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Removing Content from a Live Game is Shitty Design

Actually, I suppose I could remove “from a live game” and the statement would still be true. But devs of “non-live” games don’t really mess with their games after launch other than bug patches, and maybe DLC – but I can’t think of a single time someone removed something.

Live games are games that constantly update. Content patches and expansions. New things all the time. They are games you never finish and are more like hobbies.

There are 12 classes. There are 36 specs. There are 24 appearances per artifact. That means there are 864 artifact appearances. (Holy shit, that’s a FUCK TON of art. That’s YEARS worth of work on art. Like – if they did ONE a week for a year – that would take 16 artists a year. Counting Holiday weeks. At 5-6 yr art veteran pay average (85k) – that’s 1.4 MILLION DOLLARS worth of art. And that’s a severe lowball for just modeling – that doesn’t take into account concept, vfx, sfx, programming, rigging, animating… Holy shit guys, they probably spent 5 million on artifacts easy. And before people say “Oh but 5/6th of the appearances are just texture swaps…” Textures take a shit ton of time. Especially in WoW – since the textures carry a large portion of the artistic weight.)

My mind is still reeling from that staggering amount of time and money spent on making these appearances, which overrides any of my other arguments for why they shouldn’t be removed. Only the Joker would light 5 million dollars on fire just to keep it out of other people’s hands.

Woof. OKAY. Moving back to my original points and statement.

There is never a good reason to remove content. Seriously. Give me one. It’s already been made, paid for, tested, and shipped. People have played it. Some people love it, some people hate, a large majority are meh on it. It’s done. What is the benefit of removing content?

How about the reasons for not removing it?

  1. People who missed it – can get it later. Check out my post about Exclusives – I know it’s about buying stuff at conventions – but the same ideas apply. You can’t be assured everyone has the time to play every aspect of a game in a limited time frame.
  2. Everyone paid for the game. Now only a selection portion is getting the whole game despite paying the same amount. (See this post.) The idea that only certain people who “work for it” is elitist and selfish. Those who work for it first, get it first. Players who come along after should still have to work for it (and they do) but they shouldn’t miss out because they prioritized Family Familiar instead of PVP.
  3. Oh and as always – rarity in WoW is bullshit and not real.

Also – let’s take into account that unlocking all of these appearances is individual. So – for example – the PVP ones require 12 pvp prestiges. From what I have dug up, it looks like this is per character. Not per account. And according to one enterprising WoWhead commenters – takes 45 weeks doing the PVP world quests every 6 hours, every day. So, that’s about 12 years right there. Or literally not having a job, family, sleep, or anything else to do. The expansion will likely last two years. So. You get two. Which two do you want? My immediate reaction to this – what’s the fucking point?

I want to collect things in WoW. I collect pets, mounts, transmog. I get Loremaster and achievements. I like PLAYING the game. I don’t like feeling like it’s a JOB with a deadline. I’ve already missed out on things – the ZA bear which all 9 of my guildies got but I missed out on, the MoP phoenixes, the MoP battle pet, the Naxx mounts, the Tiger Mount, titles, Ateish… Each item is on a list on my heart. Each one is a blue sphere of sadness. And those blue spheres, they are starting to add up. They are outnumbering the yellow sphere’s of joy.

Why bother when I can go play Persona 5? It’s 100s of hours of gameplay with new game plus. Breath of the Wild, I have played over 100 hours and barely scratched the surface. I kinda want to go back and play Skyrim too. And these games don’t punish me for having a job, child, and hobbies other than it.

If I pay for a game, then the content gets repeatedly removed before I have a chance to get it – is Blizzard just taking my money, calling me a shitty casual, and taking away the toy I paid for? That’s a pretty abusive and toxic attitude to take towards someone who has literally spent thousands of dollars on the game, thousands more on merch, recruited over 20 players, brought back over 20 players, and supported websites, fan artists, and all manner of extra-game things.

Further – those people I try to recruit or bring back – I have lost 4 of them to them seeing a thing, thinking it was beautiful/amazing – then finding out they can’t get it, getting bummed out and just giving up.

Why keep playing if I am just going to keep missing out? Fear of Missing Out only works if I care about missing a thing AND HAVE THE ABILITY TO GET THE THING THROUGH NORMAL PLAY. These grinds and achievements, especially when multiplied across alts, are not normal play. It’s unhealthy play, that does not take into a positive work/game/life balance.

The only thing that will kill WoW, is WoW, and right now, it’s doing a pretty damn good job of it. If I walk away, it effectively pulls the plug on 5 accounts. (3 are mine, one for my boyfriend, and a final one from at least one person I know who only plays WoW because of me.) But even worse, it means the next time I get all excited for a patch or expansion and talk about it, those 5-10 people I am friends with who occasionally re-sub because I am talking about it and they get interested, they won’t.

Casuals are the lifeblood of this game. They are the ones who carry the game between content lulls. They pay more than the bleeding edge mythic assholes who demand special treatment. Cater to one, not the other. Removing content because of some arbitrary deadline is catering to people who require feeling Elite and superior and actively punishing the players who are the larger base of support.

A dilemma of epic levels

So I canceled my WoW accounts this week.

WoW is a thing I do as a hobby. I play other games, but WoW is the one I could play all day. And I did.

I love playing WoW. As you can tell, by the things I generally rant on here about, WoW is my favorite game and the one I am most critical of.

I left the game over the sexism. It all started with one little thing that pisses me off. Rating a woman based on how she looks. Then calling her by that number. So I started writing about it, but the more I thought about it, the more instances of sexism I saw. It was like when you wipe that one spot on your tv and suddenly realize the entire entertainment center is completely covered in a thick layer of dust.

There were 3 reactions to my defection:

1. Good for you! Get away from that addictive game.

First off, this reaction really bothers me. Yes, WoW can be addictive. But addiction implies that something leads to harmful consequences. Does WoW lead to harmful consequences for me? I have never lost a job, failed a class, lost a pet/child, become ill, or not been able to live my life because of WoW.

Second, I generally play less WoW in a day than other people watch tv. Or look at the internet. Or read. WoW as a hobby, is an entertainment thing just like other games, tv shows, movies, or books. In fact, for me, it can be considered career supporting since it often makes me consider design topics and challenges.

2. This makes me sad.

I was very surprised by this reaction. Several people said it, and when I asked for clarification this is what was said: “It makes me sad, because it’s something you clearly enjoy so much. It sucks when people can’t do the thing they enjoy because of sexist bullshit.”

:'( I love these people. They don’t play WoW. They don’t like WoW. All they know is that it makes me happy and for that reason they want it to be better. For me. <3

3. You shouldn’t quit. You need to stay, so *someone* will be here to call them on their bullshit.

To be fair, this came from 3 people in game and 2 people out of game. This surprised me. Mostly because I was expecting everyone to support my decision fully.

This argument gave me pause. Was there a way for me to play WoW, while still not accepting their bullshit? From my point of view, the only way to make them listen is to hit them where it hurts, their subscriber numbers. Withholding money does nothing at this point because they are so monolithic they wouldn’t even feel my $30 a month. But -2 subs, after the last two years of bleeding over 4 million subs? That would hurt more.

I thought about it all weekend. While desperately wanting to boot up WoW and play, I found myself out of sorts and cranky. Because I wasn’t playing WoW. I played some Skyrim. And Minecraft. And Pokemon. But each of them wasn’t enough to distract me from knowing I wasn’t going to be playing WoW that night. I cleaned, organized, and watched some Big Bang Theory.

And then… an episode aired on Big Bang Theory. It was the one where the girls didn’t go to Vegas and instead stayed and played Dungeons and Dragons with the guys.

I like Big Bang Theory, and I have talked about it several times. It does tend to craft it’s gags from stereotypical nerd culture. And I can honestly say, in the 25 YEARS I have played D&D, I have never played with another woman.

The jokes they made through the whole thing were not funny, and more than a little sexist. As I sat there, already hurting because of the loss of something I loved due to sexist bullshit, I wanted to turn it off. But then I had that moment. Where you hear something you don’t really want to hear, but it makes total sense. I could hear this minister from my youth, standing up there advocating that everyone in our church stop watching TV because it wasn’t Christian and Godly. I actually remember laughing out loud, then getting a ton of nasty stares. Even then I thought, There’s no way I would do that. I was a part of the world, and so was Buffy. And even if Buffy wasn’t very Christian, there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to watch it. And I laughed because I remember thinking there was no one at that church who would be willing to give up TV.

I watch Big Bang Theory, and though I can see the reasons people might dislike it, from my lens it doesn’t strike those same chords. Is WoW the same way? It stuck the chord, but how does that look through other people’s lenses? We can love something while still being concerned and critical over the problematic aspects of it. Thank you Anita.

I think the devs made the correct choice, both on hotfixing it out so quickly and on ignoring it otherwise. Why is ignoring it a good idea? Calling it out, even as being fixed, would just draw the slavering masses of horrid sha who follow these things and attack us “Crazy censoring over reacting feminists”. Even more, they *have* made the correct choice on some occasions – female druids, transmogrification to fix the sexy armor issue, etc.

Here’s the center of this problem : the people making this game (and a large chunk of players) do not care about how these things make us feel, because it doesn’t make them feel that way. This is privilege. They don’t care what someone says about a woman on the street, because no one would do that to them. They aren’t boiled down to a number. They aren’t measured purely on their looks.

Blizzard still needs to hire a feminist (preferably a woman) to their writing team. Her job needs to be to review everything before it goes into the game. To champion strong female lore characters. To champion strong female villains, until we approach 50% female characters. Her job is to prevent things like these orcs and the quests that occasionally go to far. Her job would including speaking up and saying, “Hey guys, include a female in the cinematic.” Even better, hire a woman of color and she can do double duty and make sure they aren’t pissing minorities off either!

The answer is not necessarily removing the offending material either. For example, our orc friends – I think it may have even been better to have a quest where the player has to go tell them off. Then put in a random chance – every so often they would attack instead of slinking off. What an eye opener. How interesting that would be. Even allowing me, as an orc player, to kill them would have been nice, fulfilling the power fantasy and all. (Revenge porn – for street harassed women!)

Blizzard needs to fix their problem. But what about me? How do I fix my problem? Do I cut and move on? Do I stay and call them on their shit? I feel like going back now would make me seem weak and unable to stand my ground. But I do also think now, leaving, and taking my voice away, is the wrong choice. They need my voice. They need me bitching as loudly as I can over it. Because I will. Not every woman who is bothered by it will. But I will. I am not afraid of attacks over my feminist sensibilities. I am not afraid of speaking up. My courage has always served me well, and maybe this is the place to apply it.

Gambling: A tax on people who can’t do math.

While in High School I participated in after school activities which led me to having to walk to the local public library every day and wait for my parents to get off work and pick me up. As then went on for 4 years, I had plenty of time to stop and read the books as the case may be. One such book explained probability and gambling. It broke down each game and explained why gambling was always a bad idea. Lotteries, casinos, poker, it was all stacked against the player. I resolved to never gamble, or if I did, only with small amounts of money that didn’t matter.

Many years later, I learned the truth of probability through WoW and it’s item drops. I understood that having a 1 in a 1000 drop rate didn’t mean I had to kill 1000 things to get it, but rather that each time I killed something I had a small chance of seeing said item. After 161 runs to get Baron’s mount, I was pretty sure I understood chance and probability.

Then with Cataclysm, a new item was introduced that peaked my interest.

The Mysterious Fortune Card. (MFC, henceforth.)

What makes them so mysterious? Once Cataclysm hit, I found out they were essentially “gambling” in WoW. They are an item made by inscribers that a player can flip over and receive an white card that sells for some value between 10 silver and 5k gold. I checked the “drop” rate on the 5k card and it seems to be around 1 in 10k. Yeah, so not worth it, I thought, and moved on.

When I leveled my scribe, I herbed, milled, and started making inks. Only to realize that Cataclysm had only added about 20 glyphs total. In fact, there only seemed to be two items worth making, Darkmoon Cards (a combine set can be turned in for a trinket, which is very very good) or these MFCs.

To explain a bit, Inscription, a profession, allows a player to take a stack of 5 of an herb and “mill” them, turning them into powder. Any mill can produce Ashen Pigment, which makes Blackfallow Ink and rarely Burning Embers, which make Inferno Ink. Generally a single mill of the high end herbs produces 2-4 Ashen Pigment, and 1-3 Burning Embers.

The Burning Embers and subsequent Inferno Ink are used to make the very valuable Darkmoon cards. Because the recipe to make them however requires 10 Inferno Inks and is random as to which of the 32 cards it drops, anyone trying to make full decks will need a huge amount of ink.

However, the Ashen Pigment and Blackfallow Ink are practically worthless. They aren’t used for anything other than trading down to lower inks to make glyphs, and even that, is a risky market at best as anyone trying to sell those glyphs will be competing with leveling scribes. So I decided what the hell, I’ll make MFCs.

I checked the auction house, to see how well these cards were selling. 15 gold EACH. Wait. What? Yep. 15g Each. Okay… So it takes 2 pigment to make one card. I get 2 pigment from a single mill generally. So that means, as long as I buy the herbs at 2g each, I can spend 10g to make 15g. I like that return. So I bought down 400g worth of herbs from the auction house. I processed them (by milling them) then spent another 600g to buy volatile lifes (which are used to make the Darkmoon Cards). 1kg spent.

I ended up with around 250 cards, plus two Darkmoon Cards. I banked the two Darkmoon Cards to make my trinkets, and listed all of the MFC. I listed them in stacks. 5 stacks of 20 cards selling for 14g. (Discount for bulk!) 5 stacks of 10 for 14.5 g. 10 stacks of 5 for 14.75g. And finally 50 stacks of singles for 15g each.

Three hours later, I logged back on to the character to find: ~3000g. HOLY FUUUU. *ca-ching* And note this is completely WITHOUT ANY PROFIT from selling the Darkmoon Cards!

So I of course dumped most of that money back into buying more herbs. Process. Make cards. Sell cards. Loot gold.

The price fluctuates, generally ranging from 12g to 15g. The stacks always sell, many to the same player. I also enjoy watching two or three sell, then about 15 minutes later, watching 3 or 4 more sell. I proceeded to do this for the next week or so, spending a great deal of time milling herbs and making cards.

Then Basil screwed me.

BLAST. Now everyone would understand MFC were a TERRIBLE investment. I mean, people understand if a slot machine has a 5% house advantage, they aren’t going to buy the cards that have a 98% house advantage! That would be idiotic. Sure enough, the market tanked instantly. Not only because people stopped buying, but also suddenly it went from me and one other player listing to 50+ listers. In addition the cost of herbs skyrocketed. Bah. My money making scheme gone. Oh well.

Several months later I was leveling my herbalist mage and got a rather huge stack of whiptail (one of the best Cataclysm herbs for milling for ink). I had learned the MFCs could be turned into food and had been using that on my warlock for a while. I figured my mage could use a darkmoon trinket, and so started sending her the whiptail to process for Inferno Inks. She processed, then made her cards. Over 200 MFCs. Man, that’s alot of cookies, I thought. I wonder how the AH prices for these are.

15g??!?

Did everyone FORGET? Do they seriously sell again? No, I thought, surely there is no way. People aren’t that dumb…

Or maybe they are, I thought less than an hour later when all my cards sold at 14g each. True the Darkmoon cards sell for half of what they used to, but then, so do the herbs.

I can generally get them between 1-2g each now. This past week I process thousands of herbs, and made over 1k cards, which I then turned around and sold for about 15k, so about 5k worth of pure profit. The best part is, I can barely keep stock up on the AH. I buy ALL the whiptail below 2g each. I process it all. I put cards up and usually they sell out before more whiptail is available. I am contracting specific farming players to farm for me. I have an alt named Bellagio! I camp the AH at work to buy more Whiptail. I got an addon that allows me to click mill and walk away.

Turns out, I am not the only one. Well, I guess I have a goal now.

Horde –> Alliance

For the HORDE!

Such was the battle cry of many a character of mine on the WoW server Uther. When I began my WoW addiction, I started as Alliance and at a later date was convinced to re-roll Horde. I was reluctant, but eventually convinced.

After 18 months on Uther I had almost reached the point I had previously earned on my Alliance server. A 60+ of every class, tons of achievements and special items, and so on. At which point someone asked me to come play on their Alliance server. /facepalm.

I resisted. But the promise of a regular 5 man group made up of real life friends was too much for me. Luckily for me, Blizzard saw fit to add the ability to pay for a Faction change to their game. I could pony up $30 and have my level 80 Horde toon become a level 80 Alliance toon. So I did. (I also paid the $25 for a server transfer, but that service is relatively straightforward.)

I turned my level 80 Blood Elf Death Knight into a Night Elf Death Knight. When Pandara woke from her shocking transformation she found herself in Darnassus, quite a long distance from the dun streets of Orgrimmar. Her mounts had changed, her progress with the Argent Tournament gone. Several of her weapons and armor had new names, the old useless links cluttering her action bars.

Most importantly her hearthstone had been re-bound to Darnassus. A situation that needed immediate attention. So I started to run out of the city and immediately thought, Wait. I don’t know where the Zeppelin is to get to Northrend. So I asked my friend.
“Zeppelin? What?”
“The flying airship thing I take to Northrend.”
“Oh. You mean the boat. In Stormwind.”
So I, having not played Alliance since a few months after BC, immediately flew to Auberdine in Darkshore and went down the left hand part of the Dock, intending to get on the boat to Menethil and then fly to Stormwind. Imagine my shock when the boat took me directly to Stormwind. Apparently they realized poor little Night Elves had quite the run to Ironforge.

After a boat ride and a few flights, I land in Dalaran. I immediately run to down to the right headed towards the inn. Suddenly I am stunned, hear a teleport noise and find myself outside the entrance to the part of the city with the Inn, BG portals, and Badge Vendors.

Oh, right, that’s the *Horde* side. I can’t go in there anymore. It then takes me 10 minutes to find the Alliance innkeeper.

Even now, two weeks later, I forget, and run into Horde cities, the Horde side of Dalaran, and try to take flights to Horde places.

For the Ho… Alliance. 🙂

RRoD

Do you know anyone who hasn’t had an XBox 360 Red Ring of Death on them?

Until yesterday I did. Then my XBox 360 suddenly showed that pretty crimson light and flashed three segments. Lovely. I posted such on my Facebook and Twitter. Shockingly no one was surprised. In fact most people pointed to when theirs had RRoD. I am a gamer and friends with gamers mostly, so the audience is mostly people who own an XBox 360. And of a rather wide pool of people, with various skus of XBox, no one has a system that *hasn’t* RRoD.

After much research through Google it comes down to most people believing that there is a 30-35% failure rate. Game Informer did a survey and got a 50% failure rate response. Regardless, this is an insanely high failure rate. It makes me wonder, did Microsoft actually do better than the PS3 as far as not losing as much on the console or worse? Seems to me having to replace that many XBoxes would cost quite a bit more.

Something on my Desk

Just recently Watchmen came out on DVD. Of course it was immediately purchased and watched in my apartment. As far as comic book adaptations go, this one was superb. When I read the graphic novel, I was mildly entertained, philosophically provoked, and very curious as to how they would make this into a movie.

For today’s something on my desk, I choose the Nite Owl (Modern) figure. Nite Owl is by far my favorite character in Watchmen. The characters are deep and flawed, but the irony is they are all the same. Rorschach, who will kill in the line of his work, even those who are not “evil” (like the guy he dropped down an elevator shaft). Veidt, who realizes that one on one he has no hope of making a true difference and must commit terrible acts of terrorism to achieve his ends, regardless of the cost to humanity or himself. They have the same goal, the same methods for achieving their goals, but the scale of which they do it varies. But throughout the entire movie one character carries the flag of hope and valience. Nite Owl still believes, even now that they can make a difference, not by destroying the world, but by working within it and doing their part to move it forward. He clings to the old thought and school of Hero. In the face of it all, he remains as he has always been, a man who wants to be a hero.

Who watches the Watchmen? Hopefully the one who believes in humanity and holds the flag of hope and goodness.

Something on my Desk

Last week was a holiday. I got the day off work and spent it NOT at my normal desk, but rather my home desk.

Which begs the question, which desk item should I write about? One on my work desk like I normally do? One on my home desk? Or an item that miraculously appears on BOTH! How strange that there is in fact two items that appear both on my home desk and my work desk.

Of course, any RPG gamer knows this is a vital part of your gaming kit, and is often used in other games.

Magic the Gathering uses them for life counting and calls them “spin down” counters.

Erick Wujcik insists you don’t need them to play RPGs and he might be right.

They can be as small an eraser on a pencil to as big as pillows.

They can have anywhere from 4 to 100 sides.

I have hundreds of them in various shapes, sizes, and colors. I love collecting them.

Guess it yet? D20s, or 20 sided dice, are the mark of a nerd and gamer.

I have three of them on my work desk, each taken from a Magic the Gathering fat pack. I have two on my desk at home, both purchased for playing D&D that got separated from the bunch and now sit looking pretty. I often pick them up and hold them, much the way I will do with a book, to simply feel it in my hand.

When working with Erick Wujcik I was privileged to get to participate in a game he ran that was diceless. It was completely fascinating to see the game and the player response to not having a random element to it. Before this I had played pen and paper RPGs for years and had amassed quite the collection of dice. I was foolish enough to believe I had seen “everything” there was to see with RPGs. (I had even LARPed.) At least I was delighted to discover how wrong I was. Since then I have reveled in learning about the ways other people play RPGs.

As an added point of interest it is quite amusing the rituals and superstition people have about their dice. For instance, I have “friend” sets that my friends can use and I have my set. Don’t touch my set. You will contaminate it and I will start to roll poorly.

Something on my desk…

So I have decided to do a weekly post, every Friday, about something on my desk. I have at least 4 months of fodder too. 🙂

Today we have….

The Plague! Yes that’s right, I have a stuff version of the Bubonic Plague sitting on my desk. I love throwing it at people and telling them I gave them Plague.

In High School, like many other children, I was subjected to a form of torture called research papers. Much to my teacher’s dismay I chose to write my paper on the Bubonic Plague and the decimation of the European population. I had recently read a book call The Plague Tales by Ann Benson. Needless to say, I wrote a rather superb paper on this gruesome topic.

Even now, years later, I am fascinated with this concept of viruses that wipe out entire populations. These natural organisms that are in fact designed to prey on humans. One of my favorite books of all time, Caverns of Socrates, begins with the world population having been almost eradicated due to an airborne version of the Ebola virus. These cataclysmic events lead to a complete breakdown of society and everything “safe”. What would you do in such an event?

I am not sure why I have a fondness for the Black Plague, other than the paper and a few books I have read, but the History Major side of me love the stories of the chaos surrounding the spread of the disease.

A Beginning

Recently through a series of strange events I became the leader of the largest Clan in Legends of Zork. Part of being the leader of this Clan, The Old Guard, included dealing with online communication between 400+ users, all across the world. This lead to the creation of a forums and blog.

Blogs have always fascinated me. An entire ocean of tiny soapboxes where people can stand up and say anything to the world at large. An entire world of voices straining to be heard amongst the din created by so many of these voices. I always wanted to write a blog, but assumed the effort was worthless. After all, who wants to hear what I have to say?

With the LoZ blog suddenly I had people listening to things I had to say, for no other reason than I had the ability to say them. So why not here? My website was an antique left over from my attempts to find a job in the video game industry. Might as well put it to some use. So I hearby dub my soapbox The Blank Pages and begin my foray into this odd form of public journalism.