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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.

Always think twice about placing a guild in a Stand-in GM’s hands. Even if no one else is prepared to step up,. It’s simply better to hold on to the GM-ship yourself, and go long term AFK, than make someone not-fit-for-purpose GM. Wonder if GMs think they’ll be able to to take over again if and when they comes back? I’m not so sure that always happens.

Weird shit happens in guilds all the time because half the people behave like the structures matter and sensible people don’t. Veteran ranks,  Officers and GMs, it’s all BS. We’re all just adults playing online games. We group up and put some people in charge simply because we don’t want to have to organise anything ourselves. So if one of the people we accepted as in charge starts behaving like they are in charge and everyone should listen to them and forget the very limited nature of their remit…things will not turn out well.

I’m surprised anyone could forgot, or put to one side, the whole “Thou shalt not swear, it will put off all the new people and offend existing members, so sayeth grandma Stand-in GM.” The GM, God love him, and I do,responded in a priceless manner and is worth quoting again. “Stand-in GM, no one fucking tells me when I can and can’t fucking swear.” Oh and all the new members you’re talking about? Your friend, the prick and his wife, who don’t like the bad language, and the other new member who is currently in the “Social Night” Discord channel with us swearing like a sailor?

So, the prick who keeps whispering officers to have people kicked just because he doesn’t like them? Or his wife who crashed a social night and bitched about the wiping in Timewalking? She did nothing but moan then force queued us for another dungeon. At which point all the four of the group silently and without coordination left the group and re-formed in another, quietly invited a fifth and carried on. Lovely woman, I hope her massive ego wasn’t brusied too fucking much. They’re the only people offended by anyone’s fucking swearing. Are you aware that psychologists have demonstrated, through rigorous scientific testing, that people who swear a lot are objectively more intelligent than average and they have a larger vocubulary (which also correlates to higher intelligence)?

So Stand-in GM and Huntard had a chat? Who initated it and what the content of the chat actually was nobody but them knows. However, we know they had a chat, they’ve both admitted as much. We also know that whatever was said and whatever was promised, Stand-in GM asked Huntard not to say anything to My Mate, the other officer, until he’d spoken to her himself. We also know Stand-in GM was so angry that Huntard did talk to My Mate that he dragged Huntard out of the Social Night channel into another Discord room and tore a strip off her, leaving her in tears. Bo hooo. We all know Huntard’s solution to that. It’s on her Facebok page.

Huntard says “Stand-in GM wants me back. He wants me to run social night.” Now I have no idea whether that was said. Huntard could easily be inventing that, or she misunderstood. Misunderstanding and not listening is after all her modus operandi. But clearly she wanted to take over social night and make it her “Wine Night” again. So whether or not she misunderstood Stand-in GM, she was certainly very happy to take over an organised guild event from an officer and pretended friend and deliver a gloating kick in the teeth on the way through.

When Huntard was talking about taking over Friday night she was completely at ease with kicking My Mate in the teeth because she would be back in control and could decide who did and didn’t attend. Yeah, I know you didn’t want me to attend your Wine Night Huntard. To be honest, if you were ever to run another Wine Night I for one wouldn’t wish to be involved. Neither would most of the people who have left Wine Night (taken you off Battle.net Friends and hide from you online) and WoW as an unattractive way to spend any time. However, excluding our friend because “She isn’t in the guild and not even in the game any more,” that’s rude and ironic since you haven’t stopped whispering her since you crashed so spectacularly out of the guild. So who are you going to organise a Wine Night with? Our Friend seems to be the only person you’re whispering on a Friday Night, apart from My Mate, which is hilarious since you’ve been dismissive of one and stabbed the other in the back. Apparently I’m the hypocrite? What is so hard to understand? Social Nights were supposed to be about having fun, doing content in a relaxed, laid back environment, parhaps enjoying a glass of your favourite beverage. It was never supposed be about carrying a beligerent drunk through content while she snaps at people who are trying to help. I got tried of being told to “fuck off, steve” for telling you the right thing and I’d have to say “Mate, tell her,” to have my remarks confirmed and reiterated.

If this reminiscence serves any puropse, other than to drag out into the cold light of day more guild BS that has no place anywhere, it demonstrates that once more the same two people have undermined a guild officer and made their position so untenable that they have reluctantly guild quit and left behind people they genuinely like. Huntard has stoked a shit storm around two officers and the now-Stand in GM has taken the bait. The same two people. Perhaps it’s “Social Officers” the Stand in GM doesn’t like. He always hated “Wine Night” even when it was still relatively drunk-free. With an absence of social officers perhaps there will now be an absence of social events. So everyone can really concentrate on they only thing that matters Raids. And farming mats for raids, especially Slabs of Bacon. Stop having fun and socialising and get out their and win the bacon. So this is what went down. I know there are people who’d prefer to let BS like this, or drama if you will, stay hidden, with as few people as possible having any idea what the hell happened. Secrets whsipered about, left festering and rotting in the dark. That can only benefit one person.

This Friday I spent the evening with the people I like most in World of Warcraft and a new soul who seems to be friendly and spot on. We ran dungeons for this new arrival, normals, just to help gear her, she’s 102, and we genuinely enjoy helping out (helping not carry-dragging lazy drunks arounds). We agreed that this “Social Night” was the best we’d had in we don’t know how long. Friends say things to your face, until they’re blue in the face. Then they might blog about about what they’ve said publicly to your face. Hypocrites say they’re your friend then engage in BS plots behind your back to push you out of your given role. So how are you spending your Friday Nights, because mine have improved and no one was excluded (only self-excluded)?

 

Wait…you took Nowhere to Hide?!

I just played 3 Heroes of the Storm matches with Illidan.

I was getting ordered around the map by a Jaina (Mighty) for no discernable reason. I was solo defending the bottom lane for a while which may have given them the impression that I was pushing the lane, quite rightly they noted “You’re too slow pushing a lane…” so I should “…go top.” I only went bottom to capture the zerg beacon and stayed because Alarak and Sylvanas were going to kick it in otherwise. I was holding them.

Jaina (Mighty) kept urging me away, they came bot and we had a 2 v 2, which I was happy with. The next beacon pop I reamed out three opponents trying to take bot off us, so I was pleased with how things were going. During a death phase I asked Jaina (Mighty) why the grief when we were two levels ahead and I was doing OK, our zerg wave was larger in part because I took out three trying to take bot, which left a 3 v 2 top with weight of numbers on our side. Mighty gave a little. Asking if it was my first time, since Illidan is on free rotation, no offence like. OK, well I could’ve taken offence, but what is the point? Now as I freely admited “I am not the best Illidan in the world. However, I can play OK for a level 4.”

We owned the next zerg wave too. Then the opposition grabbed a boss and I did a pretty fine job, with Jaina, of trouncing it top, fast. She even said “Nice xD”. Fair play, doffs cap. I drew a breath looked around and because I’m a n00b Illidan I’d taken the discouraged Nowhere to Hide at level 20. I saw a half health Chromie pushing bot. Hunt is such a joy. After smashing across the map and taking her completely unawares I then promptly cast Sweeping Strikes and smacked Sylvanas round the head for trying to take a Merc camp with Kel’Thuzad. with them both on half health it was small matter to terminate her and chase him down.

I got a LOL and “Not bad for a level 4” from our Jaina. Thanks Mighty.

Drink it in, neither of us will ever see the like again. Illidan is 5.

..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

Some people seem to be deliberately deaf to hints. Their special approach to the game slowly alienates friends and guildies alike, but they continue to plough their unappealing furrow. The only difference, remember, between a rut and a grave is depth. For one last time, for the sake of my sanity and others around me, I will try to make some earnest suggestions.

This is the mini-map. It’s in the top right hand corner of your screen. It’s a very valuable feature of the default Blizzard UI. It’s on the screen all the time and it’s centred right on you. It also has an indicator with a pointy end and rounded end. The pointy end points the way your character is facing. Using this UI object you can navigate, it will help you find team mates who have inconsiderately wandered out of your line of sight during one of your many announced, or unannounced, AFK moments. If they are further away than the circle of in-game environment that the mini-map shows then you can refer to the full sized map (default key for the Map is ‘M‘). This is how players avoid getting lost and, if they are separated from friends and team mates, can find their own way back.

If you are constantly getting lost, not setting out with flying mount or via a flight point to an in game location, claim all you like that it is because you will get lost. We all know it’s because you’re lazy. If you ask for help with dungeon quests and then argue with people, who all know better than you, that you cannot complete heroic dungeon quests at mythic difficulty with no keystone, then the very least you can do is track your own quest objectives. Don’t wait until the very end of the dungeon and force people to ask “Did you complete your quest?” “No.” “Why not? What are you missing?” “I don’t know.” It’s your quest, it’s the reason we came here with you, how can you not know? “Link the quest in party chat,”…so that we can look at the objectives for you and work out what you missed.

Then when we hand hold you out of the back door of the instance the idea is to follow us out of the cave to a point where we can all mount to fly back to the entrance. What did you think we were going to do? Magically pull the quest objective out of one of our arses so you suddenly WIN without doing anything? Then when we fly back to where you are, see you mount up and start flying with us, don’t get half way there and get bored and stop looking at map/mini-map and fly in exactly the opposite direction and then snap “Where did you go!” like it’s our fault you are ‘lost’ again.

Don’t ask us to Mythic+ with you either. A high level key can be hard enough in several dungeons, especially with some of the additional mechanics, without having to carry someone who can’t make their way to the dungeon, has to be summoned, can get lost between the summoning stone and the dungeon entrance and if they die cannot run back to the group from the start of the instance. If four of us get in, without at least one waiting to hand hold you inside someone will have to come out. Once inside, you make no effort not to stand in the fire, refuse to follow even rudimentary tactics. “Tactics! Oh fuck off. C’mon on.” Even if we’re wiping repeatedly to the same mechanic. It is not endearing to be constantly cackling “Balls of evil! Balls of evil!” Like most things in life it was funny the first time, second time less so. Now, that horse you’re flogging is not so much dead as completely decomposed.

Still we can look forward to the inevitable early bath. After one or maybe two excruciating, toe-curlingly frustrating dungeons we all know you’ll be too pissed to carry on. We then have to repeatedly explain, well pretty much everything, two or three times as you are not listening. Sometimes even though each of us has tried to explain, repeatedly, that you cannot be replaced you are still whining insistently that someone, who is actually in another group, in another dungeon, take your place. Despite their protests, you continue to encourage: “Oh c’mon!” or “Fuck you!”, they still decline, but you still tell your team to kick you and get your already occupied replacement in. Like completing heroic dungeons quests on mythic (without keystone) difficulty you also don’t seem to realise that no one can join a mythic+ run in progress. You cannot just leave and have your team carry on without you…especially if you’re the healer.

Battlegrounds (BGs) reveal more starkly your attitude to the game in general: “Help me I am getting attacked.” Yes you are, we all are, all of the time. A more dynamic role, involving, say, moving from one location to another, would leave you lost and riding blithely into the Stables in Arathi Basin…which is rarely not controlled by the Alliance, as it’s right next to their starting point and graveyard. So you’re the self appointed guardian of the Farm. You have to ride down the hill…and then camp. For the entire duration of the BG. In all BGs there’s the inevitable voice chatter “Incoming at Farm,” “Incoming at Farm,” “INCOMING AT FARM!” “I am dead where were you?” communicating that we’re clearly expected to answer every call and keep you alive at all costs. However, PvP is not an heroic raid, independence and the ability to use your own initiative is essential. In other Battlegrounds, that lack the simplicity of Farm camping, we get “Where are you? I am getting killed. I have died again. OMG! I am getting attacked in the graveyard, this is not fair. I’m dead again! Where are you? Help!”

This blog is testament to the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of PvP. I prefer raids and dungeons, my absolute favourite in game events are 5 man Mythic+ runs. Raiding has always been a long second to classic 5 mans like Stratholme, Blackrock Depths and Shadow Labyrinth. If anyone actually listens to anything I say they will also know that I do not hate PvP, as some do, with a passion. Top of my Christmas List of online malarkey ever year is Arathi Basin, my absolute all time favourite BG and Battle for Gilneas, now my second favourite. Alterac Valley is all riding…riding, riding. Warsong Gulch et al are the capture the flag gank fests. I hate capture the flag, like many, many other players I simple gave up, walked away, never came back, quit on the meta achievement for whatever that dragon was due to School of Hard Knocks. Look it up under achievements. Broke me. But since 2006, at Christmas you will usually find me doing some PvP with guildies, usually in Arathi Basin, usually camping “Fleety’s Farm“…like a lazy cun  git

If you ask for help with your heroic dungeon quests and then argue with people that you cannot complete heroic dungeon quests at mythic+0, we’re going to know you’re an idiot. We all know you don’t know anything about PvP, so if I’m excluding two from our list of random battlegrounds don’t tell me the last one we were in was Arathi Basin. “No. Arathi Basin is the one with the Lumber Mill, Blacksmiths, Gold Mine…and Farm.”, “No.” No, of course it isn’t Arathi Basin is a capture the flag battleground that looks suspiciously like Twin Peaks. Don’t make me raise my voice and slap you down again!

So shortly after this you’re going to pop up with another, perfectly reasonable excuse not to carry on. I predicted four minutes, but it was barely one. It’s just as well as you are starting to slur your words and disagree with people as you clearly have no idea what they are talking about, often when they aren’t actually talking to you. It’s not that your “explanation” for leaving can’t be genuine. It’s that the circumstances that trigger you leaving are always the same and you always have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Every time?

Sometimes being the huntard in-game can be funny. Sadly it’s a joke with limited life. When it starts to creep out of the game into your real life…that’s just not funny at all.

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.

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