Thursday, February 20, 2014

I, For One, Welcome Our New $60 Overlords

As you may have heard, it appears that Blizzard is pricing the instant 90 option at $60 in the game store.

Which immediately set off wailing and gnashing of teeth from a bunch of people because obviously Blizzard is a bunch of massive jerks out to steal our money.  $60 for an instant 90?  That's enough to buy Call of Duty X: We Just Wanted To Print More Money or Madden 20XX: Printing Money Each Year!  We're already paying $15 a month, Blizzard, obviously that means you should give everything to us.

So let's actually break this down.

First, an obvious point: it costs more for an instant 90 than a server transfer plus faction change (which is $55).  This is actually an extremely important point because it means you're better off transferring characters than just making new 90s whenever you want -- which helps keep you playing the characters you already have and makes you more invested in them.

Second, if you don't enjoy the leveling process this is an absolute steal.  Let's run the math.

Say it takes you an hour to go from level one to 10.  Then you manage to do 20 minutes per level until 60.  Then 30 minutes per level until 80.  Then an hour per level until 85.  Then two hours per level until 90.  I think these numbers are generally reasonable and quite possibly extremely optimistic -- might take most people much longer, especially without heirlooms.  Put these together and we get...

1 + (1/3 * 50) + (1/2 * 20) + (1 * 5) + (2 * 5) = 1 + 16.67 + 10 + 5 + 10 = 42.67 hours.

That's a minimum of over 42 hours needed to go from 1 to 90 assuming extremely fast leveling using heirlooms.

I've talked about how this model is already problematic before (especially for new players without heirlooms who want to play with their friends) so let me just point that 42 hours is a hell of a lot of time -- that's longer than most RPG campaigns (which often run 20-30 hours).

And if we look at dollars per hour, buying an instant 90 is like spending $1.43 to save an hour of time.  Which is like a FIFTH of minimum wage and most working adults make far more than that.

This is incredibly cheap when you look at the actual numbers, people.  Please keep that in mind.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Return of the Return of the "Want a Free Game?"

Neverwinter Nights is on sale again for the next 48 hours!  That means it's time to offer more free copies of the game to those who are interested in trying it and getting hooked on it.  The following is a repeat of my previous "Want a Free Game?" posts, so if you already got NWN from me feel free to pass the information on to a friend so you can play with them!


In addition to WoW I'm quite fond of a game called Neverwinter Nights.  It's an RPG that came out a few years before WoW which is completely amazing because it is immensely customizable.  You can play solo campaigns, you can play multiplayer campaigns, and you can play online on what are effectively MMOs (abet with playerbases in the dozens to hundreds instead of tens of thousands).

It has a complete toolset that can be used to tweak almost every mechanic and create custom content - the original "official" Bioware campaigns make up like 0.1% of what's available for the game, and a ton of the user made content blows the original campaigns out of the water.  Users can also add new content in the form of ".hak" files, which add new creature models, new tilesets, new weapons, new feats (like talents), etc.

And all of this is free except for the original purchase.  It's available to buy on a site called Good Old Games for $9.99 normally - which includes the original campaign, both expansions (so two more campaigns), and an additional "premium" module - but it's on sale right now for $5.99.

Except I'll sweeten the pot even further - if you send me an email at balkothwarcraft at gmail dot com before by 11:59 PM on Monday night, I'll buy the game for you and send it to you as a gift.  Absolutely free.  Because I think the game deserves to be promoted.

I also made a module of my own earlier.  There was a "building challenge" where participants had one month to create a module (the game is separated into modules, which can range from being a single testing zone to a MMO-like Persistent World which spans hundreds of areas and offers hundreds of hours of playtime - you just load the module you want to play or join it if it's already being hosted).  I created a solo adventure for max level characters called Siege of the Heavens, which is an action adventure focused on scripted boss fights, similar to what you'd find in WoW raids and dungeons (or Brawler's Guild if you've done that).  The Heavens are under attack by devils and demons and the celestials enlist the help of mortals heroes like yourself to help lift the siege.

It's not something you should immediately play - you'll want to familiarize yourself with the basic mechanics of the game before trying my module.  It's also only technically halfway finished since I only had a month to build it - which is still 3ish or so hours of playtime, and once it's done you'll be able to pick up where you left off and play the remaining 3ish hours that are planned.

Speaking of familiarizing yourself with the game, I would be happy to play through the official campaigns (or some custom campaigns, I'd strongly recommend the Aielund Saga at a minimum - among many other custom campaigns - which is much better than the official campaigns but again somewhat expects a familiarity with the game) with anyone interested, provided we can arrange suitable times.  The first official campaign probably takes about 40 hours to play through, the second two both take about 20 hours each.

You will need to request a unique multiplayer key once you claim your game or else you will be unable to sign into some multiplayer modules for security reasons.  There are instructions on how to do so on the GOG site.

Also, some of the old multiplayer services (like game listings provided by Gamespy) are no longer active - but members of the community have recreated replacements that are just as good (or better in some cases) as the originals.  More information can be found here.  Feel free to contact me (via email or private message on the boards - this is my profile there) or post on those boards for help if you need it.

Again, email me at balkothwarcraft at gmail dot com if you want a copy of the game, want to find out more about the game, want to try to play the game with me, or whatever.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Culture Clash?

I've been debating whether to post this as it's normally something I'd tend to keep private.  You see, I run a weekly Flex speed clear every Wednesday (here is the link for last week -- note the very first sentence) and last week there was a...situation.  And then there was some private fallout as a result.

One thing I evidently have a habit of is picking up "projects" -- people new to WoW or people looking to get into raiding.  I help them figure out what they need to be doing to accomplish their goals, offer suggestions/advice when they ask questions, and help them into things like Flex or normal ToT groups (sometimes make a group from scratch for them if needed).  These aren't people I'm looking to recruit for my own heroic raiding guild, just trying to help others out and get more people engaged in WoW.

So let's call one of these "projects" by the moniker of "P."  I ran into P in a leveling dungeon where they seemed pretty competent and I added them on BTag.  Turns out they had a max level character and were interested in getting into raiding of some kind but were somewhat shy and not sure what to do.  I did some ToT and parts of Flex with them to try to help get their gear up, using my ilvl and experience to get them invited.

I did wind up having to make a Flex 4 group from scratch for them and at the start of the run I said over Mumble that anyone who was severely underperforming would be removed -- which prompted P to whisper me and say something like "Wow, turns out you have a ruthless side, I thought you were basically a giant teddy bear."  I didn't have to kick anyone, thankfully, and based on the conversation we had after that comment I figured P was just used to me being this perfectly helpful and nice guy rather than someone with a backbone who would kick people if needed .

Around this time, I mentioned that I ran a Flex clear each week and offered P a spot if they could make it (since I met them after the Flex run the previous week).  They showed up and did quite well.  DPS wasn't the highest (relatively speaking in runs where most people were 550+) but they were way behind on gear and lacking the legendary meta and cloak.  This continued for a few weeks -- and based on their increasing DPS and apparent ease with mechanics I suggested they consider looking for a normal raiding guild to join.  P was hesitant but agreed to look into it.

P wound up finding a run that was pretty awful led by someone who had the group stop after 2-3 wipes or something -- they never got normal Galakras down.  I suggested they look into another group that was better as P was definitely not happy with that group (where they also typically doubled the second place DPS, apparently).  P felt guilty about leaving that group but I managed to convince them that they simply weren't happy in that group and it definitely wasn't measuring up to what they wanted from raiding.

By the next week P managed to find another guild which was clearing normals -- however, their times conflicted with my Flex clear.  Oh well, they were moving onto bigger and better things and it was to be expected.

Now, one thing I haven't mentioned yet about P -- they play on the Ragnaros server and are a native Spanish speaker who also knows English.

Last week P finished raiding for the night right about when my clear was about halfway through.  They asked if I had any room left and I said yes, I had a spot.  We did a boss or two and then before Malkorok P asked if they could bring some friends (we had a few people who needed to go after Nazgrim).  I said sure and they invited a few more people from Ragnaros.

After they joined I linked the Mumble info in raid, figuring they would join as we cleared trash.  And I linked it again at Malkorok in case they had missed it earlier and did a ready check a moment later.  Everyone hit ready.  We wound up wiping to Malkorok since a few people, including P's friends, died to the Breath of Y'Shaarj and people let some explosions off.  Linked Mumble again since it turned out NONE of P's friends had joined, and did a ready check a moment later.  Everyone hit ready so we pulled and killed the boss...except P's friends still died to the Breath again.

The Breath we were making on the group and that we were calling out over Mumble.  And it turned out STILL none of P's friends had joined Mumble.

So I linked it again after the fight.  Shockingly, none of them had joined Mumble by the time we got to Spoils, so I linked it again.  P said that they were going to download Mumble so we took a special three minute break specifically for P's three friends to do so.  At the end of the break P asked me to link the info again, which I did.  Waited another minute and then did a readycheck.  Everyone hit ready.

I then called out which group was going where (pretty simple: 1 and 2 on one side and 3, 4, and 5 on the other) over Mumble and we started the fight.  Three people from groups 3, 4, and 5 went to the wrong side so I called out over Mumble that they needed to switch.  Two of them quickly did so.  The third was one of P's friends...and did absolutely nothing.  Let's call them B.  The next 60 seconds or so of Mumble sounded like this:

"B, please go to the other side."

"B, you need to go to the other side."

"B, seriously, go to the other side."

"B, you're still on the wrong side."

"B, other side, now."

"B, get to the other side."

"B, I'm serious, get to the other side."

"B, get moving to the other side, NOW."

"B, other side."

"B, other side."

"B, other side."

"Screw it."

And I kicked B from the group mid-fight.  I'm not going to keep someone in my run who is completely ignoring my instructions and hurting the raid by being in the wrong place.  I also had several other people who wanted to join but I let P invite their friends instead.

After the fight P whispered me to say that NONE of their friends had ever received the Mumble info according to them -- said that I was linking it in raid instead of instance.  One might think this is something you mention instead of just hitting ready, but whatever.  I invited B back (which also meant NOT inviting one of the other people who wanted to join), linked the Mumble info in instance chat, and we moved on to Thok.  Linked the info again after the trash was cleared.  Waited a moment, heard at least someone join Mumble, did a ready check, everyone hit ready, and we pulled.

B happened to be a paladin so once we were around stack 5 I started calling for Devotion Aura.

"B, please hit Devotion Aura."

"B, hit Devotion Aura."

"B, Devotion Aura, now."

"B, Devotion Aura."

"B, hit Devotion Aura."

"B...well, looks like we just transitioned early!"

Due to the unexpected transition and people being distracted or something, like a third of the raid got eaten nearly right away (bad kite going a weird direction didn't help).  Called for a wipe and we ran back in.  It turns out, as you might suspect, that B had STILL not managed to join Mumble.  At this point I was sitting there pretty much steaming and whispered P to ask what in the world was going on.  Some people started to talk about Ragnaros the server on Mumble and a few comments started getting made about how so many people from Ragnaros were terrible and similar things.

Let me be clear about something: in retrospect, I should have stopped that talk in Mumble.  Should have said something like "Guys, shut up about Ragnaros, that's not acceptable."  I was feeling quite peeved and frustrated at the time and didn't step in where I should have.

One of P's three friends and of course P were in Mumble to overhear the comments about Ragnaros.  All four then left the group without me saying a word, though B decided to toss out an obscene insult in Spanish before dropping the group.

We then cleared the last four bosses extremely quickly.

To recap about P's friends:

1. They joined before Malkorok, Mumble was linked several times, they didn't join Mumble.
2. They died to Breath on Malkorok (which they would have had a better chance of avoiding if they were on Mumble) and we wound up wiping (not directly due to them but they didn't help)
3. Ran back, linked Mumble again
4. They died to Breath again
5. Mumble was linked again after Malkorok
6. Upon reaching Spoils, none of them had joined Mumble still
7. I whispered P, P said they were going to download Mumble, I called a special three minute break for them to download it.
8. Break ends, P whispers me to say they still need the info, I link it again
9. I give them another minute or so and do a ready check (giving them time to get in Mumble and if they're tabbed out getting in Mumble then they'll register as AFK), everyone hits ready
10. I say the group assignments for Spoils (1 and 2 on green marker, 3/4/5 on blue marker) and we go.
11. Three people supposed to be on blue come to green (one Ragnaros and two others).  I call out that they need to switch and the two non-Ragnaros immediately switch back but the Ragnaros person does not.  I spend the next 60+ seconds repeatedly calling out that person to switch sides with no effect.  Exasperated I just kick him from the group as it's clear he's completely ignoring me and hurting the group by being on the wrong side.
12. After the fight P whispers me that they still don't have the Mumble info because apparently I'm linking it in raid and not instance.  I link it in instance.
13. We go to clear Thok trash and I hear a person join.
14. Link it again to be safe before Thok, wait another minute, do a ready check, everyone hits ready
15. Pull Thok, I call out for the guy who I kicked on Spoils to use Devotion Aura.  Nothing happens.  I call again, and again, and again, and again.  Nothing happens.  Since I'm trying to get that cooldown to be used and nothing is happening we transition unexpectedly, people get flustered, half the raid gets eaten, and we wipe.  Yes, I could have moved on to another cooldown but I was trying to make sure the guy who was on the wrong side on Spoils while not being in Mumble (who I thought was ignoring me) was actually paying attention this time.
16. Turns out the guy STILL isn't in Mumble and I whisper P to ask what is going on
17. As we run back some people make some disparaging comments over Mumble about Ragnaros (with P and one of the other three, so 2 out of 4 total, people from Ragnaros in Mumble)
18. As we're eating rebuffing/eating all four leave the group of their own volition, though the guy I kicked on Spoils and was telling to Devotion Aura on Thok tossed out an insult in Spanish before leaving.

After the raid I whispered P, who was very angry with me for apparently just about everything.  I asked them whether, at a minimum, they understood why I kicked B during Spoils when they were on the wrong side, ignoring instructions as far as I could tell, and hurting the raid.  P said no.  I spoke to my officer in Mumble for a few minutes to get his opinion on what happened -- asked if he thought I acted unfairly or unreasonably at any point.  He said no.  I asked P to explain why they felt that way and P said they didn't want to talk about it.

I sent an email a few hours later saying:

"Upon some reflection I did want to apologize for something.

I shouldn't have let the people in Mumble badmouth Ragnaros.  I was angry and frustrated and thus didn't step in, but I should have just told them to shut up about the server.  It was immature of me not to do so and I apologize."

I got a response back the next day:

I don't want your apologies, this silly apology just helped to make me angrier.

Thinking about it, it probably was all my fault, because when I told them if they wanted to come, they asked me if it was a US group, because most of them are elitist jerk/"toxic" players who love to badmouth Ragnaros. I was NAIVE ENOUGH to tell them I know you and we weren't going to have drama, NEVER been so wrong. Not only you ended up being a gigantic elitist jerk, you let the idiots of your raid to talk bad about the server, which means talking bad about me and my friends, which didn't do anything wrong, just problems to log in mumble which is awful. I thought you were my friend and would stop them because since the day we met I told you how the stupid US people treats our server, but it turned out you didn't do anything, just whispered me to complain, I had you complaining in whispers, while your friends insulted us, and trying to get my friends in mumble so they could be insulted. But then again, it was my fault that I felt betrayed, because clearly I'm YOUR friend, but you're not mine, you're just my ex flex raid leader. I hope that at least you enjoyed having your raid badmouth us so it wasn't for nothing.

You were "angry and frustrated" that's cute, try to argue with 2 different groups of friends (While they're hating each other), while also being insulted by stupid randoms who doesn't know anything. Even though it was an in game experience it was awful and I certainly don't want to experience it again, but still helped to learn, I was naive and I really thought it'd be nice if I could join your guild for the new exp and raid with you, good thing this happened, I wouldn't have lasted long there, I hate your kind of leadership (which I don't say its wrong, I just can't stand it).

I wouldn't make such a huge deal of this if I were just angry about what happened, but I'm really really sad and disappointed, I just wanted to help my friends (which they are not noob at all, I wasn't expecting them to get carried by any means) and it turned out to be awful, because the person I just told them it wasn't a jerk was being one. And also because I was telling them you were posting the mumble info and they kept insisting you weren't, but even before I noticed they actually werent getting the info, the pull happened, and holy got kicked within a minute.

I don't know what your "right hand" officer that helps you understand the feelings of other people (because insta-kicks without previous explanation has unpredictable feeling results in people, not just ANGER)  told you, but he was probably right, what you did was robotically and mathematically the best for the raid to finish 0.5 seconds earlier and raise the raid's morale to acceptable levels , I just wished you'd give me a chance to fix things, before making everyone insult us and complain at me right away.  Hopefully the 5 minutes you saved yesterday to the raid from kicking us helped you do a lot more productive things today.

I'm emailing all this instead of telling it to you via chat because at this point, and the way I'm feeling, I'm not interested in what you have to say, don't reply this email.

From my perspective I was bending over backwards REPEATEDLY to try to give P's friends a chance.

I didn't say anything immediately when they didn't get into Mumble initially.

I didn't say anything when they died to Breath and didn't get in Mumble after that.

I didn't say anything when they died to Breath AGAIN.

I took a special break SPECIFICALLY for them to download Mumble at Spoils.

I let B back in the raid after Spoils.

I whispered P after the first Thok pull to ask what was going on rather than just kick B again during the pull.

The whole thing felt incredibly insulting to me, like they were taking advantage of our run.  They never ONCE said anything like "Hey, need a second for Mumble" or "I still don't see the Mumble information" (P had to say that and then they STILL ignored it after I posted it per their specifications).  P KNEW they weren't on Mumble and never said anything until Spoils.  Nor did P say something like "Hey, they don't understand English, sorry."  P's friends just always hit ready.

And it got to the point where it was angering some of my regulars because we kept having to waste time over this group of three who apparently decided the rules we indicated just didn't apply to them or something.

But apparently I'm the bad guy and being completely unreasonable for expecting people to either get in Mumble or say something if there's a problem.

I don't get it.  And as you might have noticed in the last line of the email P doesn't want to discuss it, so I'm hoping maybe someone else has some insight on what happened.

If they were US players I'd just write them off as inconsiderate jerks and be done with it -- but P honestly seems to think I was being "ruthless" and unfair.  I'm trying to figure out some other way of looking at this but it's rather difficult.

Is this a kind of cultural gap or something?  Is that the expected behavior on the Latin America realms for whatever reason?

I find myself rather bewildered.