Archive for the 'Thoughts which did not fit into the comment box' Category

01
Mar
10

shattering china

Hello everyone.

This post is somewhat special. Why ? Because i once promised myself i would not carry things out here, but instead try to resolve things with the people involved in private, and thus spare myself, and them, the public dissection of things done, said, not done and not said.

But in this case, the incident™ carries implications which range further than i can currently foresee, and discussing them in private is something which for various reasons does not seem to work. So, instead of just mulling it over in my brain, i decided to put it out here for everyone to read. (Everyone who cares to, that is).

So, everyone who does not care for this sort of blog post, feel free to go here, here or here for some less troublesome and more WoW related content.

There – that is out of the way. There is one more little disclaimer, which i need in order to protect the little sanity i have left (or perhaps not that little). In the remainder of the post, i will refrain from naming people. I will refrain from describing the incident™ in any more detail than needed. Because, in the end the incident itself does not matter. What matters is how people dealt with it, and what the end result was. (And no, i am far from happy with the result)

Right – now that that is out of the way, let me lay out the facts.

  • SomethingBad™ happened.
  • RandomBloogerOne™ decided to blog about it.
  • Some people involved in SomethingBad™ read it. Some commented, some did not. (actually, most did not)
  • RandomBloogerOne™ decided to blog about it some  more.
  • Some more people involved noticed it, together with APossiblyGuiltyParty™, who was rather irritated at the posts, and at what they said about them.
  • There is some discussion about the incident™ in the guild forums. And it is more a discussion than a flame war, because despite what many people may assume (considering we are talking about an online game here), most of the people involved were actually rather mature and sensible human beings. (disclaimer – perhaps some are not, but in that case, they all did very well at trying to appear sensible)
  • Things seem to have resolved themselves. At least as far as the incident™ is concerned. What is left is to see what is needed to repair whatever was broken during the discussion. Fortunately, the number of inexcusable outbursts and the amount of foolish name-calling was kept to a minimum, so for people viewing this from the outside (me), things seem mendable.

So far, so good. Now enter stage 2.

  • RandomBloogerOne™ decides that something like this should not be, and should not happen. They in turn follow that decision up with leaving the people involved.
  • The Rest™ is standing around, wondering what the hell is going on. Some say friendly good-bye’s, some ask RandomBloogerOne™ to get back, as things are resolved, and some simply stare at all the shattered things on the ground, wondering.
  • A bit later, an explanation appears as to some of the reasoning behind the decision. It also exposes just how far RandomBloogerOne™ has taken it, and how difficult taking those steps has been.
  • Again, many read the explanation. Again, few comment. And no, i did not comment myself. Instead, i sat down pondering what to do, and what you now read is the result.

And that is where things lie now. Considering that i am writing this post, it should be obvious that i am anything but happy with the situation. But the reasoning may not be. And in the end, this post has very little to do with any attempt to change anyones mind – i know i do not have the words (or whatever else is needed) to do that. It has to do with a few basic assumptions which lie underneath the decision, and which i consider dangerously flawed.

Dangerously flawed, because they make a decision seem sensible which really does not at all address the core issue behind the problem, and which in the end causes a lot more unhappiness than several other options.

But i get ahead of myself.

If i understand the reasoning correctly, one basic assumption is that

  • If you blog, you step on peoples toes (sooner or later you will). And if you blog with a certain tone, and in a certain way, you step on more peoples toes.

I would say that this assumption is true. And anyone blogging should be aware of that. It is all but impossible to write good blog posts without being at least a little judgemental in what you write. And that always carries the risk of stepping on peoples toes.

There is another assumption related to that.

  • If you blog about people around you, those people may not like it. Their friends may not like it, and thus may not like you since you wrote those ugly blog posts.

This, also, is a rather sensible assumption. It means that people will judge you based on your blog posts. And sometimes, you may not like how they read your posts, and have to deal with the echo which comes from that.

Now, based on those two assumptions, it would seem reasonable to say

  • Anonymity is your friend. If none know who you are, then there is little risk of stepping on people’s toes, or writing ugly blog posts which can be traced back to you.

At first glance, this indeed does seem reasonable. At second glance, this unfortunately reminds (at least me) of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckward Theory

Before anyone jumps onto this – no, I do NOT think that the idea behind the decision is to be allowed to become a “total fuckward”.  Still, what is the anonymity needed for, if not for the saying (or writing) something which you perhaps would not write if you were not anonymous ?

So, how about another deduction from the assumptions above ?

  • Being a blogger who is also part of a group requires that all posts are checked against who from that group will be offended. The result of this check can (but does not have to) require modification of a post

This also seems to make sense. And it is actually part of my own blogging routine. I try to blog in a way that does not needlessly step on peoples toes. The keyword there, though, is needlessly. I am sure i have stepped on several toes already, and most likely will again.

Actually, this post had a hard time getting past the deduction above. But in the end, i decided that the need to write the post outweighed the risk of antagonizing people with it. And i decided that i rather deal with angry comments than keep all this bottled up. But back to the actual post.

Looking through blog posts, and blog post comments, there is a huge number of fanboy/fangirl posts, which contain sentences like “i would love to be part of that” or “wouldnt an all blogger guild be fun” and the like. This is not limited to specific blogs, or specific persons. No, most reputable blogs had a number of like comments from a number of readers. So, based on that, i would conclude that

  • Blog readers like (or think they do) to know who is doing the blogging, and are willing to go through some length to actually become “available” to a blogger.

Oddly enough, this contradicts the deduction of anonymity above. Also, again reading through various blogs – it seems that the more successful ones are ones where people can relate to the person blogging. It would be the absolute opposite of anonymity. (Ok, Snottydin may be seen as a counterpoint to this theory, but in this case, i claim that snottidyn is more satire than blog, and hence the rules do not fully apply)

Also, many blogs have a number of followers who read it simply because they can relate to the stories, and know what is written about, not just for the witty comments and funny jokes.

And there is where, in my eyes, the dangers lie, and why i consider the reasoning dangerously flawed.

Yes, it is difficult to be a blogger and be part of a group. Yes, it does require quite a lot of care to not accidentally damage the group with a badly written blog post. And even with the good posts, there is a certain risk for group drama to occur once the posts are made. But in most cases, this drama can easily averted without resorting to censorship on the blog posts. Sometimes, all it requires is to first speak with people, and then write a post.

Yes, it may lead to a few posts not being written, or rather, being written in a different manner. And it may lead to a few dryer posts, because many people just love to read about drama, as long as they are not personally involved. And it may lead to a different way of dealing with problems. But all that does not make for less good a blogger, or less good a person. I would even go as far as to say it leads to the opposite.

I apologize if this sounds spiteful, but to me, moving into anonymity is like running away. Yes, it will help in the short run, but in the long run, you still need to face whatever you ran from, or you will run into its relatives again. Alternatively, charting a course which allows you to stay clear of any like situations will ultimately force you to limit yourself, and in turn take more from you than what it would have cost to stay and try to mend the situation.

So.. what is the bottom line ?

Being a blogger means that sometimes you shatter things. Shattering illusions seems like fun. Shattering china seems like a waste. Both will happen. Being a blogger means that you have the responsibility of dealing with that. And dealing with it is definately not always easy. But dealing with it by running away, leaving others to stare at the spot you just vacated, wondering what he hell just happened is

  1. taking the easy way out.
  2. unfair.
  3. just plain wrong.
16
Feb
10

Clicked

Looking back at the last few weeks, there was one thing which has been nagging at me. But, thinking about it, I had to realize that I too am part of this problem.

What I am talking about is pushing people into classifications, and the resulting cliques which form. If you read Tamarinds post, and some of the comments, you should see what i mean. In the end, there are two things. One is the use of The Felchers to describe a group of people. Now, this may be a completely correct description for a number of people, but unfortunately, it also includes an evaluation – a negative one, in this case. Negative in two ways – none should want to be member of this group, and the members of this group are not considered friends.

The other is the topic of cliques. And as i wrote in a comment to his post, i do think it is almost inevitable that cliques will form. And it is not necessarily a bad thing. Any larger group of people will consist of a number of smaller cliques of friends who hang out and talk about things. People tend to move towards those with similar / the same interests, and it is not unusual that there are some in your group to whom you have little contact. I see little wrong with that. Quite the contrary – by demanding that a group is homogenous across its members, the group’s size and diversity is severely limited. That, in my eyes, is a bad thing. After all,for example in discussions, it is usual the controversial points which give the best results. When everyone agrees, the discussion often turns very short. And i do believe the same to be true in a guild. Yes, it does need a common ground, and a set of rules, but built on that ground and kept within the rules, diversity is a good thing. Here, i would like to quote a line from one of the comments :

… The problem comes when the cliques start polarizing so people feel unwelcome, or as your example above, excluded on the grounds they belong to another group. …

That is what lies at the bottom of this, really. People feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome – that is rarely good for a group.

Now, I would be claiming to be a better person than I am if i didn’t admit that there have been people whom I thought had no place in the guild I am in. Fortunately, this is not my decision to make, because my views are not necessarily right, and not necessarily what is best for the guild as a whole. I have been in such a situation before (being an officer in a guild, responsible for getting new people in), and it is not something I want nowadays. Therefore, I am left with two main options when something like that happens. I can accept that said person is part of the guild, and stay because I want to stay with the rest of the guild, or i can decide that it is really unacceptable – and leave. The often perceived third option – trying to convince the guild that this person really is not good for them – that is in my eyes invalid.

Unfortunately, things do not end here. If we take a closer look at the event which Tamarind mentioned, things get very difficult. Just to make things easier for me, i will proceed with calling said person “Max”. Taking a big step back, there were a number of reasons which spoke for inviting Max into the raid. On the other hand, there were several (valid) reasons not to. Unfortunately, there was also the ‘clique’ issue. So, whichever decision was taken, it was in any case tainted by the fact that the clique issue exists.

This makes things doubly dangerous. One reason, obviously, being that only one person knows (or should know) exactly why a specific decision was taken. And looking in from the outside, it is extremely hard to judge if this one issue had any bearing on the final decision or not. Now, I said should know, because more often than not, some gut feeling decisions are based on feelings which even the person deciding does not fully comprehend at that time. And again, I too am not exempt from this, both on the decision-making side and on the side that questions the reasoning behind certain decisions.

So, what is the bottom line of this ? For me, there are three important things.

  1. I need to stop thinking of people as part of a group or category. Throwing Max in with The Felchers (rightfully or not) is a bad thing. Because when I do, i judge his possible behavior based on the group’s reputation.
  2. I need to get better with judging people based on their actual behavior. I doubt if anyone would begrudge me if I do not invite Random Person A into my raid, simply because i know he is prone to long, unannounced afk and sudden bouts of disappearing, and has done so with me before (Although, even in this case it might be The Right Thing™ to do to tell him ‘you can come, but…’)
  3. I need to give people the benefit of the doubt that their decisions are based on reasons which are free of favouritism and unconnected to any clique effect. Especially when my mood is already not too good. As I wrote in a previous post – WoW is like a mirror – you get out of it what you put in.

Heeding these three things should help improve things greatly. Both for me and for the guild. And that should be well worth it.

19
Jan
10

the lost challenge

Good afternoon everyone.

This is a post for the new category of “what did not fit into the comment box”. It is (like the upcoming posts in this category) triggered by things found in various other blogs which have me tempted to write lengthy comments which few people will read.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk on how Blizzard is nerfing the lower tier content to become easier. Take, for example, this post on some plans to streamline current Wrath heroics. (or this more satirical version, which unfortunately may yet become reality). It points to a constant theme: Existing content will be made easier, and less time consuming to complete. And most comments have been less than happy with these plans. Alternatively, you can take a look here, for a bit more in depth view on what is/has been done.

There is a recurring theme to this. Blizzard is lowering requirements for people to get ready to experience the current tier’s content. And they are doing it on a larger scale than before. It has been the case with most raid instances that once the next tier content was out, access to and requirement for the existing content was lowered (Karazhan, Molten Core or Blackwing Lair anyone ?). But while running through older content was once a requirement to gear up, this has now become neglectable. People no longer need to fight through Ulduar (or force themselves to endure TotC) to obtain what is needed to enter Icecrown Citadel. No, they can now get 98% ready by simply running these “streamlined” heroic instances. And they do this. And while they do this, complaints about “irritating mechanics” and “stupid encounters” pop up in the official forums.

Some of us (that is the people who have fought our way up the “difficult” path when some of the now nerfed content was actually shiny and new) feel that the game is being dumbed down. And i would agree to this. Making things easier does usually give this impression. But if i look at the current content, the challenges are still there. And there, Blizzard seems intent on bringing challenging encounters for people to fight through. So is it really the plan to simply make the game easier ? Somehow, i doubt it.

Yes, Blizzard is making it easier to reach a level where people can experience the current content. And in a way, this is successful and needed. It was not so long ago when i read a post in a blog (sorry, i no longer have the link) where someone complained that their alt was forced to “experience Northrend content without being able to fly past” simply because cold weather flying was not available before lvl 78. Now, this limitation has been lifted somewhat, but people still need to have one character who obtained the book the normal way before just buying their way out. Isn’t this also making things easier ?

I have my very own view on this. And to a large degree, it is based on my experience trying to level up just weeks after Burning Crusade was released. It was.. strange. I would not say it was difficult – it really was not. It was more difficult than it is now, and definately more time consuming. But it was not really a challenge – with one notable exception.

Getting a normal instance run through Razorfen Kaul, Uldaman, Maraudon or Zul’Farrak was next to impossible. Even accessible and comparably fun (and easily accessible) places like the Scarlet Monastery cathedral required hours of waiting for a group to be found. And more often than not, someone in the group would get bored and call in one of their lvl 70 friends to boost the group through. By the time i was ready for places like Dire Maul, Scholomance, Stratholme or Blackrock Depth and Spire, i had already given up on experiencing “the challenge™” in the old world. So, in all honesty, i did not learn to play my character well before hitting the outland instances. And even there, it was more like breezing through with the help of some high level firepower than trying to do things right.

Now with Wrath of the Lich King out, with 10 more levels, and a whole new bag of instances and heroic instances to hone your skills, things have gotten even worse with that regard – which in the end leaves Blizzard with huge areas of the game which are used by a small percentage of the playerbase. Nowadays, you can actually do a /who insert_name_of_non_wrath_instance_here and be hit with less than 50 names. And if you select the right instance name, you will most likely find.. none. Like the day i was working through Dire Maul for my own achievement. Every once in a while i would check who else was there, only to find that my poor paladin was the only character on the server to be stuck in Dire Maul.

Why is that so ? Or rather, why is it so now, while it was different when the server was younger ? Apparently, most people want to experience the game where it is fresh and new – and that, truth to be told – can only be done with a character at level 80 with a certain minimum gear requirement. So most people will try to reach that state – as fast as humanly possible. And while doing that, most people will try to circumvent whatever is percieved to slow down the path.

Why is it that even after the nerf, 9 out of 10 times when Occulus is the random dungeon, the group will find themselves one member short ? Why is it that more and more groups choose to not fight certain bosses, despite them loosing badges over it ? In my eyes, it is simply because in the end, they feel it is more beneficial to just race on past that content, in order to reach the shiny goal of being lvl 80 and entering Icecrown Citadel.

So, in all honesty, what Blizzard is doing (or intending to do) is what the majority of their subscribers want – if they are willing to admit it or not. I would bet that some who posted their disdain on the discussed heroic changes will actually come to appreciate them when they want to quickly get an alt up to the raiding requirements.

If we look ahead towards Cataclysm, which undoubtedly will bring new levels, and new challenges, we will see that more of the old places will be either removed (see the old naxxramas, which i would have loved to see before it flew off to Northrend), reworked (see Onyxia), or simply forgotten.

Does that mean the challenges which Ercles is mourning have passed ? No. They are still there. They may not be the same challenges as people remember, but they still exist. And it is up to us to find them. Each and every one of us who complains that things have gotten just that much easier. Noone forces us to take the easy path. It is still possible to gather a group of friends and hit Zul’Farrak to experience the stairs event anew. And it will be just as challenging, if you choose your friends well.

In the end, there are a few things which i consider sad.

Streamlining content will cause people with less skill run into challenges which are meant for people who know what they are doing. They will have a much steeper learning curve than would be necessary, if the current heroic instances had retained their difficulty. That is, if they had not chosen to pass them by anyhow.

Streamlining content causes people to miss out on some fantastic quest lines and story arcs, and as odd as it sounds, it makes the game just so much more difficult for the genuine new players. Not because the game itself is more difficult, but because it is even less likely to find characters which share both the level bracket and the leveling speed. Which makes people loose out on the fun the lower 70 levels can offer, if you share them with people who progress at a similar pace.

So – i challenge you. All of you. I challenge you to find your own challenges in the old content. And to complete them. Alone, or preferably with friends. The challenge is not lost. You just need to remember that it is where you find it.

– oh.. and of course, i would not mind to read about it, too.