I’m really not one to complain about server downtime in World of Warcraft. I truly do understand and sympathize with the networking engineers at Blizzard, who are dealing with problems of a scale no one has ever had to deal with before, in terms of having millions and millions of concurrent users in a real-time virtual environment.

But.

For the past three weeks, my guildies and I have been trying to do raids during the middle of the week. And each week, our very limited playtime has been compromised by server instability and lag that the game hasn’t seen since the very bad old days of late 2005.

And none of us is leaving for another game.

Why? It’s pretty simple. There’s nothing better and more stable. And it really cheeses me off that Blizzard can know that it has all the time in the world to fix these kinds of problems, because they really aren’t going to lose customers to such an extent that quality of service becomes a priority for them.

I wish they wanted to be better, not just be the best.

Damion Schubert on why massive titles shouldn’t force grouping.

My favorite Jonathan Coulton song, “The Future Soon,” is now going to be on Rock Band. I couldn’t be happier. I say without a hint of irony that its four minutes and change are as good as the entirety of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Plus, you know, Creative Commons. Enjoy the Spiffworld vid.

This is a spectacularly good post by Ixobelle, to which I will add only one thing.

A book I’m reading discusses the biology of the brain’s sensation of joy. It presents evidence that — like the joyful release at the end of a good joke, or a mystery novel — the brain requires suspense, even a bit of fear, in order to experience the release of joy. The formula is something like “familiar experience + unexpected suspense + overcoming challenge = joy.”

It’s why I enjoy unpredictable fights in World of Warcraft — including the new Faction Champions fight, one of my favorites — more than any other content.

Anyhow:  Ixobelle: Pattern Recognition in Humans (…with applications in MMOs).

If I knew where to buy pox wholesale, i’d put some on a few houses.

Ferrel is our new king.

Syp is anxious for comments.

Riv is desperate for attention.

Ysharros started this mess.

Slurms is in a fightin’ mood.

Comments, ho! (join the League for Greater Comment Volume)

Southern Barrens

Rather than blather on about Cataclysm things people have already read about a million times, I thought i’d tap on some things people may have missed about Cataclysm that should be bigger news:

1. Character health levels from gear will be largely normalized, irrespective of class. This means that your healer may have close to as much health as your tank (though your tank may have more because of talents). Changing this will allow Blizzard to move fights away from the tank-healer-DPS holy trinity that requires 1 high-health person to absorb most of the damage for the group. It also gives them the freedom to improve creature AI and make PvE play a bit more like PvP play.

Furthermore, it moves Bliz closer to its stated goal of changing healing to be less reliant on pumping out big heals fast, monitoring every cooldown, and more on healing the right player at the right time.

2. “Gated, not grindy” is the new “bring the player, not the class.” Developer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street first used this phrase last week to describe the new Path of the Titans alternate advancement scheme. Blizzard, he said, decided against adding 10 experience levels in order to take part of the “leveling up” process out of the hands of players who, he said, were racing through content very fast compared to others.

Five experience levels will still be able to be ground out, he said, but the new Path of the Titans system is intended partly to replace the other 5 levels they didn’t add — and the system won’t be the kind that you can grind out easily. Rather, he said, you’ll likely advance along the Path at a pretty measured rate, with upper bounds on how far along the alternate advancement scheme you can move.

He contrasted it with reputation grinds and experience grinds — specifically the notoriously unfun Sons of Hodir chain in Wrath.

How will “G not G” work? Will it work? Can anything stop people who are bound and determined to maximize their toon’s advancement?

3. The expansion will add 7 new zones to the game. OK, so this has been reported, but the focus on the old world makeover has left a lot of forum rats complaining that Blizzard hasn’t added new places to visit, which patently isn’t true. Wrath added 8 new zones. A steep dropoff this isn’t. Seven new zones in addition to an entirely new leveling progression and more max-level content than vanilla, BC or Wrath launched with.

4. Blizzard is taking raiders at their word. The biggest valid complaint of raiders in the past 2 expansions has been the slowish rate at which Blizzard releases raid content. It’s launching this expansion with 4 complete raid zones. They’ve also said every encounter will have optional hard modes.

Basically, with 3 and 4, Blizz is acknowledging that the game most people are paying to play now is pretty dramatically bifurcated — there are endgame players and there are leveling players. This expansion pack is designed to funnel content to those two groups.

Overall, I’m pretty happy about what i’ve heard. I have some concerns about the new guild leveling system. Blizz has been pretty hands-off about how guilds work in their game, and that’s let me make a guild the way I like it. Now that Blizz is imposing a structure on my guild that I didn’t create, I’m wondering how it will square with my guys’ goals. We’ll see.

Gamers, this is not your enemy.Gamers, especially veteran players, often express exasperation at new or casual players’ difficulty accommodating some basic gaming conventions.

The classic example is mouse turning, as opposed to using the keyboard. It’s self-evident to us that mouse turning is a superior way of gaming: turn speed is faster, and you’re free to use your left hand for hotkeyed abilities rather than for turning / movement.

Personally, I think designers are being unfair to new gamers.

People who are not hardcore gamers come to games with a pretty sizable pre-existing set of skills at computer use. These skills are, unfortunately, largely of no use in games, given interface design choices that game designers make.

  • Most of the time nongamers spend at a computer, the most efficient arrangement of their hands is to use both hands on the keyboard and only occasionally use the mouse for the selection of objects (files, menu choices) in their desktop environment.
  • Movement within the desktop environment is most efficiently done not with a mouse, but with a keyboard.

People come to gaming with a set of skills that are the most efficient for what they do most on their computers: navigating documents and manipulating text. Cutting and pasting text, navigating documents, even most aspects of page layout and design, are all more efficiently executed with keyboard commands than with the mouse. It’s one of the reason users of text editors like vi and emacs scoff at “inefficient” word processing programs like Word: they rely too heavily on mouse use and not enough on efficient keyboard commands.

If a new gamer spends 5 percent of his time at the computer playing games, why should he bother learning an entirely new way of interacting with it that doesn’t build on the interface knowledge he has from the other 95 percent of the time he uses the computer?

What if, instead of designing games that went 180 degrees in the opposite direction from how people use their computers outside games, designers actually tried to make game interfaces work more like applications nongamers use? Would that make PC gaming more accessible? Couldn’t hurt.

I await the epoch-making first-person shooter that’s designed to be played with 2 hands on the keyboard. I’m not entirely joking. ;)

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