Monday, December 28, 2009

WoW Talk

Tonight, internet, I will be discussing the new World of Warcraft Looking for Group interface and how it affects community.

I'll catch up old WoWers who may not have played in awhile about the system, then ramble a bit about the design and community and some things that surprised me. Then a tanking anecdote for your enjoyment.

Alright, so if you've played WoW in the past but haven't played in awhile, the new LFG interface is AMAZING. First of all, cross-realm instancing. Remember back when they made battlegrounds cross-realm? And you were so excited because you could finally get into Arathi Basin? Plus, you just put in your role, and the system forms the group, then, boom! You teleport right into the instance. No more summoning, no more traveling hither and yon. You're just there. That's the gist of it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I will always prefer instancing with friends over strangers, but I do PuGs much more often with the new LFG system. Thinking about this, I ran into what felt like a contradiction of my previous understanding about community in games.

You see, the reason I like cross-realm instancing better than only instancing with people from my realm is that it is far less stressful, especially as a tank. It used to be that I agonized over instancing with strangers, because I was worried something would go wrong, or get in a terrible group of jerky people, and I'd have to deal with potentially running into these people again elsewhere in the realm.

I feel that the new LFG system has vastly improved my quality of play in World of Warcraft, in spite of the fact that it diminishes the sense of community within the realm. Now, one could argue that it increases the sense of community in the greater player base, but there are so many players cross-realm that you don't run into the same folks as often. Plus, there's not even a means of adding another realm member to your friends list, to group with them again. The system is MUCH easier to use than trying to form a pickup group within your realm, so people are more likely to be grouping up with people cross-realm than the ones they will be more apt to run into out in the world.

There is something fun about seeing people around the world (of warcraft) and recognizing them, or having run with them before, and saying "oh hey!" and whatnot. And its fun when you have realm "usuals" (as much as I can't stand that dirty no-good Alliance priest Hutch and his ganktastic habits, it is fun to announce he's in the area and have all the high level Horde rush in to save the day).

But the quality of realm community doesn't go much beyond that. I don't know about other realms, but the Gurubashi realm forum is generally full of whining and yelling and thick wells of negativity. It's not a pretty place to be. Guilds are probably the sweet size for maximizing community benefits, but on the realm level it's pretty rough.

So perhaps Blizzard sacrificed something that added to realm community in order to improve the overall experience. When using cross-realm LFG, if you're in a bad group, it is much easier to just abandon the group, knowing that you'll get into a new one fairly quickly, and that you won't have to deal with people whispering at you and harassing you for leaving the group. This is very important for someone like me, who is very shy, and who is in a position of great responsibility in the dungeon group. It takes SO much of the stress out of doing instances!

Community is important, but it's not THE most important thing, even in an MMO. At least, if you have to sacrifice it for the sake of improving the mechanic of the game, it's worth it.

And now, a small story which doesn't have much to do with the topic other than it's WoW-related, but I just wanted to share it.

Sometimes it's frustrating being a warrior tank in a group of DPS that obviously does not have much experience with warrior tanks. We don't have the AOE tanking that the Death Knights and the Paladins do, so DPS has to be a little more careful and attentive with us. You don't find things like caution and attention in DPS these days. Being DPS with a warrior tank requires some finesse, just ask Scott! In fact, Scott could probably write an article of Tips for DPSing with a Warrior Tank. In fact, I think he should. Get on that, Scott!

Running as my shaman alt, I've noticed that when there are multiple DKs are in a group, and one of them is the tank, the others will help with the pulls, gathering the room into the AOE of the tank. I was running Halls of Lightning the other night as my warrior tank main, and a DK in the group kept pulling extra groups of mobs. At one point this resulted in things getting out of control and one of the other DPS dying.

Part of me wanted to yell at this guy for being hasty (I HATE running with people who are like "gogogo!"). Part of me wanted to ask if HE wanted to tank, since he seemed to be intent on stealing all the aggro.

Instead, I took a deep breath, figured that this DK just wasn't used to the warrior tanking style, and said "I know that warrior tanking is much slower than other types, but please be patient!"

And to my utter surprise, he DID. No whining or yelling that I just wasn't a good tank or saying "omg just go" or anything like that! He got his DPS under control and followed my lead, and the rest of the instance went smashingly!

Anyway, it just brightened my day.

And thus ends an entry's worth of WoW talk. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Avatar was a gorgeous movie! But it could have been about 2 hours shorter, I think.

The post-movie baller consensus was that this would make a fantastic MMO, due to the rich detail of the world and the potentially awesome mechanic of interfacing with the ecology. Lots of cool plants, cool creatures and whatnot.

Watching it in 3D actually took an edge off of the effects, so that everything felt more "real." I have a sense that if I'd watched it in non-3D it would have felt fake and overly-ridiculous. It was a nice use of 3D versus the classic hand-toward-the-camera gag that a lot of movies do.

Meanwhile, the story was painfully predictable. Paaaaaaaaaainfully.

"Only 5 people have ever been giant-dragon-thing-riders since the beginning of time!"

Whelp, there's about to be 6!

Oh no, we tried to transfer bodies but she was too weak and died. Translation: foreshadowing that they're going to perma-bind Jake to the body.

All is lost! Everyone is dying! The badguys are going to win! Oh look, all the animals decided to attack and save the day. DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING!

There were a few surprises, granted, like the mech suit having a knife?? I literally bursted out "WHAT" in the theater! I guess all mech suits need to be equipped with giant robot knives in case they have giant robot knife fights?

Anyway, it was definitely a beautiful world, and is probably best appreciated in 3D on the big screen, so I can't say "wait for rental" very fairly. See at your own risk!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

We saw the Princess and the Frog tonight, and I liked it a lot, it was super sweet! I am glad, because I wanted so badly for this movie to be good. Well done, Lasseter! I hope people will get excited about 2D again.

My favorite thing, as pointed out to me by Will before I even saw it, was that the comic relief characters are endearing and not annoying. Like, the little lightning bug that you saw in the previews and thought "Oh, God!" and were all worried about? You totally love him.



I loved that little lightning bug, I loved him so much, and they SQUEESHED HIM!!! Now, Disney movies are certainly no stranger to character deaths for pullin the heartstrings, but not THAT character! That would be like Timon or Pumbaa dying, or Abu, or the clock or the candelabra from Beauty and the Beast. It was a good move, I think, because it was quite unexpected, and I think it took a lot of people off guard.


I love you, lil lightning bug! *SOB*

The rest of the movie was pretty good. I loved the music and the style, although I never was a fan of the 90s Disney musical style, but plenty of people are totally into that. The villain design was amazing, and the shadow creatures were awesomesauce.

I did feel like they crammed a lot of stuff into the story, but all in all they did some nice things to throwback to the positive elements of 90s style Disney (while poking fun at other elements). I approve!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Back in Kentucky

Ah, to be back in Kentucky once more, it feels wonderful!

Shortly, Scott and I will be off to do some adventuring, which may or may not include going down to the river to take photos. Either that, or scouring the Goodwills for picture frames. Or maybe just lunch. Who can say!

Anyway, my goal this break is to do more soaking in of Louisville locations. Last visit's trip to Cavehill Cemetary was wonderful, and I want more of that.

In unrelated news, I've been playing around with formspring. It seems like it has potential to be a fun little application, especially since I often enjoy memes but am usually reluctant to post them in my journal. Anyway, check me out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


If anyone's been following my tweets recently, you'll notice a fair amount of the recent ones were about an awesome little web game, Continuity

This game is a combination slider puzzle, maze, and platformer. Basically you move the tiles around to arrange the space for your little guy to traverse. You can't move between two panels if their walls (or floors or ceilings, depending which direction you're trying to go) don't match up. Get the keys and reach the door, pretty simple, but a very elegant game.

Continuity demonstrates something very strange that happens when you inject simple movement interaction into the main stop-and-think puzzle solving part. It does delightful things to the pacing! It's as though the simple act of moving your little guy is a reward for how clever you are for solving which panel to put where. It also helps break up the heavy thinking in the later, more difficult puzzles - just work at finding one piece you can match up, and getting to move there is a reward. The platforming is very mild, even in the later levels, but you do eventually have to do tricky things, like jumping up into a panel, then pulling out and switching out the one you'll fall into.

It also makes beautiful use of the music to communicate which mode you are in - puzzle slidy mode, or move-your-guy mode.

The other thing it does really well is ramp across all of its levels. Every time a new tricky mechanic is introduced, you face an extremely simple level where just that mechanic is involved, so it's very clear you will have to use that little trick in the upcoming levels.

Lastly, I love that there is no formal instructions in the game. You figure out what you're supposed to do and how to move by the constrictions of the first level, and then you're all set for the rest of the game.

I beat the last level today, and of course yearn for more. I'm very curious about the process these guys used to design their puzzles - if they had a step-by-step method or if they were something more reverse engineered. Puzzle design is something I take for granted.

Anyway, I hope you try it out. Enjoy!