Boosting can be dangerous.
Silithus. The land of sand, crystals and forgotten sorrows. The wars are over, the armies returned, old horrors forgotten.
The champion of the Bronze Flight has not been seen for months.. Rivalries have once again arisen, and former cooperation is only a distant memory. Former comrades in arms fight over.. dust, and the Bronze Flight has turned away in disgust. The Spider Queen has not contacted me, so I have spent my time on trivial things. But that was about to change.
It was quite a surprise when they proposed it. To re-establish contact with the Timeless One and his servants.. A reasonable plan. Among the chaos, potential friends must not be forgotten. But.. why me?
I am not the most diplomatic one among the Noise, nor the most heroic. Sure, I had made a small contribution in the Second War of the Shifting Sands, but.. Me?
The desert was as repulsive as always. The everpresent humming had not quieted down, quite the contrary. Sand still got into every nook and crevice. And the heat.. This is no place for a Frostmane. Windclaw's nervous movements suggested that he was not fond of this place, either. Most wildlife had tough exoskeletons, and those that could be cracked open were often poisonous. I would have to do most of the hunting without him. I rode towards Cenarion Hold. The guards have stopped giving me dirty looks. But the mistrust of others still lingers in the air like the breath of a dwarf. I best do my business here quickly and start my work.
Nalith picked up his glaives from the rack. The freezing winds howled around the tower of Cenarion Hold. This is the shift he hated the most, just before sunrise. Elune's light would soon be replaced by the blinding, scorching, merciless sun.
"I hate mornings."
"We all have our burdens to carry, Nalith. You were lucky that Commander Mar'alith let you off so easy. A month or two and you'll be back on night shift."
"The sun isn't up yet, and it's freezing."
"You could have ended up in the midday shift."
"Point taken. Wait.. what was that?"
"What was what?"
"That flicker of light.. Over there, in Hive'Ashi."
"Oh, right. You haven't been on the night shift."
"Stop reminding me. What is it?"
"It's a troll."
"Troll? You're not making any sense. "
"She sets off every evening. She always picks up some combat assignments, and then comes back in the morning. She doesn't even read them."
"What did you expect? It's a troll, right?"
"What do you think is causing those flashes? She has the stench of magic on her. I think she can read well enough."
"But if she.. It is not there for serving the Circle, why.."
"I know what you are thinking, Nalith. She is not one of the cultists."
"How can you be so sure?"
"You'll see, or rather smell it yourself when she comes back. Last time Innkeeper Calandrath sent the troll to Un'Goro to bathe before she allowed her to touch her beds."
"It seems that you'll have to wait a bit longer, though. The flashes are moving towards one of the entrances to the hive."
"Enough of the troll, please. It's almost dawn. You should get some sleep, esteemed sister."
High up in the sky, a lone beast glided along, blocking out the stars..
There are five stages in any gold farming operation:
First, gathering. This is done via a small army of automated programs. In other words, bots. These bots are usually hunters, and are equipped with easily obtainable loot, like bind-on-equip rare items. These bots are then sent to work on carefully selected areas of the world, where there's appropiate prey that can be safely killed with the limited intelligence of the bot, yet drop good enough loot to be sold. Popular places for bots are Felwood, Burning Steppes, Blasted Lands, Deadwind Pass, and pretty much any area where there's high-level non-elite mobs or easy elite mobs. Hunters are the most popular bot type because of their pet and Feign Death. The pet keeps the bot itself from any harm, and it can Feign Death when necessary to save it's life.
The gatherer bots generally don't do a very good job at impersonating real players. They rarely responed to interference, unless the bot is directly attacked. While the bot is clumsy and can be easily dispatched by a human player, attacking the bots is in general a futile attempt. Blizzard has a hard time detecting these bots, because they technically do nothing that could automatically be monitored and detected. Vigilante players can hunt the bots and even make the bot lose gold instead of gaining it. This is accomplished by tagging the target mobs before the bot can hit them, causing the bot to gain no benefit from killing that mob. Unfortunately, the only loss at this case is the wasted use of ammo, which is quite cheap. Another trick that can be used is to either draw additional mobs to the bot, or weaken the bot by attacking it so that the mob it is fighting can finish it off. This results in repair costs, and if done enough, can force the bot to return to a city to repair. However, even this effect is neglible. Why? While it does make the bot less efficient, it is still relentless when compared to human players. No human will harass the bot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When the human gets tired, the bot will resume making pure profit. In addition, there are usuall multiple bots scattered around the world, so distrupting one will only make a slight dent in profit. Reporting a bot can shut it down altogether, but a smart goldfarmer uses multiple bots to make sure that the gold keeps flowing. In addition, Blizzard seems to favor banning lots of bots at once, instead of banning them one by one.
Secondly, there's storage. After the gold has been gathered, either by farming or selling the gathered items, it needs to be stored to wait for potential buyers. A naive way to detect storage accounts would be to monitor the amount of gold in the account. This is easily thwarted by distributing the gold evenly across multiple accounts. In addition, this reduces potential loss if Blizzard does shut down one of the storage accounts. A better way to detect storage accounts is to follow the money. Unlike normal exchanges between players, the flow of gold is overwhelmingly one-way. Farmer bots get gold and send it to storage accounts. Storage accounts then send it onwards. While the goldfarming operation might try to "launder" the gold by sending it through multiple accounts, the general flow still remains. If Blizzard were to employ a retired financial crime investigator, for example, methods could be devised to detect these flows of gold automatically.
Third, there's marketing. Once the gold is collected, the goldfarming operation needs to find buyers. This is mostly done with website ads. The websites are beyond Blizzard's control, so they can do little to stop this. There are plenty of ISPs that do not honor takedown requests from American companies such as Blizzard. However, some marketing is done in-game by throwaway accounts. Bots spamming advertisements in-game are easily detected. Not only they use predetermined phrases, they also tend to annoy a lot of legit players, which in turn results in the advertisement bots getting banned quickly. However, the profit margins of gold farmers allow them to just buy (or otherwise acquire) a new license and resume advertising. Advertising bots do not even try to hide themselves.
The fourth phase is making the sale. This is overwhelmingly done via the goldfarmer's website, so there's little Blizzard or individual players can do to stop it from happening.
Finally, there's delivery. While the goldfarmers might try to "launder" the gold or items by funneling them through several accounts, the buyer still needs to receive an unusual amount of goods. Large transfers of gold can be detected easily, so a smart goldfarmer will probably use several accounts to transfer the merchandise in small amounts. Still, the end result is the same. A certain player received a sudden influx of money. And this is what Blizzard can easily detect automatically and start to follow the flow of gold back to it's source. However, this process is somewhat slow, because verifying each chain of the link requires some manual labor. Blizzard does not want the bad publicity of accidentally banning large amounts of innocent players, who might have bought items in-game from the farmers, not knowing that they were doing so. Eventually, Blizzard will map the whole network of the goldfarmer and then ban all of the farmer's accounts in one sweep.
It has been argued by TotalBiscuit and others that banning accounts in batches is not enough. While Blizzard tracks down the farmer's network, he can continue making profit. So when Blizzard finally closes down his operation, he can simply start over with the profit he has already gained. On the other hand, banning farmer bots quickly will reduce the time they will generate merchandise for the farmer. However, this leaves the rest of the farmer's "network" intact. While Blizzard can obviously follow the money from the banned account and track down at least some other accounts, it will not shut down the farmer's operation altogether. All they have to do is to acquire some more licenses and set up more bots. In addition, banning only certain bots will alert the goldfarmer that Blizzard has caught up to them. Unless the gold farmer itself is caught by law enforcement, banning individual bots is a hindrance at best.
Athlithuil points out that the Azeroth we know is severely scaled down, so there's lots of room for locations for roleplaying stories.
As always, I'm two minds about it. On the other hand, I am for promoting realism, not being constrained by game mechanics and thus improving immersion. But on the other hand, I am against taking too much liberties with the lore. It can easily lead to a bunch of player-made retcons whenever a new RPG book or a novel is published. And there is always the temptation of godmodding and making yourself a bigwig of some imaginary village.
The Azeroth we know is a miniature version of the true Azeroth. Even traveling between zones would take days. In "Day of the Dragon", it takes days to fly from Southshore to Wetlands. The in-game flight is five minutes at most. This miniaturization is necessary to keep the game interesting with the current amount of content. We'd need a lot of semi-randomly generated filler content, like in Oblivion. But Oblivion also has a time-accelerating autotravel to keep players from getting bored when they do not want to explore all of this fluff. That can't be done in an MMORPG. So players need to imagine all of this. Imagine if just getting to an instance took 45 minutes or more. Imagine if just moving a PvP raid to the location took hours instead of 30 minutes. Miniaturization is necessary to keep the game interesting.
Another day, another whine. The Alliance Watch, the largest guild doing World PvP on Defias raided Tarren Mill. And then they raided it some more, until there were nobody to raid. Then the resurrection timers started running out, and there was again people to raid.
Having been on the receiving end of a TAW raid on several occassions, I have to say that resurrecting is a challenge, to say the least. The question is whether this is intentional or just a side effect of town raids. Especially when you attack places with a big guardspawn, like Tarren Mill, Refuge Pointe or Stonard, it is hard to see whether that enemy on half health just resurrected or was simply wounded from fighting one of your friends.
Resurrection timers are also problematic, because it's easy to think that you gave your enemies time to mend their wounds and regroup properly, when they have simply been waiting for a chance to resurrect. Making an another attack whenever the resurrection timers are up can easily be seen as corpsecamping, even if there was no ill will.
The Chapter is recruiting. It is a roleplaying guild that mixes the medieval Catholic Church with the official Alliance belief in the Holy Light.
This is interesting for a variety of reasons. First of all, the Holy Light is obviously inspired by the real Catholic Church. In fact, in Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, there are direct references to God, angels and demons. These references were later replaced to references to more generic terms. God got replaced by the non-personal philosophy of the Holy Light. Angels got replaced by the Naaru and demons got replaced by the various races of the Burning Legion. The Chapter attempts to change this back somewhat. While I'm not a Blizzard developer, I would guess that the change was originally made to avoid any clashes with current religions. Warcraft was originally released a year after Doom, in the middle of the controversy about Doom's infernal imagery. Warcraft 2, which was released a year after Warcraft 1, had already gotten rid of God, angels and demons.
Now the Chapter is adding elements from medieval Catholicism into the mix. This can open a huge can of worms. There are already Christian guilds on many servers that actively recruit only Christian players and try to convert others. What happens if someone cannot keep the in-game religion separate from the real-world religion? Let's say that a Christian member of the Chapter encounters a staunch atheist, and tries to convert him in-character. Any insults could be taken very personally. Religion in general is a subject where calm, rational discussions are somewhat rare.
The second interesting aspect of the Chapter is that they rewrite some lore. They claim (at least in-character) that their holy book has been written by Uther Lightbringer himself, a very important (and deceased) NPC in the Warcraft universe. They also claim that prominent paladin NPCs in the game endorse them. This smells strongly of metagaming, because the NPCs can neither endorse or rebuke them. In essence, the Chapter is latching on to the credibility of the NPCs, so this decision can result in heated discussions (both in-character and out-of-character), of what Uther did and did not do. Again, these discussions could turn personal quite quickly.
WoW Insider is reporting some big news about the Burning Crusade.
First of all, the current ladder system of PvP will be abdolished. This is great news. This eliminates the problem of having to compete with your own faction. This means that your team will no longer focus on killing enemies instead of trying to capture the flag in Warsong Gulch, exclude you from their Arathi Basin premade group, or have to work out High Warlord / Grand Marshal rotations for different weeks.
Second, there's information about the new shaman and paladin skills. Paladins get an AoE taunt buff that will help them function as offtanks in an emergency, and shamans get bloodlust. Finally. While it may not be as powerful as in Warcraft 2 (+50% melee damage), it's still great news.
What they didn't mention was how they are going to keep the factions different enough from each other to make the choice matter. Personally, I would love to have racial spells and skills for each class. The priests have them, and fighting a dwarven priest is somewhat different from fighting a Forsaken priest.
WoW Insider has done some math on the new Honor kill diminishing returns.
Basically, instead of losing 25% honor each kill, you only lose 10%. So opponents will stop giving honor after the 10th kill, instead of 4th kill. While this does increase honor received from each kill, it does not result in getting ranks faster. Everyone else is also getting more honor, so the net advantage is zero.
The other changes are more interesting. Blizzard will also tweak the maths to increase the allowed number of top-rank players on a server, so getting ranks will be easier. But the real kicker is a rumored change to the honor decay formula. In effect, you currently have to regain 20% of your total contribution points every week to avoid losing contribution points. While the effect is barely visible in lower ranks, it does make the last few ranks a grueling experience. Think of it as an accelerating treadmill. You have to run faster and faster just to stay where you are. Getting the last ranks does require unhealthy amounts of PvPing.
The rumored change would reduce the decay rate to 5%, which means that keeping ranks is easier and the majority of effort actually goes to advancing in ranks instead of maintaining the current rank. This can dramatically cut down on the time that aspiring Grand Marshals and High Warlords need to invest in full-time PvPing.
Apparently some players on Defias Brotherhood have become sick and tired of bots and started dealing out vigilante justice. While I despise gold selling and acknowledge that the server ruleset allows and encourages hunting, I also expect that this vigilantism has all the downsides as real vigilantism. In other words, lots of innocent people get ganked.
How do you roleplay differences in power in a world where game mechanics say that everyone is equal?
I recently got engaged in a flamewar about a roleplaying incident, which led to accusations of godemoting. Basically, in the incident a noble was talking with his friend in a known player-run bar, the Smoking Blade. He was repeatedly asked to leave, but he refused. Was this bad roleplaying or not?
If you look at the incident in pure in-character perspective, the bar staff would probably have been unable to eject the said noble by force. Still, there would have been consequences to be involved in a bar fight. Yet, because of game mechanics, there were no consequences. Actual fighting was impossible, and the NPC guards would not interfere. And both sides knew this. If the noble didn't want to move, the bar staffers could not make him to do so.
Out-of-character, the incident was much tougher to judge. Both the bar staff and the noble (along with his friend) are completely equal. Both pay the same amount to Blizzard. Neither of them can really own the building.
Now let's muddy the waters a bit. The Old Town Syndicate is well-known for Smoking Blade. It is generally accepted that the building belongs to them. So should they be able to dictate what happens in that building? What about the noble then? He has an elaborate backstory which establishes him as a noble. Thus, he should be able to command some puny peasants around, right?
No. The Old Town Syndicate does not own the building. No, the noble does not get to boss people around just because he wrote an elaborate backstory. Why? Both sides' power is all about consent. The majority of people on Defias Brotherhood has consented that the building belongs to the Old Town Syndicate. Similarly, people have consented to be the noble's underlings. But here's the problem. The Old Town Syndicate has not consented to respect the noble's rank. Similarly, the noble is disputing the Old Town Syndicate's position. He has not consented that the Syndicate is the law in that part of the town.
Elaborate backstories don't give you any authority by default. What gives you the authority is other people. People like the Old Town Syndicate's roleplay in the Smoking Blade, so they consent to it. People like the noble's roleplay and backstory, so they consent to be his underlings. Nor does rank 14 give you any real power over your faction. By definition, it just means that you have PvPed more than the most of the server. It says nothing of your leadership skills. If people like your leadership, they will follow you. If they don't, they leave you fuming alone in raidchat or WorldDefense. Similarly, people could walk to the Smoking Blade like the Old Town Syndicate was never there.
All it would have taken is a few out-of-character whispers to tell the other side about your viewpoints, so that consensus and thus consent could have been reached. That didn't happen.
Shalkis: *lifts her gaze from a book*
Syskae: By the Light!
Shalkis: I told you that security here could be improved.
Syskae: *syskae throws his cowl back* You are... Shalkis, are you not? Melnerag wished to warn you.
Shalkis: *motions towards the chair*
Syskae: Not here. Catacombs. I have been spied on before.
Syskae: Melnerag did not expect to see you here, but the fact of the matter is that the Shining Strand is going to raid Ogrimmar. He wished for you to be safe, or prepare. Whatever. I speak in his name, I suppose, if only by chance.
***Syskae concentrates on somethign for a moment, as his armor is summoned on his body.
Shalkis: Tell me something that I don't know. Like what is that outfit for?
Syskae: [hesitantly] It is a gift from Melnerag. The Strand knows it, but not my monkish outfit. I would rather be discovered wearing this, than have the outfit spoilt.
Shalkis: Yes, I see his handiwork. I assume he has told you many things that you previously did not want to hear.
Syskae: [wrinkling his nose] Melnerag likes to talk, yes. Many things he says I find agreeable, not the least his goals if not always his methods.
Shalkis: He dos have less success with other individuals, though. Has he recovered his eye yet?
Syskae: No. Though I find the method you recommended quite abhorrent. Surely you cannot be serious, that a human should take up such barbarous practices.
Shalkis: Melnerag does have less messy methods in his disposal, but surely this is nothing new to the humans?
Syskae: True. But the Gearholder has a bizzare lust for experimentation, it would appear. I only follow this curiosity up to a point, as you might imagine. However, I did hear reports that you were in elvish lands earlier on. As I was.
Shalkis: Yes, I was travelling around that area, gathering samples for my research.
Syskae: I was looking for Etienne. Perhaps you caught sight or smell of him?
Shalkis: I encountered only a few humans, but not her.
Syskae: [confused] Her?
Shalkis: It sounds like a female name.
Shalkis: Not that it matters much, humans do not usually introduce themselves to me.
Syskae: He is not aggressive at all. A young Westfaller, but 20 years of age, golden haired, and pretty if I might put it such. If ever you chance to encounter him, I will pay handsomely .... he left me and I know not where he is.
Shalkis: If a human fled into areas the elves have claimed for themselves, the first place that I would look for is Nijel's Point.
Syskae: Why there?
Shalkis: Although I did see no bright-haired humans there. The ones I saw were all wearing helmets.
Syskae: [slowly] I will go look there.
Shalkis: Nijel's Point is one of the few settlements where there are more humans than elves.
Shalkis: Including some of your associates.
Syskae: The Crusade thinks me dead after Melnerag got me out of there. I fear this is for the best, for now, with Stormwind after me.
Shalkis: If.. one wanted to forget things, the barren flats of Desolace would be a perfect place to gather one's thoughs. And an ample ground for a recruiter to instill new ideas into youths searching for themselves.
Shalkis: I have found Shadowprey Village quite.. serene myself.
Syskae: Etienne told me he was safe. I doubt he would go there, but ...
Syskae: I should get going before we are detected here. Unless there is something you wish to convey upon me.
Shalkis: I have just one question. Do you now accept the truth about the Grand Crusader?
Syskae: [gruff] Something may be afoot. I should see for myself one day. Right now, the Grand Crusader is very far away. With the voices of the Sphere in my head he feels quite distant. It matters not, at any rate, as the fight for Lordaeron is a fight against the Scourge.
Syskae: *begins to walk away*
Shalkis: That'll do for now. May the Spider Queen's web catch you, should you fall.
Syskae: I'd rather not be entangled by Troll allies. Light bless you, Shalkis.
Inspected three guards because of aggressive behaviour. No obvious abnormalities detected, samples retrieved for further study.
Inspected Shandris Feathermoon for abnormal hostility even for an elf. Samples retrieved for further study.
Lack of aggression in elves suggests that no interesting mutations would be found. Nevertheless, inspected two specimens and retrieved control samples for further study. Also encountered two Dryads and a Keeper. While they identified themselves as working for the Cenarion Circle, they declined to comment further. Left at their original habitat for reasons of diplomacy.
Footnote: one of the elves showed signs of aggression, retrieved some more samples for study.
Lack of subjects proved to be a problem. Took samples as control from the local flight master. Obtained several samples from the denizens of the Talon Den.
Proximity of corrupted water elementals suggested that elves near Mystral Lake might be corrupted, provided they use the lake for drinking water. Obtained samples from the four aggressive ones.
Addeneum: Encountered a highly aggressive specimen. Pacified for sample collection.
Addeneum: While collecting samples from the watchtower near Raynewood Retreat, encountered one highly aggressive specimen. Unfortunately, the specimen vanished before any samples could be obtained.
Addeneum: Shortly after specimen 1 vanished, encountered an another specimen with severely degraded motoric skills. Distinguishing features noted for later sample retrieval.
Addeneum: Attempts to locate specimens 1 and 2 unsuccessful. Collected five samples from Astranaar.
Addeneum: Retrieved interesting samples from an elf maintaining the Shrine of Aessina. Coloration of flora in the area suggests a high degree of corruption. Visible discolorations and abnormal texture of samples noted. Preserved for further study.
Personal note: I am being followed by a stealthy human. His motives are currently unknown.
Addeneum: Sample collection aborted at Maestra's Post. due to human interference. However, specimens showed an unusual lack of response to physical stimuli. Noted for further study.
Addeneum: Encountered a specimen running from Darkshore. Specimen physical structure unable to withstand physical stimuli. Sample obtained for further study.
Encountered a non-hostile Ancient, with no visual signs of corruption. Specimen left in pristine condition for now. Accompanying elves show now isgns of aggression. Elf specimens are thus unsuitable for the purpose of this study.
Aggressiveness of speciments is increased, approaching expectable levels. Two specimens pacified and subdued at the docks. Samples preserved for further study.
Addeneum: Encountered the movement-impaired specimen again. Unfortunately, the specimen fell into water on it's own. Samples still unavailable for study.
Aggressiveness reached nominal levels., and is uniform among most of encountered speciments. Starting the search for abnormal specimens..
Addeneum: Highly aggressive specimen encountered. Pacification required was comparable to specimens found assaulting Horde settlements from time to time. Several interesting samples obtained for later study.
Encountered a highly durable specimen. Sample collection aborted due to overabundance of specimens.
Dissectation performed to samples obtained from Feathermoon Isle. Sample, texture, weight and contents is within nominal levels for specimens. Slight bluish tint detected. Samples frozen for further study.
Footnote: More samples needed from aquatic specimens for comparison.
Dissectation performed to samples obtained from Nijel's Point. Color nominal. Weight slightly more than expected. A slightly rougher texture detected. Samples frozen for further study.
Footnote: Samples delivered to the Royal Apothecary Society for analysis.
Dissectation performed to samples obtained from Stonetalon Peak. Sample coloration, texture, weight and contents within nominal levels. One sample contained oil. Samples frozen for further study.
Footnote: Requested comparison with known samples of oil used within various races, starting with goblins.
Dissectation and analysis performed on samples obtained from Ashenvale. Sample hormone glands are abnormally large. Signs of decay detected in specimen digestive tract samples. Lung sample obtained from the Shrine of Aessina contain a previously unknown substance. Substance is in the form of fine purple powder. Tissue in contact with the unknown substance changed color to a slight purple tint. Bone sample obtained from the final specimen is more fragile than expected. Sample was unable to withstand even nominal force. Splinters collected. Samples frozen for further study.
Footnote: Samples from unknown substance delivered to the Royal Apothecary Society.
Dissectation performed to sambles obtained from Darkshore. Vein samples show increased volume and toughness, but no discoloration. Intestinal tract samples show signs of decay and green discoloration, but lung samples show no unusual characteristics. Samples frozen for further study.
Footnote: Further sample collection required, especially from specimens encountered near bodies of water.
Dissectation performed to samples obtained from Teldrassil. Purple discoloration detected in lung samples and green discoloration detected in intestinal tract samples. Tissue texture is rough in all cases, suggesting increased resistance to physical trauma. Vein volume and toughness increased. Bone sample obtained from the unusually aggressive specimen shows new growth on bone edges and increased diameter. Changes suggest adaptation for combat. Samples frozen for further study.
osoitteessa 8/05/2006 04:33:00 pm
Apparently the Alliance / Horde Ratio Over Time doesn't change significantly during a server's lifetime. In PvE servers, there's an overwhelming Alliance presence, while PvP servers are fairly even. It'll be interesting to see how the Burning Crusade and the equalization of the factions will affect this.
New UDeck Covers for the World of Warcraft TCG have been released. All of them are very high quality, and the artists range from Blizzard regular Samwise to Gabe of Penny Arcade. I found it really hard to pick a favourite, so I'll have to go with Samwise's Gnomish Warrior.