Monthly Archives: July 2011

On the Thirty Pieces of Silver

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Matthew 26:14-16

So.

Let’s talk about 4000 Honor Points as compensation for folks who ground out entire sets of i365 Vicious gear.

An entire set, by the way, is roughly 26k. So this is about 15% of the total kit.

Let’s say you bought a car for $30k, and it was a lemon. You returned it immediately. The dealership paid you $4615.38 when you brought it back. You’re out $25,384. How would you feel?

Let’s say you bought a book for $19.99, realized it wasn’t right, and brought it back. The bookstore took the book back and gave you $3. How would you feel.

Let’s say it took you 40 hours to grind out that Honor – about 650/hour, which based on what I’m seeing in 4.2 seems a reasonable average with a 50% win rate. (I’m getting 125-175 for losses). Of those 40 hours, only 6 have had value. 34 hours of your time have been wasted.

(This is the extreme case, of having purchased the entire Vicious kit that week, of course.)

So let’s say that the PvP developers chose this option because it was the easiest to implement, which I think is a reasonable assumption. They have to prep a code release, identify affected players, test their code, then work it into a production maintenance.

And it only goes to half of the affected player base.

So now, they have to do a hotfix, which means you have to pull them back off their projects, identify those players who were missed, prep their code, QA the fix, and pass it off to production support for deployment. The servers have to come down again. There are real costs to this.

So the cheap solution ends up costing more than originally estimated.

The sub-optimal solution for customer service was chosen because it was the lowest cost to implement. And then the implementers screw it up.

It’s one thing to give substandard compensation and then consider the matter closed. That’s bad. It’s another thing to give that payoff and screw it up.

There’s a business lesson in here, which I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.

Let me get back to the 30 pieces of silver.

There’s this scene in Robin Hood – the one with Kevin Costner, don’t judge – where Friar Tuck goes and shoves all this crap into the Archbishop’s arms, getting him ready for his journey. Finally, he gives him a purse of coins, shoves it in the bishops mouth, and yells, “and here’s your thirty pieces of silver, to pay the devil when you see him in hell!”

Friar Tuck then defenestrates the evil Archbishop.

It’s a good movie. Even if Costner switches back to an American accent in the middle of it.

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On Playing Piano like a Guitar Player

So I’m trying to teach myself how to move with the keyboard again, and … well, it’s painful.

I move with my mouse. Back when I used a trackball, I moved really fluidly and could spin for HOURS on my Chopper. Even with the Naga, I am still pretty mobile, but it shifts abilities onto my right hand, which means my left needs to handle movement. So, keyboard moving boot camp.

I play guitar, or I used to. (I should play more now.) But I play it adequately well, and it helped me with my manual dexterity. My left hand fingers have reach and are used to hitting odd positions. My right have rhythm, and are used to placement. They have different jobs to do.

When I play piano, I’m not very good. My spouse says I play like a string player – instead of my hands acting in unison, they work separately. Left hand! You have the bass line! Right hand, take the melody! It’s a style more suited to keyboards than piano, to be honest.

I play Warcraft in a similar fashion. My left hand handles casting abilities, my right moves me around. I strafe with mouse buttons, push both mouse buttons to move forward, all while tapping out spellcasts on my left hand.

Targeting is the first problem with this approach. This model either requires me to tab target, or focus target, or set macros to get different Arena combatants. I can cast on the run, but I struggle with target switching. Mouseover macros are also nonintuitive, because Mice is 4 moving.

 

Healing is the next one. I struggle with using Vuhdo while moving, because I’m clicking on green boxes with my movement hand. Casting with clicks – while standing – is great in a 5man, but it sucks in pvp. Even more than unfamiliarity with a healing class, inability to move and click things hampers my performance.

So I’m trying two things.

First, on a few of my lowbies I’m trying to cast only with the mouse and move with the keys. Turning with the mouse is strange in this model, and I’m still trying to get my right thumb used to the idea that he’s driving the casts. My left hand is like, IM HERE TWITCHING PLEASE CAST FASTER.

 

The other thing I’m trying is on Cynwise, where I’m learning to cast with the full naga keyboard, but not disturbing any of my other keys. It’s taking some adjustment for that simple shift. I tend to flip back in the middle of combat to the old way.

Golfers have to periodically adjust their swing, and I think that this will make me a better player – eventually.

But for now, I’m a string player on a piano, trying to get my hands to work in concert.

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On Priorities, Elephants, and Desire

Let’s talk about the white elephant in Cyn’s room.

On July 4th, I walked away from Warcraft, my blog, my twitter account. I vanished with a single note: Unplugging and taking a break. Back in a bit. /afk. No notice, no warning, no signs of trouble. I uninstalled my Twitter and blogging apps off my phone, disabled Cynwise’s email accounts, and pulled Warcraft off my Dock.

And I walked away.

Contemplating a future without Cyn, laying aside the mask and leaving it behind, was scary. Over the last two years Warcraft has become a big part of my life – not just the game, but the community around it, around the blogs, around Twitter. I’ve made a lot of friends, some of whom are good friends, through this hobby. I’ve found writing about WoW to be very personally rewarding, of making me a better writer, a more flexible debater, a better teacher.

But I walked away.

I didn’t walk away because I was unhappy with Warcraft. It wasn’t dissatisfaction with the state of the Warlock, or PvP gear fiascos, or anything.

I walked away because my hobby made my spouse cry.

That is probably the most personal detail you’re ever going to get out of me.

More so than how much I love my kids and my wife, more so than where I live, or even my name and face, now you know this. My somewhat measured, careful relationship with Warcraft is straining my relationship with my spouse. I was okay with my kids, but not the one who I’ve chosen to spend my life with. It takes me away from her for hours at a time, the only hours she has to have adult contact.

I will not forget her, crying, yelling at me that she couldn’t even ask me to stop because then I would resent her for it. And I knew she was right.

I will not forget.

So I walked away. She didn’t ask. She didn’t have to.

Here’s the thing, internet. In a battle between you and her, you have to lose. There shouldn’t be any question about that. I can’t even joke about this, because there are plenty of people who don’t make that choice, who choose the wrong answer, and who pay the price.

I didn’t even tell her I’d did it until mid-week, but she’d already noticed. I did other things to keep busy. I played some games on my iPhone. I cleaned up some things around the house, and on the network. I set up my Kindle and read a few books. I went to bed early. I said it was only for a week, but after a few days, I started thinking maybe not.

Holy crap, going to bed early when you have a 6AM child-induced wakeup call feels great.

She didn’t ask. She never asked. I had to remember that a lot, she never asked. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Without Warcraft in my head all the time, I was more focused at work, more engaged with the kids, more present for her.

It was good.

But here I am, typing at you from behind the mask again, internet. I picked it back up again. How can I justify that?

Two things happened.

During that week, I closed down a weblog which had been going for 5 years. Five years! It had spluttered to a stop a year or two ago, but once upon a time it was central to my identity on the internet. I hung my hat as its proprietor. It wasn’t big, but it was me.

And I hated it.

It was a failure, not commercially – it paid for a lot of Warcraft art! – but personally. I looked over its archives and looked at it with a critical eye.

  • How did this website help people?
  • What did I teach anyone with it?
  • Why did I think people cared if I added no value?
  • Did this website have a positive impact at all?

That website was an aesthetically pleasing complete waste of fucking time and bytes.

Then I looked at CBM, and the differences couldn’t be starker. I am really fucking proud of Cynwise’s Battlefield Manual. You know why? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the pageviews.

I keep an early email in my inbox from a reader to remind me why. It’s about my Children’s Week Posts.

Then I ran across your post, and was amazed.  (I also enjoyed both of the ‘Proposal’ entries)  So complete, well-written, and enjoyable.  Your attitude and strategy helped me to screw my head on straight and realize both how silly it was to get so bent out shape, and how to have fun while trying for the achieve.

I helped someone get their head on straight, get perspective and a good attitude, and make it work. That’s pretty good.

I have been thinking about how much your post changed not only my enjoyment of WoW, but my attitude in general.  Just wanted to say thanks, and to let you know that you convinced me of the joys of battlegrounds. Thanks agin, I hope I get to heal you sometime!

I get a lot of comments like this now. “Thanks for explaining things.” “Thanks for helping me out, I get it now.” “Thanks for showing me how to have fun, this is a blast!”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get that kind of feedback from my work often enough.

I talked with my spouse about this a lot that night I shut down the other site. She was right – she couldn’t ask me to give it up. I would resent her for giving up the good parts of all of this. I would resent walking away from something that was personally fulfilling – not the video game, but the weblog. The mask.

The other thing that happened was that, after a fantastically productive week at work, I realized that I’d burned out at work. I had done 2x the normal volume of work on a busy week and was burned out again. My job isn’t that interesting. It’s kinda lonely working remote, and the WoW community is very social and fun.

I missed y’all!

So I picked up Twitter again, gingerly, like hey, sorry I was gone, I didn’t mean to cause worry, but I needed to go away. It was really nice coming back to friends.

Things were good. Spouse was happy. Cyn was happy. Had gotten my own head on straight.

And then I checked in on the WoW news, and was like… what? are you kidding me? They did what to PvP gear? I busted my butt to get a complete Conquest set last season and now it’s not even worth the same as Honor gear? I have to grind it all over again?

I very nearly quit that night. It was interesting, writing a post on CBM, trying to get a conclusion, when it came out – were it not for my son wanting to see how Gilneas ended, I would have quit on the spot. It came out, in a public forum, something I never thought I’d say.

I find it interesting that I walked away from WoW for reasons that had nothing to do with the content of the game, but as I was gingerly coming back to it I got slapped in the face with an unexpected gear grind, and that’s what made me really want to quit.

It’s not that the changes made me want to quit, but the changes might keep me from coming back. Looking around at my free time made me value it more, and spending it playing WoW doesn’t always appeal. I can find other things to do now, which surprises me.

And one of those things is, surprisingly, blogging a lot more.

I enjoy writing about Warcraft. I have a lot of things that I want to write about. This site is one of those things. I have a map of changes to CBM that I can’t wait to get started on. I have stories that I want to write. There’s a lot of positive things still to do, and I want to do them.

Blogging isn’t something that takes me away from her for hours at a time.

Hopefully I’m done with the negative posts about the PvP gear debacle. I say hopefully, because I don’t know what Blizzard is going to fuck up next. Maybe they’ll get it all straightened out, but I have a feeling it will just take time to blow over. I’m done covering it. I’d like to get back to posts that help people have fun. I got my own shit to do.

I’m not going anywhere. I’m playing very casually right now, and that’s been an interesting transition for me. Instead of 4-5 hours a night, it’s down to 0-2. I’m not logging on some days at all. It’s strange to revise your goals from “Arena 2200 or bust” to “fiddle with my UI and play a BG to test it.” I’m still blogging, and if today is any indication, I’m blogging a lot.

I’m slowing down with actually playing Warcraft, and I’m okay with that.

There are some things you cannot forget.

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On Brand Loyalty and Addiction

Photo

Listen. I don’t have a problem. I can quit using them ANY TIME I want to. They’re just REALLY GOOD NOTEBOOKS, okay?!

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On Why I Smell Social Engineering

Related to the last post.

In PvE, you can cap all of your raiding gear needs through running last tier’s content in a solo fashion. (Not that you solo Zulroics, but you can queue for them solo if necessary.) If you have a raid team, it can be done with only part of your raid team, or you can queue for it and take your chances with the LFD too.

In PvP, you can only cap through running content in the largest group environment possible, requiring the most coordination of any PvP activity. Not only can you not do it solo, you can’t even do it though your normal group if you prefer Arenas.

There are two very different philosophies at work here.

“I smell social engineering” is a phrase I picked up maybe 10 years ago from JWZ, who was talking about linux development of some ilk. Both of these point systems are directing players towards very specific content – Zulroics for PvE, Rated Battlegrounds for PvP – that have been introduced in Cataclysm, at the expense of other content that players seem to prefer.

Why? Is it to justify the development dollars in those projects? They have to amass so many hours of player time before an activity is justified?

The current system is a mess, and it’s a mess because the rewards programs are trying to drive specific behavior that is counter to what the player base wants to do.

Good times.

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On Visible Weekly Caps and Filling the Bar

Theory: it’s not just the source of Valor Points which is causing problems with PvE right now, it’s also the way in which the VP cap itself is expressed.

In Wrath, there was a weekly cap – the total number of Frost Badges you could earn. The better you raided, the more you got. You could supplement with Daily Heroics, but if you missed a day or two of heroics – any heroic, mind you – you were still within 90% of your total cap (based on raid success.)

Now, the total points available to earn is greater – much greater – than the weekly cap. So the expectation is changed that you should be able to fill up your bar to 100% of your weekly cap, because of the entire pool of Valor Points available to you, you’re only being asked to get a portion of them.

Also, the cap is expressly described as such – it has gone from being invisible to visible, a set of expectations to a progress bar. This is a big shift for PvE. In PvP, we’re used to the caps, to the idea that you have to fill up a bar. But this is new. There’s a bar, now. Progress bars induce guilt. Did I get it this week? Just one more, I’m almost capped out and then I can stop.

I spent a lot of nights hammering away at that last win in the Arenas during Season 9, just to fill up a bar. It got me shiny purples, but… it was to fill up a bar.

The other part that I wonder about is that the percentage of the overall pool of VP is now so diluted. I remember reading that only 14% of the total Frosties per week could come from daily Heroics, which sounds about right. Now, depending on your raid team, 35-40% of your potential VP pool is Zulroics.

What the hell?

Never before has the gear grind seemed so naked, so calculated, as it does when you look at that damn weekly cap. You will log in, on a regular basis… or you will fall behind.

I think I liked them better when the caps were invisible.

(Number of weeks in Season 10 Cyn has capped Conquest Points: 0.)

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On Zulroics, T11 Normal Raids, and Valor Points

So here’s what I don’t get about last night’s Valor Point change, and maybe it’s because I’m just a PvP monkey these days.

The item level of gear you get from an activity is supposed to be roughly equivalent to the difficulty of said activity. This breaks down a bit when you go compare PvP and PvE to each other, but within a sphere of activity it should be somewhat consistent, right?

Item levels!

  • 397: Heroic Rag? Legendary Staff (that’s what she said)
  • 391: Heroic Firelands  
  • 384: S10 Conquest Gear
  • 378 Firelands
  • 379: Sinestra
  • 378: Firelands
  • 378: T12 Valor Gear <— What Zulroics gets you
  • 372: Heroic T11
  • 371: S10 Honor Gear 
  • 365: S9 Conquest Gear
  • 359: T12 Justice Gear
  • 359: T11 Raids
  • 358: S10 Crafted Gear
  • 353: Zulroics  <– Worse than crafted PvP gear
  • 352: S9 Honor Gear

If we subscribe to the idea that rewards are commensurate to difficulty, adding T11 raids to the VP rewards equation makes a lot of sense. If anything, it shows how completely fucking backwards the previous model was – Zulroics, which are outclassed by crafted PvP gear for crying out loud, were rewarding more than Heroic T11. Are still rewarding more. How does that make sense?

Old content shouldn’t reward as much as new content, and heroics should reward more then regular mode. Heroic T11 drops adequate gear for Firelands, but I think as a raider I’d say, let’s blow through T11 normal to cap everyone’s VP instead of running 7 Zulroics.

Rated Battlegrounds and Zulroics: I smell social engineering.

 

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