State of the Warcraft address

This is, in effect, my wishlist for things I'd like to see done better in a future massively multiplayer online game, based on the problems I find in Worlf of Warcraft. Realize that these issues are not game crippling (at least not yet), but are things that reduce World of Warcraft from ZOMG PWN to very fun.

1) Massive?

Want: A single, continuous world on which ALL players (at least of a particular country/world region) play together.

There are at least 3 million US players of World of Warcraft, the other (almost) 4 million coming from China and Europe. However, the game isn't just split up by region or by language, but more fundamentally by servers. There are around 100 different servers which, depending on which one you decided upon, limits which other players you'll be with. Once you're on a server, you're stuck there unless you want to pay $25 to move elsewhere.

Being a computer guy, I can understand why this is necessary. Even if we were to assume that only 1 million of US players are on at peak hours, to have a single server/server cluster attempting to handle the massive amount of bandwith and processsing required would be rather enormous and cost prohibitive. It's a shame, but unless Blizzard was willing to pay 10x what they rake in through subscription fees they couldn't afford a single world, not to mention that the world isn't designed to handle that many people in it.

However, because of the current setup there's a problem I've noted. Eventually, servers get "full". When new players attempt to create their first character, a realm is automatically suggested for them. Invariably realms that are new or have low populations are suggested, and occaisionally medium ones. Once a server hits "high" population, players must specifically choose that realm by going against what was recommended. What this means is that there's a point where low level zones are practically deserted as everyone who actively plays on the server has reached max or near max level. This can happen, or show signs of it happening, as quickly as six months.

The reason this bothers me is that I have a large number of characters, spread out over many servers. Some of these characters are low levels on old, high population servers. This means that trying to find other players my level is often difficult. The problem is compounded by the fact that all new players are being directed away from the server, leaving the server to "stagnate".

Now, come the expansion people on all servers will be making new characters to take advantage of the new features/races etc. But that's a temporary solution to a more permanent problem. A problem that won't be fixed in World of Warcraft, but may be fixed in a sequel or competitor's offering.

2. 1337 5k33lz

Want: Pure skill based player versus player content.

I am not the most skilled video game player ever, but I am talented. It's something I egotistically pride myself on, and still enjoy taking an ego bruising now and again for. There are some things that do frustrate me.

You may remember a long time ago a post I made concerning a game called Gate 88, which, while interesting in concept, lent itself to give advantage to whomever won a confrontation. Not a small advantage, a freaking huge one that was completely unrecoverable from. This is not true of World of Warcraft, but there is an issue.

When fighting other players, their equipment is a very large factor. Having 1337 equipment that is hard to get grants a rather large, though not unsurmountable, obstacle to their foes. Evenly skilled players fighting will most often have a result of the player with better gear winning.

Now, were all gear equal and it more a matter of strategically choosing which gear to combine with what style of combat and then skillfully putting the theory into practice, I wouldn't care. If a player has devised a better combination of gear and combat style than my own, they deserve a win. Real life sports are won as a combination of preparation, strategy and skill, not just skill.

However, World of Warcraft sometimes runs into the "idiot with excaliber" scenario, wherein some moron has managed to get incredibly rediculous gear which is completely overpowering in comparison to everyone he's fighting. Without any strategy save "kill" and with the skill of a retarded monkey they plow through the field, successful only because of their equipment.

This is a scenario I have fought, lost to, over come, and everything in between. I like challenges, but I dislike ones where the challenge isn't a matter of skill but is instead a matter of things being unfairly weighted against you.

3. Dynamics

Want: A non static world.

The neatest thing about games like Worms, Scorched Earth and Vigilante 8 is that the world was always changing. When you dropped a bomb somewhere, you left a hole. Buildings crumbled, things blew up, and craters were created. The world was dynamic.

It would be nice if the same could be said of a game like World of Warcraft. I would like to see that my skillful efforts in battle would actually grant some advantage to my side. A days worth of crushing my enemies, seeing them driven before me, and hearing the lamentations of their women nets me nothing save the satisfaction of a job well done. Imagine at Troy, the armies have just errupted out of the horse, Troy lies open before them, the men unprepared and drunk, you are certain of victory. But instead of actually conquering anything you turn around and go home, knowing yours was a job well done. It sort of kills the buzz of conquest when nothing is conquered.

4. Customer service.

This is not to say that World of Warcraft's customer service is bad, but there is one area which I find lacking.

The essence of any community or relationship is communication. I can't claim to be perfect in this regard, but I grow everyday in the recognition that without communication there is hardly anything to call a community or a relationship. More and better communication = good.

Ther are two issues I have found with Blizzard's communication.

The first, and least important, is that it is slow. In game help can take a long time to arrive, and about 2/3rds of the time doesn't arrive while I'm still playing. If you know me, you know that I generally play my games in long stints as opposed to piecemeal. This is obviously an issue, but understandable to an extent because of the large number of players versus the feasible size of a support staff. However, improvement can still be had.

The second is more dire, and relates to the forums. Within those forums we find the people who care and know the most about the game. Very often, issues nestled deep in the players minds and thoughts are brought up. However, it is here that Blizzard's communication completely breaks down. The forum representatives, especially recently, are far more likely to respond to random zaniness in the general forum than they are to address legitimate concerns of the players in the entire breadth of the forums. I've maintained a close watch on the forums since before I left for Japan, and I can't say I'm impressed with what I've seen. In the past month, the number of "blue" posts in threads outside of the General Discussion is near zero. The ratio being 100:1 or more.

I'm not against Blizzard people from participating in the zaniness, but there's a real issue here. People want to be heard, even if the response is "No." When no response is made to issues that many forum people are concerned about, all we're left with is confusion. Is Blizzard working on this? Is this not an issue for them? Do they even care? Intentional or not, a failure to respond is equivalent in the minds of many as ignoring someone or some group. It's not good.

Now, there are all sorts of mitigating circumstances. The forumers don't know what kind of work goes into being a Blizzard representative. We do know they have all sorts of juicy tidbits about upcoming expansion details they can't tell us, and it's likely everything they say that isn't a silly quip or jest has to be carefully examined beforehand as to not let out any information being saved for a press release later. However, it would nice to let people know this kind of thing is going on. Give us a shout saying, "Because a great number of elements of the game are being changed in the expansion, many of which address current concerns and issues, we are not likely to be seen responding to requests made as it might reveal too soon exciting information before we're ready to give out all the details." Players would love that. As it is, in the middle of the Rogue Class review (a time for which communication is paramount) all Blizzard representatives simply vanished from the Rogue forum. I don't think I've seen a "blue" post in there since.

Quite simply, I've done the 9-5 monitor a forum thing. I was addicted to forums for a long time, and I know how long it takes to throw bones to people. Bureaucratic processes or not, there's no excuse for not making an excuse for disappearing altogether. There are plenty of excuses out there, good ones, for not addressing the issues people are bringing up. Give them please.

Thank you if you bothered to read all that. If you didn't, I don't know if you missed much.

Ware da funae goe?

I realize the Franklin, Dr. Weis, and Mr. Smee have all been absent for a long, long time now. The truth of the matter is, they all decided that they wouldn't bother me while I was moving and took it upon themselves to move themselves down here on their own power and initiative as not to inconvenience me.

I suspect that each met with an unpredictable element which gave rise to predictable responses. I have no doubt that Dr. Weis is off researching something he uncovered en route, or may well be hiding in my walls researching me. Franklin is bound to have been mistaken for a terrorist leader, a grass roots politician, or both, and thinks he's giving an elocution on the benefits of proper nail file management to a charity banquet when he's actually supposed to be giving a declaration of rebellion by some random militia hidden near the appalachian trail. Mr. Smee either got lost, nodded off, or is on some grand adventure he will be completely unable to quantify upon arriving.

I can't honestly say you can expect to see any of them in the near future, but maybe once my apartment is neater and less explodey, maybe after I have a sweet TV entertainment center, maybe after they're no longer oblidged to give me homewarming or christmas presents, they'll finally arrive.

In the meantime, don't worry about them. They'll take care of themselves.



I have come to the conclusion there is nothing worth doing on this green earth if it can not be connected to someone else.

Example: If there was no one I knew personally to play video games with, or to later discuss them with, I wouldn't play them. There'd be no point. It wouldn't feel good to beat Legend of Zelda if there was no one to connect that with.

It isn't limited to diversions, this applies to everything. Work, driving, running, swimming, philosophy, theology, music, everything. If there is never a connection, someone that shares or understands whatever it is, there's a deep and consuming sense of futility that gnaws. A cavernous hunger that devours whatever it is and takes from it all semblence of joy and mirth.

I'm currently suffering from a lack of connections. It's probably largely due to the newness of being in Texas, but I'm rather isolated. I have relatives nearby, but they don't "connect" like my friends and siblings did. I love them all so, but they aren't and shouldn't be a replacement for friends and a significant other.

It really comes down to the fact that I'm currently remote and far away from everyone whom I "connect" with. My best friend's in Massachusetts, my brother will be in College in New York, my sister's in Maryland, and my best buddy in college who truly understood me better than anyone else present there (and as well as anyone else for that matter) is a civil servant in Pennsylvania. Even those who, despite not having a full and deep "connect", were important are far away. The isolation is a weight that is hard to bear.

Talking to God while commuting helps, as does this.


Post-Post Modernism

The more I've observed people my age and teenagerish, the more I've come to the conclusion that ways of thinking are changing. There's a general discontent with how the world is ordered, and it only grows with age.

Post Modernism will be with us for a while yet, but I doubt that it will remain long enough to bother people 50 years from now. By then, it will be defined as a minor bump on the road between the end of the Enlightenment and the beginning of controlled anarchy.

What irks the youth of today are the continuing mixed messages we get. There are two sets of schools of thought competing for our allegience. The first set is made of the much derided relativistic schools. The second set is filled by the empirical schools. Both bombard us with their dogma, and the number of "bites" they are getting is diminishing.

The movement that is ever so subtlely beginning is one that rejects both "there are no absolutes" and "everything is absolute". In many ways it's a "common sense" movement. It goes without saying that there are absolutes and there are grey areas. Ultimately what will preserve Post Modernism for a while is the entrenchment of empiricism in established institutes, but when it has served its purpose in destroying empricism's credibility it will fade.

Right now the movement's in a celluar state, just fertilized and beginning to develop. Exactly what it will look like at birth, adulthood, and seniority are beyond anyone's ability to predict. However, some trends are clear. Young adults are rejecting institutions for their inefficiency and insincerity, yet find that anarchy is inefficient as well. Some bridging of the two will occur, assuming the second coming doesn't happen first.

That's all I can write for now. There's a large thunderstorm and I think it may knock out power just long enough to erase what I've written.


The Matrix Has Me

That's right, I'm back online. Took long enough.

I have stories to tell, and here they are.

1) I moved to Texas. I'm actually living in my own apartment now. It's a nice apartment. Pictures pre-Kevin's stuff cluttering everywhere will be provided later. It's cheap, huge, quality and extremely well positioned. 10-20 minutes to work, 20-30 minutes to relatives, a hop skip and a jump away from groceries. The only thing it's missing is a Mech of some kind for me to drive.

2) I got a car. It's a 2006 Toyota Corolla S. It's on a 4 year lease, with the option to buy, sell, return or trade at the end. I got some good deals and haggled down the payments too. I named it Tyrael. Tyrael kicks butt. Silver exterior, black interior, and sweet.

3) I dinged up my car. My advice to you all, looking at a ninety degree angle to the direction you are travelling is a bad idea. Green lights have a nasty habit of changing colors suddenly. Luckily I was driving slowly, and hit the brakes quickly, and only hit them at 10-15 miles per hour. I suffered only small cosmetic damage. The other car lost a bumper, had three panels bent in and a rear wheel tilted at a funny angle. I had it looked at recently. 1k. Ouch.

4) I just finished my first week of work. I'm in a place called the "Leper Colony" where they send all the techie people who don't have a security clearance yet. There isn't a whole lot to do other than orientation and watching videos about health, safety and ethics. I will have an interesting project coming up, but so far it hasn't be bad.

5) Not 30 minutes ago I finally got internet, having been here over a week. It was supposed to be installed before I arrived, but it wasn't. Then it was supposed to be installed Monday, but it wasn't. Finally, it was installed today after I took matters into my own hands. It's extremely relieving to be reconnected to the Matrix, my memories of the real world wiped clean.

And that's all. Wait, photos.

Apartment: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25706837@N00/sets/72157594225406242/

Car: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25706837@N00/sets/72157594225405687/



I'm at work, so this'll be brief because I have moral objections to counting things like blogging towards hours worked in a day.

Anyway, as of last night I am still without internet at home. I have no clue when I'll have it, but I should know later today because I'll be home from work early enough that the apartment office will still be open.

When I get the intarweb I'll be posting a massive update about stuff that most of you may have already heard, but will still be recorded here for completeness and posterity.

I need my Matrix fix.