70), Wrath content (70-80), Cata content (80-85) and then MoP content (85-90) before you’re ready to participate in Warlords of Draenor, but it’s a solution. There are two kinds of people I think would take advantage of this: the new people who want to play with friends who are already there and people like me who have been through the other expansions’ content so often they want to cry at the thought of saving Corki again or trudging through Grizzly Hills once more or dealing with Vashj’ir yet again or even slogging through the Dread Wastes even one more time.

So is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Selfishly, I think it’s wonderful. If I were playing consistently and that was available, I would probably take advantage of it more often than not, were it something able to be purchased from the Blizzard store. If I ever wanted to roll a monk (not really something that’s interested me), that’s certainly something I would do.

But as I explained above, I do think it’s not going to be great for the community as a whole. Will it be good for Blizzard and for their bottom line? Sure. People get to play with friends, people can pay for a shortcut to the current expansion, all that jazz, it’s great. People are happy they don’t have to do Borean Tundra (and let me tell you, there is a LOT boring about Borean!) and Blizzard is happy to take their money. Everyone wins, right?

But I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’m concerned that it will lower the overall skill of the playerbase which, to be honest, is already pretty poor, when you look at people in random, transient content (LFG, LFR). I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but in one of my LFR adventures last week, there was another survival hunter in the raid with me… who used Explosive Shot a single time. Once.

I would argue that, as painful and tiring as the slog is, levelling is worth the time and effort if only to learn how to play your class.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t bothering to do that now. They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.

It’s not a “casual” vs. “hardcore” thing, either. We’re talking about the core ability for a survival hunter. Not using Explosive Shot is, well, not how the spec was meant to be played. It’s like Cory Stockton said, about the talent trees when they announced Mists of Pandaria, a fury warrior who didn’t take the Raging Blow talent wasn’t being unique, but was being a bad fury warrior. Now you have people who have the abilities given to them, baked into the specs themselves, and they’re still not using them.

Is boosting these people to 90, throwing them into the deep end, really going to make those people worse players? I’m not sure that’s possible. But what boosting people to 90 will do is it’ll inflict them upon other people more quickly. Hit 90, start questing, queue up for new dungeons and then wipe your group because you are doing 300 DPS instead of 3000 DPS. Or, worse, they queue up as tanks and healers (for the faster queue) and then wipe their groups because they don’t know how to hold aggro on more than one mob at a time or don’t know how to cast on someone. (The latter does happen, even now. Trust me.)

I guess what I’m saying here is that the underlying problem, which has been increasingly apparent ever since LFG came to be in Wrath of the Lich King, is that people don’t know (or care) how to play their classes and these people are being let loose upon the game. Boosting to 90 will be incredibly beneficial to a lot of people, believe me, but, especially at the start of the expansion when so many people will have that boost to 90, I expect to see a lot of failure stemming from fresh 90s.

I don’t think it’s a problem that’s easily solvable, per se, but one way it can be addressed is to force the boosted 90s to pass Silver Proving Grounds for any spec they’re going to queue up for, forcing them to repeat it for a spec they haven’t queued up for yet. Silver is something most people should be able to easily attain and since Proving Grounds were made for 90s, it’s perfect for fresh, boosted-to-90 characters. Let them quest alone, sure, but make them prove themselves before inflicting them on other people who play the game. Even if the person is level 96 before they queue up, scale up the Proving Grounds for that level and make them work for it a little bit.

I’m someone who spent something like six months straight doing a daily heroic dungeon on Madrana once that feature launched in Wrath of the Lich King. I would queue up as a tank AND a healer (because I had enough gear and knowledge at the time to be able to tank or heal “heroic” dungeons adequately) and would invariably have anywhere between 1 and 3 people who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve done my fair share of random dungeons throughout Cata. I did a bunch of LFRs back when that was first introduced. I’ve just spent a week doing a bunch of LFRs of MoP content. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with random people in this game and, honestly, I’m not looking forward to fresh 90s who don’t know what they’re doing at the start of Warlords of Draenor. If Blizzard isn’t willing to educate them, I hope they’ll use the existing technology to restrict people from inflicting themselves on others. It’s an artificial barrier to entry, but if you just skipped 90 levels, can you really complain about the idea of doing proving grounds to show you know how to do your role appropriately? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would welcome the challenge, myself. If that (and, say, $25) was the price to pay to skip 90 levels? Bring it on!

What are your thoughts about boosting to 90? What repercussions do you think this could have on the larger community? Would you pay for a boost?

I caved.

I wrote about temptation a couple of weeks ago, in that I had been severely tempted to play World of Warcraft, in a way that didn’t seem to be abating.

Well, I also saw in my Battle.net account, under my WoW account, under the Rewards & Referrals section, that I had a 7-day free trial that I could apply to my account.

While it’s not about the money, I eventually caved and took the offer of a free, short-term return to WoW. I think it’s so tempting because it’s so short. A week? That’s barely enough time to do stuff, if indeed there is stuff to be done. A month is a long time and while one doesn’t have to play for the full month, it sort of felt to me as though I’d be chaining myself to the game for a month if I resubbed. I know, I’m weird. But I’m someone who tends to binge rather than do things in moderation. For me, it’s often safer to abstain entirely than try to indulge myself on occasion. And WoW is definitely proof that when I do something, I go all out.

So late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, I caved and applied the 7-day trial to my account.

What have I done?

– I have spent a crapton of time over at the Island of Free Lewts.
– I have done both halves of Mogu’shan Vaults in LFR.
– I’ve got three each of the sigils I need for the first step of the legendary questline.
– I’m also honored with the Black Prince.
– I’ve done a couple of heroic dungeons.
– I’ve done Bronze and Silver Proving Grounds for DPS.

The Timeless Isle is a ridiculously fast catch-up mechanic. I’ve never seen anything like it. Badges in BC pale in comparison to how quickly you can gear yourself up on the Timeless Isle. Even better, you can mail your alts the drops that aren’t for your armor class. While my paladin is still 85, she has no less than three Timeless Isle plate pieces waiting for her to open if she ever gets to 90. My shaman has two Timeless Isle resto pieces (since Kurn had already picked up pieces in those slots). My druid, who is level 85 and on Proudmoore, still, even has a couple of pieces waiting for him if he ever hits 90.

I don’t remember my precise item level before I started, but I know it was less than 463, because I remember thinking to myself that Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds were kind of out of the question until I had gear that COULD be scaled down. So let’s imagine I was somewhere around 458 or thereabouts.

I’m now at 492.

RIDICULOUS.

As such, I have spent a lot of time reforging. And transmogrifying. And reforging some more. Oh, and enchanting. And gemming. Did I mention reforging?

Even with the help of something like AskMrRobot, reforging is a serious pain in my ass. Adios, muchacho. I won’t miss you.

I’ve never really been able to take advantage of a catch-up mechanic, such as the Timeless Isle, because I’ve just never needed to catch up. I’ve always been subscribed! It’s interesting to come back after a year and see what mechanics are in place for me to enjoy myself.

That said, while I’m pleased to be acquiring gear, I don’t feel accomplished. I feel lucky. I lucked out by getting most of my Timeless Isle stuff. I got lucky by coining my new bow off Will of the Emperor. I don’t feel as though I worked for any of it.

As to LFR, here’s a secret: I didn’t do any research at all on any of the bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults. I just dove in head first and winged it all. Hell, I didn’t even realize Stone Guard was a boss fight! I thought it was a slightly more difficult trash pack.

Overall, I felt moderately badly at my lack of preparation but then I realized two things.

1) LFR is easier than I remember.
2) People are dumb.

Even if there was a mechanic I didn’t really grasp, I still figured out how to move out of it. Flanking orders or whatever? Yeah, not hard. Get off of the platform before it drops? Not very difficult.

And yet, people died to everything imaginable. Tragic, really.

Further, I seem to be ranking. Granted, it’s LFR. Plus, I’m playing as survival and I imagine most hunters are being Beast Mastery (?), so there’s more opportunity for me to rank on fights if there are fewer people who have done the fights as those specs, but good God, there’s no way I should be ranking after never seeing the fights and being so very rusty. (I may or may not have done the second half of Mogu’shan Vaults LFR with a +Strength leatherworking embossment instead of a +Agility…)

I’m hoping to see the rest of the LFRs this weekend before my week comes to an end, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to swing it. It would be nice to see Siege, though.

So I also did a couple of heroic dungeons. Heroic Stormstout Brewery which was pretty much the same as normal, from what I remembered, and the other was Heroic Scarlet Halls. I miss my old Scarlet Monastery, but this was all right, I guess. (I was not pleased to see what they’d done to Scholo, back when that change happened, so at least SM isn’t too different.)

I quite enjoyed the Proving Grounds that I did. I honestly wish that my paladin were 90 so I could go in and heal forever in the Proving Grounds, but she’s not and I’m not going to ding her 90 during this trial. Next up will be Proving Grounds Gold DPS for Kurn.

Honestly, I’m not sure that this trip back to WoW is going to stick. As of right now, I don’t think I’ll resubscribe once the week is up, at least not until closer to the expansion. Maybe I’ll change my mind, maybe I won’t.

All of that said, though, it’s been nice to revisit WoW for a bit. My brain needed it, I think, but once this binge is over, I think I’ll be satisfied for quite a bit of time. :)

I have a few projects in the works while I still have access, by the way — just a matter of finding the time to put them together.

Lastly, I wanted to pimp out Brutall’s YouTube channel. Brutall is the guild master of Static (H) on US-Arthas and has some amazing videos up on his channel. You can also follow him on Twitter @brutallstatic. I highly recommend doing so. His Life of a Guild Leader series and Backseat Raid Leading series are great and he even wrote and sang a couple of songs. (The LFR one was HILARIOUS.) So check out Brutall. I found myself nodding and agreeing with him as I went through ALL his videos (seriously, all of them!) and he seems to be someone who really understands stuff. I spent 358 pages in my GM guide covering a lot of stuff that he covers, but he does it in short videos that are probably easier to digest, unless you’re a fan of my long-windedness.

Hope everyone is having an awesome holiday season! :) I shall doubtlessly have more to say soon…

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