The Lack of Holiday Updates in Mists of Pandaria

The Feast of Winter Veil starts today and the addition of a seasonal gift, battle pet, and seasonal achievement makes it the most developed holiday this year–the only holiday to get a development besides Day of the Dead. A common thread whenever a holiday rolls around now is that there’s nothing new for players to do. Holidays haven’t always gotten major developments in the past, but changes in Mists of Pandaria let players burn through holiday content faster and discourages repeat play on alts. It’s interesting to note that the Darkmoon Faire has gotten a lot of updates during a period where holidays got nearly none–but holidays occupy a special place in players’ memories and shouldn’t be neglected in favor of the Faire.

To start off, let’s analyze major developments for each holiday over the past few years. A stand-out year for holiday content started with Children’s Week 2011, continuing with major Hallow’s End, Winter Veil, and Lunar Festival additions. In this year-long period, Brewfest, Love is in the Air, and Noblegarden received interesting new vanity items as well.

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No Time to Explore on the Timeless Isle

Much has been made of the experimental design of the Timeless Isle, with more zones in this style promised in Warlords of Draenor at BlizzCon. On the surface, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Players hate daily quests and the Timeless Isle has none. Players of all types love vanity loot and quirky rare spawns and the Timeless Isle has many. Players miss the magic of pre-flying Azeroth and the Timeless Isle bans flying and rewards players for exploration. But is it too much of a good thing? And why do people AFK so much in a zone designed to foster exploration?

Geography

The Timeless Isle keeps the illusion of looking full even when many players aren’t around because of the design. You can’t see much of the island at once between the mountains, bridges, and caves. By putting players into naturally small areas, the areas always look kind of full. And there’s so many scripted things going on that the island never looks dead or abandoned. This leads to some initial excitement when discovering the Timeless Isle, but it also prevents players that are goal-oriented or simply short on time from feeling accomplished.

The island’s geography makes it very difficult for players to reach other parts of the island quickly. While this initially forced players to encounter every area of the island and hopefully stumble across some hidden events, users who have gotten some of the easier achievements or objectives out of the way are blocked by the long travel-times required to get around the island. This encourages users idling by a rare NPC’s spawn location, instead of traveling around the island and participating in multiple content types available. If someone calls out that a rare spawn has just popped in General chat, a player will most likely not make it there in time since the NPC gets obliterated with a small health pool.

The geography on its own isn’t necessarily an issue–a complicated small zone requiring players to invest effort in exploration isn’t bad–but when paired with the rare spawn mechanics and low droprates on many cool vanity items, the geography begins to feel like a hindrance if players are encouraged to kill the same rares many times.The Pandaria rares, in contrast, didn’t have this same issue–while there were numerous rares introduced in Mists of Pandaria, flying mounts let players take a quick spin around a zone, higher droprates on vanity items meant players collected their coveted items faster, and no achievements tied to vanity items didn’t trigger OCD the same way Going to Need a Bigger Bag does.

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Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 13: Final Battle and Conclusion

This is the conclusion of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here
Part 13: Final Battle and Conclusion

Ganon: Final Battle

Perculia: While the chase sequence after Ganon destroys the castle gave me an opportunity to watch Link and Zelda interact, the sequence felt out of place. We haven’t had a timed escort event like this in Ocarina and it comes across a bit jarring tacked on at the end. Most puzzles have focused on unlocking rooms cleverly and exploration–this is just a timed obstacle course.

Hamlet: Yeah, it’s not that interesting of a sequence. It is out of place in Zelda; for one, it’s something people associate with Metroid. But the latter had enough of a jumping/platforming element to make an action-style escape work. Ocarina‘s core movement and control wasn’t made for that; it was made primarily to serve the combat. And this was recognized in the final sequence; it’s nothing more than some timed combat. Maybe that could have been interesting if they’d put in something unique, but it would have been hard due to some of the combat limitations I’ve mentioned before.

P: As for the final encounter, after the variety of tools used in Ganon’s Castle, it was refreshing to see this final fight hinge on Zelda and Link’s signature items–the Master Sword and Light Arrows. Defeating Ganon simply required stunning him with Light Arrows and slashing at his tail, until he was weakened enough that Zelda opened a portal and you had enough time to grab the Master Sword and finish him off. The chance at failure is high–if you’re not sure what to do at first, taking a hit from Ganon can be costly. Like the previous Ganon fight, it’s possible to restore resources mid-fight, but it’s much more stressful here. To get more items or health, you must kite Ganon into some rubble and have him smash it to bits while dodging it–much less soothing than jumping down out of harm’s way and leisurely breaking pots. The drama is also heightened by the ring of fire separating Link from Zelda during the fight, as well as Ganon knocking the Master Sword out of Link’s hand. The final boss is also notable because it’s the one time Zelda and Link are actively working together to take down a boss.

Legend of Zelda The  Ocarina of Time_May27 0_25_01

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Cosmetic Armor: Style Analysis, Target Audience, and Store Suggestions

Transmog has been a hit since it launched in Patch 4.3, and it seemed inevitable that armor would eventually find its way to the Blizzard Store, as it finally did last week.

My opinions have gone back and forth on the store helms over the past week. Initially I thought that adding more transmog flexibility was a great idea, then I balked at the prices announced on Tuesday. However, after seeing so many users enthusiastically upload detailed screenshots to Wowhead, I’m thinking that the items have a targeted niche, and I’m just not one of the people intended to  purchase these items.

I want to look at why these helm designs were possibly chosen, explain why I’m not the target audience, and suggest some potential Blizzard Store armor for the future.

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History of NPC and Item Scaling in MoP

In light of Blizzard’s recent announcement that Flexible Raids are coming in Patch 5.4, I’m going to take a look at various NPC and item scaling tech used previously in Mists of Pandaria. Looking closely at item scaling should help clarify some confusion about trinket procs in general as well.

NPC scaling

In Flex Raiding, the bosses you fight will scale based on the number of players in the raid (between 10-25), while still remaining easier than Normal modes. We’ve previously seen scaling boss abilities in Mists of Pandaria, as well as mobs that scale based on the number of players attacking.

Scaling has been used on outdoor elite mobs in MoP, such as the Isle of Thunder and Battlefield Barrens mobs scaling up in difficulty based on the number of players fighting them. In WoWMartiean‘s Rare Champions of Lei Shen video, you can see Goda’s HP scaling around 2:10.

In MoP’s beta, spell IDs for boss abilities were consolidated for many bosses. This allowed spell IDs for dungeon bosses to scale between Normal, Heroic, and Challenge Modes, and spell IDs for raid bosses to scale between LFR, 10N, 10H, 25N, and 25H. In Patch 5.3, this was also applied to Normal and Heroic scenarios.

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Bullying is Such a Joke: Problems with the RPG Kickstarter

Last week, a Kickstarter campaign called “9 Year Old Building an RPG to Prove Her Brothers Wrong!” launched, and so far has raised over $20,000 using the marketing strategy that a child’s brothers mocked her plans to go to an RPG-building camp. Therefore, she needs Kickstarter to give her $800 to attend the camp. Rewards for donating $10,000 were added soon after, in which the brothers would apologize for being mean to their sister. No details have been given as to their mean behavior, and it may have been even used as a joke–a joke that was marketed as a serious issue to donors.

The project also liberally throws around STEM as a buzzword and links itself to several legitimate issues: harassment against women, and a drastic imbalance between men and women in technology fields.

Many parts of this Kickstarter were handled badly, but the part that stood out to me the most was the child exploitation angle. While not a violation of the Kickstarter ToS, interpreting the situation any way is problematic.

Before Susan Wilson clarified the intent behind the bullying and gender angles recently, I interpreted the situation in two ways:

  • If the brothers were bullying their younger sister, the result is that the mother chose to commercialize and encourage the strife instead of putting an end to the bullying. Their bullying was left unchecked to fit into a tidy fundraising narrative, with an apology from the brothers only coming as a $10,000 stretch goal reward. An apology isn’t something you deserve if you only raise money. The whole message of this is that the child needs to rely on the goodwill and credit cards of outsiders, hoping she needs to sell her story well enough, to put an end to bullying.
  • If they were having run-of-the-mill sibling rivalry, then the author exaggerated and fabricated events for publicity. This option of faking a situation to pander to a tired tried-and-true narrative is scummy in an equally bad way, that will damage the children when they grow up and realize they were publicly villanized for money. Or, it will encourage lying in the future as a way to make situations more marketable to get ahead in life.

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The Glorification of Abuse in 50 Shades

Recently, E.L. James gave an interview in which she brushed off concerns that 50 Shades of Grey glorifies abusive relationships, and implied that anyone who is concerned simply doesn’t understand BDSM. This part in particular has upset many readers:

James says she “freaks out” when she hears people say that her book encourages domestic violence. “Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse,” she says. “Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they’ve found the books sexually empowering.”

You can read the whole thing here.

In addition, she’s been blocking people who raise abuse concerns on her twitter feed and referring to them as trolls. In response to this mess, @50ShadesAbuse has been recently created to raise awareness of E. L. James’ failure to realize that touting her book as a realistic manual to finding the perfect relationship is misleading and potentially dangerous. A lot of people could stomach the phenomenon of this book’s popularity better if it were treated as fiction instead of a realistic, safe, or healthy model.

Unfortunately, that feed’s creation has also unearthed many rabid and often contradictory defenses of 50 Shades. You should read Jenny Trout’s excellent and calm rebuttal of all of these arguments.

This brings me to the point of my own post. I’m often lightly snarking 50 Shades on Twitter and here, but haven’t fully laid out what bothers me so much about it. There’s a danger of sounding redundant with so many recent excellent blog posts out there, but since E. L. James uses her clout to silence people who voice their opinions, the more awareness raised, the better.

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Problems with Food in 50 Shades — Book 2

First off, big thanks to @Jenny_Trout for linking my post on the first book on her great 50 Shades recaps. She’s currently working on an awesome book in response to 50 Shades, called The Boss. This is radical for several reasons: it presents a BDSM romance in which the submissive heroine is not a doormat and the dom is not an asshole, but I think the really crazy thing here is that the heroine works hard, likes to eat, respects her friends, and worries about paying the rent. Chapters will be posted for free twice each month, and I’m very excited to see how this unfolds.

If you’re new here, much of this blog covers game-related topics, but I do have another 50 Shades piece from the summer. It’s called 50 Shades of WoW and mashes up the game my website covers with the awfulness of 50 Shades.

Anyway, onto food in Book 2:

Christian ordering Ana to eat gets really fucking weird in the second book. We learn he’ll stop ordering her around to eat when he wants sex, even when minutes ago he appeared so worried she was starving. He doesn’t appear genuinely concerned for her at all: ordering her to eat is just another way he can control her when he can’t control her with sex.

This book makes the first book seem healthy in comparison. I’m going to organize this book slightly differently and summarize all the food references for each day, because some days have plot arcs that center around food consumption. These chapters are also laced with control about Ana’s body–from “small” things like arguing to let her drive with music on, to majorly wtf things like forcing her to use birth control because he dislikes condoms, even down to scheduling appointments without her knowledge.

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Problems with Food in 50 Shades of Grey

People make a big deal about the food in 50 Shades of Grey, but Ana doesn’t eat much of the gourmet food at all. Instead, she continually loses her appetite after Christian does something unpleasant or distracts her with sex. It’s repetitive to the point of being really uncomfortable to read about.

I made a spreadsheet of all the food and drink references in the three books to make sure I wasn’t selectively reading negative passages and not viewing things clearly.

Food and drink were put into three categories. Page numbers were taken from the e-book, although this is a bit inaccurate as they vary based on the size of the screen:

  • Green: positive, non-angsty descriptions of food.
  • Red: negative descriptions of food/lack of appetite.
  • Blue: references to alcohol (all alcohol was consumed without deliberation or protest).

The overall trend in Book 1 is that while Ana tends to skip meals on her own, she can eat generic foods fine with her friends and family. Her lack of eating intensifies around Christian, around whom she consistently loses her appetite. Since she easily capitulates to his sexual manipulation, the author needs some way of pretending she has a backbone (while retaining pages of sex scenes)–so an attempt at character defiance is shown by her refusal to eat in front of someone who seriously cares about regular meals. While he gets her to agree to sexual things she’s unsure about in his contract, she won’t agree to his request that she eat regular meals.

But because Christian Grey is Right About Everything and Ana is a Silly Woman, this also lets the reader see how conscientious and thoughtful Christian is in caring about food. Right, except all he does is rage about Ana not eating and how he needs to threaten her, then lets her go back to ignoring all the food on her plate because the conversation turns to sex after she suggestively eats one thing.

Another reading is that Ana is a timid heroine in a controlling relationship, who starves herself because it’s the only way in which she can feel in control of her life. She’s easily manipulated by sex, but she makes herself feel better after by defying Grey and not eating. However! This is seen as the most romantic novel of all time, something you read for pleasure, so I’m going to go with “clumsy attempt at characterization” as opposed to “grim portrayal of abusive relationship.”

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Six Years of Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows

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I’m not big on Christmas traditions, but every year I look forward to taking pictures of the Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows. While they have creative windows year-round, the holiday ones are particularly special. They make you feel festive without overt red and green displays or holiday props.

Most of the pictures I have are of the five main windows on 5th Avenue. While all three sides of the building have interesting windows, these five are the most elaborate. Sometimes I include pictures of the ones on 58th, such as the 17th century music room from 2005.

The pictures span 2004-2012, with breaks in 2006, 2009, and 2010 for various real-life reasons. For most years, I link to albums with some teaser thumbnails, but 2004′s pictures are a slideshow at the bottom. There’s around 200 total, so enjoy! Continue reading