How to Earn Those Seemingly Impossible Alterac Valley Achievements

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Before attempting to shoot for several of these achievements, it is strongly advised that you have the following:

  • AV Preform Enabler installed and ready to go
  • A group of 10-15 friends
  • Several hours to kill

I won’t go into much detail about the AV Enabler. Veteran BG players understand why it’s useful and nearly a requirement in most preforms. There is no exception especially when it comes to AV.

Loyal Defender

This Achievement involves you killing 50 players while defending your general. It’s either going to be Drek or Vann depending on your faction. If you happen to join an AV in progress where you are losing, then it’s the perfect time for you and your crew to make their stand. Ideally, your defense will involve a couple of Death Knights. Have them Scorpion any unsuspecting Horde (or Alliance) players in.

As DPS, strafe in and out of sight as much as possible. Sneak out and try to bait players in, but take care not to get yourself caught outside. Death Grip from Death Knights work both ways.

Line of sight everything as much as possible. There are two columns in the back of Vann’s room which I’ve found perfect for the job. I’d be able to partially conceal myself behind it and still heal players around me. There’s probably something similar in Drek’s room as well.

The most important thing here is to don’t ever release. If you’re lucky, opposing faction members won’t loot your corpse allowing the healers behind you to pick you up manually.

I was able to get this achievement in about 3 minutes after dying and doing the run of shame back into Vann’s room.

Now make like Braveheart and hold!

The Alterac Blitz

Ready for the fastest AV ever? Here’s the roles you’ll need:

  • 2 tanks
  • ~4 healers
  • Miscellaneous DPS

You’ve got six minutes to win Alterac Valley. Once those gates open, your team is on the clock.

This is straight forward, PvP brute force tactics at its finest. With your team assembled and buffed at the gate, mount up and make straight for Drek’s room. Evade, sidestep, and ignore as many Horde as possible. Alliance players will be riding through the Fields of Strife along the west side while the Horde are going the opposite direction along the east.

If you’re lucky, you won’t get stalled heading down. Most of the time you won’t. If you do get held up, there’s nothing more you can do.

Assuming everything goes well, you’ll be staring down Drek and his four tower cronies. When Conquest got this achievement, we did it with 2 Paladin tanks. One of them picked up Drek and dragged him to the back of the room while the other picked up the other 4 tower marshals and peeled them away from Drek’s tank. The goal here is to minimize whirlwind damage as much as possible. Pop a Heroism and pray that your DPS is sufficient to take him down with the allotted time. You might have a few stragglers coming in from behind trying to put a dent in your plans. Dropping fear bombs and other forms of CC should delay them long enough for your strike force to take out Drek.

The other faction won’t even realize what happened. I’ll never forget the disbelief in Battleground chat when Drek died. It felt like Conquest went to Drek while the rest of the other players were working on Galv. Lot’s of “WTFs” and “Whoas” ensued.

Stormpike Perfection

Win Alterac Valley without losing a tower or a Captain. You must also control all of the Horde’s towers.

It is imperative that you do not attack Galv at all. I’ll explain why later.

You’ll be playing a tight checking defense at first. When your team comes screaming out of the gate, set up shop inside Belinda’s room and stave off the initial rush. Stonehearth is going to be assaulted at this point. Once Belinda is clear, head straight to Stonehearth and take it back. Use overwhelming force.

At this point, your team will need to split. The bulk of the forces will be advancing south and slowly capping towers.

Strong communication here is key. Definitely keep a player back on Belinda duty. You can watch from far away and see how many Horde players are going in. If it’s a substantial amount, alert the defense. The defense will be alternating between securing Stonehearth and Belinda. If Horde players manage to reach back, send 2 or 3 players to recap. It’s important to maintain possession of bunkers. If one is in the process of being turned by the Horde, and you manage to reduce their tickets to 0, you won’t get this achievement because you lost control of a tower. Even though they haven’t capture it yet, it won’t matter.

The strategy for the offense is to slowly and systematically capture towers. Note that the Horde have to have enough tickets left for this to happen. For example, if they have 40 tickets left and you still have two towers to cap, you won’t get the achievement. One tower will reduce the tickets to 0 while the other is still in progress. This is why you can’t kill Galv as it would drop their ticket count by 100 and reduce the time you have to capture towers.

We came close once to gaining this achievement but we lost a bunker at the last possible minute. This weekend. That’s my goal for this weekend.

Archetypes of a Guild: The Guild Egoist

Archetypes of a Guild: The Guild Egoist

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Some of you may remember my article about the 5 Archetypes of Healers back when I was still a guest poster here.

I was watching a conversation on twitter between a few of my friends and it got me thinking. Like every social clique a Guild has certain roles or social archetypes that people can be categorized as. This post series will explore some of the more common ones you may encounter in your travels through MMOs, as well as offer suggestions on how to deal with some of the less savory. These posts come from a request made by Valkrierisen and Firewillow. I’ll add a disclaimer here, this is based on my observations over many years of multiple MMOs and pen and paper tabletop groups.

Today I’d like to talk about one of the bad personalities that people sometimes adopt, the Guild Princess. A Guild Princess is for all intents and purposes a  Prima Donna. This role is not gender specific in the sense of the player(both men and women can and do fit this role), but it’s almost always a in game female toon being played. The princess can be a destructive force in a guild, they can undermine authority and leadership, hold raids from starting on time, and can cause guild drama that can become something akin to Jerry Springer.Keep in mind this is an extreme, but it is something I’ve seen many times.

Now there are a few different varieties of a Guild Princess, lets take a look at them shall we?

The Prima Donna

This guild Egoist will usually attach themselves to the vulnerable player base of the guild, usually honing in on the more socially awkward ones first. They can often be found grinding or questing with this person and talking to them late night either in chat messages or even ventrillo/teamspeak. Prime targets are officers or people with power within the structure.  Once the person is enthralled enough, they move onto the next person. Sometimes they will find the other females in the guild and begin to cultivate friendships. They will often hide behind “solidarity” and try to build a  bond between the players, often times using a sob story or tear jerker to cement it. As with the first point, females in power or who are married to/dating someone in power in the structure is primary target.

This leads to two paths. First the person can and will usually try to use these relationships to get themselves elevated to a position of power, maybe a class lead or lower officer. If they can’t obtain the rank, they will settle for using the friendships they’ve had to get what they want, be it a raid spot, loot or the shunning of a guildie. If someone disagrees with them or doesn’t give up a raid spot or loot the princess wants, they will often times complain or cry to friends about how unfair they were and thus begin a social shunning of the “offender”. This same person will flirt with multiple males in the guild and sometimes throw them at each other when one has outlived their usefulness. They also have a tendency to think of their raid performance as above reproach and when presented with numbers indicating the level of improvement needed or that they are causing wipes, will often have a million excuses that are not their fault. They will often have long periods of being absent, especially during new encounters, but will still expect full loot rights.  Watch for canned responses, vague answers or sometimes even re use of an excuse.

How to Deal With the Prima Donna

This brand of Egoist is in the game for power. They want it, they want to be the center of it. There are a few ways to deal with it. If you notice the behavior above, tell your GM or a trustworthy officer right away your concern. The biggest thing for this one is to be proactive. Point out their behavior early so it gets noticed is key, this puts people on guard and allows officers to intervene if needed. This also helps to guard the rest of the guild from this behavior. Warn your close friends too, point out their interactions with other people as examples. Don’t get sucked into the sob stories that they lay out.  The worst thing you can do with this one is to do nothing at all.

The Vapid Vixen

This one is used to getting their way because they are a “female” in game. They use their sexuality to get what they want, be it loot, raid spots or whatever. When they don’t get what they want they are prone to pouting or tantrums. They are pretty much the spoiled brat of the guild. During raids they will often talk over encounter instructions, they often die to void zones, possibly even wipe raids all the while chatting away. They are used to being the center of attention and do everything they can to keep it, be it causing drama, holding up raids, talking with anyone that listens or even spouting random snippets or comments in chat or on vent. Anytime the lime light shifts away from them they try to do something to get it back, negative or positive it doesn’t matter as long as all eyes are on them. They are a disruptive force but often times it’s not intentional, they are just used to everyone dropping everything for them and expect it to continue on no matter where they are.

How to Deal With the Vapid Virago

If this behavior is proving disruptive quite simply, ignore them. They make an offhand comment not pertaining to the conversation? ignore it and continue on. They make a comment in vent or talk over instructions? stop talking. When they ask what’s wrong say nothing and continue on with the instructions. They throw a tantrum? After a short while they tend to learn that acting out gets them no where and they settle down. If they don’t settle down they tend to leave to find another stage to perform on.

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

First of all I’d like to say that I respect any man capable of role playing a female accurately. I myself play a female toon, but I’m not certain I could ever accurately portray that in an RP environment.

With that said, this category is for the guys who play females toons and pretend to be female to get what they want. Their main motivation is usually one of the two aforementioned items (see Prima Donna and Virago above). Either they want power, or they want attention and they are using the pretext of a female toon and supposed female player to get them. Pretending to be female lets them prey on the socially awkward of the guild and fill the role of a Devious Diva or Vapid Vixen. They tend to be very open about sex and sexual conversations and will launch into graphic detail if prompted. They tend to be a bit more flirty, refuse to talk on vent (usually with an excuse of shyness or no mic), and tend to be promiscuous in the guild.

Dealing With the Wolf

The same rules for the Virago and the Prima Donna apply here with an added items. If they are being disruptive and causing issues and you want to get rid of them, catch them in the lie. Get them to talk on vent or make a comment that outs them. Usually they disappear shortly after they are found out to start over again somewhere else. It’s not easy but once it’s done they are 99.99999% likely to leave and be gone for good.

The guild princess can be a very disruptive force in your guild. Identifying them early can save your guild a ton of drama and keep things together. Letting them run rampant can splinter the guild and potentially the friendships that you’ve built up. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty. Find your guilds “Bad egg shute” and help direct them towards it.

Have you had to deal with a Prima Donna in guild? Have any interesting stories or experiences to share about a Guild Egoist?

Until next time,

Sig

Image of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Is Applying to Multiple Guilds a Sin?

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Found this intriguing question on Twitter today that was directed to me. I’ll try to paraphrase it as best as I can.

”Is there anything wrong with players applying to multiple guilds?”

From my perspective, no. The way I see it, if I’m a guildless player who is looking to get involved with a raiding guild somewhere, I’d take the shotgun approach. I won’t get into why such a player should or shouldn’t apply to this type of guild. Let’s assume that I’ve done my homework and have answered the self-help questionnaire on the type or guild I want to be a part of. For example, I want to be in a raiding guild that’s just started Ulduar and is utilizing a DKP system that happens to only raid on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from a period between 6 PM – 12 AM.

Let’s say I hit the jackpot and there happens to be four guilds that fit the criteria.

From the applicant perspective

Why not? I want to raid. It doesn’t matter to me which guild I get into as they’re all pretty much the same. I’m flexible with my hours. I can raid from 7 – 11 PM for example. The time frame I listed above is the window that I am willing to commit myself to raiding. By applying to 4 different guilds, I get to maximize my chances. The odds are higher that at least one of them could use the role that I play.

From the guild perspective

It’s nice and flattering to hear from a player that they’ve looked only at your guild and want to be a part of it. They didn’t even consider any other option. What if the applicant doesn’t fit or if you don’t have room? It’s nice to know that the player has some other plans to fallback on. It kills me whenever I turn down a player sometimes. Some of them genuinely deserve good guilds to be a part of and wish to contribute to raids. Sometimes there’s just no space.

I’ve seen guilds who adopt this attitude that their guild is awesome. In fact, it is so damn awesome they can’t fathom why anyone who has applied to their guild also applied to other guilds. Clearly it’s an insult to such guilds. When a guild gets wind that an applicant also applied elsewhere, they just shoot them down. On one hand, it makes the process a little easier for the app as it does weed down the number of remaining guilds.

Cover your ass

When I applied to post secondary schools, I applied to no less than 3 institutions. Why? because I knew there was a very real chance that I would get rejected. It’s the same mentality when applying for jobs. Apply to many as you can and see who wants you. Then from there, you take the best possible offer.

There’s nothing wrong with the business sense. Don’t try and pull the loyalty card here either. The guild hasn’t accepted the applicant yet. There’s no incentive for them to be that loyal so early. When a player of outstanding calibre happens to apply (let’s say a player with Immortal or Champion of Ulduar or something), it’s up to the guild to change gears and sell themselves. The guild has to essentially put up a neon sign that says “JOIN US!” Ultimately, the decision is always going to belong to the applicant whether they accept or otherwise. If a guild truly wants that player, they’ll start talking and eventually extend an invite. If not, the guild will pass and one of the other guilds might consider the player.

It sure as heck saves a lot of time, too. Lots of guilds have response rates varying from hours to days to even weeks. If I were planning to raid, I’d apply to all the guilds at once. However, if there was one organization that I’d want to join, I’d make it known to them that they were my first pick. Would other guilds feel slighted? Well, probably. But if they needed the extra set of hands, they’d overlook that. If they didn’t, then the applicant would get turned down anyway regardless. It’s certainly faster than applying to one guild, waiting for a response, getting rejected, and then repeating it with a different guild over and over.

Applying to multiple guilds allows players to gauge the level of interest a guild has in their services. There’s nothing ethically wrong with that.

Image courtesy of woodsy

Where Have I Been?

I owe you guys an explanation. Normally, I don’t believe in the “Sorry guys, life owned me” type blog posts that offer insight as to why a blogger hasn’t been writing as much. With that in mind, I’m not going to apologize. Instead, what I will try to do is paint on a blank canvas exactly what’s been going on with me recently.

Once upon a time, I read that writing could be viewed as a therapeutic process. It can serve as a valve or an outlet to express everything you want to say. Apparently. I’ve never tried it. Wouldn’t know, you know?

Summer is the time of year that raiding guilds dread. Not many organizations are able to last past it. Not many GMs are willing to put in the time and work to re-energize their guilds when their players just don’t feel like playing. There isn’t much the boss can do about it other than go shopping. About 5 or so guilds that were more progressed then my guild on my server had collapsed internally due to a myriad of reasons all relating to cancelled raids and so forth.

The first raid I had to cancel was one last week. There was simply too many holes on the roster and there was no way our bench depth extended that far. I understood and accepted this and opted to give the crew a day of rest instead in preparation for the next instance tier that will debut (very soon, I might add, especially at the rate of background patching).

Ulduar’s been out for approximately four months. Players at the upper end of the curve are either bored or are getting bored.

 bored-curve

Naturally, the image is a clearly gross exaggeration. Don’t take it seriously. Although this does remind me to clean the dust off a post I had been meaning to write many months ago on the perceived Raiding Curve and explore it in more detail.

It’s very difficult to shoot for hard mode level content when your varsity players are slowly dropping out one by one. Although its easy to continue to draft players and recruit them, not every pick is going to turn out to be a stud. It’s a challenging decision to make to go after the hardest bosses in the game with players who may not have the gear to adequately face the challenge.

Guild management: It accelerates the aging process!

On to the personal side of things. It’s a little rather demoralizing. I’m currently undergoing what I consider a mid-academic life crisis.

Allow me to explain.

One of my assignments for this online class I’m taking (and the last as I clearly do not have the discipline to participate in an distance education course) is to visit court and write a paper about what I observe. So during my field trip, I observed two cases. One was about a street racing incident, and the other was about a hydroponics incident in some guy’s basement.

It’s an eye opening experience. Enough for me to give pause and consider a career change. I mean in the first case, I watched a bus driver get grilled about how the height of his driver’s seat could affect his vision. Naturally, the defense attacked his memory and credibility. Poor guy. The hydroponics case had a lawyer dispute the admissibility of evidence after it had already been admitted and allowed.

And that’s when it hit me. Is this something I want to get involved with? No, not really. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. It wasn’t until two years ago that I decided to start this blog. In the time since then, I’ve never really realized how much I enjoyed writing. Only recently did it occur to me that it could lead to something more and be a viable career path.

But I don’t know what to do right now. I’ve already committed so much into my current major in terms of time and finances. When I first started it, I really liked what I was learning. Now I just don’t seem to care about it as much. I’m so tired of school. I’ve never taken a semester off since I graduated from high school.

Going to end off this post with a link to an interview I did a few days ago and a brief question. Realized I haven’t published it here yet.

Have you ever experienced burnout in WoW? If so, how have you dealt with that?

No, I’ve never truly experienced burnout in WoW. Not at the point where I felt like I had to uninstall the game. I’ve been playing the game since Vanilla. I think Zul’Gurub had just been released. I’ve maintained a steady pace. How I’ve managed to avoid burnout is a mystery even to me. You’d think a player who has done so much and has played so often would get sick of everything and just step back for a while.

You know, I think I partially credit that to my blog. I’ve always wanted to maintain a high level of quality and production on my blog. And no matter what anyone else says, it’s hard to write about something you’re not interested in. You have to keep some hours invested in the game to come up with fresh content and material. I had no desire to be one of those fly by night blogs where I’d post strong for a while and then disappear forever. It was my goal to try and become a regular resource and voice. In order to do that, you just have to keep playing.

I watched the Ugly Truth the other day. I thought it was a fairly funny movie. I wonder if I can pull off a series similar to that about WoW.

“Death Knights: They will kick your ass before you can even respond. And that’s the ugly truth!”

Maybe not.

Shaman Tier 9 Aesthetics

Shaman Tier 9 Aesthetics

WoW.com did a little post comparing the Alliance to the Horde Shaman tier 9 pieces, I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, if not it’s worth the read.

The tier 9 stats are good so far, but I really think they dropped the ball on looks. Lets take a quick peak at them

Alliance:

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Horde:

mmocwow-t9h_shaman

Just look at them, it’s nothing to write home about. The alliance one though just makes me very sad. If you go back to my old post Why Play a Shaman? I posted a picture of a bunch of  the tier sets up to Tier 7, add in Tier 8 and we’ve had a hell of a good run with some nice looking gear. (with in my opinion one exception, but more on that in a second). I was excited for the new tier set and was interested to see how they would do the faction specific gear. Let me share my opinion with you.

Alliance Set

I’ll be honest. I don’t like it. I’m kind of ok with the helm, but the rest is just…. blah! Looking at the set it reminds me of another odd set we had back in the day, the Stormcaller’s Garb (also known as Tier 2.5).

Here’s a picture of it:

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In a time where Tier 2 and Tier 3 sets were around, this set just seemed out of place. Thats how I feel with Nobundo’s set for alliance. The set lacks anything distinctly “Shaman”, honestly to me it feels more like a Druid set look-wise.

Where is the power of the elements? Tier 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 all have very obvious signs of elemental power coursing through it. Tier 4 was a little subtle with its touches of elemental power but it was still there (the water orb effect of the shoulders). So you have Stormcaller’s Garb and Nobundo’s gear which both lack anything that is distinctly “Shaman”.  Give me lightning or caged fire! Something! Anything that says “The spirits of the elements flow through me”! The color scheme as well is something that is lacking. Teal, orange and Purples? blech! Give me a color scheme that makes sense! Also, my faction symbol is a lion’s head roaring, why not make it more prevalent then two small icons on the shoulders?

Horde Set

Horde fared much better then alliance here. Very clear Elemental influence, Color scheme is solid with Blues and Reds worked into the metal coloring. Faction symbol dead center on chest (just like the old Tier 2 set!). The set might be very similar to the Cataclysm Set (Tier 5) but I’ll forgive them that because it looks pretty cool still. My only gripe is it doesn’t seem horde enough. Now I’m sure I’ll get flamed for saying this, but to me the height of Shaman gear was Tier 2. That set was amazing, particularly going to talk about the shoulders. Carved Wolf faces with lightning crackling over them? Not only did that scream shaman it screamed Horde (at least to me) I would have liked to have seen some animalistic reference in there. All in all though, much better then the alliance set.

I think this was an ok effort, but I find myself lacking any motivation to wear the pieces. Sure I’ll get them and use them during raids, but I think I might have to resurrect a “vanity” set for general use when not raiding.

How about you? What do you think of the sets? What do you like or don’t like about them? What would you like to see?

Until next time,

Sig

Images courtesy of mmo-champion

Of Heroes and Villains Part 3

Of Heroes and Villains Part 3

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In Part 1 we took a look at hero classes and made some speculation as to the next expansion. In Part 2 we took a look at how the Death Knight hero class was introduced into the game. In part 3 here I’d like to talk a little bit about the hardest part of the hero class, balance.

When designing classes for any game, balance is always an issue. Even years after classes have been established sometimes things need to be tweaked. The goal is to make sure no one class is so powerful that it becomes the only one anyone plays. Essentially trying to keep the class from becoming a “Mary Sue” of the game. We’ve seen this over the years with balancing and re-balancing of all the classes, as well as in burning crusade giving the faction specific classes to both factions (Shaman and Paladins playing for both teams). When you add a hero class to a game it’s really hard not to make it into the favored child. At the same time a hero class should add a new mechanic or do something in such a way that people stop and go “oh, that’s just cool” . With Death Knights this was the addition of Runes and Runic Power.

When Wrath of the Lich King beta went out, I could not get my grubby hands on a key fast enough, I was dying to try out the new Death Knight class. I rolled my toon and found myself climbing the levels. Each build of the beta Death Knights got what some of us refer to as “Flavor of the Month” builds. In these builds one tree was emphasized over the others to test that tree out. The idea is if you make the first two sub-par, everyone will play the third. This is an old technique in beta testing to gather data. For example, in one of the Wrath builds Scourge Strike was hitting for close to 6k damage at level 65. This happened several times and each time players dutifully left their feedback and devs took it all in.

When wrath went live, Death Knights were good. Scary good. They had superior mitigation, better cooldowns and better DPS it was hard not to love them. As a healer I loved healing them, it took a lot less effort then the other three tanking classes. But therein lay the problem. When listening to all the feedback and launching it’s first hero class, Blizzard arguably made them too good. Look at all the patch notes from Wrath’s launch to now. Death Knights have been revised several times in an effort to bring them closer to the other classes, including recently where the cooldown on Icebound Fortitude is being increased to match other tanks.

It’s hard to find that sweet-spot. You want the class to feel epic and new and shinny, but you don’t want people to stop using the ones you’ve already made. It’s a very fine line to walk and it’s very difficult to do it right. With Death Knights even after they’ve been normalized I still love playing them. I love the way the Runes and Runic power system works. It’s incredibly intricate and allows for a free flowing rotation that let’s you be reactive rather then just spam a key sequence or a one button macro. It’s fun so I’ll always like to play it.

If Blizzard introduces another hero class, they are going to have to be careful to make sure it’s properly balanced. Let’s say they introduce a new healing class, it would have to be balanced so that it did not over power the other four healing classes. At the same time the mechanics of it would have to be something innovative or new to keep it fresh and exciting. Same goes for another ranged physics DPS class. If one was added it would have to be balanced as to not overshadow hunters, and at the same time provide a new way to deal that damage that is fun. (for the record I really like the idea of another ranged physical DPS class!)

It’s a tough to add new classes without overlapping or overshadowing the ones you’ve created before, but I have faith Blizzard will be able to do it again and will do it better then they did Death Knights. Death Knights just had the bad luck of being first out the gate =D

So what do you think? Do you think they can balance another class in? What would you like to see as a new mechanic?

That’s it for today, Until next time,

Sig

Image courtesy of Marvel.com

Sympathy for a Griefer?

Sympathy for a Griefer?

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If you’ve ever wondered what happens when PhD meets MMO, here’s an interesting read for you. It’s a far cry from carebear Professor Syd, but I find this bit of research interesting just because it differs so much from my own outlook on the game world. A couple weeks ago, nola.com ran an article on Loyola professor David Myers detailing his experience in the MMO City of Heroes / City of Villains. This article links to a draft of Meyers’ own academic paper on the subject, “Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt,” which is the most thorough treatment of the matter. Normally, I support any and all research about online games, but for some reason, this one pushes my buttons. I’m not the first blogger to comment on the matter. In fact, I think that many of my thoughts are in agreement with Spinks’ excellent article.

The “Experiment”

Myers, who has since left CoH/V, had been an ordinary player of the MMO for some time when NCsoft, the developer, introduced PvP to the game. I’ve never played CoH/V myself, but from Myers’ description, gameplay seems to be almost exclusively PvE. A new world PvP zone, Recluse’s Victory, changed the game for Myers’ character Twixt. He decided to PvP in the most aggressive manner available, and in the process of winning at all costs, well, he attracted a bit of criticism. As I’ve never played CoH/V myself, I have to abstract from a description, but it seems that Recluse’s Victory had several captureable nodes for each side, similar perhaps to the Alterac Valley towers. There are also a mix of NPCs in the zone, including some unbeatable guard-like creatures called drones meant to protect the two “safe zones” where players spawn. To a WoW player, this probably sounds like good fun, right? The Heroes beat the crap out of the Villains, and vice versa, and everyone has a grand old time. However, according to Myers’ claims, all he (and his avatar Twixt) wanted to do was force people to PvP in the PvP zone. That sounds perfectly rational, as far as it goes.

However, Twixt did not routinely engage others in “true” PvP. His preferred technique was to enlist NPCs in his cause, and as such, win battles without struggle. Twixt chose to learn an ability called teleporting, which I see as analogous to the Death Knight’s Death Grip. He used this skill to move enemies a short distance–right into the drones, which would instantly kill the opposing player. Because a death to a drone counted as a PvE death, players would incur what is called XP “debt.” Now, I am not quite sure what this is, but it seems to cost people a good bit of time (like re-leveling) before they can advance. Indeed, Twixt PvP’d in a PvP zone. However, the manner in which he did so would certainly be termed, in WoW anyway, an exploit. As a result, many players grew angry at Twixt and vented their frustrations in chat and on the CoH/V forums.

What is Real PvP Anyway?

As generations of games and their players have defined it, PvP is, at its core, a one on one engagement between two players of equal potential though perhaps not equal mastery of the game mechanics. At its purest, PvP is a duel of honor, evoking very consciously, and with a great deal of nostalgia, the chivalric tourney or ritual hand-to-hand combat. I will say that PvP combat, while it may be supposed to resemble, say, the showdown between Hector and Achilles, reminds me much more often of Peter Jackson’s chaotic Battle of Pelennor Fields (except that usually I’m one of the pitiful orcs on the losing side). In any case, PvP often does not seem very honorable to me. It reminds me, rather, of the very real butchery that occurred on the battlefield and off in the historical Middle Ages. Our nostalgia for chivalry is based mostly on idealized forms of art rather than actual history–and so one might say that “chivalry” achieves one of its fullest expressions in video games.

As for me personally, I’d rather not be involved in PvP, honorable or no. I play on a PvP server, but I don’t actually PvP anymore. I used to like Alterac Valley back in Classic, but I didn’t raid then, and it was the most exciting endgame option I had. I don’t love it when I get ganked while doing my daily quests. However, I shrug it off, knowing that the technique is perfectly fair in WoW. At the current time, I play Syd as a pacifist. I find it better for my blood pressure not to retaliate against gankers. I’m a healer–of course they can kill me if they like. I usually take the opportunity to get away from the keyboard for a while. When I come back, the ganker has always been gone.

The Developers’ Responsibility

I don’t think I could work up any particular hatred for the numerous horde players who have killed me as I’ve gone about my PvE business. Some of them have even used techniques similar to Twixt’s by waiting until I engage an enemy mob to start their attack, thus enlisting the game environment against me. I think that the reason I can’t muster any fire over this has to do with WoW itself and Blizzard as a company. We play an actively maintained game with integrated PvP. When there are PvP balance issues, Blizzard addresses them. Some of us may consider their response too slow, but the fact remains that the “gods” of WoW listen to the pleas of their suppliants. For an example that offers an instructive parallel to Twixt’s story, think back to the Zombie Invasion event that preceded the release of Wrath of the Lich King. For that time period, we were supposed to turn people into zombies, kill NPCs, and interrupt the ordinary business of buying, selling, and leveling with our zombie disease. Many players got a hateful response like Twixt did when they attempted to participate in the event as intended, taking over cities and killing with abandon. What did Blizzard do? They recognized that the community, as a whole, disliked the event and ended it after three days. Some complained, but I see it as a wise move, even though I, in very atypical fashion, had a bit of fun being a zombie. The point is that Blizzard recognizes the importance of players’ customs–and also players’ safety–and adapts their game. I have heard scattered stories of people being g-kicked for overzealousness with the zombie event, but by ending the event when they did, Blizzard protected both the pro-zombie and anti-zombie factions.

I have no sense that NCsoft maintains CoH/V in such an active way. Thus, the community of CoH/V is left to fend for itself and make its own rules. Even CoH/V’s forums are maintained by players and not NCSoft employees! What a difference from the WoW forums. In the world of CoH/V, the gods are absent or hostile, Hector and Achilles are six feet under, and players are left to deal with the “deviant” Twixt on their own. At least from the players’ perspective, Twixt is a griefer. In their opinion, he kills people using unfair tactics, in a manner that leaves them handicapped and with no opportunity to fight back or take revenge. In short, Twixt is cruel. It doesn’t surprise me that many responded with vitriol. Most of these comments were your typical “f-you” sort of things, but Meyers received at least one death threat.

What are the Rules?

Myers insists that he “played by the rules” when others refused to. He cites examples of duels of honor within RV, collaboration between Heroes and Villians (who, incredibly, could talk to each other while inside the PvP zone), and farming within the PvP zone as instances of players violating the rules. Now, I am an avid gatherer of herbs in Wintergrasp, and I don’t think I’m violating anything–after all, why would there be Lichbloom if I’m not supposed to pick it? It seems to me that, at once, Myers has both a broad and a narrow definition of game rules. It’s certainly idiosyncratic. As I see it, Twixt abides by two principles:

1. Anything that is possible to do within the game mechanics is fair game.
2. Any custom that the players establish is not a rule.

To address the first, I’ll return to an old topic of mine, that of exploits. It’s always hard to tell what the developers intend or do not intend. In my previous article, I reflected on several cases in WoW in which players were banned for “exploits” that were possible within game mechanics and not covered by the EULA. If Twixt were a WoW player, he would risk a permanent ban. The Blizzard developers actively track and eliminate exploits. Twixt’s drone technique would certainly be deemed an exploit if it existed in WoW, for the simple reason that it gives the victim no chance to react before he is annihilated. In WoW, small changes are made all the time to the battleground and arena environments in order to make for “fairer” play. Moreover, Blizzard has made it abundantly clear through their banning practices that players are meant to keep to the spirit, not just the letter, of game mechanics. Pushing the boundaries often results in a ban. I am usually sympathetic to players who receive bans for deviant behavior. Why can I not muster the same level of compassion for Meyers?

On Empathy

There are very complicated forces at work here. On the one hand, we have Twixt, a self-styled video game rebel. I usually celebrate rebels. For a contemporary example, I really loved the movie Bruno. I’m still not sure whether certain parts reinforce homophobia, but I will say that I laughed and clapped through the whole thing. I like Sacha Baron Cohen’s ideological project, though I will be the first to admit that his personae of Bruno and Borat can be downright predatory. Do I laugh because I agree with Cohen’s politics? Does a part of me think that Cohen’s targets are fair game? I have to say, though, that at times I sympathize more with Cohen’s victims. Many of the people depicted in Bruno–Ron Paul comes to mind–conduct themselves with relative dignity. Sometimes the joke returns on Bruno to the detriment of Cohen’s political message. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. I think that it is the sense of give-and-take in the Sacha Baron Cohen films, along with their not-so-hidden agenda of advocating for social change, that makes me like them. It’s easy to like an utter fool like Bruno, even though I would call many of his stunts cruel. It’s very hard to like Twixt.

What Twixt Doesn’t Understand

I was so interested by Myers’ research that I corresponded with him in his blog comments. Sadly, he’s now closed them down. It always seems that intellectual conversations have to end once I’m finally learning something from them! In our give-and-take, what impressed me the most was Myers’ inability to understand what happened to him. There’s a sort of forced naiveté to his tone that surprises me. In the blog comments, I expressed my sympathy for the death threats Myers received, but I also tried to explain to him why players were so angry. To most people who play MMOs, the rules of custom and social interaction matter. They are not there to “experiment” with the virtual world. They are there to live in it. To them, their community is very real. I understand this, because I do not play for research–I play for fun. There is some doubt in my mind as to what kind of gamer Myers was. In his paper, he represents his time in CoH/V as an experiment in deviant behavior. Oddly, in his comments to me on the blog, he says that it wasn’t an experiment at all–just the way he played. I’m puzzled by that, though I realize that for a professional publication, it might be advantageous to represent one’s actions purely as research. In his paper, Myers says that he tried to breach known social customs while working within the rules of the game–all to prove a point. It seems though, that he greatly regrets the hostile response he received. It seems that he neither wanted nor expected the unfriendly response of other players. On this point, at least, I feel sorry for him. He seems–to me anyway–like the little boy who kicks down another child’s sandcastle and then is very surprised when the second boy (or girl) punches him in the nose. Of course, the punch is the greater offense, but it does not mean that the first child did not also feel genuine hurt. At the core of it, Twixt is a bully. Now, he’s not a very harmful one in the grand scheme of things, but he is a bully nonetheless. I guess he expected his opponents to run away crying instead of socking him in the nose.

It’s all the Developers’ Fault, Redux

I’m pretty well-known for criticizing game developers. In fact, it seems like all I do is protest against Blizzard’s policies. In this case, I’m about to lionize Blizzard (I know, check to see if hell has frozen over) and lambaste NCsoft. I may hate the tone that Blizzard developers take when they address their community, but I have to give them credit for actively maintaining their game. The way I see it, it is the developers’ responsibility to provide a safe gaming environment for all. The developers ought to have both protected Myers and undermined Twixt’s influence on the game world. If I were the developers, I would have taken the following steps to solve the Twixt dilemma.
1. Shut down the ability to chat across factions. It seems incredible to me that a game would allow for such venting of rage. There is a good reason that no one has invented a loudspeaker that could project road-rage inspired comments into the next car.
2. Permanently ban the players that threatened Twixt or started malicious rumors about his real-life pursuits.
3. Get rid of the drones. Twixt’s technique strikes me as an unintended use of game mechanics. Meyers calls it “exploring system potentials,” and I call it exploit. Only NCsoft knows for sure, but what is certain is that the developers could have created peace in their game world by getting rid of these things or making them weak enough to allow a player to escape.

Does Twixt have a Place in the Virtual World?

Meyers eventually quit CoH/V, worn down by what he saw as harassment. It didn’t occur to him to change his behavior, and I still don’t think he understands the response he got. Case in point: Meyers was surprised when his Heroes guild kicked him. This “sudden and unexpected expulsion” came about when Myers, logged onto a Villain alt known to his Heroes guild members, turned his droning technique against a member of his own guild. Who would do this and not expect someone to be upset? Now, Myers might say that guilds are “against the rules” as they are not officially talked about in the EULA. What guilds usually do is make the world nicer. They give a person friends and allies. They try to inspire loyalty. The code may be unwritten, but it is nonetheless a code. I will also note that, as a former GM, a g-kick does not qualify as harassment–it’s not harassment to disapprove of someone’s behavior or to dissociate oneself or one’s organization from them. Once again, Myers comes off as incredibly naive. If he wanted to gank members of his own guild, why not do so on an anonymous alt? He just can’t understand why others are angry at him. So, not only will the bully kick down an unknown kid’s sandcastle, but he will do the same to his brother’s. I have a younger sibling myself who was a holy terror as a child. As an adult, at least he understands why it was not cool to play “shark” and bite me in the swimming pool. As adults, we’re great friends and can laugh about such things, though I have to say, if he walks near the edge of a pool I’m definitely pushing him in. Myers can’t understand why the game of “shark” is only fun for the shark. Twixt plays to win, and he plays for science, but he doesn’t play to understand human beings. As such, his place in the virtual world grew smaller. He laments in his paper that he was the victim of “ridicule and the threat (or actuality) of social ostracism.” Eventually, he was forced into being a lone wolf–the only shark in an empty swimming pool. While I might feel a bit sorry for him, I will assert that he should have expected this consequence from the outset of the “experiment.” I do think he had a right to play as he did, at least until such time as NCsoft decided to curb that playstyle, but at the same time, he should have recognized the simple principle that actions have consequences. Very few people have the determination to continue ganking, or biting others, or kicking down sandcastles so far past the point when others disapprove the behavior. It must have taken a good bit of single-mindedness to accomplish it. One of Myers’ detractors, cited in Myers’ paper, says quite eloquently: “It’s almost like he’s an NPC, and if you consider him in that light everything makes a lot more sense.” Maybe so.

Is Meyers’ Research Dangerous?

I am always sensitive to the representation of MMO gaming in the press. My worst fear is that some popular news outlet could get wind of this story, and without understanding a thing about MMOs or their communities, conclude that gamers are vicious, deviant, and homicidal. I would counter that humanity itself is rather vicious. From my knowledge of history, I conclude that we, as a species, work much more often toward the greater evil than the greater good. I see human history, fundamentally, as a tragedy. Despite attempts at peace, empathy, and progress, we so easily devolve into violence. Perhaps Myers experienced some of that violence, about which I am regretful. I would say, though, that in my experience MMOs are no more violent–and sometimes less so–than real life. Maybe I am colored by my own experience, but for every hostile idiot, there are about a hundred carebears in the game world. I don’t know which category to place Myers in. He’s certainly not an idiot, but he is a bit hostile–even to me in the blog comments, though of course, I could have simply misunderstood the tone. What bothers me about Myers is that he is fundamentally unable to appreciate that other players might define the purpose of the game differently from him, just as they are unable to understand his play style. Myers has a very sophisticated set of academic rhetorical strategies to justify his view. The other players involved only have the textual violence of “f-you” tells and posts. However, the failure of understanding is on both sides.

Goblins and Worgen – Neutral Faction (or a Third?)

We’ve got the Alliance and we’ve got the Horde. Recent information from the latest PTR suggests that there may be two additional races that we’ll be able to play. Granted there isn’t a whole lot of solid stuff out there about this. The entire premise is based off the simple fact that new Halloween masks are being added.

It feels like a red herring. Or a decoy.

But all the same, I can’t help but wonder. I’m trying to remember as much of the history and lore as I can from way back in vanilla. The Alliance first saw signs of the Worgen in Duskwood. Someone summoned them. They’re supposedly from a different planet or plane of existence (not Azeroth). Was it Arugal that summoned it first? Or was it that Night Elf chick with the Scythe (Can’t remember the name, I know someone who reads will know more)?

Then we have the Goblins. Very mercenary. Counterparts to the Gnomes in terms of engineering and ingenuity. They remind me of the Ferengi from Star Trek. Already thought of an interesting racial for them.

Obtain 0.5% additional gold from all sources

Daresay it fits the theme quite well. I don’t quite see these guys as a one side or the other deal. I don’t see the Goblins teaming up with the Alliance or with the Horde. I’m not sure if there’s enough lore or background on the Worgen to determine which side they’d join either. One theory I’ve read is that the Greymane wall wasn’t enough to contain the plague (or some sort of mutational virus). Gilneas is now infested with Worgen as a result. Gilneas wasn’t exactly friendly to the Alliance either. Come to think of it, I don’t recall them ever joining the Alliance. Their King said they’d fight it out on their own without getting involved with the other Alliance nations.

Which then leads me to wonder that if these two races are indeed a part of the next expansion, I suspect the players who roll these races may get a chance to choose which side they wish to join at a certain time or level. Or they could simply not join at all and remain their own faction. So a Goblin Priest (which just sounds really damn unlikely) could join either Horde or Alliance or fly solo. Maybe a player can choose to be neutral the lifespan. Another idea is that these two races could switch allegiances – at will. Now that’d be an interesting twist to add to the game. We know Blizzard’s planning on introducing faction changes anyway.

Some crazy stuff here. It’s all a bunch of speculation. All from the fact that new Halloween masks were introduced. It could be nothing, it could be something.

Blizzcon approaches. We’ll see if this means anything.

Orbit-uary Post Mortem

Well, the crew and I managed to spend a solid 150 minutes on handling four towers tonight. It was nothing more than a simple continuation of last week’s three tower attempts (but slightly longer).

Yeah it’s been nerfed slightly. But on the raid kill satisfaction scale, I’d probably set it at 7.5 out of 10. It felt good though, for sure.

This is the third hard mode/meta achievement related boss we’ve accomplished since we killed Yogg. Last week, we managed to take down Heartbreaker on Heroic which allowed us to leapfrog ahead of several guilds. Good for top 20 on an extremely competitive PvE progression server (WoW Progress ranks the server as 7th in the US).

The Strategy

We utilized this strategy detailed on Tankspot. This involved having 2 launch teams consisting of 3 players each. It was practiced extensively on the week before with only 3 towers up. Last night was when we’d put it to the test. Despite having a slightly different launch team, overall I was really happy with the outcome. I think we only suffered a handful of deaths at the end but we managed to get the kill all the same. Working on flawlessness can come later.

The main hurdles that we had to focus on is coordination. Specifically:

  • Fire launch team
  • Retrieve launch team
  • Load second launch team
  • Fire second launch team

It took us around four successful shutdowns before we took him out. A great thing to do before the encounter is to spend a minute or two seeding the entire area with Pyrite. Blast those suckers down as they come in.

Anyways, the main problem we had for the majority of the evening was retrieving our launch teams intact. Our bikes had difficulty pinpointing where they were on the ground and which demolisher to bring the teams back to.

After a variety of tactics, assists were automatically handed out to everyone. This allowed them to mark themselves.

The launching demolishers were assigned three marks. The launch teams were also assigned three marks. Every time a player was launched, they would designate themselves.

Let’s say we had a Demolisher launching Bruno and Broseph. The Demolisher would be marked with a star. If Bruno was about to be launched, he’d tag him self with a square when he landed. This way, he can coordinate with the chopper that picks him up (square to star). Just as Bruno is about to be delivered, Broseph who is manning the guns on the Demolisher would then load himself in allowing Bruno to jump into the gunnery position of the Demo. Once Broseph gets launched, he’d tag himself with the square.

The other launch teams did the same thing and the overall efficiency increased. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint Gnomes on the ground. That’s when the lucky charms come in handy. A script and macro that Amava figured out helped immensely. Try these:

Here is the macro that all the Launch Team members need for FL.

/script SetRaidTarget("target", n)

Where "target" is a toon name in quotes, and n is:
1. Yellow 4-point Star
2. Orange Circle
3. Purple Diamond
4. Green Triangle
5. White Crescent Moon
6. Blue Square
7. Red "X" Cross
8. White Skull

example:

 

/script SetRaidTarget("Matticus", 8)

This will put a skull on Matt’s head.

All in all, a fairly fun encounter. Excellent work by all the players involved and those that were here for previous attempts but could not make it.

Of Heroes and Villains Part 2

Of Heroes and Villains Part 2

killingjoke

Last time we talked about the hero classes of Warcraft 3 and the build up to wrath where we got our first hero class, and I would like to thank everyone that chimed in. Today I’ll talk a little bit about implementation of the hero class.

Let’s face it, Death Knights set the bar pretty high. When you first start a Death Knight a few things happen. First of all you are in your own little corner of the old Eastern Kingdoms map, and in this corner you’re given a multi-phase instance to learn about your class. This in and of itself is pretty amazing. Think back to when you first started your character as a level 1 freshly born into the world. Your area was open to the world, at level one you could in theory run your brand new human all the way to Iron Forge if you felt so inclined.

With wrath, the Death Knights were born into servitude of the Lich King himself, already having established themselves as heroes of the horde / alliance but falling only to be returned in undeath. Being under the Lich King’s thumb you are forced to do things rather then given options, you can’t choose to skip the entry quests and just run to Iron Forge, instead you’re given a story to play out. You’re forced to do tasks for NPC’s that you’ve tried to kill in the halls of Naxxramas.

This feels like a rail shooter to some people and I have heard a fair share of complaints about it, but I personally love it. It forces you to immerse yourself into the character. You’re given beautifully crafted quests to give you gear and talents and a mount and most importantly, a foundation of skills for your character. The quests also give you the foundation of a story and they have a weight of lore about them.

To me that might be the most important thing about these quests, the lore. I’m a lore junkie. I love quests that just drip with story or dialogue with an NPC from the previous Warcraft games. When the Caverns of Time instances and Karazhan were released I was quite giddy (still waiting on the bottom half of kara there blizz! *shakes fist*) and they still remain among my favorite instances. Here we get the story of one of the branches of the Death Knights. We get to interact with Darion Morgraine a character who is at the center of an amazing selection of lore. Go ahead and give it a read http://www.wowwiki.com/Darion I’ll wait, it’s worth it.

When you’re done with all the quests you are treated to an amazing battle between the forces of Ebon Hold and those of Light’s Hope Chapel. When the dust settles you are welcomed to the site of Darion’s redemption and the cleansing of the Ashbringer. He breaks the bonds of the Lich King and swears to bring him down. The Death Knights are then required to purge the Ebon Hold of the forces loyal to the Lich King and then are sent to seek forgiveness with the leader of their faction before the game begins as normal.

What This Means

Even when Burning Crusade was released, both new races were given staring areas that you could skip if you wanted to. You didn’t have to learn anything about them really except that the Blood Elves were emo and the Dranaei were high and mighty hoof people.

Here you were forced to interact with and further along the lore of the game.  The entire starting package for the Death Knights set the bar very very high. Your introduced into a multi phase instanced area were layers are placed and removed to create a seamless environment.  You further along the plot of the entire game, you get to interact with Boss mobs in a way that is new and entertaining (Listening to Noth complain was hilarious) and you get to watch the story of the world change in a way it hasn’t in several years. I mean toppling the plot of Kil’jaden and besting Illidan was fun, but it doesn’t have quite the feel of watching the Lich King lose one of his greatest commanders or the Ashbringer placed in the hands of Tirion Fordring and cleansed or an entire new faction be born on the spot knowing that you’re going to be coming for Arthas in his place of power. Those just feel epic.

Any new hero class introduced into the game from now on will have large shoes to fill. Their introduction into the world will have to be something special and captivating as well as potentially innovative. This is arguably the most important point for a player with the class as often times it will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they keep playing the class. Personally I think the next best bet would be Keepers of the Grove and the Emerald Dream, because I can’t really think of anything else at the moment that would seem quite so epic or immersive.

I give Blizzard big kudos for doing the starting zone of Death Knights incredibly well.
What do you guys think? Did you enjoy the starting zone? Do you think any other hero class could make a comparable introduction?

Until next time,

Sig

Image courtesy of DC Comics