Wasteland Weekend 2016

It all started with my friend, Ryan, asking us to save Bottle Caps for him. We asked him why, and found out about Wasteland Weekend. A 4 day event in the desert, intended to serve as a living homage to Mad Max and the world created by George Miller.

“You are a crazy person.”

“My idea of camping is a hotel with slow wifi.”

“I am pretty sure I would just spontaneously combust in the desert.”

These are all things I said, back in 2013 when I first heard of Wasteland Weekend. Fast forward to 2015, during which time, Ryan and I decided to see how the amazing friendship thing we had would work as maybe a more than friendship thing. Only now, I was sitting there watching a person, who had previously not been that important to me, but was now extremely important, pack and prepare to head out to the desert.

I was NOT happy. I had seen pictures from previous years. Bandaged eyes, sunburn, and cuts and scrapes. Even worse, he was turning off his phone for the whole time. I wouldn’t even get a “I’m alive!” text for 5 days. While he was gone, I SCOURED the internet for Wasteland pictures. I stalked social media, found people to follow, and inspected every face, looking for the one I loved so much. A friend of mine on twitter was there. And she had her phone on. And lived tweeted the event. The tents, the hanging out, the Thunderdome, a wedding, food, all of it. She painted a very different picture than the ones I was expecting. I started thinking… could I do this? Could I go with him next time?

A year is a long time in a new relationship, but so far, we had meshed together as if we were always meant to be. So maybe. It was a thing I needed to think about. Time passed and we kept making plans for future things. Things 3 and 4 months out. Instead of me expecting to be broken up with at any moment, I was finding myself making plans for things that were a long way away.

Then, one night, slightly drunk, I informed Ryan that I wanted to go to Wasteland Weekend with him. I was terrified. What would I do if it was horrid? How would I deal with the heat and sun? I was torn. I didn’t want to go, but I kinda did. I wanted to SEE this thing. Tickets were purchased. Now I was invested.

I did a ton of research, turning to Pinterest for information and ideas. Planning would save me. Ryan started talking about costumes and tents and masks. Every time the subject came up I wavered and considered asking him to let me out of it. But surely anything can be endured for 5 days right?

We ended up being crazy people and moving in together much sooner than expected, to help us both add stability and peace to our lives. After a bit of work crunch, the preparation for Wasteland began in earnest, as the event was RAPIDLY approaching. I still wavered a bit, in my own head, but I was determined to make the best of it. I bought 4 long sleeved athletic shirts from Old Navy, after all – I wouldn’t have to worry about sun screen coverage if everything was covered with cloth! I got several pairs of pants to “wasteland up”. I started making old key necklaces, bottle cap earrings, and such. I got my camel pack and Ryan attached the awesome shoulder armor he made for me to it.

Suddenly the days were all gone and we were packing for the weekend. I had no idea of what to take, so I ended up panic throwing things in the car. Five bottles of sunscreen sounds about right for 5 days in the desert right? Two bottles of rum? How about a first aid kit, solarcaine for when I got burned, and advil pm for when I couldn’t sleep. The trip down to California City was pretty much me staring out the window an anxious bundle of nerves.

We got down there super late at night and stayed in a hotel, one last shower before we headed out into the desert the next morning. I AM A REDHEAD. I burn in INDIRECT SUNLIGHT. I hate heat. I get crabby when I am sweaty. WHAT.THE.FUCK.AM.I.DOING. I am 90 percent certain the only reason I didn’t panic attack out that morning was I was too TIRED.

People keep asking me – Did you have fun? The answer is not nearly as straight forward as yes or no. How do you boil down a set of completely surreal, torturous, and outlandish experiences down to “Yeah, it was fun.” This is usually followed by a “Well, will you go back?” to which I answer – a solid Maybe***. Yes that’s 3 asterisk contingencies.

So one of the things about Wasteland is – it’s in a desert. It’s not a permanent location. It’s just a large open sandy area. No bathrooms. No showers. No water. There is ONE concrete slab that has been graffitied. That’s it. It’s all in, and all out. The Rust Devils, the tribe I was joining, run a bounty hunting game. They are inside the city walls. There’s city walls built with buses, junked up cars, sheet metal, and ply wood. Outside the city is Tent City. Our camp has to be “on theme” – meaning it has to look post apocalyptic – more specifically very Mad Max-ish. The tribe has been doing this since 2012, so they have a bit of practice.

Wednesday morning starts with everyone heading out to the camp site at oh my god it’s early o’clock and starting to unload the uhaul. Then we put together the three car ports. One is the bounty office, one is the dining area, and one is the lounge. They are arranged in a U shape, along the boarders of our camp. We cover the tops with canvas and netting.Then, along the outer walls, we attached old rusted sheet metal, and wooden fence bits, to form an outer wall. The old busted limousine the tribe owns, The Mutie Beauty, was parked along the left wall, so she would be seen by anyone as soon as they entered the main gate. In the center of our camp, one of our more clever Rust Devils put together a wooden tower, which allows for a birds eye view of the whole city.

Ten minutes in to Wednesday, I am already coated in sunscreen, sweaty, and covered in dirt and sand. I didn’t have goggles, so I just wore my sunglasses. Thank GOD I had prescription sunglasses. I swapped from my normal flip flops into a super old pair of Timberland boots. A pair I almost DIDN’T BRING. I cannot express how glad I am I did. By around 6, we had the camp mostly together. Someone mentioned that we only had an hour or so of sunlight left, and I started to panic again. We hadn’t put our tents up. We were waiting on someone to come back to put their tent up first, and they weren’t back yet. Oh yeah, and at this point the ONLY food I had had was raw hot dogs. I mean, I like raw hot dogs, but after 8+ hours of physical labor, I am fucking hungry and this was NOT acceptable. So I pushed to get the tents set up. After a moment of discussion, people agreed to positions and we got it set up. By this point, I was on the brink of tears. I was tired, physically exhausted, hot, hungry, and 100% out of patience. I was snapping at people I liked and I needed to lay down away from everything for even just 10 minutes.

Ryan got our tent set up, I immediately crawled inside, laid down, dirt and all, and just let myself cry a bit to feel better. Oh did I instantly start to feel better. After about 30 minutes, I got up, grabbed a plastic cup, my bottle of rum, poured a drink and went to rest in the shade. The temperature started to drop and suddenly I had to pee. I had been drinking water all day and sweating all day, but hadn’t had to pee. It was surreal, realizing that I hadn’t had to pee because I was SWEATING it all out. Fortunately the Rust Devils pay for a private porta-potty. So at least THAT was a bonus. Around 9 pm, we finally ate – pulled pork sandwiches. I scarfed two of them down so fast, I barely even remember how they tasted. There was chatting and such, but mostly I remember heading to bed.

Thursday morning came EXCESSIVELY early. It got super bright, then it was already getting hot. I could hear people talking and making noise. I crawled out of my tent because it was too warm and I needed to pee. Getting dressed in a tent you can’t stand up in is NOT an easy task. I walked into the main part of our camp to grab an energy drink and someone, I don’t actually remember WHO, asked me to help them do something. The look I gave them can only be described as WITHERING as I grabbed the garbage can lid we had tied our porta-potty key to, and stomped off. It turns out – this was around 8:30 am.

So it turns out, I am allergic to baby wipes. Or at least the regular ones – not the “free and natural” ones I used on my kid. I was allergic to disposable diapers as a baby, so when I had my kid, I got all the super duper hippy organic stuff even though I generally don’t believe in buying organic. But I didn’t realize this until Saturday. So Thursday morning, I took a wet wipe bath, which included wiping down my face. I reapplied sunscreen and headed back to camp.

People were bustling about setting up the final touches. Dogface was trying to cook bacon, but it was so windy already, the stove wouldn’t stay hot. So – no breakfast. The event starts at noon, so I went to get my costume on, wake Minion up, and get ready for the starting time. Of course, in reality, it was more like 1. I had my camera and took pictures. Our whole camp was there and talking, joking, and having fun.

After the opening parade, we settled in to open for the day. We do bounty hunting, and how it works is – you sign up, we give you a finger, then we take your picture and make a poster of you. That poster is then stapled to a board, and OTHER people can grab your poster, then they come find you. You talk and play rochambo, then if the hunter wins, you give them the plastic finger, and they bring it back to us at the Bounty Office, and we give them caps for it. There are printed Hunter caps and a few Last Chance casino caps. Our neighbors across the street run a casino with caps – playing games like roulette, craps, and black jack. The rewards are things like – shots and such. No real money.

People start showing up. All kinds of costumes and personalities. Skimpy outfits, complete body covering outfits, vault dweller suits, punk rock looking costumes, everything. There was a woman in a wedding dress. A man wearing a loincloth and nothing else. Weapons of all kinds – bats with nails, swords, guns, scythes, etc.

I wasn’t on shift, so I sat in our camp and just watched the insanity. And it was insanity. People would walk up and hug each other, and only once they started talking did I realize – they didn’t know each other. People would walk into our camp and offer us food or alcohol. One of our tribe members pulled out his 5 gallon metal gas can, that was filled with home made rum.

As the day went on, the wind got more and more aggressive. Then the alert went out – a sandstorm was headed in, with high winds. We started securing the camp. Have you ever tried to run a generator or a printer in a sandstorm? It doesn’t work. So we shut down the bounty office and hunkered in.

They couldn’t keep the stove going, so once more, food was scarce. I discovered, thanks to a well prepared tribemate, that Lembas bread is apparently a real thing. Only it’s called Mayday. The afternoon and early evening was spent wearing a pair of over my glasses goggles and avoiding being sand blasted. Luckily for us, our camp was quite secure, and with one minor incident, we didn’t have to scramble. Other camps were not so lucky. Losing towers, having to take down their tents, and effectively being hammered by sand for a few hours.

When the wind finally died down after dark, we shook off what sand we could and settled down for a drink. After much chatting and talking with people who stopped by to visit, we headed to bed, only to discover we hadn’t covered the vent on our tent. So our tent had about an inch of sand in the whole thing.

I went to bed, tired, a bit drunk, but marginally feeling better about the trip than I had been.

Friday, once more I was woken up early, crabby, and exhausted. My face felt tight and swollen, but I assumed it was just the sun. Even though I had not gotten burned, I am still very sensitive, so it made sense. Food was functional, so breakfast sandwiches were had. I got wrangled into doing the opening shift, so I got dressed and ready pretty early.

Then came the two hours of awesomeness. We run a bounty hunting game, and use an app to take the player’s picture, then print out a poster with them as a Wanted Person. So I got to take pictures. I got to talk to all these interesting and fascinating people. Their costumes were endlessly beautiful and unique. After 2 hours, I really didn’t want to stop. I did though, because I was tired and hungry. Although I had been bribed by one gentleman, who asked me to hold his poster for a while. He gave me a shot of fireball for it. Deal!

That afternoon, I took my parasol and walked about with Minion. Minion is Ryan’s “wasteland name” and as I found out, people generally stick to them in a dedicated fashion. It’s almost like roleplaying. I wasn’t Kim anymore, I was Ember. This also lead to a very strange form of fluid hierarchy of power. Logically, I would have been low on the ladder, since I was new. But for some reason, I floated up. I am not sure if it was my extrovertedness, my nosiness, my bright feathered shoulder, or my smile. Hell, it may have just been my blunt and assertive nature. Whatever it was, people were automatically deferential and respectful to me outside of the camp. Inside, it was like being in the middle of a family with a bunch of loud siblings.

As we finished an AMAZING tri-tip dinner, we found out the band, Ahtck was about to perform, so we headed over to that. It’s weird, being at a festival where there are so few people, you can just stand in a loose crowd to watch a show. I am not a fan of heavy metal, but Ahtck is really good and as most of their songs are Wasteland themed, very appropriate. The singer started with a comment on all the Wastelanders we had lost over the year, and I have FEELINGS on that I need to write down later. The concert began and it was probably the best one I have ever gone to. It’s very different, standing to watch a show, when the person you are standing with likes to hold and touch you. Minion kept his arms around me the whole time, but loosely so I could twist and kiss him. This of course, inspired Dogface to yell “GET A ROOM. OR A TENT.” which became a joke.

After the concert, we went back to camp, hung out around our fire for a bit, then headed over to Ghoulcrest, a hunting tribe. They had a two story structure and allowed us to go up to the Members only top section. It was amazing, in the cool night air, chatting with people, and staring up at the cloudless sky. You are so far out in the desert the stars are so clear and easy to see. I could see the cloud of the milky way. Just beautiful and perfect. If I go back, I have to take a picture with it. We returned to camp, drunk and silly.

One perfect example of how the rules had changed – a man walked into our camp, walked up to me, took the lid off a jar and held it out to me. Inside was a red liquid. I looked at it, took it, then asked “What is it?” “Truck Punch!” he replied. “You know, calling it truck punch makes it sound like an alcohol fermented in the engine of your truck right?” I said. “That’s exactly what it is!” he laughed. And I took a drink. It tasted like strawberries, wine, and cream soda.

Here I also met a guy named Tauntaun. I made the obvious joke of “Well – you don’t smell THAT bad on the outside.” since it was likely he hadn’t taken a shower in 3 days at this point. He laughed and said “I will keep you warm at night!” I pointed at Minion and said “That’s his job.” The dude immediately responded in a laughing manner, nodded at me, then told Minion “You are one lucky dude.” Yes, yes he is. And I am one extremely lucky lady.

Here’s where I made a mistake. I hadn’t been drinking as much water as I needed throughout the day. It had been 76 and cool, and we had run out of coke zero. I drank too much and asked a tribemate if it was time to do the Tetanus Shots. The Tetanus Shot is the Rust Devil’s signature shot and the previous TWO days many a comment had been made about “You’re not a Rust Devil until you’ve had a Tetanus Shot.” I felt I had done my time. I was ready to stop feeling like the newbie. UNFORTUNATELY, the mats to MAKE a Tetanus shot were not present. I got upset, for some stupid reason – I think that I felt like people had made this comment, but were now preventing me from getting them to STOP and preventing me from feeling like I REALLY belonged here. I was still just a girlfriend. I ended up a bit more belligerent than normal. Lucky for me, my emotions swang to sadness fast enough I ended up storming off to bed. Minion came to talk to me, and I think I was just at my limit for the day for dealing with anything and everything. He offered to take me to a hotel, and instead I stayed and just went to sleep.

And boy did Saturday morning hurt. I woke up feeling awful. And not just hung over. I was, but that was only part of it. My eyes were practically swollen shut. My whole face was one big swollen puff ball of pain and itchiness. So I walked to the porta-potties, trying to figure it out, went to wipe my face with a wet wipe and almost screamed at the pain from it. That’s when I figured out – I am in fact allergic to regular wet wipes. OW. I headed back to camp and tried to drink some oj to help with the hangover while I thought about what to do about my face. My stomach was having none of that, so I ended up puking my oj back up into the garbage can. Lucky, it was just the oj. The Great Demander, a professional photographer who works the event, happened by and saw me, swollen face and all, and brought me some Benadryl.

Have I mentioned how *nice* everyone is at Wasteland? It’s like one big family. I mean, yeah there are assholes, but here they are clearly enjoying themselves and thus being nice. People are totally willing to barter and trade. Willing to do anything to help. Even share Benadryl.

I spent most of the morning feeling awful, but by my shift in the bounty office, I was feeling much better. The swelling had gone down and I was game for just about anything. The afternoon passed in a blur of sunscreen, good food, chatting with crazy people, taking pictures, posting bounty posters, and just hanging out. It’s also really funny to walk up to people with a bottle of water, hand it to them, then turn around and say, “Fill me up!” as they pour it into your camel pack. Note – building your costume off a camel pack base – excellent fucking idea.

Saturday night, I went easy on booze, but they finally had the stuff for tetanus shots, so I took one of those. It’s fireball, rum, a Tabasco sauce, with the rum floated on top and lit on fire. It was great, until the Tabasco went up my nose. WHEW that burns. We had dinner of ribs and ravioli which were both crazy good. I got to feeling exhausted, so we headed to bed. By this point our tent smelled like dead feet, dead farts, dead animal, and funk. This is where I discovered the problem with trying to go to bed SOBER at Wasteland. It’s SO LOUD. People are playing music, talking, etc etc until late at night. And tent walls do NOT stop it. Minion also decided to start telling me a story about seeing a Tarantula by the porta-potties. I informed him that if he EVER wanted me to come back he needed to STOP SPEAKING IMMEDIATELY.

At 4 am, I forced Minion to walk me to the porta potties, came back and took a Advil PM so I could get SOME sleep.

Of course, at the crack of fucking dawn on Sunday, here goes people talking. Including overhearing a story about a woman who was sexually assaulted, but Wasteland taking care of their business and her. It was a scary story, with the best possible ending. I got up, feeling like my entire world had shifted. I hadn’t cleaned out from under my finger nails in days. I didn’t even try to put on deodorant anymore. My hair had more sand than anything else in it. It shockingly didn’t look that bad. I really wanted a fucking shower. My definition of “dirty” was so dramatically shifted – pretty much unless it was a pile of dirt – it wasn’t too dirty to touch or even eat. My teeth crunched with every bite from the sand in my mouth.

We ate breakfast. Have I mentioned how GOOD all the food at Wasteland was? I am not sure if it was the cooking or the sheer level of hunger I built up each day. Midway through breakfast, here comes a tribe member telling us the wind is going to pick back up. We need to start breaking down now. As hard as it is putting UP a camp in the desert, that’s how hard it is taking it DOWN. In increasing wind. About an hour into breakdown, I felt like I was more in the way that helping, so I went and took down our tent, and prepped our stuff for leaving. It was around that time I noticed… I wasn’t sweating. Like at all. It was 90 degrees, noon-ish, and I wasn’t sweating a drop. I needed to rest, so I sat in the shade of a van, and drank water. The longer I sat, the worse I felt. First like I needed to vomit, even though I wasn’t hung over. Then came the chills. Did I mention it was 90 degrees, I was wearing a long sleeved athletic shirt, and pants? I should not have been cold. I felt even worse, realizing I was sitting on my ass while other people packed up the camp. I got up to help. Have you ever tried to lift something and your arms just said “Nope.”? That shit sucks.

I ended up sitting more than helping at this point. Finally, our camp doctor came over, put his hand on my head, realized I wasn’t sweating and forced me into the uhaul truck to sit in the ac. It really didn’t help.

Around 3 pm, we had nearly everything packed, and headed back to town. We had to haul out all our garbage, so we had to find dumpsters that weren’t overfull. Then we headed to the storage unit. We can’t take this shit home, so we pay to store it there. Once there, I helped by organizing and sorting things and getting it all to fit. I am super at Tetris, so this went really well. About halfway through I started sweating again, and I can’t even tell you what a relief THAT was.

Wasteland is in the desert, and it’s “bring everything in, take everything out.” So we brought alcohol, but somehow, despite drinking the whole time, we brought more alcohol home than we took. Weird.

We finally got everything packed away. The discussion started up about who was driving the uhaul back. I wasn’t on the list, I didn’t have my license, and I had been promised a shower, so fuck it, I was out. I just walked away. Minion caught up with me and we headed back to the hotel. There was the comment though of “I have to get Kim to a shower before she stabs me.” which is making some pretty large comments considering I didn’t have a weapon on me, or anything sharp at all.

We got back to the hotel, and I got in the shower. It maybe wasn’t the best shower in my life, but it was DEFINITELY in the top five. I wiped my face with the wash cloth and it instantly went a dark brown. I just kept scrubbing until it was white-ish again. I washed my hair 4 times, with two rounds of conditioner. Once out of the shower I started rubbing burt’s bees foot repair into my hands and feet, and blood orange coco-butter into my legs, hands, arms, and neck. The lotion sunk in like water into the desert sand.

We went to eat Chinese for dinner. The poor waitress couldn’t keep our water glasses full. This was goodbye. That night I slept like the dead.

The next day we headed home, discussing the trip and events. I talked about what we would do “next year”. So maybe that answers the “Am I going back?” question? *** These contingencies were – 1. Bigger tent. 2. Have our own dry food supply. Our own drink supply too. 3. Camp.SHOWER. This is of course, assuming Minion and I don’t break up. If we do, love you Rust Devils, BUT OH HELL NO. The final tally on Sunscreen bottles was 1.5. I miraculously didn’t get sunburned. I am still digging sand out of my nose and ears. I think my hair may never recover.

Was it fun? There were fun MOMENTS. I wouldn’t call 12 hours of manual labor, not showering for 5 days, constantly battling the elements, not eating properly, having to worry about what exactly electrolytes are and why you need them, and then having severe dehydration FUN. None of that was fun.

Seeing Minion happy? That was fun. Meeting all those weird people, making new friends, discussing costuming, D&D, games, WoW, Savage Worlds, Rum, and drinking until my liver cried – all very fun. Having people compliment me on my shoulder armor? Awesome. Having someone ask to buy my necklace – super cool.

The thing that most sets the ton for how my trip to the wastes was – here I was, a week later, wistfully thinking of my new friends, wishing I could see them, and wondering when I would see them again. Then taking over the Rust Devil’s twitter account and making a plan for how to grow it.

Maybe it was fun.

Piracy and Legacy Servers

Let me start by saying – I am a game developer. I get paid to MAKE games. I have made games that sold millions of copies. I have made games that barely sold at all. I have been at a studio that got *house buying sized bonuses* and at studios where it was more like “The studio will be closing on Friday.”

When someone pirates a game – I have conflicting feelings about it. You are taking my work, my 70+ hour weeks, spent crunching and killing myself, stealing it, and enjoying it for free. At the same time, my brain is also able to comprehend that pirates are not buyers. 1 pirated copy of the game does not equal a lost sale. Pirates aren’t going to BUY the game regardless. If they can’t pirate it, they just won’t play it. It still fucking bothers me though. It’s still theft.

The WoW social media community is having a bit of a fuss over Legacy servers and the shut down of a large private server. So here’s my point of view. A game developer’s point of view.

FIRST: Private servers are piracy. They are theft. They are stealing Blizzard’s work.

FULL.STOP. The server got shut down BECAUSE IT’S THEFT. They didn’t make the game. They didn’t make the art. They didn’t design the levels. They took someone else’s work and recreated it, and acted like they had done a ton of work. THEY DIDN’T. If I retype the Lord of the Rings, that doesn’t give me the right to sell it, make movies of it, etc. Hell, if I just print it out on my printer, that doesn’t give me the right to SELL that print.

Second: 150k pirates stealing WoW – Vanilla or otherwise – are NOT equal to 150k subs for WoW.

You can’t make the argument that 150k people playing on a private server is 150k people who would be willing to play a legacy server run by blizzard. Sure, there was probably a small subset of people who are already subscribers and just went to play there because they miss Vanilla. BUT it’s likely more than HALF of those people were just pirates who wanted to play WoW but DON’T WANT TO PAY BLIZZARD FOR IT.

Third: Game development, especially with 16+ year old code-bases, is NOT easy/simple.

People like to argue – “Well a bunch of fans did it, why can’t Blizzard?” For one, Blizzard has to make it work within their code base. They would have to do it right – without major game breaking bugs or exploits. They would have to have it work with Battle.Net and all of the tech they use. It’s also not as easy as just “rolling back” to a specific revision. We know WoW has been in development for at least 16 years (probably more like 20). I have worked on 5 year old code bases that were already a tangled awful mess of “what the fuck were those programmers thinking?” I SHUDDER to even think of Blizzard’s. Do you realize how many devs they have currently working for them? How many they have had who have left? They mentioned at BlizzCon they use FOUR different versions of source control. FOUR. That’s a NIGHTMARE. Hell, with that much time, that many versions of source control, and the sheer volume of changes to the game, I would be astonished if they even thought about trying to build a legacy server, much less TRIED. And don’t kid yourself, it would be for less than 100k players at MOST. That would be the population the first 3-4 months. Then it would drop to 50k or less.

Programmers are the most expensive part of a dev team. That is the majority of what would be needed to get legacy servers running. It is simply not cost effective to get a legacy server running, because it the number of subs would be so low, they wouldn’t make their money back. Remember that whole Pirates Copies Don’t Equal Sales – if a FREE WoW server only attracts 150k players – then a paid one would attract less than half of that. (I actually would peg it more around a 10th of that.) Add to this the fact that the BEST programmers suited to this task would be the ones who have been at the company the longest – as they have the most first hand knowledge. That means that they would be pulling their best people off NEW content to work on OLD content for a fraction of the player base. You think garrisons cost you a raid tier? Legacy servers will cost you an EXPANSION – and would KILL the live game in the process.

Let’s look at the example Cataclysm gave us – they went back and reworked zones to bring them up to Wrath levels of quality. And how did that go? It didn’t. Blizzard even admitted that they ended up spending too much time and resources reworking old content THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T PLAY. They said they should have made more end game and high level content.

Finally: Vanilla wasn’t that great. Nostalgia is a weird thing.

Do you like Paladins? Not in Vanilla you didn’t. Remember being an out of combat rezzer? I do. I sat there and did NOTHING and wasn’t allowed to roll on gear unless no one who was killing the boss wanted it, and rezzed people who died. Remember trying to corral 40 people into a raid that took hours and hours and you could only raid if you were willing to play WoW 40+ hours a week? I do, because I couldn’t raid. I had school, then work. I had things I had to do. I wanted to raid.

Bags were only 14 slots. No dungeon groups, just hours in trade trying to form a group. Soul shards, ammo, materials for spells. Keys for UBRS. Shields with shadow power. Hunter pets had to be leveled and friended. Spell Ranks.  Only one way to level – grinding. Only one way to play – grinding.

So no, I don’t think Blizzard should waste time and money they could be spending on PAYING customers (like me!) and making us NEW content on revamping old content for thieves.

Game Developer Barbie

“It’s really not that big of a deal.”


I will admit, my response was probably not the most polite or appropriate for the situation. But I was not wrong. Mattel announced new Barbies today. And while the news of new body types (holy hell they added a curvy barbie!!!) was enough to draw me to the site, what made me gasp with joy was the Game Developer Barbie.

She’s got a computer accessory. She’s got long red hair, with headphones snugly in place. She’s wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. She’s got sneakers on her flat feet. She’s me. (Actually, if they made the curvy version it literally WOULD be me.)

She’s me. I’m a game developer, and this summer, I will have a Barbie doll that looks just like me, dresses just like me, and DOES MY JOB.

When I was in High School, I was one of the smartest kids in my class. They made us talk to a guidance counselor about what job we wanted so we could plan out our college path to get there. After 30 minutes of her trying to convince me to be a Doctor, Lawyer, or Teacher, I finally just said, “Look, I am gonna go to college, I will figure it out there.” I was steered away from being a writer (“You don’t want to be a starving artist do you?”) They pushed the Doctor and Lawyer hard – as expected for a poor area. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something amazing.

I went to college and my “plan” became Take as Many Classes as Possible, and Figure it Out Later. 4.5 years later, I was planning on being an English Teacher. Then I discovered the Guildhall and literally said “Wait, I can make games? They have schools for this kind of thing? I am going THERE.” And I did. But that moment struck me because no one – in all my years of playing video games, ever once said “Why don’t you try to make them?” I owned a computer, and worked on them, but never once thought – hey let’s make a game. Hell, I BUILT LEVELS for Heroes of Might and Magic and Neverwinter Nights, and never once thought, I should get paid to do this. Because no one ELSE did. Games were a “waste of time”. Always.

Barbie makes it so people WILL think about it. I remember thinking about careers like being a vet, a stewardess, a tv anchor, all because that was what Barbie did – AND I DIDN’T EVEN PLAY WITH THEM.

Further, I remember way back in 4th grade when we were asked what we wanted to be when we grow up. I said something weird and my teacher responded with “Pick something Barbie could be.” Yeah, it was a bit sexist because she didn’t say that to the boys, but her heart was in the right place trying to direct me towards real careers. I then switched to insisting I would be a mermaid, because I had an Ariel Barbie doll.

This is important. Very important for the next generation of girls. I wish I had had that vision when I was a kid. I would have been making games since I was 10.


No, I spelled that right.

Sorry, once more we are getting into a profanity fueled rant. But COME ON. Who is running this thing at Blizzard? Did we lose design leads and not know it? Is someone sneaking mind altering drugs in the water coolers?

I want to start by saying – I have 6 max level garrisons. I have 6 more not max level. 4 of my max level garrisons have ALL max ilvl followers. I.love.garrisons. I love followers. I love missions. I love logging in 3 times a day (before breakfast, at lunch, and before bed) to cycle through my stable of alts to accept and resend followers on missions.

I get WHY some people don’t like garrisons and garrison missions. I do. It is very chore-like. It does require an addon in the worst way. (Once more, thank you Master Plan.) It does feel increasingly like the only thing to do in WoW. (So not true, but I get that people feel that way.)

But I am not one of those people. So the Shipyard, it should just be an extension of that same feeling though right? Right? Not even a little bit. I hate them. I am DONE with them. I already told my guild if they require I have the ring or get gear from the chests – give up. I am not doing it.

First off, level design. The shipyard isn’t even in the same phase as your garrison. You have to LEAVE your garrison to get to it, and it unphases you, then rephases you. It takes approximately 40 seconds to run from the garrison mission table outside, mount, then ride down to the ship one. The path makes sense for reality, but this isn’t reality. Level design is the art of making things flow and this feels like a backed up toilet. Cut a back door in the main building, and run a path down to the docks. BOOM. Best part – that space on the map – not even being used. It clears out the SUPER wonky jammed in path from the front that feels so weird by the Menagerie. Yeah, it will only cut off at best 20 seconds, but that’s enough time it makes me less likely to mount or hearth to get around it.

Ship Limit. I am frustrated by the 20 follower limit. Everyone except for my main, who NEEDS the stables, has the barracks because of this. And even 25 is too low. I want 100 followers. So what about ships? Oh we only get 6. It’s like they took the most frustrating thing about missions and made it worse.

Ship types. This is so confusing and clunky. I get it’s mirroring the classes on followers, but the thing is, we have WAY more of those. We also get it as players. A tank tanks things. Dps kills lots of little minions. It spoke in a language we as players were familiar with. I do not get ship types at all. I haven’t checked WoWHead, so I have just been building even numbers.

Ship destruction. So here’s the worst part. If a mission fails, there is a chance the ship will be destroyed. Yep. That ship that cost oil and garrison resources will just boom, with nothing to show for it. Not only did you fail the mission, but now you are FURTHER behind because you lost that ship you had been leveling. You can make them unsinkable – at the cost of a counter, so you effectively GIMP your ship to make sure you don’t lose it. Oh and it’s not just one ship. You can lose both ships if it’s a 2 ship mission. As for the chances of this occurring, I have no idea. But I have had 2 90%+ success chance missions fail and lost BOTH. SHIPS. I haven’t even gotten to the 15 missions yet to upgrade my yard.

Shipyard parts. Because inventory space is not ENOUGH of a premium, let’s throw more stuff in their bags. I feel like I should tattoo this on every designer at Blizzard – IF YOU CAN KEEP IT OUT OF THE BAGS – DO IT. There should be a review process that makes it so a council of 25 devs and 25 players all approve something taking up a bag slot. If they can’t agree that it’s worth it – BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Oh and the parts? Yeah, hope you like raiding and doing all the stuff in Tanaan, because that’s the only way to get the blueprints for those.

Forced failure. Are you kidding me with this Blizzard? I learned this my SECOND MONTH at the Guildhall. Do not teach the player by FORCING them to fail. Just don’t. It feels like crap. AND it just teaches the player that the game is willing to CHEAT to make a point. Even better – the mission required to complete the legendary? With 3 epic ships perfectly decked out – you can get to 91% success. Those are some awfully nice epic ships you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to them.

Run out of oil. Where do you get oil when you run out? I haven’t figured it out. I spent 4 days doing no missions because I had no oil and my garrison missions weren’t offering me any.

Blockades. A friend of mine spent a week trying to level up his ships to do the Hellfire Citadel mission. The morning he was ready, he woke up to a blockade preventing him from doing it. That he didn’t have the appropriate counters for. Because he had refitted his ships for the HFC mission. What.Kind.of.SICK.GAME.IS.THIS.

Shipyards are one big black feel bad for WoD. It’s like they threw out everything they learned from garrisons and put a new designer in charge. Did they decide WoD was a lost cause and move everyone to the new expac without cleaning/tuning/polishing up what was being finished?

Oh god… that’s what they did isn’t it?


In the tone of my last post about flying – here’s my response to the announcement about flying in Draenor today:


Let’s break down why this is an EXCELLENT solution. In fact I would say it’s possible it’s a PERFECT solution.

How do we get flying? Getting the Loremaster of Draenor, Securing Draenor, 100 Treasures, Explore Draenor, and rep achievements.

It solves the exploration vs non-exploration issue.

Many people commented that they LIKED being forced to ride around while leveling. It gives them a better sense of the world. It helps them learn the zones. It makes it feel like they are exploring. The thing is – once we hit 100, our priorities change. We start wanting to go to specific spots. We try to bypass enemies. We WANT short cuts. But by requiring the Loremaster Achievement – it shows that the player who gets flying HAS done the story. They did the ground footwork to complete the zones.

It makes it so only level 100s can get it.

You have to be 100 to get the Securing Draenor achievement done. Bam. Locked out to level capped characters without it being just a “ding” bonus.

They aren’t charging gold for it.

It’s not a gold sink. (It could be though.) It doesn’t punish poor players or players who want to spend their gold elsewhere. More, it means that it’s not a thing that can be bought with real money.

It doesn’t allow players to cheat around the treasure hunting.

By requiring the 100 treasures achievement, players HAVE to get out there and find at least a large number of them. Maybe not all of them, maybe not all the annoying jumping puzzle ones, but a ton of them. Enough that you feel like you have done the work.

The rep grinds don’t seem to be THAT important, but hey, it means we have to put some work in. I don’t mind WORKING for a reward. Especially one as good as flying. It’s not easy. It’s not too hard. It focuses on getting the players through the content they want us to experience, the way they want us to experience it, but then opens the game up to how WE want to play afterward. And players are going to do it. I bet TONIGHT there will be a huge rush of people getting out into the world to get to work on these achievements.

I like this solution. I would go so far as to say I love it, it’s the correct way to do it, and they should do it this way in the future. Make us work for it. Not RNG or gold based, but achievement based. It’s a really great compromise between the two sides of players who want to fly and designers who want us to stop flying over their content.

I can’t wait to get back to the skies, archeology, and exploring the world.


Flying – You can’t put the Genie back in the Bottle

Note – This is a rant. I get ranty. And the f-bomb gets dropped with increasing frequency as it goes on. You have been warned.


There are many things they have added to WoW over the years and then later taken out. Like attunements and reforging. There have been many arguments on if these decisions were good or not. But in the end, they don’t impact the current face of WoW terribly much.

This expansion’s argument though is different. Flying. Blizzard decided to not allow flight in Draenor. Not just while leveling, like they did in Wrath, but at all. So here we are, level 100 for 6+ months, and still stuck on the ground.

I hate it. I HATE not being able to fly. It is by far my BIGGEST gripe with Draenor – and that includes the horrible random nature of crafting. I’ve even mentioned it TWICE before in previous posts about WoD:

– No Flying. I haven’t done one bit of archeology or farming because oy is it HARD to get around Draenor. It’s very clear they wanted to gate and limit the player’s movement, but did they have to make it SO MUCH in every zone? It’s a very strong reason for why I don’t want to do these parts of the game. I don’t want to use a glider, I want to fly. Fiddly one off mechanics over a system wide ability I paid a great deal of gold for… yeah.

No flight at 100. I decided to go do the daily in Spires of Arak yesterday and it took me 20 minutes to find my way there. Once I got there (after dying from fall damage) I was greeted by a few HUNDRED people all trying to do the same daily. 20 minutes later, I gave up and went back to my garrison, with 10% of the daily complete. This is NOT how I want to spend an hour of my game time.

So now that Mr. Hazzikostas has implied there may not be flying in future expansions I have to raise my voice. Before, I grumbled, but didn’t write about it, because, well, it was different. And I did need to experience it. And I did need to PLAY it to judge. And honestly, I thought they would be patching it in at the end of the expansion. So now, despite the fact I know people don’t want to hear the griping anymore, I am fucking griping, because not being able to fly is BULLSHIT.

The Problems with No Flying:

First – it’s a COST we already paid. We bought flight for 5k. Then we paid 1k for it in Northrend. Then we paid 250g for it in Cataclysm. Then 2.5k for Pandaria. Some of us have paid this fucking cost over multiple characters. This is not a fucking insubstantial amount of gold. It was an investment in our character that is now fucking worthless.

Second – Flying mounts. There are at least a 100 flying mounts. These mounts look fucking stupid when waddling on the ground. Remember the Netherwing Rep grind? The Cloud Serpent Rep grind? How much time did we spend grinding rep to get flying mounts that are virtually useless now? To head off the arguments, I have a spectral tiger. I have a BAD ASS ground mount. My owning of that mount doesn’t mean I don’t ever want to fly on all the fucking flying mounts I earned and farmed up over the years.

Third – What a Long Strange Trips It’s Been. Really? I spent a FUCKING YEAR doing every single damn holiday, stupid fucking rng within fucking rng achievements, and my reward of super speed flight is what now? A complete FUCKING WASTE. Thank you Blizz, for respecting the time and energy I have sunk into your game. /sarcasm (who am I kidding this whole thing is dripping with sarcasm because apparently some idiot thinks it’s a good idea to not have flight!)

Fourth – Archeology. It’s a profession practically requiring the speed and ease of flying around the world to dig sites. I haven’t done it outside my garrison because it simply takes too damn much time to travel now. So I do it through the mine. I am sure the designer who came up with it is happy to know that their profession has been reduced to something done off hand while getting ore.

Fifth – it just makes the designers build annoying ass landscapes like Nagrand and Spires of Arak. The inflation of time for travel is just fucking annoying. There is no reason it should take me 15 minutes to go from my garrison to the raid. NONE. And I certainly shouldn’t be showing up with a huge group of mobs chasing me that are the equivalent of mosquitoes.

Sixth – It just makes it HARDER to get where we want to go. I am a RABID pet collector. I didn’t go get the wild pets in Draenor until about a month ago because it was too fucking annoying to ride around the zones to FIND them. Making things harder is not going to retain old players or bring in new ones. Path of least resistance is the player way, and sometimes that’s right the fuck out of your game.

Blizzard’s Solution: “We’ll work on flight paths!”

UM. DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND? We want to be DOING things in WoW, not waiting while our character travels.

The game’s gains for not having flying:

Hidden treasures? – They aren’t that cool guys. OH AND RIGHT, you already added Aviana’s Feather, and Gliders, and all kinds of other CRAP to get around that. Can we just use the mounts we fucking paid for?

Jumping Puzzles? – If I wanted to play a fucking platformer, I would fucking play Mario. I want to play WoW, but more than that, I want to play WoW MY way. And if that means ignoring the fucking jumping puzzles until i can fly, then I am gonna fucking do it.

Travel time – Because apparently there just isn’t enough crap in a game with 10 years of content – they are still artificially inflating the time people are playing.

“It makes it feel dangerous!” – Yeah except it doesn’t. Danger is when I am level 90 and running around Shadowmoon Valley. At 100, it’s just annoying and leads to me dragging 20 mobs and finally stopping and nuking them all down. I am sure the poor little player leveling over there didn’t need those mobs for his quest did he? It was totally a great idea for me to drag them across the zone and kill them all. I felt so in danger when my health dipped down to 90%.

More structured leveling experience – this is the ONLY excuse that makes any sense. But again – WHY does it have to continue past level cap? Just require level cap for learning flight. It was done in all of the previous expansions. Yeah, it makes getting rare treasures easier, but at 100, that’s pretty easy ANYWAY. Oh look at that! A simple solution! Gosh, if only you had fucking known it would work really well and mollify your players… OH WAIT. YOU DID. BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE IT FOUR FUCKING TIMES BEFORE.


I get it. I am a level designer. I GET how flying makes it harder to design zones. But you know what? You can’t take it back now. Suck it up, deal with it, and spend the time to make it work. We paid for it. We collected mounts for it. We sunk hundreds of hours into getting it and making it better. You can’t put the fucking genie back into the fucking bottle, we already found our freedom.

It’s a Mad Men World

It started as a joke. “in 40 years, a Mad Men-like prestige drama about a 2010s game studio falling apart” – a funny idea. Take the show Mad Men and make a version of it that deals with game studios dying.

Someone else tried to spin it into a “woman power story” which I could approve of, except for the fact that *I* work in this industry and I immediately laughed at the implausibility. “Underdog female protag starts in QA, becomes the studio’s lead designer in 7 seasons. I’m in.”

I am a woman, designing levels and games, I have a Master’s Degree. I have 8 years of experience. I have shipped 6 titles. Three of my titles have sold over 15 million copies and earned over 3 Billion dollars in 4 years. If a season == a year – this idea for a story line was completely implausible. So we started piling on more “joke” ideas. Only they weren’t jokes. They were things. That have happened to us. The laughter stopped and all that was left was several people staring at Twitter slightly disappointed and dismayed. That was when I realized, it really was a good Mad Men like story. It left us just as depressed and demoralized as if we had been watching Mad Men.

The season arcs do write themselves.

Season 1 – our studio is starting work on a huge game. Staffing up, hiring friends. Getting into the flow of making the game. 3 episodes in, a publishing head hancho comes in and makes some outrageous and insane demand. Adding some super complex feature without adding more money. 6 episodes in, the game is announced. The high is being ridden. Everyone parties, then buckles down to work. 9 episodes in, crunch begins. Episode 12, after 6 months of crunching, the team finally ships the game. Season finale.

Season 2 – The team celebrates launch. Halfway through the first episode half the team gets canned. Those who remain get doctor’s appointments and lawyer appointments to deal with the fallout from 6 months of crunch. The season continues with the team getting to work on a sequel to the game they just launched. The game has gotten a 7.5 metacritic. It sells well enough to get a sequel, but not well enough for anyone other than leads to get bonuses. Over this season, good talent starts leaving and the only ones who get promoted are the idiots to get them out of the way. The season ends with being halfway through the 1 year turn around sequel when a competing company announces a game that is the same game, but with better art, better licenses, and a dynamic lead designer.

Season 3 – The deathmarch of crunch is worse, more talent is bleeding away to other studios. The team is completely demoralized working on a project that no one wants because of the other better game. The season continues showing the life costs of working on this game. Divorces, affairs, lost connections. They finally ship the sequel game, to lower review scores, lower sales, and the internet is calling for those “hacks” to be fired. The finale is the employees showing up to work one day and they are locked out. The studio has been closed.

Season 4 – Starts with a few of our favored protagonists starting an indie studio. They are living on savings, borrowing money, etc etc. They try to get publishing deals for their “genius” idea game. It never works out. The whole time one of the no talent hacks from the former studio goes off, manages to luck out and get a job as a lead designer on an amazing game. The indie guys keep working, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and finally at the end of the season ship their indie game.

Season 5 – Indie game is DOA. They try to monetize it differently. It’s critically acclaimed but no one buys it. They struggle on, as the team loses people 1 by 1 as they all go back to crap jobs at big studios just to pay bills. Maybe even losing one or two to death – especially due to heavy alcohol drinking (which has gotten progressively worse over the series). Season and series ends with only character left getting a super high paying job as a programmer in banking doing mindless menial tasks 8-5, and coming home and playing video games. Not doing his dream job, but happier for it.


There. There’s the outline for the Game Developer Mad Men. I am going to go get a drink now.

These are the Things I Add-On.

Back a few years ago, I had a MacBook I used to play WoW on when traveling. At first, I foolishly thought, I won’t put addons on this computer. (It was a more complex process than on PC.) That decision lasted all of about 15 minutes when I got into the game. As it turned out, I relied on addons more than I remembered.

What are addons?

Addons are Lua programs players can write that traditionally change the game UI. They cannot play the game for you. But they can change things like the mini map, bags, and raid frames. You can find and download them from WoW Interface and Curse. They are unzipped and just copied into your Addons folder in the WoW directory. Once you log on, at the character screen, in the bottom left corner, you can choose which addons to turn on and off. When a new patch hits, addons go “out of date”. Sometimes they stop working, and sometimes they don’t. It depends on what the addon affects. It’s worth trying to keep them up to date though.

What addons do I use and why?

1- Postal.

Postal is a mailbox addon. It’s a bandaid to fix Blizzard’s subpar mailbox ui. If you plan on using the auction house at all, you need Postal.

2 – Deadly Boss Mods.

I raid. I run dungeons. This or Big Wigs is required to do these things at a high level. If you are only running LFR, this is less vital.

3 – Altoholic

Again, this is practically required because I have 22 alts. I have items and mats stored on other characters. Including heirlooms. This makes it easy to search other character’s bags and also to keep track of who has gold, who has mail, and who is fully rested.

4 – AffDots

My main is a warlock. This addon helps me track embers and play to the best of my ability. It’s really specific for my class though. Some other classes may need a different thing, or nothing at all.

5 – HealBot

I use this for raid frames and healing. There are several good options for this. I prefer keeping my ui as close to stock as possible, so this really wins for me.

6 – Master Plan

If running garrison missions this addon is almost vital. It is great for picking the best missions, finding useless followers, etc.

7 – Recount

Again, if you aren’t raiding, this addon is worthless. People argue about which is better, this or Skada, but I just stick with recount because I am familiar with how it works.

8 – Handy Notes

Handy Notes is amazing for finding hidden treasures, holidays, and all that random stuff found in the world. Really useful for leveling in WoD or Pandaria.

9 – Pet Journal Enhanced

I love pets and pet battling, and sadly the stock ui just doesn’t give me enough info. I like this one, because it gives me just enough info without getting to busy or wordy.

10 – Ask Mr Robot

I actually sub to his site, so being able to to load in what I have in bags and get my best loadout is very useful.

11 – TSM and it’s various bits + Auctionator

I am a gold baron on my server, so TSM is required for mass listing on the auction house. I wrote a post on how to set it up. It’s also useful for buying stuff in bulk as well.

12 – WoW Lua

I write my own addons, so this is one I use for that!


There are so many addons that do so many things. It’s best to look for ones frequently downloaded, and don’t be afraid to test things out.

“So you’re paying to wait in line to buy stuff?”

So this year, Blizzard is doing yet another new thing with their Virtual Ticket: Allowing the purchase of the Goodie Bag.

And oh, the grumping that started. So let’s break this down and really consider what’s going on here.

First off, the goodie bag in question has traditionally been the domain of those who attend BlizzCon. You pick up your badge and goodie bag the day before (or day of) and it’s filled with a half dozen or so things you can ONLY get in that bag at BlizzCon. But this year, those who buy the Virtual Ticket ($40) will get the option to purchase the goodie bag. We don’t know in quantities or how much, so for this exercise, let’s assume it’s ~$100 with shipping, and you can only purchase One per virtual ticket.

Why people are happy: They get the chance to buy the goodie bag, even if they aren’t going to BlizzCon in person.

Why people are upset: The goody bag is chock full of exclusives and those attending in person are grumpy their exclusive isn’t so exclusive anymore.

Both sides have valid points. Those who can’t attend are getting the chance at something they wouldn’t otherwise. They can get the loot, and have a cute little murloc or whatever figure, which they wanted, without having to travel to Anahiem. They are fans too. Just maybe not with lots of money, ability to travel, or vacation time. For those who can attend, it IS nice to get something that is exclusive. It’s nice to feel like you have something special, that you have shown your dedication and gotten a reward.

This all breaks down though, when you see the arguments from an empathetic view. First off, assuming people who “really want” the goodie bag had the chance to get one. Well, no, they didn’t. I tried to buy BlizzCon tickets for 2 years, failing both times, and finally got to go when I won a contest. The fact that not everyone who wants to and can go – gets to go is the first point where this shows that the exclusive is a “feel bad”, meaning something that makes people feel crappy for no good reason. If I want to go, but lose the “spawn in at a low number” on the website attempt, I already feel like crap because I can’t be there in person, but on top of that, I am denied exclusives I WOULD have had to the chance to get (and likely would have). It would be very different if even up to the week before there were still tickets available and people could go.

Now, take a moment to consider those who CAN’T attend. Here are some reasons of people *I* personally know who would LIKE to go to BlizzCon and can’t.

  • It’s always the first weekend in Nov, the same weekend as their mother’s birthday.
  • They have 4 kids, and no one to watch them for a weekend.
  • They can’t afford the ticket, airfare, and hotel.
  • They have severe anxiety issues and being in a convention center with that many people would be damaging to their health.
  • They cannot walk, so things like Cons are very taxing on their physical abilities.
  • They are immuno-compromised and a convention is pretty much asking to die.
  • They only get so many vacation/sick days per year.
  • Their spouse doesn’t like Blizzard games and they don’t wish to travel alone.

A more heartless person would say – oh well – but really, that is a very privileged (and in some of these instances Able-ist) view to take. Especially considering, what are we talking about here? $100 worth of chochkies and such? Does someone else having an item you have lower it’s value to you? If something’s uniqueness is all that matters, better to pass up that thing that over 6k other people have and craft something of your own that is truly unique!

The *only* true affect this would have one someone who attends the con is that it lowers the resale value of their goodie bag. Ah, so now we see a real reason. The only avenue people who can’t attend the con have of getting something from these bags if they really want it is eBay. (Or some other resale method, but let’s use eBay for ease of understanding.) My first time to BlizzCon someone said they “paid” for their ticket and trip every year just by selling the stuff from the goodie bag (this was during the statues time, not the Funko Pop time). I remember looking at him horrified at the concept of being willing to part with it. My last BlizzCon, I heard someone talking about how they bought a box of the pins, just so they could sell them on eBay and make a buck. They proceeded to talk about how much money they were going to make off all of us “nerds”. I got the impression they didn’t come to the con for the event, but rather to buy things to resell.

It’s also worth noting the people who attend in person are getting exclusives that will never be able to be replicated on the virtual ticket – meeting people, meeting devs, selfies with statues, the rush of being there, the demo stations, anniversary beer, seeing the movie trailer, etc.

What is the point of convention exclusives? To point to my title, someone once made that comment about Comic Con. At the time – I didn’t really get it, until I had to wait in like 3 hours at PAX to buy a t-shirt, only to get up to the booth and they were sold out.

It is absurd. To pay a few hundred dollars on a ticket, a few hundred more on a plane ticket, then a few hundred more on a hotel, for the CHANCE (if they don’t sell out, or you don’t have time) to spend even MORE money on an item? Talk about a racket! Especially since the only other way to get many of these items is to go to eBay and pay 2-5x the standard price.

Personally, I think convention exclusives are a terrible idea and should be completely removed. Yes, the idea of getting something exclusive is fun, but at what cost? Instead of seeing and talking to artists, you spend a weekend waiting in line. Instead of watching panels, sitting in line. Instead of playing demos, sitting in line. It turns a convention from a place to gather with thousands of others and geek out over something to a really expensive version of Black Friday.

Someone brought up the point that they liked exclusives because it was a thing to show that person had been there, and experienced it. But… it’s not. By that logic, I have been to 3 Comic Cons, 4 Emerald City Comic Cons, and no Wonder Cons. When really I have never been to the first two, and to the third one once! I used to agree with this stance, until the year I missed out on my PAX prime t-shirt because they ran out the first day. Instead, I have given an awful lot of money to people on eBay for my alternate Funkos, my one off prints of t-shirts, and my Blizzard stuffed animals.

When it comes down to exclusives – there are two potential ways it could turn out for me:

1. I get a thing I want, and I feel happy. There is a minor “addition” to this happiness with the feeling that something is rare.

2. I feel like crap because I didn’t get the thing I wanted.

Does the offset of the “rare” addition make up for the knowledge that someone else feels the second? If I had to pick, I would rather feel the first, without the rare bonus feeling than the second, ever. Hands down. More than that, I would prefer that Blizzard, and it’s artists/devs get the money for me wanting to buy a thing as opposed to some reseller.

The concept of wanting something that no one else has is a selfish one. To be clear, it’s not inherently BAD. It doesn’t make you a bad person. There are many instances when being selfish is not only a good choice – but also the right one. But that doesn’t make you exempt from people calling it out as selfish. It’s also the moment to take a look at how having that thing from the goody bag really makes you feel. Is it having the thing itself that makes you feel awesome, or knowing that no one else has it? If it’s more the second than the first, that is a thing to consider and perhaps decide if that’s a feeling you are okay with having.

All of this, for me, is not just limited to things bought at Conventions, but even in game. I HATE that I don’t have Murky and likely never will. I am one of those nut jobs that spent $2600 on the Vanilla Collectors Edition and if TOMORROW they announced that they were making those 3 pets available my response would be “Oh thank goodness.” I would rather EVERYONE have something than be one of the people who wants something but can’t get it because it’s intended to be “rare”. I’d much rather have mounts and achievements never go away (and pets, not to leave out the Vampiric Batling) and let the dates of those achievements stand for themselves. (Or just have the separate Feat of Strength with the “Ahead of the Curve” name, that rewards nothing other than the ability to say you did it when it was “hard”.)

While I am on the subject though, can we have the statues back instead of the Funkos? I mean, I love Funkos but STILL. Oh and maybe “themed” bags? Not to *raspberry* Starcraft or Orcs, but I would much rather get something with one of the ladies or Tyrael than Diablo or yet another Thrall. *thumps her mega blocks Thrall across the office*

Motion Sickness in Games

Eternal Darkness. Morrowind. Drakon the Ancient Gates. Oblivion. Half Life 2. Quake 4. Portal. WoW. Minecraft. Borderlands. Legend of Grimmrock 2.

What do all these games have in common?

I have vomited at some point while or directly after playing them. It’s worth noting, I never once vomited while pregnant. But I play Half Life 2 for 10 minutes and I am seeing my lunch again.

This has come up yet again because of WoW’s newest raid, Blackrock Foundry, and one of the fights is pretty awful.

I am a bit surprised it’s just coming up now, because for me at least, Grimrail Depot was far worse. Both fights have moving things, generally at a high speed, while the player needs to move or stay stationary. The problem occurs in that the player’s brain is immersed to the point they FEEL like they should be moving, but they aren’t, so everything gets a bit wonky.

In Grimrail, the specific problem is that the players are on a moving train. The developers added a screen “jostle” to sell the realism of being on a train. Then they have a section where the boxcar walls are lowered and there are canyon walls rushing by. But those walls have stripes on them, so the sensation of movement is very strong.

In the Hans and Frans fight, the floor moves, and the player has to run around dodging things while fighting against the conveyors.

“How does something like this get through?”

In my experience – it gets through because no one notices it. I have worked at 4 game companies, and only ONCE have I worked with someone else who got motion sick playing games. Occasionally a game will pop up that makes a large number of people motion sick, but they just adjust the fov and move on. (This is how I fixed Minecraft.) But for those of us that are sensitive to it, this is not going to solve our problems.

Game devs are generally, by definition, Gamers. They play tons of games. They have been playing games forever. (And if they don’t, like some artists, they don’t even play the games they make! But that’s another post entirely.) Much like riding on a boat, you get “sea legs” that makes you less likely to notice or be bothered by the motion sickness. You can acclimate. So by the time devs get to the point of working on massive games like WoW, they generally don’t get sick from it anymore.

“Okay, but I still feel like ralphing, how do I get around this without just skipping this fight?”

In a perfect world, Game Devs would contract a QA team to test and find things like – color blind issues, motion sickness, epilepsy, deafness, etc. Pretty much everything Able Gamers fights to raise awareness and solutions for. But there isn’t always time or money. (However for Blizzard I call bullshit. They know better. They have the money. They should have their OWN internal team checking for it.) At the very least, each company should have avenues for employees to bring attention to and address these issues. (Just like they should also do with sexist and problematic things!) At every company I have worked at, I invariably end up as a “motion tester” because I complain VERY LOUDLY any time I get motion sick. I get called to desks to test stuff and help the designer tweak areas and gameplay sequences to make them less hurl inducing.

But this isn’t a perfect world. So how did I get over it? After all, some of those games I listed are my favorite games! And I have to keep doing Grimrail for alts for the legendary ring!

– Saltines. It’s an old standby for a reason.

– Ginger ale. Again, we give this to sick kids for a reason.

– Greasy food. I have a method for a game like Skyrim or Grimmrock. I play it until I am feeling VERY unwell, then I eat some McDonalds. It calms my stomach down, and I wait until the sickness has completely passed, then do it again. Skyrim took 4 attempts. Grimmrock took 3. Drakon was the WORST. It took 11. I was persistent.

Preggo Pops. Seriously. I got these while pregnant and there is a reason I never got sick. Further, they are super safe, and many moms even give them to kids when they are ill.

– Lemon water. Especially if you are one of the people who has mouth watering right before vomiting. Lemon water knocks that right out. (Or just sucking on a lemon if you can stand it.)

Within the game solutions:

– Point your camera straight down. Or adjust it so you can’t see the movement. I am awful at Grimrail for this reason, I have to just stare at the plate and can’t look up at the walls.

– On Hans and Frans, get your warlocks to set up their portals ALONG the “stationary” bands. These are the thinner bands. Then STAY ON THESE BANDS. Do not spend any time if possible on the moving part. Doing this means your camera doesn’t move, so YOU feel stationary, even though everything else ever is moving. Use the portals to move for smashers and try to focus on only looking at the bands. (I also found it helped to keep my camera facing the same way – the door direction – and stay on the one band.)

– Turn down spell effects. The more graphical stuff you have going on, the more it fights with your ability to focus on anything. Turn it way down. This just clears out the noise.

– Request that your raid take a break after this fight. Maybe you can sit out the next trash clear. But step AWAY from the game, and eat something bready.

– Persist. You will get your sea legs.

– Last resort – Dramamine or Sickness bands. While in school, we had two semesters where we worked in Half Life 2. I took that crap twice a day for 6 months. It sucks, but it made me able to function in the tool to build levels for it.

I feel like Blizzard could do somethings to help this without destroying the fight. Clearly delineating the stationary parts. Tune it so you can lose 3-4 people without wiping (so the motion sickers can just die). But they do need to do something. This is definitely a stepping away point for some people.