Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fool Me Once...

It's probably safe to say that most people who were queuing up to purchase a ticket for Blizzcon 2014 felt a bit nervous. Breaking the mold of previous years, Blizzard contracted a third-party vendor---Eventbrite---to facilitate ticket sales. Granted, one can hardly blame them for this choice. Not only does it likely save them time and money, but it passes the headache of coordinating such a high-demand sale to an entirely different entity.

Googling "Blizzcon ticket fiasco" tells a story. The articles and blogs from this year haven't yet broken to the top of the results, but you'll find a lot of info on what's known as the Official Fiasco of 2008. There's another article on the 2012 process on the first page, where Blizzard's own ticketing site was down for hours, leaving people who set aside time unable to buy tickets.

Last year, I was a first hand witness to Eventbrite's systems. While many people reported issues with the queuing system, my friends and I were able to get through with relative ease. We weren't deaf to the plight of others, but luckily hadn't experienced the same issues other people were having.

Blizzard acknowledged last year's problems. In fact, we were assured Eventbrite had looked into the causes of the bottlenecks last year and would be prepared. Then Wednesday happened. Long story short, Eventbrite admitted there was an error in the Waiting Room system, but they believed they'd returned it to full functionality by the Saturday sale.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. The issues experienced Saturday were, for one, much worse and more widespread than last year. Additionally, the issues experienced on Saturday were much worse and more widespread compared to Wednesday. It was an actual regression. Some players got to the purchase screen only to submit their order error out. Other people, myself included, had the order error out, yet received an e-confirmation that indeed, our transaction went through.

Perhaps the most common problem was being placed into a Waiting Room that truly lived up to its expectations; you literally just waited, and for too many people nothing happened. Meanwhile, the savvy/less-patient of us out there opened new browser windows and were able to nab tickets almost instantly.

That's two years now. I think Eventbrite has had their chance to prove whether or not they're capable of handling the type of demand Blizzcon sees. It's not about having the ability to do better; it's about actually doing better. Blizzard would be best served by another vendor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

6.2: Blizzard Keeping Their Promise?

img: battle.net
This post contains information on the new raid tier, the bosses within, and some speculation on what it might signal in terms of remaining content for this expansion. If you're trying to avoid all spoilers, stop reading now. 

It's probably wayyyy too early to speculate about what's all going down in Patch 6.2 based on the tidbits we've seen in the last 24 hours, but that won't stop folks. So I'm going to recklessly toss my two copper into the pot.

In looking at the content we'll be getting in 6.2, I can't help but feel 6.3 isn't long off, and when it arrives, it'll signal the swan song of this expansion. Has the lofty yet ever-elusive promise to deliver shorter, faster expansions finally been realized?

We know we'll be getting Hellfire Citadel, a new raid tier with 13 bosses in Patch 6.2. Whether it's available right away or must be unlocked is yet to be seen. Some of the names of the bosses within should strike you. In the What the Fuck category, we have Mannoroth. In the Totally Saw That Coming category, we meet Archimonde as the tier's final boss.

Just as striking is the absence of a couple of previously anticipated foes, namely Gul'dan and Grommash. Some might speculate this indicates we'll see one more raid tier prior to the expansion's end, but I don't buy it. Instead, players will finish both Gul'dan's and Grommash's story arcs outside of the raid, possibly with the culmination of the legendary quest line. Yes, that's Blizzard reneging on a previous statement. /yawn. Been there, done that.

Speaking of finishing the legendary quest line---yeah! Players will be able to do that in 6.2, just like they were able to do in Patch 5.4 with the release of Siege of Orgrimmar in Mists of Pandaria. Let that sink in: we will be finishing the legendary quest chain come 6.2. Pair that with the bosses we'll be seeing (and not seeing) and it's too much for me to ignore. It signals that 6.2 contains the last significant content in this expansion's life cycle.

That means 6.3 will bring the systems changes we're used to seeing in the lead up to the next expansion, and this'll likely hit the PTR around Blizzcon in November, if not sooner. Whether Blizzard will hold off for an expansion announcement at the convention this year isn't clear, but I personally don't believe they'll be able (or want) to keep that info under wraps for that long given how quickly this expansion is moving.

I'd wager we'll be hearing about a different leveling system and---wait for it---flight in Draenor rather soon. So kudos, Blizzard. The promise you made on delivering short expansions in a more timely manner? You done good.

And gosh, does it feel weird.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Feckless Liebster

Every year bloggers nominate other bloggers for the "Liebster Award," which serves to call attention to the blogging community. Bloggers are generally invited to step away from the subject(s) they normally cover and talk a bit more about themselves. Or at least that's how I've gathered it works. 

So thank you, Zeirah. I'm honored that you thought of me. Here goes!

What makes you smile?
A lot of things, but witnessing kindness will do it every time. 

Where do you see yourself in 50 years?
Not to get all morbid, but I see myself underground! Though if I'm alive fifty years from now it means the aging gene came from my mother's side. But more generally, if I'm around in 50 years I'm trying to make sure when I look back to survey the landscape I've crossed, I feel content. 

Is there one class in wow you haven’t been able to really gel with?
Hunters. I think a level 77 hunter is the highest character I've ever deleted. I've tried playing a hunter on multiple occasions---in fact, it was the class I first rolled---but it never sticks. At some point I become utterly bored. At this point I've learned to stay away from them.

What is your biggest problem/challenge when it comes to blogging?
Probably a cross between finding the time and determining content. This space is kind of an all-around blog, covering anything Blizzard but focusing on Warcraft, which often means I don't worry about developing any sort of content calendar or schedule. I generally have a half-dozen or more draft ideas sitting around, but aside from the larger postings here (the guides), most of my writing is done spur of the moment. 

What is your dream career?
I'm not sure, really. I think it's got to involve working for myself. I have a lot of auxiliary skills, but not a single strong one. I think whatever my dream career is, it's very niche. Maybe that's why I don't know what it is yet! That said, I've never viewed employment as an end, rather a means to an end. Rather than a career, I prefer a stable job that supports my hobbies.

What is the one thing in wow you love doing the most?
Guild raiding is hands down my favorite activity in Warcraft. You take a group made up of teachers, ER nurses, police officers, IT professionals, writers, developers, students., etc. and they all come together and align towards a specific goal. A goal they all need to work towards together in sync. Maybe it's the notion behind it: people from all walks of life setting aside their own personal bullshit in order to achieve something great together. 

What is your favourite book?
Too difficult for me to choose a specific book. Two of my favorite authors are Cormack McCarthy and Jonathan Carroll. 

If you could choose the next playable race, what would it be?
Ogre. To me, it just seems like it would make sense at this point. 

What is the most delicious food you have ever eaten?
Another tough one, but in the top five surely you'll find mushroom fritters with truffle oil. 

Who is your favourite wow character?
Probably Arthas. That whole rise and fall from grace story is a pretty common one, but that sort of character type fascinates me. Out of all the stories we've been told, that one seems to resonate the most with me. I was sad when we had to give him his end. 

What do you think the next expansion should be about?
Well, given that it'll have to tie somewhat with what all went down in Draenor...I'd guess that the next expansion will see the Burning Legion invading our Azeroth while we were off fighting in Draenor. Having said that I'm not sure how well that would hold up given that we surely won't be spending the next expansion on a new/old Azeroth ala Cataclysm. Either way, I'm confident we'll be seeing the Legion by the close of this expansion, and where the next expansion goes will have everything to do with what is revealed.

Either way, I'm expecting an expansion announcement at Blizzcon, with leaks likely happening in the summer, so we should know soon!

11 Facts
I have named a craft beer that is commercially available in the Midwest. The name itself contains clues to the "lore" behind the beer's creation and the cease & desist order the brewer received over the beer's original name. 

There is a craft beer from another brewer that is commercially available throughout the Midwest, and was named after a metal band I was in during my late teens. 

I love craft beer, though that had little to do with the facts above, curiously. 

Years ago I was fortunate enough to play a show with the band I was in at the largest music festival in the world

I am a self-taught multi-instrumentalist competent on drums, guitar, bass, and banjo as well as a variety of percussion instruments including the djembe, cuica, didjeridoo and stumpf fiddle. 

I correctly predicted the closing bands for Blizzcons 2011 and 2014. I have no inklings on this year, currently, like you cared.

I live with my long-term partner and her two children, one a fresh teenager, the other on his way. None of them are really into Warcraft. 

In the past 15 years I've moved nine times, but never very far from where I was prior. Of note, I've been in the same place for the last five years. 

My partner has Canadian citizenship, and we are looking to move north of the border once her children reach adulthood. 

I have a bachelor's degree that's so broad in scope it basically only proves that I attended and graduated college. 

I tell people my name is Ross when in fact it's not my legal name. 

Questions for the Nominees

I'm going to go ahead and nominate a handful of people: Zuulzilla, who nominated me last year but I never got around to actually doing it. Also, Hanzo, Alternative ChatSpacebard & Liopleurodon. Feel free to ignore this---just know that I thought of you folks largely based on the amount of respect I have for y'all. 

Why did you start blogging here? 

You win a million dollars. What do you do with it? 

What are some non-Blizzard games you'd recommend to folks out there? 

What's a piece of advice you've been given that's really resonated with you?

What's the one thing in WoW you enjoy doing the most?

What's your main character, and why?

If you could tell your early WoW-playing self one thing, what would it be?

You get to shadow a Warcraft character for a day. Who do you choose, and why?

What one thing would you change about WoW if you could?

If the servers go dark some day, which zone will your character "retire" in?

Have you looked in a mirror today and remembered how awesome you are? If not, go do it right now!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Help Request: WoW API Experts


I need some help. I'm looking to pull some specific data from the WoW API, but I'm a complete noob. Essentially, I want to take a look at all of the members of a guild and identify which achievements they are missing. The purpose of this would be to identify potential areas for scheduled small group content/events.

For the experts out there: is targeting this specific set of information possible? If so, can you point me to a WoW API 101 crash course and any other tools I might need explore more?

Much appreciated!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Don't Be That Player: The Non-Conformist [Guild Ed.]

Many of us have been That Player at one time or another. From toxic players, oblivious raiders, elitist jerks and beyond, Don't Be That Player is a series that looks at different scenarios we've all encountered, and how they might be approached differently. 

This post really has to do with guilds and is written especially with guild leadership in mind.

Normally it's hip to follow the beat of your own Garrison Jukebox, but this concept doesn't really apply when it comes to player-to-player relations in Warcraft guilds. Many guilds have certain base expectations for their members (as they should): no stealing items from others; kill all opposing faction members on sight; no hate speech in guild chat; Pepe must be worn at all times, etc. While Non-Conformists in this setting may have many characteristics, the one they share is that they are actively working against the guild's tenets and goals.

Non-Conformists---as I've defined them---bring a certain flavor of toxicity designed to dismantle the very sub-community they've joined. They have little regard for the preferences of their fellow players and have little to no respect for leadership structure. They often have an inflated sense of their value as a player. And what's worse, they likely realize they're not a good fit for your community, yet they don't care.

Non-Conformists will openly voice their dissatisfaction with elements of the guild, whether their assessment is accurate or not. They will try to convince you the guild would be better off if it did certain things their way. They will try to steer the guild in a direction they find the most advantageous or desirable to them without remorse. They may threaten to not show up for events as if they believed success depended on their presence. They will project their concerns onto other members and try to recruit those members to their cause: to subtly or overtly, consciously or unconsciously destroy a guild.

For the love of god...do I really have to say "don't be that player?!"

Sadly, I do, because I've had to deal with this player-type in the past, and I will never, ever allow a Non-Conformist to take root in any group I help steer. For the Non-Conformists out there, if you can't play nice with others under a mutual charter, play by yourself. It must be possible to enjoy this game without inflicting misery on your in-game community.

Guild Leadership & Combating the Non-Conformist
There are a couple of steps a guild should take in general to help ensure their community isn't a breeding ground for Non-Conformists. Really, these are steps I'd recommend for any guild when establishing themselves. They can serve as an indication to the Non-Conformists out there that your home wouldn't be a good fit for them. If you find a Non-Conformist in your ranks, I also have suggestions on how to deal with them quickly and effectively.

Know Who You Are
Have a purpose. What is your guild all about? Do you expect everyone to be in character at all times? Do you forbid guild chat to contain anything but monosyllabic words? Do you raid two nights per week, no more, no less? As a leader and/or officer, you get to decide who you are as a guild, the things you'd like to accomplish and how you'd like to go about it. You get to set the tone and the feel, from an NC-17 oh god I'm going to hell for this environment, to family-friendly guilds.

The fact is, when you have these attributes nailed down---whether on your website, application, or recruitment notice---it can act as a deterrent to Non-Conformists. They can take a quick look at what makes your guild unique and decide whether or not it fits into their vision. Unfortunately, knowing who you are as a guild won't insulate you completely---but it will give you grounds to address the actions of the Non-Conformist through any method you deem fit, up to and including membership revocation.

Take Swift Action
It may be something simple, like using language in guild chat you've expressly forbidden. It could also be something more extreme, such as the Non-Conformist harassing other players in your guild. Or maybe they'll refuse to raid unless their friend(s) are guaranteed a spot, too. Whatever the signs of a Non-Conformist might be, they're generally revealed organically---you don't often have to keep a sharp eye to notice them.

When you have a player who regularly violates guild tenets and goals, they need to be addressed directly---mostly for the sake of the integrity of said goals and tenets. If your other players see the Non-Conformists shitting all over the guild's aims and you don't react swiftly, they may get the impression that the structure in place is in fact meaningless, that actions are without consequence.

The easiest thing to do is the approach the Non-Conformist privately, remind them of the guild tenets and goals, and explain how certain actions of theirs have been in direction conflict with them. They can either play by the rules and be part of the guild or find a better home. How many chances or warnings you issue is entirely up to you.

While guilds do rise and fall on a daily basis, there are steps to ensure your guild's foundation is strong. One of those steps is making sure Non-Conformists aren't taking root among your ranks.