Farewell to Karazhan?

Relmstein talks about bringing decent players back to Heroics.

However, one thing that worries me is that if the jump from non-heroics to heroics is made easier, Blizzard may end up killing Karazhan. Yes, I know that they're adding badges to Karazhan bosses, but the gear itself is at best at par with current Heroic rewards. Why should one spend loads of time in Karazhan when one can finish Heroic Mechanar and a few other instances in a fraction of the time and effort required? In addition, Heroics only have a one-day lockout timer while Karazhan resets weekly.

Blizzard originally intended the epic fire resist sets to be the carrot that would drive raiders to Heroics. However, just like a kid who hates vegetables because he's being forced to eat them, raiders opted for making new strategies for A'lar, the encounter that supposedly required all that fire resistance. Personally, I did pick up a few pieces for Krosh Firehand tanking (and I know that this fire mage ogre ignores Fire Resistance completely, I took the pieces for the stamina), but couldn't bother with the rest. The helm, the ring, the amulet and the cloak are hardly upgrades from even level 70 blues. The upcoming Zul'Aman-skinned items seem to be at par with some of the better craftables (like Spellstrike), so they may end up being somewhat popular. Since you won't be needing Revered reputation for Heroics anymore, you'll be hitting Heroics even before you have finished your Karazhan attunement. Aside from a few individual pieces (like the Lightning Capacitor for fire mages), Karazhan may end up being a dead-end in PvE content progression.


Loot Whoring for Fun and Epics

Sometimes calling someone a loot whore is entirely justified. The question is whether loot whoring should be punishable. In my opinion, that's entirely up to each individual guild. If the guild agrees that the availability of homemade pornography should be a factor in loot distribution, go for it. The resulting discussion on the exchange rate between crotch shots and DKP should be interesting.

Otherwise.. it's /gkick time for both the loot whore and the corrupt guild officer. (via Manic Graffiti)


Carving up the world

Tobold suggests suggests that zones should be instanced and made cross-realm to overcome player density inbalances. While instancing zones like in Guild Wars might solve one problem, fragmenting the world does not come without cost.

The most obvious one is loading lag. When you step into an instance, you get a loading screen. The client loads new graphics, sounds and models into memory and discards old ones. But that's not all that happens in the background. The state of your character is transparently transferred to a completely different server, the instance server. Aside from chat channels, mail and group/guild management, nothing that happens inside the instance affects anyone else. Interacting in-game between players on different instance servers is impossible. Now why is this a bad thing? Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms and Outland (which includes Draenei and Blood Elf starting zones) are all on different servers. Nobody expects to interact with someone on the other side of the sea. But normal zones are adjacent to each other. You can see to Hinterlands from Hillsbrad Foothills. A player standing on the Hillsbrad side can shoot someone on the Hinterlands side, and the Hinterlands player can seamlessly run from Hinterlands to Hillsbrad and slash the other player with his sword.

Now let's take a look at the same scenario when Hinterlands and Hillsbrad are in different instances. The Hinterlands player could not see anything that happens in Hillsbrad, and vice versa. If they are on the same faction, they can chat using guild chat or other global channels. But that's it. No other interaction is possible.

Then why do game developers use instancing if it limits interaction? Scalability. One instance server is as good as the other one, so you can have a whole army of servers ready to split the load to. In a sense, splitting the world into different realms is just instancing the three world servers. No current hardware would be powerful enough to handle real-time interaction between 9 million players. Current world servers "crash" if you have 600 players in the same zone, which is not that hard to achieve during world events, especially on PvP servers. Fortunately, nobody cares if they end up in Alterac Valley #13 instead of Alterac Valley #10. Or end up on the wrong world server after returning from a battleground (don't laugh, it has happened). Except.. when you have a friend that's currently playing on AV #10. Sure, you can queue specifically to AV #10, but you might not get a spot. And if the developers allow you to freely join any instance server you like, the scalability benefit they got from instancing quickly dissipates.

What about always putting the same party/raid/guild to the same instance server? A good idea, unless your circle of friends is larger than a party/raid/guild. If you have played on a specific WoW realm for an extended period of time, you probably know dozens of players well and know hundreds by name. You might as well call it a realm instead of an instance.

But why couldn't instance servers talk to each other and seamlessly delegate responsibility when the player moves past the Hillsbrad - Hinterlands border? They could, but the issue is how much information the instance servers should share and at what point the Hillsbrad server no longer needs to care about the player that went to Hinterlands. Inter-server information exchange is relatively slow when compared to information exchange within a server, so the transfers need to be kept to a minimum to ensure a tolerable and relatively lag-free playing experience. Distance would be the obvious limiting factor. No matter what you do, a player in Silithus can't directly interact with a player in Winterspring. But where's the cutoff point? The disparity of load is an another issue. You'd probably need more servers for Shattrath City or Orgrimmar than you do for Winterspring. Except when you have a player-created event in Winterspring which is about to be attacked by other players..

Since demand for processing power depends entirely on player actions, it's always somewhat unpredictable. So any such system would have to be able to reassign servers dynamically to respond to sudden changes of demand. Such a system would in theory allow a single, shared world which could handle a large number of players. There would be no need for instances.

Just don't ask me how to implement it. If I knew, I probably would be busy making the Best MMORPG Ever.


The Complaint

"It dinna work!"
"As explained before, The Royal Apothecary Society disclaims all responsibility resulting from the use of our.."
"I did exactly as ya told me. I took two doses before, den increased my adrenalin output to de specified level via combat, den took two more doses immediately afterwards."
"..products, especially those that are deemed to be experimental by senior members of the Royal Apothecary Society. Furthermore, the Royal Apothecary Society has a policy of not offering any assurances on the validity or the feasibility of such a product. If you wish to make a complaint.."
"Look at dis! Is did yer idea of a healthy trollish ear? It's as thin as paper! A small swipe and it tore right off my head!"
".. regarding the Royal Apothecary Society, including but not limited to myself or my superiors, you may do so.."
"..as soon as a suitable opening is found on one of the Dark Lady's attendants' schedules. You will be informed in time of your appointment and are required to bring any evidence you may have of the alledged derelictions of duty.."
"Are ya even listening?"
"..as well as any other material that would be of use when deciding such a matter, including but not limited to malformed body parts.."
"Ya bet it's malformed!"
"..that prove that the regenerative process was interrupted in violation of our specific instructions.."
"It was just a leetle elf, nottin' to worry about."
"..by any outside influences, humanoid or bestial.."
"And had a kitty dat may have took a bite out of me.."
"..which are beyond the Royal Apotheacry Society's control. Furthermore, you are required to prove that the Royal Apothecary Society was supplied.."
"If ya could just mix up a new batch.."
"..with all requested knowledge prior to the formation of the business relationship, including but not limited to information about previously undisclosed wounds, such as.."
"We could call it even and I'd be on my way."
"..severe musculature loss on limbs which would cause the regenerative effect focus on such wounds instead of desired body parts."
*sigh* Very well. Let's forget de complaint. Could you mix up a batch dat would heal both my ears and my arm?"
"I am authorized to agree to such a request, provided that the Royal Apothecary Society is provided with adequate compensation.."
"Of course I'll pay. And I'll get anyting ya need for it."
"..as well any and all materials which currently cannot be provided by the Royal Apothecary Society without prior authorization from the Dark Lady. In addition, instructions provided by the Royal Apothecary Society must be followed without fail. The Royal Apothecary Society disclaims any responsibility from use or misuse of products whether the instructions are followed or not. To achive desired results in an inferior specimen.."
"..the specimen's natural blood flow must be accelerated to the highest flowspeed that such a specimen is rated for. The specimen must not be allowed to sustain any injuries during the regenerative process, for an interruption of the process could result in side effects, including but not limited to, loss of conciousness, diminished mental capacity, uncontrollable hemorrhage, paralysis, stroke and death. Clients are advised to proceed cautiously even after signs of activity have ceased on the specimen."
"Here's de payment. When will it be ready?"
"The Royal Apothecary Society has a policy of refraining to disclose any specific timetables. The clients will be informed when the requested products are available."
"I'll come back later den."
"May the Dark Lady watch over you."


10-man raids and "helping" Team B

Wife Aggro and Tobold recently touched upon the issue of the 10-to-25-man jump making guilds form Team A and Team B, which usually leads to a lot of drama. It's not like this topic hasn't been discussed before, but I'd like to offer one more viewpoint.

Like many other guilds, my guild has Team A and Team B as well. I currently only "need" one item from Karazhan, so I'm solidly in Team A. However, due to scheduling issues I'm unable to attend Team A's raids at all. So I'll raid with Team B to help gear out my guild mates, even if I personally gain nothing from it. However.. whenever I attend a Team B Karazhan run someone else gets left behind. I'm sure that a 300 DPS fire mage or a 500 dps warlock would be glad to have any gear from Karazhan. But because I'm in the raid, they get nothing. No Violet Eye reputation, no raiding experience and no loot. But I'll get a Void Crystal or two, which I currently have no use for, since my weapon is already enchanted and the next upgrade is months away. So am I really helping my guild right now? No.


Matters of Faith

The soothing rays of the sun wake me. I spend the first few hours of the day scouring every inch of my spire. If there was a way up, there must also be a way down. I carefully examine the drawing, because it seems to be my best hope for now. It has three concentric rings, surrounded by runes and joined by a few lines. I try to remember how the inscriptions on the translocator orbs back home looked like. There are some similarities, but this crude drawing won't respond to my touch. I break a small chunk from the bread to serve as my breakfast.

Then.. the runes of the drawing light up. Rings of light rise from the inscription and I hear a familiar three-phase hum. Someone's coming. Friend? Foe?

The figure materializes before me with it's back turned. It has a blueish robe filled with intricate patterns of grey runes and ornate shoulderpads with similar patterns and.. blue dreadlocks! It's the troll! Where's my weapon? That damn troll took it.. I'll just use my own body as a weapon. I sprint towards the she-troll and ready my shoulder for the impact. She hears my footsteps and turns, but way too late. My tackle forces her off-balance and tumbling towards the edge. I press my advantage and pin her to the ground, leaving my arms free to choke the life out of her. But before I can get a good grip, her left arm shoots up to my neck, and my shorter arms no longer reach hers. Her grip is cold and I'm.. having trouble... breathing. Each breath I take... is filled with freezing cold air. My... strength... escapes me.

"Get off me."

I look down. I was not just seeing things in the cave, this she-troll is hideous, even by their own standards. Dim red eyes, burn marks everywhere. One ear missing and the another hanging on a few strands of flesh. A gaping wound on the neck. A featureless expression on her face, if you can call it that. Her grip tightens around my neck and the cold intensifies. I gasp, but all I accomplish is to fill my lungs with even colder air.

I slowly fall to the side and try to breathe. From the corner of my eye I see her get up. I hear flesh tearing and her other ear drops in front of me.

"Are ya Horde?"

"*cough* What are you blabbering about, freak?"

"Let's do dis in de long-winded way, den. Are ya loyal to de Nation of Quel'thalas and Regent Lord Lor'themar Theron, who rules by de decree of Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, heir to de throne of Quel'thalas?"

"*cough* Of course."

"Are ya aware of de Regent Lord's edict dat proclaims dat Quel'thalas has entered a mutual defense treaty wit de nation of Lordaeron, led by Dark Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, de Nation of Durotar, led by Warchief Thrall, de Nation of Mulgore, led by Chieftain Cairne Bloodhoof and de free trolls led by Shadow Hunter Vol'jin?"

"*cough* *cough* Yes."

"Are ya aware dat dis alliance is commonly referred to as de Horde?"

"*cough* Yes. Get to the point, beast!"

"I ask ya again.. are ya Horde?"

She points her left hand towards me, opening her three fingers like a claw, conjuring a blue mass of sparkling, whirling energy. The sky seems to darken, and the winds swirl towards the spell, which seems to dominate my field of vision.

"If ya are not, I am well within my rights to end yer life right here, right now. Are ya Horde?"


The energies intensify and swirl around her arm.

"Are ya aware of de penalty for an unprovoked attack on a fellow member of de Horde wit an intent to keel?"

"You threatened me in Silvermoon! You are the one who should be on trial for treason!"

"But I dinna attack ya."

"You only got what you deserved, beast!"

"And wat exactly is dat we deserve?"

"All of you beasts should be put to the flame! Beasts with tusks who grovel before their heathen gods like worms! Vile green brutes who the humans should have exterminated during the war! We eat cows, we don't invite them to our dinner tables! And just because they call themselves the Forsaken shouldn't spare them from burning in righteous fire!"

"All of you beasts should be put to the flame! Beasts with tusks who grovel before their heathen gods like worms! Vile green brutes who the humans should have exterminated during the war! We eat cows, we don't invite them to our dinner tables! And just because they call themselves the Forsaken shouldn't spare them from burning in righteous fire!"

She is using my voice, replicating my words exactly, with every intonation in place. The graceful movement of my lips do not fit on her grotesque face. I feel sick. If she would repeat those words, even in Silvermoon..

"Such cruel words. However.. I believe in second chances. I tink ya are.. salvageable."

She presses her fingers together and a shockwave of energy shoots outward, barely missing my head.

"Ya still cling to de lies of de Alliance, even after dey left yer people to rot. Dose who attacked de lands which formerly belonged to Zul'Aman are not de Horde as it exists today.."

"An orc is an orc! And a troll is a troll! Even a freak such as yourself!"

"Are dey now? Tell me, wat was de color of de orcs dat ya fought against before? Gray? Green? Blue? Brown? No. Dey were red. And not just plain red like mine. Seethin', burning red. Each and every one of dem. And as for de trolls.. did ya known dat Shadow Hunter Vol'jin's tribe was banished? Did ya know wat deir crime was?"

"I can hardly think of anything the trolls would be beneath of doing."

"We have done more dan our share of mistakes, ya. But to answer my own question.. dey refused to grovel before a heathen god like worms. Dey refused to practice de old ways yer people know so well. To dis day, all trolls of de Horde are forbidden from practicin' cannibalism."

"Why are you telling me all this propaganda? To brainwash me?"

"I have no such intentions. However, ya lack.. faith in yer fellow Horde."

"So you want me to worship you? Never! Let me go this instant!"

"Me? Of course not. Dis is no prison, and I am not yer jailor. Dere are no bars, no locked doors, no guards. Yer equipment is waitin', nottin' has been stolen."

"Not a prison? How am I supposed to get down?"

"Ah, but dere's de trick. I doubt dat ya'll believe me even if I told ya, so... I tink it's better to show ya."

She starts walking towards the platform.

"I checked that already."

"De platform itself is nottin' special. Dis is a leap of faith of sorts."

"You seriously expect me to jump?"

"Expect? No. But dat's wat ya will have to do."

She takes a step past the platform and falls. I hear her robe flutter in the air and I crawl to the platform and look down. She's gone. A trick. All of it. She's trying to fill my head with lies. To confuse me enough to kill myself. There must be a different way..