Monday, February 28, 2011

Nothing to report (yawp)

That must have been one of the worst (gaming) weekends in a long time. In addition to that, I had the lousiest nights for a long time due to the crickets we are giving to our pet tarantula. Those darn creatures were chirping the nights away, all the way from Thursday and most probably till unforseen future. Depends on how our Mexican Fireleg Tarantula is going to treat them: as food or as companions.

First things first. Due to some crappy decisions on the AH front, the balances tipped. Add to that the fact that I ended up purchasing two of the new meta recipes as well as expand the storage space on my mule by purchasing additional guild bank slot. One to go still, and I'm not using the newest one to the fullest yet. However, despite all the losses and very few gains, the final balance this morning was 161.735, which is only 1.7k less than last week. At the same time I have stockpiled quite a pile of Obsidium Ore for the shuffle at very low prices. So in addition to making some 16k profit to cover the recipes and bank tab, I have also increased my assets pretty considerably.

Still the shuffle is the majority of the income, glyphs bringing the basic daily income still. As it happens, the alchemy is becoming a viable income again, as the materials for the flasks and potions are becoming more reasonably priced. Transmuting is still there, though, as it has always been, as it is a part of the effective Ore Shuffle (prospect, cut/vendor, DE and transmute being the main aspects).

Due to the sporadicality of my free time over the weekend, I didn't get any real big sessions to run. A couple of better ones were spend in Rift, where my mage Copraf is making steady progress by closing rifts, killing invasions and trying to do some quests in the meanwhile. I also took Copraf 'out there' to explore areas I definitely shouldn't have been in, and got - to my surprise - a shard first achievement for an artifact I found. Exploration pays in the game, though not for long. It was fun, though, to be travelling in an area which is meant for characters at least 20 or more levels higher, where every step had to be thought out pretty much down to a spot to be able to proceed. Definitely going to do the same on the northern territories soon.

Which leads to the major problem: I didn't have my weekly Gnomore session. There are only two viable options: to try to see if I can do it today or to skip it for the week. I'm pretty much inclined to the latter, but we'll see how I feel later.

That's all folks for the weekend recap. Rift is a great game, WoW is still eating my time and I think I've found the guild I've been searching for - in Rift, not in WoW.

It's strange how life sometimes treats you and your gaming, eh?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rift headstart

I did the unthinkable and skipped the brotherly love. Then again, Bishop is having some serious renovation going on, so as far as I know, he shouldn't have been online anyhow. If he was, they (both my brothers) will smack me in real when we meet next time. Too soon, anyhow.

Instead of WoW, I spent the evening in Rift. Headstart opened yesterday, and to my big surprise there was no queue to Argent where I started my first 'real' Rift character. Copraf will be the Pyro/Ele/Archon style character I had in the early betas, but we'll see how far I can carry on with him.

Anyhow, the game worked flawlessly. The population was high to extreme, even the population density in the earlier betas wasn't this stiff in the starter areas. And still the game was working like a dream: next to no lag, no disconnects (on me) and definitely no performance issues. Like my youngest son said: "Dad, that Rift works even better than WoW now". Pretty big words from a ten year old for sure.

What I did. I didn't even hurry, even though I had to take a breath every now and then from the killing (Gnomore does have its effect). The starter area was done in no time, I even had time to put the UI together, tweak it and gain some nice views of the area. The graphics are just as unbelievably beautiful as ever, and the color schemes suit the theme. However, it remains to be seen if the areas have as distinct schemes as - for example - WoW has for different areas.

After I came through the time warp to the distant past to save the day (with dozens upon dozens other Ascended), I immediately took all the gathering skills. Better to be safe than sorry, and to show that I follow my own advice, that is. As it happens, I had only started the quests in the entry area, when the first Rift event started: at level 7 I rushed with other players to the Freemarch and we started a campaign to close the Rifts and defend the settlements against the invasions.

At one point I suddenly noticed that I had gotten to level 10 and most of the quests I thought I would have done were still still undone and over levelled.

Along the way there was a Iron Giant which spawned from one of the Death Rifts, which was of level 20+ as it showed only as question marks on all of our screens. Undoubtedly the public quest raid at that point consisted of a couple of full raids and it took us a better part of half an hour to cut that beast down. But it was worth every second of the battle, for the atmosphere was just unbelievable! There we were, group of player characters just above lv10 beating on a giant way above our level range.

To be perfectly honest, Trion had a perfect+ pre-launch for Rift. The event worked perfectly, the invasions were huge and furious (I don't remember that scale even from the open beta where they were tested!) and the game just worked all the time.

How long does it take before I get bored to the constant running from Rift to Rift, from invasion to invasion for the few meddling Planar Essences and other planar 'trophies'? I can't tell. But so far the game has begun with flying colours.

More important question to me, though, is this:

How long will it take before the general chat isn't filled with WoW references and comparisons...?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Newbie gripes

As I'm playing with the Auction House in WoW, I get awfully lot of WoW beggars asking for "spare gold". Like any respectable goblin would have any to spare, it's all MINE!!!

The most recent one stated exactly those words when he opened his whisper, begging for gold. That warrior was at level 19 and I told him that by that time he should have about thousand golds if he had played the game cleverly. His response was "No". 

I proceeded - very politely - to tell him that Gnomore had over 700g at level 17 without killing a single creature and without doing any of the quests requiring killing, only from gathering professions and selling the materials. I even gave him the Armory link to see for himself. 

And he disappeared.

I should have taken his name up, because I could have helped him to learn even more of the game, even mentor him onwards to become a better player than I am. Though with the beggar mentality that would have required quite a lot from my part.

Anyhow, as today is the beginning of Rift headstart, I thought I'd put up a memory list to all, each and everyone ever starting a new MMO. Not how to play, but how to maximize the money on the run. There are only few simple things to remember, things which are a second nature to all nomadic gamers out there.
  1. First of all, loot everything. The crap is worth every copper, silver or coinage the game has.
  2. Get bags to your all bag slots. You can never have enough or too much bag space.
  3. Get the gathering professions, unless you are sure which crafting professions you are going to take.
  4. Loot everything, gather everything. 
  5. Replace your bags with bigger ones whenever you can.
  6. Run a dedicated auctioning character aka AH mule to the nearest auction house and set it up for trade.
  7. Loot everything, gather everything and post everything except the worthless loot to the AH mule.
  8. Level up and enjoy life.
I think that covers the basics. The first time around I would suggest - however - to forget the mule and just loot, gather and sell as long as your bag space can hold the gathered materials and good unbound gear looted. You'll get to the nearest city soon enough to empty your bags to the bank or AH.

Happy adventures!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Social design and lack of it

I've been writing and discussing about the lack of social tools in WoW, though I could as well talk about them lacking in MMOs in general. It just happens to be so that the MMOs we play teach to do things in their way, and the teaching aspect can be very, very subtle.

We joke about "kill ten rats" quests, mention the few somewhat controversial quests on the repertoire (namely Kirin Tor torture quest in Northrend and the Aviana kill or release quest come to my mind right away) and may have noticed how the game teaches you to care only about yourself and steal, kill, murder and main in the name of fulfilling you quest. How WoW teaches you that it's ok to steal the half-empty glasses in Dalaran Inn to present them to a paying customer for a daily, for example.

All of this is in the category of social design. Not only the lack of control and consequences of the LFD PUGs, nor the inability to add cross faction players to friend lists (except RealID, I think), nor the inadequate and antiquated social tools presented in the game.

MMOs are based on the ever evolving Skinner Box, which just sucks you deeper into the hunt for new shiny gear, achievement, entitlement, making the players eyes shine and jaws gape like the ringing bell effect on Pavlov's dogs. In finer language, the operant conditioning in the game results the typical classical conditioning results in the players.

This is social programming, too. It makes the players do as the designer has planned the players to do when the game has been designed. As the players learn to do thing #1 from the beginning of the game, the designer can predict that the player knows how to do thing #1 when this player's character advances in levels. Due to this it becomes later on in the game to break the thing #1 causing something to happen. However, this is what happens in WoW this very moment: the game teaches the player to solo up and do it in style fast, and as the character 'comes of age' and reaches level cap, the rules are changed completely. Be social, group or leave.

In a twitter convo sometime ago Wolfshead asked a valid question: Why cannot we debate with the mobs? Why can't we take the culturally viable way of avoiding the physical confrontation and use non-violent ways to reach our target? Currently the social design of the MMOs in the market are more in line with the Milgram Experiment, where the designer has decided how the game must proceed and the player must follow that train of thought or quit. The torture and killing quests are just excellent examples on how - in my humble opinion - the game designers are using their power to teach, condition and change the players views wrong.

The further we go along the line, the more closer we come to the Stanford Prison Experiment, where the ones given the authority by their role became the monsters they originally abhorred. We have a sort of situation already, where the established guilds already dictate the non-guilded players fates quite by a whim and in fact use their power pretty casually. "If you don't like it here, you can leave" is a very common statement in a guild if someone proposes a change or asks for an explanation for something.

Power without responsibility is violence.

If the game design teaches everyone take care of themselves, the designers cannot expect the players later on to take the stand and take care of each other. Especially if they make it clear that only one can get the leet loot and epics in a raid, when some have to settle for the greys and coins.

Also the MMOs currently have very binary quest system: either you take a quest or you abandon it. If you take it, you get reward. If you choose not to take it, you get nothing. What if there is a quest chain in which you get into a moral conflict with the story and would like to take another approach? No, you either continue and do 'wrong'/against your morals (or your character's) or you decline and lose the rewards.

The binary Yes/No choices are way too ancient for the current games and there should be more ambition in the designer/coding side to get around this crap. Already in the early adventure games there were multiple choices to go along, so why couldn't the current MMOs have even rudimentary set of choices to be presented?

Also the social aspect of reputation and factions is laughable at best. The effects of ones actions should have repercussions ingame, on the NPCs and factions far more tangible than currently. The social minigames like the persuasion in Morrowind/Oblivion could serve as a starting point, add a few nuances and see how it works.

Anyhow, I could rant on forever. I think it would serve the MMO or RPG designers and/or companies to have at least one person with sociologic and/or psychology as a background to help in the design from this side and point of view.

At least this way the game design could change towards more socially engineered instead of more achievement oriented.

Do you have any other suggestions on how the social design could be changed? Regardless of the players, of course...


Call has been answered

So Naithin and Gordon have answered my call for their dream MMO setting, both in their unique style and tact. I'm still waiting for the one from Larísa, the one she promised to do at some point or another.

That'll be worth a snatch post in itself, for sure.

For now, go and read what Naithin and Gordon have to say about their dream MMO (setting).


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cheated by the mechanics: Gnomore

Gnomore pictorial 19-22.

Long and winding story short, Gnomore made it from Duskwood to Ratchet in one run and lost the status of clean slate due to game mechanics. Yes, Gnomore is not clean and 'kill less' anymore.

I won't go through the rest of the adventures except for these two pictures, which show I struck my two 'main' objectives:

The rest of the story goes to telling how Gnomore the Pacifist became Gnomore the Shameless Killer Bastard.

Pretty soon after gaining the mount(s), Gnomore headed towards Loch Modan. Along the way there is a camp at Helm's Lake, in which there is a quest Entombed in Ice: You have to rescue six Dwarf Mountaineers from Ice Blocks into which they have been entombed by the shameless Tidal Elementals (or something).

Naturally it's on Gnomore's genetics to go and SAVE people from fate more horrible than dead. Without a second thought Gnomore started banging the Ice Tombs into pieces.

This should have been a warning sign.
Without thinking it any further, Gnomore just bashed the Tombs into smithereens, saving the suffocating Mountaineers on the way.

"Frozen Mountaineer gasps for air and shivers from the cold."
On the third one - after getting several records on the highest damage done, I checked the kill board.

Alas, it was too late: third Mountaineer rescued and three kills done! I was speechless, powerless and dumbfounded. After the initial shock I got infuriated. Crappy game with faulty mechanics, posing that the Ice Tombs are CREATURES which you KILL. Stupid Blizzard!!!

So the quest killed my kill board, making it six "uncategorized" creature kills (as seen in the Armory page), and made me seriously doubt if it's worth to continue this project. 

Lies, damned lies and statistics.
Despite of my doubts I decided to play the full session and I found out that even though the game itself spoiled the actual fun by luring me into "killing" in the game terms, it did very little to my joy of playing the character. Even more so, as I got the mount and got into travelling more, I got back into the joy of discovering new sights and if you add Archeology to that equation, you can see the amount of potential fun for this character.

In the end, Gnomore was left into Ratchet, with a bit over 1k gold in his pocket and some archeological finds in his stash.

I leave you with this stern looking professional and final thought.

Should I really continue with Gnomore or start a new one?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Clean slate no more (yawp)

Like I have tweeted every now and then: I QUIT! That summarizes the weekend, totally. That pointing to WoW, Rift - which had it's 7th beta and I was playing that, too - not being in question.

Ok, that out, we can proceed according the plan. I have accumulated 163.447g, which means I have gained a bit over 11k over the week. Which is in fact a fault assumption, as I went and purchased a certain new meta recipe for 17.5k in hopes of making some money out of the cut. This was the first reason I want to quit: it failed miserably, and instead of making almost 30k plus I netted only 11k.

The prices of Obsidium and Elementium Ore have risen noticeably over the last week, their supply has diminished from the original and this results in the common and rare raw gems being less and less available. This should count as rising prices, but no. The only one worth anything is the gem required for the daily, the price of Hypnotic Dust and Greater Celestial Dust have gone very low so the disenchanting route is not as profitable as it used to be: in normal situation it should be the other way around. In lack of supply the prices should go up!

Anyhow, I have split my time in between my main server and the server my son is playing. He took up on a Deathknight and has this uncanny habit of spending all the money accumulated on the character in few poorly placed purchases. Granted, he's only 10 with next to no understanding on the English language, but still he's topping the DPS in the dungeons he goes to with LFD tool.

So I took on generating him enough money to get him the flying mount and both skills: the artisan riding needed for flying in Outlands and the Old World flying. The server is very much different from the one I'm in, but the result was that as this toon was levelling his gathering skills from naught, he finally got about 700g in two days to pay for his flying. That was the great end for the weekend.

What amazed me over the weekend is the fact that there are recipes in the game which are not available in the game anymore. Like the already rare pattern of Deviate Scale Belt or the cooking recipe Soothing Turtle Bisque which you could get only through a quest. You just cannot get them from the game anywhere, except from AH in the lucky shot when someone happens to post them in. Usually the prices should be outrageous, like 100k or more, but that depends on the server.

The amazing part is this: you can still get those recipes from AH for as low as 60g, 10g or even as low as 15s if you're lucky. That's because there is nothing in the tooltip telling that the recipe is not available in the game anymore!

And that's not all that is missing from the tooltips. The major I QUIT thing happened when I was happily adventuring with Gnomore. This one quest in Dun Morogh requires you to free dwarves from icy tombs they have been stuck in by some elementals. So I started the quest, banging the tombs to smithereens and found out that the bloody icy tombs count as creatures! So I lost the reason to level Gnomore any further for his "creatures killed" count states six (6) killed, unspecified, creatures.

There was nothing warning about this, nothing pointing out that this would count as a kill and I really feel that this bloody game mechanics have failed me and my project. I'm not starting over, so I'm on the verge of quitting the project and I'm strongly contemplating quitting WoW except for the three stooges evenings.

What's the point, if the game screws you in the eye at every turn, one way or another?

Should I keep on going with Gnomore in spite of this set back?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stooges with a headache

Despite Tobold trying to explode my visitor counter, I will stick to the schedule I have now established on my mind.

Yesterday was yet another Three Stooges night. The holy trinity of warrior (lv83), priest (lv84) and rogue (lv84) entered Stonecore with all the confidence in the known world to overcome their nemesis from the earlier attempt: Ozruk. For the record, we still feel - even more so - that this instance is easy for a full group, let the composition of the group be anything. If we can do it with such an ease as far as we do, the a full group should just do it.

Corborus was really a pushover and Slabhide was just another boss dragon with it's own dance moves. In the end, the trash mobs provided more entertainment value due to their uncanny way of getting some adds to the fight. This one ability proved to be the one we couldn't later overcome.

But let's continue with the dungeon delving.

After Slabhide there comes the passage with the mobs and sentries. Nothing strange in there, kill the sentries as fast as possible or face the consequences: they call ALL the mobs to protect the High Priestess. Carefully we disabled the ones which might have caused any further trouble (or so we thought) and faced our nemesis.

We banged our head on this rocky fellow time and again. Running around like chicken in heat. Pulling those extra mobs while running from the Slabhide teleporter, the ones we thought wouldn't cause any trouble. And wiped once more.

Until this one particular warrior, Laiskajaakko (his player, in fact), suddenly had an realization that you do not have to run from the Ground Smash, just side step. So instead of running around from the Shatter Blow and Ground Smash, you have to pull away only from the first and NOT MOVE OZRUK.

Stupid player that guy. Heard he's writing a blog or something. Real git.

All this and some more, the next try resulted.

Yes, Ozruk was down. And the only reason it took us so long was this stupid tank person who couldn't read the signs and interpret the graphics on this fight.

On we went, through the meaningless bunch of the Cultists, until we met Her.

High Priestess Azil. The fight is really a simple one for a bigger group, as ranged dps can do her damage all the time. We - on the other hand - are lacking two dimensions of dps in our group: ranged and area. Both of which would be nice to have in this one, making life just a bit easier.

Needless to say, this fight is messy and not too satisfactory.

And the conclusion pretty clear.

In short: the Three stooges are lacking some serious damage dealing on Azil, and our tank has to learn more about grabbing the aggro from the healer. The major cause to the headache resulting wall banging was the fact that the healer was being pounded by the Cultists, while the tank was being Power Gripped and unable to say "Cheese!". The main reason for the frustration on High Priestess Azil encounter was the fact that no changes we made to our approach gave us any noticeable advance in the encounter: everything we did to change the result was in vain. On Ozruk we saw from the beginning the problems and could work on them, but here... nothing sticks. It just bugs the living daylights from us.

Like the song goes, she bangs, she bangs. But not for long, for as Förgelös (the rogue) said...


Thursday, February 17, 2011

What would you like your MMO to be?

I have been pondering over the question of what story, IP or background I would like to see a MMO done. The setting of the game.

As it happens, as we bloggers and gamers generally are quite heavy consumers of different medias, I'd like to put  this challenge on some of the bloggers I greatly appreciate. So if it wouldn't be too much to ask, I'd like to see what would Gordon from We Fly Spitfires, Naithin from Fun in Games and Larísa from Pink Pigtail Inn would like their MMO be designed on. No, this is not a meme, but feel free to share the pain!

To clarify my question, I have to tell what I would like to see. I have earlier described my perfect MMO and in that post I have stated that I'd like to see a mysterious secret society setting a'la Lovecraft, and as it happens the Secret World is based on that premise. So I had to have one look at my bookshelf to understand that there is but one possibility. One perfect setting for a compelling MMO.

Urth of the New Sun MMO.

Gene Wolfe created a magnificient world, a living, thriving and very much compelling set of communities and events with unbelievable monsters, creatures and conflicts. Not everyone gets to be the young torturer who becomes the leader - and cause of destruction - of the world, but the mere living world itself calls for exploration.

I would like to have a character roaming the war ridden wastelands on a destrier, to wield a light lance and see the dream eaters. The sheer size and mystery of Urth is calling my intelligence, and this game couldn't be anything but hard, harder and time consuming. Talk about having WOW! in a game, this would have the constant amazement of a world freshly created.

It could be even set into the four year time when Severian is doing his off-world pledge to revitalize the sun, only to end the whole game to the catastrophe commencing after his return. The sense of wonder in combining the pre-space flight wonders with the wonders of the universe after the space faring culture has collapsed is just presenting unimaginable possibilities.

What backstory would you like to play as MMO? What would be YOUR dream setting for a MMO?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gnomore: From Dawn till Dusk(wood)

Gnomore pictorial 17-19.

So, last time we left Gnomore to Redridge, sitting in the Inn. My great big intention was to let him rest over the week and then go out and about and get that Lunar Festival suit on him. However, over the week I suddenly got this feeling that I might not be able to visit Moonglade in time to do that, so I made a quick run over and...

Got the suit! And found out the flight point, set out there nearby the entrance to Timbermaw Hold, tunnel leading to Winterspring and Felwood.

After which Gnomore did some sailing and arrived to Stormwind in one piece, in one nice piece of clothing.

Even though I've stated that I won't be using the dailies to level up too much, I still had to see how the cooking and fishing dailies work for the lowbie character. To my - positive - surprise, they work exceptionally well, as you can see from these two pictures.

Got the dailies done, got the rewards and got a level. Not shabby for a half an hour extra. After which I checked the mailbox, only to find out that Gnomore had gotten some 120g richer than before: even stronger evidence on the fact that money is abundantly available in the game to everyone taking the first step to sell stuff in AH.

Fast forward back to Redridge. As you may have already noticed, Gnomore has been more or less running around, like a heated bunny on a cool summer day. This mounted - and dawned to me - as soon as Gnomore started to plunge deeper into the Redridge area.

Oh, crud! Herbalism at cap, I had forgotten to check that while in town to train it. Needless to say, it was time to hearth back to civilization to get this done.

Double crud!!! In the running around I had also forgotten to set my hearthstone to Stormwind instead of Darnassus! Oh, what a loooooong day this was about to be. To cut the pictorial story shorter, I trained, sailed, ran and sung sad songs found some nice recipes to sell in the AH before embarking to Redridge. The pictorial part shows you that I'm adamantly convinced that the game deliberately tries to hinder my travels by putting both herbal and ore nodes to such places that there is a bodyguard right next to them: be it bear, wolf or an eel underwater, there is always a bug to bug Gnomore there.

The bright side was - though - to be of help to a little girl who had lost her necklace.

Helped her with a ding.

As Gnomore started to work around Redridge, I got a bit sidetracked... and found myself in the Blackrock Pass, staring out into the higher level area. Of course I had to get Gnomore there, in little pieces if nothing else worked. It turned out that that was the only way in the end...

But finally Gnomore was there!

At this point I remembered where Gnomore was supposed to be, so I flew him back to Redridge and continued from where I had initially found out that I had not trained his gathering skills properly. There are extremely interesting - and daunting - orc settlements in the area, with Black Dragon Riders and all, but I didn't that put Gnomore off. After some careful planning, several avoidance maximizing side steps and - surprisingly - no running back, this was a sight for sore eyes.

Friendly faces and kinred spirits hiding at the end of the known world to rescue! After gaining yet another (third) flight point in the area, Gnomore set off and... I'm convinced that the game is really being nasty on me, making my finger twitch for the Smite, Holy Fire and all things that kill, maim and cause discomfort.

Well, off Gnomore went anyhow. After circling around the area, I found a very, very disturbing sight.

I don't know about you, but to me this was a very hard blow in the face, gut and all. You see, this is the first time I - at least consciously - encounter extreme brutality from a player faction, rather than from the NPC faction. I can generally understand that the demons and fell creatures do brutal things (like burn people to crisps just for fun, or leech the lifeforce out of them to power their engines or pay the player characters to do their torture... no, forget the last one!), but to make the player to believe that it's ok to treat the other player faction this way... not cool. Maybe the mentality I'm having while playing on Gnomore is starting to rub on me, but I don't find this proper in the game anymore.

Granted the game is rater 12 and above, but still. As I haven't played much on the horde side, I don't know whether there are similar brutalities in the game, at least I don't remember seeing such as I was playing on my undead hunter alt way back after Shattering struck. I feel it was cleaner and in "a not enjoying this but we have to revenge" way tolerable.

The discussion aside, Gnomore finally made the exploration and I guided him to Duskwood, where he's resting from the hard days work, just few thousand short of next level. Which will be 20, mount and Archeology!

I wish you take the time to go through the pictorial, for this was just a condenced version of the whole and there are some pretty nifty pictures not shown in here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Moron is slacking

Just a short note.

I don't feel like updating on Gnomore just now. I will do that later. Meaning later this week.

Boy is the game taxing, especially this off-game game.

Off with this picture:

The moron is slacking. Sorry for that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hits and misses for Valentines (yawp)

What a bewildering and confusing weekend.

First of all, a market report: my alliance toons on my main server are sitting on 151.671g, which is more or less spot on +30k to the one I had last week. All this from some enchants, glyphs and Obsidium shuffle. What is interesting is the development of Obsidium Ore stack prices: I've been purchasing them at average price of 72g per stack over the week (even for 57g at one point), but now the stack price is over 100g. This makes the shuffle a bit more challenging, but not a shabby income in any case. To add some insult to this injury, I haven't been utilizing the shuffle to the fullest: I still have almost all rare gems in my AH, so if the bad comes worse, I can still sell them either raw, cut or even transmute them to Shadowspirit Diamonds and sell them on nice profit this way.

As 4.0.6 introduced the new meta recipes, the gem market has gone wild and the raw uncommon gems have sold at very interesting prices. Most probably due to the alchemists transmuting everything to Shadowspirit Diamonds, which - naturally - have lost a good chunk of their price due to increased supply.

The other hit I had was when I travelled to Dalaran with my alchemist/jeweller to obtain my first (and with that price the only) Ring of Kirin Tor (Ouch! 7k gone in the wind!). As I was just about to leave and in fact had started my hearthstone, I noticed that the Kaluak Fishing Derby just started. While I have never taken part of any of the Fishing Events in the game, I decided to pop in and see what comes. So I swooped down from Dalaran, headed to the river and started fishing from the schools of fish. I was on my third school, after I had cast about twelve times, when I got the price fish. As the winned hadn't been announced, I flew up and...

I won the Derby! On my first ever try I came, saw and won!

Beginners luck, I just didn't even realize the meaning of the achievement. I just picked the nice account bound levelling ring and was just hearthing out when the first congratulations came from a druid who just missed returning the fish by few seconds. As I got back to Stormwind, I got two whispers: one asking what was my fishing skill (it was 318+20 from the fishing rod) and where I had gotten the fish. The other one was a lengthy discussion with a druid who had been hunting for the achievement for a long time and still couldn't understand how I had won. When I finally got him realize that it wasn't the skill (he had all the best fishing gear, capped fishing and even all fishing enchants on plus the lure!), he thanked me twice and off we went. It was at this point that it really dawned on me: friggen A, I had won the Fishing Derby!

The PUG runs of the weekend were all from the lousy side. With my druid at level 64 the few instances I ran were all in Coilfang and the tanks were from all over the scale. One DK who really didn't know what he was doing, running around in Frost Presence and claiming to be a tank. Another - again DK - who was otherwise performing great, but running ahead of the group and not paying attention whether the healer was around or not - he learned the lesson after the second time HE died and the rest of the group stayed alive. And a tankadin, who worked like a thought: thoughtful, checked - silently - that everything was ok and pulled the mobs in orderly fashion. The rest were something not worth mentioning, strong silent groups with no social interaction.

The social stuff got the final draw of the week from a lv72 DK who whispered to my DK who was just purchasing the auction house dry of Obsidium Ore. He started very directly, asking what was my DPS and rotation for my Unholy spec. After I answered, he continued that where I had gotten the rotation from. After I answered... no further contact. No thanks, no okies, no nothing.

No manners.

Which leads to Gnomore. I had a blast, even though he didn't break the magical level 20 yet. Explored the Redridge Valley area and found out that the game definitely is bugging me with all the rares when I cannot kill them.

Anyhow, today being the Valentines Day, I present you the Valentines Greetings ala Blizzard.

For those not too shy, the next one without the censoring speech bubble...

And finally, the last one from the behind, to make the point even clearer.

Happy Valentines to you all admiring Blizzards way of appreciating good taste and common decency!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stooged in Stonecore

Deepholm. Lovely scenery, interesting story and Stonecore.

Three Stooges had been warned about the instance time and again, that it will be the one that will challenge the group. Having only one level 84 (Bishopgeorge) and mostly in greens and select blues the trio embarked on the trip to the challenge land.

The initial shock was short and sharp. The rag-tag group of five turned into a mess of twelve, as everyone seemed to aggro everything. Score 1 for Stonecore and Millhouse the Mad Gnome.

But as accustomary, the Stooges learn from their mistakes. The next time wasn't as trivial, and as we started our slow trek into the depths of the Core, we noted the skills, damage and peculiarities of the mobs. Without hesitation - and needless dying - we encountered Corborus.

Believe or not, Corborus was a snack to our professional group, not even sweat broke on this first try. It was too easy, considering the level, we stated, not noticing the mockfull tone in our comments.

Onwards and deeper we went, and on to the Slabhide. Lovely dragon, who's breath is really, really bad. She should really make an appointment with a dentist and do something to her reflux problem.

As usual, our group of professionals couldn't find a proper - nor unanimous - way to conduct the battle.

This fight was interesting, not only because it had a lot going on simultaneously, nor because we took the spanking like three man do, but because as we returned to the instance, the encounter was locked. The impenetrable wall was blocking our way to Slabhide, who may as well be a he.

Out we went, repaired, reset the instance and in again. This time Corborus did a trick to us and emerged from the side of the cliff after his first dive and caused us some trouble.

And then the world fell apart. Three quarters of the WoW EU population were kicked out of the game, without the option to re-enter. That meant that our meager group was reduced to one, Laiskajaakko, while the two others were locked out of the game. As it happens, this affected the whole server and later I learned that it affected the whole EU area. Better part of the guild raid running at the same time was kicked out, and as Laiskajaakko took off to do some mining in the meanwhile, it seemed that a good part of the mobs were having a vacation, too.

Anyhow, the situation resumed later and we proceeded with Slabhide. She's a beauty in the end, as we found out.

Down and down we went, and met our next obstacle. Barrier. The wall to bang our heads on.


We tried, we fought and we... failed.

One or two tries were very close, and it was just the final punch that was lacking. We were certain as we logged out, that we could do it, easily, given the difficulty so far. Remembering how Lady Naz'jar was our nemesis earlier, Ozruk will be done next time.

All in all, the Three Stooges are certain that the difficulty of the instances as such is too easy. If three can handle Stonecore on their first visit there ever like this, how can five fail?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

You get what you give

Social contacts require effort from both sides of the fence. As mentioned yesterday, we are prone to form our own microcommunities within the game with the people who think similar, who have same kind - if not same - goals in the game, thus sharing similar - if not same - values. As Wolfshead explained in his excellent, though lengthy post, the MMOs are still viewed as shared social experiences. Where as the earlier games, like EQ, were so hard that you had to co-operate and thus you formed friendships through the must, the game design now relies on the activity and willingness of the participants to form those connections. If there are no measures to check the values or aims of other people, there is no way to know if the possible contact is a match or not.

Now I can hear comments on this that there are no such things in real life either. I must disagree: we connect with the people within the same context. You do not go to a bar in which you feel yourself uncomfortable, nor do you attend to a hobby you don't like. You select with precision the context in which you want to meet people and form new contacts.

One might think that the context in MMOs is already there: everyone is a player of the game, everyone wants to play against the big bad boss, everyone wants to have the shiniest leet gear.

But it isn't so.

Even though in MMOs everyone aspires to be the hero, there are none. In its base, a MMO is a virtual simulation, and within the context of the game design, game mechanics and the game setting the simulation is pretty much open for interpretation by the user, player. Thus there are several different ways to use and enjoy this simulation. For certain, a roleplayer wouldn't enjoy the company of a raiding guild, or the hardcore AH goblin the company of a slow leveller without money. All of them would try their best to find the subgroup they fit the best.

As Larísa mentioned in her post, you get what you give and if you are socially active in the game, you get social group around you. From my experience in WoW and the servers I've been actively in (granted, not at level cap in any except my main), this doesn't hold true. It can't be like it was mentioned in Wolfshead's post, that the social game enables the end game raiding, and that the social game starts when you reach the cap.

Then again, yes it can. But my humble opinion in this is that in this case the game has failed. It's the same as the newcomer playing a dps because its fun and fast to level reaches the level cap only to learn that s/he should play as a tank. Or that the new character levels up fast, only questing, only to learn that he should learn how to play in groups (and learn to use more than the three-four skills he has used so far).

The game design has failed the player in that case. And the effort required from the players part at this point is more than required for having fun.

I can take Gnomore as an example: he's the social me. In every turn I encounter people in my adventures, I toss a buff on them, maybe greet them and every time I see people needing assistance, I help them. Like yesterday, when I did the cooking daily in Stormwind: there were four characters standing besides the cook in an Inn, waiting for the Confectionary Sugar to materialize. What they didn't notice was the fact that the bag of sugar appeared at the cellar in that particular Inn. So I went, picked it up and as I came up I said to them that go down, sugar is there. Result:
* One said "thnx"
* Three just rushed by
and that was it.

Of the several buffs I've tossed around, the only thanks came from a level 85 night elf priest, whom Gnomore met boarding the ship to Stormwind. Which was kind of amazing.

But the overall results, even when Gnomore tries to discuss with others is very much in vain.

It is useless to say in this context that you get what you give: the community itself is already shut inside their own little micro communities, tribes within tribes, shunning anyone outside their own. The game design lacks the meeting places and reasons for people to mix and match, to find new contacts and the opportunities to make your mind about other players.

Then again, for the majority of the players this is no brainer: why bother because I'm content with the guild I'm in. It is the perfect case of "Someone Else's Problem". At the same time players are telling their stories how they - as a guild, raid or group - have overcome this and that, done miraculous feats in the game and came out of anything as a group attract new players to the game, who are faced with the one simple guiding line.

You get what you give.

Now where is the support or route for these players to get where the established players who have been in the game for years are now? Where are the tools and possibilities to match the similar thinking, already established players in the game?

What are the options of the new player - or the one outside the social groups - to find one most suitable for her/him?

Now there is something to think about, outside your own box and comfort zone.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Deeper into the community

I've been reading about work place cultures lately and formation of different types of cultures. The fact is, these theories and studies, when done and written properly, are more or less transferable to any group of people involved with similar interests.

Thus I've been making some connections with the stuff I've been learning for work and with the Metropolitan Players post I made a while ago. In that post I compared the current state of WoW population being that of a population of a metropolitan city: busting with action and no interest or concern over what the passerby is doing, thinking or planning. In the worst case this goes as far as the random dungeon experience, where you easily treat the other player characters as moderately working AI characters.

As in all societies or groups of people, there are bound to form structures. Call them tribes, creeds or guilds. The stuff that drives these groups forward is the motivation to work for a common cause. In special circumstances these groups of people will exceed the individual level of expertise of its members, but usually it is the lowest nominator which states the achievable results.

In MMOs - and in WoW particular for being so huge - the problem is to show the values of the guild to form a tightly knit group of individuals willing and motivated to work together to the fullest. Usually the guilds are advertising with the general terms like "nice social levelling and raiding guild", "good mature guild" or "mature group willing to raid later on". Very seldom - if ever - you will actually see something stating about the values or aims of the group in question.

Due to this and lack of general social tools in game, it is neigh impossible for a player outside of a group they feel their own in spirit to find one. There are no actual meeting places to find like minded people save the dreaded guild hopping from one to another till something clicks. The LFD tool took the last bit of server reputation off of your shoulders and at the same time took away the only spot where you could have made those connections with people on the same server, which might have given you any sort of direction to look for a group with same thoughts about the content or life in general.

WoW community, which is so much discussed everywhere every now and then is in fact an infantile community. It revolves around the Me, Myself and I in the elitism and respect, with certain aspects from This Game Sucks and My Game Sucks. For well performing guilds, which are not driven only for the individual gain of the GM or an elite officer group, it may go to the common good ground of We Are Good.

For the lonely soldier in the levelling trenches, to find that group in which one can state that We Are Good is a part time job alone. For it is not enough to feel that I Am Good, when the ones you are bound to be compared are already raiding at highest level with their own special group.

Especially when there are no connecting points in the community to introduce yourself, your personality, your skills and your abilities to the groups desperately seeking a team player.

The groups seeking a specialist are in another pit: they can get the specialist, but what might be the personality and how will that fit into the group?

And will it be determined fast enough to avoid any damage?

MMOs at the moment are enjoyable group endeavors to those who travel within their own social contact group. They are a massive single player game to those who are not in any existing group, and there are less and less possibilities to find people with similar mindset in the typical DIKU mud due to the achievement oriented power levelling culture which is present in the games. Like the destination is more important than the journey, the way it IMO should be.

It is not the destination that determines the hero, but the journey during which his integrity is put on test.

Maybe public quest types can be of some remedy to this?


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Curious case of Gnomore

Gnomore pictorial 16-17.

Gnomore started this time from Darnassus and cashed out some AH sales. Now he's sitting on 440+g with some sales in AH and gaining more ore and herbs to sell as he goes.

Now there is the Love is in the Air going on, and even though I resent the whole thing of seasonal events and daily quests, Gnomore took on doing the Something Stinks chain. As stated earlier, Gnomore was about to go back to Elwyn Forest to continue the adventures and seek for more Lunar Elders. This was a lucky shot as such:

Needless to say, there was a lot of running about to catch the big bad culprit of the pheromone scents. Firsts running, then some awkwardly familiar gobling phrases.

This does remind of a certain sociopathic goblin blogger, doesn't it?
Then it was off to Elder coins. Which in turn lead to a quest in Westfall which really is an annoyance: it forces the player to kill homeless. There were a couple of these revelations over this play session: first a quest which teaches the player to be selfish to succeed and then the one to beat up the homeless people.

Now the annoyance part of the latter comes out if you don't want to beat up the homeless who gets pretty irritated in your questioning her or him about the murder on the road. You see, you cannot outrun them. They follow you till you die. Abandoning the quest on the run doesn't help, the mob is neutral to all so the guards don't help and you cannot fly because you are in combat.

And even after that, that homeless damsel stays guarding your white bones till you run away.

How fun and enticing is that for a dedicated fan.

Later on I got to Redridge, where the player ushering has been taken to the right direction.

Yes, your presense triggers the NPC's to speak to you, giving directions to the next quest giver rather than just having a quest to go to talk to the guy. Granted, you lack the few exp for not having the quest, but then again, it's repaid in the next quest reward.

In Redridge you can see the first real changes to the questing and triggered events, something that I didn't so much notice in Westfall. The next odd thing came out with a quest that updates on the run.

You can take it, but you cannot decline it. Where is the choice, really? Take and abandon, thank you.

All in all, pretty short and all around the world trip. Next time Gnomore will have a quick visit to Moonglade to get his Festive Suit and we'll see where that leads to. Remember to check the pictorial with more commentary on the travels.