Flying, Riding, and Exploring

It was announced that Warlords of Draenor would not include flight at “the beginning”. Players complained, as always, and discussions were had. Several things came up I wanted to think/write about.

In previous expansions, players had to get to level cap first, then they could purchase the ability to fly. This usually came a high-ish price. This is good design, in my opinion, for many reasons.

1. It forces the player to ride through the world for an extended period. It has been proven that people who fly from one place to another don’t feel the “distance” the way someone who drives does. By forcing players to level until they can get off the ground, they generally feel the vastness of the expansion world.

2. It allows for funneling the players to locations. Level design is all about how to get the player to stay within the game area and how to get where we want them to go. Keeping them grounded allows for this. It makes it so the designer can be reasonably certain the player enters a zone from a specific point, and the gameplay can be tailored to match the leveling player.

3. It’s a gold sink. If it’s something WoW needs, it’s more gold sinks. Anything that takes gold out of the economy is good.

4. They see the monsters, NPCs, hidden things much better from the ground. It goes back to exploring, but it makes it worth it to spend dev time on doing silly things like the hidden treasures of Pandaria.

Now, having said that… I am strongly opposed to the idea of waiting for flight until AFTER the first content patch of WoD. As any long time WoW player will say, the game is very different when leveling versus when at level cap.

So why is it a bad idea to be level cap and not have flying?

1. Playing with Purpose.

It’s pointless-ish for level capped characters to kill monsters. We get no exp, the gold and drops aren’t worth it, since we get more in dungeons, and generally, we are never in danger – so it’s really just a slog that takes up time. Level capped players who are doing dailies just want to get their stuff done and move on to more important things, like dungeon runs. So I timed it. It takes me about 20 minutes to fly over, do the Shado-Pan dailies, and get back to the flight path. If I only play WoW an hour a day, that’s a 1/3rd of my play time burned doing what is effectively a chore. To test, I decided to do it on mount/foot. It took me 48 minutes. MORE THAN TWICE the time. A majority of the extra time was spent riding over and back, and dealing with extra mobs in the way, since the bug island is DENSE with monsters.

2. Designed for Reality not for Flow

Stormwind is a very interesting city. So is Ironforge. Both of them are sprawling and believable cities. They have houses, shops, districts, and dozens of landmarks. But in the terms of playing a game, these are terrible areas. Logically, in a game, there would be none of the wasted space. The Auction House, Inn, Vendors, and Flight Point would all be gathered together right inside the door. Now that’s not to say they should change these cities, but rather that they need to “lessen” the impact on the players. The ability to fly over the buildings and canals in Stormwind helps ease the players passage while allowing the city to look realistic.

3. Travel Time is Wasted Time.

You know that one person, who is always late? They are constantly running behind, to the point you tell them to be somewhere 30 minutes early so they will be even remotely close to on time? Now imagine you are waiting on someone to run dailies… Or a dungeon… or a raid… WoW is a game best played with friends, but always having to wait on someone is just as frustrating as it is in real life. We have things to do! And waiting about, or just riding through the world is not those things.

Why do flight paths not fill this need? Well for one, there are never enough of them. Two, they take some of the most meandering paths. Three, it’s dead time. You can’t DO anything while flying. I am not here to watch a bird fly, I am here to do interesting things. Also, everyone has had the experience of accidentally clicking the wrong destination and having to wait even LONGER to get where you wanted to go. On my own mount, if I see an herb, rare, or battle pet along the way, I can stop and engage.

Not having flight wouldn’t bother me as much if I knew that it was going to be reasonably easy to get where I wanted to go. But spend some time in Pandaria and realize how unlikely that is. The flight path from the Shrine to Half Hill takes twice the amount of time as just flying over the mountains.

At 90 (and 100 in WoD) the player isn’t playing to explore anymore. They don’t need to kill monsters for exp. They are trying to get the things they need to raid or pvp. That does not include spending hours of time traveling about. Players will take the path of least resistance and it’s a designers job to make sure that path isn’t quitting playing. To give an example, I started playing Hearthstone one night while taking a flight path. I didn’t notice I had reached my destination until the game auto logged me out for being afk for 20 MINUTES. Having a long flight path and travel time meant I stepped away from the game, and potentially would not come back.

Time spent in the game is valuable. There is so much to do and so many goals, for players, time is at a premium. The designers need to take this into account when making decisions. Make a game, not a jogging simulator.

Gelatinous Cube Shots

In our weekly D&D group, we have a paladin dwarf. I granted him the ability to turn water into holy ale/beer as a silly ability that just adds to the flavor of the game. Very early in the game, he used this ability to turn a pool of water into holy ale and then the group dropped an evil skeleton into it. Of course, because I reward players doing wacky things, I let it do damage to the skeleton, who then rolled TWO consecutive 1s on the dice to climb out of the pool.

They still tell this story, almost a year later.

Now, due to work pressure, our group is filled with tired, overworked game devs who are literally giving up their only free time in a week to play D&D. So I have been far more lenient and letting them do all kinds of crazy and silly things with their characters and during battle.

This lead to a night fighting mobs of troglodytes and three gelatinous cubes.

After much battle, Davkul, the dwarven paladin is facing off against the Gelatinous Cube. A statement gets made that they are “mostly” water right?

Can you guess what he did next?

So now, my group of fearless adventurers are standing about a gelatinous ale cube. Sid, the drow rogue, made a joke to the effect of “Gelatinous Cube Shots!” and of course, this meant Davkul wanted to DRINK it. I had him make an endurance check – and he nailed it. It was over 35. Fine. Okay. You guys just DRANK a gelatinous cube. EW.

This lead me to Google and checking to see how one would go about making Gelatinous Cube shots. My search returned nothing. Surely not. SURELY someone has had this idea right?

Well here’s how to make Gelatinous Cube Shots for your Dungeons and Dragons drinking nights!

Ingredients:

2 Boxes of Jello mix – whatever flavor.

1 cup Vodka.

1.5 Cups Boiling Water.

1 Cap of Wilton’s Skeleton Bones Sprinkles.

 

I picked Lime and Berry Jello, so it would be blue and green cubes. I also made the Lime with Vodka and the Berry with Rum.

Put the two boxes of jello into a bowl. Boil the 1.5 cups of water. Add the boiling water to the jello and stir for 2-3 minutes. Once it’s good and mixed, add the room temp1 cup alcohol. Stir some more. Pour into a small glass pan, and refrigerate over night. When ready to cut, set the glass pan in warm water for about 5-10 minutes, until it starts to separate from the glass pan, then cut the cubes and remove.

Now – about those sprinkle bones. I got them because it’s just not really a gelatinous cube without some adventurer bits in it. I added mine about 30 minutes after putting the jello in the fridge, which was clearly too soon, as they all sank to the bottom. I imagine about an hour would be right, though it might mean having to poke the bones down a bit. Also, it’s possible to make two batches and let the first batch set, then pour the bones in, then add another layer with the second batch – but that would mean doubling the recipe and a much bigger pan. The sprinkles didn’t melt when added to the jello, but when we cut the cubes, they did start to disintegrate and ooze. Honestly, it made it better.

DSC_0002 DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0006photo 1 photo 21619115_10152098175185876_3484592911143001907_nThe sprinkles and rum!

 

 

 

 

The Jello!

 

 

 

First set, blue!

 

 

 

 

Second set, Green!

 

 

 

 

Two trays of green and blue shots!

 

 

 

 

See the bones!

 

 

 

 

Up close cube!

 

 

 

 

 

I should also warn you, these pack a bit of a punch and are deceptively tasty. Nom with care.

WoD Beta Impressions

I am fortunate in that I got to play the WoD build at BlizzCon last year, and then got into what appears to be the first wave for the WoD beta.

First things first – When I saw WoD back in November, I remember thinking it wasn’t nearly as far along as MoP was at the same time. (I also got to play MoP at BlizzCon when it was announced.)

It was clearly unfinished, textures missing, no world critters, very little set dressing. Only two zones, both of which felt very empty.

The beta isn’t much better. They re-wired the way the area starts. There is a strange event at the Dark Portal, then an event in the Tanaan Jungle, then it’s off to Shadowmoon Valley. But oddly, instead of going to Karabor immediately, as we did at BlizzCon, it was a crash landing on the coast. We started by building our Garrison Outpost and questing into Draenai territory. Why are the Draenai okay with us hacking down their trees and building an outpost? We’re just as bad as the Horde in Ashenvale here.

The beta is buggy, unstable, and there is a ton of missing stuff. (Enchanting mats, trainers, etc.)

Here is my bullet list of issues though – not QA issues, but player issues:

  • The animation on the follower when dragging them from the follower pane to the mission pane in the garrison needs to be LITERALLY anything else. The strangle animation is NOT the one to use here. I picked up the night elf and she was literally struggling for her LIFE. No no no.
  • Why change the order that things are added to bags? Why not allow up to decide which direction it goes in? We have been playing one way for 10 years – you can’t just change it now.
  • So objectives are just like…. quests without the quest text?
  • The way things complete is wildly inconsistent. Some mobs are multi-tap, some aren’t, some items are player specific, some aren’t… Seriously guys, we have solved this problem. PICK a solution.
  • Reminder – Escort Quests are the WOOOOOORST.

Now about Garrisons…

I haven’t played Wildstar, but I see the pictures. These Garrisons are not comparable. Blizzard is strangling player choice in the name of their desire for telling their own story. The Garrison was supposed to be optional – now it’s a part of the storyline as it progresses through Draenor. The Garrisons are a pale shadow imitation of the player housing in other games. And the way it looks/feels in the Beta does NOT comfort me that it will get any better.

If Blizzard does this – releases Garrisons as their answer to Wildstar – I am afraid Wildstar is going to win the argument. And unfortunately, that will be the beginning of the end. You can’t be the 600lb gorilla in the room, if everyone else has corgis and kittens and you keep insisting they play with your gorilla.

Players in MMOs want choice. We want to make our characters look the way we want to look, dress the way we would dress, live in places we would live. Every choice you let the player make is validating them and allowing them to be a part of the story and game. Every choice you take away because you think it should be about you not the player is a stepping away point. And so many players are stepping away. The thing that made WoW the 600lb gorilla is the people playing who convinced their friends to play, drive them away – and you lose those pounds.

Screen Time

“So Joyia, how are you planning on limiting your kid’s video game time? How are you going to keep him from playing your M rated games?”

This was a question asked of me by a World of Warcraft guild mate.

He didn’t like my answer – “I’m not.”

When I was a kid, my mom never limited my game time. We had a computer and an NES. Both were in the living room. Game time was limited only by one factor – is someone else using it already. Actually no, two factors, that one, and “Is your homework done?” My mother took a firm stance on kids should be allowed to spend their time how they want to. She had her own hobbies (including playing games). She didn’t have time to police ours and see if they were “worthwhile”. Once I had finished my chores (which were criminally few now that I think about it) and homework, I could do whatever I wanted. Sometimes that was games. But just as often it was reading, or writing, or talking to friends on the phone.

At the very least, at least she always knew where we were right?

Yes, people can get really sucked into video games, but they can also be just as obsessed over many other things. I read dozens of books every year. I spent at least a 1/4th of my childhood with a nose in a book. I was the only kid in my class in elementary school who wasn’t allowed to have books at her desk. Not even text books. I would read them instead of listen. (Though, really, wasn’t that the POINT?)

Further, I remember a girl in my elementary school who took a flute out to recess every day. The teachers tried and tried to get her into playing with the other kids, and she refused. All she wanted to do was play the flute. They let her because she said she wanted to be a flutist one day. They wouldn’t let me read, which was exceptionally annoying, despite the fact I said I wanted to be a writer. Fifth grade and we were already being judged by our activities. Here’s the thing though. That girl? Full ride to college on a band scholarship. Later she ended up joining some ridiculously hard to get into symphony in New York. At 11, she knew what she wanted to do and she didn’t let anything get in her way, not even well meaning teachers or parents.

I didn’t want to be a game designer when I was 11. I knew I liked games. I knew I liked books. I knew I liked making up stories with my friends. I knew I liked making up games to play with my friends. I wanted to make Calvinball. But no one, in all those years, ever told me making games for a living was a thing I could do. So yeah, at the time the hours and hours I sunk into playing video games was a “waste”.

What about now?

So we’re working on SSA, and we’re discussing what happens when one player does something like steal all the treasure in an area. They start discussing various solutions we could do as designers to fix this. I immediately piped up with “But we shouldn’t. That’s a real life problem to solve.” A few blank looks and I clarified – “If your brother steals all the loot, you punch him. That’s the POINT of playing games in local multiplayer. But more, we shouldn’t change it because it allows the players to game the system. You can power level characters if one can collect all the loot and exp. It also makes the game more of a mad dash.”

In the end, we sat down and played the game, local multiplayer, just like kids would. It was less than 3 minutes to the first “Hey! THAT WAS MINE!” and about 5 minutes to one player letting the other one die to get loot. Within 15 minutes, a huge crowd had gathered around the two players with much good natured jokes and laughter. We didn’t change the system. Let them fight over loot.

I am not sure I would have thought this way, if not for the experiences of playing all those games with my brother. All those local multiplayer games with my friends. I was also the kind of kid who would hook up two controllers to cheese the system and give myself help. I have two WoW accounts NOW just for that purpose. I always buy both versions of each Pokemon game, so I can trade between them.

Well, that explains the time limits… as long as homework is done, I don’t care. Maybe it will be his passion. Maybe it won’t. But there is no reason to enforce my hobbies and desires on him. He’s his own person, let him spend his time how he wants.

But what about M rated games?

Again, my mother never limited the books I could read. If we had it in the house, I could read it. I remember picking up a Stephen King book at 12. I tried to read it. Oh man was it DULL. I also remember watching R rated movies. In the living room. That was the thing about having the tv/console/computer in the living room. You couldn’t do anything without everyone seeing. It was amazingly good at limiting what I would try to watch or play. My mom would come in and say something like “Oh that’s gross, I don’t want to see that.” And switch it to something else. There was never a “You can’t play that.” It was always, “This isn’t appropriate for the family room.” Then a few times we had candid discussions about sex, drugs, and such, so that she knew I knew what was safe, what wasn’t, and how to deal with those situations. At no point was the line between reality and media blurred.

Talking to a kid and interacting with them on a constant basis really helps. So I hope when my kid gets old enough to play games, he plays them with me. Skylanders is a great family game. So is Minecraft. (As an aside, I do not look forward to telling him that Creepers – aka Booms – are not fluffy little friends like he thinks right now.) If he wants to play a game like Skyrim, I will let him, where I can see, in the living room. There will likely be discussions and conversations about the difference between reality and fantasy, but I have faith in his ability to learn. Also kids tend to be very self limiting on “adult” things.

In the end, I think my biggest issue with saying “I will limit your access and time to games.” is that not only was mine not limited as a kid, but how hypocritical would it be for me to say, “Sorry you can only play for an hour each day,” when I will be playing for at least 2-3? Yes, I will probably do the same thing as my mom and say, “I don’t want to see that on the living room tv, so different game.” but otherwise, I don’t really think I have a leg to stand on about playing too many games. Do what you want, as long as you are responsible and take care of your chores/work, then your free time is your own.

Understanding the Other Self

I remember the first time I showed my dad WoW. He didn’t really get it. I explained that the green named people were other players. I explained that the game couldn’t be paused. I explained how we moved through the world and did quests, killing monsters. He never seemed to quite understand. He kept asking me, but what was my character’s name? Was I saving the princess? His understanding of games was narrow, and I didn’t know the correct words at the time to explain the difference.

My son, by virtue of being a game developer’s kid, has been exposed to games from the very beginning. Before he was even a year old, he watched me play things like Skylanders on our living room TV. At around 11 months, he realized for the first time that putting something on the portal of power caused the TV to change. He did this for hours. Skylanders on and off, looking up at the TV to watch the change.

The next, the real magic happened. Tiny Pittman took the portal off the coffee table, set it on the floor, then carefully stepped up on it. He looked at the TV. Of course, nothing happened. Despite the fact that I call him a Skylander, he isn’t actually. He tried a few more times, even testing the portal with Skylanders, but he couldn’t get the TV to change when he stepped on the portal. He seemed disappointed. His understanding was that anything placed on the portal appeared on the screen. Our magic for Skylanders is limited, but it wasn’t in his head.

The next time he really began to interact with games was several months later, while he sat on my lap while I played WoW. I mounted up on a flying dragon and Tiny pointed at it, then loudly exclaimed “Birdy!” I laughed and replied, yes, that was Mommy’s birdy. I kept playing, and he reached out and pressed the space bar. My character reacted by jumping in the air. His response: “WHOA!” He began pressing the space bar repeatedly. Watching intently as my character jumped around Azeroth. Finally, I zoomed in on my character, and he said “Mommy!” Yes, my character is a red headed human, so it makes sense he would recognize her as me. I nodded, and agreed. Yes, that was Mommy.

What really got me was watching him completely understand and accept, not only that my online avatar was me, but that I was also in control of her. At 1 year, and 8 months, Tiny understood that the characters on the screen were merely extensions of the people behind the keyboard.

I look forward to seeing him grow and discover virtual worlds. I also wonder what kind of expectations this will create in him. What things will he understand that will be outside of my grasp? What will those virtual worlds look like when he gets there?

A different kind of crunchy mom

It never really occurred to me I should be writing about being a game developer mom. I am a game developer and a mom, but these two things don’t really seem to overlap very much in the public eye. Recently on Twitter, I made a comment to a friend about being a mom in game development, and she replied with surprise, as she rarely talks to other moms who make games.

At first, I thought this was rather odd, I mean, there are tons of moms who make games! But then I stopped to think about the people I work with and have worked with. Um. Well. I mean, none of my companies can be accused of hiring lots of women, but some are over the average (13% female workforce). And yet, I have never worked with another mother, unless they never talked about it. (I even interviewed at a company, that after a while, the guy got me to admit that I wasn’t planning on having kids anytime soon, and his response was “Oh good, you women have a habit of quitting when you have babies.”)

I have worked at a company where just as I started, a producer left on maternity leave. She didn’t come back when it was over. As this was in the middle of a death march of a crunch, I really couldn’t blame her. 60 hour weeks with an infant? You must be crazy.

I guess I am crazy. I got pregnant right as TfB geared up on Giants right after shipping Spyro’s Adventure. We had a 1 year turn around time for Giants. I knew it was going to be rough, but as long as we shipped in June, we would be fine, as I was due in July. No worries. Except for the tiny detail of “Games almost never ship on time.” It wasn’t too difficult, working on Giants. My studio is pretty stress free, friendly, and people worked to get my stuff done first “just in case”. In the end, I shipped my kid the same week we hit submitted. I worked right up until the Friday before my due date (the next Tuesday). I didn’t do this because I was told to, or asked to, but rather because I love my job, I love my game, and I really love the people I work with.

When I first got pregnant, it was always known I would take a few months off, then back to work and back to Skylanders. I never thought of leaving my career to stay home with my kid. I had worked very hard to get where I was in the industry and was very lucky to get a job at TfB working on a game I loved. No way I was going to put that on hold for 5 years. So I found a daycare within a mile of my office, signed Tiny Pittman up, and went back to work exactly 3 months after I left to have my son.

So what is it like being a game dev mom? Weird. But I expect many women feel the same in other fields. I really think though, crunch is the source of my biggest problems with being a game dev and a mom, and likely the reason I don’t find many others.

First, before I had my kid, I only remember one incident of a parent responding to crunch. At one company, we were in the middle of mandatory 60 hour weeks, including 2 late nights. One of the men who sat across the office from me would Skype his kids at home to say good night on the late nights. It was cute, and I really felt it meant a great deal that he was trying. Someone said something to him once about “being a good father”. Then, this very nice, generally calm man, snapped at the commenter with a very harsh “If I were a GOOD father I would be at home putting my kids to bed instead of here working on this stupid game!” It may have been stress, it may have been dissatisfaction with the way the project had been handled, but clearly this person was wildly unhappy about missing his kids, and no one even knew until that moment.

That moment really stuck with me, because I knew that’s how I would be. I was already cranky at working 60 hour weeks because it cut into my WoW time. How would I deal when it cut into my kid time? I talked to my husband about it that night and pointed out, we really needed to make sure our “crunches” never synced up. So at least one of us would always be able to watch the kid and the other could crunch. He is also in the game industry, but fortunately, always at different companies.

That’s a fear I have. I love working in the game industry, but it’s brought me all the way out here to California. My family, and thus my kid’s grandparents, are 3000 miles away. There really isn’t such a thing as 24 hour daycare around here, and even if there was, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. So on each project, I work in fear of hearing those words – “mandatory crunch”. You can mandatory all you want, but if me or my husband can’t watch the spawn, there is no one else. His daycare is open from 7am to 6pm. That is my availability to work. Period. He’s 20 months old, I can’t exactly bring him into the office. But regardless, that is a constant distant worry that hangs out in the back of my mind.

That’s without even taking into account how not spending time with my kid affects me. Right now my husband and I are separated, so every other weekend I have the spawnling. In our big push for a milestone recently, I came in on the weekends I didn’t have him. I worked 3 weekends, and every other weekday night. I managed to keep up, but it was exhausting. And not seeing my kid made me sad. When I did see him, I was tired mommy, not fun mommy. I was “here’s a quesadilla for dinner because I am exhausted and can’t make you something more nutritious”. It’s rough on families. I am not sure if it was working those weekends, but since that usually don’t bother me, I think it was not seeing the spawn, and it made me depressed. I wasn’t able to work as well, and I was noticeably unhappier to my co-workers. Even worse, there were people who commented that I wasn’t there every weekend. They weren’t my lead, or even in charge at all, but there was clearly resentment that I had not been there. My lead is understanding, and never batted an eye, but what about others? Now, whenever I interact with that person, their comment colors my view of them.

Being a parent is all about time management. I have to plan everything and make time for everything. Showers, food, shopping, everything takes time and everything has to be accounted for. If I want to raid in WoW, it has to be with a guild that understands I can *only* raid from the time we start to our set end time. I can’t go 15 minutes over. If I could, I would have already planned it. We have done this on a few occasions, and every time it has lead to me and the kid being late to work the next morning. So having someone else come in and tell me how to spend that time is going to be a huge burden. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with this at TfB (all overtime has been voluntary and at a time of my choosing), but I can see very easily where it would quickly drive a woman to find a different job.

Say what you like about gender stereotypes, but in the almost 2 years since I had my son, I noticed that generally I am the one to give him a bath, clean his room, do the shopping, clean dishes, do laundry, pick up toys… All of this time spent doing things. Not to say my husband didn’t help, but the balance of chores was skewed towards me. When I work overtime, all of those pesky chores don’t get done. That’s the first thing to go. So the dishes pile up, the kiddo’s room looks like a tornado hit it, and there is a huge pile of clean clothes that managed to get washed but no way in hell they will get folded and put away.

To add to the already absurdly small amount of free time, I am a game designer. One of the things about being a game designer is you really need to play games. It helps you learn how other people are solving problems, cool things they are doing, and probably helps you make your game better. But with time already taken with work, chores, kid time, and husband time… that leaves how much for games? I don’t play nearly the number of games I should, and all to often now I just watch some let’s play videos, since I can do that while playing WoW.

When I complain about lack of time, people *love* to say, well yeah but if you didn’t play WoW, look how much time would you have! There are definitely some problems with that. First, WoW is what keeps me sane. It’s my stress release and brain dead time. It’s my hobby. I don’t watch tv unless I am playing WoW. I don’t watch movies unless I am playing WoW. WoW is why I still have friends I talk to more than on Twitter. People always say you should make sure to take time for yourself. Well, there it is. WoW is my one hobby I always hold on to. I quit a Wednesday night job I had teaching just so I would have more time for my kid and NOT have to drop wow.

So I decided to find out… how do game dev dads do it? How do they deal with the time issue and how does it connect to crunch? So I asked the guys I work with that I know I have small children. With varying degrees of gratefulness, relief, and awe, they all replied that it was their wives. Their wives kept their kids, home, and everything running smoothly. The dads who worked every weekend, their wives picked up the slack. A few expressed to me their worry at missing their families, but that was just the way life goes. A few implied, if not outright said, well, that’s the way the world works. (My feminist voice in my head screamed for blood, but I kept her quiet.) Much like in every other field, it seems as if the wife is expected to pick up the slack and tend to the family and home when the husband must work overtime. When I talked to a few women in the industry, sans kids, about how they would handle it, one replied, and I quote “That’s why I am not having kids until I am ready to leave the industry.” !!!

During one particularly long crunch at another company, they offered free laundry services. The employees could bring in a bag of dirty laundry and a few days later get back a bag of folded clean laundry. Someone joked, oh hey, it’s like having a company mom! I replied that it would actually be far more useful to have an onsite daycare for the hours of crunch. Everyone looked at *me* like I was crazy. But really: then employee could work, non-employee could get all the housework done, and there wouldn’t be that slightly squicky idea of someone touching your dirty underwear.

What about single parents? I asked a single dad in the industry. If he has to work, his ex-wife gets the kid more than her share and gets angry at him. So sometimes the kid spends time with his family. Lucky he has family in the area. Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to work.

Here’s another strange thing about this whole situation. Perception. I get in to work most days at 8:30. I only take a 30 minute lunch, then leave at 5:30 (my kid’s daycare closes at 6). That’s 8 and 1/2 hours every day. Most of the office gets in at 10. (When our core hours start.) One time, during a Friday afternoon break fairly soon after I came back from maternity leave, someone commented that I was one of those “6 hour a day workers”, with a laugh, then said they wished they had a kid to give them a convenient excuse to leave early every day. I nearly punched him. With a glare I pointed out that despite the fact that HE rolled in at 10:30 every day, didn’t mean everyone did, in addition to being a hourly employee, I clock in every day too, would he like to review my calendar to check I work more than he does? He apologized, and has never made such a comment again, but how many other people think this way too?

When I left for maternity leave, I left on a Friday. Our game went to cert the very next Friday. I missed 5 whole days of the project, in a time when the only people actually making changes were the programmers and only for vital progression or cert bugs. About a year later, talking about being pregnant and shipping the game, someone replied, “Well, yeah, but you left like 2 months before we finished.” My response: “WHAT. THE. FUCK.” I had to correct him too. When did we cert? When did I leave? OH RIGHT. 7 FREAKING DAYS. In his mind, I had been gone “forever” because I was out 3 months. (The 3 months between cert and ship actually.) People’s sense of time skews when it’s not them. But these perceptions matter when everyone is tired, overworked, and stressed.

My experiences are just mine, but I can very easily see women not being willing to put up with it. My kid is absolutely the most important person in my life, and if not for my sheer level of stubbornness and extrovertedness, I seriously would have considered being a stay at home and professional WoW player. Is this one of the reasons we have so few women in the industry? How do we fix it?

Well for one, schedule and scope our games better. All too often work gets re-done or wasted. Leads and Publishers want more than they are willing to give time for. May the producers who build the gantt charts and FORCE the studio to get it to fit within the time frame find eternal joy. (My favorite producer was the one who drew one out, it showed we had 6 months more work than time, and said, “Okay, no one is leaving until it works.” 3 hours later, a very weary set of leads left the room with a workable schedule that did NOT include crunch.) Second, seriously, consider onsite child care. First off, child care is the *most* expensive thing when it comes to having a kid. My child care is almost as much as my RENT, and I live in California. If a company could get me onsite cheap child care, I would do everything in my power to keep that job. I’d take onsite child care over every other perk I get at a company.

I plan on writing more about being a mom and a game dev, but this is where I had to start. The one thing that makes it super difficult to be both. The one thing that would make me leave the industry. I love my job, but my kid wins.

Design and Nostalgia

To start, I didn’t play the original Dungeon Keeper. I get the design brief though. A player builds a dungeon with traps and monsters and then the ai let’s loose adventurers that try to get to the treasure in the dungeon. It’s a neat idea. When EA announced they were doing a new one, for iPad, people got excited, until they heard the word micro transactions, then it all went to hell very quickly.

When the game finally hit, it was universally panned on gaming sites, and my twitter exploded with vitriol at EA. I decided, for science, to download it and play it. If it was really that awful, I wanted to know. I wanted to see why everyone was so upset.

If anyone has a right to be upset, it’s SuperCell. The new Dungeon Keeper is effectively a direct lift of Clash of Clans (CoC). But here’s the funny thing. The same day I started playing Dungeon Keeper (DK), I also fired up my CoC again, despite not having played for months. Here I am, a month later, and I am still enjoying DK, and still hating CoC.

I am going to pick apart the design a bit, but here’s why, despite being the same general kind of game, DK is a superior design to CoC. Why I won’t be playing CoC, but will likely keep playing DK for a good long while.

Both games have the player building a base, then raiding other bases for materials with units. In CoC, the base area is a wide open space, filled with trees and such, but it takes a relatively short time to clear, after which the player can arrange things how they wish. When attacked by another player, that player can drop their units anywhere in open space. There is no way to build the village at the back of the area and effectively “narrow” the access. So the player has to build their base with a 360 defense in mind. Walls can be broken down, and archers can shoot over them. In truth, the village is never very secure, and it only takes a single fallen wall to lead to a complete destruction.

In DK though, every tile of the dungeon must be carved out. The raiding enemies can *only* appear at resource collectors, and taken over rooms. Theoretically, a player could force the enemy to meander around a maze of traps before gaining access to the dungeon heart. It allows for strategy that is lost in CoC because of the 360 requirements.

People complain about the time it takes to dig out corridors, but I am thankful for it. In CoC I dropped a bit of money on gems to buy more builders. Within a day I had one of my builders just sitting around. My money had been wasted because I wasn’t able to gather resources fast enough to keep up with building. By the time I quit playing the first time, all 4 builders were just sitting about. I have slowly built up to 4 imps and I seriously think I will never have them just sitting around!  Any time I have a free imp, I have at least 5 different choices of where to send him.

This next argument is a bit “anecdotal” as I do not have firm numbers on the production curves and gathering stats on each game. I have reached the point in CoC where I have cleared all the single player raids, and can do nothing but raid other players. As a result, I only get resources from my gatherers, not from playing the game. When I get raided, I lose resources, both from my stores and my gathering buildings. The amount I lose is often MORE than the amount I earn over the time period. If I don’t get a shield, I could be raided several times in a row. The people who can raid me are people who are “within” range of me as determined by trophies. So high level players will intentionally LOSE raids to lower their trophies, to be able to attack weaker players. I have a negative income of resources unless I spend money on shields. When I do queue to attack other players, I have to cheese the system to find players I can even think about attacking.

In DK though, I earn far far more resources than I lose in a raid. I don’t know how it decides who can raid me in DK, but so far, none of them have had a huge force that is significantly stronger than what I would be able to amass. And even when they completely demolish my dungeon, they make off with fewer resources than I could get in an hour or so, and I get a 12 hour protection spell! I am usually only attacked every few days or so as well, as opposed to CoC where I will be attacked within 30 minutes of my shield coming down, without fail.

CoC has become a game of watching how slowly my resources are taken from me while in DK, it’s still exciting, even now, figuring out what I am going to focus on next.

It comes down to the balance of the two games. CoC was clearly not balanced for the numbers of users it has. The ability to cheese the trophy system and fight noob players need to be patched out (though it hasn’t in the year I have been playing). DK has a better matching system and doesn’t punish the player for having lost to a raid nearly as much.

I am certain some of my ability to enjoy DK comes from NOT having the nostalgia over the original game. I feel like this is yet another case where the company would have been better served not using the old name, but giving it a new one. I understand they want to use old IPs, but when the old IP has so much baggage like this (or XCOM) it’s just unwise to try to overwrite it.

I will likely keep playing Dungeon Keeper for a good long while. I don’t think I will persist in Clash though, as I am so frustrated at the designer’s lack of desire to fix the problems in their game. At least DK has the potential to get better.

New Game Smell

I have many thoughts about Warlords of Draenor. I think there should be more women in the marketing. I think there is a noticeable lack of characters we can find heroic. I think their healing blog on the changes has me not wanting to heal.

When pre-orders went up for WoD though, I didn’t blink, I paid my $70 for the Digital Deluxe Version, and immediately started thinking about who I wanted to boost to 90. Today a Breakfast Topic on WI discussed the pricing of WoD. It’s the fifth WoW expansion, all previous expansions were $40, but WoD is $50.

The more cynical people think it’s “charging” $10 for the “free” level 90 boost. The more economics knowledgeable people point to inflation. But I am a game developer, so my first thought was – Yep, that price sounds about right, for a WoW expansion. But I was astonished at several responses, but none as much as this one “$50? That’s almost the price of a new game!” (Some used the CE pricing and said it was as much as a new game.) This was followed by claims of less content, subscriptions funding the expansion development, and comparisons to new games.

I am baffled by how many people commenting seemed to have no knowledge of game development, or even WoW’s development.

So here’s some food for thought, on why a mere expansion should cost the same as a “new” game.

First, I want to bring issue with the term expansion and the belief that our subs fund the development of expansions. Expansion is a word that is used to describe additions to a game that require the base game to play. Expansion does NOT necessarily indicate the number of hours of play added or the amount of content. There also seems to be some misconception about subs being used to support development, and while it’s possible they do, they are also used to pay for servers (and any upgrades over the years), server power, GMs, CMs, Customer Service, and all those other pesky things that come from running a massive live game like WoW. Then, any left over money likely gets split between investors and Blizzard, with a larger cut going to investors. (I heard rumors back in 2008 from a good source that indicated that the original deal of how sub fees got split actually meant Blizzard got very very little from it, but that is probably outdated now as those kinds of thing are occasionally renegotiated.) Regardless, that money doesn’t necessarily get spent on the development of expansions. Nor is Blizzard under any obligation to do so. Read the ToS. It says nothing about Subscription Fees or where they will be spent. You are paying for access, and nothing else. (Although the more I think about it, the more I expect that our sub does pay for the content we receive in patches, while the expansion price is paying for the huge drop of leveling content at the start.)

Second, the cost of everything rises and games are no exception. I remember when the price on console games went from 50 to 60, and everyone threw a fit. But it stuck, and eventually everyone accepted it. Even at the time, the developer response to the cost increase was art. I am a game developer and I have shipped 4 titles, in addition to knowing dozens of game developers from games of all sizes. One universal truth is – art is expensive. Exponentially so. The higher the fidelity, the higher the cost. Artists make up more than half of the company at every company I have worked at. Creating a single environmental object for a game, like a tombstone or barrel, can take 8 hours, based on the complexity of the model, the detail in the texture, how long it takes to unwrap, etc. Then every piece of art has to be reviewed and approved. Things like characters can take several WEEKS to model and texture, then a few more to rig and animate. Once a piece of art is finished, it has to go to programmers or designers to be implemented and placed in the game.

So from Skylanders, here’s how it goes with a SINGLE destructible item. I needed a barrel for the Darklight Crypt level. That was 4 hours of an artist’s time. Then he sent the barrel model and the models for the 5 pieces of it that show up when it breaks. It takes me about an hour to get them loaded into a destructible level, with proper collision and that’s AFTER a great deal of development time spent setting up the “pipeline” so I just have to plug stuff in, as opposed to scripting it up by hand. But then depending on the item I might have to do more special case scripting on top. Let’s say I don’t, so now it’s up to 5 hours. Then I send an email to vfx, so they can add particles when it explodes that match the item exploding. They spend about 2-4 hours doing that. (A barrel is likely 2.) Then sound has to go in and add explosion sounds and adjust those for the specific item. (About an hour.) And here we are, a barrel, in the game exploding, right at about 8 hours. Oh, but this was Darklight Crypt… and there is a world swapping mechanic, so I need that same barrel, only for the other world, so it’s going to need to look different… Two days, minimum of four employees, for TWO art assets that are as simple as it gets in games. Imagine doing hundreds of these. How many different barrels and crates have you seen in WoW?

As the items get bigger and more complex, they take more time. Oh and on a game like WoW, where they are updating the graphics engine with each expansion they have to go back and re-do art to make it look better and fit with the new graphics. Otherwise you have the problem all over the game that you can see by simply standing a human next to a panda. Not to mention that graphics engine that got updated probably had a few programmers working on it. (I would bet Blizzard has between 5-10 at least.) I know how many people work on Skylanders (although, that’s JUST TfB, technically people at Beenox and Vicarious Visions are working on it too…) so I can just imagine WoW’s team must be at least 150-200 people – JUST for development. Do you realize how much MONEY it takes to PAY that many people? And these aren’t minimum wage employees either. These are highly specialized, talented people. If Blizzard isn’t paying them well, someone else will, and they will lose their talent. Game Career Guide does a salary survey every year. Programmers with 6+ years of experience get ~106k. Artists – 76K. Designers – 82K. Producers 66K. Audio – 93K. So if we average that, we get (round down) 84k. 84k x 200 people… That’s over 17 MILLION a year – JUST on salaries. And I am positive that number is low. Really low. Because that’s not taking into account leads, people with 10+ years of experience, or things like QA. Obviously, if we had more data, we would have a more accurate picture, but making games is expensive! (Here’s another post on this exact same thing.)

Now, to my biggest bone of contention, and the one comment that made my teeth grind. “But it’s almost as much as a WHOLE NEW GAME!”

How do you know?

We haven’t seen all of Draenor yet. We don’t know how big the space is. We don’t know how many “skins” the garrison has. (Blizzard calls them kits.) We don’t know how many quests there are. We don’t know the number of new pets, mounts, armor, etc. We only know the number of dungeons and raid bosses. We don’t know the time it will take to get to 100. You are speculating on content size without having seen it! Okay, fine, let’s make the assumption it is as big as Pandaria. (With equal numbers of quests, dungeons, etc etc.)

Alright – but how big are new games? People like comparing it to ESO or WildStar, but those games aren’t out yet either. (I would like to cut the speculation down as much as possible.) I didn’t play SWTOR, so I can’t speak to it either. So let’s look at some new games I did play. Dishonored! Great game, I highly recommend it. It took me 15 hours to beat. Content wise though, it has about the equivalent of Jade Forest. What about Skyrim, another excellent game I highly recommend? (Thank you Reddit dudes for actually timing this.) It takes about 30 minutes to run from one end to the other. So if we run from one end of Pandaria to the other… and it takes about 30 minutes (on the ground, not flying or flight paths). Hum.

Okay okay, what about GAMEPLAY. That’s what’s important right? So Skyrim, I played for ~300 hours. My /played in Pandaria (since you can see how long it has been at this level) is… 22 DAYS? Honestly I expected more. I have 5 other characters at 90 too. Quests! Skyrim has ~300 quests. Here they are – all listed on one page. Pandaria has 1551. (I am skipping dungeons as they don’t really compare easily – Skyrim has over 100, but they are significantly shorter, use modular art, and do not generally have boss fights for all of them.) How many animals? Mounts? Pets? Buildings? All of these take time to make and then implement. You can’t just reuse assets either, or players complain, or it just looks silly. You can’t use regular mailboxes in Pandaria, they have to match the aesthetic of the world.

In the game industry, you will often hear the saying “Good, Fast, or Cheap. Pick two.” This is why Skyrim took ~5 years to make. It’s a great game. It’s a big game. It took a long time. (I’d bet money it wasn’t cheap either.) Pandaria, as a stand alone game, has just as much as Skyrim in terms of content, gameplay, and awesomeness. But took 3 less years to make and cost $20 less. That kind of turn around is not cheap. That means overtime. That means more people. That means talented people who cost more but do the work right the first time. Consider that Vanilla took at least 4 years to make. And yet they are churning out MORE content in the expansions than they did in Vanilla.

I also see people saying because there isn’t a new race or class, it’s not as “much” as before. UH. You’re getting effectively 5 races this expansion. When they “rework” models, they aren’t faster and easier because they have been done before. You have to start fresh and the new ones are so much more complex. And goodness, who actually wants a new class? I don’t have time to play the ones we HAVE! Monks are still a fraction of the player base as compared to the older classes. So logically, why would Blizzard spend 100s of hours making and balancing a new class when it’s not going to be played? Many decisions made in game development change based on how much something costs to do versus how many players actually do it. (Why 100s of hours? Well first you have to think it up, then implement it – which could take a month or so, then art it just enough to figure out if it works/is fun/feels like WoW, then iteration to make it GOOD, then more art to make it LOOK good, then more iteration to make it balanced… so much TIME! Wouldn’t that time be better spent on things people who don’t want alts can also play with? Like… Garrisons? :))

So is WoD worth the extra $10? Is it comparable to a new game? Of course it is. It has far more content and gameplay than most games. The comparable games, like Skyrim, are known for being “massive” among gamers. Honestly, Blizzard could be charging $60 for it. We call it an expansion because it builds on WoW, but in terms of scope, it’s bigger than most new games.

If you take into account the time spent in the game, the “return on investment” says they could be charging even more, and it would still be worth it. I paid $60 for Dishonored and got 15 hours out of it (that’s about $4 an hour, not bad). I paid $120 (two copies, xbox and pc) for Skyrim and got 300 hours out of it (40 cents per hour, really great return). My time in WoW though… $60 for Vanilla, $40 for BC/Wrath/Cata/MoP each (really $70 because I get the CEs), plus $13/month since August 2005… ($340 for the games, $13×103 months = $1339, grand total – $1679) with a /played across my account (we’re going to ignore the SECOND account I also have that has been subbed continuously since 2007) of 432+ days. That’s over 10k hours. It ends up being… about 15 cents PER HOUR of enjoyment in WoW. Is WoD worth it?

If making games were easy, everyone would do it. If making money making games was easy, you wouldn’t see things like studio closures. If making GOOD games like Blizzard does was easy, you wouldn’t see games with sub 80 scores on Metacritic. $50 for a game the size/quality of Pandaria is a bargain. It’s possible the sales of the expansion alone won’t even cover the full development costs (especially if the game is purchased as a physical copy over the digital versions – Blizzard likely gets 100% on the digital sales, but about 50% on sales through retailers). The people developing this game (all of them from Metzen down to QA dude #300) don’t work for free. They deserve to get paid. Game sales, mounts, pets, services, and subs make sure they get paid and the game keeps getting worked on. In the end, game companies are trying to make money which means charging enough to make more than they spent on their specialized product.

Just like every other creative art product, if you want the artist to keep producing new stuff, you have to buy the old stuff. It’s why I buy albums, movies, books, and games from people who’s work I love. It’s why I buy books on my iPad AND physical copies. It’s why I buy tv shows on DVD. I want the people who make these things to make more, and that means supporting them now. I want to be playing WoW when I am 80, and if that means paying $50 over $40 for an expansion now, shut up and take my money Blizzard.

Proving Your Way to … Rares?!?!

Blizzard added Proving Grounds in MoP. These were solo battles intended to prove your skill with a specific role. But very few people used them. They awarded you nothing other than an achievement, which is not a carrot most people care about.

The progression of leveling/loot currently goes like this:

Level -> Normal Dungeons -> Heroic Dungeons -> LFR -> Flex Raids -> Normal Raids -> Heroic Raids.

Each of the stages up through Flex raids requires an item level to queue unless you are running with a pre-made group. The purpose of the item level requirement is to check that you are geared and prepared for the dungeon/raid you are about to go in. Does this work? Not really. Dungeons, after the first two months of the expac or so, people outgear them, so even a terrible player will just be carried through on the backs of their group. The same goes for LFR. In a group of 25, there are usually up to about 5 or so people who are just completely worthless and they get carried through.

Does this create frustrating or difficult times? Yes. Should Blizzard be attempting to fix it? Yes.

Well now, Blizzard has announced that Proving Ground will be REQUIRED to queue for Heroic Dungeons in WoD as a fix for the above problem. And I think it is not only the wrong fix, but also shows a lack of understanding as to the problem.

My experience with Proving grounds was I walked in, tried the Bronze, one shot it. Cool. I tried Silver. I got to the final wave (10) and was overwhelmed. So I checked WoWhead, and sure enough, as a Warlock, I *have* to spec into certain skills to be able to succeed. Because you can’t out-gear the encounter, you are literally LOCKED into certain skills and talents. I didn’t have tomes, and I didn’t care enough, so I left.

Two other times in WoW I have been in a similar position – The Legendary Nexus quest in Cata and the Legendary Cloak quest in MoP. I was trying a thing, I couldn’t have help, and I needed to literally change the way my character played to succeed. Both times it was annoying, frustrating, and felt like Blizzard was telling me “We gave you all these choices of ways to play your character, but haha, most of those were wrong and this is the only way to play.” Both times it took me several hours of frustration that I was being forced to SOLO extremely difficult content when I had a GUILD full of people willing and wishing they could help. (It’s especially odd when for the Legendary staff, I literally COULD NOT have done the entire rest of the questline without a guild.)

The problem with random groups is not specifically that people don’t know how to play their class, but rather with the ways of gaming the ilevel system. First off, items in the bags count, meaning many people are queuing based on their off spec gear or pvp pieces they have their bag. Or just flat out wearing pvp pieces. Or they will game the system and queue wearing gear that has no business being worn in that instance. (I am not even kidding, I had a tank in LFR one time who was wearing a GREEN 432 weapon – when the ilvl to queue was over 520 – and no one was willing to kick him because of how long it took to find tanks, so we struggled through a 3 hour LFR instead.)

Further this, the kick timers and troll prevention are needlessly obfuscated, and the punishment timer goes on the person doing the kicking and not the idiot getting kicked. In a 5 man it’s actually not hard to kick people. In an LFR it is. I was in an LFR where we had TWO dps who were in tank spec, one of whom was actively taunting off the tanks and throwing off the rotations. We couldn’t kick both, just one, because the people willing to do something all had timers. Another time I was healing, and the death knight tank was THIRD on the healing list. The other people were just farting around. It had ZERO to do with skill and more to do with them not giving a shit.

See why requiring a proving grounds medal does this not actually address the problem?

There are also other reasons, like: people don’t play solo the way they would in a random dungeon or lfr. Proving grounds is also not balanced for all classes and specs. If it’s not an account wide thing, it means people will have to do it over and over again on their alts.

It’s gatekeeping. This has been proven to be a POOR choice every single time it has been used in WoW. Attunement quest chains? Discovering the instance portal? Even the item level thing has not worked out as intended.

What did work? 1. Luck of the Draw. 2. Determination. 3. Bonus Bags.

So what would I do?

First – require all dungeons be completed in normal IN THE ROLE YOU QUEUE FOR. So with this requirement, it’s like the achievement requirements for LFR. First off, it solves the issue of group play vs solo play. A guild can carry someone through. Even if you are running with your guild, if you are healing, you learn a bit about healing the fights. If I want to queue for heroic dungeons as a healer, I have to heal all the dungeons in normal first. To me, this upholds the pillar of multiplayer, allows for help from a guild, and also allows a path for people who play less seriously to get there without the frustration of gear scaling/spec changing.

Second – WoD’s gear “adaptation” is already going to fix *some* of the ilvl gaming going on. But I honestly feel unless an item is equipped, it shouldn’t count. This comes from someone who has BOUGHT blue pvp gear, held it in my bags just long enough to queue, gotten a drop or two, then re-sold it on the AH. Never equipped, but used for the purpose of queuing.

Third – Change the vote kicking system. You should be able to know if you have a timer because of “too many vote kicks initiated”.  For every completed instance, you should get the ability to vote kick without messing up this timer. For every wipe, you should get to vtk without affecting this timer. In LFR, it should take more than 5 kicks in a single LFR to affect this timer. If you are the person kicked, you should get a 30 minute debuff JUST LIKE THE DESERTERS.

 

There are other small tweaks that could be done, but these are big ones. Also, does anyone else notice, this whole thing seems to be “fixing” heroic dungeons when the real problem is LFR, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO REQUIRE SILVER? What are they even thinking? Is LFR going to be removed from the gearing steps? If so, it will have to be the same gear as drops in Heroics, in which case, people will just stop outright, as LFR takes far longer, and you have a greater chance of getting asshats. Not to mention, Heroics drop RARE items… RARES. We have to do jump through how many crazy hoops to get RARES?!? Why? At least in LFR it’s epics! Heroics, even Stonecore, was only awful for the first two months of the expac or so, then the number of people who outgeared it had hit critical mass and it became fairly easy.

It’s all a matter of perspective

I decided to stay.

WoW is so deeply ingrained in my life at this point, I am positive I couldn’t leave without feeling it’s loss more strongly than… well none of the comparisons I could make would sound very good. WoW is more than a game for me, it’s a hobby and a connection to my life. Where was I when I worked at Sega? Raiding in ICC. Where was I when I got hired at TfB? Waiting for the Cataclysm. When my son was born? Prepping for Mists of Pandaria.

More than that, it’s a connection to people. I am an extrovert. I love being around people and feed off talking and interacting with people. WoW lets me do that every single day. I have so many friends that I would not have if not for WoW.

So where does that leave me on the topic of sexism in WoW?

Freaking pissed still that’s where.

I won a trip to BlizzCon this year, again. I know! I KNOW. It’s weird right? The only thing I can ever win is trips to BlizzCon. Eh, I’ll take it. So I went. And of course, they announced a new expansion.

Warlords of Draenor.

And they did it with a big picture of all the Orc Warlords. My very first thought when I saw the picture was, “Oh lovely… a bunch of dudes.” As they did the initial – Things that are happening in WoW panel, that immediate reaction got even worse. I was so excited about Draenor, New Character Models, Garrisons, LEVEL 100!!!! and they were systematically stomping on that excitement by showing they were continuing down the path of not supporting the ladies.

None of the lore characters mentioned were women. There were no women sitting on stage. The character model updates they showed off were all males. The story was dudes, doing manly men things with other dudes. I tweeted each thought more and more furiously. I was excited and yet angry. Why? WHY was it SO ONE SIDED?!?

But I wasn’t the only one tweeting. There were a few. Then a few more. THEN MORE. The flood of tweets loaded with people asking where the women were. After that panel, I went to the lore one. There Metzen did something really stupid.

Someone asked about Aggra and where she would be when Thrall went to Draenor. He said she would be staying in Azeroth, as she had a kid. The “boys club” would be going on the trip to Draenor.

How many people can you offend in ONE statement?

Yes, they also talked about a Joan of Arc character. (Though really, thanks for telling us she’s going to die after being called crazy. Women LOVE that. As far as heroic females, can we not use her? She’s a trope AND well… look at how her life went?) Drakka was mentioned, but only in relation to Durotan.

Here’s the thing… Women are wives. Women are daughters. Women are mothers. Women are also warriors. Women are also stubborn. Women are also capable of violence. I am a mother. But I found someone to watch my kid and went to BlizzCon.

Metzen implied that the reason Aggra would be staying home is because she was a mother. No other explanation or reasoning, just because she was a mom, and that’s what moms do. They stay home and take care of the kiddos.

Oh boy. Queue shit storm. That’s when it hit me. That was the BEST thing he could have said. Absolute best. Why? Why would that be the best? This. And This. And THIS. Especially THIS ONE. (Oh wow, I missed this one – GLORIOUS!) And it just keeps going. Here we are, a week after the con, and people are STILL talking about Aggra. Not Thrall, Durotan, Gul’dan, or any of those other dudes, but Aggra. *silent cheer*

People are being loud and vocal. People are directly messaging Metzen, Ghostcrawler, Kosak, ALL OF THEM. Telling them, that we weren’t happy with the gender imbalance BEFORE, and we sure as hell aren’t going to take them relegating one of our favorite characters to the sidelines. Someone asked about Moira at the Q&A. They had said nothing about her before that point. Turns out, she has some major plot going on in WoD!!!

Now, I do want to address WHY this is such a big issue. The ratio of males to female in the lore characters is about 7 to 1, so about 86% male to 14% female. If that were the real world there would be a CRISIS on our hands. In China, it’s split about 52% to 48% male to female and it’s ALREADY CAUSING PROBLEMS.

The WoW player base is speculated to be between 30-40% female. (My anecdotal data backs that up.) That means there are a ton of people out there, like me, who are playing this game. They raid, they quest, they level. They are heroes, and yet, in game, they have very very few female leads to look up to. And every time there is one, they are overshadowed by the males in the game. Where is our Thrall to look up to?

Even more worrisome is the systematic destruction of the females we DID have. We have so few to begin with, so losing some to plot lines is problematic unless there are new ones to replace them. We need lots of new ones. That is why the loss of Aggra to something so stupid is so frustrating. They took away one of our good female characters for an incredibly sexist reason.

Okay, before the response – is being a stay at home mom not heroic? I would NEVER say that. I stayed home with my kid for 3 months, and at the end of it, I was a basket case. BASKET CASE. Being a stay at home mom is quite possibly the most insane thankless job ever. But having said that, this isn’t an issue of staying home and raising your child instead of going to work. This is a matter of SAVING THE WORLD. If you don’t, it doesn’t MATTER if you raised your kid, THERE WON’T BE A WORLD FOR HIM TO GROW UP IN. Not to mention, Aggra has never backed down from a fight before, why would she start now? Draenor was her HOME after all. She had to live/grow up on the shattered remains of it.

I was happy at the Art panel they showed off the female models a bit. Their work on the female dwarves is nothing short of astonishing (they are so beautiful now!). I also noted that was the first panel with a woman on it (hurray!). As the weekend went on, I heard and saw all the many responses and so many of them are people talking about these issues. I think I made the right decision. Stay, speak, fight.

And I think, they might be listening.