Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category
Warning: This post will have spoilers for all three of the Hunger Games books. If you haven’t read them yet, you may not want to continue reading this post. If you get to the end, and are pissed that I spoiled something, I will simply remind you that the very first thing I wrote in this post was a warning.
My hands have had a bit of a set back the past few weeks. While the original issue has somewhat plateaued in the improvement department, about three weeks ago I developed additional tendon damage/injury to my left thumb/wrist area. While this has been highly disappointing, and the new injury has affected more than just playing on the PC (trying working with fondant when your hands hurt trying to soften it up or color it, or try shuffling a deck of cards when the action causes pain in your thumb), I’m trying to roll with the punches and facilitate as quick a recovery as possible. Which means that I’m not spending a lot of time on the computer and I am again spending a good deal of time reading, watching TV and doing other things.
I bring this up, because over the weekend as I sat and enjoyed one of the ten days of sunshine we get here in Seattle, I finished up the Hunger Games trilogy. In fact, I was so involved in them that Saturday night found me up way past my bed time trying to finish the final book (I sadly had to give up with about 75 pages left when I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any more). Anyhow, as I read through the three books and observed the changes in Katniss and the other characters I had some thoughts on them that I wanted to flesh out, and figured this is about as good a place as any to do so. Before I move on, I want to again remind you that I am about to enter into spoiler territory, and if you haven’t read the books yet, you may well want to stop reading this post now.
Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday morning I logged into WoW to do my daily run of Ahune. I have been doing this daily during the fire festival for the past four years. Why, you might ask, curious if I have some sort of fascination with killing frost elementals that take root in the slave pens. Well, the truth of the matter is that I’m an avid pet collector and in the four years that Ahune has purported to drop an Ice Chip I have yet to see one (I have the flame pet from the first two years – when you could farm them endlessly until one dropped, and endlessly I farmed). To say that I am disappointed at this point is an understatement. It’s pretty much become some cruel joke that makes me want to punch people in the face when they advise me that they’ve seen five, or have one on every alt, or got on the very first time they killed Ahune.
But the frustration with religiously running Ahune year after year for the hope that I will somehow obtain what is apparently unobtainable for me is really the tertiary take away from this post. What I want to talk a little bit about is a conversation that Brade and I had after my satchel, yet again, did not contain an Ice Chip. And that conversation is about the small things that push people away from a game that is nearing a decade of existence. Granted, this has been a topic on the top of my brain anyhow, but my continued pursuit of this particular carrot (the ice chip) and my failure to obtain it after four years of doing everything in my power to do so, seemed to just be one of a number of small, fairly neglected, things – and how they manage to stack up and become much larger problems. A snowball that turns into an avalanche…or something like that.
Basically, after being disappointed yet again yesterday (and again this morning), I said to Brade “you know, it’s the little things like this that would make me walk away from the game if I was no longer raiding”. And it’s true. It seems like such a small thing, one simple pet, but for me (an avid pet collector) to show up as I’m asked to do and do my part only to be rejected year after year, going on four years now, doesn’t really make me want to come back every day and keep trying. It makes me want to walk away and not look back.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic here. I’m really not. But as I looked at my empty bag last night, I thought on all of the hopes every year that maybe this will be the year. I thought about how I logged in every day over the Christmas holiday in hopes of seeing a lump of coal in my bag – yet never did – and sighed knowing that this would be yet another journey like the Ice Chip has been. And somewhere in all of that my brain kicked in and asked exactly what the hell I was doing wasting my time every year putting in so much effort for something that is so completely out of my control. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s things like this that are starting to make WoW lose a lot of the sparkle and allure it once had for me. Which, in turn, made me wonder if this would (or will) be the thing for me that makes me sit down at the computer and decide not to log in.
I mean, I feel that I’ve rolled with the punches for the past 8 years. I’ve relearned my class every expansion. I’ve completely relearned to heal twice now. I’ve survived a reduction in raid size, the advent of 10 man raids and LFR. I’ve handled a reworking of the talent system…and accepted that I’ll have to deal with yet another one in a few months. And I’ve done all of that with a positive attitude. But really, what does that matter? Because at the end of the day, the one thing I’d really like to have, that is stupidly important to me, and that I have been trying to acquire for four years, still eludes me. I get that RNG, and apparently my luck, sucks. And perhaps I could accept that answer for one or two years. But after four years of trying, it’s pretty much highlighted for me that the carrot is no longer with chasing. It seems such a stupid, small thing. And yet it has had such a pronounced affect on how I view the game right now.
I know it seems silly, almost ridiculous. I really do. But I’m just amazed at how much effort is put into keeping people happy on a large scale, and how little seems to be placed at the small things that will inevitably act as a catalyst, that tiny straw on the camel’s back, to push people away.
I made this cake for Brade’s brother’s birthday (inside joke), but I think it turned out really well!
There isn’t a whole lot new on the WoW front. We finished getting everyone a firehawk last week, so I can finally say that I am (mostly) done with Firelands! We have an out of guild tank that has been helping us for the past month-ish and so we will probably do one more run to send a firehawk his way as a thank you. But other than that, I think we’ve likely put that fiery lord to rest once and for all.
We are still trucking along clearing out Dragon Soul every week. And, honestly, I think that is note worthy. I know that there are a lot of people who have stopped this effort, and each week that we get a full raid team together to continue pushing through I am grateful. Ends of expansions are hard. Motivation is lacking. This year it has the misfortune to compete with summer. And, honestly, after seven months of clearing the same content to be able to come together as a team and do it one more time each week shows dedication. And that, in my opinion, should be heralded.
I am a little more than disappointed with beta testing right now. I am not going to lie, I’m sitting somewhere at level 88 (or like a bubble from it, maybe), and lost some desire to continue my level push when Diablo came out. It had long been my intent to make a pre-made 90 to hit the raid content when it became available. Except that they have started some of the raid testing, and announced that they would not have pre-made 90′s available yet. I was disappointed, to say the least, but started looking at my schedule to find some time to push my character to level 90. And then they announced the raid test times…which so far are all when I’m still at work.
I understand that Blizzard is in the same time zone that I am, and that they want their folks to be able to go home at a reasonable time every evening. But man does it really suck to want to be a part of beta testing for raids and realize that it’s not going to be a possibility because you are on the west coast and have a commitment that keeps you from being at home during testing times. That has pretty much driven any desire to continue to level to 90 right out. The reason to get to 90 was to get a feel for how my class plays in a raid setting at max level, and realizing that it is unlikely for that to be an option for me pretty much bums me out completely. Read the rest of this entry »
I just wanted to toss out a few quick (ha!) thoughts today regarding the Real Money Auction House (RMAH) in Diablo. For those of you who aren’t aware of what this is, basically it’s an auction house supported by Blizzard that allows players to sell gear from actual, spendable currency. The way it works is that you can list items that other people can purchase for real world money. You receive payment in the form of “Blizz Bucks”, that you can then cash out via paypal for US Dollars (or whatever your currency is).
I didn’t really have much of an opinion on the RMAH when it was announced, and didn’t have much of an opinion as the game released and it was delayed. However, now that I’ve gotten farther into the game and invested more time, I was surprised to realize that I had an overwhelmingly negative reaction to it when it went live yesterday. I think this stems from the fact that I have zero desire to pay money for items, or to use a second currency (blizz bucks) or a second auction house to advance my character in the game. I am already somewhat cash poor – and my gear upgrades on the AH cost an obscene amount of gold (I bought a ceremonial knife last night with mana regen and no IAS, that was a 1700 dps upgrade, for the bargain basement price of 500k gold). I am now worried that with the addition of the RMAH, and eventually the ability to purchase gold, that it is going to cause a massive inflation in the cost of items on the gold auction house to the point that you are forced to utilize the RMAH to obtain upgrades to your gear. Not only that, but I am now also forced to utilize a currency that isn’t innately found or earned within the game itself.
I understand that I can utilize the RMAH without ever investing a dime of my real world cash, but there is just something…offsetting about the whole process. I don’t even know if I can exactly describe why I dislike it so much. To me, the fun in the game has been playing it. Not farming the AH for steals and deals. Not “flipping” items on the AH. But actually participating in the game play itself; you know, going out and smashing things in the face with my dart gun and having my ass handed to me in return. I don’t want to be misleading, I’ve certainly used the auction house to acquire upgrades; but the auction house isn’t what draws me to sit down at my computer and log in.
I guess, ultimately, I have a sinking feeling that if I want to improve my character to its maximum potential I am going to have to participate in a system that I don’t think I agree with. There is just something…cheap about buying gear for real money. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned or short sighted. But I have realized that I pretty strongly feel that I should be able to earn my rewards through the time, effort and work I put into my game, and not through how much pocket money I (or anyone else) have to spend on any given day.
How do you feel about the RMAH?
One of the things that I have always been a pretty firm believer in has been the thought that gear does not make the player. During my time in WoW, I’ve seen some of the best players that I’ve ever played with school people in their blue gear; and conversely, I’ve seen some of the worst players that I’ve ever played with decked out in full BiS gear from the most recent tier. I’ve always felt it’s worth the risk to take a chance on an undergeared player with “potential”, because gear is easy enough to obtain, while skill is either natural or trained through hard work, desire and practice.
As such, one of my biggest pet peeves as a player is when someone writes off a lackluster performance because “I don’t have the gear” – and then stops any further evaluation of their play. While it is true, that gear can, and will, have some impact on your ability to perform, I feel that too often it’s a crutch that people lean on to explain away why they can’t become a better player. Too often I’ll look through logs where I will find areas to improve that are completely unrelated to gear. DoT uptimes that are too low, HoT uptimes that are too low, poor use of mana regen mechanics, a significantly lower number of cast/attack x, cooldowns that go unused. And yet, rather than understanding what a player can do to perform better, so many times they will lean on the crutch of “my gear”.
If I’m being perfectly honest, it infuriates me. I think the reason that I feel so passionately about it is because gear is a valid reason for lower performance, but it is rarely the only, or even the main reason. And yet so many people are satisfied with the excuse that their gear isn’t good enough to do better that they don’t take the time to look past it and evaluate what else they could be doing to improve as a player. And because of that I think that they are doing themselves a disservice.
Gear isn’t a crutch, it’s a reason to try harder and become a better player. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks back, I read a post by Graylo where he pondered the vitality of 25 man raiding as part of his “MoP Wishlist” series that he’s been writing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say in regards to the struggles that 25 man raiders have faced, and I do think that 25s are a dying breed. Throughout the course of this expansion I’ve watched guild after guild close their doors, many of whom I had great respect for and who stood the test of time and survived…until now.
Watching many long-standing, successful guilds shut up shop, and having first hand experience with some of the struggles 25s are faced with, I was already intimately familiar with the challenges that Cataclysm brought to guilds trying to retain a 25 man environment. Graylo, of course, put some numbers to his insights and speculations, but I don’t really think those numbers are needed to show that 25 man raiding is slowly bleeding out. Read the rest of this entry »
The seemingly black and white nature that exists between the mindset of “hardcore” and “casual” is something that’s been on my mind for a couple of months now. I think the first time that it tickled my thoughts was a few months back when I was having a conversation with someone who said “if you aren’t hardcore, you’re casual” and it stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t agree with that statement at all. In fact, I completely disagreed with it. I guess where I kept getting caught up in the logic was the immediate leap to the opposite, the complete black and white nature of the thought, with no room for the vast grey that falls in between.
The Space in the In Between
I’ve never really liked the terms “hardcore” and “casual” because of the stigmas that the community has associated with them and the fallacy of such terms, but whether I like it or not, they are terms that everyone recognizes and associates with. When most people think “hardcore” they think of guilds like Vodka or Paragon and when people think of “casual” they think of guilds who are content plugging through content at a much slower pace, often times not seeing things like “hard modes”. This is the black and the white. The complete opposites on the raiding spectrum. There is nothing wrong with either of them – they are just on different ends of the spectrum.
But I believe that it isn’t as simple as just black and white. I don’t think you have to be limited to being strictly “hardcore” or strictly “casual”. I think that there is a lot of room in that in between, a lot of grey that isn’t black or white. In fact, I’d almost wager that a great number of people in progression raiding find themselves in this in between area. Where they enjoy pushing content, but aren’t pushing it at a neck-breakingly fast pace – either because they aren’t capable of it or just don’t have the time to do it.
As I think about it more – I guess the question is “what defines hardcore”? Is it how fast you progress? Is it what you demand of your players? For me, I want to play with people that I enjoy being around and who have a vested interest in improving every night - even if maybe they aren’t always the best of the best of players. Does that make me “casual”? On the same token, I also expect them to avoid making repeat mistakes, to actively work to become a better player, to acknowledge when they’ve made an error and who want to progress through content while its current. Does that make me “hardcore”? Progression for me is fun. But playing with people who make the game fun because of who they are and what their personalities offer to that experience is also important to me. So where does that leave me? Can I have expectations without being “hardcore”? Can I have friends without being “casual”?
Honestly, I think it puts me pretty squarely in the majority of progression raiders and raid teams who fall on the cusp - somewhere in that in between. Do I sometimes desire more? Absolutely. But I also question the cost of such desires and ponder if paying Charon’s toll would be worth it when all was said and done.
So what do you think? Is progression black and white? Is there only “hardcore” and “casual” or do you think there is somewhere in between?
I wonder if there is magic in the air lately. Perhaps it’s just in my mind – but I’m doubtful that I’m the only one who has been sprinkled by a touch of fairy dust. Admittedly, I’ve been a devotee of Once Upon A Time, and have found myself hooked on Grimm. But I think I’m probably not the only one, or two separate movie studios wouldn’t be venturing into Snow White’s world.
But that’s okay, I’ve always been a fan of the Fairy Tale. What’s not to love? Good always triumphs over evil, the guy always get the girl, vanquishing evil along the way, and you can’t help but feel good at the end result. I’m sure that you are wondering where I’m going with this. Or maybe not, but I’m going to tell you anyhow. You see, I’ve been suffering some insomnia the past few nights, and last night to try and fight it I queued up Tangled and joined along as Rapunzel journeyed through the outside world. Of course, it was sitting right there in my favorites pile right next to Beauty and the Beast, and I could probably recite either show from memory, I’ve seen them that many times.
But as my sleep addled brain continued to work, and Tangled played on, I started to wonder what it is about the fairy tale that draws in so many people.
Is it the happy ending? Is that what we all ultimately all yearn for? Happily ever after? I mean, obviously the thought has merit and people buy into it, as Disney’s been selling it for almost a century. But is that really all it is or is there something more about the fairy tale that makes little girls, grown women and Julia Roberts playing a hooker dream of being Cinderella?
At first I wondered if it was the escape from reality that makes fairy tales so tantalizing, but the more I thought about it the more I felt that wasn’t really true. I mean, sure, wouldn’t it be divine if everyone had a Prince Charming that would ride up and sweep them away from life’s troubles – I mean even Pretty Woman grasps at this desire. But I wonder if the draw isn’t more the thought that evil can be conquered and overcome, and that’s something that we subconsciously cling to as we navigate our lives.
I’ll admit that as I lie in bed watching Tangled last night I was looking for…something. I’d had a long day. I felt pretty beat up on, and good lord is that high road exhausting. But why is it that when I’m feeling a bit weary, my go to is always some version of the fairy tale? Is it because I want Prince Charming to sweep me away and tell me that all of my problems have been solved?
As we watched this week’s episode of Once Upon A Time, I couldn’t shut up at how deplorable I found the Mayor/Evil Queen. Brade advised me “You aren’t supposed to like her”, to which I naturally responded “well, good! Because I don’t!”. But the bad guy is what drives most fairy tales, when you think about it. Without that evil antagonist, there would be no princess in need of rescue, no realm to save, no children to free from the gingerbread house.
And you know, not only do the bad guys get the best songs, but it’s also very easy to incorporate the people in your life who you dislike or struggle with into those positions. It’s not a big stretch of anyone’s imagination to cast manipulative, difficult people into those roles. And in a way, I suppose it’s a little cathartic – because in the end the bad guy always gets his. And in a world where “good” is keeping your head up and walking the high road and “evil” is hitting below the belt, I suppose it feels good to think that what goes around comes around and think that good always triumphs. Even if that isn’t always true.
Perhaps in looking at this brain dump, my inner-child is screaming to get out, or maybe I just never grew up. And I will admit that if a complete stranger rode up to me and grabbed me, even if he was my Prince Charming, I’d probably mace him, not burst out into song. But in the end, don’t we all desire (and can’t we all see) a little bit of the fairy tale in our lives?
This topic is actually something that has been on my mind quite awhile, and in fact was something I brought up back in November when I was chatting on the Blessing of Frost podcast with Vidyala and Kurn. Back in November I questioned why Blizzard felt so strongly that they needed 10 and 25 man raiding to be considered “equal”. Which, frankly, has caused almost insurmountable problems as they’ve struggled with tuning and class/role balancing trying to meet this seemingly unobtainable goal – often times to the detriment of the player and their enjoyment in the game.
Put your torches away, and let me explain what I mean before you decide to torch me.
WoW has changed significantly since I first pulled those five CDs from the vanilla box and installed the game on my computer. One of the things that have changed for the worse, at least in my opinion, has become this focus on the progression “race” – which is heavily perpetrated by guild ranking sites like WoW Progress and GuildOx. But I’ve opined on that previously, and I don’t really want to go into a rant on my thoughts here as I’ve done that previously. However, I do think it’s important to acknowledge this change because it plays into what I do what to discuss: The “equality” of 10 man and 25 man raiding, or more specifically why there is such a push to make them equal. Read the rest of this entry »