Monthly Archives: October 2010

One Bad Apple — Re-post

They always say you never know how much you liked/loved/used something until it is gone. I so rarely updated my blog, and yet now that I can’t post on it and know it updates where others can see it, I am bothered. I am sad. I want to update it every 15 minutes and I have tons of ideas of what I want to do.But no. Stupid hackers had to go and ruin it. And for what? A few minutes of having their bile and vitriol displayed on an out of the way site that no one ever looks at? How lame is that?

Now I am having to learn about security measures and re-posting everything because of a few bad apples. Go crawl back under your rocks trolls.

UPDATE:

I will now be re-posting all of my facebook notes on my last attempt to have this work. If it gets immediately hacked again (let’s hope not) then I will be finding an alternate solution to WordPress. All of the re-posts will be updated to their original post date.

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Game designers love surprising the player. They call them “Gotcha” moments. The general assumption that this means the death of the player is not always true. A treasure or cutscene can be a surprise. The thing is, most designers are the diabolical type. A tad masochistic and definitely sadistic, we like watching player struggle on difficult tasks. Well, most of us do anyway.

One common surprise tactic is to have the “BAM, you’re dead” moment. This can be a falling rock, a hidden sniper, or a bridge that falls when you walk across it the seventh time. My level design professor once said that we should always be careful with such moments and make sure the player receives plenty of clues. If you are going to have a sniper hiding to get the player, have bullet holes on the wall, or dead corpses in the street. Then, from that point onward, you can play on the player’s fear. Want them to slow down and stop? Place some bullet hole decals and a corpse. Even without the sniper, a player who has died that way before will stop in their tracks and look around before proceeding.

World of Warcraft does this same thing, in a slightly left handed fashion. When the player begins leveling, the areas are safe, contained, and kind to the player. Once they hit about level 20, Blizzard slowly introduces the idea of “danger” to the player by having mobs tied to other mobs, so when you pull one, you always pull several. Nothing drives home the idea that you are not safe more than the random wandering Elite monster.

Elites are super strong monsters, generally named, that are designed to be killed by a group of players. This can be anywhere from 2 to 5 players. Commonly they are the goal of a long and complex quest chain in the area as well. As a designer, I can see that the point of such mobs is to teach solo players they can’t do everything alone. They need help. As a level 20 player, soloing and exploring, wandering across one of these Elites means certain doom.

WoWInsider posted about revenge being a dish best served cold at level cap. They talked about the various elites they encountered as they leveled that created interesting reactions in level capped players. As soon as I read the title, I smiled. They were talking about the Sons of Argual. Oh, not specifically, perhaps (the writer stuck to Mord’lam, an monster in Duskwood), but as a young leveling mage, the first time I ever encountered such a creature was a Son of Argual, in Silverpine forest. He had a tasty mage snack that day.

I learned to be careful. I learned to watch mobs that were moving. I learned to zoom my camera out as far as I could. And I learned that sometimes your only option is to run like hell for the road.

Much later, after two expansions, several level 80 toons, and a faction change, a friend and I were riding through Silverpine to go to Undercity to steal the fire for Fire Festival. As we passed the Sepulcher, I started looking for him. Sure enough, as we crossed the bridge, there he was, in all his level 23 glory. I dotted him with all my most powerful spells. His death was almost immediate. I mounted up to my friend asking, “What was that about?” “Just some unfinished business.” I responded. As an Alliance player, born and bred, he wouldn’t understand the hatred of this mob. But he would understand if it were Mord’Lam, the Fel Reaver, the Storm Giant, or any one of the other dozens of such Elites that patrol the world and make it perilous.

It is worth noting that this post has 9 pages worth of comments, an excessive number for WoWInsider. Many of which are a single name or “This” as a statement of agreement.

Yes, revenge is a dish best served at level cap. But even after 3 years, my anger at that NPC wasn’t cold. It was still red hot. But the wondrous truth is, we level, they don’t.

T Minus 2 days…

The first convention I ever went to was Quake Con. Which shouldn’t count. I had never played Quake. A week before, I didn’t even know what Quake was.

The conversation went down something like this: (At nerd video game school)

Professor: Remember to sign up for Quake Con. You will need to… *blah blah blah*

Me to student next to me: So… Quake… It’s a game?

Student: Are you kidding me?

Me: No.

Student: It’s like Doom. You’ve played Doom right? (slightly indignant)

Me: I’ve heard of that one!

What can I say? I’m an RPG kind of girl. Anyway, I went to QuakeCon and found it mildly interesting. A year later I would attend PAX for the first time… That was an event. I couldn’t believe it. The surreal experience of being in a place with 15000 other people just as obsessed about games as you. I recommend the experience to anyone who has never been to a convention. It will get you hooked.

Now, I attend 2 conventions every year. PAX and GDC. GDC is a smidge more work related, and gets me in the mood to make better games. When people ask me if I will go to Pax East or to Comic Con or something similar, I always say no. I can only attend so many conventions and those are the ones I pick. If I *could* go to another one, I would go to BlizzCon.

This year, thanks to sheer dumb luck, I get to go to BlizzCon. And I am excited in a way I haven’t been since that first PAX.

25000 people, all as obsessed about Blizzard as I am. True, many of them are there for Starcraft and Diablo, which I am less enamored of…. But many will be just as obsessed with WoW as I am.

The bond of camaraderie and instant connection will be present. The ability to strike up an impassioned discussion with a simple question “Horde or Alliance?” The simple fact that you will see hundreds of other people wearing shirts you wished you owned and shirts you DO own.

Being able to completely geek out over your favorite game knowing that no one will even remotely judge you. Things that would indicate mental illness anywhere else, indicate you are a fan here in this place. A chance to revel in our shared passion.

Now I get to do it at BlizzCon. My current holy mecca of conventions. I can’t wait.

Everyone is a little OCD

When WoW servers are down, members of the community flock to the Main Forums. Mostly to bemoan the down time, but occasionally to just talk about things they usually only talk to guild members about. These topics can be anything, from hidden places, to new changes, to why Warlocks are far superior to Mages.

One of these that recently caught my eye was: Funny Things You Do In WoW.

Everyone has their own unique quirks. Do you double check your pockets before leaving the house? Do you keep pressing the button until your car honks, plainly telling you “Yes, I am locked, please stop pressing the button”? I do these things. These and dozens of other little quirks, but it never occurred to me, I do these quirks online just as much as I do offline.

Of course there were the common responses like: Always jumping when entering an instance or Always carrying ammo and reagents in even numbered stacks for what is needed to cast it.

This of course got me to pondering all the little OCD things I do when playing WoW.

1. I always log off in an inn. WoW has a mechanic that boosts the amount of experience you can earn if you are “rested”. You earn rest by not playing that character. Rest earned is boosted if you log off in an inn. as a raving altoholic, rest is vital to leveling efficiently. So I always log off in an inn. This thought was so ingrained that as a level 80 toon, I will still do this, despite the fact I no longer need rest.

2. Jumping. Constantly. Much like millions of other players, I get some form of visceral joy out of pressing the space bar repeatedly and watching my little puppet immediately leap to respond to my command. Jump monkey jump! Dance monkey dance! Most players do this, especially people who play Night Elves or Blood Elves as they occasionally flip. I find when I go to play other games I will start hitting the space bar at random times. I am trying to jump. I don’t even think about it, I just try. I also jump when going off ledges, as soon as I mount a flying mount, and when riding through cities.

3. WoW has a ton of iconic lines. Through the course of the game, there are certain places you will go so many times that every detail of the location becomes ingrained in your mind. Some of these iconic lines are voiced, and so you hear them more that anything else. It gets to the point where you parrot the lines. One of my little ticks is every time someone says the first part of a paired line, I say the other. One of these is “Arise my Champion. At your side milady.” from Scarlet Monastery. It became a favorite of my friends to say around me so I would parrot the second line.

4. That’s my banker/auctioneer/trainer. I have very specific people I talk to in each city. I know they NPCs. But I like to think we have a rapport, and they will give me a better price than others. So I always use the same people. I also tend to go to the females. As a female gamer this tick makes a bit of sense.

5. /Wave. As a Warlock, I have a pet. I also have to worry about soul shards (or used to) and so when I want to dismiss my pet, I don’t dismiss him, because then I would lose the soul shard. So instead I change his setting to stay and then run away. When he despawns, I get my shard back. As I run away I wave good bye. Every. Single. Time. I like to think this makes me less of a jerk for abandoning him. I also /hug and /love non-combat pets frequently. My own and other player’s. /slap is reserved for my imp when he does bad things, which he frequently does.

6. One of the most disturbing things I constantly did was back in Burning Crusade when Warlocks had a talent that let them sacrifice their pet and gain a buff. So I would summon my Succubus, hug her, flirt with her, kiss her, laugh at her and then sacrifice her.

We all have our little ticks, but WoW players, much like other rpg players have their own little way of doing things. From organizing bags a certain way, to pull orders, we all tend to stick to a set pattern.

Novel November – Once More, With FEELING

Last year I took part in Novel November in that I worked diligently on attempting to just write a novel, regardless of how close to done it got. I tried to ignore things like factual representation and just tried to get the gist of the story down

I failed miserably on all counts. I didn’t finish it. The story ended up in totally the wrong place. I lost the feel about halfway through. I lost the feel of the characters and they morphed into totally different people. Writing is not easy. I would say it is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. And I make video games for a living.

So my plan is to try again. Once more, with feeling! and this time with a few minor adjustments.

Novel November will be proceeded with Prep-October. No actual writing will be done, but rather character profiles, outlines, and research. Then on Day 1, I will have a slightly more focused goal and attempt something better than just failing about typing the story as it comes to me.

Steelseries BlizzCon Sweepstakes

At some point in September Steelseries, the makers of World of Warcraft peripherals, hosted a sweepstakes. The grand prize? A trip for 2 to BlizzCon. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, two passes to the convention, and $300 spending money. For anyone who missed out on the ticket sales (or just didn’t get through), this was a last chance to maybe get to go.

I, of course, entered. Why not? I had nothing to lose and something awesome to gain. Not that I ever expected to win. Some of the lesser prizes were going to be the Steelseries mice, which I have wanted to try since I first saw them. But I am not shelling out that much money on a mouse I have no idea if I will like. I got my friends to enter as well, and joked that if they won, they had to take me.

The contest was a partnership between Steelseries, Jinx, Brady Games, and Cryptozoic. I have many of the strategy guides, despite them being outdated from the off. I collect the ccg despite rarely playing (I still want a spectral tiger), and I have bought so much WoW stuff from Jinx that I am a Champion on their little exp thing. If anyone deserved to win, I did.

I then promptly forgot all about it. After all, with 12 million players, my chances were pretty close to 1 in a few million. We are talking about the person who took 40+ runs to get a phoenix pet. There wasn’t any chance I was gonna win, so I didn’t even think about it.

Fast forward to October 8th. I am standing in line for Jury Duty. I am texting a friend discussing what I will do if I am not selected. She suggested something wickedly awesome and I replied with “That would be great! Well, thanks for jinxing me.” Laughing over this, my phone rang. It was this same number that had been calling me all week. I didn’t recognize it, and they never left messages, so as always, I ignored it and went back to texting. Then my phone buzzes again.

I have an email. From Steelseries. Asking me to please call them back, (that same number) as I had won a prize. I was shocked. Dude, I actually won something? The jury line moved forward. I was definitely gonna get picked now. It’s just the way my luck works. So I called the number back.

The guy on the other end was quite excited to finally talk to me and told me the good news. Our conversation went something like this:

Him – “You won a trip to BlizzCon.”

Me – “Seriously? Are you kidding me?”

Him – “Yes, I need to confirm your address, and we will get everything rolling.”

Me – “Seriously? Are you kidding me?”

Him – “Yes.”

Me – “Wait… I won the GRAND PRIZE?!?”

Him – “Yes. Do you still live at this address —-.”

Me – “I won the trip TO BLIZZCON?”

Lather rinse and repeat for the next 10 minutes while the line moved forward. I could feel that really wild adrenaline rush you get when you find out you got that awesome job, approved for a new car, or whatever seems exceptionally awesome. My hands started to shake. I couldn’t catch my breath and felt light headed. I got off the phone (almost to the counter now.) Turned in my paper work and sat down.

I was definitely gonna get picked for a jury now. And one of those long ones too. How was I ever gonna explain to a judge that I just won my dream trip and I needed to not be on a jury this month?

I texted my husband “I think I just won a trip to BlizzCon.” The same was posted on Facebook moments later. My heart beat even faster. Part of my brain was shouting, It’s a trick! It’s not possible! You roll ones on mounts and BiS gear! You have run Stratholm 155 times, with no mount drop! I tried not to get too excited.

A man walked up to the front of the jury room. “You are all excused. You shouldn’t receive another summons for 2 years. Have a good weekend.” Clearly, I had entered a portal somewhere and was in bizarro world.

I checked my mail on my phone, sure enough, there was a message from Steelseries explaining the plane tickets and hotel room. Now I had a dilemma, who was I gonna take? My husband, while obvious, doesn’t play WoW. He barely puts up with me talking about WoW around the house. My mind immediately flashed over people in my guild and landed rather quickly on one person. Pinecone. Pinecone has worked with me twice in the past, once even as my boss. Pinecone helped me power level my now main warlock. Pinecone heals Tuesday night raids. Pinecone and I commuted to work together for 8 months and talked about WoW nearly every single day.

I asked him on im if he thought his wife would let him go to BlizzCon. His response “I guess. WAIT. Are you inviting me?!?” Needless to say, he convinced his wife to let him come with me.

Now here we are. A week before BlizzCon. Plane tickets purchased. Hotel room paid for. Just waiting for October 21st. Waiting for BlizzCon. Every so often I remember I won and that moment of shock comes rushing back. I seriously can’t believe it, even now. I don’t win things. Ever. I didn’t get Muradin’s spyglass until everyone else who could use it had theirs. And yet, here I had won a Grand Prize, paid trip to BlizzCon of all places.

And if that weren’t just the icing on the cake, I was goofing off in Stratholm the same weekend and wouldn’t you know, the reins dropped. When it rains it pours I guess. Also, I really feel like I should pick up the mouse now. 🙂

Pandora, a few weeks later

First, I still love Pandora. However I no longer think it poops rainbows and unicorns. Regardless, it is still a great service and I would love to have it in my car.

Pros:

Wide wide variety of music, from any browser. I know this seems like a weird thing, but when you have a computer you can’t put iTunes on, it is invaluable that it runs through an internet browser.

Plays all the songs on an album, not just the singles. One of my biggest gripes with music today is that so many albums have 1 or 2 good songs, those are the singles, and the rest of the album is just meh. Pandora really helps get a feel for the whole album and artist.

Stations. Stations allow you to compartmentalize your music. You can thumbs down a song on one station and thumbs up it on another. This prevents the “all songs are equally valid” issue.

Info, lyrics, album covers, all right there. I found out one of my favorite songs on the radio is Coldplay. I am very sad about this, but man it is a good song.

Cons

If the service goes down, you don’t get to listen to music.

After a month songs that have been down ranked come back. Also so do artists. I really wish I could just say, don’t ever play this artist. On any station. Ever.

No way to say, play this song an annoying amount. You know the song I am talking about. That one that just cheers you up and makes your day better? Yeah we want to hear that one like 40 times. The normal radio does this, plays a song to death, so why can’t we have it on Pandora too?

Good run of bad luck. They really need to have something that says if I have just skipped or downranked the last 5 songs, play one I have up ranked next.

In the end, I still think Pandora is worth every penny and I love having it.

Annnnd we’re back

My site was apparently hacked in the last week or two. It seemed to be the work of some individuals who were showing off, or objected to the fact I am American??? I am not really sure. It didn’t make a great deal of sense and played some very loud music, so I didn’t hang out long to read it. Suffice to say it took me like an hour and a half to find all the changed files and change them back.

The funniest thing, to me, is that this even happened at all. My blog has a readership of like 4 people, ever. I mean, seriously, it was hacked for like 5 days and no one noticed. I would say I have *the* most unread blog on the internet, but there are probably ones that even the blogger’s own mother doesn’t read. (I think mine hits this like once every three  months or so.)

I get the mentality of hacking something to show off or “be awesome” but at least do it where someone, anyone, can see. This is the proverbial tree in the woods. It fell and made no sound. It was only by walking back into the forest that I noticed and went, oh hey, that wasn’t like that before. It seems like there are better targets, more challenging targets, and honestly, more interesting targets. I am under no delusion that nothing said here is fascinating, compelling, amusing, or even salacious. (On a side note I am now tempted to try and write said salacious post. It might be funny.) I spend 90% of it talking about WoW, and I wouldn’t even expect WoW players to read it!

Ah the absurdity of life.