Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Story About Leather that is not Kinky

Some years ago, I needed a new wallet. My old wallet had fit perfectly. It was thin, with only two pockets to hold my license, credit card, and metro card. It had a subtle clip to secure what little cash I keep on hand. Sadly, the leather on the clip had worn through and the protruding metal was tearing holes in my pants' pockets.

No store sold a precise replica of my ideal wallet, so I bought new pants instead.

Fast forward to a Saturday afternoon walking through SoHo where I stumble across a leather boutique. This looked to be the sort of store that sold foolishly expensive handbags my sister would love, but eyeing a window display of leather wallets and fingering the growing hole in my back right pocket, I stepped inside. I placed my worn out wallet on the counter and said, "I want to buy this but not broken."

At this point, the leather vendor cringed. After regaining his composure, he brought two wallets identical to my own to his counter, one brown and one black. "These are like your wallet, but better," he said.

"Of course," I replied, "because these ones aren't broken."

"No, no, that is not why." Taking a full minute, the leather vendor described the perfection of these wallets, closing with, "For a long time I couldn't even sell wallets because no one made them right."

I didn't care at the time. A wallet only needs to hold money and not have excess pockets for things I don't carry, so I bought the black one. Years later, my wallet is still in perfect condition and I realize it is a spectacular, invincible, truly fine little wallet.

The vendor could have sold me a lower quality wallet. He could have sold me a lower quality wallet at a higher price, but he didn't. He wouldn't even allow a lower quality wallet into his store. He cringed--was visibly emotionally affected--at the presence of my broken, imperfect wallet.

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I've flown every major airline. Except for JetBlue, I've sworn to never again use each of them. But JetBlue doesn't fly everywhere, so I'm often stuck using American or United despite the poor service I've come to expect.

We face this problem in MMOs. CCP and Mythic don't fly to Azeroth. An MMO, like any social network, has an inherent lock-in quality. MySpace never has to improve because it already has the users. Right now, Activision-Blizzard is acting like MySpace, but I want them to act like the leather vendor in SoHo. I want them to be sad about yesterday's extended maintenance the same way our leather vendor was sad about my broken wallet, not because 11 million customers were annoyed but because somewhere in the world a nerdy guy's cartoon bear didn't get to tank Zul'Farrak on Veteran's Day.

This is an immensely high standard, but as a customer I am entitled to place my expectations wherever I choose. Where do you place the bar?

Like many Warcraft bloggers, I have a programming background and have spent time in both IT and web services. I'm not sure where the Activision-Blizzard sympathizers are employeed, but even in my extremely lenient industries, less than 99% uptime was not acceptable. Ten hours of unexpected downtime would cause heads to roll.

In a perfect week, World of Warcraft's scheduled maintenance periods and rolling restarts drop it below 95% uptime. Various industries like finance, healthcare, and the military use networked mission critical services with a 99.999% reliability standard. Could Activision-Blizzard be more reliable? If so, should we expect them to?

Years ago, WoW became popular by doing the same things as other MMOs but doing them better. WoW still does the same things as other MMOs. Does it still do them better?

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I'm thinking of naming my wallet Sonny.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Opinion: They Have us by the Balls

Question: Why are drug-dealers assholes?
Answer: Because they can be.

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I love WoW. I dreamt last night of waking up today and having Khiv's bear tank Zul'Farrak.

It didn't happen. Instead I've installed Windows and Warhammer Online and have begun playing my new game.

My two monthly subscriptions have been cancelled. It's extremely likely that I'll resume WoW in the future, but for now I'm offended, personally hurt, at the level of service Activision-Blizzard has provided me over the past month.

Is this QQ? Yes. But it's not about money. It's not even about time. Ask yourself, at what point does the technical quality of Warcraft become so poor that you stop playing? World of Warcraft could be completely free and at this point I still would not tolerate the level of service we've experienced over the past month.

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Also, it's humorous to see the wide variety of extremely specific reasons you can give to cancel a subscription on the account manager's "Why are you canceling?" page.

Opinion: I'm Walking to GameStop to Buy Warhammer

I get to play this game like 5 hours a week. I have off today for Veteran's Day and the servers are still down indefinitely after maintenance, as is the entire WoW web site.

This has happened almost half the times I've had an opportunity to play in the last few weeks, and it's monster fucking bullshit.

Fuck this.

My prediction for Wrath is that it will be unplayable. Don't get too excited, people, you'll just be trying to log in to a busted video game.

I'm leaving to buy Warhammer right now. Seriously. And stupid ass Windows to play it on. It's not that I hate WoW, but it's my day off and I want to play a video game, so I'll do what I must.

Horde Reroll: We Solo'd Uldaman

Follow the RP-PvP leveling adventures of Wonzy and Khiv, a priest/hunter duo.

We have a healer. We have a tank. We thought, "We're five levels above Uldaman bosses. They'll still yield experience without hurting us and Khiv needs better gear, so let's burn them down." So we tried.

Our Hunter Pet Tanking Spec

We worried our pet wouldn't have enough focus to maintain aggro, so Khiv respecced: 12 points into Marksmanship for 2/2 Go for the Throat and put his remaining points in the Beast Mastery tree just up to Bestial Discipline, taking the obvious pet talents along the way.

Khiv went to Feralas, tamed a Gorilla, and specced him into Blood of the Rhino as a healer-helper. Wonzy Recruit-A-Friend summoned him to the Badlands so he could pick up the flight point (viciously convenient).

Our First Dungeon Solo

We had a wipe-fest at first. Khivi stayed in Aspect of the Viper and never ran out of mana, Volleying his heart out, but we didn't have the burst damage to deal with runners. Wonzy could've healed the entire instance at once, but sometimes he'd lose line of sight and we'd forget Khiv was the foreground window (for Volley) and spam Greater Heal on the wrong target until the Gorilla died.

We did this until we were forced to repair, but once we got the hang of it we breezed through the entire instance, only stopping before the last boss because we didn't have enough players to summon him.

Pre-BC Itemization: WTF?

Some folks QQ about generic classes, but loot tokens are a good idea and Blizzard has come a long way from Vanilla loot. Revelosh drops rare items with a random enchant, which means you could end up with +strength on cloth gloves. Check out the Flameseer Mantle, shoulders than could only conceivably benefit Fire mages and just the right kind of poorly specced warlock before the spellpower changes in Wrath.

We Didn't Solo Zul'Farrak

We tried Zul'Farrak after. We cleared trash carefully but successfully. Khiv and the gorilla would stand way back and Wonzy would pull with his wand and run back for the gorilla to pick up the mobs. This way the inevitable runners didn't aggro more groups, which we couldn't handle at our (now appropriate) level. We made it to the Witch Doctor but he was bugged. We went to Antu'sul but aggro'd him and died while not paying attention (cookies!!!) and by then the entire instance had respawned. Weak.

We're going back with Sonny (the bear) right after this blog. Sonny is more of a progression tank, while the gorilla is nice for farm content.

We Only Recommend this for Fun

Our XP per hour was dismal. Elites have too many hit points for efficient killing, and if you aren't completing quests then dungeons at this pace don't offer much. If you *are* completing quests, and can pull it off, welcome to XP City, population: you.

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In other news, I've finally fixed my third world country internet connection. It's go time!

And we still didn't do screen shots )-: C'mon, Highlander!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Horde Reroll: Introducing Sonny the Druid

Follow the RP-PvP leveling adventures of Wonzy and his friends!

Question: What is the Highlander's favorite class of all time?

Answer: The Druid. The Druid, except for its lack of gnomeosity, is the ultimate in hybrid goodness. No tank has more style ("with my FACE!"), no healer has more silly, and no DPS has more underdog appeal.

But I've never loved a druid. THRICE I have rolled a magic bear and THRICE have I become bored before level 10.

And then Khiv tamed Sonny the Bear in Silverpine Forest. And he stuck. Do you remember the first time a toon *stuck* with you. It happened with this bear. And by bear I mean druid. I have decided that Sonny is a tamed druid who never leaves bear form and he is my favorite part of Team Wonzai, the Discipline Priest and Beast Mastery Hunter combo I call my main. Sonny has a swipe and a charge, the favored abilities of two of my most-loved unplayed classes. Like dual-boxing, he somewhat sates my gnawing hunger to experience every every every aspect of this game.

And he's cute. I'm gonna learn to make screenshots a habit. I'm really liking how other bloggers use screenshots. I'm'na shove bear pictures down your throat!

By the way, we're finally together and we have reached level 44. We do sometimes use the first-person plural like BRK, and though we're unashamed that it was absolutely his idea first, our main reason isn't that his (their?) idea was brilliant, but because it feels natural.

We quested today with a warlock who never knew we were the same guy until we told him, hours later. I don't know if dual-boxing arena successfully is actually possible (this is reallyreally hard), but if it is then we're on the path to do it.

Oh, and mages before level 30: they suck. They suuuuuuuuuuck. Suck suck suck suck SUCK! But when they finally hit that power curve, it is time to party. Khiv carried Sonn's out-of-mana booty through his first 30 levels and then, out of nowhere BAM he became awesome, just like he should be.

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I mentioned earlier that dual-boxing is reallyreally hard. If your goal is precision and style and you also want to maintain the social aspect of the game, then I'm right. If, however, you just want to quickly level some alts via Recruit-A-Friend and aren't concerned about dual-boxing PvP or dungeons, then find some lower level quest mobs and faceroll away. This is FAST.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Horde Reroll: Dual-Boxing is Concentrated WoW

Follow the RP-PvP leveling adventures of Team Wonzai, two undead gnomes and their friends.

If I began dual-boxing three weeks ago, my mind has been blown often enough that anything I might've posted lost relevance immediately. What follows is bullet points of grey matter I've scraped off of my walls. Brain frag, if you will. (Will you?)

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I've settled on two teams: a Forsaken Discipline Priest with an Orc Beast Mastery Hunter and a Forsaken Frost Mage with a Frost Death Knight who will probably be Tauren. The priest/hunter will probably be my "main."

All my toons took engineering for the jumper cable rez, grenade stuns and swift boots in battlegrounds (so pre-BC, I know), and parachute cloaks for non-Slow Fall/Levitaters. Seaforium Charges make rogues irrelevant.

Recruit-A-Friend XP accumulates too quickly to concurrently level herbalism or mining professions.

I don't fit in with the other dual-boxers. Their forums point to joy in their hardware and software solutions, while for me these things are a vehicle. I worry more about finding affection for my cartoon avatars.

To that end I took the mage and hunter fishing together, because it was obvious to me they didn't get along. The mage caught Old Crafty.

To that end, I RP my toons getting into ridiculous arguments in Orgrimmar.

To that end (the affection one), I've spent my greatest amount of mental energy lately devising the perfect name/race/class/spec schemes. The class/spec/race question is settled and the names were to be Sonn/Khiv for the priest/hunter and Wonz/Chilton for the mage/DK. BUT the hunter got a bear named Sonny that he loves, so obviously the priest can't be named Sonn. The names Wonzy, Wonz, Wonzi, Sonn, Chilton, Thompkin, Bonzy, Khivi, Khiv, Tipp, and Rhek are all reserved by me, so we'll see how it shakes out. We're probably naming a gorilla pet Thompkin and a rhino pet Bonzy.

We might start talking like BRK. It's a good idea and it feels right. We do not have shame.

Our focus is still PvP. The mage/hunter braved the waters of level 19 Warsong Gulch to make sure it's possible and did fairly well. We went 4-1 before leaving to gain more levels, though the imbalance was mostly due to the Horde twink frenzy we queued into.

One time the hunter scored nine killing blows and the mage got zero. Frostbolt sucks at level 19.

The blog will be a PvP blog again when we've become acclimated to the newness of dual-boxing. It will not become a dual-boxing blog. Sadly, we currently question our relevance with no actively played characters at the level cap.

I added features to open source software to assist my dual-boxing. It felt good to flex that muscle.

Sonny (the bear) tanked Wailing Caverns like a champ!

LFG is waaaay easier when you provide a two-toon core. "Want to heal? We're at the stone. Go go go!"

We're intimidated by the vast level of experience and knowledge pre-BC WoWers like Critical QQ and Out of Mana demonstrate. Dual-boxing sort of feels like a way to catch up.

We have less opportunity to play than ever lately, and dual-boxing helps mitigate this. Two hours /played in one hour!

Don't shop at Best Buy. Ick, I tried. Three weeks and three returns later, I went newegg.com for the win.

Do not, under any circumstances, tell people that I really really love the hunter.

Herbalism seems like *the* PvP profession for non-healers. The Death Knight will take it and if the self-HoT is as good as we hope, the mage might drop enchanting for it too.

The mage/hunter have used Jumper Cables three times now to rez healers and we love them.

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I'm following Krizzlybear's (Frost is the New Black) NaNoWriMo project. Who else should I pay attention to?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Frost Mage Guide: #1 Deciding to be a Frost Mage

Uncle Sonny is retired, but he's got a lifetime of Frost Mage experience to pass on to you young gnomelings. Come, sit with him by the fire and he'll teach you to put it out.

Ah, hallo there! You say you want to know what I know, do you? I'll warn you, once I get started it's tough to get me stopped, so before we go any further, let's make sure you've got a hankerin' for the frost. There's ten careers you can choose from, and we're going to examine each one.

  • Warrior - We're covering Warriors first because if you've already stopped paying attention, you need to buy a sword and do some push-ups. Even if you forget everything else you've ever been taught, remember to bathe.

  • Warlock - If you're paralyzed below the neck you should probably become a Warlock, because they can just roll their face around and still be ridiculously powerful.

  • Shaman - Are you loved by all but understood by few? Step into your natural role. If you come back to visit Uncle Sonny, expect him to ask you some really ignorant questions.

  • Rogue - Love Counterstrike? Enjoy staying stealthed while your pocket healer gets tag-teamed? Want to kill people in the most obnoxious ways possible? Step right up.


If Uncle Sonny seems a little negative on the other classes, it's because he really, really thinks you would make a good Frost Mage. You look like you've got the right stuff, kid.

  • Priest - Want to feel needed? Want to be so in demand that you can do whatever you want? Want to be totally OP in a way that doesn't draw attention? Go ahead, I won't hold it against you.

  • Paladin - Nerd alert! Warriors of the Light lawful goody goody nerds! Copy their homework and trust them with important things, but never take up the mantle of nerdery for yourself.

  • Mage - Q: Pew pew? A: Pew pew pew, pew. Like big numbers? Don't mind dying? Don't mind dying a lot? Got a knack for QQ? Want to send people to Theramore when they thought they were going to Shattrath? You'll fit in well here. Are you completely and utterly awesome in ways other people can't begin to understand? I forgot to tell you, but that's a requirement.

  • Hunter - Blizzard needed to make the game playable for Chinese gold farmers and retards because that demographic has a lot of disposable income, so they invented Hunters. They're really good at killing mages, but don't let that get you down. Stuff we can kill, like Warriors and Rogues, are in turn good at killing hunters. Also, we can read.

  • Druid - Druids are magic bears that the earth mother taught how to shift into trees, chickens, elves, and cows. This is how they talk: "Mid-fight I was doing great damage in cat form but getting too much threat. Instead of Cowering I shifted to caster form and cast Lifebloom on the rogue to give him heal threat and slow down his damage so I could catch up. Then I alt-tabbed over to Babelfish so I could /tell the hunter, "记住误导!" (Remember to Misdirect!"). Of course by the time I did, he hadn't and instead Feigned Death, sending Big Bad Boss Man to the healer. I quickly battle-rezzed the healer, and shifted to Bear form, assuming the position of our now dead tank, and finished the fight. Oh, and I did great damage while I was in bear form too." Did that sound awesome? It probably is. The bad news? The earth mother never taught them how to be gnomes. Sorry.

  • Death Knight - I've never met one, but I've heard good things. They're frost-capable, but put them out of your mind until you've grown all the way up to four feet tall.


Once you've mulled it over, come back next week if you're ready to get into the nitty-gritty of frosting.