Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Must Be Something about Changing the Title Pic

I haven't been talking much about raiding in Wrath Classic, mainly because there wasn't much to report.

After all, I was part of a rather casual 10 person raid team, and we'd been clearing Wrath's version of Naxxramas, the Eye of Eternity (aka "The Malygos raid"), and Obsidian Sanctum (aka "The Sarth + Drakes raid"). We'd hit a wall trying to down Sartharion with all three Drakes alive, but given that apparently the 10s version of Sarth + 3 Drakes is much harder than the 25s version, I wasn't too concerned about it. I mean, I felt bad that we weren't downing the 3 Drakes on 10s when 25s teams were doing it with aplomb, but apparently teams with full 25 BiS Phase One gear were failing to down the 10s version, which made me feel much better about the supposed "EZ Mode" that 10 person raids are in Wrath Classic.

With Ulduar opening up, all this was destined to change.

Oh, so THERE it is!

As I'd never raided in the original Wrath, I never knew where the entrance to Ulduar actually was. After all, it's not something you can ride to from the flight point, unlike the Halls of Stone and Halls of Lightning 5-person instances. And yes, I got lost trying to figure out where the entrance to Ulduar was on that first night's worth of raiding. I guess that is the same sort of thing that would have happened if I actually was able to raid Black Temple in TBC Classic, because I once spent a half an hour flying around, trying to figure out the entrance to Black Temple, and I still don't know where the entrance is.* I think I used to know, because I have a hazy memory of soloing BT back in 2014 or so, but burn me if I can't find it now.

And I thought the entrance to the original Naxxramas was a puzzle.

Ulduar is the instance where Steampunk and World of Warcraft collide in a big way. While there's a ramp up in TBC Classic --such as Netherstorm or my questing buddy's 'copter, which she absolutely loves-- it was Wrath of the Lich King where Blizzard went all in on a steampunk setting for World of Warcraft. From the design of Warsong Hold --my oldest explicitly mentioned to me the Steampunk elements to the complex the first time she saw it-- to the vehicle oriented World PvP in Wintergrasp** you can't avoid the overt Steampunk to the game. But really, once a player reaches The Storm Peaks with its Marvel-esque Nordic vision of the Titan Keepers, down to names such as Freya, Loken, Mimrir, and Thorim, you realize that the Steampunk in Azeroth wasn't just a "flavor of the month" design but rather Blizzard consciously deciding that Azeroth was created by tech beyond what the current inhabitants could achieve.

Kind of like an MMO version of Anne McCaffrey's Pern, complete with dragons.

The cover art for Dragonwriter, a tribute
to Anne McCaffrey. Art by Michael Whelan,
who painted almost all of the Pern cover art.

The centerpiece of The Storm Peaks is Ulduar, what appears to be a titan city, but is in fact something else... 

Oh come on, I'm not gonna spoil it for you, despite Ulduar having been out in Retail WoW for over a decade now. 

But that time interval also means that Ulduar is --like almost all of WoW once something is released into the wild-- a solved raid. There are already tons of articles and videos on how to optimally raid Ulduar, from the raid composition to the Best in Slot (BiS) lists to even the boss order you should take to blitz through the content.

Due to that, and since I wasn't doing as much DPS as Fire Spec compared to Arcane Mage in the raid, I was asked to switch to Arcane in early January. 

I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as to where this might be going. I knew that my Fire Spec for a single target boss isn't as good as Arcane Spec, although AOE damage for a Fire Mage is superior to that of an Arcane Mage, but I liked playing as a Fire Mage. The way a Fire Mage has to run into melee range, drop some casts in the scrum, then blink away so I can then rain fiery damage from distance just suits my playing style. But even the difference between Arcane and Fire aside, my fellow Mage had been running 25 person raids and whose gear was decently superior to my own, so it was only natural that her damage was also greater.*** 

But like a good teammate, I set aside my internal concerns about the raid creeping toward the hardcore, saluted, and switched to an Arcane spec.

We were then dealt a blow when we lost our Warlock, who decided to play fewer characters in Wrath Classic, and our raid got the short end of the stick.  Still, we had 11 players on the team, so despite missing a Lock we could still field a full raid. That was good for us, since the raid leads had personally reached out to people that they liked to raid with and had agreed with our focus for this particular raid team. While most people raided with other toons, 25 person raids, or both, a few of us --myself included-- kept to only this particular raid team. After what I dealt with in TBC Classic, I was happy to have low expectations and a casual attitude toward raiding. This time around, I was not going to get sucked into the Meta and hardcore progression grind.

And I thought our little raid team was insulated from that grind.

We got into Ulduar last week and... It felt weird. I'll have to go into it more on another post, but unlike Karazhan --whom I have issues with the internal logic of the entire place-- Ulduar just feels like an inflection point in WoW's history. 


I was online, doing something on Neve, when the post appeared in the raid's Discord on Saturday night. 

The Pally Healer and the Hunter were leaving the raid team.

They were running 25 person raids together, and they wanted to also push into 10 person hard modes**** much faster than we were. For our raid team, hard modes were something we'd like to eventually do, but it wasn't a priority; we had people in raid with young families, and people like me who burned out on the hardcore progression, so getting all sweaty in pursuit of the hardcore wasn't something we were interested in doing.

Since our raid team wasn't going to progress into hard modes fast enough, the two decided to leave our raid and join an "in house" raid team composed of members of their 25 person raid. Several classes have BiS items that are found in Ulduar's hard mode 10 person raids, so if your 25 person raid demands you get your BiS gear you have to get as quickly into 10 person hard modes as possible.*****

The Meta caught up to our little raid team after all.

Monday evening before the raid we had a meeting with the raid leads. The Pally healer was there for one last time, but we were still a person short: our Shaman.

It was then that the raid leads had announced that our Shaman had begun ghosting them over the week, and didn't bother signing up for tonight's raid. My heart sank.

Based on all that and that neither raid lead wanted to spend time recruiting, vetting, and bringing new raiders into a raid that was designed to be pretty laid back and a friends' raid, they decided to shut down the raid instead. Given that we only had 9 people we went into Naxx, Eye of Eternity, and Obsidian Sanctum one last time, but that was the end.


And so ends my Wrath Classic raiding.

I have not much desire to go raid any further, as it seems that even casual raids have to work hard to keep from backsliding into a more hardcore stance. I do know that my old friend Jes has been running 25 person pug raids of her own, and I know she'd be happy to have me sign up, but I really have no desire to join a raid that is nominally hosted by the franken guild, pug or not. Even if I was so inclined, I noticed who was signing up for the raid and some of those are people I don't care to ever raid with again.

It's not as if I'm giving up on Wrath Classic. The new Heroic Plus 5-person instances --what I've dubbed the "Mythic Plus of Wrath Classic"-- are sufficiently difficult enough that I'm happy to run some of those and scratch that group content itch. Beyond that, there's plenty of things that I can do that have nothing to do with raiding, so I'll be fine. In spite of what the majority of the Classic playerbase seems to think, endgame raiding isn't why I play Wrath Classic. It never was.

*No, I didn't break down and look up where the Black Temple entrance was on Wowhead, either.

**For Wrath Classic, Wintergrasp became an instanced battleground, but originally it was designed as a World PvP event where the winning faction gained access to the Vault of Archavon mini-raid. If you were on an imbalanced server --and most people were-- if you were on the wrong faction you never got into Vault of Archavon. Of course, now everybody can get access to VoA, because all it takes to gain access to Vault of Archavon is having exactly one person on your faction on the server having won Wintergrasp to gain access to VoA for your faction.

***In Wrath Classic, both sets of raids --10 person and 25 person-- drop their own gear. Due to the supposed increased difficulty of 25 person raids --and more people to gear for-- the 25 person raids drop gear with supposedly superior stats. That doesn't mean that an item from a 10 person raid might not be BiS for your toon and your spec, but a 25 person raider going down to a 10 person raid is going to have better gear than someone (like me) who kept to 10 person raids. The two types of raids don't share the same lockout, so Cardwyn could theoretically join both a 10 person raid and a 25 person raid of Ulduar that same week without issue.

****Wrath of the Lich King saw the beginning of hard modes for raid content. You could flip a switch in the raid and suddenly the raid entered an increased level of difficulty with the promise of better loot overall for each class of raiding. 

*****Okay, one thing needs to be said: if you want to go all in on hardcore, and apparently a ton of people do, that means you're running full Ulduar raids --one 10 person raid and one 25 person raid-- twice a week on your main toon. And if you've got multiple toons, you can easily see where you spend every night of the week raiding in some form or another. I was listening to a YouTube video when it was mentioned that Warcraftlogs had announced that the first week of Ulduar had the most registered parses of any raid, my first thought was "Duh." Alas, I've not been able to confirm that mention independently, so I'd place this as "not surprising but unconfirmed".

EtA: Fixed a formatting issue.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Meme Monday: Monday Memes

This is kind of an obvious theme for Meme Mondays, and I've been remiss in presenting it. So, while you're waiting for your coffee or tea to finish brewing, here you go:

Yep. Yep yep yep.
From Pinterest.

Sometimes Hoth is the perfect
metaphor for Mondays.
From Tumblr.

I vote for the former.
From memegenerator.net.

Every freaking weekend.
From Cheezburger's Memebase.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Winter's Day in a Deep and Dark... Uh... January...

(I've been under a bit of a writers block lately, so this post is mainly out there to force myself to write something to completion. You have been warned.)

Something I've been puzzling over the past couple of months has been my lack of interest in movies and television the past decade or so. Okay, to be fair, my declining interest in movies started long before that; I think the last movie I saw in the theater or on television was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And before that, uh... Wall-e, maybe? 

Now, I get where my lack of reading fiction has come from: I know that once I get started on a book, I'll keep going until I look up and it's 5 AM and I should have gone to sleep hours ago.* There's also my experiences with authors who don't know how to get their stories to end, such as the time I threw my hands up in the air and decided that Robert Jordan was never going to finish The Wheel of Time (this was when Path of Daggers came out) and gave up on that series, so no, that didn't start with George R.R. Martin. Then there's also the grimdark nature of "modern and sophisticated" F&SF, which seems to have a requirement that the primary characters need to suffer in order to move the plot forward, as if authors and their audience are all Friedrich Nietzsche fans.

Ah yes, Kevin Kline from
A Fish Called Wanda.

This doesn't explain my lack of interest in movies or television shows, because I used to like watching series. I mean, I wasn't a movie buff in the classic sense, nor was I someone who'd spend every evening watching television, but I watched enough shows and saw enough movies that I was at least reasonably acquainted with the moviegoing experience.

I mean, hell, I even watched a daytime soap opera for several months while I was attending college**, so I even have that bona fide.

But... I guess I don't know for sure why fictional television series and movies don't hold much interest for me. 

Actually, maybe I do. And it has to do with my psyche.

And The Big Bang Theory.

In real life, I'm not a big fan of crowds or interacting with people I don't know. Going to parties is not on my social agenda***, and I avoid situations that put me out on a limb in public. And those (to me) awkward social interactions that involve risk such as asking someone out/going on a date, dealing with problems at work, or even interacting with people at an otherwise fun event such as a Renaissance Fair raise my anxiety level. I mean, I can do them, but I don't relish them and based on failed past experiences I try to avoid them if at all possible.

So where does The Big Bang Theory fit into all this? Because about midway through the run of TBBT on network television, episodes that made me entirely uncomfortable watching began showing up. Not for any sex or violence or language, but the cringe of watching awkward social interactions play out on television in a way that made me get up and leave the room. 

Other people could potentially watch The Closet Reconfiguration without a problem, but the gang not respecting Howard's wishes and reading the letter from his estranged father without his consent --and passing it around-- would have been a deal breaker for me. There are certain lines you don't cross, and that blatant disrespect for Howard's wishes in a topic as sensitive as his dad would have been enough for me to cut them out. I don't care that the gang felt bad about it afterward, that they did it in the first place meant I would never trust any one of them again.****

Or in The Speckerman Recurrence, where Leonard is contacted via Facebook by someone who bullied him all through high school, I simply can't watch because I would never have accepted the meeting request in the first place. When I left high school, I left that part of my life behind and simply cut off pretty much all ties with my classmates. I'd have a hard time finding a smaller violin to play a sad tune on if someone from that period in my life --particularly more so if it were one of the bullies-- were to reach out to me. And watching that train wreck of an episode (from my perspective) was too much, especially when Leonard accepted the invitation to meet for drinks. 

Thank you, Mr. Bucemi.
From giphy.com.

After about that episode, I dropped The Big Bang Theory from my watch list, and... well... I haven't picked up anything since. Maybe it's because I'm happier playing it safe, but I don't find any amount of catharsis from watching shows that make me cringe. Or watching characters I like suffer and/or die.***** Yeah, I know what happens to Hedwig. And Sirius Black. And Dumbledore. And in Avengers: Infinity War. And in the World of Warcraft Legion expansion. And in Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood. And, well, you get the idea. If you want to avoid spoilers to anything and everything, probably Rule #1 is to throw out your internet connection. 

Maybe that's why I like open world games and RPG settings and whatnot: you are free to imagine the possibilities --what might be, and not what is-- so that you can forget all of the cringe inducing aspects of work and life. While other people might enjoy movies and television, I no longer can. I've seen enough parts of my life that I've desperately tried to bury dug up and put on screen much too frequently over the years to relax and enjoy the ride.

*There's more to it than just that. I do have issues with series fiction, where I get to a point where I just like where the characters are and... I'm just reluctant to move past that. I guess I know that bad things will happen --that's the entire point of fiction, it seems, to provide conflict-- and I look at that next book in the series and go "I'm perfectly fine where the characters are right now, thanks." That's why I've not continued series such as Kristen Britain's Green Rider novels past The High King's Tomb, finished off the Mistborn trilogy, or gotten much deeper than a book or two into the two Jim Butcher series of novels. Or, yes, even Harry Potter; I stopped after Goblet of Fire, and never had much of an inclination to pick up the rest of the books in the series. It's not that I think the stories above were bad or anything, I was just fine where I was at, and didn't feel the need to move beyond that point.

**Days of our Lives, circa late 1988 to early 1989. Beware, there's waaaay too much 80's hair in that YouTube video.

***And yes, this has caused heated arguments with my wife on numerous occasions. My wife is an extrovert and much more outgoing than I am, and in the early years of our marriage we frequently fought over her desire to go out to bars and listen to bands, whereas I just wanted to relax at home and do homebody stuff. I don't know when we stopped fighting over this, but I think we eventually settled into an uneasy truce. There are still flare ups over my avoidance of these things, but not so often as before. It's not that she understands me so much as whether she wants to spend time arguing with me over it.

****As a kid I dealt with betrayals like that, and if there's one thing I've learned from sad experience is that if someone does something like this once, they won't stop at just the one thing. Even if they feel remorse for having done that first thing. The old "fool me once, shame on you; fool be twice, shame on me" adage in full display for everyone to see.

*****With George R.R. Martin, you get both for the price of one!

EtA: Corrected grammar.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Meme Monday: Winter Blahs Memes

You know you're in the depths of Winter when you kind of start wishing it were warm outside.

Okay, for a person --like me-- who prefers Fall and Winter, you can reach your breaking point sometime after mid-January when the unceasingly gray landscape starts to get to you. So, here's some memes to break up the monotony:

"Always look on the bright side of life..."
From makeameme.org

Ya gotta believe.
From winkgo.com.

That's pretty accurate, but in my
case my wife would use that as a prelude
to shoving me off the bed in her sleep.
Yes, I've woken up on the floor before.
From thefunnyplace.net.

Uh... That's gonna be a while, Snoopy.
From lovethispic.com.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Meme Monday: Miscellaneous Memes (again)

I suppose that most Meme Mondays are "miscellaneous" in one form or another, but here's yet another collection of various and sundry memes:

I've, uh, done this before.
From rpg.net.

I'm not saying that some MMO players
are assholes... Okay, yeah, I kind of am.
From Vance Whitmer.

When my questing buddy asks
me to be a murder hobo for her,
I pull out this handy chart.
From FB's dndmemes.

Yeah, it's kind of like that.
From Reddit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Little Did They Know

Back when I first began playing MMOs --okay, WoW-- back in 2009, most of my game time was spent playing in parallel with people. By that, I mean I was out in the game, doing whatever, while Soul and his wife were also online and playing, but we weren't necessarily doing the same thing. We may have been questing, but we weren't questing together. Or even in the same area.

My playing on the family PC also meant that I had to work around my wife and my kids' usage as well, so I moved in the direction of solo play at odd hours. 

This was my life when the mini-Reds
were in elementary school.
From yourtango.com.

Middle school sounded the death knell for early morning WoW, because the kids would have to get up at 6 AM to catch the bus and/or get dropped off at school*, and I wasn't getting up at 4 AM to play WoW. Okay, in 2020 I began staying up until 3 AM to finish raids, so I guess you could say that I came full circle, but still...

For me, playing MMOs began to mean "doing my own thing, whether on my own or grouped with strangers."


There's a certain amount of freedom to being on when nobody else that you know is. 

For example, if you're on a PvP server in WoW you can make a run for it through certain zones without worrying about whether some max level toon is going to come along and gank you.

Kind of like this, running as Horde
through Wetlands and Dun Morogh.
From tenor.com.

No matter how much you try to handwave it there's a significant amount of stress involved, and even in the off hours that's no guarantee that some toon won't come along and fuck you up just because. However, I discovered way back in 2009 that if you time that run from Arathi through to the Badlands just right, you won't see a soul on the road.

These past few weeks I've been channeling my younger self and have been spending more and more time on my alts, such as Linna 2.0 and Neve, getting them to max level and doing things that I used to do on Azshandra and Cardwyn in my pre-raid days: run Battlegrounds, quest, and queue for instances. 

I know the Wrath instances very well, having done them back in the day ad nauseum, so I'm comfortable queueing for those instances in what passes for an LFG system in Wrath Classic. I also made a point of doing that dungeon running when it's highly unlikely that I'll run into anybody I know from the franken guild on Atiesh-US; my status on the server as Deuce --messy and uncomfortable and all-- means that I try my hardest not to put myself out there where I could run into people I don't care to interact with. And that means leaving Deuce on the shelf when outside of raids while I get in touch with my past.

"Bolster my defenses! Hurry, curse you!"

I can imagine that you might be thinking "Hey, Atiesh-US is supposed to be a very large server. Why all the caution?" That's because I keep running into the same people while doing leveling dungeons on Atiesh. On Myzrael-US, which is a much smaller server, that's to be expected. But on Atiesh? Yeah, it's very much a thing.

Just like back in the day, when I ran dungeons at odd hours I kept seeing regulars in the automated LFD tool, despite being in a large battlegroup. 


This brings up yet another item that I discovered in TBC Classic and has seemingly carried over into Wrath Classic: people sprinted to max level and jumped straight into raiding, and once they --and their primary alts-- hit max level, dungeon running participation plummeted. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this development, and from conversations I've had with people in game it also seems that people are getting bored (or whatnot) and are unsubscribing and/or dropping from raid teams until the next phase hits.

If this sounds like a modern mentality of saying "I've done that already so I'll unsub until new content drops", yes it does. 

And with that revelation, I think I can now explain the sudden reappearance of the Joyous Journeys XP buff far sooner than people expected: to try to fight that yo-yo effect of people subbing and unsubbing.**

But I digress.


I've found a lot of relaxation and joy in just going with the flow and running some dungeons with people whom I've become acquainted with over the past few weeks. We're not guildies or anything, but we're people who know each others' abilities, and we reach out to each other if we've got a spot available. There's no pressure involved, and even if it doesn't work out as intended, we'll still have fun.

What Ingvar needs is some stylish gear,
that's all. I'm gonna miss these Brutal
Battlegear sets that our group was rocking.

The biggest part about these dungeon runs is that I truly do feel no pressure to perform. The expectations are different for me in these runs, because I know going in that I'm not going to have a lot of gear so I won't be rocking the charts or anything. And when a piece of blue gear drops that I can use, it's a bonus all around. 

I can hear my questing buddy already, saying that we want to just hang with you, not put any pressure or anything on you. The thing is, no matter what is said --and I'm sure it's meant by everybody I know who has told it to me-- I still put pressure on myself to perform

(There, I even put it in italics for emphasis.)

And no, once I've joined a raid team --or been a former member of a team-- I can't avoid the pressure. It's just part of me, because once unlocked it can't go back into Pandora's Box.

In these scenarios, however, nobody is trying to max out their gear and get those last BiS items before raiding. Nobody is trying to speed run their way through the instance, collect their daily badges, and log prior to the raid. If we get to the extra boss in time in the Culling of Stratholme Heroic dungeon, we get there. Otherwise, nobody sweats it out. 

The lack of defined purpose is key. Because we aren't there for a specifically defined metagame reason, these runs are enjoyable. That I am just an anonymous pugger from a leveling guild with hardly anybody left on the server (Neve) or a small friends guild in a large server (Linna 2.0), I can relax. The major raiding guilds all keep to themselves on Atiesh-US, and Myzrael-US is small enough that everybody has to band together to keep a pugging community alive. 

So I find that when I set aside my raiding life, placing it in a compartmentalized box, I've found my time spent being anonymous to be enjoyable.  

*The elementary school started at 8:30 AM, whereas the middle school began at 7:30. This was to accommodate the bus schedules. Like a lot of school districts in the US, ours had to deal with a lot of  voters who believed in the "lean and mean" style of school district financial management, so schools had to make do with as few busses as possible. That meant adjusting school start times to get the most out of as few busses as possible.

**And with Ulduar opening up on January 19th, Joyous Journeys' ending on the 16th seems very appropriate.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Meme Monday: Post Holiday Blues Memes

Once you make it through the running of the Holiday gauntlet, there's this stretch before Valentine's Day and then another long stretch before Spring arrives.

If you're in my part of the country, you're not going to see the sun very much during that time. It's just a fact of life that SAD creeps in for a significant chunk of the population. So... Here's some memes to cheer people up.

Uh... I tried my hand at tanking, so I can
appreciate this even more than before.
From Shaneplays.com.

Gnomes. Just... Gnomes.
From Shaneplays.com (again).

This hits a wee bit too close to home,
if you ask me.
From dnd_memes1.

If I'd have seen that on the road
at night time, I'd have likely 
had a heart attack.
From Reddit.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Alas, Pandora's Box Has Already Been Opened

There are times when I wonder whether the old adage about necessity being the mother of invention is actually a good thing.

After all, look at some of the designs behind monetization in video games, and I wonder just whose necessity is behind those creations. Surely not the players' necessity, and certainly not the developers' necessity either. I suppose you could argue that those designs were created for the necessity of the investors so that the companies could make larger profits off of video games, but is that good for the long term health of the industry?

Note that I said industry, not the companies. I'm absolutely certain that video game companies --particularly the AAA game companies-- are more profitable because of the monetization techniques that rely heavily on psychological manipulation. That, however, doesn't mean that the industry itself is healthy. 

If nothing else, you could argue that by creating addictive responses to the monetization techniques, the video game companies have figured out how to adapt the same tricks used in the illegal drug trade* for their own profits.

It just doesn't sound the same, and
it would probably work as well as the
original "Just Say No" campaign too.
Original photo from USA Today.

Given that Grand Theft Auto V exists, I'd imagine my comparison of the AAA video game companies to drug cartels isn't something that those companies really are concerned about. Additionally, the embrace of "gambling mechanics" by the video game industry may sound bad to most of us until you realize that gambling is a fact of life among sports leagues. Just look at how many teams in the Premier League are sponsored by gambling outlets, or the embrace of the NFL and other American sports leagues by formalized gambling, and you realize that the stigma of "gambling mechanics" is likely considered a good thing by many investors.

Photograph from this article by The Guardian.
By Shutterstock; Getty.

But you know what suffers? The games themselves.

In the same way that tobacco industry executives and insiders considered cigarettes to be "nicotine delivery devices", I have to wonder whether the AAA game companies consider their products --video games-- to be "microtransaction delivery devices". Certainly the games themselves have suffered a bit in terms of quality, as if the games themselves aren't the most important part of the development process.

To that end, Josh Strife Hayes created a video that touched a nerve with me:

Hayes' Box of Abusive Monetization Strategies --or Pandora's Box of Bad Design-- pretty much encapsulates all of the practices that people dislike about video games today. And, I suppose, just like the original Pandora's Box, you can't put those items back and lock them away now that they've made their way into game design.

A game developer can choose to not utilize them. Or a video game player can choose to not purchase games that contain the Box's contents.

Me, I tend to wait for everything that was going to be released is released, and then wait for it to go on sale via Steam, before I buy a game. Some games are perpetually updated, such as Paradox Games' offerings (Europa Universalis IV and Stellaris, to name two of them), and I just wait until there's something I find interesting and yes, dependent upon whether it goes on sale (and I've the spare money, which is frequently an iffy thing) before I purchase it.

Obviously this does not work so well with MMO subscription games, such as WoW Classic, but I tend to spend a lot more of my time watching and waiting on expansions before I decide whether or not to purchase them. Considering I'm not going to be doing anything that requires me to be on the bleeding edge of a new expansion, I can afford to wait.***

But I'm not a lot of people, and neither are a lot of people the whales who are targeted by a lot of contents of Pandora's Box of Bad Design.

What can save us in the long run? Ourselves. We have to resist the Bad Design practices, and play games that don't have them, if we want to effect change. If nothing else, just play those games because they're good games.

And for pete's sake, don't preorder games from companies that use the contents of Pandora's Box. That's giving those companies a blank check. Make them earn your money by making good games.

*Back when I was still into the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series --circa the late 90s-- there was a free paperback of the first part of The Eye of the World available to people at bookstores. "You know what this is?" a bookstore employee told me, holding a copy up. "This is your free sample of crack." 

**And to be fair, a lot of the Software as a Service or SaaS model itself falls under that header too.

***Since I'm really keeping my WoW account active for Wrath Classic (and to a lesser extent Classic Era), there's no worry about being on, say, a current raiding tier there. I don't have to pay extra for WoW Classic, which is perfectly fine with me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

New Year, New Labor

Microsoft is now a company with a union.

Zenimax, which we gamers know more for Elder Scrolls Online and Bethesda in general, has had their QA testers vote to join the Communications Workers of America. Unlike certain other tech companies, Microsoft "officially" remained neutral on this vote. Since they decided to not oppose the union, I suppose one could take it as a tacit endorsement of unionization for the QA people, who are frequently among the lowest paid of the development staff.*

I honestly have no idea if this will change anything, but we'll see.

*Source: I worked in software QA for five years.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

A Sobering Reality

I know that PC is a gaming blog --and no, not gambling "gaming"-- so items such as sports don't officially come under the "mission statement"* of Parallel Context. Still, I have talked about sports before on the blog, and referenced sports in comparison to video games. And I've mentioned more than a few times in the past about my complicated relationship with our local NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals. I mean, I've seen hopes dashed and freak injuries and losses --oh, the losses that would make a Manchester City fan nod in remembrance of the "Typical City" times-- so I've been acquainted with bad stuff happening.

But never in my life have I seen something like what happened last night, live on television during the Buffalo Bills / Cincinnati Bengals game:

Other players were just starting to realize
Damar Hamlin had collapsed, but Bills
#30 Dane Jackson immediately recognized
the severity of the situation and began rushing
to his teammate's side.
From ESPN via NYBreaking.com.

The collapse happened after this tackle
of Bengals' #85 Tee Higgins.
From Fox5 Atlanta, likely originally from Getty.

Damar Hamlin made a tackle which for all the world seemed like something made hundreds of times each NFL season, got up, and then promptly collapsed onto the field. 

Trainers from both teams rushed to his side, cut off his uniform and chest pads, and began administering CPR and using defibrillators. After what has been reported to be upwards of 10 minutes, Hamlin's heart was restarted. 

From the Associated Press and Jeff Dean.
Via News4Jax.com.

He'd gone into cardiac arrest on the playing field.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer.

I've never seen CPR performed outside of training purposes on dummies --and yes, I was trained back in middle school in the ancient times but I never kept my certification up-- but I'm told by friends who were paramedics that CPR performed by medical professionals out in the real world is much more aggressive and violent than what you're used to seeing on television. To put it bluntly, a person's ribs are frequently broken on the first couple of pushes, but you keep going because you have to get a heart rhythm started. People are frequently not able to be resuscitated via CPR, but in situations where seconds count, it's the best option we have. 

Needless to say, watching this entire thing unfold in prime time was very sobering.

From Associated Press via Arizona Sports.
Photo by Emilee Chinn.

From Getty Images via Ball State Daily.
Photo by Dylan Buell.

The game was suspended, and the NFL announced just a little while ago that the game will not be resumed this week. I'd not be surprised that the game were simply declared a draw and teams given a tie or simply have the game not count.

For me, I was never happier for a raid night than last night. It gave me a chance to not think about what I saw, or the young man currently in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

*I don't actually have a "formal" mission statement --I've not gone corporate on you-- but it's not a bad idea to have a statement of purpose around. Revisiting that statement from time to time allows a person to refocus the blog as needed.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Meme Monday: New Year's Memes

Yes, I posted a quickie late last night after raiding, but that doesn't mean that I didn't forget about Meme Monday. I only forgot that the raid ran into Monday, that's all.

Without much ado, there's a ton of New Years' related memes out there. Here's but a few...

I think I actually did this in WoW
since I play on a West Coast server
and I reside in the Eastern time zone.
And that my wife already had gone to
bed a few hours before then.
From Reddit.

I'm with Doctor Evil on this one.
I don't even keep up with monthly
gaming goals because I never keep them.
From, well, you know what Austin Powers is, right?

Hey, at least there's sexy fun time involved.
From 9gag.

Ah, Life of the Party. You never
let me down.

A Quick Note

I don't like retrospective posts very much, especially reviewing how things went over the past year or so. After all, I don't set playing goals for a month, because I know I won't ever meet them, so reviewing what I've been up to in general seems a personal performance review that I know I'd fail.

And really, I get enough of those at work, so why bother with another performance review?*

Neve's Horde guild has all but collapsed,
as most of the active people changed servers
AND factions in one fell swoop. This
Utgarde Keep run felt like a trial run put on
by the top Horde guild on the server, as
I was the only non-member in the run.

About the only thing I will say is that I survived another year around the Sun, and despite its best intentions, my heart hasn't killed me yet.

Carry on, then.

*Apparently my ex-guild has now instituted weekly performance reviews of raider activity to see if they're up to the quality level expected of the 25 person raid teams. Oh, and not only those reviews, but raiders who do good parses will be given priority on gear, too, as a kick in the pants reminder that they do Loot Council on gear. Oh, and guess what? They began the Wrath expac with about 30-35 raiders vying for spots on each 25 person raid, so an excess of 10 players per raid team, and now they're having to recruit for raiders. I'm damn glad I'm not in the middle of that shitstorm.