Thursday, 30 April 2009

Sandboxes and little girls

Tobold is a blogger I very much admire. Not only does he have the ability to see key issues and summarise them but he is great at starting interesting discussions.

This was very much the case this time when Tobold reported on Dr Richard Bartle's keynote speech at the Game Designer's Conference.

Dr Bartle is a provocative and controversial figure in the games design blogosphere. He ran MUD1 back in the prehistory of the MMO genre and has been an academic and writer on the subject ever since.

Here are some Bartle links

Career summary
His site
I've already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.
The torture controversy

Two things are undeniable about this games design commentator - he is one of the most accessible people on the internet, enthusiastically jumping in to discuss issues with players, and he is one of the most original and controversial thinkers on the subject.

On to my recent discussion with him over at Tobold's site.

In his Games Developer Conference keynote Bartle laid out a blueprint for future MMO game design that pigeonholes WoW as a linear game. You follow the yellow brick road of questing until you hit 80 then follow the now purple-lined new yellow brick road of raiding.

My take on this is that WoW is not like some simple linear game where you can only do one set thing after another. By misrepresenting WoW his blueprint is built upon faulty foundations.

We discussed sandboxes. I remember first seeing the term "sandbox" applied to computer games in the mid-90s. You had games like Planescape: Torment where you clicked the dialogue to be told where to go next. There would be some options for variety but those mostly returned you to the main plot path. And there were games like Daggerfall where you could wander anywhere and start up something interesting.

In Daggerfall you could do the obvious main quest from your starter area or you could travel somewhere else and do some different quest chain or just explore or do something else.

Just like WoW.

Now the term sandbox has evolved. Essentially what people mean by sandbox is its no longer sandbox if you can do anything you want. Its sandbox if you are denied a single obvious route to take. The word has changed its meaning.

So while in WoW you can roll a Human and go off to the night elf zone or try to singlehandedly attack Orgrimmar or go day-trade on the auction house or gain a handful of levels then become a permanent battleground twink WoW is characterised by game analysts as not actually presenting any other option than the yellow brick road, ie questing your way to 80.

Raph Koster summaries Dr Bartle's presentation as
It basically makes the case that freeform play (and even user-created content) should be the elder game on top of a more directed and guided play experience

Key word is more, the problem with the presentation that I have is that everything is clear-cut and black and white which naturally leads to revolution being the solution not evolution.

The truth is far more blurred.

One interesting example is the history of pvp in WoW. Originally there were no battlegrounds, arenas or honour. The value of doing pvp was simply the thrill for its own sake. This led to three main manifestations of pvp.

- A constant large multiplayer zerg between Southshore and Tarren Mill that occasionally died down but was at least daily on every pvp server.
- Spontaneous raids on targets mainly aimed as Ashenvale (Horde aggressors) or Crossroads (Alliance aggressors)
- low level skirmishing usually 1 v 1 in places like Stranglethorn Vale where people were basically doing their quests with the camera panning 360 degrees all the time and a very nervous atmosphere.

All of this was player-generated content, emergent and an environment so rich that interesting things just happened. True sandbox pvp.

And it mostly died when battlegrounds were introduced. The incentives given for theme park pvp trumped the thrill of sandbox pvp.

But the sandbox is still there.

Southshore was still just south of Tarren Mill last time I looked, Stranglethorn Vale is still populated with 35-40s sneaking through to do their quests.

So sandbox has ceased to become a term that refers to what players CAN do in the world, it now refers to what they DO do. In other words it's a game-defining quality which is incentive led .

Not only is the sandbox there in pvp (although virtually unused) it is very much there at end-game. WoW end-game simply cannot be characterised as purely raiding. I am entertaining myself now writing a blog post with WoW closed but this is still part of WoW's complex and diverse meta-endgame. In fact there are more things that people are actually doing in WoW endgame considering the range of machinima movie-making, mathematical theorycrafting, add-on writing all of which are forms of entertainment arising from WoW's end-game which will generally keep players subscribed to WoW.

Another thing to consider is that sandbox has now become a gaming word like casual. Everyone knows what they think it means, no one actually thinks it means the same thing as everyone else.

Raiding with CPP

I am an officer in Might of Kalimdor, a guild on a re-roll server, Saurfang, a server that celebrates its three month anniversary today. This means that while most of the WoW playerbase is entering Ulduar most of my server is approaching or has just dinged 80. We're doing Naxx.

We're very much a casual guild with no enforced attendance or consumable requirements. People come if they feel like it we don't do progression wipe nights (yet). Every raid we do should leave people happy, enthusiastic and wanting more.

As a raid leader one of the important aspects of this is pace. Our healers are used to us rolling pretty fast and replenishment buff is a priority in putting our raids together. We summarise bosses pretty briefly. Generally if people can't kill a boss with the brief explanation then the long explanation which most people won't listen to won't really help. Wiping is a better learning tool than lecturing.

We're pretty open to afking. If people want to afk it's not a problem, we'll usually push on without them. Most of our players are very brief if they afk simply because they're very enthusiastic and want to stay involved.

As raid leaders we try to be complimentary. We look at how the raid is functioning and actively seek to tell people who are performing well that they're doing great.

We try to keep Vent chatter going. Conversations on Vent tend to be at times light-hearted, even silly, but range to game mechanics and the old days of raiding. Anyone can speak up, the customer service principles of educate, entertain and empower very much apply.

This week saw our first 25 in partnership with two other guilds: Qui Vive and Dark something (sorry guys!) as well as a Priest called Kiraous. We killed everything except Kel'Thuzad with no drama and a genuine feeling that everyone left happy. Not bad for a first look over two raid nights!

From my perspective as one of the raid leaders it's simply much easier to raid with CPP principles. Instead of worrying about whether I'm being the dogsbody I am taking my work skillset and applying it to my gaming and watching it flourish.

CPP: On the nature of the relationship

I'm delighted to see other bloggers have started to discuss this:
Spinks: 3 ways to encourage or discourage active players
Larissa: Once a leader, not always a leader

In response to their initial comments I'd now like to discuss the most important and ground-breaking aspect of CPP.

Both roles are positive.

Let me introduce myself a little more. I am a lbrarian working for the public library service of a London borough. It is a customer service job. It is a wonderful and highly fulfilling job that varies from customer to customer. My role is to educate, entertain and empower.

In a queue of people I might have to help a homeless person figure out how to google a charity he wants to contact, to find a copy of a Horrid Henry dvd for a seven year old, and then to help someone whose roof is leaking find emergency help as well as an idea of where to start legal process for damages.

These are my customers. I don't shout at them, I don't deduct fifty dkp, I don't make them sit through long boring explanations, I don't in fact behave anything at all like a traditional WoW raid leader.

The customers in turn have a profound enthusiasm for the library service. Each library has a network of local volunteers called Friends of ____ Library who actively arrange events, perform fundraising and agitate if there is any threat of closure.

That relationship is something that is central to CPP. You are, if a producer, trying to produce a service you are proud of, if a consumer you hope to be educated, entertained and empowered.

This is already happening in many raid guilds.

However in some there is an us and them attitude. Cliquiness. Elitism.

Gevlon famously views underperforming raid members as morons and slackers who are carried by soft-hearted guilds. This is a self-defeating attitude, the opposite of CPP.

Spinks views raid members as either active or passive with a neutral slant. It's descriptive and doesn't relate to whether they are a good player.

With CPP what I'm trying for is a paradigm that is win-win. Both roles are positive. Each role help the other role. It's not fun to be a chief without indians.

CPP is a broad brush approach, a piece of game sociology. There will be many individuals who don't really fit into either category. But that's true of any sociological generalisation and doesn't devalue it.

It's possible to make an observation that eighty-year olds generally don't have mobile phones and twenty-year olds generally do. Someone will then generally point to someone they know who is twenty or eighty who doesn't fit the generalisation.

But that misses the point. Such a generalisation isn't an attempt to label every person in the world. It's a method of being able to tell whether you should stick your phone ad in Mature Times or Face.

If you apply CPP principles to your raid it creates a win-win resonance. People can simply turn up to raids shoot stuff then leave without having to feel guilty about not helping enough. People can energetically research and organise raids without feeling like they're being put upon.

The generally accepted paradigm is we're all players we're all equal which is why seeing a handful of players work much harder than most others for a common goal feels wrong at quite a basic level to many people. CPP's main function is to provide an alternative model that lets people look at the raid process without feeling either guilty or resentful.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

[Player Choice] Changing from one to the other

If you are P and you want to be C

1) First and foremost develop your capacity to enjoy the game solo. This may involve starting to listen to music while you play, switching to a more solo-capable alt, developing an addiction to battlegrounds, discovering fishing or whatever. The key to being a Consumer is not having to rely on group content.

2) Lose the sense that group content matters. This is simply a decision you take. If you join a pug and it falls apart, so what? just carry on fishing. Believing that the group must succeed is what entraps people in producer behaviour when they'd rather not behave that way.

3) Stop helping people. If someone asks a simple question don't answer. It starts with Manrik's wife then rapidly becomes a slippery slope that leaves you as raid leader being b*tched at because someone's dagger didn't drop. Manrik who?

4) Sit in LFG queue while you're doing your solo activity. If possible only queue for instances reasonably far away, ie don't queue for Heroic Nexus if you're fishing in Borean Tundra.

5) Learn to love the auction house. It's a great solo activity and it can keep you happily absorbed while the rest of the group argues about who should go to the meeting stone.

6) Talk less. No response is usually the best answer to any question. Particularly avoid talking on voice comms as people will often expect players who talk on voice comms to take the initiative and lead raids etc. If you find it difficult to stick to this physically unplug your mike from your PC.

7) Download the following addons: AtlasLoot, Bejewelled. These will give you entertainment while waiting for the boring bits during group content.

8) Always remember becoming a consumer isn't about becoming selfish. It's about playing the game in a different, more individualistic style.

If you are C and you want to be P

1) You have to visualise the player you want to become. Helpful, popular, competent, inspirational, commanding. This is a package and some of the individual elements that go towards making up that package will suck. The destination is worth the journey.

2) Always move to the meeting stone as soon as you join a group. This will sometimes suck when it takes 20 minutes+ for any of the others to come. See 1). Tip: Bejewelled addon will help in this situation.

3) Learn and practice the instances. Learn your class Use the class and raids & dungeons forums here as well as
for background and theorycraft.

4) Try to always be polite. You are a leader and motivator, don't let people drag you down to a lower level where you start bickering with them.

5) Help others but as far as verbal advice is concerned limit the amount of information you give to others. One play changing tip per raid or dungeon run is about the maximum that people will take in. If you try to give more advice than this you will usually aggravate people. You can always give people potions and elixirs if you want to help them and motivate them without seeming too controlling.

6) Get voice comms and a mike. become comfortable with chatting to other players while you play. Don't underestimate the in-game voice facility. It's not brilliant but it will give a minimum level of voice comm functionality. It may be the best option if you pug raid.

7) Plan where you want to go and try to organise the people for it. If you want to go to, say, Sartharion, research the fight first and understand what everyone's role will be. Run through the conversations with each player in your head first so you can pare down the instructions to a minimal "stand there, do that" type format.

8) Remember that being a producer is a play-style. It's a very fun play-style but it's not an equal play-style. It's frustrating to be a producer without CPP because you sit there thinking the others should be putting in the same effort as you. CPP explains why they won't. So roll with that and enjoy the game the way you want to play it and become the great player you want to become.

Friday, 24 April 2009

[Guilds] How CPP will make your guild better

Identifying your producers and consumers is vital in a guild that wants to tackle Player-Enhanced Content like raids.

It's ok to have some consumers. You do however require a minimum number of producers.

The minimum number varies from guild to guild but can be quantified as follows:

The minimum number of producers you need is the amount required to satisfy the requirements of the guild's members for Player-Enhanced Content without any of them feeling over-worked.

If you don't have enough producers investigate the following:
- do you have unrecognised producers? ie people who are comfortable helping out but simply have not yet been asked to

- can you recruit producers? are any of the people applying to your guild former officers elsewhere?

- can you reduce workload? for instance some guilds provide flasks for their members. If your producers are doing this but are also overworked stop providing this service.

CPP can be used to analyse applicants to your guild. Consider taking some of the questions from the Questionnaire below for your standard guild application template. By asking if people like crafting, if they like the AH, you can identify producers and consumers and choose who to recruit. A guild where too many people always want input on decisions might be best recruiting mainly consumers to balance out their Chiefs:Indians ratio. A guild where raids get cancelled if the GM isn't online to lead it needs more producers.

Some guilds mainly or entirely recruit producers. Top US guild Fusion says:
"Our roster is composed of a majority of people who have been former officers, raid leaders, and GMs." (Check out the rest of a fascinating article on their organisation here: ).

While that is a strong model for most raid guilds our recruitment pools won't support that kind of approach so our goal is to maximise the enthusiasm within the guild by satisfying people according to their CPP types. Consumers want to feel welcomed and rewarded without being guilt-tripped about not organising stuff. Producers want the opportunity to be seen to be contributing, want their play and their input valued and want to be given opportunities to contribute. Understanding your players is key to keeping them happy and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm breeds success which in turn breeds enthusiasm.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

What is CPP?

CPP is the Consumer-Producer Paradigm.

A paradigm is a collection of rules about how to think about a certain subject. In terms of MMO games the paradigms have been player v developer, hardcore v casual, pve-er v pvp-er, ganker v carebear and so on.

CPP (the Consumer-Producer Paradigm) is a new paradigm that views participants in a MMO as consumers or producers. It is actually more relevant and useful to see players in terms of whether they are consumers or producers than almost any of the preceding paradigms.

First let's look at what is meant by production in the context of MMOs.

The game designers produce content that is accessible to varying degrees. Some content like Kill Ten Boars quests are available to anyone. All players are consumers of such content.

Other content like raids, arena teams, battleground pre-mades and instance groups requires producer players to organise this content for the benefit of themselves and additional players. This is called Player-Enabled Content in the CPP system.

Are you the type of player who is a guild officer, raid leader, invites people to pugs and so on? If so you are a producer. You unlock Player-Enabled Content for yourself and other players.

Are you the type of player who solo grinds dailies or bgs until a raid or a group invite comes along? If so you are a consumer. You don't unlock Player-Enabled Content, you wait for producer players to unlock it for you so you can participate.

At this stage it should be said CPP is not about judging people. It's not bad to be a consumer - we're all consumers in some areas of our lives. CPP is about analyzing people and behaviour patterns so you can take control of your interactions with other players because you understand them better.

Let us look first at how the two types interract using the example of a 5 man pug group. The producers in our group are a tank and his mage friend. They recruit others from their guilds, their friends lists, from the lfg tool and as a last resort by sending tells to many players of appropriate level asking them to join the pug.

Once the group is formed the producers travel to the meeting stone to summon the others. They are reasonably well-geared for the instance and competent players so even if the others suck they can probably get them through. The tank is the group leader and marks mobs if needed. The mage coordinates cc requirements with his tank friend and discusses any tactical issues over their private voice comms.

The tank and the mage are creating what is basically a package tour whereby customers join up, get transported to the instance, follow the tank around tapping some very obvious button and collecting loot.

This becomes even more pronounced at the raid level where the producers may spend many long hours refining theory and researching strats but some of their customers simply log on for raids, spam fireball, collect loot, then log off till next time.

Producers make player-enhanced content happen. They start groups, form guilds, lead raids, invite other to battleground pre-mades. Consumers join these activities once they have been initiated by someone else.

Meetings stones are viewed by both parties as something producers use to assist consumers. Consumers who have to travel to a meeting stone to facilitate a raid or instance run will feel put upon, will feel that maybe this is going to be a bad group.

Consumers love buying things from the auction house. They like to shop. Producers like crafting their equipment or earning it from pve and pvp.

Producers are drawn towards tank and healer roles. Consumers are drawn towards dps.

Producers are very careful to let everyone know if they afk. They assume the group is depending on them. Consumers aren't bothered about going afk. They assume the group can cope regardless of whether they do anything to help or not.

Consumers love vanity items. The more expensive and pointless the better. Motorbikes, titles, Siamese cats, picnic umbrellas - all great stuff. Producers are generally uninterested in vanity items although they may collect them as a secondary occupation if the game does not provide enough group content to keep them busy.

Consumers like soloing as well as group play. To a producer group play is the main purpose of playing a MMO.

Producers see problems as an issue for the whole group to address. Consumers think producers should solve problems. I had an example of this in a former guild. We were short of healers one night. We asked if anyone knew a healer who could come and help out. No response. We announced we would have to cancel the raid because not enough healers turned up.

From my perspective as an officer this simply goes with the territory of being casual and relaxed about attendance. If you have 6 healers in the guild and need 3 to raid and they sometimes log in sometimes don't you will get nights when the number turning up is under 3. This is simply standard deviation mathematics.

One player was furious. "This is rubbish," he cried. "I specifically arranged to be free tonight and now you're telling me I wasted my time?? Ridiculous!" From our perspective as producers we have accepted that we would provide an unreliable service as a trade-off for not requiring people to turn up as dutifully as if it were a job. We had offered the whole group the opportunity to solve the problem and none of them had been able to do so. We were no more to blame than anyone else who failed to conjure a healer out of a magic hat.

From his perspective as a consumer we've failed him by failing to provide the service he expected us to.

OK, now you know what I mean by producers and consumers among MMO players. You may be thinking of some players who are clearly in one category or another. You may be thinking that you yourself or others you know don't fall neatly into one category or the other.

Most people probably will not be ticking all the boxes and saying I'm 100% one category or the other. Most people will however tick 80%+ of the boxes on one side. Very very few people will be 50% producer 50% consumer.

In fact the vast majority of players are identifiably either producer or consumer in the way they play MMOs and react to the Player-Enhanced Content.

Understanding the Paradigm opens a tremendous amount of possibilities to us, options to change the way we play and the way people around us play.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

[Questionnaire] Are you C or P?

1) After each question jot down either C or P

2) Do you have voice comms and a mike? Yes = P, No = C

3) Have you bought a bargain on the Auction House that you felt really satisfied with in the last month? Yes = C, No = P

4) Do you think crafted items should be just as good as raid/arena rewards? Yes = P, No = C

5) Do you go to the meeting stone in a pug? Yes = P, No = C

6) Are you dps? Yes = C, No = P

7) Do you have hotkeys set up to raid mark mobs? Yes = P, No = C

8) Do you always type brb or afk when you bio break? Yes = P, No = C

9) Someone asks a simple question in General Chat, eg "Where is Manrik's wife?" Do you answer? Yes = P, No = C

10) Are you or have you been an officer, raid leader or GM in a raiding guild? Yes = P, No = C

Advertisement: CPP Theorem Free Trial!!!

Welcome to this important news release about an amazing new concept in MMOs: CPP. CPP is a radical and orginal system that will revolutionise the way you play MMOs.

CPP will let you
- find a better guild
- become a better player
- recruit and befriend better players
- eliminate certain pointless and boring activities
- (game designers only) design a better game

CPP is absolutely free. What's more CPP is guaranteed to work. Anyone taking advantage of this special introductory offer who is not 100% satisfied will be able to claim a full refund.

CPP will be unveiled in this thread. Each day one of the reserved posts immediately following will be completed until after six days the full product will be available here. On the seventh day we're planning to rest as is standard procedure when great works are created.

Hope you enjoy the mystery and in any event stay tuned for a game-changing, even a life-changing, new product!

(Note to moderators: CPP is not at this time a commercial product in any way. It is a free service aimed at increasing the amount of enjoyment players and designers get from participating in MMOs).

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Coming soon: CPP

This next week will see a radical series of blog posts which I will post here and also to the WoW official forums.

The subject? CPP

What's CPP? Well it's currently a mystery. One that will slowly be revealed over the course of the next week. I think if you read this blog you'll absolutely love it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Threat build

With 3.1 coming this week it's dual spec time and I'll be taking two tank builds. I've analysed the various survival options in previous posts.

Now it's time to look at threat. I suspect that this may become my default tanking spec since already I'm having some problems keeping aggro.

After looking at Tankspot's excellent DK threat summary I decided I'd like to do an Unholy threat spec. Scourge Strike has added threat, Unholy Blight is great AOE threat.

The build is 23/0/48

Single target rotation is Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Scourge Strike, Blood strike, Blood strike, Scourge strike, Scourge strike, Scourge strike
RP dumps are Rune Strike and Death Coil

Multi-target rotation is Death and Decay, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Unholy Blight, Blood Tap, Blood Boil

Friday, 10 April 2009

To the power of ten

To the power of ten: why ten man raids are inherently a more powerful form of raid than 25s.

Much has been said recently about the apparent anomaly that ten man raids offer comparable difficulty but worse loot than 25 man raids.

Ghostcrawler has commented on this issue extensively on the US WoW forums. His basic line is that 25s are desireable, hard to organise, and would die if the reward was obtainable elsewhere more easily.

Green Armadillo feels that balancing normal mode 10 man, normal mode 25 man, hard/achievement mode 10 man and hard/achievement mode 10 man is simply too much. It's too early to say this - one of the huge imponderables here is that players have not unanimously accepted achievement/hard mode content as a desireable progression path yet and they might do so in future.

Hatch thinks Ghostcrawler is floundering in defence of an untenable position. That loot should be the same in both versions, possibly with greater quantity of loot dropping in 25s.

The key point, which Ghostcrawler isn't really in a position to stress because it means insulting his customers is that most of us can find 10 good players relatively easily. So a 10 man raid is you plus nine friends whereas a 25 man raid is you plus 9 mates plus 15 people who are tagging along for the loot.

OK that will vary of course - if you're not very social it may just be you plus 24 random strangers if you're highly social or are imposing and checking standards it may be you plus 24 excellent players.

They key point is that social connection is a huge factor in performance. Crappy pugs are crappy not because people are incompetent but because they are 5 strangers and no one is digging deep to find their best game.

There are two requisites to playing at the top of your abilities for most people:

1) Trust. If you feel that you are playing with a bunch of clueless noobs you will probably stop trying or try to hard and overcompensate for them to the point it impairs your best game. This is human nature, group psychology. We see it in the difference between small businesses where people feel individually recognised and acclaimed for their contributions and large businesses where people feel marginalised. Of course there may be economy of scale factors that make large businesses more profitable but generally speaking the commitment of employees is much higher in small businesses.

2) Security. You need to feel free to take risks, say what you think, test things. If you get jumped on for being a clueless noob or think you might when you try something different or simply if your exasperated raid leader demands you all to shut up on bosses then you're marginalised and won't concentrate as well.

Both of these requisites are likely to be present in a close-knit 10 man group and absent in a bigger raid.

The problem and challenge of 25 man raiding is getting the best out of people by making them feel valued and important. This happens naturally in a 10 man built primarily on real life or in-game friends, after all you can make a group just by contacting people you value. It's much harder to do for 25s.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

3.1 tanking part 3: glyph analysis

This is the last post in the series. I will now look at glyphs purely from a survival perspective.

1) threat is not a problem
2) you need to do everything you can to maximise survival

MMO-champion's talent calculator

The big three

In a previous post I stated that a DK tank can be defined by which 36 point talent he takes. In addition to being very strong tanking talents these cooldown abilities also each have an excellent glyph associated with them.

To evaluate these bear this in mind: duration is the most important aspect of a cooldown after the length of the cooldown itself. Generally speaking you will survive a spike if your cooldown is up in time and making a cooldown 20% better won't change this. Duration on the other hand means that your cooldown can cover more big hits, for example more of Sartharion's Flame Breaths.

Glyph of Vampiric Blood: increases duration by 10 secs.
The best glyph for one of these abilities by quite a long way. It moves VB to an uptime of 30 secs in every 120 second cycle. In other words even after the 3.1 DK cooldown nerf this ability alone covers you for 25% of the fight. With Anti-Magic Shell, Icebound Fortitude and cooldowns from Priests and Paladins you can be under a cooldown continually.

Glyph of Unbreakable Armour: increases the amount of damage absorbed by Unbreakable Armour by 20%
I honestly think that if the base 5% damage absorbtion from the skill won't save you then 6% absorbtion won't either. It's mathematically possible of course but in practice it will be very rare that the extra tiny amount of absorb makes the difference.

Glyph of Bone Shield: adds 2 charges to your Bone Shield
This is a buff to Bone Shield's duration. How strong this is depends on your evasion. For most tanks 6 charges of Bone Shield will not last 30 seconds against most bosses. A boss usually has an autoattack at about 2.5 speed, will get extra attacks when it parries (mitigated by your expertise), will have special attacks/breaths. In addition if an add hits you it will reduce Bone Shield.

Winner: Blood

Other Blood glyphs

(minor) Glyph of Blood Tap: Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.
I Blood Tap a lot. According to the MMO Champion skills list Blood Tap does 6% of base health. My orc, naked, is 10 061 so this is 604 health. However the tool tip says 487 health and when I use it my health goes to 9 574, a cost of 487. So it's 487 health per minute saved by using this minor glyph, averaging 8.1 health per sec.

Glyph of Rune Tap: Your Rune Tap heals yourself for an additional 10% of the effect, and also heals your party for 10% of their maximum health.
The effect is 20% every 30 seconds with 4 talent points spent so this glyph gives 600 health per 30 seconds to a 30K life tank. 20 health per second seems pretty small but that is the average amount this glyph will give you if you can Rune Tap on cooldown without overhealing. The group heal is a nice extra.

Other Frost glyphs

Glyph of Icebound Fortitude: IBF always gives at least 30% damage reduction regardless of your defence skill.
Normally your defence skill will give over 30% so this is pointless to tanks wearing + defence gear. The one exception is Thorim, a boss in Ulduar who reduces defence. You may wish to swap this glyph in for that fight.

Other Unholy glyphs

Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell: increases duration by 2 seconds.
As I've said above duration is the best way in which cooldown abilities can be improved by glyphs after cooldown reduction. This glyph takes this cooldown from an uptime of 5 secs every 45 secs to 7 secs every 45 secs. It's a significant improvement to a very good ability.

(minor) Glyph of Death's Embrace: Your Death Coil refunds 20 runic power when used to heal.
This is only useful in conjunction with Lichborne. By turning yourself undead you can dump RP into self-healing Death Coils and this glyph almost doubles the effectiveness of this. If you want to survive tough situations as a tank and are taking Lichborne this is probably the best minor glyph.

Glyph of Death Strike: increases your Death Strike's damage by 2% for every 2 runic power you have to a max of 25%. The runic power is not consumed.
Death Strike should be your main 2 glyph attack on a survival fight. Damage directly boosts the size of the heals making this a very useful survival tank glyph. Death Strike is presumably a reasonable threat ability because both the damage part of the attack and the heal add threat. So possibly you should use glyphed Death Strike over unglyphed Obliterate not just in survival situations but also in threat situations. (Needs testing).

Glyph of Raise Dead: your Raise Dead no longer requires a reagent.
Being able to cannibalise your ghoul for life with Death Pact is a significantly useful survival tank move. If you're so well organised that you never forget corpse dust then this Minor may be redundant. For the rest of us this is a potential life-saver.


The glyphs I recommend to survival tanks are as follows:
Major: one from Glyph of Vampiric Blood, Unbreakable Armour, Bone Shield
Glyph of Death Strike
Glyph of Anti-magic Shell

Minor: Blood Tap, Death's Embrace (if you have Lichborne), Raise Dead (if you're occasionally disorganised).

Monday, 6 April 2009

The future of the MMO industry

One of the astonishing successes of WoW and to some extent other games has been their ability to harness players to code add-ons to extensively test add-ons at no risk to the parent company and then to complacently accept when the developer decides to incorporate the add-on into their own UI. All of these stages could have been stumbling blocks. If you had outlined this scheme ten years ago people would have said amateurs won't want to write your program for you without being paid, won't do it well, players won't test code written by random non-professional members of the public, and even if they do you'll never get away with taking amateur copyright code and incorporating it into a product you charge for.

But of course it's worked and Blizzard's UI is not only superior to anyone else's but has been written, and will be written in future by amateurs, tested for months and years by thousands of players and co-opted into the game by Blizzard once they know it's a sure-fire bet.

This will broaden as it's such excellent business for the game company.

I expect to see in future raids dungeons and classes written and tested by players then "lifted" by Blizzard. Perhaps they'll even name an NPC after whichever unpaid genius makes them the most millions.

This, not RMT, is the future of the MMO industry.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The cycle of drama: response

I posted a lengthy response over at World Of Matticus which I've decided to repeat here. As usual Matticus is at his most thought-provoking on the subject of guild management and 5 phases in the cycle of drama is an excellent read.

If it’s any consolation Matt, these things are cyclical and drama will become less of a problem once the toy cupboard is stocked with new Ulduar-flavoured toys.

I think you’re correct in your analysis that silence leads to explosions but I think that the inference that communication is the answer is less sure.

There are a lot of people on the internet in general and playing WoW in particular who don’t bother to be polite. Historically, politeness evolved in violent cultures where if you annoyed someone you could be killed. In medieval Japan the practice of “cutting and going away” whereby an offended member of the samurai class had the legal right to kill an offensive commoner has left a legacy of extraordinary civility amongst Japanese people to this day. In medieval Europe chivalry evolved as a series of polite forms to stop strangers from killing each other.

In WoW if you want a smoother ride encourage politeness. If people feel free to trash-talk guildies your guild will probably suffer unless there is a specific reason why it thrives on edginess (perhaps a pvp guild or an aggressively competitive server first type guild).

To some extent politeness means that the officers need to reign in those who feel entitled to be rude to whoever disagrees with them.

It’s a fact of life that you can’t build a team of 30+ players without some of them disliking at least one other person. Politeness is a way of keeping the conflict from escalating.

This is why people in offices are generally polite. They don’t necessarily like their co-workers, they may even detest someone, but because everyone is expected to be polite they co-exist without exploding into drama that might damage the organisation.

In other words it’s healthy to have a general expectation that adult players should be responsible for managing their own frictions rather than expecting them to require paternalistic management of their relationships with other players.

If players in a guild don’t get on it’s usually one of the following:
1) pecking order (ie “don’t give me advice on how to play and be right damn you - you’ve only been here a month and I’m one of the main healers since Kara”).

2) misunderstanding

3) cultural differences (”what’s wrong with calling people slags? we all called each other slags in my old guild?”)

4) rivalry for raid spots or loot

Pecking order disputes are hard to identify since the participants won’t see them as pecking order disputes. Generally once we’ve identified that this is the problem the best approach seems to be to tell them to leave each other alone. (”I was only being helpful!” “Yes I know but just stop, ok?”). You won’t solve this type of problem by getting them to talk to each other.

Misunderstandings are usually exposed and put to bed by openness about what was said and what the intentions were.

Cultural differences are best nipped in the bud early. These can be identified during trials when the individuals are at their most receptive, change them then if possible.

Rivalry issues are best defused by having clearly stated sign-ups and loot systems that allow people to know where they stand. Sometimes they arise because guild leadership has been pretty thoughtless. My last guild believed in having 5 mages and 2 mage spots, one of which was given to the 99% active assistant raid leader. They should have simply let the numbers go down or taken more mages to raids but they did neither. Playing a mage in that guild meant being benched more than raiding but that only applied to mages not to other classes.