Okay, time to write another blog about gaming/streaming culture. It’s a sidebar to the massive number of people (mostly men, but yes, also women) being accused of harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other such life-ruining actions. One thing I’ve noticed through reading these stories – and I have chosen to read so many in order to inform myself of whom to watch out for and what sort of behaviors to be on guard against – is the fact that almost every. single. story. included overindulgence in alcohol at industry events or the accused having used alcohol as a coping mechanism. A few mentioned controlled substances, but I imagine this is going on far more than is reported simply because you can’t actually publicly advertise your convention party having cocaine at it.
I have some hard thinking to do. If you’re not following @JessyQuil’s thread of women courageously speaking their truth about predatory men in the gaming industry (and streamers), you should.
Fair warning, there are spoilers for content up to and including 8.2.5 in this blog.
In just two weeks from today, the latest expansion of World of Warcraft will be unleashed upon the world… assuming the servers don’t catch on fire or angry gamers don’t DDoS Blizzard. Battle for Azeroth returns the game back to the main story of the Warcraft franchise, the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde.
Legion is by many accounts the most successful WoW expansion, although there is still much strong nostalgia for both vanilla and Wrath of the Lich King. However, when I comb through my social media to see how players rate Legion, on the whole it seems more positive than negative when compared to expansions other than Wrath. Unlike previous expansions, Blizzard spaced out its content and added new facets to the story along the way, so players didn’t have to spend half of its two-year life cycle complaining about content drought as happened with Warlords of Draenor.
So, I watched The Last Jedi. This blog will have more spoilers than Luke’s island had porgs, so you’re warned.
Before I get into the actual story, I should provide full disclosure of bias here. I’m on the official LotRO stream team and am privileged to be friends with a couple of the devs at Standing Stone Games. That being said…
I’ve been a Lord of the Rings fan since I was in single digits *mumblemumble* years ago. I was ‘forced’ to read The Hobbit when I was in school, and the teacher of course mentioned LotR, saying it was a bit more mature reading (not as happy/playful as The Hobbit). I remember the school library having two versions of the trilogy on hand: a large hardcover edition featuring nifty fold-out maps and the paperbacks featuring the amazing realistic art by the sadly late Darrell K. Sweet. Fun fact: Darrell K. Sweet’s art was also on the cover of the edition of Elfstones of Shannara where I originally derived my nom de plume of Druidsfire. I also went back years later and found used copies of that original paperback edition of LotR but never found reasonably-priced versions of the hardcover edition.
I have a problem with the depiction of women in Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars, and I love what it’s done for the advancement of women’s roles as lead heroines and character roles in media of all kinds, but I still have a problem with how women and motherhood are portrayed in it. For 40 years now, women and girls have been taught about the awesomeness that is Princess Leia, how she kicked ass, took names, and is a rolemodel to all of us about the power of women, rawr. However, for those same 40 years, women and the notion of motherhood have gotten some treatment that I’m not even going to call ‘problematical’, because that’s far too polite for what’s happened. I’m gonna just outright call it some serious bullshit. Let’s run down the list of the various women in Star Wars and how they’ve been treated, how moms in the stories have been written or portrayed, and we’ll go from there. I’m going to go in RL chronological publication/release, because that’s easiest for me to wrap my brain around.
In World of Warcraft: Legion, players can unlock special cosmetic skins of their artifact weapons by completing certain tasks. The way the system works is on a progression basis. Each artifact currently has 5 rows of appearances going left to right with four slots per row (except Guardian Druid). You can’t unlock any slot in the row if you don’t unlock the first one. The rows are roughly analogous to:
- Row 1: Legion/class story
- Row 2: Unlocking your artifact’s traits
- Row 3: Group content
- Row 4: PVP
- Row 5: Various content whilst wearing a hidden skin
Each row’s slots generally show a clear progression left to right either in terms of difficulty or time needed to invest to unlock an option. Each unlock is on a per-character (not spec) basis with the exception of the Glory of the Legion Hero option in row 3, fourth slot. That unlocks account-wide due to the nature of the achievement.
The cosmetic skins are obviously just that. There are no power or gameplay advantages to unlocking any of them, and players aren’t required to use them. Hell, some class’s players who don’t like their unlocked artifact skins can mog to other weapons entirely. For example, I have cheerfully mogged my troll shaman’s Doomhammer into the Tankard o’ Terror just because I can.
So, all of this is optional. No one is forced to do any of this content. It’s just a side thing to encourage players to consider doing content outside of their usual stuff if they want a cosmetic they like. For example, I’m not a PVPer, but my utterly favorite Holy Priest artifact skin is the one that requires 1000 Honorable Kills in PVP while using the hidden skin. Acquiring a hidden skin varies from class to class, and in this case, I have to get a drop from Hyrja and be exalted with the Valarjar. Not too rough, and again, it’s my choice if I want to jump into PVP afterwards and grind out the skin I want.
The third row is the problem here. To unlock the entire row, a player has to complete the Balance of Power questline, which resembles the laundry list players from Mists and Warlords remember when acquiring the legendary cloak and ring respectively. Even if you complete the second, third, and/or fourth items in that row, you can’t use them unless you finish BoP on each character you want any of them on. BoP is in effect holding that entire row hostage. In a recent livestream, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas answered a question about making BoP account-wide, and I actually agree with him on the notion that it doesn’t have to be. However, he missed the overall point of why people were asking for it to be made account-wide. BoP isn’t a problem in and of itself, it’s the fact that it’s the unlock for the entire row. If the notion of third row is to celebrate organized group content, BoP in slot one and Unleashed Monstrosities in slot two make no sense. On Wowhead’s guide to unlocking appearances, UM is the lowest ranked in difficulty of all four slots in the row, listed as Medium.
In terms of time spent, the second slot unlocked by completing the UM world boss achievement is hardly anything. One world boss a week, eight total needed for the achievement, easy. In fact, I got it accidentally on my main the other day. To call it ‘organized group content’ is misleading at best. Group content, yes. Organized? It’s about as organized as a birthday party of 6-year-olds hopped up on sugar and cake, armed with cans of silly string. It takes hardly any effort at all to accomplish even by my filthy casual standards.
- Go to the WB location and queue in group finder
- Wait a few minutes for people to show up, take 5 minutes tops to beat the boss
When I’ve done WBs on my main, no one was organizing anything. No discussion of strategy, no planning for where the tanks were going to position the boss, no worries about if we had enough healers, no one cared if the hunter or warlock pets were on aggro. It really is a ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ sort of situation.
The best solution for this problem of front-loading a legendary-style questline is to flip the UM achievement into the slot one/unlock row option and put BoP in as slot two. Flip-flopping the skins to stay with the original achievements is still something to consider, but in terms of basic time to complete and effort to expend, this makes more sense.
Will it happen? I don’t foresee it being so. Hazzikostas was quite firm on a recent livestream when he said that they had no plans to change things beyond perhaps increasing the drop rate of the Corrupted Essences needed during one segment of the BoP quest chain. He added that this questline was for an unlock for a cosmetic so it’s different from alt-catchup mechanics for things like Artifact Knowledge or other things that actually affected a character’s power. Granted, but I stand firm on my point is that it’s an unlock for up to four cosmetics, and it doesn’t match the progression-style methods of the other rows’ unlocks.
The fact that this is for a cosmetic, which means it doesn’t actually matter in the grand scale of things, makes the issue even puzzling. It doesn’t matter in terms of power, so why stick to keeping four unlocks gated behind a legendary-style questline?
One of the more passively social aspects of World of Warcraft is class buffs. Before the Legion pre-patch (7.0.3), players could add limited-time buffs to other players, either via single-targeting or self-targeting in a party or raid. These class buffs used to be five or thirty minutes and not raid-wide in Burning Crusade, but were turned into 1-hour buffs until the pre-patch in July. With all the class changes in 7.0.3, this one has caused some consternation. With the default UI, many of us got used to seeing the buff icons in the upper right near the minimap, so it now looks a bit weird when they’re not there, and more than one person has caught themselves hunting for their now-missing buff key to restore the buff.
Blizzard baked much of these effects into various specs with the overhauling of the classes, so most classes and specs don’t have any buffs to offer, other than retribution paladin. While it’s easy to understand the gameplay aspect of things, to be more tactical about what kinds of characters to bring to a raid, we now lose out to some extent. Who hasn’t been out minding their own business whilst questing and then seeing the spell effect of a random priest casting Power Word: Fortitude on you as they ran past in the middle of their own business?
It took little more than a target click and hotkey press, but players buffed others even though it did themselves no real good outside of group content. When I’ve been out and about and hitting random players with Kings or Might or Wisdom (yep, ret pally here), I’d even get an occasional thank you and the other player would reciprocate with their own class’s buff it they had one. In group content, some pugs or guild groups made a game out of who’d get the last buff in before the boss pull.
I’m fairly sure Blizz wasn’t thinking of the social side of things when they redesigned ret pally buffs, for example. Before, any paladin could buff themselves and anyone in their group, and the game didn’t care how many people you hit with Kings. It’s readily evident how the new system, with only ret pallies having access to the buffs, plus with the new mechanic of one person total per buff, makes it a gameplay choice. A paladin has to decide whether to buff themselves OR a tank with Might, themselves OR any DPS class with Kings, or themselves OR a caster with Wisdom. While the selflessness of a paladin is a lore and story fantasy for the class, I can see paladins being selfish about the buffs even in group content unless threatened with a kick. Even with the DPS from a buff is reflected in the paladin’s DPS meter, it’s still a social issue.
Yeah, the social aspect of the class buffs while out in the open world is almost akin to a person who tweets support for victims of a crisis without actually volunteering or donating to help out, but it did instill a small bit of random goodness into the game that is now gone. I don’t expect Blizzard to go back to the way things were, that’s not really their style, but I will miss those open-world encounters that were about doing a good deed, not getting ganked.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I figured it was time to write something new. This is an opinion post based on what I’ve observed with the game industry, mostly relating to video games versus board games or tabletop, so your mileage may vary. In it, I will cover two main issues involving the industry’s workforce: Crunch and Layoffs. At the end, I will point out what I believe needs to happen for a healthier workforce. Unfortunately, I am well aware that it would require massive change on the part of the industry to enact any of these ideas, but if no one is willing to point out the elephant in the room and name it for what it is, then no one can begin to look into alternatives.