Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Musical Salute

I spent part of today dropping off the youngest mini-Red at college for her sophomore year.

If you're a long time reader of PC, you'll remember when Souldat and I started this blog, the youngest mini-Red was entering 1st Grade.

My, how they grow up so quickly.

Anyway, on the drive down I was listening to the soundtrack from Wildstar, which brought back all the feels for a world forever left incomplete.


This November will be the 4th anniversary of the demise of Wildstar. Let's raise a glass to those games that have passed on, and how much they meant to us. If you've a game that you miss, let's hear it.

#Blaugust2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Armor Maketh the Toon

I've kind of had a thing for that Alliance Stormwind Guard --and the similarly armored Theramore Guard-- armor set.

It's just one of those things that you see in Classic long enough that you'd occasionally like to have as an RP set of your own.

Ah, these two. Don't ever change.

I suspect that the increased number
of women among the Theramore Guards
is due to who the ruler of Theramore is.

Well, I discovered some months ago that The Thorium Brotherhood person down in Gadgetzan had some specific armor recipes for sale...

As you can see, I've already gotten the
plans for a few of those pieces. There's
seven of them in all.

All for the price of a lot of Thorium bars, you can gain access to an armor set that is the spitting image of a Warcraft RTS plate armor set, the Imperial Armor Set. And that armor set just so happens to look a lot like the armor the Guards wear.

Yeah, it's pretty much a vanity set these days, but at least it's something I can collect in my spare time to give Linna that formal look that she always associated with the Knights of the Silver Hand. 

(Even though Paladin armor sets are quite different, but shh. Don't tell her.)

And when you think about it, there's very few people farming Thorium at the moment since people are trying to take advantage of the Joyous Journeys (tm) buff to level toons in preparation for Wrath Classic. So this works for me, and it gives me something to do while poking my nose into various Classic dungeons.

Maybe I ought to finish making a Seal of Ascension for some of my toons....

#Blaugust2022

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Most Important Test in Wrath Classic Beta -- The Winterfall Firewater Spellsteal Effect

After my little adventure in Winterfall Village on Cardwyn 1.0, I thought "Hey, maybe I should take Neve there!"

Yeah yeah yeah, I bet.

And I took advantage of her fully accessible porting capability, and dropped in on Shattrath City with about 7 stacks of Winterfall Firewater...

"I AM-- Wait, where is everybody?"

Alas, that it was on Myzrael-US post mass migration.

Those that were there seemed completely
nonplussed when a giant Sindorei
wandered into the bank.

My questing buddy and I were in a Discord voice group with one of our fellow Monday raiders, and I mentioned to her about what I discovered up in Winterfall Village. I didn't tell her just what would happen, but I told her that she ought to drop by with her L70 Mage and see what happens when she tries Spellstealing from multiple Firbolgs there.

I then got to thinking. I have never seen anybody mention this thing before, so I had no idea if this was nerfed in Wrath or not. 

Since I had access to the Beta for Wrath Classic, I decided to make a little side trip on Neve to Winterfall Village.

"What happened to my hair?"

"I SAID...."

With about 9 stacks under her belt, I ported into Orgrimmar...

"WHAT HAPPENED TO MY HAIR?"
"Oh, uh, sorry about that."

Neve lost a few stacks here and there, but still she had a decent amount when I reached the starting Horde location for the Wrath Beta test:

It was fun, but kind of unsatisfying. Like how you figure something cool out, but nobody really wants to share in your discovery. "Ho hum, another giant Sindorei. What a nothingburger."

And to be fair, each Spellsteal of Winterfall Firewater not only increases your size, it slows you down. After several stacks, your movements slow to a crawl, which drives me absolutely nuts. And where's the fun in that?

So... I can say that yes, Spellsteal does behave exactly the same way as in TBC Classic. But will I do it on a regular basis? Uh, no. I don't have a fetish for that sort of thing, and while it's kind of fun at first, it's... well... boring after a while. Okay, so I'm big. Now what? Well, not much.

I also must admit I like my Mages exactly the size they are. Nothing strange about that. Well, outside of the fact that they can wield the Arcane and throw fireballs around, but hey, that's an MMO for you.

#Blaugust2022

Monday, August 15, 2022

A State of the Game Request

Back before the private equity firm that now controls them ruined the company, Fantasy Flight Games' annual InFlight Report was one of the most well attended presentations at Gen Con. Their presentations were more E3-esque than anything else, and their fans loved them as they brought their upcoming games to life. 

This is from the 2019 InFlight report,
probably the last of their really good
presentations in spite of the technical
glitch partway through.

Alas that FFG's masters, the holding company PAI, began to eliminate product lines and focus the company only on their big Intellectual Property titles. Additionally, to boost profitability PAI had FFG cut staff and trimmed the fat right to the bone. As one Redditor put it, "It's the first games publisher to have switched from hobbyist management to MBA management."

I was feeling nostalgic about the old, independent FFG, and I loved it when they leveled with their fans about how things were going, as well as the direction the company was headed. That got me to thinking about how things have changed, both in tabletop games and in video games. Because of that meandering path it took in my head, this nostalgia led me to a wish that more video game companies would provide a better window into their game statistics than they currently have. 

***

Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute: no publicly traded company is going to provide data that makes them look bad. 

So we can forget about a listing of total number of WoW subscriptions ever again, particularly once Blizz threw them out the window close to 7 years ago. 

However, that doesn't mean they can't play percentages.

I don't mean the Tenth Anniversary WoW Infographic, which is vague enough --courtesy of stretching over a decade's worth of playing-- but percentages about the current expacs (and Classic). 

Obviously, there's a lot that can be gleaned from the WoW Armory (for Retail) and Warcraftlogs (for both Retail and Classic) but that only shows things on a per toon basis, not a per account basis. That's where the rub comes in: when someone has a stable of 10, 20, or more toons but raids with only 1, the data from the Armory and Warcraftlogs can be deceptive. After all, I likely showed up in the Armory as having logged in on several toons over the past year, and I definitely am not playing Shadowlands.

In case people ever wonder whether
I (or Neve, in this case) actually
did the Quel'Danas grind in the past.

When people tend to say things about raiding and make generalizations --myself included-- it would be nice to put some real data behind it. One of the guild leaders from my ex-Classic guild made the assertion in the guild's Discord that you need about 6k worth of raiders to make a server viable, and I kind of choked. After all, the maximum number of players at one time on a server back in Vanilla was estimated at 2500-3000 players (out of 4k maximum that the hardware could handle), and I always felt that the 2500-3000 raiding toons found in Warcraftlogs for Myzrael-US back at its height resulted in a pretty healthy population. So I was extremely skeptical of that 6k number that was put out, and I felt it more along the lines of a justification for a decision --switching servers-- that had already been made. 

Another way of putting it is "What does a healthy population look like, and how would we know?"

I think it would also be a good thing if companies such as Blizz provided data that allowed us a better peek at who actually plays MMOs, and what they do when they're in game.

Do they spend their time crafting? Doing dailies? Raiding? Transmog? PvP?

A lot of WoW players I know suspect that far more people play WoW than actually raid, but what does the data say? If you looked at Wowhead, Icy Veins, YouTube, and other places, you'd think that raiding --and things leading up to raiding-- is all people ever do in WoW. But if the number of raiding accounts is something around 20% of the active player base, well.... That tends to put all those raid walkthroughs and meta guides into context, doesn't it? (For the record, I believe that the number is closer to 50% because I'd include LFR, but that's just an off the cuff observation.)

On the flip side, I have very little idea as to how many people play some other MMOs, such as LOTRO or ESO or SWTOR. In those games, I play in an extremely casual fashion --questing and sight seeing-- with very little time actually doing instances or other group content. I mean, I've done so little SWTOR group content over the last several years that I'm still wrapping my head around Tactical Flashpoints not requiring the trinity of Tank-Healer-DPS. But given that I play them in such a manner, I have no idea just how many people play like me, versus those who go all in on raiding and/or PvP or even just consuming current content.

Ah, the Prophet of Vodal Kressh.
Athiss is still my favorite Flashpoint
among the Classic SWTOR FPs.
(From Gameplorer.de.)

***

This is all pretty much water under the bridge, because like I said earlier in the post, very few publicly traded game companies are ever going to post anything that puts them in a bad light. But it would be nice to know the reality behind the games, wouldn't it?

A Mage can dream, I suppose.

Oh no, not both of you...

/sigh Maybe I should take up Scrabble.
Hey, wait a second... You're both...
Oh, nevermind.



#Blaugust2022

EtA: Corrected some grammar.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?

“Most people do not have a problem with you thinking for yourself, as long as your conclusions are the same as or at least compatible with their beliefs.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana



There are times when I have to remind myself that while the name "meta" for "metagame"* is relatively new --within the pencil and paper RPG Era, certainly-- the concept of following the crowd for an optimal solution is anything but.

Anybody remember peer pressure? Or how financial bubbles are created?  Or the concept of The Greater Fool?

Yeah, that stuff is "the meta" in another form. 

I was reminded of this the other day during a discussion at work when the magic word "Gartner" came up. If you work in IT --or in Corporate America to any degree-- you can't help but run up against the monolith that is the Gartner Consulting Group. They are a $4.7 billion per year consulting business, of which most people know them by their White Papers that they use to identify trends in the business world. I use the word "trends" rather loosely here, because if you talk to people in the corporate world you run up against the belief that Gartner doesn't really identify trends as much as they create them.

I believe I just twitched when I posted this
snippet from Gartner's "About Us".
From gartner.com.


Gartner likes to say that they are data driven when they create recommendations for clients or industry leaders, but when you reach a certain critical mass of influence --and believe me, Gartner has that-- you begin to dictate the trends. By elevating one trend over another, Gartner acts as a force multiplier for those trends as CIOs and others (or their wannabees) in the corporate upper echelons of power implement their recommendations. 

Or use their recommendations to choose a company to do business with. After all, the Gartner Magic Quadrant lays it all out quite nicely: you want to do business with people in the upper right hand of the quadrant chart, because those are the true leaders in an industry. By making these charts, however, Gartner alters the dynamic within an industry by the sheer weight of their influence. They make the industry leaders even more so, and those left behind even farther behind than before. 

Which ought to explain the groans that went up when someone mentioned Gartner at work. There's always a Gartner shill in any corporate gathering, because it's the safe bet. But because it's the safe bet, there's no room for creativity or quirkiness. 

***

Now, replace Gartner with "influencer" or "popular kid in high school" or... say... Wowhead...** and you get the idea.

Or maybe a better way of looking at the meta is under the viewpoint of data analytics, because that's pretty much what it is. Someone crunches the data to determine the optimal way of doing things, and that becomes the meta. Data analytics has even crept into the sporting world, as early adopters such as baseball's Tony La Russa*** led the way for widespread use of data crunching to determine the best way to do things for a variety of situations. 

While perusing the Sports Illustrated for this
post, I realized just how much also happened
in that issue: Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount
University's basketball team collapsed and died on
the court, and Dayton defeated Notre Dame
and Xavier in their quest to make the NCAA Tourney.
(From Sports Illustrated, March 12, 1990.)


On the face of it, data analytics makes sense: you use raw data to determine what successful outcomes are for a variety of scenarios. You can drill down and add all sorts of variables to help with your analysis, but in the end what you get is the likelihood of success for various situations. The goal is to maximize that likelihood of success, but athletes still have to perform out on the field to realize that success.

In the business world issues such as employee retention, sales success, market penetration, and other things that would make my eyes glaze over are ripe for use with data analytics. The age old problem of how to keep employees in the fold --without simply paying them more****-- has been subject to many a data crunching session. And a Gartner White Paper, to be honest. The thing is, even if the data show you an obvious path forward, there's no guarantee that it'll work. 

Just like in video games, the meta will only get you so far; you have to actually perform to live up to your potential. But just like in video games, if you're not following the identified "trend", then you're already at a disadvantage. It doesn't mean that you can't do the job effectively, but nobody ever got fired for following the current Gartner recommendations, either.

***

As someone who disliked following the current trends, whether it was in school, at work, or in gaming*****, I've struggled to put my aversion to words. Part of it is that I want to maintain my own individuality in the face of corporate sameness. I remember an article from the late 90s about the music industry's infatuation with boy bands at the time, and the assertion was that the industry professionals had figured out how to package music to such a degree that they could influence the trends all on their own. The boy bands of that era --Backstreet Boys, N-Sync, 98 Degrees-- were corporate sameness personified. Of course, the music industry was about to be blindsided by a wave of music file sharing and downloads, proving that dictating trends and thinking you know best isn't always the correct bet. 

Same same but different.
Also, Southern Rap and Green Day
were coming for your ass.
From Entertainment Weekly.

I guess another part of it is the loss of creativity when everybody follows the data driven outcome. If everybody is following it, then where's the fun of finding something else that works for you? Oh, it's out there, but like I mentioned above you're at twice the disadvantage: once for not following the data driven recommendation, and once for people's doubts of your abilities because you're not following those recommendations.

Still, my only advice for people is to be yourself. In the end, "They followed the Analytics" doesn't make for a good quote for a tombstone.

#Blaugust2022




*No, not the even newer and more pretentious "Meta" as in "Metaverse". Even that in it's non-corporate state isn't that new, given that the concept of the metaverse has been around in comics for what feels like ages. It was enough of a trope that when WoW's Warlords of Draenor came out, that "alternate universe" Draenor concept was enough of a turn off for me to contribute to the cancellation of my WoW subscription. But still, Mark Zuckerberg has a certain spot in my heart for pure loathing.

**Or Icy Veins, or even Elitist Jerks if you're old like me.

***Tony was most famous during his time spent as manager of the Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals from 1986 through 2011. Columnist and baseball aficionado George Will devoted a large section of his book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball to Tony La Russa and his managerial techniques.

****Don't get me started on that bullshit. Companies come up with all sorts of ways to keep from doing the obvious two things when you want to retain people: pay them more and treat them like people. I know, I know, what a concept!!

*****I mean, come on. I played D&D during the Satanic Panic, and lost all my stuff to the same. If you ever wanted to meet girls in the early-mid 80s, playing D&D and board games such as Civilization or Axis and Allies was most definitely not the way to do it. I think one of the biggest shocks to my system was during the first week of classes at UD I was at the game room down in Kennedy Union, playing a video game, when a couple happened to walk by and paused to watch me play. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the shirt she was wearing --a Dungeons and Dragons shirt-- and nearly died in the game due to my surprise. That had to have been the first girl I ever "met" who actually was into RPGs. Usually I got the "ew, gross" if any of them ever found out that I played.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Security Alert

Today I had to move a blog off of the MMO Blogroll, but not for the traditional reason of the blog going silent (or vanishing).

Tobold's blog was flagged by Bitdefender for being an infected website.

I checked the alert more fully, and yeah, there's a definite infection there:

Oof.



Alas that I'm unable to contact Tobold, since doing so would require me to visit his blog to then find his email, so I'm kind of stuck here. So, here's hoping that Tobold actually reads blogs and will find this. Or, if someone knows Tobold's email they can contact him about this.

#Blaugust2022

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Soundtrack to My Life

The thing about Blaugust that dislike the most is when you're supposed to talk about yourself.

I don't mean the (mis)adventures I --or my toons-- have, but rather when you explain yourself to people.

Certain times, you kind of just have to talk about yourself because it impacts both the blog and your game playing (from which material for the blog originates), such as my little hospital adventure last November and my subsequent follow-up several months later. There are also other assorted times when I've felt like I had to explain some of the things that go on in my head, because otherwise some of my in-game behaviors would make no sense. That doesn't mean I have to like it when I make those sorts of posts, it just simply is a thing that goes with the job of being a blogger: sometimes you have to explain yourself. 

But actively promoting yourself and giving out your bona-fides under the guise of "Introducing Yourself"?

Gah.

I'd rather run around naked in my backyard.*

Still, this is supposed to be "Introducing Yourself" week, and even though I'm not officially enrolled in Blaugust I do feel obligated to at least pay lip service to saying something about myself.

You know, hobbies, doodads, history, family, and other assorted things that go to make up a life.


That's what you get for letting that little line "things that go to make up a life" slip into my head: a Genesis song.

Hmm.... Maybe that's where I should go with this post: music.

***

I was not born into a musical family.

Oh, my mom's family had musicians in them, but a lot of them were in the 19th century past. My immediate family wasn't musical: my maternal Grandmother was tone deaf and simply didn't like music much at all. My dad's mom and aunt liked the "old timey" songs like Shine On Harvest Moon --my great aunt was born the year before the Wright Brothers' first flight-- and while they loved watching Lawrence Welk** they had no more affinity for music than a squirrel does. My dad wasn't musically inclined, and my mom made a few attempts to learn guitar and gave up soon afterward. Dad liked to listen to what is now called Yacht Rock, and Mom liked religious music.*** Of the two of us kids, I quickly grew bored with the grind of slowly learning piano and passed on learning how to play. My brother, on the other hand, loved to play piano and played mellophone in marching band for his high school. 

The funny thing about all that is you'd not expect my household to be filled with music, but it is

My wife does play guitar and piano, and she took harpsichord lessons in college, but that's in spite of a rather disastrous guitar recital she had when she was seven or so. If it were me, I'd likely have given up trying to play guitar, but she doggedly kept on going. She doesn't play much now, but I'm certain the kids picked up whatever musical talent they have from her, not me.

Me? I just loved to listen to music. I didn't want to play it****, just surround myself with it. I listened to almost everything --with the notable exception of Country-- but I loved anything that made my heart soar and kept my blood pumping.

Thank goodness for the Blues Brothers,
otherwise you'd not get this little gem.

We didn't make the kids take music lessons in the way some parents force it on their progeny in the vain hope that it'll pad a future college resume, but my wife took them to preschool music appreciation programs when they were around toddler through preschool age, and as they liked it and wanted to play the instruments themselves, we signed them up for lessons. Aside from that, no pushing on my watch. All I did was simply play music while I worked, cleaned, drove the parental taxi, and did just about everything else in life. And like a love of reading, they just kind of fell into it because of the exposure.

So our lives eventually have come to this: maneuvering around a drum kit in the basement, tripping over guitars around the house, and a keyboard on my wife's dresser.

Oh yeah, and me building speakers for stereo systems around the house.

But you know, I'd never change it for the world. Music keeps me going and it provides a nourishment that I can't describe. It's not exactly an addiction, and to be honest I've had tinnitus since roughly 2018 or so, but I make a point to simply enjoy music for what it is.

#Blaugust2022




*And believe me, it's been more than a few decades since I was in good enough shape to even think about pulling that off. And no, I've never been drunk enough to consider it, either.

**Oh yes, the horror. I had to put up with that show being on --along with Hee Haw-- whenever they babysat my brother and myself.

***I really hate the music played at churches. And no, I don't mean the traditional fare found at weddings, such as Wagner's Bridal Chorus. As a kid at a Catholic grade school, singing hymns was pretty much all we ever sang in Music class, and the few times we did something other than that sort of Relgious fare, it was (and I kid you not) Country Western Music. Like we were somehow going to be happy it was that and not another version of "On Eagle's Wings". About the only Religious music I like to this day is that found in the Classical repertoire, such as this:




****Okay, when I was in high school I used to daydream about playing guitar or bass in a rock band in a cartoony sort of fashion: rock star by day, SF hero by night. I suppose you'd say that I'd be up for a male version of Josie and the Pussycats or Jem, or even Batman if Batman weren't a billionaire playboy but rather a rock star. That had about as much chance of happening to me as getting bitten by a radioactive spider and turning into Spider-man, but a guy could dream.