Category: Musings


I’ve blogged about my guild history before. In Wrath I flirted with hardcore raidering for a while. I don’t know how good I was. I was never the top DPS, but sometimes I put out the most damage. I don’t die and I don’t take a lot of healing which is what you want from a warlock really. It doesn’t matter if you can cheese the metre at points in the fight, but it really helps if you’re alive deep into the encounter to lay down some damage and push the team over the line. I decided after Wrath that I was less interested in the higher levels of raiding than I was in making friends and having fun. I was recruited in Cata for a very specific role: to fill out a bench / “Team B” roster and bring some experience. I actually liked the sound of this.

Mid tier the officer that recruited me went on a break, Team B decided it would continue pushing and progress into Firelands, then the current tier. We voted on a name, a banner to rally behind, foolishly I joked “Team Ruta” and that was their choice. The first / progression team selected Team A as their name. Losing the officer we lost our raid leader, so we decided we wouldn’t have one. With no raid leader there was no one to shout at people, get sarcastic, complain about wiping, ask who fucked up. Many in Team Ruta said they’d never had as much fun raiding and would never, ever raid with Team A‘s raid leader again. Occasionally, Team A members who couldn’t raid on their nights that week came along with us, they’d try to “raid lead” for us which meant calling out all the stuff that Boss Mods announce. We didn’t want or need that, so we stopped them. Without blamestorming and finger-pointing the team gelled and started taking individual responsibility for any mistakes they made. This made other team members confide in us when they messed up and offer advice if they’d solved a particular problem themselves.

So we supported and encouraged each other and played as hard as we could because we genuinely didn’t want to let the rest of the team down. Relying on ourselves and our boss mod addons we became better, more independent raiders. No one could forget or be too busy to call out massive boss damage incoming or all stack on the left so ten people had to remember for themselves…and did. I’d like to tell you we trounced Team A and Team Ruta cruised to a comfortable first guild defeat of The Madness of Deathwing. Sadly that would be bullshit. However, for a team existing to fill gaps in the first team, a reserve pool to call on if first teamers were missing or couldn’t turn up, backups, we did give them a good run.

So recently I got arm twisted into forming my own guild, it didn’t take that much pressure, but it is still Mori’s fault. I think it’s our guild, but she seems to want to distance herself from that idea. If I am going to do this and get to be the GM this time, I can write the rules and this time implement them too. Being the only one around during days I get to do all the recruitment too, which can be an annoying, tedious chore, but does allow you to be very selective. Particularly satisfying when poor huntard, ex-guildies ask to join. Of course you too would decline them because you have too many people they wouldn’t like: “hypercrytes”, people who don’t play the game any more and having rules banning backstabbers.

So what is the great experiment we’re running? Well, I’ve been dismissed as a casual on many occasions since Cata by people who aspire to skip through Flex (normal) and then stumble through Heroic level raids trying to keep their raid team together. Define casual? These same people have argued that I’m living in a dream world believing that 10+ adults can motivate themselves to complete an heroic raid. That without a guy (and it usually is a man) shouting or growling, chastising mistakes and bullying the team along there would be no progress. There would also be no progress if you insisted on having any and all guild members that want to attend a raid in your raid. Some people are so bad they have to be excluded. Or if you want to be more inclusive and push for any progression you have to have two raid tiers: the progress team and the others who are shit and need carrying. The language is usually different but that is what they mean.

So the experiment is that our new guild is to be inclusive on all levels. We don’t tolerate intolerance or prejudice, we welcome all races, genders and sexualities. We also welcome all guild members to our raid, no one is excluded. We have a raid leader, but his job is to impart tactics and advise. Not to duplicate the boss mod announcements or tell off adults for “standing in the fire” in a video game. I swear to you I’ve told managers to fuck off and quit job(s) where I’ve been treated with more respect than I’ve had from some GMs and Raid Leaders. Does anyone believe that I can happily walk out of paid employment when given unreasonable shit but I will stay in a guild that treats its members like children who need hand holding and/or some shouting at? Not happening. We may be rolling dice with progress but who cares?

Inevitably some people won’t like what I’m trying to do. I’ve been called a feminazi, a snowflake, a fascist, a communist, a cuck, a race traitor and accused of trying to create a safe safe or imposing the tyranny of male oppression (LOL) on poor mistreated while, heterosexual men. Just stating that we have rules underlining that we don’t tolerate racism, sexism or homophobia has been descried as politics, which have no place in a guild. That’s not politics, it’s not left or right, only one political grouping espouse racism, sexism and homophobia: the alt- or extreme right. Tolerance is not political it’s ethical. If you do not treat equally any who is not male, white or heterosexual then you’re excluded from our guild. That’s isn’t politics, I’m not excluding a political group or their ideas, I’m excluding hatred and the people that peddle it. Cunts.

Currently we’ve got about 100 characters and more than half that many people in our guild. They all seem friendly, helpful and supportive, whoever you are and wherever you’re from. I call that winning. We’ve cleared Antorus Normal too, the second time with a team of ten guildies for the achievement. In Battle for Azeroth we’re going to keep on doing what we do and being who we are. I also hope we’re going to clear each raid tier on heroic. However, I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t. I’d rather raid with good people that clear Mythic with cunts. You can quote me.

There was some drama in our guild last night and I have to own up that I started it. I mentioned politics in jest and someone responded…badly. To an extent I agree with the idea that politics has no place in a game. Politics is important and informs all aspects of life. Politics isn’t something that happens elsewhere, in Westminster say, politics is the stuff of everyday lives. However, politics can potential be (though it doesn’t actually need to be) very divisive. Some issues, while they are political, have very important moral and ethical dimensions. I may be happy to tolerate Tories, UKIPers and Brexiteers in my guild. I cannot accept racists, sexists, homophobes and misogynists.

Now ‘Centrist Dad‘ would have you believe many things that are simply not true. “The political centre ground is the best place to be, a place of balance and sanity between two crazed and extreme views.” “There is no such thing as class any more, we’re all working, so we’re all working class.” “Extremes” of left and right wing politics are by no means the same. Politics is not a colour wheel that goes around in a circle with extreme left and right wing views sitting next to each other.

The political centre is often simply an articulation of the status quo and the views of the vested interests that weild power. The Left and Right are opposed fundamentally and disagree on almost everything. Also, some things aren’t a matter of opinion, they’re a matter of fact.  Some ethical ideas leak into the political sphere and become more than simple disagreements about party politics. For example, there are many arguments for a left wing EU exit, or Lexit, arguments that are class-based and not founded on racism or anti-immigrant sentiments. However racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric is morally bankrupt and unethical.

There are ideals and beliefs, and their political expressions, that I will have no truck with. These are deeply help principles that have cost me employment. So rejecting them, on a much lesser stage in a guild, and the people that carry them is small beer. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber and curtail anyone’s freedom of speech, I would defend the expression and discussion of ideals, while disagreeing strongly and condemning their proponents. There are public platforms for expressions of free speech, the private realm of a guild is not one of them. I’m happy to reject, exclude and forcibly remove anyone who express racism, sexism or homophobia.

Immigration can be a divisive political issue and I’m happy to debate immigration policies, strengthening or relaxing immigration controls, but I cannot tolerate anti-immigrant or refuge sentiments, forcible repatriation, especially of people who have lived in our country for over sixty years since the Windrush, sentiments based on pure racism. I cannot tolerate anything that seeks to exclude, damage or other people. I cannot condone physically or verbal attacking groups of people and telling them to “go home” (what to Peckham?) Talking about controlling immigration often grows out of racism, but that isn’t necessarily the case, hatred of Jews, Muslims and other non-white British people that’s more straight forward.

The new or alt-Right in politics has appropriated the language of Liberalism, co-opting Centrist Dad‘s everywhere, to legitimise it’s race hatred, gender oppression and has sought to turn these things on their heads. Racism is now defence of the “oppressed white majority” and patriotism, anti-feminist rhetoric claims it is men who are actually oppressed which is ‘an inversion of the natural order‘. Islamophobia isn’t racist because Islam is not a race, it’s a religion. Multiculturalism is a perversion that breeds racism bringing incompatible cultures together and promotes the mixing of races that are and should remain distinct. Underpinning these lies and distortions are appeals to free speech and tolerance of ideas. The very things the Right stands against. Make no mistake, if the Right achieves power again (and it is beginning to do so in Germany, with the AfD, and already has with the Fidesz victory in Hungary) then criticism of the state, the white majority and patriarchy will be repressed and marginalised, as it is in Russia.

“Politics” perhaps shouldn’t be discussed in a guild context or any mixed company. However, ethical rejections of racism, oppression and the distortions of truth perpetrated by fascists, both overt and declared or disguised and politically correct, should be discussed in any fora including guilds. Fascism and all oppressive, discriminatory, anti-democratic ideas do need to be dragged out into the light of day, rejected and ultimately removed. Even if you lose guild members. I’ll take 10 non-sexist, non-racist, non-homophobic inclusive egalitarians over 50 fascists any day.

Call me what you like I’m a Marxist.

I’ve made the pitch before (several times) that Looking For Raid should be removed from the game. Blizzard coined the term ‘tourist mode’ to describe LFR’s raison d’être, it allows everyone to access the lore and content of Warcraft. As I’ve often said the only problem is it’s negative effect on other aspects of the game. However, LFR is an easy source of symbolic in game value: gear. Often only suggesting there is something detrimental about LFR provokes a rabid response. “How dare anyone suggest taking our source of gear, elitist…Guilds are toxic, bullying environments full of gaming nerds…I have a limited time to play…I should get epic gear and…er…oh yeah, I want to see all the content or something.” Yeah whatever.

Please, I’m not an elitist, I don’t want to exclude anyone from content or gear. Any argument about the democratisation of Legendary gear, for example, is simply absurd, Legendaries are everywhere, everyone has at least one and that’s fine. My only objection to Legendaries has been making them random drops. If you need raid gear you’re raiding, if you’re not raiding you do not need raid gear. If you want raid gear go raiding. With dumbed down boss mechanics and little or no need to follow any tactics there is no need for the extra gear or tier of LFR. Especially 4 piece tier sets! Gear exists not for it’s own sake, gearing up is a pathway to access more challenging content, not an end in iteself.

Flexible sized and scaling, ‘normal’ raids can service the same audience as LFR without dumbing down raid bosses so much that people simply cannot transition into raids of higher difficulty. You can experience the lore and see all the content. It’s easy to organise on the fly and people do, they’re listed in the group finder all day. People dip in when they like and certainly dip out when they’ve had enough. If you have time to queue for LFR and clear a wing you have time to do a few bosses with a pug group. Time constraints are no a real issue. In fact if Blizzard were to remove LFR the should divide normal raids into four wings. Why not? This would make it even easier for LFRers to simply move to normal raids. The increase in difficulty is minimal, but normal raids do actually introduce mechanics and tactics. Normal has a very rudimentary level of mechanics with requisite tactics: a perfect entry level to raiding and even a stepping stone into heroic and even mythic level raiding.

Guilds were frequently toxic edged, particular around 40 man raiding in vanilla and 25 man in TBC, elitism was the norm. However, times have changed and if your guild is in any way toxic shame on you for staying in it. Quit and find a friendlier one, there are plenty of guilds out there and many, many friendly ones. If you don’t want to interact with a community on any level perhaps an MMO isn’t really for you? World of Warcraft is a massive online, social community. If your only contribution is log on and play solo are you really getting the most out of the game, should the game be tailored to your needs. I’m not arguing that you should be sidelined or left out of consideration, only that the game should be designed around those who are fully invested in all the aspects of the MMO – including participation in vast online community.

We currently have four raid difficulties with corresponding item level gear: LFR; Normal; Heroic: Mythic. Spreading the raider player base thinner, that’s not good for the game. Losing the lowest level would naturally encourage people into Normal, flexible raid groups. What is new in Legion is World Quests and Mythic+, especially with no or very low level (1 – 4) keys, which actually drop better gear than LFR now. World Quests and Mythic+ 5 mans completely address any want in the player base for gear. Normal raid level custom groups completely address the need of all LFR content consumers to access all the lore and content, without damaging the wider game.

Will Blizzard Remove Looking For Raid, I can’t see it. There would be a massive casual backlash. I didn’t raid much in WoD or Legion and I do a lot of pet battling, if you feel insulted by being called a casual ask yourself how I class myself these days?

Filthy, pet battling casuals…

Some of you will have read elsewhere whether or not this expansion contains a new continent or not. In retrospect many of the changes introduced in Cataclysm were very impressive and I loved the Twilight Highlands. It didn’t matter to me that the new zones were cheek by jowl with old zones, however it did feel fragmented and scattered across the map, but is that really a major problem? Look at Scholazar Basin, just one example of a zone that looks odd next it’s neighbours: Icecrown; Wintergrasp; and Borean Tundra. Perhaps being able to scatter zones across the map actually promotes variety of design. Unfortunately. if you take a look at the map of Azeroth and you’ll see we have no expansion room. If we want 7 or 8 new zones we will need a new continent. Blizzard will need to be very clever about reusing old zones, but if the Horde do try to smash Stormwind City and, perhaps, destroyed the front keep and the Alliance destroy their own main bridge into the city to deny us entry that would be something to see. You can see the scope for completely phasing Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms and having max level players lead vanguards of troops into zones, taking the other faction’s outposts and establishing new ones of their own. This is just the kind of design shake up Warcraft needs. Let’s get radical.

The Burning Crusade fixed the faction disparity and we got Alliance Shamen and Horde Paladins. The factions were expanded, Alliance with Draenai and the Horde was strengthened by Blood Elves. Wrath of the Lich King gave us the a whole new character class: the Death Knight. In Cataclysm we were gifted two more new races Goblin and (don’t laugh) Worgen. Mists of Panderia delivered a new cross faction race for the first time: Pandarens and a new class: the Monk. Not surprisingly in retrospect Warlords of Draenor gave us nothing in this respect. In Legion were were back on track with another class choice when the Demon Hunter was added. We’re not getting new races as such, but Battle for Azeroth is introducing Allied Races. Current race re-skins, but if we get new lore and starter areas I don’t see a problem, it’s like getting a new race. If Blizzard put their efforts into new starter areas and appropriate lore-rich quest lines that add flavour and character to the new Allied Races then that will be very good. If this is just a lazy short cut to delivering more recycled content then the warnings of Legion will cast a long shadow over this expansion.

Being based in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms may present some design problems for the questing and levelling, but my real fear is for raid design. Legion looked like a very tired cut and paste of instance textures. The Tomb of Sargeras and Antorus, the Burning Throne were indistinguishable from Hellfire Citadel, with a few design elements from Ulduar tossed in. The Emerald Nightmare was a lazy portal hub with zones ripped from old Azeroth then warped around a little. The Nighthold was the only raid tier in Legion where Blizzard seemed to make an effort. Suramar City and the architecture of that zone most definitely needs to be utilised further. Post Legion I think there is mileage in telling the story of the rebuilding of the Nightbourne‘s home. I also don’t think it’s too much to ask that the devs try to design some new raid interiors and stop the heavy reuse of the same mechanics across the expansion. Warcraft has a long and proud history, I’m not suggesting there should be no reuse of boss mechanics, just make it more subtle and vary it some.

Pet Battles are the ultimate in casual content. Get involved, don’t get involved it has absolutely no bearing on lore, narrative, player power or indeed any other aspect of the game. If you are not interested in PBs, whatever I was to put on my wish list, even if Blizzard delivered it all, it would make no impact on your game whatsoever. I’ve given up on anything that can rival the Celestial Tournament we were given in the Timeless Isle patch of Mists of Pandaria. So why not recycle it Blizzard? Swap in some new Pet Masters, with new pets and make sure you maintain the same level of difficulty. You could actually introduce new Pet Masters with every patch, that’s three or four new groups across the expansion. Can’t beat the Celestial Tournament centent? Then just do what you’ve done with everything else: recycle it and update it. Just don’t nerf the difficulty and we’ll be golden. As it’s instanced you can add four new Tamers with every patch, but maintain all the old groups. Easy to do and fun play.

Questing and levelling processes have already had a major, and post 7.3.5, a worldwide overhaul. The dynamic scaling technology has made every zone, every activity relevant in terms of levelling experience. This means Blizzard get’s concrete feedback about the success or failure of individual quest lines, hub and zones. If any quest line is particularly bad, tedious or onerous people will now vote with their feet, skipping the content completely. There is not feeling of being locked into level specific zone or quest line, you can go anywhere and do anything within the zone of your current expansion bracket. I hear a lot of dislike expressed for Dread Wastes, Spires of Arrak and latterly Suramar (three zones that, perversely perhaps, I really enjoyed, I absolutely loved Spires of Arrak). If everyone really dislikes those zones only a few of us will stay and play there. Perhaps Blizzard will even be able to patch new questing content into those zones during an expansion life-cycle, but they will certainly know what people like, what is working and what isn’t and the design direction they should take going forward.

 This will be good if they keep taking risks, trying new things, keeping what we like, refining and recasting what we don’t. Pretty much everyone reacted negatively to the garrison, Order halls and mission table tech are pretty much the same as in Garrisions, just rebalanced. Most agreed that Order Halls are much stronger and champion missions less intrusive. If Blizzard keep refining this game mechanic it can get better and really blossom. They will get the feedback they need to keep Warcraft relevant for some time to come.

Player housing is back on the community agenda and perhaps it’s time this was incorporated into the game. All the phasing tech now exists, if it’s structured in a manner similar to Order Halls, or even Guild Halls, rather that the solo player, facebook game of garrison farming then this could be a valuable introduction. At it’s core all of these activities need to be strictly optional. The best thing about Pet Battles are they are potential limitless you can add new content constantly, new pets, new battle, now tournaments and fundamentally the sub-game has no effect and any other aspect of the game. Raiders are not complaining that Pet Battles are content they don’t want to do to be able to raid, equally people doing pet battles has no detrimental effect on raiding.

Housing falls into that category, it extends the number of things to do in game, it is potentially limitless in it’s where it can go, it does not need (and should not be) linked to any other game play system. It could be linked to guilds and finally give back something personalised and a means of creating cohesion and providing group goals to work towards. Banking, auction house and profession trainers should be kept well away from this player housing so players have compelling reasons to leave. However, it might even be possible to provide individuated, phased rooms within a Guild Hall for players to personalise with invite mechanic (à la garrisons) to show them off to guildies. Pet Battles or other mini-games could be built into player housing to incentivise them without detracting from other core gameplay activities.

Fundamentally, Battle for Azeroth needs to do something Blizzard have failed at recently. It needs to utilise their excellent tech systems, like dynamic scaling, to create compelling and interesting content. Scaling has already had a marvelous effect on Timewalking, making those old dungeons not only reward relevent, but content relevent as they still present some of the challenge, therefore fun, we had when they were current. Indeed, I needed to try to remember tactics and work them the last Timewalking I did. Which is in sharp contrast to the abject faceroll they were before.

With just a little imagination and some fresh thinking about old ideas Battle for Azeroth could be a game changing expansion. We need that change.

..and another thing, relativism is fucking up our culture.

“Cultural relativism is the ever-popular theory claiming that, “any set of customs and institutions, or way of life, is as valid as any other”. In its appeal to tolerance-the seemingly incontrovertible “virtue” of the modern era-it has gained wide appeal amongst myriad disciplines, most notably in the social sciences. However, the theory is destructive in both theory and practice. In theory, cultural relativism emphatically denies rea­son and objective reality. In practice, it sanctions the worst manifestations of violence and oppression.” 1

Postmodern culture is inveigled by relativism, on the surface the doctrine appeals to moderate views and tolerance, but offers no means to counter intolerance and oppression. There are many problems with relativism’s uncritical assimilation into popular culture. Generally, people are ignorant and equally uncaring about the full implications of their ideas. Internal consistency is not and has never been a feature of popular thinking. So when you point out the logical conclusions of given ideas people will either shrug or simply seek to limit the application of their idea to restricted spheres. Relativism, however, seems to have become applied to all aspects of life and culture, the great danger of this is it disempowers challenges to it and reveals at it’s core a doctrine that both anti-discourse and anti-rational.

In ethics relativists argue that no one moral viewpoint is more privileged than another and that all moral and social norms arise out of the culture of our upbringing. While this may seem be a powerful response to cultural imperialism it does leave the relativist in a position where they are unable to support or condemn the ethical and social norms of their own or other cultures. The relativist may feel that preventing women access to abortion services in Ireland or the massacre and displacement of Rohingya Muslims by Aung San Suu Kyi‘s regime in Burma is wrong, but their feelings arise from their culture and as no one point of view is better than another they have no basis on which to challenge, object or even to feel that what happens in another cultural setting is wrong.

While it may seem fashionably broad minded to accept difference in matters of taste, way of life and sexuality or gender identity relativism has no reason to champion the rights and freedoms of people within these groups or condemn their denial. If all viewpoints are of equal validity then a true relativist has no grounds to argue that culture tolerance and equality are moral goods or that his viewpoint is correct and others, with views rejecting freedom and equality, are wrong. It is muddled and inconsistent thinking to advocate that all viewpoints have equal validity and moral rightness then to defend oppressed minorities and reject and critique the cultural majority for their oppressive and normative views. One person’s moral viewpoint is not less than yours because you are able to label it: “mainstream”; or uncritical; or social or individually damaging.

Perhaps if we introduce another moral concept, ethical utilitarian which at it simplest level suggests that what is moral is to be motivated to try create the greatest good for the greatest number. We can then argue that damage and religious or cultural offence caused by legalising homosexuality in the UK has been outweighed by the good  it has done for the LGBTQ+ community. However, the simple problem with this piecemeal adoption of philosophical ideas is that they contradict one another fundamentally. This is a good example where mainstream culture attempts to appropriate technical ideas to pull a shroud over it’s confused and contradictory norms and beliefs. Resorting to an appeal to a rational, universal principle, such as utilitarianism, is fundamentally rejected by ethical relativists who argue there is no universal basis from which morals arise, which is why all cultures have different taboos and goods. Furthermore, it is simple culture imperialism to believe that one set of moral ideas arising from one culture are better than another set arising in another culture, it is only possible to assert moral supremacy by reference to universal values which do not exist. To accept a universal moral concept like utilitarianism’s that what is right is to try to create the greatest good for the greatest number is to fundamentally reject relativism.

In terms of taste, art, music, sexuality, gender and other elements of manufactured, human culture this is no bad thing. Acceptance of other viewpoints and other modes of expression has mostly positive affects. If we accept the relativist argument that all is viewpoint, then while one thing may seem a certain way from one perspective it will inevitably appear differently viewed from by another, from another place or perspective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the viewer or reader constructs meaning through a complex interaction of sensory impression and experience. This is true for objects judged to exist external to the viewer and ideas and theories constructed imaginatively and intellectually by the viewer.

“Relativism holds that no opinion is better than any other opinion. Taken to its logical conclusion, it destroys the whole enterprise of rational discussion. If every opinion is as good as any other, then the opinion I come to at the end of a long, informative and rigorous debate is no better than the one I started with—so, what good did the debate do? Worse, relativism says that the opinion of a world-renowned expert on some topic is no better than that of the least informed person.” 2

“Independence of mind, politeness and objectivity are the virtues that we…need in order to look for [truth]. Relativist ‘true-for-you/false-for-me’ talk undermines these virtues. Let us banish it…without delay!” 3 The relativist theory that all knowledge is subjective has it’s foundations in idealism, whether or not people who, superficially, accept relativism agree with idealism or not.

“In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a scepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing…Beginning with Kant, German idealists such as Hegel, Fichte, Schelling and Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or “ideal” character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism. The historical influence of this branch of idealism remains central even to the schools that rejected its metaphysical assumptions, such as Marxism, pragmatism and positivism.”4

At a very fundamental level relativism depends on idealism to refute objectivity in all it’s forms. If we cannot know whether the non-mental, physical, “real” world does in fact exist or that we cannot know it directly (since the sensory organs, which are non-sentient, collect the raw data from our surroundings and then pass that information to the brain which then ‘constructs’ a picture of the world which is demonstrably shaped by our experience and beliefs). Then not knowing this concrete, physical world beyond our mental construction of it, our experiences of reality are not only shaped by our viewpoint but our viewpoint is not open to question by another. No one can stand in our place and see the universe through our particular experiences. Furthermore, how can one viewpoint be more privileged than another? In this way it is incompatible with relativism to assert the truth of any proposition. There is no authority we can go to to validate our theories or beliefs about the nature of the real world. There isn’t even the real world, or an object therein, to refer to since the only information was can have of the real world comes to us, at best, from a secondary source (our own sensory experience).

In popular discourse idealism is generally rejected: “Of course their is a real, physical world. That’s just common sense. A real world that exists, even if I have no consciousness of it.” However, many of the corollary ideas of relativism are widely accepted. “My point of view is no more or less privileged then another’s. So my opinions are just as valid as any other’s.” You can only assert such a view by rejecting reason, science and expertise. You can only rationally reject study, science and reason if you deny the possibility of going to an object in question and directly assessing it.

Relativism may seem like a very reasonable and well intentioned theory. However, as we all know ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. Granting equal respect to everyone’s views sounds laudable but in reality it leaves the relativist with a moral and ethical framework he has no business defending or promoting as better than any other. Confronted with a relativist, I will take, at random, a stone from ground and place it on the table between us. “That,” I will say, “is a stone. You are a relativist and are unable to argue otherwise. From my viewpoint that is a stone and according to you neither my viewpoint or yours is better.”, “Indeed,” this relativist should reply, “and I agree that this is a stone.” I pick up another stone, in size, shape, weight and colour much the same as the first, with the further stipulation that is should in no sense be shaped or bear any other resemblance to a feline. “That, ” I say, “is a cat.” Sadly, as inane as my assertion clearly is, the relativist has no answer but to agree to disagree. Relativism is the death of discourse and the rejection of scientific progress.

“You can call a cat a dog, but you can’t make it bark.” This is not just a question of language usage. If we can agree the definition of terms we still cannot agree that my stone is not a cat. We can directly interact with a stone to establish whether it does or does not conform to our definition of stone or cat. We can in certain circumstances refer to a cat as dog, but it does not become what is defined as a dog, it will not bark. We could change the definition of what constitutes a bark to contain the noises that cats make and refining meaning and redefining objects is all very well, but if we do this constantly and without widespread agreement about the new definition and adequate grounds for changing we will never understand one another, communication will be impossible as will the transmission of knowledge, all academic endeavour and progress. You can call a cat a dog, but you have contributed nothing to our understanding of either cats or dogs and more importantly you have undermined what we do know.

All this philosophical discussion seems academic and uninteresting. On the contrary, this is not some abstract thought experiment. People you know are applying piecemeal parts of relativism everyday, whether they agree with everything that relativism means or not is immaterial: the effect is the same. “Let’s just agree to disagree; I don’t care if you are a world renowned expert who has spent their life studying this subject, your opinion is no better than mine; it is just your opinion that certain behaviours are moral reprehensible and other are morally neutral; you can bring out as many statistics, testimonies and direct experiences as evidence to support your point of view as you like, you can prove anything with facts, I don’t agree and you cannot tell me I’m wrong to believe what I do.”

Relativism has positioned itself as the opponent of authoritarianism and cultural imperialism. Asserting that no one viewpoint is, or should be privileged above another is characterised as a grounds for tolerance and acceptance. However, by actively denying the possibility of knowing external reality objectively it discounts the possibility of truth. When there is no truth, logically there are no lies, all is opinion. If we agree to disagree, since there is no objective measure to verify truth, then we have no grounds to defend or attack anything. Whatever the actual powers that be in society, the people who pull the levers of state, you can be sure they would  like nothing more than to be have a relativist opposition to their rule. Relativism is a disempowering cancer that society would do well to remove before it kills its host.

Further reading: The Guardian “The death of truth…”

 

1‘Critiquing Cultural Relativism’ Jaret Kanarek (The Intellectual Standard, Volume 2 Issue 2).
2‘Relativism Explained’ Brendan Larvor (Humanist Philosophers’ Group, 2005).
3Larvor, ibid.
4‘Idealism’, Wikipedia

The Leader of my last guild has quit World of Warcraft. She’s still in touch, still socialising with the members of a guild she worked so hard to build into a friendly, social hub in game. She moved to Final Fantasy XIV for the story, because there’s more to do in game that isn’t raiding and for the player housing, a feature that allows Free Companies of players (Guilds) to have a (guild) Hall. The attraction is that this can be an in-game social space, much like a real life pub or community drop in centre.

After playing Warcraft for nearly twelve years myself I’ve always got an eye on games that could be my post-WoW MMO. It isn’t going to be Guild Wars 2, it wasn’t Elder Scrolls Online, maybe it will be Final Fantasy. After playing the game a few weeks I have some observations. Right down to the key-binds Final Fantasy is a very WoW-like MMO. It has combat classes, quests, professions, world quests (‘Fates’) Guild leve’s (more difficult, more rewarding quest content) instanced, scaling dungeons and raids. The differences seem superficial and skin deep.

Take professions for example, you level your professional skills and craft increasingly more complex items. The only discernable difference is that with wood working I understand I can craft furniture for the ‘Guild Hall’. The wood working animation is certainly more impressive than the rubbing hands together or anvil tapping of WoW. That does speak to early immersion in the game, but thankfully there is a ‘quick synthesis’ option so you don’t have to spend all day watching your character craft basic wood into usable lumber while you do something else…play solitaire, check email or twitter, eat lunch.

Go there kill things, or kill to loot things, come back, turn in quest, get another…so far so WoW. Depending on your point of view it’s a celebration or condemnation, but Final Fantasy is World of Warcraft with a less cartoony, better game engine. The story, the lore of the world is in many regards has less finesse and less sophistication than WoW. Each of the races in Warcraft have a rich back story and with any story of war one side’s tragic losses and atrocities are the other faction’s great victories.

Why is this place always empty…?

…Or like this?

So I reflect on why my friend has left a game in which she has friends for another that is essentially very similar to start again from scratch? A Guild Hall sounds like a great idea…chars hanging out in a shared in-game space while their players chat in voice chat. However, I’ve had fun and laughter with people on voice chat when I wasn’t even in the same game with people never mind in the same shared in-game space. It’s not like you’re actually face to face when all your chars are in the guild hall, we cannot smile, nod, roll eyes, wince, raise eyebrows, wink at one another…there is no real body language that so enriches face to face interactions.

There is plenty of quality content in WoW for non-raiders. In fact raiders have been whining forever about stupid shit in game for non-raiders that detracts and distracts from the serious business of raiding: pet battles; LFR; 5 mans; mythics; timewalking; flower picking; fishing; engineering; mounts; transmog; world quests…indeed the whole two days of ball ache, levelling through another ten levels at the beginning of a new expansion. Never mind having to wait for casual, guild slacktards to get max level for that first raid! Which brings me back to why she has quit on her guild.

I think my friend’s real issue with World of Warcraft was twofold. Firstly, I’m not sure MMORPG is really her thing. The killing mobs, clearing dungeons bit anyway. Essentially story is just an excuse for adventuring. Lore is simply a backdrop, a tapestry to give a shape and rationale for what is essentially a tedious and repetitive grind. Get quest, kill or collect, or kill and collect, or kill to collect, return, turn in, get rewarded, collect new quest, which is often to go back where you were and kill/collect something else. And repeat.

Cooperative play really brings this to life. Either in a 5 or 4 person configuration or larger groups, coming together and doing things cooperatively either against the AI (PvE) or other players (PvP) is what makes gaming rewarding. It can be casual and laid back, social and fun, but it has to be challenging and cooperative (or it’s just FPS). I don’t think my friend really enjoys or is enthused by challenging group content. More importantly, I also think that she found herself in a guild that was totally unsuited to her and what she wanted out of Warcraft. Essentially she found that she was somehow the Guild Leader in a semi-hardcore, raiding guild and slightly sidelined at that. I’m always saying not happy in your guild: move on. However, it’s not so easy when you’re the guild leader and founder. Sometimes it’s easier to blame the game and move to another.

The officers often don’t help. Some guild officers will just log on, lead a raid, log off. The same may also take a break eight weeks into ever raid tier when the team have cleared heroic the first time. One officer in your guild will burst a haemorrhoid trying to solo grind all the material required for the raid team and coax, cajole, bully everyone else to contribute to the guild in this way. They’re not contributing to the guild though, they’re not encouraging working together in some cooperative push for the good of the guild. What they’re doing is servicing the raid, many of whom, like the raid leader only log on to raid, but expect all their raiding mats and repairs. Why? Because without the raid and raid leader there is no guild, whatever the social snowflake nominally running the guild thinks.

This is the mistake she made right from the get go. The idea of having a nice, fluffy, friendly guild that has social nights where people play WoW-Bingo, go on treasure hunts and have puzzle nights and also raids hard and does PvP is an awful one. Yeah, on paper a jack-of-all-trades guild is awesome, in practive it’s master of none. Being master of none people will leave to find one of the better ones of which there are inevitably many. Or one side wins out and the other two aspects go to hell in a handbasket. In my friend’s guild the raiding won out. Because raiders. They flirted with selection, they even still do a measure of it. Only on heroic, progress nights. Any scrub casual can raid on the normal nights. I still say I can almost see the point of selection for Mythic progression…but even then…but a guild that tries to filter it’s best into a raid for heroic progression, I hate to sound elitist, but since they started it, what a bunch of scrub losers. Heroic?! LMFAO

I can see why you’d go to Final Fantasy frankly. You’re beating your head against a brick wall trying to get a guild predominantly made up of anti-social, semi-elitist raiders (I can name them if you like), to engage with other guildies in non-raiding socialising. They’re not interested in you beyond what your player power is a how valuable you will be in helping them get what they want out of the game.

Then there’s your officer team. The raid leader…he leads the raid and subtly manipulates you to make raiding decisions (something out of your remit and interest range anyway) than actively discourage the kind of people you want for the guild you’d like to have: social, friendly, sharing, cooperative. One officer is rabid brown nose who only got the rank for all the selfless work he did supplying the guild bank and servicing the raiders. He’s so rabid and enthused he can’t leave the Guild Message of the Day alone “Come on all guildies lets do the good thing for the good of all and be all positive!” or some shit. The guild bank seems to have cornered the market in Slabs of Bacon though.

Your only other officer, the Drama Queen, constantly complains you’re doing it wrong, won’t delegate and that he has no role and never wanted to be an officer, especially now that it’s clearly an honorary title and he cannot influence the way the guild is or how business is conducted and /ragequits after getting into a slapping girl fight with the rabid fanatic officer.

Yeah, I’d be tempted to quit and start another guild, perhaps in a new game. However, while you’re in the guild house planning the next social night and dusting the bookcase you crafted yourself be careful about what your co-guild leader / officers are doing with raiding. If you run raids, you should have a team that reflects the nature and composition of your guild. Or sooner or later you’ll be back where you started and maybe even considering returning to that other game that, despite it’s lack of guild housing, is pretty much the same really.

In the last post I covered the major elements of Legion and my reaction to them. This post ties up my overall impressions of the expansion before I look ahead to September and what I would like to see from the new expansion: Battle for Azeroth.

I should really start by commenting on the Artefact Weapon. I really enjoyed this new mini-game of empowering my weapon. I wasn’t overly impressed with getting a scythe as Affliction, always having preferred a one handed blade and off-hand, but transmog and the unlocked appearances mitigated this somewhat.

What has been great about the Artefact Weapon has been the talent tree, Artefact Power and measured process of empowering our weapon as the expansion has gone on. Essentially the Class Order Hall was built around the Artefact Weapon and “Mission Table“. With the Garrison Mission Table scale back in scope and fewer champions Blizzard have fixed most issues with this mechanic. Mission rewards actually included quests for your character (rather than minions) to complete. This has a good fantasy synergy: “Your minions were in this area and we think you should go take a look yourself commander.” Order Halls are not prisons trapping players the same way the Garrison could. A perfect example of less is more design.

Missions are now a fun aside, to complete and set going, before going out into the world. My only real issue with Order Halls is being forced to go there to spend Artefact Talent points…if there was anywhere else to do it I would hearth at the nearest inn. Hearthing to Dalaran and then riding down into the sewers to portal to Dreadscar Rift became mildly irritating across the expansion. Blizzard wisely separated profession trainers and the bank well away from the Order Hall and zone quest hubs: in the capital city. This is good design because concentrating amenities in one locale will have everyone hanging around there and empty world. Important facilities were in Order Halls and Dalaran and the only Auction Houses were still in Orgrimmar, Undercity and Burger King Thunder Bluff for Horde (I’m not counting the engineer only AH in the Dalaran Engineering Shop or Gadgetzan).

Pet Battles were a confused mess in Legion. I still hope for an event to rival the challenge and variety of the Pandaren Celestial Tournament, but I guess that’s never going to happen. In Tanaan we had a set of quite challenging pets and an achievement to kill them all. This was relatively straightforward and farming these pets for a random drop from the reward bag wasn’t so onerous. Blizzard tried two new approaches to pet battling in Legion.

The first the massively disappointing Pet Battle Dungeon. Instanced pet battle arena’s in first Wailing Caverns then the Deadmines. The pet rewards were secured by completing the dungeons without healing. So for every battle in the dungeon you needed a team and a backup and although the opponents were similar in sections you couldn’t use the same pets twice (as you couldn’t heal them up between fights). This could’ve been a spectacular challenge and for some I expect it was. Though you would have to be a pet battle casual and either you battle and collect or…you don’t pretty much. In Wailing Caverns you needed about twenty five pets all told and around fifteen unique ones. Once you worked out which of your pets were optimal you could farm more and / or grind to level 25. Until you had a perfect set. Or stroll in off the street with 800+ unique pets and throw them at the opposition and zerg your way through like I did. I did refine my selection on the second and third visit. After which I had all the pets and no desire to grind around again. The same proved to be equally true in the Deadmines. With over 1000 pets it was less a question of assessing family, breed and opposition attacks and finessing a team as trial and error from a bottomless pit of options. I lack two pets and the several tokens for them but more importantly I lack the motivation to even go into the Deadmines: pet battle dungeons are deathly boring with zero replay-ability.

Then we come to Argus and the Family Fighter achievement, building lazily on the actual fun of Family Familiar. “Yeah,” the devs thought (I’m not sure they did think too much about this, to be honest). “Family Familiar was fun: let’s do it again but more.” Sometimes more is less. Family Fighter was more infuriating and interminable grind and less fun. The difference is a crucial one of design and is illustrative, I think, of how an idea can be good when gated, and presented in a particular way and how people say they want no gating to content, but they really do.

Family Familiar was a achievement to defeat 12 Master Tamers in Broken Isles with all families of pet. So 3 Aquatic, 3 Undead and so on. What made this achievement challenging was only 2 – 3 of the 12 Tamers spawned each day and you could only fight them once. So if you beat one Tamer with Aquatic pets you would have to wait for them to spawn again so you defeat them with another family. 12 Tamers, beaten 12 times, random Tamer spawns. Great, eventually you completed it.

With Family Fighter you need to defeat the 18 corrupted pets of Argus with each family of pets. That’s 18 pets. 12 times, or 196 pet battles (if you win first time every time, and you certainly won’t on Gloamwing with Aquatic and Critter combos). The problem is that as all pets are up all the time and you can battle them as many times a day as you wish. There’s nothing to stop you say trying to do one pet per day with all 12 families…and burning out in 2 – 3 days. Just like I did. Only limit the number of victorious fights per day to one, or limit the number that spawn a day…or both! This paces the achievement nicely and it doesn’t feel like you’ve simply dumped 18 new pets down without much of a thought and walked away.

For an expansion that corrected so many of the mistakes of it’s predecessor Legion has so many obvious flaws and short-comings. Yes, the player-base is becoming much more discerning, we have been consuming this content for over a decade. However, with some polishing and minor tweaking Blizzard could’ve made this expansion truly spectacular. In retrospect it’s difficult not mark Legion’s Report Card: very good try, some great ideas, if only would show more attention detail. My next blog will be a crystallisation of these thoughts and suggestions for what I’d like to see going forward. I wish the devs were reading, this stuff is constructive.

 

Despite all the warnings I could give the social, online Friday Mythics Night I had enjoyed has imploded. Drunken snappiness, not understanding or listening, revelling in wiping, cackling “Balls of evil! Balls of evil!”  and sheer, bash head against wall, frustration has finished off an event people were already drifting away from. Who has come off worse from this failure? Well, what a shocker. Me again. Too many people have left Warcraft from my little circle recently. So I wasn’t sufficiently backed up to deal with this stupid drama. My old GM is also quitting the game, she’s fed up with whispers, drama and arse aching (not mine for change). So Legion splutters to a uninspiring end with me seriously looking for even a half decent guild again.

My guild status is a fitting metaphor for Legion in all honestly. Some things have been really good. The zone design and levelling experience has been, the usual, first class. However, the raid offerings in Legion have been…derivative and familiar. The frequency with which we’ve been treated to reused textures, fight mechanics and a general dearth of new or innovative ideas has been staggering. We know Warcraft is thirteen years old and the dev team is shrinking, but never has new blood more obviously been required.

This doesn’t help…withdrawing support for DX9 and no bug fixing.

Textures were lifted straight out of Ulduar and Hellfire Citadel, and particularly badly cobbled together in the case of the Emerald Nightmare (EN). Kicking off the expansion, EN was one boss fight leading up to a portal hub with four zones pulled lazily from around Azeroth without one remarkable or noteworthy boss fight. My overriding memory of EN is ugly, disjointed, cut and shut, ordinary. The Nighthold was much better, however when you set the bar so low…I like the idea of introducing an interesting boss mechanic with the trash leading up to a boss. Why shouldn’t the associated trash demonstrate less powerful facets of the bosses in each wing…it adds flavour and immersion while training the raid how to deal with a boss on the way to them. However, it’s becoming normal to describe every boss in terms of it’s recycled, ad nauseum, core mechanic. Like The Coven of Shivarra, (Tomb of Sargeras) described as new the Elisande (Nighthold): same noose tightening mechanic; balls slow in one section; get through incoming wave to outside. Or Garothi Worldbreaker’s (Burning Throne) Eradication is the new Fallen Avatar‘s (Tomb of Sergeras) Rupture Realities (different name same hokey cokey in, out, in, out). Every encounter has an element of deja vu. Not convinced? Then think about the number of fights in Antorus, the Burning Throne alone where you had move out of lines, green or red? Or what about an ‘area cast’ on the floor that you were drawn to, but had to avoid, before another ‘big cast’ came and you had to rush into the previous ‘area cast’ to avoid said ‘big cast’? Describes several fights? Red or green circles (spiked in the centre) that players needed to soak?

The less said about the Eonar the Life-Binder Event the better…shades of the Hellfire Assault Event, but incredibly, and well done Blizzard for pulling off the apparently impossible, worse.

Legendaries failed to engage again. This time around the items themselves were great, you got one or two and you were very happy, so 100% better than the Ring (that a lot people just could not be arsed with at all), it was the mechanism of acquiring them that sucked. The Legendary Cloak quest chain in Pandaria was long but rather epic and as you completed chapters it became empowered. That worked really well for my money, but someone will always bitch it took too long. Mostly it took time because the content was gated at each patch, increasing the efficacy of the cloak was linked to the progress of the campaign in Pandaria. From a story-telling, fantasy perspective that works just fine, some kids will always want it yesterday. We all got one…I got…a lot. At least four chars had one. Fleety had two: tank and DPS, Sakkara had two: DPS and healing, that’s at least six. Did I lose count? The catchup was great so alts weren’t excluded and it was possible to switch ‘mains’ mid expansion and still progress an appropriate legendary.

Where Legion failed so spectacularly was in making them a random drop. OK everyone got at least one, but many people, who were able to play for many more hours a day, quickly got all of the legendaries available to multiple characters. I have 5 on my main and none of them are BiS. I don’t object to the democratisation, that horse has long bolted, it’s the inability to work for a really, really good item. You should not have three legendary items in the bank unused (!) because the two you have equipped are better. Redundant legendaries?

And grinding won. Those who could quest, dungeon and raid more got more legendaries, sooner or later the current BiS would drop for them, it was just a matter of time. It took until 7.3 and the end of the expansion for Blizzard to decide that Legendaries would be immaterial in a few months (post-Legion) so they could start selling them for easily grindable items. I was very pleased with this change and it would’ve been welcome from launch. Just as I celebrating I read the small print and discovered that you could grind a token that would generate a legendary. The legendary you got was still a random drop. You might never get your BiS in this expansion.

Transmog is awesome!

This is officially the expansion I stopped caring about gear. I loved early expansions where you could get a really good item from a specific place, so you went there and tried to get it. OK, having to run Shadow Labyrinth 41 times (after I started counting) was silly and Platinum Shield of the Valorous was a pretty good blue…that I replaced with the token shield a couple of days laters…but gear lists were a thing and we all loved to work our way up them trying to hit stat targets (usually Hit to be honest). Now I don’t care…I don’t even care what the gear looks like. If I get new gear I pop to the Transmog in Dalaran and reapply my favourite appearances. I only care about one thing gear related: item level.

Blizzard have almost completely recreated the idea of Gear Score now.  Higher ilvl means more of any of the stats and more is more right? Right. OK, itemisation of lower ilvl items might make it deliver more DPS, but not significantly in most circumstances. As a rule of thumb higher ilvl is better is pretty solid. Even using our old friend Mr Robot I rarely encounter a situation when the lower level item is so much better optimised as to be worth opting for. Stat weights? No one cares. Not really. Sometimes you still hear some moron opine that Versatility is just crap and of no value to them and Haste, for example, is their best stat.

Let me help you. No stats decrease DPS output (unless you’ve equipped a tanking or healing piece while DPS-ing). All (DPS) stats increase DPS…it is only the degree to which they increase DPS. Versatility is a flat out DPS increase (incoming damage decrease) stat. More Vers. is more DPS. Haste, for example with warlocks, will speed up shard generation for casting more Unstable Affliction (our big meaty cast). “The amount of Shard generation per Haste rating is less efficient than the flat damage received from Mastery. The value of Mastery is even higher on multi target, making it…” our “best” stat (Icy Viens). However, by how much? Well, one point of intellect will equate to 1.0 point of damage. Mastery: one point will equate to about one and half points of damage, atually 1.55 to be precise. For an Affliction Warlock Haste and Crit. are pretty similar at 1.49 and 1.35 receptively. Versatility is worth about 1.06 damage per point. Valueless? Clearly not. 33% less valuable than Mastery? Well about that. 5 ilvls higher with Vers instead of Mastery? How much more? 33%-ish more points of Vers. than the lower ilvl item’s Mastery? Then the higher ilvl item will deliver more DPS(-ish).

The margins are tiny. Every point of Crit. is worth 1.35 damage (approx.) every point of Mastery is worth 0.2 damage more

Gear? Legendaries? Raids? Meh.

So what has been good in Legion? Questing, levelling, the new zones were all top quality and scaling has made the game so much more accessible. We’ve all wondered where to go and slightly dreaded moving to a new area: mob levels go up and with it the difficulty of questing and our ability to cope with unfortunate multi-mob pulls goes down.

Friends at different character and item levels are naturally reluctant to play with us, for two reasons. Most don’t really want carrying through this game, I, for one, have always wanted to play. I have always hated being dragged through a 5 man with an overgeared tank boasting a friend. I can barely get a DoT on a mob before the tank has moved on and I am left behind. You just have to run to keep up and accept your XP for doing nothing. Nah, mate, no thanks. Secondly, in the case of this higher level, over-geared tank, there’s nothing in it for them. The XP is negligible, if anything, the gear useless.

Scaling addresses just this and lets friends who want play together do that, whatever their item levels are. The experience gained and difficulty of the mobs scale so everyone’s participation is required and the value gained is equal. Plus pick a zone, any zone, and start questing there. After patch 7.3.5 that applies to all Azerothian zones. All ‘vanilla’ zones are now scaled 1 – 60. All Wrath zones are 70 – 80 zones, you can quest in Howling Fjord at level 70 or leave it until you’re 79 and still receive good XP levelling there and the mobs and gear will be appropriate to your level! Or go other places and come back later, in every zone, at whatever stage in your levelling process, completing quests yields about the same experience and the gear that drops is appropriate to you at your level / ilvl. Dynamic scaling is pukka.

After the snore-fest that challenge modes were in Pandaria I wasn’t hopeful about Mythic+. Challenge modes did up the difficulty in 5 mans, extending their longevity across an expansion. However, no one was doing them. They were just everything that was bad about 5 mans, condensed to it’s very essence: a speed tanking, drag-fest; kill everything; ASAP. Not working? Get more DPS.

Mythic+ offered a slightly different approach. OK there were timers, but even if you failed to beat the clock there was a (smaller) reward at the end of the dungeon. 5 mans continued to be a viable source of gear to the end of Legion. While in previous expansions the 5 mans became less challenging as the collective ilvl of groups over-geared the instances, Mythic+ keys upped the difficulty and added new, tricky mechanics and provided higher rewards. As your group’s ilvl (and skill) increased you could take on more and more difficult keys. The rewards scale with the keys genuinely extending the life cycle of 5 man content, making them both relevant and, just as importantly, fun. I’ve loved 5 man instances since vanilla, some of my best, most epic experiences were in Stratholme, Scholomance and Shadow Labs. I actually remember those dungeons more fondly than any raid (except Karazhan, of course). My overriding memories of Legion will be Mythic+ 5 man runs.

All in all Legion has been pretty hit and miss. I think I’ll remember the hits more than misses in retrospect, however as an expansion it has been far from perfect. I’d argue that in places the design has been tired, cut and paste, and lacking in real innovation. It’s easy to say that World of Warcraft is thirteen years old and there’s only so many way you can design boss encounters, but I would counter that a lot of really great pop music has been made with just three chords. If I do engage with all the content already available about the new and upcoming Battle for Azeroth Expansion content, I thought I would complete my reflections on Legion with a manifesto of things I would like to see in the next expansion. My next post will consider what could lift a good, but not great, expansion like Legion to the heights of Mists of Pandaria or even Wrath of the Lich King.

According to the NHS there is no conclusive link between stress or diet and gastric or duodenal ulcers. Bollocks, do more research. I once had a boss who said that stress was a good thing, he thrived under stress. He was a low grade moron. He probably meant pressure, we can all raise our game under pressure and it can bring a team together and the best out of individuals. Stress triggers the release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, into the body, speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, focusing attention, preparing muscles for action, and more. It generally takes some time for the body to calm down after the stress response has been triggered. Lifesaving as the stress response is, it was meant to solve short-term, life-threatening problems, not extended difficulties such as daily traffic jams or marital problems.

Long term stress is not tolerated well by the body. Common symptoms include anxiety, which can in turn lead to sleeplessness, chronic need to pass urine and ulcers (so sue me!) It can trigger poor decision making due to constant over-thinking and second guessing yourself. Anxiety will cause you to fear future events that may not happen, dread what is “coming next” and fear making mistakes so much you make more. It can create an emotional paralysis that dis-empowers the sufferer from taking positive action. I have a gastric ulcer. I had my first, a duodenal, twenty five years ago at university. It’s fair to say I feel stressed. If this has not been obvious to you, thank you, I have been doing my best to struggle through it.

I find that people a) don’t listen and b) often hear what they want, or expect to hear. So even when you feel like you’ve explained yourself reasonably well you still hear people firing cannon across the bows of your problems, which sail on intact unscathed. If things are pretty good, but not quite right it, wouldn’t it be nice to just sit back accept the minor shortcomings in the situation and make do? When arguments are done to death, with no resolution, wouldn’t it be great to just agree to disagree and let it lie? Yes. I agree that it would, often…most of the time…be better just to let it go.

Getting this advice from people is just like them advising me not to snap back with replies. “Don’t rise to it,” “Just bite your tongue,” or “Count to ten before you answer…” Oh that is such good advice, advice I could never have possibly tried because I am an idiot. It wouldn’t be a problem if I could actually restrain myself. If I bite my tongue I end up with a piece of bitten off tongue, a mouthful of blood and if I waited ten seconds I will have thought of something much more vicious to respond with. Great advice. If I could just let it go and make the best of it then my life would be much happier than it is now. However, I am incapable of doing that – that is my problem. Not letting go is not my problem, not being able to let go is my problem.

I think this is a an essential reason for why people despair. They advise and advise and try to help and their help and advice doesn’t bear fruit. I apparently do not listen and cannot help myself. “You’re on your own.” Yes. I frequently am. I am painfully aware of that. It isn’t easy to be my friend and friendships rarely last as long as I would like. “We’ve all tried…” I know I appreciate the thought “…and all failed,” no one is more disappointed than me, I have been struggling to change, to mitigate, to control my thoughts and the words that boil out of me against my better judgement for more than thirty five years. Sometimes I make myself stressed just keeping the words inside, suppressed. Then they boil out of me anyway, in rage, anguish or despair. “We’re getting closer now to being apart, I kinda knew that people right from the start.”

While I’m on the subject of well worn, paint chipped, hobby horses…

Raiding. Raiding isn’t just for children. I’m 50, I love raiding. I love being part of a raid team. I love building unity and cooperation. Finding people’s strengths and building on them, finding their weaknesses, reassuring them and fostering overcoming them. I have a job, it is not raiding. I do raiding, like all my gaming, exclusively for fun. I don’t do it for gear (helps a bit), I don’t do it for progression (I do want to kill new things frequently though), I don’t do it for kudos (you cleared this tier on Mythic? Really…and what?) When I fuck up at work I don’t expect my boss shout, they’d be an arsehole, I don’t expect them to name and shame in front of the team, I do not expect a badge that mockingly proclaims I messed up – this isn’t motivating, this wouldn’t make me work better. It would make say “Fuck you, you fucking cunt, I’m fucking out of here.”

Given that I would quit a job in this fashion you should think yourself lucky I have never quit a raid like this…recently. I don’t tolerate that kind of bullying and aggression at work. You can bet your bottom dollar I do not tolerate it in a raid. Some people can tolerate it, they expect it in a raid. “Who fucked up?” or words to this affect. “We’ve done this a thousand times, does anyone not know what they should be doing?” you’re an idiot for messing up. “Put a nipple on the nipple. What, it’s a joke it’s for fun,” fuck you. “If we don’t do this we won’t progress, the raid will stagnate and we will lose raiders.” Are you sure? What evidence do you have for this? If this is how you lead your raid and you are not getting the results you want do you think that carrying on exactly as you are, but selecting only your best raiders and barring those that aren’t “pulling their weight” or doing as much HPS/DPS/TPS as you wanted is the answer?

What about trying something more inclusive and friendly that may deliver even better results? How about toning it down, actually no, how about cutting out all the shouty, disappointed, irritated, finger pointing, bullying behaviour? You are leading not dragging people through a raid, show some fucking leadership. Encourage an atmosphere of fun, laughter, mutual respect and camaraderie. People will want to be there, do their best, not because they’ll get shouted at or whispered or have someone crawling up their arse with raid logs telling them they’re doing it wrong, but because everyone else is. Everyone else is and they want to cooperate and get to the shared goal. You might find people are too embarrassed to slack and are consequently highly motivated to do their best with and for people they like and respect.

I’ll tell you something: in this soppy, casual utopia I’m describing people own their own mistakes, own up to them apologise and try harder. Others will commiserate, claim they messed up too, declare everyone could probably do a bit better, claim single individual mistakes could be worked through and we all make them so no big deal. People are less afraid to fail and those who are dispirited by fear of making mistakes and letting everyone down will make less, get better and thrive. If people are performing badly in your raid it may not be their rotation or talent build that is at fault. It may be the raid, the atmosphere and ethos you have created.

And another thing! I get together will friends on a Friday night and run Mythic+. We have chosen to call it Wine Night. The way we do things seems to confuse some people. We do Mythic+, sometimes with pretty high level keys and we do it for fun. We don’t care if we do it before the timer expires, we don’t really care if we get any loot. We.Do.It.For.Fun. I know! It’s difficult to comprehend. We play a game for fun and we do it together in our little group so we don’t have to deal with toxic arseholes who take gaming seriously and have nerd rage if there’s a wipe. Sometimes…we actually collapse into laughter if we fuck up. We usually Leeroy a dungeon, throw ourselves at bosses with gay abandon, run up multi-thousand gold repair bills and burn through runes and potions (we make ourselves) like they cost no money or effort to produc…(oh yeah).

Tactics!? Not on Wine Night. “Shut up Saby!” Well, not the first or second time. After a couple of wipes we will stop and ask “OK, what are the tactics here then?” Like everyone we do not want to wipe on one boss all night. No really balls of evil were funny once, but mostly we just want to have a relaxed fight though more challenging content, if we fail we fail, but we are not trying to wipe and we will revert to discussing tactics, organise and focus to slapping down a troublesome boss if we have to. Mostly we’ll just rock up, the warlock will pull and we muddle through it. Which works a lot more than you’d imagine. Wine is fine, any alcohol is a suitable alternative. However, like wiping and no tactics, drinking is optional. Swearing, however, is fucking compulsory. One of our crew’s superpower is swearing. Fucking A.

On a Friday Night anything goes. It’s chilled it’s relaxed. We do OK. Level 8 is about our level right now. We do do higher, but they can be a bit joyless. We like 8 because our gear has gotten better, we know the dungeons and it presents just enough of a challenge. We do Mythic+ because we like a challenge, we push higher keys all the time because we don’t want to do easy content. We like doing it in our group because no one rages or gives anyone shit for failing. If you don’t like this approach, that’s OK, don’t come along. If you do come along don’t impose your way on us. Vice versa if I come along to one of your runs I will focus hard, listen to tactics, try hard and not pull the boss with my infernal.

I’m too old to play with people who care more about the outcome than they do the people they’re playing with. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the outcome, just that I only care because it’s a shared objective that we’re all working towards. I’d rather not get Ahead of the Curve if all of us can’t get it…together. If you read this and thought it might be about you, you’re wrong. It’s about me.

Well, in lieu of Ahead of the Curve here’s just Curve.

I’m not always convinced that I explain things well. So there’s no substitute for a good picture in these circumstances. The one above isn’t a tedious explanation of how raiding was more difficult back in the day, it’s merely a comparison of the available raiding levels. We had normal raiding, which Blizzard presented as entry level, and heroic raiding which represented more of a challenge. It’s not my objective to try to judge how difficult Naxrammas 40 was relative to Siege of Orgrmmar or Tomb of Sargeras. I find that discussion tedious…since most of the people engaged in it never stepped into Naxx40 (3% of player base and they can’t all be in my guild!)

In Mists of Pandaria (MoP) Blizzard introduced a new level of raiding between the Looking For Raid ‘tourist mode’ (arguably making LFR obsolete) and the previous entry level raiding of normal. Originally there was no “normal” there was only raiding and heroic raiding (raiding with knobs on). Now we had three layers above LFR: Flex; normal; and heroic. In Legion the ranks got a makeover. The point of the bar chart is to emphasise that the levels were only renamed, essentially the difficulty remained the same.

In the bar chart you’ll see the dark blue colouring the bar representing LFR. In terms of raiding difficulty we can rank LFR as -2 and leave it out of the discussion. If you look at MoP, in yellow you’ll see an entry level of raiding, raiding = 1, labelled during this expansion flex(ible size). The next level of raiding up from flex, in terms of difficulty, we have the so-called “normal” mode of raiding, this is essentially of a very similar level of difficulty to the normal mode in (Cataclysm and) Wrath of the Lich King. The last MoP bar, in burgundy, represents the hardest level of raiding available, heroic, which is roughly similar to the heroic difficulty raiders encountered in Wrath. I’ve tossed Wrath heroic hard modes in for a laugh and to illustrate how top level raiders had an option to tune the difficulty of Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel dungeons to present more of a challenge, giving raids more longevity.

It won’t only be the geniuses amongst you that observe that the MoP and Legion bars look identical, except for colour. That’s not a coincidence. The difficulties levels have remained more or less consistent since Cataclysm, you can argue everything has been dumbed down and so everything is ladder rung, or more, easier since Wrath with each expansion bringing greater convenience and a slew of mechanic simplifying changes that all make the game easer. This is probably true and probably a good thing. The game is thirteen years old, accessibility was always at its heart, it began as the dumbed down RPG for people who don’t play RPGs. It’s rather amusing that some people get precious about it now.

Yes the colours have changed in Legion, that’s it though. The hardest level of raid difficulty is now called Mythic and it’s essentially the same difficulty level MoP raiders will recognise from their heroic raids. The common misconception of many casuals and casual raiders is that another tier was added above the top of raiding, heroic, and called mythic. Heroic has simply been renamed mythic, the raiding in mythic is no harder than heroic was in the last expansion. The same is equally true of Legion‘s heroic raid difficulty, it’s analogous to the raiding difficulty raiders in the last expansion experienced in “normal” raiding. Blizzard‘s renaming master-stroke, to make raiding more accessible, is appropriating the “normal” convention, enshrining it in the game, and inserting it at a lower difficulty level (i.e. the flexible, on rung up from LFR level). There are now raid quests that specify a raid difficulty of, for example, normal (or higher) stressing the quest must be completed at raiding entry level, rather than just in LFR. The old normal mode of raiding, the entry level of raiding since Wrath is now called heroic (talk it up!) in Legion. Raiding difficulty level 3 (on my bar chart), was conventionally referred to as normal in Wrath onwards through to the last expansion. Before Legion I would’ve marked normal difficulty level 1, but that now creates problems. We have a new entry level difficulty of raiding and Blizzard have called it normal. The new normal you all know and love in Legion is no more difficult than flex was when it was introduced in Mists of Pandaria.

There isn’t an argument to be made here, this is simply stating facts: there is a new normal, a new entry level of raiding in Legion. It’s a level of raiding that presents a genuine challenge compared to Looking For Raid, however it is much easier than the previous entry level to proper raiding, which in Legion is now called heroic raiding. Blizzard wants to get value for money for it’s development costs and getting more players to raid is the way to do this. Whichever way you cut it 3% of the player base accessing content you pay designers and developers to create is a massive failure. Making the skill requirements lower for entry level raiding makes the transition from LFR to working cooperatively with your guild, learning tactics and progressing your character easier. More people raiding is more people raiding. The only problem is for us old raiding lags who want to do mythics. All the new crop of raiders find the initial step up in proper raids much easier, normal mode is much easier now. However raiding doesn’t really start for us until the instance starts to get as difficult as we remember in normal…in Legion that clearly means in heroic mode. Once you’ve dragged your team through a raid twice they’ll be spent. No one is going to want to take it on a third time, “Cheers and all that. We cleared it on heroic and that’s enough, thanks, mythic is just one step too far.” Ironically some of the people saying this used to raid in previous expansions and after defeating the instance in normal mode used to have a good go at heroic before the next patch and new raid dropped. That is: they used to raid at mythic difficulty and didn’t want anyone patronising them or by suggesting that normal mode (heroic) was very hard.

Flex, sorry normal raiding does mean more raiders. They’re slack and lazy and don’t want to step up to the top level any more, but there are more of them…

My place in the Warcraft player-base has been…up and down…post subscription-cancellation I seem to have become a scrub casual. More than that, I am now a guild officer who’s stated role is to be the voice of the scrub casual. Casual and hardcore have always been ill-defined categories. They’ve always been judgement laden and aggressive. So please bear with me as I recast these terms of abuse as two, equally valid ends of the game playing spectrum. At one end we have casual or not very serious and at the other serious and committed. Serious and committed to what? Well, not raiding any more, for a start, as Voice of the Casuals I am supposed to express the views and wishes of the casual raiders in our guild. Yes, you read that right Casual Raider. So this post will echo the last (Progression vs. Inclusion) in placing raiders on a spectrum spread from casual: placing fun over progress to hardcore: placing progress (and gear) over all. Of course I know, when you get to the World First Race, gear is not a significant issue. So let’s just leave them right out of the equation. I’m not addressing the World First Race, guilds at that level, or e-sport generally.

We immediately run face first into another often ill-defined category: fun. One person’s fun is…another person’s waste of time. Like fishing and pet battles. As with type and style of guild, there are increasingly disparate attitudes to fun. Indeed the definition has been hotly debated, by decreasingly less and less polarised positions, since vanilla. People tend to make a lot of assumptions too. Casual raiders do not want to wipe all night on one boss. Casual raiders do value the progress that is the graven idol of the hardcore. Hardcore gamers can, and often do, like a laugh and fun with their “serious” progression. Hardcore gamers are not all officious, elitist pricks who don’t want to give you a) a fair try, b) time to learn or c) the opportunity to properly gear and demonstrate what you can really do (very mediocre DPS). There’s a sweet spot somewhere between the two extremes that is perfect for the group of people you raid with, your guild. As a Guild Master and Raid Leader it is your job to define whereabouts the point should be and then locate it exactly. Good luck with that.

In my current guild they’ve struggled. Not just lately as some will say, but since inception. I love the old GM and she had all the right ideas to shape a guild that would’ve been just perfect for me. Sadly without 13 years experience of Warcraft (it’s not just me, a lot of people do) and no experience of guild or raid leading we were always a bit shaky in the link between what sort of guild we were and what sort of raid we ran. To the point that (even for a short time) an ‘elite’, selective raid group was formed in the guild to do heroic raiding with a view to progressing to mythic. There is nothing wrong with this desire, it simply has no place in the sort of guild we are. Some nice guys more interested in raid progress than our brand of fun have moved to pastures new. I wish them well, everyone needs a guild that is right for them. Sadly, if you are a GM or RL no one will tell you if you’re getting it wrong. They just leave and you still won’t know why. Even if you have the opportunity to question them, they probably won’t be bothered enough to really tell you why. It would a) take time and b) involve expressing a, perhaps, controversial opinion. And as we all know, say it with me, “The only thing worse than having an opinion (in WoW) is expressing it.”

Like it or not, most do not, the Raid Leader role in casual raiding guilds is more pastoral. If you want these guys to succeed and do their very best (which can be surprisingly good) you’ll need to do more hand holding than shouting. Here’s a suggestion. On a non-raid night plan a DRUNKEN RAIDING event and have a non-RL lead, for example your Voice of the Casuals officer. If the raid is better attended and penetrates almost as far as your normal raid group on focussed progress night then you’re doing it wrong. Your group probably responds very well to a very relaxed atmosphere and with the pressure off is just as motivated to do as well (if not actually a damn sight better) than they do on a night you’re cracking the whip. This is especially true if your raid group is made up of adults, some with kids, many with jobs. Shouting and being stern about wiping simply won’t wash. These people will simply run back, eat, rune up, summon their pet and filter you out, if not actually mute you as you berate them for slacking. They have to bend over and take it from their boss at work you, with the greatest respect, you’re nobody. They will focus more and try harder because they wiped and they want everyone to progress rather than you’re bitching at them.

You and everyone else will know if someone is not performing well or, more importantly, not trying. Wiping and failure are not a crime in casual raiding guilds they are part of the fun and a source of amusement. Not trying and not doing your level best for the group is a crime, I don’t care what you metered you died before the final phase when we actually needed that DPS or you failed to help soak being so focused on your personal DPS. Your DPS was abysmal but you didn’t miss a single interrupt. If you can get your DPS up too…WIN WIN WIN. Encouragement and hand holding reaps rewards with people who have to take shit all day at work. Knowing exactly when (and it’s rare) to lay the law out is the art of moving from being a great RL to being the best RL.

A RL should say nothing most of the time. If you’re duplicating the functions of DBM ask yourself why and what effect is that having on your raid team. If two things happen at once and you can only call out about one how many of your raid die? Would your breath be better spent explaining the key abilities to counter in each phase before the fight and focussing on each new mechanics that caused a wipe in the run back? Or is better telling people not to stand in the green so they don’t need DBM or GTFO? You know what I think. A good RL doesn’t have to tell people not to stand in the fel.

If your priority is progression: killing bosses quickly without wiping (or anyone dying on trash) you may find your raid’s a little light on fun. Surely the reverse is then true? If your priority is fun there with be little progress, people will wipe on trash (OMFG!) and we’ll never, ever progress. No. That’s simply deluded. For all of us: hardcore raider and scrub casual alike wiping all night on one boss and wiping repeatedly on trash is no fun. Fun involves progression. Fun does not involve carrying slackers, people who cannot or do not learn, tolerating the terminally inept. Scrub casuals like myself can tolerate some wiping as players adjust to higher difficulty and learn their own strategies to staying alive in challenging situations and then translating that survival into more polished tanking, healing and damage dealing. Scrub casuals will not find it a unforgivable waste of time of time wiping on trash. They will however come back more focussed, marshal themselves and slap the trash down and berate anyone who over-pulls and wipes them a second time. Fun involves a measure of progress and is reduced by repeated wipes on the same boss. The only difference here is degree. How many trash wipes are funny and when does it become a completely boring waste of time? You’re raid leader, you set the tone, the question to ask yourself is: “Am I setting the correct tone, the tone necessary for this team to progress? Or am I letting them goof off too much?” with the best will in the world, for most RL’s the better question is “Could I allow this team more slack to mess around, relax and get confident, trusting them them to bring their ‘A’ Game when it’s needed?” Listen to the Voice of the Casuals

Well you may not be good looking but you haven’t got no faith
Sometimes you get a mouthful when I only want a taste
Sometimes you kick the devil out but angels smash your face
You can lay the law out baby but I don’t think I’ll behave…

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