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“Handicap Accessible” or “LFR = Looking for Rez”

January 9, 2012 6 comments

For those of you who played WoW from the very early days, do you remember when:

  • Attuning for Onyxia meant weeks of farming UBRS with 20 people
  • Clearing to Lucifron took a half hour and a wipe or two
  • We used to raid with 40 people
  • Paladins were Alliance-only, and Shamans were Horde-only
  • Since each boss dropped only two tokens, that meant a 40-man raid would get geared from MC (assuming nothing every got DE’ed), at least 20 weeks, or five months
  • Vendorstrike was the longest running joke since you could take out Sulfuron Harbinger

What these factors have in common was that the end-game was designed to be conquered by only the most hardcore of players. It took time, and skill, and effort and energy to coordinate a team of 40 people, and some how avoid any idiocy. Raiding, gearing, attuning took time, effort, energy and patience.There were no 25-mans, no 20-mans, no 10-mans. A raid was 40 people, period.

First the 40-mans were reduced to 25-mans. Then 10-mans were added, but the coordination required for 25-mans was rewarded by putting in gear of a slightly lower ilvl in 10-mans. Then they were balanced out as well, and heroic modes were added. And finally we have LFR. Today you can log in, queue for LFR, and be raiding with the now-largest raid size (25), in a matter of seconds. There is no skill requirement (unless you equate ilvl with skill), there is no filtering mechanism for determining if an individual knows what to do in a fight. The bosses hit like pussies, the loot drops like rain, and WoW’s much-elusive end-game is officially accessible to any and all M&S. Hell, bots could get better results.

My point is that WoW is no longer just accessible. It is now handicap accessible. People that have no propensity for raiding, who actually don’t mind AFK’ing through most of LFR and then rolling need on everything that drops are flourishing, their lives made easier. The world’s largest MMO has all the mechanisms in place to allow an individual to play the game as anti-socially as humanly possible. Skill is no longer a requirement. Decency is no longer a requirement. All you need is a level 85, and a heartbeat.

If this post is too negative, I apologize. I don’t mean to be. But if you join an LFR raid, score consistently in the top three for DPS with your crappy gear, and your group wipes time and again on Ultraxion trash, it tends to strike a nerve.

Image courtesy of The Death Knight Diaries.

(Sidenote: if you are on the EU servers, pop in Aggamagan server, Alliance side. I play on a Night Elf Hunter called “Jehangir”.)

“Starting Anew” or “A Case of False Guild Advertising”

September 23, 2011 9 comments

Starting Anew

As I have mentioned a few times, I have started playing World of Warcraft again, but this time, I am trying something new:

  1. I am playing on the EU servers. I had been playing on the US servers, despite moving halfway across the world, and the latency was barely manageable. I have a latency of about 100ms, which spikes occasionally to a maximum of 150ms. Very manageable.
  2. I am starting from scratch. I have a new account and as such no money, no resources, no BoA items.
  3. I am playing as Horde. I have never played as a Horde character before, save a Tauren Hunter that I got to level 20 on launch day back in November of 2004.

I am having a blast going back to the basics. But even as I marvel at the fluidity of quest design and quest-hub-hopping (that should be a term), I am painfully aware that soon I will hit level 60, and then I will have to bear through the endless field of perpetual depression that is Hellfire Peninsula.

I am already level 50, an Undead Frost Mage called Cladtyrant. Bronte was already taken, and I didn’t feel like naming myself Brôñtë, because that is just foolish. The amount of experience needed to get to level 50 seems to have been cut by three-quarters from the vanilla WoW days. I remember the time when getting to level 60 was a marathon endurance test of your mental capabilities, as your reservoirs of patience ran thin and you trudged along painfully to the end.

A Case of False Guild Advertising

In my teen levels I was approached by the guild master of the guild I am currently in. “Join us”, he said. “We are a social guild that believe in helping one another and working together toward common goals. We can help you level and provide you with necessary guidance.” Up until that point, I was leveling solo, and I was in uncharted territory (Horde), so I asked a few questions pertaining to requirements and rules/regulations, and finding everything quite “casual” in nature, I agreed to join.

At this point, that seems to have been a mistake. The guild was level 1 when I joined. It is now level 4, so its not like I am benefiting immensely from perks. Every time I have asked a question in guild chat, be it quest-related, a plea for help with a particular area, or just a random comment, I have been met with resounding silence. The irritating aspect is that whenever I see a question in guild chat, I respond 9even do my own research on WowHead if needed) to try and be helpful. Even then there is no response, no “thank you”, or “hey I didn’t think of that!”, or even an “OK.” There is just silence, and silence, in this case, is pretty far from golden.

The “grouping” phenomenon seems to have permeated every aspect of the guild and people only seem to talk to certain other people if they are part of their sub-culture. I feel like I am playing a single-player game with guildmates who could easily be mistaken for well-scripted NPCs with their own lives. They simply don’t acknowledge my existence. And that is not how a massively multiplayer game is supposed to function.

You know there is a problem with your guild if you have a more meaningful conversation with people you randomly group with in instances than your own guild mates.

I want to confront the guild leader, asking him (her?) if they feel the least bit remorseful for completely misleading me. More recently, raiding seems to be getting into the picture and the guild is putting resources together towards forming a dedicated 10-man. That is cool, and whoever has the time should certainly get to use it as they see fit. Except it seems the guild is increasingly branching away from a casual to a raiding guild. Hell, they are even completing guild challenges on a daily basis.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I confront the guild leader? Or should I bide my time and see how things go?

Article of the Week: “Tetris Triangulated” or “Anti-social Butterfly”

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

There are some questions in life that have no clear-cut answers. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Can god make a sandwich so big, he himself can’t eat it? If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone give a crap? Where do the people offering to enhance my breasts without surgery look up their goddamn information?

"That's probably just ketchup!" or "Christian Bale eats video game haters."

With the advent of video games in the mainstream market in the last two decades, a new question has emerged. Do video games produce and/or enhance violent, anti-social and sociopath behavior? If you ask me, the obvious answer is no. But people who lobby it as irrefutable fact do make me want to kill bitches. Oh no, look at the violence that just poured out me of there. Idiots.

A recent article in the Boston Globe caught my attention. It provides a much needed and well-articulated retort beyond the standard, “j00 suxorz noob, gamez r roxor$!” Quoting prominent researchers from the field of neuroscience, psychology, sociology and education, and citing studies that provide some degree of empirical evidence to the contrary, the article sheds some much needed light on the positive effects of video games.

“Richard Haier, a pediatric neurologist and professor emeritus at the School of Medicine at the University of California at Irvine, has shown in a pair of studies that the classic game Tetris … alters the brain. In a paper published last month, Haier and his colleagues showed that after three months of Tetris practice, teenage girls not only played the game better, their brains became more efficient.”
– Emily Anthes: “How video games are good for the brain”

The cynic in me wanted to mock the aforementioned. Tetris, beyond Pac Man and Frogger, is the quintessential classic video game. But the C’thun-fighting, hero-ability-balancing, 100-person-guild-leading, massive-army-building side of my brain argues that it is elementary at best, and perhaps not the best subject for a study on whether video games improve cognitive skills. But then I realized that I have yet to beat the last level of any Tetris clone I have ever played. My brain has never been able to process the blocks falling at those impossible end-game speeds, and as such I have never been able to claim the Tetris throne. It dawned upon me that perhaps my mental capacity for advanced processing isn’t as developed as glossy, contemporary gaming makes it out to be. And just maybe Tetris isn’t the worst game with which to measure subtle differences in brain efficiency.

And then, there’s this:

“In one promising 2008 study … senior citizens who started playing Rise of Nations … improved on a wide range of cognitive abilities, performing better on subsequent tests of memory, reasoning, and multitasking.”
– Emily Anthes: “How video games are good for the brain”

More importantly, it actually touches upon one aspect of video games that has often come under fire. And that is the notion that video games make people inherently anti-social. The later part of the article sheds some light on this misnomer and provides some empirical evidence to the contrary. The term ‘prosocial’ is introduced as the antithesis, in some ways, of anti-social. The article claims that middle students in Japan who played games that promoted social infrastructure and mutual affection for other players, showed affectionate behavior themselves.

This is where the piece and I are essentially at odds. Let’s face it. It’s easy to find (questionable) links between docile, ‘affection-inducing’ video games and similar behavior in the players’ lives. By extension, another study should be able to find a link between highly violent games and morose, agitated or angry behavior. It seems foolhardy to me to conduct a study from a very finite and minimal set within the gaming genre, and imply that the results can be extrapolated to apply across the length and breadth of the entire spectrum. It’s like watching Rush Limbaugh talk about, well, anything, and claiming that all Americans are equally retarded.

To sum it up, the article does not categorically solve any debates, nor does it provide a clear-cut response to the validity of video games as a legitimate learning or socializing tool. But it does make a good case, and makes for an interesting read. You can find the original article in the links above or by clicking here, noob.