Tag Archives: CFN

One Reason Isle of Conquest is Effed in EVERY Bracket

  1. “It’s the Isle of Conquest.” – Narci.

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Five Ways in which the 80-84 Isle of Conquest is Effed Up


The Isle of Conquest isn’t my favorite battleground, but it’s so broken in the 80-84 bracket it’s not funny.

  1. Bosses are effectively unkillable. It’s not just that you need a geared 84 tank to take them out – you do, and good luck finding one of them – it’s that geared level 84 healers can’t keep up with the damage due to scaling. Level 84 characters are good for DPS, that’s about it.
  2. Bracket imbalance between 80 and 84. Some classes are exceptionally powerful at 80 when geared properly and can take out 84s – but the cost of gearing up a toon in full Wrath PvP gear is prohibitively expensive. DPS that scales with gear improves through 84 (84 Frost DKs are a nightmare) while healers get less effective. This isn’t a problem with IoC specifically, but it’s my list and it’s a problem with the bracket.
  3. Graveyard control can funnel entire teams into a single, easily-camped graveyard. This isn’t really a problem with the bracket, but if you control the rez vectors you can get the entire opposing team to rez at your keep’s GY. (Or their keep’s GY, but someone always takes their flag.)
  4. Siege engines do MASSIVE amounts of AoE damage. They can be used to 1-shot everyone. I mean, everyone, including level 84 twinks. Hey, eat 120k damage!
  5. Entire teams can get 1-shot every 30 seconds. Take #3, add #4, and now you know how to win IoC in this bracket. 40 players rez beside enemy keep, Siege Engine charges, kills all of them. Back up and repeat.

See what I mean about being broken?

Winning strat: Everyone to Workshop. Let enemy take Docks and assault your Keep. Take Hanagar, hold Workshop while capturing their Keep (turn the GY.) Retake Docs. Send Siege back to your keep but DO NOT RETAKE. Ensure that opponent’s rez vector is toyour Keep. Protect siege as it grinds rez waves. Rack up massive HKs, win on reinforcements.

Sanity-preserving strat: Consider /afking and questing instead.

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On ESDF, Old Dogs, New Tricks


One of my goals in my Mists bucket list is to learn to use an ESDF keybind. It’s a little odd. There’s a story behind this goal, and … I don’t know how it ends. See, I’m not trying to move from WASD to ESDF (which is honestly a difficult move for many people.) That shift over one key can have a big impact on your playstyle and muscle memory.

No, I’m moving from a system where I steered entirely with my mouse to using some of the keyboard to steer, freeing up more of the Naga mouse buttons for casting. This somewhat unconventional system has worked for me for a while – over a year – but there are some drawbacks which I hope ESDF will help address.

And to date, it’s been a disaster.



I used to play WoW exclusively on a 13″ MacBook. I detailed how that influenced my keybinding in some detail on CBM over two years ago – and while things evolved and changed over time, the basic philosophy of pinky on Tab, move with mouse, and rebind the entire keyboard stayed the same. I got better moving with the mouse, binding my strafe keys to it, getting a Naga, binding autorun to the center button, things like that.

The biggest advantage is the huge number of keybinds I can squeeze out of the laptop. The picture above is a recent shot (mid-December 2011), and is actually a somewhat stripped out PvE keybinding. The PvP binds were more full:


It was complicated, and a little overwhelming, but I could get to everything. And there are like 80 keybinds without even thinking too hard about it!

The problem came when I started healing again, and suddenly I’m supposed to be mousing over things to heal them.

And moving.

Huh. Okay, that is a bit of a challenge.

I actually figured out how to do this, with a combination of Click-to-Move and Autorun that worked out pretty well. But all the while, my keybinds and bartender setup got more and more complicated, and further from the standard. No problem, right? I have backups, lots of backups, it doesn’t matter that my bars have only a superficial relationship to the original mapping, right?



Got a new computer. Yay!

It’s hooked up to a huge screen. Yay!

Wow, look at all that screen space! I bet I could actually … see my screen, not have to viewport it just to be able to see my feet under my casting bars. The possibilities!

Maybe, just maybe, I could try out some of those fancy UI packages that people always rave about. You know, ElvUI or TukUI or … anything, really. I have a new computer, so it shouldn’t affect my other UI settings, right? I have backups and screenshots and the like.

I’ll just try it out on one character. Sure, ElvUI kinda screwed up my previous UI, but that was because it was on the same computer. I’m sure I’ll be able to revert.

Ok, huh, a couple of setup steps… looks nice, looks cool… the bindings are gone, but that makes sense, Bartender has its own settings. They’ll come back. This is kinda neat.

Huh, my abilities are all in odd order, must be something with the bars. I can fix that later.

*plays around with it for a while, switches to a different toon*

Wait. Where are my keybinds?

*different toon*

Why are the bars all messed up? I mean, not only keybinds but actions are gone? Buttons are messed up?

*switches back to toon with ElvUI running*

Keybinds are gone, bars are messed up here, too.

Ok, don’t panic. I have backups.

*exits WoW, uninstalls ElvUI/TukUI, restores WTF/Addon folders, logs back in*

Oh god.

They’re gone. They’re all gone.

*goes to laptop, logs in*

Same here. Keybinds are stored on the server. Whatever ElvUI did to the binds must have wiped out all the bartender settings, too.

*opens macro pane*

Dude, where are my macros?



Well, fuck.

I still don’t know how it all happened. I went from installing ElvUI and going, okay, looks nice, but doesn’t scale well down to 13″ (which is why I rejected it originally), let’s try something else, to losing the heart of my custom UI across all characters.

I could have rebuilt it. I could have rebound the buttons and gone through each character, recreating their macros and trying to match up what I had done before.

But I thought, you know what? Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is a chance to start fresh, to throw it all out, eliminate the cruft and get something that can work on both computers. I can figure out how to sync them, I’m sure I can pick something simple that uses the default bars. Maybe I can finish up that keybind post by revisiting my own binds. After all, most really good PvP players seem to get by just a few addons, not major reconfiguration of the bars.

Maybe I should try doing it the way everyone else does. Maybe there’s a reason I should be using WASD that I don’t know about. Everyone else does it, it lets them use their mouse to click on things, I wouldn’t have to autorun everywhere.

Maybe not WASD. Didn’t Christian Moore have a post on ESDF? Oh yeah, that looks a little better, let’s try that. It’s not universal like WASD, but it’s got some clear advanatages, let me try that out.


So, ESDF is now bound on all my characters. Right in the middle of my prime keybind space are movement keys. I’ve shifted my hand to a different position, unbound strafe from my Naga, rebound all sorts of action keys to it…

…and I kinda suck with it.

I’ve been playing with ESDF for about a week now, and there’s no real good way to put it. I suck. I flounder and mishit abiliites. I’m slower with casting off the Naga than the keyboard. Not finding the button – pushing and then spaming it. I switch to mouse driving, then remember I’m supposed to use E to go forward.

The UI layout is also confusing, because the buttons aren’t laid out in a visual way. So I’m like, wait, where is that ability? It’s on that bar, what is that key combo? Shift-3, REALLY?

So I’m kinda at a low point here with this new keybind experiment. I’m struggling to find a clear and compelling reason to stick with it, aside from “this will take time and a lot of practice.”

Like, just because something is popular and The Usual Suspect, does it mean it’s the best option? Is this like driving a car, where you want to have controls be standard across all models and types? Am I doing ESDF just to fit in? Or do I really believe it’s going to turn out to be better?

I don’t know. I don’t see compelling evidence yet that it’s going to be that much better than mouse-driving.

But maybe that’s because I haven’t really given it a good solid try. That’s what worries me. Maybe it’s just a matter of not putting in the effort, and that a week isn’t enough. Maybe it’s 2, or 4, or 6 weeks until it’s comfortable.

Maybe. I dunno.

I hope it’s worth it.


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On Making A Bucket List for Mists of Pandaria


Is it too soon to be talking about making a bucket list for Cataclsym? I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it, indirectly. And maybe it’s time.

By cancelling my recurring subscription, I’ve accelerated the end-of-expac mindset and have to start thinking about what do I really want to get done in game. I’ve placed a constraint upon myself – not a hard constraint, but a soft limit that challenges me to define what I want to do, see if I can do it by a specific date, and then evaluate if I’m still enjoying playing enough to justify purchasing another month. Or three. Or if I should take a break.

I like constraints. I wrote about embracing constraints at the end of Wrath, and while I’m not feeling the same pressure I did back then – I don’t think all the revamped zones I haven’t yet seen are going to disappear when Mists is released – by drawing a line in the sand it’s at least forcing me to ask what my goals are, what do I really want to do? There’s a difference between action and accomplishment, and MMOs blur that line. I enjoy logging in to my Druid and kind of mindlessly healing battlegrounds now, free of the grind, free of anything other than trying to better my performance and win a fight – but that doesn’t necessarily get me closer to goals and accomplishments. I still have attachments. I still have desires. I haven’t reached satori yet.

There’s more to this desire than just an expiring subscription, though. Killing Deathwing means that Cataclysm is over for me, at least from the story’s standpoint. Sure, I can kill him a few more times, but … why? I think the only reason I’d venture back in to Dragon Soul is if my guild is short a DPS, or if I have some friends who are running LFR. Hey, Cyn, want to go? Sure, why not? is about what it comes down to.

So all of this makes me think it’s time to put together a bucket list for this expac. Get some focus. Have a list of things I want to do before it ends, and do them.

Caveat: I don’t think this is going to be especially deep or anything like that; sometimes it’s just nice to write things down to organize your thoughts around them.

TL:DR: there are many bucket lists. This one is mine.


  • Since keybinds and UI got wiped out last week, go back and rebind everyone to a ESDF model. Switch over to ESDF from previous mouse movement + keyboard casting model.
  • If you can’t be bothered to rebind a character’s keys, delete it.
  • If you have more than one alt of any given class, consider deleting.
  • If alt is on a server I haven’t visited in 6 months, delete it.
  • General bag and bank cleanout.
  • Redo addon profiles in ACP for each toon. This got fubared in the computer move too.


About the only thing I can think of is getting ‘wisey some gear for the looks. That’s it.

  • The only gear that really appeals to me, visually, is the S11 Conquest gear. It looks great, and I’d like to have it for mogging later on. But I don’t have a lot of Arena options right now, so this goal might be shelved.
  • Consider filling out the T13 look with lookalike VP gear, if I want to make tentacle jokes later on.
  • (I can’t even be chuffed to go max out the Catalyst reputations. Is that bad? Maybe I should do that so I can get the BoA enchants for next expac, at least? Nah.)


  • Exalted with SSO for BiS alchemy trinket, resilience head enchant, and really cool tabard.
  • Design mog outfit to go with Waypoint tabard.
  • Design mog outfit to go with SSO tabard. Go buy the title, why not, you’ve earned it, right?
  • Complete bear set, tank a few times to make sure keybinds are ok.


  • Level to 75 to max out professions, especially JC.
  • (Consider dropping Engineering for something that makes money)
  • (Consider leveling to 85 for possible main replacement in Mists)
  • Design mog outfit to go with Gilneas tabard (already have other alliance tabard outfits).


  • Screenshots. LOL screenshots.
  • That’s it. Dude is done.


  • Sell off contents of guild bank, everything must go. Consider selling guild bank (5 tabs, anyone want?)
  • Level to 75 (currently 60) and max out professions. If you can’t get back into playing a rogue, consider deleting and leveling Enchanting on Ash/Cynix.
  • I haven’t really enjoyed playing a rogue. I like this character concept and homage, but … I haven’t enjoyed roguery since level 30 or so. :(


  • Once keybinds are done on secondary spec, she’s done.Don’t have any desire to level her up at this point, not even to see Hordeside quests.


  • Not going to lie, healing LFD is kinda boring. If I can’t level Waylan up to 75 easily, then I’ll level Cynix up to 75 healing LFD (currently 42) and consider making her my new enchanter on Durotan.
  • Otherwise, done. (Hey! I didn’t say delete her, I’m improving!)


  • Done. Already has all Cata BiS gear.

Other Alts < 20

  • You probably need an AGM at this point to not get deleted, to be honest. That leaves a human mage and a blood elf pally, as well as my level 24 hunter twink.


I didn’t think too hard about the list – this is very much the first or only things that came to mind as I went through my roster of characters. What I find interesting are two things:

  1. How professions-oriented it is. With the exception of some mog outfits, it’s all about getting professions to a level where they’re useful at endgame, not about getting the toons to endgame.
  2. It’s fairly grounded towards a return. Most of the goals presume that I’ll be coming back to the characters and actively playing them, hence a focus on cleanup.

I’ll have to think about this list some more, and probably prune it down some. There’s only so much time between now and mid-February, so I don’t even think the whole thing is possible. And there are no BHAGs like the Ambassador project to really sweep aside all other motivations and get me going.

So. We’ll see how I do.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

On Tree of Life Form in Battlegrounds


Tree of Life form should be capable of doing siege damage in battlegrounds.

I’m just sayin’.


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On the Bittersweet End of Cataclysm


Spoilers here for the DW fight.

Cynwise killed Deathwing tonight. I’d honestly thought it was something I’d either miss this expansion, or that it would be an end-of-xpac kind of kill. I thought it would be something I’d be trumpeting and going AW YEAH and TAKE THAT and PWND and /FLEX.

I’m not feeling any of those things. Oddly, I think it’s a hugely fun fight, epic in the right ways, with enough action cues to make me go AW YEAH while I was doing it. On to the ship! GO GO GO GO grab a parachute GO GO GO GO GO on to the next rock GO GO GO GO GO stop Deathwing before he blows up the world GO GO GO YOU LAGGARDS!

Matthew Rossi covered this feeling of epicosity well in Big Stakes and the End of an Expansion. It’s a good read, about how – story wise – this is a perfect ending to this expansion. I completely agree. I finally feel fulfilled with the story, engaged with it, my own characters place within it has solidified in a way that only happened once Arthas lay dead at my feet in Wrath. Cataclsym didn’t feel real to me until End Time and Dragon Soul.

But there’s a real difference here, too. With DS, my response to Deathwing’s death was, dang, that was cool. It was fun and fulfilling. It also took about 1 hour tonight, and we 1-shot bosses I’d never seen before in LFR.

With ICC, I sobbed when Arthas hit the ground. Months of frustration and learning to raid and trying to get the right group and Jesus why am I dying to Infest and all the rest culiminated into a cathartic outpouring of relief and joy.

These two experiences highlight, for me, the difference in hitting story-based goals versus hitting performance-based goals. Before LFR, they were intertwined. Now, I can experience reaching the story goal without also reaching the performance goal.

This is good, because my interest in actually pursuing normal raiding is pretty low. I’m probably not going to kill Deathwing on Normal, and I’m okay with that.

But it’s bad, because by removing the story-based incentive Blizzard also lessens the impact of (and motivation for) completing the raid on normal difficulty. I’m pretty sure that I’m done with Cataclsym at this point. I might level up a few alts, hang out with folks, but that dragon thing? Stick a fork in it. Done.

Is that really bad, though? I mean, if I was already drifting away (and let’s face it, I have been), is it better to go out with a great story and having fun? Or should the game try to keep me engaged, try to get that sense of real accomplishment out of hitting a raid goal?

I think, all in all, that just letting me go with a fun action-adventure that didn’t take all that long was probably the right thing for my long-term interest, if not my short term.


I’m done with Cataclysm. That’s strange to say, it feels strange to consider it that way, but it’s really true. I’ve won the xpac. I can go do something else now.

I have some minor gripes about some of the motifs and imagerly used in the end of the story arc, mostly with the “Age of Mortals” idea, but I don’t think I want to dwell on them tonight.

It’s a bittersweet thing when a story ends.



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One Question About Cataclysm Endgame PvE I Probably Shouldn’t Ask


It really didn’t take very long to get Cynwise into LFR. I think I spent more time practicing at dummies trying to relearn the Demo rotation than I did gearing up, and my PvE set is slowly phasing out the PvP pieces.

And by slowly I mean like 2-4 pieces a day. Seriously, wtf, you know how long it takes to gear up for PvP? I’ve already got the 2pc bonus!

So, I’ve been thinking, a dangerous pastime. (I know.) And something has really been bugging me.

Why are there no crafted PvE sets at 85?

What purpose does not having craftable gear available serve at this point? When it’s possible to get (inappropriate) PvP gear crafted for you the moment you hit 85 that gives you access to nearly all heroic content, and when it’s trivial to PvP a few BGs to bump you into LFR, why are there no starter PvE sets for endgame? In what way does the implied progression of normals, 4.1 heroics, 4.2 heroics, 4.3 heroics, LFR, normal T13 make sense at this point in the expansion?

Actually, screw that question. Even early on, why was there never a set of 325 gear for tanks to start off with?

As much as people complain about PvP gear in PvE, and rightly so, there’s a certain unfairness in the criticism when the game stacks the gearing path against PvE players.

  • PvE is now really gated entirely upon item level.
  • PvP gear is usually a half-tier behind the PvE equivalent: Conquest is 6 ilvls below Heroic Raids, Honor is just below Normal Raids, Crafted is just below LFR/5mans.
  • PvP gear is easier to get without regard to individual performance (to allow people to transition from PvE to PvP relatively easily.) You can either have it crafted for you, or go suck in BGs for a while, or both.

At this point in the expansion, fresh 85s are looking at a massive ilvl gap between what’s available at 84 and what’s available in current content. Think about it. You can either:

  • Gear up the intended way: spend 20-50k on BoEs, run normals and grind reputation for gear good enough for the initial heroics, grind heroics for zulroics and T11, grind those for T12 and End Time, grind those for LFR and Normal DS, then get into Heroic DS, or
  • Craft a set of PvP gear for 2k gold, run a few regular BGs for 2-3 pieces, get into End Time and LFR, and loot them until you’re ready for T13.

I picked Cynwise back up with an item level of… I want to say 362 or something like that. She was in full S9 Conquest, with a few S10 Honor pieces (trinkets and the like.) She had practially no PvE gear – the hideous crafted BoE belt with lots of hit was about itm.

In 4 nights of work, she’s up to 380 in 2pc LFR T13, with only 3 pieces of PvP gear left on her. That’s about as much PvP gear as I had when I raided ICC for 8 months.

And I sure as hell didn’t do it by running other dungeons – I swapped out most of my S9 Conquest gear with crafted S11 PvP gear to get my ilevel up to 371, then ran the End Time 5-mans twice and the Siege of Wyrmrest Temple on LFR twice. That’s it.

So here’s the thing. I could do this now because I’m playing DPS, and if my DPS is low because I’m in PvP gear it’s not going to instantly wipe the group.

  • If I were healing, would those stats I lose to Resilience matter? Probably.
  • If I were tanking, would the lack of avoidance and mitigation matter? You better fucking believe it.

This seems wrong. This is a separate issue from the cluster of fun that has been PvP gearing in Cataclysm – on that side of the house, PvP is getting screwed over by PvE design decisions. No, this is a different problem, a design decision to force people through an entire expansion of content that isn’t relevant at this point. The lack of a low-tier crafted PvE set:

  • Encourages players to wear PvP gear in PvE to play with their friends
  • Encourages players to play DPS, instead of filling out tanking and healing roles (which they may enjoy more)
  • Creates resentment in the PvE community for an influx of players in PvP gear, when it’s actually the optimal choice for gearing up quickly

Want more tanks and heals at the PvE endgame? Design the gear curve so that it’s possible to jump into current content as a new player or a new character without resorting to gear that’s wholy unsuited to the task.

For all my griping about PvP gearing during this expansion, I think the crafted gear at 85 has been an excellent addtion to the model.

But it amazes me that there still isn’t craftable starter PvE gear sets for level 85 toons.


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On the $100k/year Doll Factory Worker


In the context of dailies, Bashiok writes:

It’s not going to be a revolution or anything, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’ll at least feel better. No one likes being the guy on the assembly line putting the left index finger on the doll 250 times a day, 5 days a week. They might not mind it as much though if they’re paid $100k a year. Right?

Wow. I entirely get what Bashiok is saying here, don’t get me wrong, but since I’ve been talking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation this is too good a topic to pass up.

One of the topics that I don’t think I hit hard enough in my piece On Merit Badges, Achievements, and Accomplishment is a curious psychological dichotomy: predictable extrinsic rewards reduce intrinsic motivation for performing interesting tasks, yet are pretty much the only way to get people to do really dull tasks.

I’m going to point people over to Chris Heckler’s presentation, Achievements Considered Harmful?that Pradzha linked in the comments of my post, because it’s really topical and asks a lot of questions of the game industry that I don’t think there are good answers for yet. It’s full of a lot of warnings against pop behavioralism, which is generally good advice, and against drawing conclusions when there isn’t real solid data to support the theories proposed. If you can spare an hour for the actual presentation, do so, but if not at least look over the page and slides.

As you do so, think about that well-paid doll factory worker. It feels almost like a short story out of Russian literature, written by Chekov or Gogol – a worker is paid extremely well for the task of attaching the left index finger to the dolls, they are overjoyed at first, their family rises out of poverty. But as the months and then the years drag by, the worker becomes a shell of a human being, increasingly bitter and frustrated by the monotony of their role. The payment they receive becomes a trap. They have dreams about the right hand, about being able to attach the thumb instead of the index finger. The world changes around them, but still they go on, attaching doll fingers. This is important work, they are told, and the salary they receive indicates its importance. After years of toil, they finally rebel, only to find that putting the thumb on the right hand isn’t that much better after all.

Then they die in the snow in a doorway in St. Petersburg.

I’m pretty sure that’s how it ends.

Right. Moving on.

I’ll point out one last thing Heckler said, and then leave you to consider the doll factory worker, dailies, and your own motivations in peace.

In one of the funnier slides, he asks:

Why are you making games?

If you’re intentionally making dull games with variable ratio extrinsic motivators to separate people from their money, you have my pity.

If you’re making intrinsically interesting games and want to make them even better, be very careful with extrinsic motivators.

Is Blizzard making an interesting or a dull game when they focus on dailies to extend content? That’s the context of Bashiok’s response, by the way, I should have mentioned that:

It’s easy to design a better system than dailies, pump out infinite amounts of content, it’s just not feasible to pull off. Some people want to spend more time in the game than others, maybe even every day, and we want to make sure they have something to do. While we’d love for that to be fresh and unique content every time, it’s simply not feasible. Thus, dailies. Give people something to do each time they log in (if they choose to do so every day).

Dailies, as a way of extending content by providing something for people to do if they choose to log in every day, are by their nature repetitive and somewhat dull. They provide tangible, expected rewards for particpation, providing extrinsic motivation to log in. If that’s the case, however, then they also work against the intrisinc motivations we have for playing the game, which is needed for long-term enjoyment and fulfilment.

So, in light of all this, I think this question needs to be asked:

Should daiies be considered harmful?


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

On the Long Dark of Midwinter


Midwinter has always been a tough holiday for me; the failing light combined with the stress of making sure everything is in order for Christmas usually sends me into a spiral of mild depression. It’s been like this for years; I know it’s coming. Tonight is the longest night of the year.

This time of year is always surprisingly introspective for me – I say surprisingly because I’m usually busier than a beaver in a dam-building contest, yet somehow I find time to stand around and woolgather and think about things too much.

I’ve been thinking about what Hugh at MMO Melting Pot wrote when he wrote up my last post on motivation, where he points out that I’ve been going through a dark night of the soul with Warcraft lately. It’s interesting to have other people evaluate you and hit on things you didn’t realize about yourself. @Druidis4fite wondered how I have the emotional energy to get attached to so many toons, and I realized that I didn’t and that was part of the problem.

So now I’m thinking about the dark nights we go through.

Part of it is because of the phrase Hugh used. Part of it is Windsoar’s excellent post on depression and gaming.

And part of it is just sitting back and realizing that while I’ve been writing about gaming and Warcraft here on CFN, because of the one rule I have for CFN – fuck the inner editor, you hit publish no matter what – I’ve really been writing about me, about those issues affecting my life outside of the video game I play at night to unwind, that it’s all connected and if I’m open and honest then those problems will be right front and center.

The games we play are nothing but a canvas for us to draw the lives we’d like to lead on. A place where we create stories, where we submerge our outer identities for a time and become something … different. Better? Maybe.

I think this is the idea I was dancing around when I wrote On the Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Writing about my own motivations has been really freeing. Really, really freeing. Yes, it was looking at it in Warcraft, but in looking at why I’m motivated – or not – in this game, I started to see patterns, at work, at home, in my other hobbies. Places where the extrinsic motivations had demolished the intrinsic ones. Activities where those extrinsic rewards were the only reason to keep doing something.

I’ve gotten all tied up and twisted around. In Warcraft, at my job – there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting this. My motivations for doing things aren’t for personal enjoyment anymore. You can call it fun, you can call it self-actualization, you can call it whatever you like – but while you have to do things for extrinsic reasons, you can’t neglect those intrinsic reasons which made you do something in the first place.

Midwinter is supposed to be a time of rebirth, of trying new things, of getting rid of the debris and flotsam from the previous year and starting over. Of finding that sweet joy of doing something you want to do, instead of doing something that needs to be done just to get something else.

Or maybe Midwinter is a time of taking a lot of naps. I’m not sure.


I do know, though, that I’m not done with the story of the young woman pictured above. Not yet.

I picked her back up, shouldered aside the bad memories long enough to craft her some new gear, respeced her to Demonology, and am relearning how to play that spec in the new 5-mans.

It’s new, it’s interesting, it’s a nice diversion. It’s not quite as much fun as tanking, but it’s still fun. It’s nice to run with my guildies again. She’s not back – not by a long shot – but I can at least say that I’ve had fun on my warlock recently.

We shall see how this turns out.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

On Merit Badges, Achievements, and Accomplishment


I went to pick up some patches for my son’s Cub Scout uniform a few weeks ago at the regional BSA Council store. I walked into a drab, non-descript building and stood there staring at walls of patches and badges and belt loops and beads for about 5 minutes before I was able to get the attention of someone working there. I, thankfully, had a list.

While I was standing there, I was partly overcome by memories of doing something similar with my own father, more than three decades ago. I remember, very clearly, the air of ritual around awarding merit badges; the presentation to the pack, the semi-formal recognition of accomplishment, the handing over of the patch or belt loop, the handshake, the salute, the applause. You start out with a few things, but the more involved you get, the more your uniform reflected that involvement. You walked around with your resume.

I said I was partly overcome by memory, which is true.

The other part of me, though, was struck by the incredible variety in the system of accomplishments that Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts presents, and how clever it all was psychologically. Much like a military officer accumulating fruit salad on his uniform, there’s a physical representation of accomplishment that the BSA presents to young men while trying to motivate them to do things. It starts off simple – beads for attendance – and over ten years grows into massive community service projects to satisfy the requirements of the Order of the Arrow. Along the way there are hundreds of small rewards for participation and accomplishment.

I stood there looking at a wall of Achievement Points.


I try to focus on extrinsic motivations on CBM – those rewards and goals outside of ourselves which drive us to do things. Extrinsic motivations are easy to spot, and can be used as a guide towards mass behavior: i.e. if players want the most Honor Points/Minute to get the latest gear, and Tol Barad rewards it through win-trading, then players will collaborate to win-trade TB. Extrinsic motivations drive a lot of what we choose to do with our leisure time, and WoW provides a surfeit of those motivations. Gear, both in power and appearance. Achievements. Achivement points, which is related but different. Pets. Mounts. Titles. Reputations. Even just having characters of given types and levels. Gold. Status symbols.

And then there are social motivations: being in a good guild, gaining the respect of your server or raid team, being an authority on something, hell, being a successful blogger.

Extrinsic motivations don’t have to be public; they just have to be outside of you. And they’re not bad! Just because a motivation is outside of you doesn’t make it somehow invalid. You want to be rewarded for your work and effort, no matter if it’s a “good job” or a belt loop or a digital dragon your avatar gets to ride around on or a promotion or a diploma or staying out of jail or even a gorram paycheck. This is important to remember; extrinsic isn’t bad.

But it’s only one facet of motivation.

Intrinsic motivations are those drives which are self-generated. You do something because you find it fun, or personally rewarding. You do it because you enjoy it. You’ll stay up late doing something not because you’re told to do it, but because you’re driven to do it. And there’s an element of intrinsic motivation in pretty much everything we do.

It’s relatively easy to sit back and look at Warcraft with the gear grind and cheesy points and go, this is all extrinsic motivation, and surely, MMO players are rats in a maze, pushing pellets until their prizes show up. And that’s not picking on MMO players, really. I look at all those Merit Badges, and wonder how many Boy Scouts started out just like my son did, saying I’m going to get them all, and how many of them actually work towards that goal, and how many actually do it.

(They don’t have an Over 9000 merit badge. I checked).

Patches, belt loops, pins, beads. It’s easy to dismiss chasing after them as a child’s pursuit of shiny baubles. I don’t think anyone who really looks at motivation ever thinks that’s all there is to it – competition, accomplishment, learning, social pressure all factor into why the merit badge system works – but it’s awfuly easy to be dismissive of something solely because it has physical rewards, even though those rewards aren’t really the point.

Achievements, mounts, first kills, titles. It’s even easier to dismiss a system that relies entirely upon virtual assets for rewards than a physical one.


When does an extrinsic motivation go bad?

I mean, I have a spotty track record when talking about achievement points and merit badges alike – part of me enjoys the chase, the triumph of completing something difficult, and of having something to show for it. And in the same breath, I can complain about how this doesn’t really matter, this isn’t a real indication of skill, the difficulty of an achievement is variable relative to your environment, these systems are in place to compel people to spend more time in game, etc. etc..

So there’s something going on there. Rewards have to mean something to be valuable, and therefore, effective. I find the same extrinsic motivations both compelling and repulsive in a short span of time. Like, in seconds, I can change my tune.

Look at Cynderblock – I will trot out that she killed the Whale Shark on a regular enough basis that it’s obviously something I’m proud of. It’s so outrageous, so in-your-face that she’s got an achievement that most 85s don’t, that she particpated in the kill of something with 9.6 million hit points at level 19, that it’s become my canonical example of why you shouldn’t set limits on what you think you can and can’t do in a video game.

But it wasn’t really all that hard. I lucked into a group who was killing him, and I just tried to survive. It’s not like I kited the beast for 30 hours trying to kill it. I showed up and dodged mobs in Vash’jir for about an hour.

If you were to ask me what my proudest moment with ‘block is, it’s getting the Ambassador title. Not because it was terribly hard – just a lot of questing – but because it was hard but fun. I did it with friends, I did it solo, I also did it because it was absurd and broke limits – but even though it’s easier to get now, that title (extrinsic motivation) also let me see all the Horde starting zones before Cataclysm (intrinsic motivation). That I also got to collect cool gear (extrinsic) that marked this character as unique (also extrinsic) didn’t hurt.

It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Cataclysm made the Ambassador title much, much easier to get for level 19 twinks. So what? I got what I wanted out of it.

Extrinsic motivations can often be enough to get us to do things. They can make us do things that are good for ourselves, which enrich us, drive us to try things we hadn’t considered. They can also keep us out of trouble.

But if you lack the intrinsic motivation, then you won’t value the accomplishments that go with those extrinsic rewards. If you’re just working for a paycheck, eventually the work will burn you out.

If you’re just grinding reps and not enjoying it – well, you’re going to burn out too.



Oh hai, Cynwulf. Grats there on hitting 85. I know it took you over a year to make it to 85, and you’re Cyn’s … second toon … to max level, and you started off at 80, but hey, grats, man.


You don’t seem happy, dude. What’s up with that? Now you get to gear up, get phat lewts, go raiding, see some new bgs…

What? What’s that you say?

You want a nap? 

What the hell kind of DK are you, anyways?

Getting to level 85 isn’t, all things considered, an unusual accomplishment, or even a terribly difficult one. (Especially since he was level 80 when the expansion started!)

But for both of my 85s – yes, I really only have two, I know I’m slow – I really had trouble motivating myself to do it. I took my time on Cynwise because, while I wanted to play the endgame, I wasn’t in any rush. I think if I wasn’t a PvP blogger, and BfG, TP and TB weren’t off-limits to < 85 toons, I would have taken even longer to do it. It was like, there’s so much to see, why rush it? I spent a lot of time in the lowbie zones when Cata launched, to be honest.

Eventually I did rush it, though, and pushed through to start seeing the new stuff. I didn’t regret it, precisely, but in retrospect I didn’t have a lot of intrinsic motivations for doing it. I wanted to play Arena with friends, that was really about it, but when the task of keeping my gear up to date became burdensome, I ditched the endgame pretty damn quickly and went back to twinking.

A year later, and I decided to push Cynwulf – who I’d made into a semi-respectable level 84 twink – into the endgame. Not because I wanted to play him, but rather because I wanted to just be done with him. Like, enough already, either be at endgame where I can gear you up to play in Cata, or just skip it and move on. Stop hanging over my head as an unfinished project. Nagging guilt and a desire to be free of it (intrinsic) pushed him over the top, not the promise of new gear or new abilities (extrinsic). Unfortunately, because there aren’t really a lot of extrinsic motivations that are grabbing me with him right now, I’m just shelving him until later.

The value of an accomplishment is going to vary according to your motivations and desires in it. It’s also going to depend upon your environment, your social setting, and your support structure. For some, reaching 85 is a major accomplishment, the goal they’ve been working towards for months. (First hitting 80 at Wrath for me was like this, holy crap, it was amazing. Then I was totally lost and adrift). For others, it’s all in a few days work, and they’re off to do it again – maybe this time beating their previous record.

You’re very dependent upon other people to succeed – in WoW, in life, it’s all the same. If you’re in the right raid team, you’re going to find that you can accomplish a lot more than if you’re in one where you don’t mesh, where they’re not as good players, where they’re not as driven, where they don’t sabotage themselves. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s amazing how we can collectively forget how much we depend on those around us when weighing our own individual accomplishments. Achievements (in WoW and in life) are as much about being in the right place in the right time with the right people as they are about having the skill to pull them off.

I was thinking about this when I took the picture at the very beginning of this article. That’s my son’s belt, he has the Horseback Riding belt loop. I never got that when I was a scout. I never even came close – I was a child of the city and suburbs, but even then I never had the desire to become a mongolian horse-archer or knight-errant. Even when I became obsessed with Fantasy literature and medieval history, I never really wanted to be a horseman.

My son loves horses. He’s been like this since he was a toddler, so we figured out a way to get him riding lessons years ago. This Horseback Riding belt loop was trivial for him. Like, it was barely even a warmup for his regular lesson. But for me, and most everyone else in his pack, it’s really, really hard. It’s one of those activities that takes a lot of planning, learning, and work. You have to get over your fear of the unknown, and fear of really large animals. You have to get up there on the horse and do it.

And that can be a big obstacle if you don’t really want to do it.

Extrinsic motivation can get you to do something, and you might enjoy it and keep doing it. Intrinsic motivation will make you do something even if there are no extrinsic rewards.

I don’t know about you, but this is starting to shed light on my behavior in Cataclysm.


Do what you love.

That’s what this comes back to, doesn’t it? In some ways that’s the central theme of this entire blog, of this crazy experiment which I started because I needed an unfettered place to write in. When the extrinsic motivations get taken away, what do I really enjoy doing? What do I find personally fulfilling?

I want, so very much, to be able to pick up my warlock again, to find that visceral joy in playing her. But that search for joy gets tangled up in all kinds of extrinsic motivations, motivations which trample on that simple desire. Achievements get in the way. Gear gets in the way. I can’t deny that. Those things which are supposed to motivate me to log in and play her? They aren’t working. If anything, they’re causing me to retreat further and further away from her. Tol Barad? No thank you. Firelands dailies? No fucking way. Rep grinds for a shoulder enchant? Er, only if it’s a grind I’ve never done before, and only for a twink, because, really. Really? Really. Do we need to do that again?

The benefit to this has been a period of wild experimentation. I don’t know what’s going to work, so I try whole bunch of stuff and see what sticks. I enjoy tanking and healing, who knew? I think I’m playing a warrior now, or maybe a druid or a shaman or a mage, but that’s all good. I’m making it work.

But the downside has been distance from the reward system, of looking at it as a system and not as something valuable in and of itself, which lessens its value. To me. Not to others. Value is personal.

I remember when those merit badges meant something to me. It was, mostly, a good time. There were frustrating parts about the system, there was jealousy and competition, but there was also a desire to do good deeds, and to do well while doing those deeds.

That’s not a bad thing. That’s how people grow. That’s how people develop.

That’s how people find what they love.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes