Multitudes of Smoke

The thoughtful ramblings of a space goat and his alts.

Warlords of Draenor – My Thoughts

Posted by Smokimus on December 9, 2013

I will absolutely play “Warlords”, but the announcement left something to be desired. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was that I’m missing. It feels as though the expansion is really set-up to be a large content patch as opposed to something we should spend $40 bucks buying into.

I know this is in no way a unique opinion, and I’m not claiming that it is.

I heard this view point most well put in the Azeroth Roundtable podcast (by Ben, I think). This whole expansion seems to be trying to “set-up” something else, possibly the next expansion, and I’m not sure that feels so great.

I will say, however, that I am intrigued by the Garrisons. This step to player housing sounds like a great idea and if anyone can pull it off successfully I believe that Blizzard can. The rest of the announcements at Blizzcon were kind of “meh” IMO.

As “Mists” winds down I hope they can continue to make good on their promise to deliver content more quickly. If Warlords isn’t in beta in the next couple of months (end of Jan/early Feb.) with a release in early summer, I think there will be an acceleration of subscription losses and there won’t be any amount of “neat” content that will bring those that leave back.

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Public Transportation and Driverless Cars – Personal/Public Transportation

Posted by Smokimus on December 9, 2013

I apologize for another non-WOW post, but I was thinking about this and wanted a place to expound, and this seemed the best place for it.

As a person living in a large(ish) city that is without  reasonable public transportation options and where the solutions being offered for our public transportation needs are continued rehashes of options designed in the 1960’s and  70’s that didn’t work then and most certainly don’t work now.  It seems to me that if a “personal/public transportation” option existed there are many, many people like me, who live in the suburbs but commute into the city that would happily use the system and keep their cars parked in the garage. 

Unless a city is New York, London, Paris, or Chicago, the public transportation options for the middle class are very limited.  A typical worker, in these “other” cities, has to make a herculean effort to utilize the meager public transportation options available.  More often than not this involves driving to a bus terminal or train station, taking a train/bus to another terminal/station, transferring to different buses/trains, and then finally walking some distance to you ultimate destination.  No matter how much you might believe that this is the best thing to do for your community, it takes a heroic effort to keep up such a regimen for any length of time.  This is even more so the case when you don’t work in a job where you clock in at 9 and clock out at 5 everyday, but have a “flexible” schedule, dream of consistent only 8 hour days, and hope every so often to actually be able to go home and have dinner with your family.

I envision that a “personal/public transportation” system would consist of a fleet of autonomous vehicles (passenger cars / not buses) where a rider would schedule a pick-up similar to how we arrange for a taxi.  The primary difference being that the vehicle wouldn’t have a driver and could use bus lanes.  This is, I think, the more immediate future of “driverless” vehicles IMHO.

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I Know This Won’t Happen, But…

Posted by Smokimus on October 4, 2013

With the recent discussion in WoW about “button bloat” from the Crabby One, I have a suggestion –

Replace the current spells / talent system in WoW with the Diablo 3 system.

In D3 your character gains new active skills or passive abilities every level for its 60 levels, but you can only have six active skills and three passive abilities at a time.  This allows for a sense of progression while leveling as new skills/abilities become available during the process, but doesn’t overwhelm the player with a ridiculous amount of abilities that have to be dealt with during combat.

That you should have to utilize macros or special equipment in order to maximize your character’s functionality is silly, at best.  This is particularly the case when accounting for the fact that the in game information available on how to utilize macros is “limited”; and were you new to the game, there is no way you could know that special equipment is needed to truly play your character to its full potential.

Here is how I think such a system would work:

  • Every level a new skill or ability would become available for your character to use.
  • These would be noted as being Damage, Healing, Tanking items (removing the need to choose a specialization)
  • And could be changed anytime, as long as you aren’t in combat.

This would simplify the choices that need to be made while in combat while allowing a deeper range of spells and passive abilities than are currently in the game.

This would also allow the possibility that every class could be a hybrid, but limiting the opportunity for a class to effectively do two jobs (DPS, Heal, Tank) too well at the same time. (The full toolbox of any given role would require the utilization of all of the available active skills for that role to be fully effective.)

I know this is simplistic and I know that there would be a huge outcry from the “old timers” about how the game is being “dumbed down” for the unwashed masses.  I, however, do think that there could be a great many benefits for such a move.

What say you?

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What Happens to All the People ?

Posted by Smokimus on August 9, 2013

This post will have little/nothing to do with gaming or WoW. I’ve been thinking about this issue for awhile and this is as good a place as any to get these thoughts out of my head.

What is going to happen to all of the people displaced from “productive society” with our continuing technological advances?

I had been thinking about this issue before and then I read this article.

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/

In the western world, we seem to be in an era of redefinition where the traditional measures of individual and community success are becoming less and less valuable. Yet, the impact of some of the conditions that are being measured can be profound. Specifically, I’m thinking about – unemployment. For most of the western world (North America and Europe), we seem to be on a path of accepting that double digit unemployment rates are the “new normal”.

I’m concerned that this may in fact be the case.

Many jobs that were done by human laborers in the past are being done with many fewer people, thanks to tremendous technological advances made over the past 150 years. Previously, there had been a pattern of displacement, caused by a technological advance, followed by a readjustment and economic growth. Think of the transition from horses being the primary form of non-people powered transportation to trains and automobiles, as being the primary way to move people from one destination to the next. Certainly, the auto industry produced 1000s of additional jobs compared to the jobs lost by people who made a living from horses.

This pattern of displacement and readjustment, where the technological advance ultimately produces more jobs/economic growth than what it is replacing may be slowing down even though the pace of technological change is accelerating. I think this is part of the answer to the economic growth we are seeing in the west while unemployment rates remain historically high.

If this is the new normal, how is society supposed to accommodate what may be a class of permanent unemployed/underemployed?

I believe that almost everyone has the ability to add value to their community, but what is supposed to happen when the special skill a person has isn’t valued by their community? What happens to the ditch digger when their community doesn’t need a ditch digger? What happens to attorneys/doctors with specialties that aren’t needed anymore?

Do you hang your hat on retraining these individuals as they come? Do you force these people to relocate? I’m not sure these are viable solutions in a situation where you have more and more people competing for fewer and fewer jobs.

I do think that part of the solution will be the redefinition of “productive” in the context individual contributions to a community. We will need to have a larger discussion on what we value and how that value is rewarded.

As an aside, the concept that one must work 40 hours per week to be fully productive is a relic of the Industrial Age that is in some need of adjustment. For many jobs, the idea that you can measure the value of the work done by the time it takes to do it is absurd.

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Who Needs LFR?

Posted by Smokimus on June 20, 2013

With the announcements of virtual realms and flex raiding, it seems to me that the WoW developers may be setting us up for a replacement for LFR. These two new features, if they work well, when considered together create an environment that may be similar to what we saw in the “Wrath” days, with an active 25 person pugging environment, but without the potential for loot drama.

Here is my thought process:

First, I don’t think that they want to have 3 different lockouts. This would go against the development path that they’ve charted since Cataclysm. There is a certain portion of the player base that would feel compelled to raid all three lockouts every week (LFR, Flex, and Normal/Heroic). This would lead to burnout by a good portion of this group, which would lead to a continuing decline in subscriptions. I’m sure that the powers that be would not want that. So one must go, and I think that one would likely be LFR. This is the raiding structure that is experiencing the most “toxic” player behavior.

Second, as I understand it, characters will be able group and join guilds across these virtual realms. This will allow guilds that are struggling to fill their normal raiding slots a larger pool of people to access and thereby have a greater possibility of completing their raids in guild groups.

Finally, when you combine these two systems you have an environment where you are going to be able to form pug raids from your own server and across your virtual realm that has the real potential to bring back some of that community feeling that seemed to be lost with the introduction of dungeon and raid finder.

Who knows Blizzard consistently finds ways to surprise us.

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4.3s Early Holiday Presents

Posted by Smokimus on December 23, 2011

Patch 4.3 has provided nothing but goodness to Azeroth:

  • Raid Finder- It’s all win. Yes, it is essentially a 25 person heroic dungeon and that is what it is designed to be. It is a way for almost any character to experience the end game content and upgrade their gear. It has allowed the guild that I’m in to experience raiding content for the first time since January and have a much better experience doing so.
  • Transmogrification
    – Again, this is all win. If you don’t like the way a new armor set looks you are free to find one that better suits your tastes. Except for some minor interface hiccups, I can think of nothing but positive things coming from this.
  • End Time, Well of Eternity, Hour of Twilight – These are the dungeons you are looking for. The 4.3 dungeons are what the rest of Cataclysm dungeons should have been. They are quick and easy loot piñatas that I don’t mind running over and over on multiple alts.
  • Dragon Soul
    – I’m sure it’s nice. I’ve heard a few good things about it and most of the complaints are that it is too easy. I won’t likely be able to experience the normal or heroic versions. I like the RF version and I hope that those people who want a challenge are able to find it in the heroic versions of the raid. Hard core raiders are people too.
  • Darkmoon Faire – New mounts, pets, and cosmetic gear. Fun games and a new set-up that allows you to do the faire one week of every month. Only improvement that I would make is to speed up the acquisition of tickets.

Patch 4.3 was clearly the most content of the expansion and all of it has been excellent thus far. I only hope that Mists comes out before next fall.

What say you?

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Let’s Get Squishy

Posted by Smokimus on November 21, 2011

In a recent Developer Blog, Ghost Crawler discussed the issue of item/number inflation.  The problem being that, if things keep going the way they are, the numbers will very soon get to be so large that player stats will get to be ridiculous and particularly dps numbers will get to be so large as their display will take up a good chunk of our screen space.  They suggested two possible solutions “Mega Damage” and “Item Level Squish”.

I would prefer that they do the item level squish.  However, I would prefer they do it in a very specific way.

I want them to provide a steady upward sloping of ilevels in a manner that allows a character to be able to progress from expansion to expansion without the need to have heroic dungeon/raid gear.  By this, I mean that a character should be able to go from Northrend to Mount Hyjal/Vashj’ir as a fresh 80 without ilevel 270-280 gear.  They should be able to go to the new zone of the expansion in the quest gear from the prior expansion.  This flattens the gear curve (reducing the gear inflation from expansion), this makes having raid gear from the prior expansion last a good deal longer (IMO – if you are in full heroic raid gear from the past expansion, you should be able to run heroics at the “end game” of the current expansion.  If you are a heroic raider, you don’t want to trash the gear you worked hard for in the first zone of the new expansion.  Also, you aren’t likely leveling your toon because you enjoy the process.  You are leveling because you want to participate in the new expansion’s raids.  The gear from raiding should be meaningful for much longer than it is currently.), this allows alts that come up later in an expansion to effectively run current leveling content without being smashed in the first few levels while they are gearing up on quest greens.

What say you?

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Looking Into My Chrystal Ball

Posted by Smokimus on October 18, 2011

Blizz-Con is upon us; here is what will happen –

  • WoW Expansion Announcement – Looking forward level 90 drunken monkish pandas next summer.
    • New Class – Monk, will be a hybrid class that performs all three traditional roles.
    • Playable Pandas – Belly Bump racial.
    • Scalable Instances – Adjusting character traits to be appropriate for dungeon level.
    • Dance Studio! – Really! … No, not really.
  • Diablo III – Hit’n it in Sanctuary come January 2012.
    • FYI – Witch Doctors will be the most played class at release because they are awesome.
  • Starcraft II – Expansion coming holiday season 2012. Get your Zerg on.
  • Titan – Nothing to see here…Move along.
  • iOS/Android Games – They will announce games that tie into their current IPs that will be playable on iPhone/iPad and Android devices.
    • This could be where we really see pandas, but I hope not.

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Back Again

Posted by Smokimus on September 23, 2011

Welcome back

Rift was your ticket out

Welcome back

To the WoW that you laughed about

Some of the names have changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

Yeah we will tease you a lot cause we’ve got you on the spot,

Welcome back,
Welcome back, Welcome back, Welcome back.

 

It has been a few months since I’ve posted, but I have not gone away.  I’ve just been working and playing when I’ve had the chance.  There has been a tremendous amount that has been happening in game since I last posted.

  • Patch 4.1 – The Zul’Roics as I’ve heard them referred to and the Call to Arms (rewards for underrepresented roles in LFD).  There wasn’t much for me in this patch as I’ve pretty much held to my “no pugging” policy.  I will do heroics with guild groups, but pugging in the current environment isn’t fun.  When this patch came out, my guild was down to very few active players.  I made one attempt at a Zul’Roic with a couple of guildies and that was enough to convince me that I wasn’t going back until a full guild group was possible.  I did do the lead in quests and those were painless with a nice pet at the end of them.  A little discussed feature of this patch was the return of portals to Stormwind and Orgrimmar from the main cities of the previous expansions.  This was a very nice quality of life adjustment for alts running through BC and Wrath content.
  • Children’s Week and Midsummer Fire Festival  – New pets for CW and a re-tuned boss for MFF.  Nothing to see hear…Move along.
  • Patch 4.2 – Rage of the Firelands – New daily quest hub and raid.  I’ve enjoyed the daily quests and the ability to get upgraded gear.  Yes, this is a new grind, but what else are you going to do with your time if you don’t raid.  I’ve completed the area on 3 toons (Smokimus, Macination, Mcfromage) and will work on the others as time permits.
  • Two New 85s – Mcfromage (Mage) and Mctotemus (Shaman) that makes 6 85s on my main server.
  • Back to Heroics – With a stable of 85s that need gear, I was back to heroics.  Mostly with guild groups as some of the players who took a break have started coming back.  I have pugged some heroics as the need for gear upgrades has made the acquisition of chaos orbs important again.  I’ve been willing to sacrifice some enjoyment for the sake of getting my alts up to speed with crafted epics.

 

What have you been up to?

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I Like Being OP…Yeah You Know Me

Posted by Smokimus on April 21, 2011

I haven’t pugged a heroic since first hitting 85 and I don’t anticipate doing so at any point in the near future. I believe that the vast bulk of the community has the same sentiment and this is the major reason for the incoming tank bribery (aka – Call to Arms).

I don’t believe that the Call to Arms is going to have any long-term effect on que times, which is of course the reason for the bribe. Tanks are not going to line up for the rewards because they aren’t enough to compensate for the level of effort/trauma that is required to lead a pug. I know that, although I have a tank spec, I’m not up to the challenge as the dungeons are currently structured.

I do think that it was a noble experiment for Blizzard to try and ratchet up the difficulty of the Cataclysm dungeons. But as they say – “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” The current majority of players (I count myself in this group) would rather steamroll content than to struggle with 2+ hour dungeon runs that they may or may not finish.

I have a limited amount of time each day. I might be able to squeeze in two hours in the evening, but that really starts to stretch it for me during the work week. I just don’t have the time or desire to beat my head against the wall and struggle with a group of complete strangers (some of whom are utter ass-hats) to finish a dungeon run. My time in game is supposed to be fun, not torture.

In my mind, the 20-30 minute heroic runs of Wrath were perfect and I don’t give one rats butt that some people thought this was too easy and allowed the (/sneer) casuals to get gear that they didn’t “earn”. Being OP is fun. Being under powered blows.

All of this is compounded by the growing frustration that many are feeling with the game. “If you don’t want to pug, then run with guild groups.” I would love to be able to do this. We had gotten very proficient with all of the current heroics; however, our members have stopped logging in. Many of them wanted to focus on their main characters in this expansion and did so quite effectively for the first couple of months, but we hit a wall. In Wrath, we had two 10 man groups in ICC and due to a variety of reasons those raiders have left the game or the guild. We could not consistently field one 10 man team and that was the end for many of the people that I’ve been playing with for more than two years.

I don’t think my guild experience is at all unique and I’m very concerned that this is happening all over the greater WoW community. I believe Blizzard is trying what they think is appropriate to start alleviating this problem, but I’m not sure that this is enough and I’m not sure that it is happing fast enough. I know too many people who are leaving and I don’t think many of them will ever come back.

That’s all fine and good Smoke, but how would you address the issue?

  • Bring Back That OP Feeling – Nerf the current heroic dungeons to the absolute floor. Can a well geared and coordinated group tear through them as they are now? Yes, but that isn’t the point. A group that consists of people with the minimum gear requirement to get in the dungeons and little/no communication (Nobody in their right mind is going to spend any significant time typing in directions into party chat. If it can’t be said in 10 words or less, it isn’t going to be said) can wipe on every other trash pull in some of these and that isn’t going to encourage them to do them again. Nerfing the dungeons speeds up the runs and increases my ability to tolerate the aforementioned ass-hats.
  • Speed Up Content Release – Blizzard, your community managers and developers indicated, when it was announced that patch 4.1 wasn’t going to have a new raid tier, that you were planning on doing more frequent and less bulky content patches. Well that was some time ago and we haven’t received that new content yet. I have to believe that Blizzard is seeing the subscription numbers drop and speeding up content release is one of the only ways to get people to continue their subscriptions. If you know that you are going to have to wait 2 months to see anything new, why would you pay for those 2 months? You could save $30 bucks and re-sub when the new content comes out.

What say you?

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