Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ahh MMO's and the junkie in all of us.

This is an interesting article that was pointed out to me and it rings true in so many ways.

5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted

By David Wong Mar 08, 2010 2,607,035 views
article image
So, the headlines say somebody else has died due to video game addiction. Yes, it's Korea again.
What the hell? Look, I'm not saying video games are heroin. I totally get that the victims had other shit going on in their lives. But, half of you reading this know a World of Warcraft addict and experts say video game addiction is a thing. So here's the big question: Are some games intentionally designed to keep you compulsively playing, even when you're not enjoying it?
Oh, hell yes. And their methods are downright creepy.
Putting You in a Skinner Box
If you've ever been addicted to a game or known someone who was, this article is really freaking disturbing. It's written by a games researcher at Microsoft on how to make video games that hook players, whether they like it or not. He has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences. Quote:
"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."
Notice his article does not contain the words "fun" or "enjoyment." That's not his field. Instead it's "the pattern of activity you want."

"...at this point, younger gamers will raise their arms above their head, leaving them vulnerable."
His theories are based around the work of BF Skinner, who discovered you could control behavior by training subjects with simple stimulus and reward. He invented the "Skinner Box," a cage containing a small animal that, for instance, presses a lever to get food pellets. Now, I'm not saying this guy at Microsoft sees gamers as a bunch of rats in a Skinner box. I'm just saying that he illustrates his theory of game design using pictures of rats in a Skinner box.
This sort of thing caused games researcher Nick Yee to once call Everquest a "Virtual Skinner Box."
So What's The Problem?
Gaming has changed. It used to be that once they sold us a $50 game, they didn't particularly care how long we played. The big thing was making sure we liked it enough to buy the next one. But the industry is moving toward subscription-based games like MMO's that need the subject to keep playing--and paying--until the sun goes supernova.
Now, there's no way they can create enough exploration or story to keep you playing for thousands of hours, so they had to change the mechanics of the game, so players would instead keep doing the same actions over and over and over, whether they liked it or not. So game developers turned to Skinner's techniques.
This is a big source of controversy in the world of game design right now. Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanics are a form of "exploitation." It's not that these games can't be fun. But they're designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it's not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner's manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.
Why would this work, when the "rewards" are just digital objects that don't actually exist? Well...
Creating Virtual Food Pellets For You To Eat
Most addiction-based game elements are based on this fact:
Your brain treats items and goods in the video game world as if they are real. Because they are.
People scoff at this idea all the time ("You spent all that time working for a sword that doesn't even exist?") and those people are stupid. If it takes time, effort and skill to obtain an item, that item has value, whether it's made of diamonds, binary code or beef jerky.

I have easily 500 hours in Zelda bottles.
That's why the highest court in South Korea ruled that virtual goods are to be legally treated the same as real goods. And virtual goods are now a $5 billion industry worldwide.
There's nothing crazy about it. After all, people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs. In both cases you're paying for an idea.

Happy anniversary, honey.
So What's The Problem?
Of course, virtually every game of the last 25 years has included items you can collect in the course of defeating the game--there's nothing new or evil about that. But because gamers regard in-game items as real and valuable on their own, addiction-based games send you running around endlessly collecting them even if they have nothing to do with the game's objective.
It is very much intentional on the developers' part, an appeal to our natural hoarding and gathering instincts, collecting for the sake of collecting. It works, too, just ask the guy who kept collecting items even while naked boobies sat just feet away. Boobies.
As the article from the Microsoft guy proves, developers know they're using these objects as pellets in a Skinner box. At that point it's all about...
Making You Press the Lever
So picture the rat in his box. Or, since I'm one of these gamers and don't like to think of myself as a rat, picture an adorable hamster. Maybe he can talk, and is voiced by Chris Rock.
If you want to make him press the lever as fast as possible, how would you do it? Not by giving him a pellet with every press--he'll soon relax, knowing the pellets are there when he needs them. No, the best way is to set up the machine so that it drops the pellets at random intervals of lever pressing. He'll soon start pumping that thing as fast as he can. Experiments prove it.

See? Proof.
They call these "Variable Ratio Rewards" in Skinner land and this is the reason many enemies "drop" valuable items totally at random in WoW. This is addictive in exactly the same way a slot machine is addictive. You can't quit now because the very next one could be a winner. Or the next. Or the next.

"Holy shit! We almost won."
The Chinese MMO ZT Online has the most devious implementation of this I've ever seen. The game is full of these treasure chests that may or may not contain a random item and to open them, you need a key. How do you get the keys? Why, you buy them with real-world money, of course. Like coins in a slot machine.
Wait, that's not the best part. ZT Online does something even the casinos never dreamed up: They award a special item at the end of the day to the player who opens the most chests.

And that's hardly the most ridiculous aspect of the game.
Now, in addition to the gambling element, you have thousands of players in competition with each other, to see who can be the most obsessive about opening the chests. One woman tells of how she spent her entire evening opening chests--over a thousand--to try to win the daily prize.
She didn't. There was always someone else more obsessed.
So What's The Problem?
Are you picturing her sitting there, watching her little character in front of the chest, clicking dialogue boxes over and over, watching the same animation over and over, for hour after hour?
If you didn't know any better, you'd think she had a crippling mental illness. How could she possibly get from her rational self to that Rain Man-esque compulsion?
BF Skinner knew. He called that training process "shaping." Little rewards, step by step, like links in a chain. In WoW you decide you want the super cool Tier 10 armor. You need five separate pieces. To get the full set, you need more than 400 Frost Emblems, which are earned a couple at a time, from certain enemies. Then you need to upgrade each piece of armor with Marks of Sanctification. Then again with Heroic Marks of Sanctification. To get all that you must re-run repetitive missions and sit, clicking your mouse, for days and days and days. Boobies be damned.
Once it gets to that point, can you even call that activity a "game" anymore? It's more like scratching a rash. And it gets worse...

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted_p1.html#ixzz12orr8h7j
Food for creepy thought,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Raid Testing Over the Weekend.

So the beta players get a chance to finally run at some of the new raid content. The videos for these encounters look interesting, but I don't want to look too close as I do enjoy figuring them out for the first time on my own.

This weekend and today has been kinda slow for new information. But as always there is the great MMO-Report that can be viewed along with the test raids at www.mmo-champion.com

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good and Bad News for me from Patch 4.01

Well the good news is that Feral Druid tanking is still pretty awesome! I do mourn the loss of spammable swipe aoe threat, but single target TPS has never been better. I did have a bit of a hard time finding the glyphs I wanted for my build on the AH, thankfully I have a good friend who is a scribe! If you have interest in Feral Combat Tanking here is my build.

Now on to the bad (at least for myself). Ret Paladin is currently in a sad shape. I have a moderately well geared pally (6k gearscore per the mod). I was able to produce about 8k dps on a target dummy, this is now down to a lowly 5k. I am hearing the same issues from all the retadins that I speak to. The new Holy Power mechanic that was introduced it interesting from a design stand point but seems clunky in delivery. They also stated that they wanted paladin to be less "face roll" but I found in my testing on live servers that I have no time to establish a real rotation as Holy Power generation seems far too "RNG" dependent. But Blizz has given a statement of good news to retadins and other classes that are feeling the burn of this patch.

Originally Posted by Ghostcrawler (Source)
We made many changes yesterday. A lot of these were bug fixes, and many bug fixes will affect damage one way or the other. So just because you don't see a specific change referenced below, doesn't mean it didn't change.

With that said, here are the specific changes we made in reference to my previous post:

1) We buffed the base points and coefficients of many warrior dps abilities. We didn't do as much to tanking abilities.

We buffed the base points and coefficients of many Ret abilities.

We buffed the base points and coefficients of many Feral cat abilities.

2) We lowered the base points and coefficients of many Mage abilities, but lowered Fire more than the other two.

3) We nerfed Shadow Word: Death, but it is possible we didn't nerf it enough. It should not be Shadow's biggest spell.

4) We returned Searing Pain's damage to its 3.3.5 levels.

5) We increased the benefit of resilience by 50% for players level 80 and below. The tooltips will probably not reflect this change.

We don't have any other changes to announce at this time. I am reluctant to mention additional classes or specs that we are looking at currently for fear of instilling excitement or panic. 
For those who are interested I will also provide my build for ret and see if I have missed anything.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No WoW til 4 pm PST..Huzzah!!!

Maintenance til 4 pm PST.. translation YAY!! It won't be up til I get home from work!

Oh Lord this is too awesome for words!!

Ok, so I am easily humored and I think this shares some interesting points of view from the female WoW Player point of view. I would warn however to any guy who wants to hook up with a WoW chick to make sure she isn't just looking for a hand out, be it gold or items.. don't fall into this trap. I say this only cause I can think of at least 10 girls in my day who openly admit they use being female as a weapon.. or even worse guys who use the same tools. Thanks to www.complex.com for this great fun article!

Mila Kunis is a well-documented WoW freak, as is our girl Maria. If you’re a WoW player, you may know her as Ophiralyn, a Level 80 hunter from the Mediocracy guild. If you’re not a WoW player, you just found your first reason to strap on a scabbard. And lucky for you, Maria was kind enough to lay out the path to a WoW girl’s Chamber of Moist Secrets (What? That’s a place in WoW! At least the way we envision it!), so take a few pointers, learn some lingo, and get ready to go looting in Vulveroth. (Again, people, IT’S A REAL PLACE IN WOW)…

1. Don't appear too eager or creepy
When she logs on, don’t immediately whisper1 her. You don’t want her to think that you’re just stealthing2 around waiting for her. Instead, wait a few minutes—she may even send YOU a tell3. If she doesn’t contact you, be casual about the way you approach her. If this is your first time whispering her, a good conversation starter is to ask her something about her class or where she got that shiny new sword.
2. Be helpful
If you’re a tank/healer and she’s DPS4, offer to tank/heal for her since she’ll most likely have trouble finding a group. If you have certain professions or abilities, offer them to her before she finds them elsewhere. Not only will she be eternally grateful for your help, but you can use this as an opportunity to show off your skills. /flex5
3. Keep your cool/cast Frost Resistance Aura6
Don’t constantly tell her “OMG you’re a girl and you play WoW??” or “you’re really good, for a girl.” Act as if her being a girl isn’t a big deal. If you are impressed that she’s a female WoW player, ask questions about what got her started or what aspects of the game she enjoys the most.
4. Don’t be afraid of getting creative
On my birthday one of my guy friends told me to follow him and not ask any questions. I followed, and we soon found ourselves on top of the highest hill in Nagrand7, surrounded by green grassy plains, a pink-channeled sky and waterfalls. He opened trade8 with me and gave me a box of chocolates and a bouquet of red roses. Moral of the story? Romantic gestures work, even if it’s virtual. Warning: Only use this move if you’ve been talking to her for a while. You don’t want to freak her out and have her hearth9 in the middle of your grand gesture.
5. Keep your e-peen in your pants
All the talk about how big your DPS is unbuffed10? Keep it to a minimum. You’ll have your chance to show how skilled you are. If you’re in a group and need another player, invite her along. Let her find out on her own that you are indeed a “show-er.”
6. Listen!
Whether we’re venting about how annoying this Death Knight11 was in ICC12 last night or what a hard day at work we had, listen and be understanding. If you’ve had similar experiences, share them with her. Soon enough she’ll discover just how much you have in common.
7. Not all of us are dirty Hordes13
If she initiates dirty talk, play along. But don’t think that this is your green light to ALWAYS talking dirty. Be creative and fun about it. Use in-game resources like the ever reliable /flirt emote, or lure her into one of the private rooms in Dalaran14. Let’s face it, Blizzard put those there for a reason; it would be a shame to let them go to waste.
8. Don’t be pushy
When you find out a player is a girl, don’t immediately ask her for a pic or to hop on Vent15 to prove it. We’re not here to prove ourselves to you; we’re here to enjoy the game and kick some ass. You’ll get her into Vent in due time. Here’s a hint on how to do it without seeming creepy; invite her to be a part of your Arena Team16 or a raid. All good players know that communication is part of a good team and part of that is using Vent. She won’t suspect a thing.
9. Role-playing is fun
Start things off subtly with a simple /wave or even a /hug. Wait for her to make the first move. Just make sure to use emotes with caution; you don’t want to make her flee with too much /love.
10. Tit for stats
With the game constantly changing, everyone can use some constructive criticism every now and again. If you’ve noticed that she’s outDPSing17 you, ask her what her stats are or what rotation18 she’s using. If she’s not doing something correctly, offer your advice. Sharing tips makes her notice that you’ve been noticing her. Just don’t be mean to her (even if she did stand in fire that one time).19
11. Be funny
Don’t be that douchebag in trade chat20 who still thinks linking spells after “anal” is funny. We all see you doing it and we’re ignoring you. 21 That’s not to say that girls don’t enjoy dirty jokes—just figure out her sense of humor and make her laugh. Girls love the funny guy, it shows confidence.
12. Ninja her heart, not her loot22
IRL23 ninjas are hot. In-game ones? Not so much. A bad reputation will follow you into the depths of Azeroth24. There’s prbably no quicker way of getting a girl to /ignore25 you than ninja-ing26 her loot. If you happen to have the bad-boy reputation and she doesn’t dig it, move on. It might seem like there aren’t many of us out there, but trust me: there’s a girl in Azeroth looking for someone who likes to cause a little trouble. /wink
13. Like the loading screen tip says, “a little kindness goes a long way.”
Sometimes it’s hard to not get caught up in all the childlike in-game behavior, so remember that the same tactics you used on girls when you were in grade school aren’t going to work anymore. Instead of acting like you don’t like her, compliment her on her Arena Team Stats or congratulate her on getting her hands on the BiS27 trinket.

Food for thought,

WoW Fan

Complex Clicks: Lil Wayne Placed In Solitary Confinement, Kanye Reveals Album Title, Hot Teachers & More LinksComplex Clicks: Lil Wayne Placed In Solitary Confinement, Kanye Reveals Album Title, Hot Teachers & More LinksWarcraft Wednesday: How to Pick Up Women in WoW5:22 pm | Wednesday, February 24th, 201Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and winter seems like it may never end. For the 3.5 million people playing World of Warcraft (and that’s just in the U.S.), though, it might just be the perfect time to plan a little guildy jumpoff. Okay, we have to admit we don’t even know what that last sentence meant. All we know is that there are millions of people who love the game, including some actual hot women—and we don’t just mean their avatar.

Glyph changes for 4.01

Glyphs get a full overhaul, check out this list of changes coming today!

In the upcoming 4.0.1 patch, we'll be introducing a major overhaul of the current glyph system. This update features a host of changes including the addition of a new glyph tier, the transition of glyphs from consumable items to permanent spells, and a more streamlined user interface.

In its Prime
Glyphs will now be separated into three different tiers: minor, major, and prime.
  • Prime - Prime glyphs will typically provide direct increases to damage or healing throughput. Examples of prime glyphs include Glyph of Howling Blast, which will cause the death knight ability Howling Blast to infect targets with Frost Fever, and Glyph of Insect Swarm, which increases the damage of druid's Insect Swarm ability by 30%.
  • Major - Major glyphs will typically augment spells and abilities to offer additional utility. Examples of major glyphs include Glyph of Silencing Shot, which will cause a hunter to instantly gain 10 focus when successfully silencing an enemy's spell cast, and Glyph of Ice Block, which will reset the cooldown on Frost Nova every time a mage uses Ice Block.
  • Minor - Minor glyphs will typically provide players with additional convenience or cosmetic changes. Examples of minor glyphs include Glyph of Righteousness which will reduce the mana cost of Seal of Righteousness for paladins by 50%, and Glyph of Levitate which will remove the reagent requirement for a priest's Levitate spell.

In total, there will be nine glyph slots: three minor, three major, and three prime. As players level, they will be able to progressively unlock "sets" of these slots in increments of three (one minor slot, one major slot, and one prime slot). The first set of glyph slots will be unlocked at level 25, the second at level 50, and the final at level 75.

Teach a Man to Glyph...
In addition to the glyph tier changes, glyphs will also be transitioning from single-use items to permanent spells that a player can learn. While the item from which a glyph will be taught will still be consumed on use, once a glyph is learned, a player will always have access to it. This functionality will feel very similar to the current mechanic that allows players to learn certain recipes and patterns from item drops.

Despite these changes, activating a glyph will more or less function as it does now. To activate a glyph, players will simply need to select the desired glyph from their list of known glyphs and then click on the appropriate tiered slot.

Dust to Dust
With the transition from single-use items to permanent spells, the process for switching activated glyphs has been slightly altered. Similar to activating a learned glyph, players will need to select the new glyph from their list of known glyphs and then "place" it on top of the old glyph. While this process will not destroy the old glyph as it does at present, it will require a new reagent, Dust of Disappearance, which can be purchased from Inscription vendors or be crafted by scribes.

As a precaution, the following dialogue will also appear before a glyph is exchanged:

Are you sure you want to inscribe this glyph? The existing glyph will be lost.

Cost: 1 Dust of Disappearance

Players will be given the opportunity to confirm the exchange or cancel out of it. Please note that the old glyph will not be permanently lost; it will simply be deactivated.

Gotta Catch'em All
To complement each of these changes, the glyph UI window has been completely redesigned. All glyphs will now be organized in the glyph panel according to their tier (minor, major, or prime) and, much like how class spells and abilities display in the trainer window, will be sortable by "Already Known," "Unavailable," and "All Glyphs" categories. Players will also be able to search for glyphs using keywords and results will populate under each corresponding collapsible tier.

To access the new glyph UI, players will need to open up the Talent pane (default: N) and then click on the "Glyphs" tab.

Monday, October 11, 2010

4.01 Blue Post Preview

 Here is the offical blue post preview of the "major" changes being made with this patch. Enjoy!
Originally Posted by Bashiok (Source)
Patch 4.0.1 will bring about major changes to all World of Warcraft classes, including sweeping talent tree revamps, altered spells, and improved abilities. We wanted to go over some of the more complex changes that are being made. If your class isn't listed here, it does not mean we didn't spend as much time on it -- the class will still receive a broad range of updates to talents, spells, and abilities -- we simply feel that these mechanics merit additional explanation.

Death Knight (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
  • The way in which runes regenerate has been changed. Rather than each rune type (Blood, Frost, Unholy) regenerating simultaneously, they now fill sequentially. For example, if you use two Blood runes, then the first rune will fill up before the second one starts to fill up. You essentially have three sets of runes filling every 10 seconds instead of six individual runes filling every 10 seconds. This allows the death knight rotation to be more forgiving, so that the player can take advantage of things like ability procs or respond to movement. This system makes it a little easier to get back on track without six separate runes now "out of sync" from the standard rotation.

You're a Bloody Tank
  • The time has come to dedicate a death knight talent tree to tanking, and that is what is in store for the Blood tree. We felt that we could offer a more focused and polished tanking tree rather than having to scatter similar tools throughout the trees. This also allows us to really focus the other trees into more flavorful damage-dealing specializations.

Runic Empowerment
  • This mechanic allows for runes which were on cooldown to instantly activate, which prevents the rotation from becoming too predictable and boring.

Druid (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
  • This is a new mechanic being added for Balance druids. The resource is managed through a new bar near the health and mana bars. As the druid casts Arcane spells, the bar moves towards the sun element until the druid achieves a Solar Eclipse, which buffs Nature damage. The goal is then to cast Nature spells, until the bar moves toward the moon element, which triggers a Lunar Eclipse and buffs Arcane damage. The gameplay becomes trying to quickly move the bar from one end to the other in order to maximize each Eclipse buff.

Hunter (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
  • This is a new resource which has replaced mana. Hunters never felt like they should be casting mana-based spells, and having a resource that lasted for a long time and then was painfully gone didn’t lead to compelling gameplay.

  • Hunters can now use Call Pet to choose from among five different pets. They can swap out any of these five pets with other pets they have tamed by visiting a Stable Master. The Stable Master now allows the hunter to store twenty pets total.
  • Pet families have been updated. Each family can now provide unique buffs to parties or raids, so if a class buff is needed for a raid and that class isn't represented in the group, chances are a hunter can provide a little assistance by calling out a specific pet.

  • Ammo is no more. As a hunter, you're just that good now.
  • Any quivers or pouches used to store ammo will automatically be converted into a bag of roughly equal value.

Paladin (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
Holy Power
  • This is a new resource which works similarly to combo points. Paladins will generally want to build up Holy Power until it shines through with a bright yellow glowing effect. Once Holy Power has been built up, it can be consumed to augment existing abilities. For example, Word of Glory can be used to cast an instant-cast free heal. This gives paladins several options for how to spend their Holy Power, depending on the scenario.

Warlock (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
Soul Shards
  • As items, Soul Shards are going away entirely.
  • Any shard bags used to store Soul Shards will automatically be converted into a bag of roughly equal value.
  • Soul Shards are now a new resource for warlocks. Each warlock will have a total of three. These Soul Shards can be expended using a new spell, Soul Burn, which allows the warlock to augment the next spell cast. The augmentation effect will vary depending on which spell is used, and all warlock spells which can be empowered by Soul Burn will have a tooltip listing of the effect it grants. Soul Shards will no longer be necessary for summoning demons or casting any other spell typically used when out of combat.

Warrior (Forums / 3.3.5 Talent Calculator / Cataclysm Talent Calculator / Beta Skills/Talents)
  • Rage is being normalized so that its generation is no longer based on damage done by auto-attacks. Each auto-attack will provide a set amount of Rage, with off-hand weapons granting 50% of the rage main-hand weapons do. Haste will allow Rage to generate more rapidly by increasing attack speed. In addition, while taking damage, the amount of Rage generated will now be based on the warrior's health rather than the opponent's level. The essence of this change is to improve the scaling that occurs with warrior gear. With warriors balanced around the top tiers of items, we've found that the class tends to underperform more drastically than others in lower-quality items. These changes should correct that.