Saturday, 20 April 2013

My thoughts on Windows 8

Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies. -Robert Kennedy

Windows 8 has its supporters and its haters. I agree with both.

I think the Start Screen is a Good Thing™. I'll try to explain the thought process which led me here. First of all, I wanted a point of comparison. The Start Menu seemed like the obvious choice. The Start Menu was introduced in Windows 95, and was no small contributor to the phenomenal success... of Windows XP. Just like everything else, it wasn't perfect on arrival. Microsoft refined and improved the feature over time, leading to the hullabaloo we have today about it being removed.

As with so many other changes, people are being blind and narrow-minded. They confuse the first iteration of a feature for the full potential of that feature, before posting a slew of arguments based entirely on that faulty premise. They then get frustrated when people ignore their ill-conceived rants.

Some have derided the Operating System as being designed for a touch screen. I agree; though I don't consider it to be a problem. Touch screens are another advancement in technology and Microsoft are quite right to update their product to accommodate those who use it. Failure to do so would be nothing short of a disaster, as it would damage Microsoft's ability to stay relevant and either limit Windows to offices or eventually kill it altogether. How people don't see this is beyond me.

I want to be quite clear on this. Touch screens have arrived and are here to stay. Just as important to grasp is that the mouse and keyboard are staples which are going nowhere. People use computers for different tasks, and as technology advances this will become more and more evident.

Touch screens are far more convenient when you just want to check social networks and the like. However the classic mouse & keyboard set-up is far superior for office work, where having your arm fully extended all day long would be pretty brutal. I also prefer it to touch when gaming.

I think it would have made sense for Microsoft to introduce the Start Screen before removing the Start Menu. Users would have been less hostile toward it were it were simply another feature, rather than it being the reason they lost a tool they have relied upon since time immorial. However Microsoft are caught in a bind, as returning it now would make it much harder to remove in the future.

There's a lot that Microsoft got right with Windows 8. The new Task Manager is very nice. The Start Screen is fine, controversial though it may be. The changes under the hood which improve speed and security are both more than welcome. I love snapping Skype to the side of the screen.

The new Metro UI was necessary change; but the removal of the Start button was not. I'm not a fan of the magic corners. A Start button bringing you to the Start Screen strikes me as simply being superior design. Plus, having Windows 8 deprive users of more familiarity than necessary is not wise.

Just my $0.02, let me know what you think in the comments. :)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Where I hope the game will go

This is a post I submitted on the World of Warcraft forum - Doomsinger

The world was a big place. Then we got LFD, LFR and flying mounts and suddenly the world shrank dramatically. Portals also play their part in making the world feel like it's not really a world at all.

As a bane of Trolls, I think that the Dungeon and Raid Finder tools were a necessity. They were the right course of action at the time of their implementation. Too many realms had too few players for them not to be added. INB4 "durr MVP hurr derp", but I'd go so far as commending Blizzard for them.

Both worlds are ever changing; Blizzard gets newer technology by the day, and with it comes opportunity. There has been a tremendous amount of whining about Cross Realm Zones by the blinkered and short-sighted. One has to appreciate that Blizzard isn't in the habit of totally changing the game overnight; it's a company which makes alterations over time so that the community has time to adjust.

I see what Cross Realm Zones will one day become as being an evolution of the game. I see their potential as something which can ultimately serve to replace the Dungeon and Raid Finder tools. That's not to say they would be removed entirely - they have their place - but the instant teleportation to instances is as damaging to the world as it is convenient to the player.

I have a dream. I dream of a world where the Dungeon / Raid Finder tools are stripped down. A dream where I leave the reasonably busy Stormwind of Trollbane, which has an Auction House shared by the entire Battlegroup, and my Deathcharger brings me to Elwynn Forest. The Elwynn Forest of my Battlegroup, you ask? No. The Elwynn Forest of Europe.

I dream of a world where the Dungeon / Raid Finder tools are used to help people gather groups. But that's it. You queue while on your land mount en route to the raid instance. As you near it, you meet up with those players you have been grouped up with. Almost there now. But wait - a world boss! One cannot pass up such opportunity.

Let us set aside our inhibitions and admit some uneasy truths. If there is a convenient option, we will take it. If we have unlimited access to flying mounts, we will use them. If we can teleport to an instance, we will afk in town. Blizzard have been inactive on this front because they're caught in a bind. You can see this with the restrictions facing Transmogrification and account-wide titles. They've learned too late that you can give to the populace readily. You cannot take from them so easily.

So, over a period of time, Blizzard makes alterations. The fools see the introduction of Cross Realm Zones and mistake it for the limits of their potential. They don't see the subtle machinations at work. The community will adjust to this new change to the game. As we get used to it, so will their presence in the game expand. The technology will be improved. One day, they may well lead to never being alone in a zone ever again - no matter what low population realm you're on and irrespective of the zone in question.Indeed, it stands to reason that realms will almost cease to be. They'll be used for home cities and deciding which Auction House you access. Little more.

I think the best thing for flying mounts is to dramatically reduce how high one can fly. Not only are they fast, but instead of traversing land you fly above it. You are oblivious to the changing landscape filled with life as you fly in the static sky. Make flying mounts fly approximately as high as the top of the trees in Elwynn Forest. If an enemy is hell-bent on tying you up in combat, you're going to have to fight to survive. Who can imagine such savagery in a peaceful world where we enjoy beautiful skies and never leave the confines of town?

If you have hope, you can be disappointed. And so the average individual will choose to have none; and thus avoid the risk associated with it. Both worlds must be very dark places if you choose not to believe that it can get better. That things can improve. Choose to denounce the world as being dead if you must. Choose to submit a goodbye post if you have to. We both know I'll see you in Mists.

In this meandering post written in the blood of my enemies at a most ungodly hour, I will finish with words of encouragement. Keep doing what you're doing, Blizz. You made the world great. You brought us a game which had over twelve million people to spend time with.  You can do this again. One day we may well laugh at the memory of Cataclysm (it was only a setback!). We may fondly remember the costly sacrifice which brought us a totally revamped leveling experience. The lack of endgame content is almost over. The new low level quests will stick with us for eternity.

Banished from my people who can't see past my blue eyes and terrible odour, waiting for the Ebon Blade to ride to battle once more, I sit and wait. I look out at the world from the balcony of Acherus. A world filled with possibility and wonder. Cross Realm Zones have limitless potential. With them, LFX need do no more than group players together. Flying mounts can be brought back down to the world and have their place. I see the blind idiots mourning a world on which the sun has set. Though the day may be over, I choose not to lament it - but to await the new dawn.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Everyone deserves respect (and love)

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I sometimes wonder what happened to respect and compassion. I remember discussions where people judged what was said based on its own merits, and not who said it. Sometimes it feels like people don't have any restraint. Maybe it's just that I've become more experienced with the internet.

I go to the forum and I see people attack each other on a daily basis - for either the most asinine of reasons or even no reason at all. What you say on heroic raiding or high-end PvP is frequently dismissed out of hand based on the character you're posting from. No wonder we see level one alts so often. I'm surprised they aren't the majority, to be honest.

I go to Twitter and I block some people just to put as much distance between us as possible. The sheer animosity is something that, at the risk of being dramatic, I can honestly say that I fear. I don't want to ever become so vile. A case in point, the infamous "You let your dad down i hope you know that" tweet. What would drive someone to say such a thing?

A trend I have lately noticed is that some accusations feel more like excuses. Sometimes people seem to actively go looking for a reason to hate another person. Having already made up their mind, they go digging up dirt on someone just to be able to justify it. Again, I don't understand this - nor do I want to. I'm not saying we should all love each other and hug everyone we say. Merely that I want a compromise somewhere between the two. I want people to be more respectful.

I passionately believe that we are all entitled to our own thoughts. It doesn't mean one should act on them. I'm capable of treating people I don't like with respect. More than that, I choose to. I want to. Just because my experiences with someone to date havn't gone swimmingly doesn't necessarily mean that they're a bad person. Even if I'll never like someone, it doesn't mean I would treat them like something I stepped in. I don't think people should ever look down on another human creature. It's fine to find an action or a comment laughable. As long as it doesn't go further than that.

Nobody is perfect. It doesn't mean anyone deserves to be subjected to the behaviour that some people give in to. Nobody should be harassed or bullied. Nobody deserves to be treated with scorn. Hatred just seems to permeate some people. As I've said, I honestly find that terrifying. It doesn't matter if you want to be a terrorist, or just spend the date being hateful toward your fellow man.

When I die, as we all will some day, I don't want people to be glad I'm gone. I hope that I've never treated someone in a way that makes them think everyone would be better off without me. I don't mind people finding me annoying or thinking I'm unhelpful. I have no problems with people thinking I sucked at my job or whatever. But I don't want people to look back and say I was a terrible human being. So having wrote this monologue, I'm going to make more of an effort to treat other people with the respect that they deserve. I'm going to spend more time being there for people, who just might need someone to be there. I'm going to make more of an effort in case nobody else will.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Thoughts on Ghostcrawler

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else - Judy Garland

I think it's fair to say that Greg Street, cousin of Crabby, has had his fair share of controversy. I can offhand remember comments accusing him of being "rude", "arrogant", "condescending" and "a PR nightmare". It must be nice to have such adoring fans!

Oh, and of course, he's elitist. Apparently. I feel like I'm missing something when writing this, because it all seems too obvious to me. It is his job to be elitist. It's not his job to care what people who have never gotten a relevant Heroic kill have noticed on Recount. It's not his job to buff a class because a given poster on the forum happens to be terrible at it.

A lot of the time when players are dealing with Ghostcrawler and feeling frustrated, it's honestly not his fault. He has to deal with the most effective rotation, not the way you like to play your class. Often he is unwilling to listen to players because they're simply not playing the way they should be.

Players see this as arrogance, but in truth they're only being confronted with a simple fact: they suck at the game. Nobody likes realizing that they're bad at something. But honestly, he's not arrogant. He doesn't laugh at players or taunt them. He simply separates the theorycrafters and hardcore raiders from the average joe - because it's his job to do so.

Let's say in my normal Firelands raid, I do 13k as a Demonology Warlock, and a Druid tank in Heroic Dragon Soul gear shows up and does 40k DPS. If I go to the forum and show him these numbers, how can I realistically expect him to change the game? A far better player in far better gear did better than I did. Working as intended.

Of course, I'm not saying for one moment that he should exclusively balance around the likes of Vodka, and leave us mere mortals to endure balance tweaks we could never understand the purpose of. I'm not suggesting he should turn his back on the majority. He has to keep specs relatively balanced both among the best players and the average ones. If nobody outside of a World First type Guild can play a spec to a reasonable standard, then he's failed at his job.

This isn't a contradiction; it's merely unintuitive for a surprisingly large number of players. He wants the game to be balanced for you. He wants you to be capable of playing any spec reasonably well. But that doesn't mean he can balance the game around your personal raiding experiences. If you use a bad rotation and he balances the spec around it, then that'll be a nightmare for everyone else.

I honestly believe that people read what he says emotionally and in a biased frame of mind, then lash out at him just for having a different opinion. Say what you like about Ghostcrawler, but his job is often to tell people that they're wrong. Nobody can do that job regularly and be considered a pretty cool guy who doesn't afraid of anything. Leave him alone.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why LFR needs to be on the weeky lockout

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it - George Santayana

Today I'm going to write a relatively short post, and it's one about the past. More specifically, it is about the start of Cataclysm. To be even more precise, it is about Patch 4.0.1. This patch introduced the Flexible Raid Lock system. The gist of this is that you can only do each raid instance once a week. To delve deeper into the system would be to deviate from the topic at hand.

I remember two arguments being put forward to explain this decision. One was that many Guilds had two raid teams, but not enough tanks for both. This resulted in the tanks feeling pressured into raiding with both groups. The second was that diehard raiders felt compelled to do everything which allowed them to gear up more quickly, and this included doing raids on both 10 man and 25 man lockouts. This left many players feeling bored with the content and burned-out with the game as a whole.

Let's skip from the start of the expansion, to the end of it. Everyone is doing LFR. Everyone is doing Normal, Heroic, or a combination of both. In other words, everyone is doing Dragon Soul biweekly. There are widespread complaints about people feeling bored with the game and wanting something new. Many dismiss this as being the usual. Cataclysm is in its final hour, and Mists of Pandaria is drawing ever nearer. It is, of course, to be expected for people to be bored with the game in the lull between expansions.

I don't disagree that this is a factor, though I do argue it's not the only one. Mists of Pandaria includes a lot of content - such as a substantial amount of daily quests, pet battles and Challenge Mode instances. It makes sense, for an expansion which offers so much for players to do, to add Raid Finder onto the weekly lockout. If the expansion is successful, then people will be too busy to notice or care. If the expansion is not successful, it's not like having people raid twice a week could have saved it anyway.

Blizzard once made a change to the game to stop people progressing too quickly, to prevent them from feeling burned-out, and to make the game healthier as a whole. I support that reasoning. I also support Raid Finder. So I hope that instead of a knee jerk reaction or doing nothing at all, Blizzard simply remembers why they gave 10 man and 25 man raids the same lockout. The current implementation of Raid Finder directly contradicts their rationale, and it needs to be changed.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

It's not a world; It's a game

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

I was on Twitter last night, and Bashiok reminded me that World of Warcraft is a game. Yes; you read that correctly - I had forgotten. I log in. I do Raid Finder. I do Normal or Heroic Dragon Soul with my Guild. I sometimes do Random Heroics for Valor or Justice Points. I log on a week later and go through the monotonous routine again.

I don't get excited at a new boss kill. I don't care about gear upgrades anymore. If I'm online while not raiding, as often as not I'll be farming for something that I might one day use for Transmogrification. Just so I have it there, should I ever want it there. Just so it's in Void Storage, collecting dust. I raid normal / heroic Dragon Soul, but I don't enjoy it - it's just something to do.

The tweet from Bashiok was a seemingly innocuous link to a 2006 video on YouTube where a bunch of Community Managers spent time in Stormwind and Warsong Gulch. They had - and used to great effect - the powers of Game Managers. Sounds terrible, right? Some obnoxious person you don't know making you float above everyone else, or dozens of times your regular size?

It wasn't. Excitement. Wonder. Everywhere. People had great fun defending King Varian from massive Core Hounds while swimming through the air. It was different. It was something that went on without you if you were afk - so you stayed. It was something unraveling before you all - so everyone joined in. It was staff and players together enjoying the game - so everyone had fun.

Why do I think everyone got involved and enjoyed it so much? It was unexpected. There was no article on Wowpedia. No guide on Tankspot. It was spontaneous. New. Refreshing. I want bored staff to be able to log into the game with GM powers, and start fooling around. Random times. Random servers. I want them to enjoy the game and lose themselves in the moment - in the process, giving us a moment to be lost in as well.

But I want more than that. People see all the bosses before stepping into an instance. They see all the tactics. They get told what to do, then they do it. Anyone who fails to perform is ridiculed. Removed from the group. Blacklisted. No questions, no second chances, no communication above what is strictly required. Vote Reason: lol scrub. Cool - nice playing with you.

  • Bosses in the Beta / PTR should not use their real models. You should not be tired of seeing someone before they even make it to the live game. Testing is necessary - this is not. Use old models. Placeholders. People on PTR / Beta are there to see if things work correctly, not to look at all the pretty stuff. This doesn't sound important - but it is.
  • Bosses in the Beta / PTR should not be in their real environment. I'd be far happier if bosses were tested in Blackwing Descent. Surely Blizzard has sufficient QA staff to run through the instance and ensure they don't randomly fall through the ground?
  • LFR / LFD should not teleport you to the instance. It's a world, remember? You should have to travel there on a mount. You should have to risk coming across a world boss who'll be very happy to see you. You should not be safe just because you're on a flying mount.
  • There needs to be an incentive to do Normal and Heroic raids. It just isn't there. I can attest to this. Raids are for the loot and the feeling of lots of players going through insanely tough enemies. We do that on LFR. Is it easy? Yes. Does that really dampen the experience and make it so you want to do the same content with bigger numbers? No. That's boring. I say you should only get 3 / 5 tier armor from LFR. 5 /5 tier, higher ilvl, on Normal. You shouldn't be able to fully upgrade all your gear from dungeon rewards in LFR, or Normal. Heroic raiding should offer a superior weapon - not just a higher ilvl version of the same thing. It should also offer a trinket not available in LFR or Normal - ideally, this will be the second (not third) trinket you can use effectively which you get from raiding.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Bonjour, je m'appelle Doomsinger

Energy and persistence conquer all things - Benjamin Franklin

Last night I began posting on the Technical Support board of the French World of Warcraft forum. I only submitted three posts, to test the water more than anything. I had thought I should contact and let them know I hoped to contribute - just to give them some notice in advance. However I contacted a CM I know, who assured me that I could dive right in, and that if any issues cropped up they would be dealt with internally.

I decided that the CM knew far more about the internal goings-on at Blizzard, and as a few people had suggested "if you're there to help, why would there be a problem?". It wasn't long before I was on Twitter talking to a fellow MVP who had thought much the same, only to earn the displeasure of the CMs working on the German forum. Apparently they took exception to an MVP appearing out of the blue (well, green). Needless to say, I was a little worried.

Now, there are a few key differences here. First of all, according to Wowpedia, there are multiple French MVPs. The person I had tweeted was under the impression that the German CMs didn't wish to be involved with the MVP program - at least at that time - and that was partially why they were annoyed at his sudden arrival. Secondly, while I post in Customer Support & General (and sometimes Newcomers & Death Knight), on non-English fora I intend to only post in Technical Support.

There are multiple reasons for this. The main one being that I hope to be semi-active on as many Technical Support boards as possible - each post in General Discussion or wherever else means less time for my main objective. There is also the fact that I will still be expanding my vocabulary for one or two languages (at an even more rapid rate than my English!), and Technical Support lends itself well to this as I can recycle the same words quite often.

However, this intention carries an unanticipated boon - I'll be out of the way. I won't be splashing green ink all over General Discussion, the most viewed board on the forum. I'll instead be quietly helping out where few will notice me. This means that there is a reduced risk of "new MVP wtf?" threads popping up everywhere and giving the French CMs a headache.

In truth, I'm not entirely sure why I am making this particular post. I suppose it is the first thing which has cropped up since I created my blog - I finally have somewhere to express myself. But that leaves the question of why I am making this post public. To which I answer with the same mentality of why I made the blog of which it is part - why not?

Edit: For the record, this all went down fine and I havn't had any issues arising from posting on the French forum. I just felt like sharing. :P