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Archive for October, 2014

Taking a break today from WoW reminiscing to talk rant about Games Workshop and in the larger sense, our right to critique our beloved hobbies. To put things into context, Games Workshop is the company behind Warhammer and Warhammer 40k, two of the most, if not the most, populars wargames out there. Their business revolves mainly around selling us the miniatures needed to play their games.

I know this post will probably ruffle a few feathers and I can already hear the GW fanboys grinding their axes in anticipation. Fear not my friends, I will give you ample reasons to go after me. Not unlike fans of certain MMOs, wargaming fanboys can go nuts if you even suggest that their favorite hobby is not so great after all. And just to be clear, Hobby is a fancy way of saying game to make you feel better about spending hundreds/thousands of dollars on plastic miniatures.

So back to the topic at hand, Games Workshop and Warhammer (both kind) are bad! It wasn’t always like that and they do still make some of the best miniatures but the rules are a mess as a result of GW trying to get you to buy more and the material is way overpriced.  These days, a new player is looking at close to a 1000$ if not more.  By the way, I did the exercise of buying my Salamanders army from scratch including rules and paints and I got to 900$ US. This was just buying exactly what I needed but I know that as a player interest develops in the game he will want to expand his army and buy more paints, terrain and stuff and can easily double and triple that amount.

So why would anyone ever wants to start playing a game with messed up rules that has a near 1000$ buy-in price and is run by a greedy company? Why would anyone defend this? I have a pretty good idea but I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get to my arguments shall we, how can I justify what I’m saying?

  • 1000$ buy-in. I just went over it earlier by actually going on the GW webstore and adding the stuff to my cart. This was a space marine army that has a low model count and is one the best supported army. I know other armies will run much higher than the 900$ I got.
  • Messed-up rules. This is more open for debate but in the past few years I played other games to give me a point of reference. Namely Warmarchine/Hordes, Flames of War, Rules of engagement, Infinity, Firestorm Armada and a few more on occasion. From my perspective the rules of Warhammer, especially 40k are a mess. But I’m not the only one saying it. Do a round of the competitive Warhammer scene and you’ll see intense debate about how organizers need to curtail the rules in order to have fun tournaments. We could talk for hours about this but for now, let’s keep things simple.
  • Greedy Games-Workshop. This one I can’t really prove can I? It’s not like GW has put “let’s be greedy” in their mission statement. The 1000$ arguments might help this one but it can’t be the only one.  I’ll just go from personal experiences and accounts of ex-employees for this and tell you that GW went from a company that wanted to make a good game first to a company that wanted to sell miniatures first. Sadly, this has not had happy repercussions on the game.

So here’s my soapbox. I posit that given the alternatives systems, given the cost of entry, given GW company policies and based on my 15 years of experience in wargaming, including selling said games, that Warhammer (both kinds) are bad games.

The rebuttal

I could leave things as they are, or go into more details about my arguments but for today purposes it should be enough. If I was to hit Post right now I would be one among many who say that GW is bad and I’d have fanboys come over here with the usual rebuttals to these kinds of posts.

Popular rebuttals include:

  • The prices are justified, the process of making the minis cost a lot.
  • Of course they have to raise the price, oil market and similar reasons.
  • I’m having fun with it! Why do you have to shit on my fun!?
  • The rules are great! I’m having fun!
  • How can you tell me what’s fun or not?
  • GW is a company; they should aim to make as much money as they can!
  • What do you know? You’re not there; you don’t know what they are thinking.
  • If you don’t like it you don’t have to be an ass about it.
  • Talk to me when you have run your own company!
  • Yet another old unhappy gamer.

And so it goes. My MMO readers might recognize a few of those and for good reason.  You’ll also notice that few of these addresses my arguments which by the way are the most common ones levied against the game so it’s not just me saying this. Most rebuttals to topics like these attack the poster by saying he doesn’t have the necessary experience/competence to criticize, they use the fun defense which doesn’t really address anything or they just don’t address the arguments.

  • The prices are justified, the process of making the minis cost a lot. Might be true, but still doesn’t change that the buy-in price might be too high.
  • Of course they have to raise the price, oil market and similar reasons. Same, justifying the price doesn’t make it lower.
  • I’m having fun with it! Why do you have to shit on my fun!? Doesn’t address any of the arguments.
  • The rules are great! I’m having fun! Fun does not make rules great or bad in themselves.
  • How can you tell me what’s fun or not? None of my arguments are about fun.
  • GW is a company; they should aim to make as much money as they can! Justifying greed doesn’t make it less greedy.
  • What do you know? You’re not there; you don’t know what they are thinking. I am not my arguments, wrong target.
  • If you don’t like it you don’t have to be an ass about it. Wrong target again.
  • Talk to me when you have run your own company! Again, not my arguments.
  • Yet another old unhappy gamer. Irrelevant to the discussion.

 

On the real topic!

I admit I had a secret agenda with this post. While I do believe that GW and Warhammer are in a bad place, it was not the only thing I wanted to talk about.

I wanted to talk about how most of this gamer community I’m part of has no idea on how to argue a point. About how most arguments turn into personal attacks and how even when presented with good arguments, people refuses to change their minds about anything.

I do understand that changing your mind about something or admitting you might have been wrong can suck. Especially if you poured hours, days and even years into it. I remember watching a documentary where someone was explaining how he was raised into a white-supremacist family and how hard it was for him at first to get out of the mindset. When he was asked what was the biggest obstacle for him he answered that it was admitting he had wasted years of his life believing in something he knew was wrong.

So going back to Games Workshop I might be dead wrong. There might be tons of valid reasons that will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that in fact GW is not greedy, that the rules are solid and that a 1000$ buy-in price is not hindering the community.

What I’m asking for is that you read my arguments with an open mind and that when you do present your rebuttal you do it by countering my arguments, not by attacking me or whether or not I’m allowed to criticize.

I swear that if you do so, I will do the same in return and will even change my mind if you can prove me wrong.

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A WoW journey of 10 years, part 7

In my last post I explained how me and a friend went about teaching other friends how to raid and how the guild drifted apart when came the time to decide if we wanted to go further and raid 25 man raids. Following a short stint in a 25 raiding guild I ended up stopping raiding altogether and wandered around WoW for a while without any particular goal.

While the whole period was rather uneventful on the gaming side, it was when I discovered WoW blogging thanks to a blogger named Foton (AFKGamer) who is sadly not blogging anymore.  Foton dark sense of humor and insightful critiques got me interested in the blogging world and I was soon devouring blogs left and right. Back then I had a lot of gripes with the game and it was nice to read others who shared my thoughts and ideas.

To sum up, the main issues back then were the varying raid sizes (10/25), how WoW had too much grinding (dailies) and the casualization of the game. While these problems have been addressed in the sense that Blizzard did make major changes in these areas, the same issues are still discussed years later.  Funny how that is no?

In the land of Hobbits

WoW is shit! At least it was what I was thinking back then and there was no way that I’d be giving money to the Blizzard overlords who were living in their ivory tower, feasting on the souls of us gamers. Raiding was stupid and I was going to play a real MMO damnit! Not this railroaded casual grindfest!

I quickly gravitated toward Lord of the Rings Online who was getting good reviews, its story and immersive world in particular and I wanted to see it for myself. Plus I am a Tolkien nerd so it had that going for it too. I loved Lotro, I still do in fact. It is one of those very rare games that put the lore before anything else (at least it used to).  To this day, I see it as one of the best examples of immersion in MMOs.

My love affair with Lotro lasted until shortly before Wotlk released. By that time, I was getting tired of playing Lotro solo and the old gang from early BC was talking about getting the guild back together for Lich King. Plus, Northrend was looking real awesome so I agreed to leave Lotro and come back to WoW for what I then believed would be nice casual raiding.

From Lotro I did take away a few things. Namely that immersion and setting are two very important elements for me to enjoy an MMO.  If these two are lacking my interest is sure to go away, something a few MMOs managed to prove over the years.

The chill of Northrend

Early Wrath was a series of highs and lows for me.  For a while, everything was awesome and I was having a blast. The scenery of Howling Fjord, the music in Grizzly Hills, the whole questing experience …it was perfect. Wrath still is for me one of the better expansions in terms of storytelling and craftsmanship of the zones. Then, Naxxramas happened and everything went to hell rapidly.

Here I was in a friend and family type guild and we were pretty excited to start raiding Naxx, which in itself is not a bad raid…  it’s just a tiny bit too easy.  Like, cleared it under a month too easy and not that fun to repeat week after week.  Quite suddenly we found ourselves without a clear goal and the guild just fell apart. A lot of people left disappointed by what they felt was subpar endgame content.

I’d follow suit in due time but for a while I drifted around before settling in Blackwing (can’t remember the actual name) and meeting Auraye their guild leader, who would teach me a very valuable lesson in leadership much later.  Blackwing was at the time working on clearing Naxx and for reasons  I don’t remember I ended joining them.  We were a casual raiding guild in the truest sense of the word. Just a bunch of people grouping together once or twice a week to go get our faces bashed in by bosses. Gems, enchants and strategies were often lacking and despite bold claims of being good players, most of the guild wasn’t. Auraye wanted to get this guild in hardcore raiding but we were very very far from making that happen.  Still, it was a fun crew so I didn’t mind the lack of progress or talent that much.

My time with Blackwing ended up being rather short. A lack of interest combined with a lack of content made me look at other games and eventually I left for greener pastures.

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And we’re back! Well sorta… I hope so. Sorry for the long delay but truth is that September got real busy all of a sudden and blogging took a backseat to the millions other things I had to do. Hopefully, things will quiet down. Also! I’ve been told that this blog passed the five years mark!! Insanity! A big thank you to everyone for making this worthwhile all this time.

Last time we talked I had left WoW toward the end of Vanilla and for a while, I was happy pretending that WoW was evil. I played some FFXI in the meanwhile but for the most part, everything was quiet on the MMO front. Burning Crusade launched and I was still AFK doing something else.

Friends!!

My return to WoW happened in spring 2007 and just like last time; it was real life friends that pulled me back in. This time around, they had set-up a guild full of people I actually knew and they had started cutting their teeth in Karazhan.  Most of them started playing recently in BC and they felt they needed some experienced raiders to help them along. So me and a friend of a friend, Palfear, were targeted in an elaborate kidnapping recruiting operation.  Over a fancy dinner I was coaxed into giving this group a shot.

Palfear and I became great buddies almost instantly. We had similar raiding experience, both of us were coming back to WoW after a break following hardcore raiding and we wanted to try to have progression without driving ourselves insane. It took us a few weeks to get back into raiding shape and soon enough we were ready to take on Karazhan as raid leaders for a friends and family guild.

Learning pains

Taking new players and teaching them to raid is no easy task and I think everyone can understand that. There are strategies to master and raid awareness to develop but raiding back in BC, even casually, took more than just beating on bosses.  We had to teach about the importance of doing your hardmodes, of optimizing your gear, of learning proper rotations, of getting enchants and having flasks ready. Then we had to teach about attendance and being ready and not getting negatives about wipes. It wasn’t all fun times and cookies but I’m proud to say that for the most part, people did their best and we did clear Karazhan eventually, which honestly, made me more proud than that server fist C’thun kill.

But the real challenge was for two ex-hardcore raiders to learn how to teach more casual players how to raid. A lesson I’d sadly not really learn until late in Lich King’s expansion.  Looking back I can’t say I’m super proud of the way I’ve handled a lot of situations back then. It would be easy to blame my hardcore raider background but truth is that I had little idea of how to do things. I was under the mistaken impression that raiding was an equation (skill + gear = dead boss) which is not false in itself but long term raiding takes more than that. It takes a lot of diplomacy and empathy if you want to keep the guild alive through tough times.

Saved by the bell

After we cleared Kara it became obvious that we were starting to hit a rough spot. On one hand, we had a group who wanted to progress to Gruul, Mag’theridon and beyond while another group were happy to raid Kara until the end of times to gear up their alts.

What could have devolved into a nasty argument got solved by the raiding setup of the time. Kara was a 10 man raid, the rest 25 and we had maybe 12 raiders on the roster.  We tried for a while to raid with an allied guild to get into 25s but it just wasn’t working out.  The problem, as we all saw it was a stupid raiding set-up and that ended up being blamed for all of our guild-issues. After all, if only Blizzard would have done things right we’d all be sailing to the promised land of endless loots and leetness.

Truth is our real issue was we had two groups with distinct aims in the guild. One group was happy just raiding once in a while with friends and didn’t want to trouble themselves with progression. The other loved raiding and was ready to put in the time and effort required to move farther. If we had only progression people, we wouldn’t have had issues with recruiting strangers or raiding with allied guilds. If we had only the friend’s people, we wouldn’t even have bothered with trying to make it into 25s.

So while it’s easy to blame the 10/25 setup (which was still stupid btw), even with 10 man all the way we’d probably hit a roadblock soon enough as the difficulty of the raids increased.

We’re all friends here but…

… it was time to move on. With raids not progression and people starting to get disgruntled, Palfear forced the situation and ended up negotiating a deal with another guild to take in the people who wanted to progress. He simply announced in the guild forums he’d be leaving and that anyone wanting to raid 25s was offered a spot.  This effectively spelled the end of our little guild and probably saved us from a drama fest.

For myself I did end up joining up with Palfear and raiding for a while in the new guild but progress was slow and while those people wanted to raid 25s they weren’t quite there. By the time we started to work on Tempest Keep I was tired of the endless wipes and left raiding for a while.

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