Thoughts on the No-Flying Announcement

I was originally asked about my thoughts on ask.fm, and my reply was so long that part of it got cut off. The core of this post came from a reply I made to the Wowhead newspost as well as some Twitter discussions over the weekend.

The devs have a vision they want to implement and I respect that. Communication surrounding the decision could be smoothed out though and that’s not the fault of the devs–PR/community could also be involved. Since it’s a bold choice, blogs on the official site would be good that explain the decision and also help players see that even though the devs may disagree with feedback, they’re engaging with it.

If they want people to explore more, they need to get people out of the Garrison. Right now the Garrison provides a lazy way for me to get gear, gold, and profession materials. I could get more if I went out into the world, but…effort. I’d rather just log onto alts with Garrisons if I need ore, vs take a miner out into the world. You can gear up with Garrison Mission rewards vs treasures in outdoor zones or even heroic dungeons. This caused a problem for me at launch, I fell into a routine where I just checked my Garrison for gear upgrades and didn’t push myself to socialize by doing things like heroic dungeons.

And since I spend so much time in my Garrison, I get complacent and think less about cool stuff I want to collect to show off to others–mounts, pets, toys, transmog. When I go to Stormshield, which is rarely, I’m reminded that I should farm mounts more, or that I should put a cool title on to show off. But inside my Garrison with just followers for company, I’m not reminded to socialize or go out in the world.

There’s also the issue where max-level content could encourage exploration/travel more vs the leveling treasures. I did grind out some WoD reputations, but all I had to do was travel to one area, use group finder, and grind mobs in exactly the same place for a few hours–flying wouldn’t have enhanced that. An exception is Steamwheedle–this felt the most memorable because it emphasized some travel and exploration with the rares and treasures scattered about.

I do think that flying could be added to zones when they’re no longer current (I thought most of Draenor would have flying in 6.2 tbh), but I also need that motivation to want to leave my Garrison in the first place. I can’t really think of a place I’d want to go to, but decided against it because it couldn’t fly. I just think about mainly staying in my Garrison and clicking on the latest Work Order/Mission that’s done. Maybe it would be neat if you could get flying after opening X amount of treasures, or doing Loremaster–demonstrating that you’ve participated in the actual content.

Cool Shop Mounts and reward mounts should be geared more towards ground areas–don’t have the fancy details shine in flying-only areas if we’ll be mostly showing them off in current no-flying zones. I liked the Runesaber’s wings, but you could really appreciate them only in flying zones. The new Apexis Crystal mount has awesome wings, but it’s a bit bulky on the ground as well. In contrast, the Infernal Direwolf is a ground mount from Hellfire Citadel with lots of awesome fel effects–that’s an example of a ground mount done well. In addition, many of my old mounts I’m proud of are flying mounts, and they just don’t translate well in Draenor, like a waddling Mimiron’s Head.

I’ve seen some criticism that recent interviews have been done on general gaming sites vs fansites. It’s good to have a mix and Blizzard can reach new audiences via general sites. It can also help them get new feedback–a Polygon audience may latch onto something unexpected in an interview, and that’s useful for Blizzard to see. However, the recent interview trend on top of the dev Twitter consolidation/Warcraft Devs transition does leave players hungry for more detail-focused conversations. It would be good if could move towards the 2014 twitter setup where that section of the playerbase felt like they had questions answered more. For example, a long-time player may ask specific follow-up questions about flying, such as what the devs thought were successful areas that worked without flying in WoD, the Garrison’s thorny content role in WoD, or potential no-flying improvements to make the travel experience smoother.

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.

When she described the intent behind the marketing, it didn’t make anything better:

“It was never intended to be this gender thing. It was literally two boys picking on their little sister, she stood up to them and it was game on – in a joking way. Even the boys were fine with it.”

Everything about this Kickstarter was deliberately marketed through the lens of gender. Pitting the girl against mean brothers was a phrase spam tweeted and put in a public place. The title was about proving her male siblings wrong. When briefly linking the project to STEM, it was done so by saying that the girl wanted to be a hero to other girls in technology. But besides these contradictions, bullying isn’t something you joke about or appropriate to add some “flavor” to your Kickstarter.

In a later interview, this description of the situation was given:
“Two very successful gamers reached out to me (unable to divulge) and said ‘I’m promoting this to my network, can you add some more tiers, higher level rewards?’ This is bigger than MacKenzie, people are loving this, and this is a generous group, and so I added – you saw the first time, I added $500, I thought that was amazing – well, then I got contacted back and was told, ‘no, make it $10000 here. Just do $10000, maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t.’ And I was like, ‘what are you saying?’

And literally, she helped me craft the message. It was almost her word-for-word what that says about the boys apologising. It was after the fact because we know it was about more than MacKenzie and the money was going to go to something else. I asked the boys, and the boys thought it was hysterical – yeah we’ll apologise if it creates something cool. My boys… the idea of them doing something to make the world a better place or being part of something bigger is cool to them. So, it was added after at the request of other people with money.”

This comes across as a bunch of clueless privileged people sitting around thinking that bullying is hysterical. Pay us $10,000 for a joke! Maybe it will work! Hilarious! (As a successful entrepreneur that’s tried indiegogo and Kickstarter before, why is she suddenly confused and acting like she was forced into putting up a $10k reward? Having done crowdfunding before, did she also think asking for such a huge reward without any idea of what the money could go towards is good?)

She’s also still throwing her kids under the bus here by shifting the blame onto her children instead of taking responsibility for the situation. First she’s held hostage by people pressuring her to make a $10,000 reward, next she’s held hostage by her kids suggesting jokes. (If that–an old indiegogo project from two years ago had Kenzie posting about her “bratty brothers,” which appears to make this an ongoing marketable sibling rivalry. Her post has since been deleted.) If there was serious bullying going on, casually discussing it as a Kickstarter is not how to handle it, and if the sibling rivalry was played up for publicity, that is tasteless.

The girl in question is exploited as well–she’s billed as a victim in all the marketing and she’s also shoehorned into some tired tropes. The parent takes pains to point out, in describing her gaming background, that she’s not a girly-girl, as if that has some bearing on her interest in games. In a recent update, she had to point out once again that Kenzie hates pink. Some parts of the Kickstarter sound like an adult had a firm hand in it, while other parts were deliberately written to sound juvenile. Brothers are stupid. Age-appropriate games are stupid. Classrooms are boring. Her friends aren’t hardcore. It’s hard to take a complaint seriously when the presentation has a consistent vaguely insulting tone.  If this is truly what the child was thinking, and not a calculated adult appeal for publicity, the parents should sit down with their children and educate them about respect and communication.

Not only is exploitation present in the summary of the Kickstarter, it’s the main advertising hook. The title is called “9 Year Old Building an RPG to Prove Her Brothers Wrong!”, and tweet spam included the phrase “Mean older brothers say she can’t so 9 yr old daughter’s proving SHE CAN build an RPG game AND pay for it “. The Kickstarter is focused on the sibling rivalry, with a brief detour to talk about the importance of STEM, a real topic many readers care about, but the mention of STEM haphazardly thrown into the description comes across as another cheap hook, instead of a legitimate issue. The camp is called RPG camp, not RPG STEM camp, as the writer describes it.

Maybe if the high-donation levels had included rewards relevant to STEM, a better connection could have been drawn, but the opportunity was passed up in favor of a written apology as a stretch reward. In a new backer update explaining how the excess money will be used, she doesn’t even mention STEM. Instead, the Kickstarter is dominated by discussion of how the brothers are vaguely mean to their sister, and how she needs revenge. It’s played up as cutesy laughs, and comes across as someone with a very nice life appropriating strife so that all those “poor and destitute” people out there can relate to it.

The author has been replying to many of the critics–some raise valid points, others are Internet trash–and her reply seems concerned but ultimately unsatisfying. She takes issue with people who think Kickstarter “should only be used for the downtrodden and the poor because it has the power to extend far beyond,” as several people have pointed out that she’s pretty well-off and didn’t need to raise outside funds for a camp. Kickstarter is not a place where people beg for money for “fund my life” projects–that’s against the ToS. It is meant to foster creative development. Between this and the gender angle as a joke, it sounds like a privileged person wanting her slice of the pie and attention that all those downtrodden people seem to be taking advantage of.

It sounds like a person who doesn’t understand that having spare cash changes the context of a financial situation. It sounds like it was written from a perspective of one that hasn’t had to think terribly hard about gender issues or the implications of being short on cash. The $10,000 flippant reward is explained away as something others suggested she should do when she hit her goal, but nobody told her to explicitly create such a large donation level with manipulative rewards and no plan on how to handle the money.

This Kickstarter comes from a place where people can make jokes about gender issues and feel entitled to money because they haven’t dealt with many hardships. She is trying to ally herself with an underrepresented demographic, women in tech, while not realizing how her financial privilege affects the situation. There’s also a dose of slut-shaming in Kenzie’s video, in which she mocks trophy wives and posts unflattering pictures of couples with taglines like “When any girl asks why she should study, show her this!” “So I never end up like this woman & Sugar Daddy becomes extinct.”

Her past crowdfunding projects have also used similar tactics in throwing buzzwords around and jumping on the bandwagon of popular topics without demonstrating a true understanding or empathy for them. One charts lifestyle trends of female entrepreneurs, with this dose of gender essentialism:

“Just as males are hardwired to be competitive hunters, females are communal gatherers. Our complementary genetics are how and why the human species has actually survived – which is an important point to remember btw.

So a woman’s natural preference to collaborate and communicate is actually a gender trait not a choice (or character flaw). And before this becomes an all or nothing distracting debate, I’ll readily admit this isn’t true for every female. So let’s continue. As a direct result of our genetic hard-wiring, females see ourselves in relation to others. Whether we’re babies, girls, teens or women, our personal happiness is directly (and naturally) based on how we see ourselves in relation (and compared) to others – primarily other women.”

A project called Girls Afraid of Money is about rebuilding a networking site for women so they don’t end up as “partying socialites and movie stars” or “girls that look like them – reality stars whove become rich and famous for behaving badly.” The title’s claim is not brought up in the Kickstarter.

Another project talks about veterans sewing superhero capes, but the sample picture used is a red towel on a dog. A project a relative made is called HELP Me Get These Kids Off Video Games, yet the project description mentions no games.

I delayed publishing this article because a Kickstarter update was posted I wanted to cover. In this update, it is revealed that the extra funds will go towards her game, including hiring professionals to work on it. Some funds will also be used to set up a new website, and of course she can’t resist the opportunity to stress that Kenzie hates pink when describing the title. If she gets corporate funding, she will consider making an annual conference. STEM is not mentioned at all in the update.

A website talking about games for children is a great idea, but I do not think she is the person to lead this, based on her track record in abandoning other projects and how she’s already manipulated her children. I would like to see a discussion that doesn’t include slut-shaming, everything described as “awesome” or “stupid,” or mocking those with different interests and familiarities with games. We can’t prove if the author is pretending to be her children, or if the children decided on their own that making a joke about bullying was a fun idea, but either way, I would like to see the uninformed privilege and gender essentialism take a less prominent position on the blog. (Since publishing this post, it’s come to my attention that a video was made in which her daughter talked about plans for the game, but came across as very uncomfortable/disinterested when pressed by her mother for game specifics.)

This kickstarter is not heartwarming when it’s been built on such a manipulative foundation. Many of us have painful memories of being harassed and excluded at work and in our personal lives, and to see someone appropriating them for publicity is infuriating. It is not a fine joke to lie about bullying for money and sell apologies to the highest bidder. The correct thing to do is to educate others who hold these toxic beliefs, instead of posting them to the internet for money and approval.

(Edit: Thanks for all the responses! I originally had this written a few days ago, and then wanted to mention her backer update, so I delayed it. Then when I was about to publish it today, I realized there was even more stuff on the Naruto-based video that was pulled, but figured if I stopped to include everything, this post would never get published and would start having a pretty sprawling scope. I’ll add a few links in where I can to other obviously contradictory evidence.)

Edit 2: As of this morning, Susan has pulled the $10,000 reward. She’s done so in a way that demonstrates no understanding of why lying about bullying is bad and makes it seem like she’s doing critical backers a favor. She defends her choice to frame the Kickstarter in that light and appears shocked that people would judge her children or parenting negatively so quickly. Well, how about you don’t deliberately advertise your campaign in a way that puts your children in a terrible light?

The original title and product description still furthers her fake bullying agenda. And even if that was all removed now, it wouldn’t fully absolve her as she used sensationalism and exploiting her children to build her initial publicity platform.

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.

50 Shades of Abuse

50 Shades of Grey promotes and glorifies abuse. It spreads its abusive taint over every interaction between Christian and Ana, including but certainly not limited to sexual ones. As a side note, the BDSM angles are actually rather tame compared to run-of-the-mill erotica, and the parts that stand out are memorable for the wrong reasons: lack of even basic safety precautions, and absence of any clear communication about consent.

Supporters of E.L. James like to turn accusations of this sort into evidence that the complainer is sexually repressed, unenlightened, and is sadly disgusted by any non-conventional relationship. Nobody is arguing here that BDSM is abuse. (If you are in fact arguing that, the rest of this article is probably not for you.) People are arguing that someone buying your spouse’s company in order to spy on her emails, deciding what type of birth control she should be on without her consent because you “dislike condoms”, flying across the country to meet her when she specifically wanted to go on vacation to get distance from you, and bruising your spouse so she can’t expose skin during a beach vacation is abusive. Abuse is present in the BDSM-lite interactions, but that is because Christian Grey is a fundamentally flawed character whose abusive tendencies extend to all aspects of his life, not that BDSM is fundamentally harmful. They do incredibly boring stuff like go out to eat pancakes at IHOP, and he’s still abusive to her there.

“You simply don’t understand kink!”

While the whole steaming heap of arguments in defense of 50 Shades are problematic, I need to take some time to explain that the specific rebuttal “that’s not abuse, that’s BDSM” especially bothers me. If I had encountered this book 10 years ago, there would have been massive emotional trauma as a result. I had a lot of controlling adults in my life growing up. I’m torn about giving details–I feel exceptionally childish making serious statements without an explanation, but don’t want to focus the post too much on myself. I’ll just give one example:  I had this one piano teacher who enjoyed videotaping lessons, screaming at me off-camera, and getting me to cry. He convinced my parents I was playing poorly because I didn’t watch the videos enough. So I watched myself crying on tape and being told I only performed well when I was yelled at for four years.

Needless to say, trying to reconcile actual adults being controlling and manipulative with the idea that BDSM was something I was maybe interested in exploring was a minefield as a teenager. All my actual experiences pointed to the fact that adults only used control to hurt each other and the last thing I needed to deal with was thinking about control/power issues in any context–even unrelated. I had periods of self-loathing, and tried to block it all out of my head growing up so I could focus on getting away from my family and town.

So to others who have been exposed to controlling/abusive relationships, the abuse angles may stand out more vividly instead of the tame (honestly) sex toys. I also think of readers that may be younger and more impressionable, that haven’t been exposed to something so drastic, but still have fears. If I suddenly want to stop, will this person respect my wishes–since I won’t be able to physically defend myself if my verbal plea is ignored? I’m new to this and very self-conscious, will I be made fun of? I’m not sure exactly what I like–is someone going to take advantage and manipulate me? What if I want to try something new and it was too intense, and now I’m an emotional mess without support? All the above scenarios have negative endings in 50 Shades, and instead of being treated as a badly-written work of fiction, people are treating it as gospel.

The way the book treats BDSM, already difficult for some people to openly admit to liking, discourages unsure or fearful readers from wanting to explore it further. And certainly fans smugly justifying things as “that’s not abuse, that’s the way things should be” is not going to make someone who has dealt with very real issues of powerlessness and abuse feel at ease. A lot of fans like to say that their sex life was better after reading this book, but if we’re going to play strictly by personal experiences, a large group of people also feel sick after reading this book. So let’s dispel the notion at the outset that all criticism of this book somehow arises from intolerance of non-vanilla relationships.

50 Shades in the Media

E. L. James vacillates between describing her book as a how-to sexual manual, when explaining its popularity, to touting her book as an imaginative work of fiction, when the accusations of abuse glorification pile up.

There are some other darker reasons why it’s popular. 50 Shades is a safe book for the media to use when describing female sexuality. It’s another way to belittle us. Women are meant to be voracious and undiscering consumers of culture, and this book poses no threat to the status quo. We need to buy clothing and makeup to find our hidden selves that we’ve lost. We need the right products to attract men we haven’t been able to lure otherwise. We’ve too stupid to understand math or science, but aren’t discerning or talented enough to make it in creative industries. We get mocked with shopaholic and fashion victim jokes all the time, except when it’s a wedding or birth, because those are Special Days that instead should get milked for their full and absurd monetary value. And now, instead of wondering if the Victoria’s Secret bra highlighted in [Generic Magazine] makes you look sexy or stupid, you’re staring in front of the cheesy 50 Shades-themed sex toy display.

It fits perfectly within this narrative that women are turning out in droves to buy a poorly-written book featuring a doormat for a heroine, whose one contribution to the landscape of popular culture is that it makes them work harder in the bedroom. Add to that a dash of class privilege–the origination of the “mommy porn” label from wealthy New York housewives apparently reading it during the day–and it’s a media darling. Everyone is comfortable with the interpretation that women have bad taste, want to spice up their sex lives, and enjoy being abused. There’s even a chapter where Christian decides that Ana should be on a birth control pill and justifies it as that he knows her body better than she does! (Her response is along the lines of “Yes…and oh god, he’s hot.”)

I also really can’t take reviews seriously that say this is groundbreaking erotica, when this series frequently uses the term “down there” to mean one of a dozen different body parts.

Glorifying 50 Shades

Attempting to view 50 Shades as both fact and fiction, as the author would like us to–depending on her mood–lead to amusing results. I got stuck on how Anastasia, the apparently inspirational heroine, was introduced to her alternate-reality version of BDSM. It’s quite the opposite of how a reader seeking insights would hopefully embark on a process of discovery. As a person who hasn’t even kissed someone before the book started, let alone masturbated, she’s plunged into an intense relationship that she’s not comfortable with any aspect of and is forbidden to talk about with her friends. She gets laughed at when she doesn’t understand the wording of the contract defining their relationship (yet another nonsensical idea presented without question in this book–not really standard practice for learning and exploring). She complains about the contract and her limits get overruled. He pushes her too far in their first intense exploration, and then guilts her into apologizing when she has an emotional breakdown instead of saying the safeword.

Somehow this is glorified. Christian buys Ana a diamond bracelet to hide the bruises he gave her through poorly restraining her (which itself was a misguided punishment for dressing too revealingly on the beach). While he makes her too nervous to eat, all of their expensive meals are described in loving food-porn detail. The book can sell any and all of this behavior as romantic because Christian is a wealthy and attractive male, something society drills into women to aspire to obtain as a life goal. Consumer culture wants your partner to spend lots of money on you, and Christian certainly fulfills that fantasy.  Five-course meals! First edition books! Computers and cars as gifts! Personal shoppers from Neiman Marcus! Honeymoons in Monaco! Olympians as personal trainers! As Roxane Gay put it in her brilliant article The Trouble With Prince Charming Or He Who Trespassed Against Us: “A prison is still a prison when the sheets are 1200 thread count.” It’s no surprise that spending money is viewed as the sign as a successful relationship. Would this relationship be just as exciting if Christian kept all of his stalkerish behaviors, but didn’t follow up each instance with an expensive gift?To the people saying that 50 Shades is just fiction, or that we’re colossally misinterpreting it, or are giant prudes: you are discrediting the observations of people that have experienced serious abuse, and furthering the cycle by trying to silence them. If you enjoy it as fiction, I may personally disagree with your literary tastes, but that in itself is not an issue. The problem arises when readers do not respect that many people who have suffered trauma found 50 Shades to be a textbook for abusive behavior. Supporters seem to feel that the book is an introduction to novel sexual practices, and to enjoy thinking that some people aren’t cool or edgy enough to accept it. Unfortunately, people with even the vaguest understanding of BDSM practices tend to be among the most horrified at the sorts of behavior that this book presents as acceptable.

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.”

Positive food references in Book 1:

  • Ana eating with friends away from Christian: her home-cooked “house specialty” lasagna dinner with Kate (319), chinese food with friends (594, 589), pizza straight from the box with friends (597), meals with family (782 and 907).
  • Ana talking about how delicious food looks with Christian (137, 252)…before her appetite disappears a page later.
  • Eating meals without elaborate descriptions, two of which are a breakfast bagel alone (50, 459, 486).
  • Eating to appear sexy: two oysters (433) and an asparagus stalk (445).

There are a few more references in which food is eaten with weird undertones:

  • Noticing she can only eat fine because Christian is in a good mood (677).
  • Realizes she’s starving at IHOP and eats heartily after refusing food and complaining about the nauseating smell (894).

Most of the meals she eats without an issue are boring, such as a breakfast bagel, or pretty straightforward and cheap (lasagna, pizza, chinese). The elaborately-described meals that have spawned food blogs and Pinterests are not really consumed.

Negative references to food:

  • On their first psuedo-date at a coffee shop, she agrees to have coffee in spite of hating coffee (83), refuses to eat a muffin along with Christian (86), notes the “small teapot” (87), and again refuses the muffin on 88. (“Do you want some?” he asks, and that amused, secret smile is back.  “No thanks.” I frown and stare down at my hands again.)
  • The day after her drinking binge of champagne, five margaritas, and beer, she loses her appetite after noticing a delicious breakfast of pancakes, maple syrup, eggs and bacon, because Christian tells her that he’s not a romantic type of guy (You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”    My appetite vanishes. He can’t stay away! 147). He orders her to eat, she protests she can’t, and forces herself to eat some cold pancakes (“Eat,” he says more sharply. “Anastasia, I have an issue with wasted food… eat.”  “I can’t eat all this.” I gape at what’s left on the table. 154). Later that day, for dinner she eats only “a small bunch of grapes” and refuses cheese. (207)
  • The next morning, she is actually hungry and makes pancakes, bacon, and eggs while Christian adds tea, syrup, and sets the table. Her appetite again vanishes with the first forkful of omelette when he brings up his D/s contract to her. (“Eat, Anastasia.” My appetite has become uncertain again… more… more sex… yes please. I try a forkful of omelet but can barely taste it. (257).  My thoughts and my stomach are in turmoil. My appetite has vanished. I stare at my half-eaten breakfast. I’m just not hungry. 223.) He orders her to eat more, comments she didn’t eat the night before, and she decides she needs to put less food on her plate to make it seem like she eats more (I must remember not to put so much on my plate if he’s going to be weird about food. 259).
  • Later that day, he asks if she is hungry, and she says no (299). He decides she needs to eat (300) and takes her to a rustic French gourmet restaurant. After eating nettle soup, she loses her appetite during the main venison course when he talks about his sexual history (The waitress returns with venison, but my appetite has vanished. What a revelation. / “I’m really not hungry, Christian.” I am reeling from your disclosure. 302). He orders her to eat, she tentatively slices the meat (306), and thinks she can’t eat anymore after two bites (I put my knife and fork down. I cannot eat any more.   “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to eat?”   I nod. He scowls at me but chooses not to say anything. 309).
  • When they discuss the contract, they have dinner at a fancy hotel where “black cod, asparagus, and crushed potatoes with a hollandaise sauce” is served. She is not hungry, takes a “stab” at her food, and declares she has “never felt less like food” (438). Christian comments that “Three oysters, four bites of cod, and one asparagus stalk, no potatoes, no nuts, no olives, and you’ve not eaten all day (441).” She argues that she will not agree to eat three meals a day.
  • After a break of several days with her friends as she moves apartments, Christian asks her if she’s eaten and her response is “Shit, no” (614). She says she’s hungry but not for food, and is relieved that there’s just a Cesar salad because it’s not heavy (624). She then sleeps through lunch.
  • While she does eat chorizo and scallops with Christian’s family, this meal is made weirderr by descriptions of her stomach nervously churning due to Christian, and how she is later only able to eat the main course because Christian is in a good mood. (The beef is delicious and served with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and green beans. It is even more palatable since Christian manages to retain his good-humor for the rest of the meal. 677)
  • On her trip to Georgia, she claims that only he makes her unable to eat (803). This is actually pretty true, considering she loses her appetite for fancy meals in front of him, but can eat take-out fine with Kate and Jose.
  • When they go flying early in the morning, she refuses breakfast because it’s too early, and internally panics (It really is too early for me. How to handle this?   “I’ll have some tea. Can I take a croissant for later?” He eyes me suspiciously, and I smile very sweetly.    “Don’t rain on my parade, Anastasia,” he warns softly. 870). While she enjoys eating at IHOP because ordering is laced with sexual innuendo, she complains first that she hates the smell (894). The meal is capped off by her offering to pay because she’s in a good mood, and him being a jerk about it with some sort of threatened masculinity.

Alcohol references:

While alcohol is sometimes poured with ulterior motives, Ana for the most part drinks without a second thought. Interesting, when you consider most of her food experiences are fraught with angst–sometimes in the same sentence,

  • In spite of never drinking before, she manages to drink champagne, five margaritas, and beer without a second thought (114-119), on the same day she repeatedly refuses to eat a small muffin (88).
  • When hearing about Christian’s D/s contract, she takes sips and swigs of wine, but can only bring herself to eat small grapes for dinner. (189-207)
  • At the Heathman, she has no appetite and refuses to agree with Christian on having three meals a day, but she gladly drinks when told (423). It is revealed the next day that he got her drunk on purpose: “Because you over-think everything, and you’re reticent like your stepdad. A drop of wine in you and you start talking, and I need you to communicate honestly with me.” (532)
  • There are numerous other mundane mentions of alcohol–notably champagne–which she is offered by pretty much everyone in the book and drinks without an interior monologue. Even after hearing shit like Christian saying he purposely gets her drunk.

A look at Book 2 will be up in a few days. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of food negativity at the start of Book 3, until he bruised her for exposing too much skin on the beach, so I will finish analyzing that when my rage calms down.

Stop Cooking That Food

If you are looking to improve your character for Mists of Pandaria raids, going out and getting a stack of +300 food is generally not where to start. Yet in these early few weeks of the expansion, there is an irrational emphasis on cooking. Spending hours to acquire an extra +25 of a stat is the weakest way you can enhance your character–and it also takes the most amount of time. It’s the wrong set of priorities. However, players should be rewarded for choosing to farm top-end consumables, which I’ll address too.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t cook this food under any circumstance, but to put it in perspective–have you done the following?

  • Run enough random dungeons to get a significant amount of VP?
  • Run specific dungeons to get all possible ilvl 463 drops?
  • PvPed to fill in any unlucky drops/well-itemized armor?
  • Done daily quests to unlock epic rewards at Honored and make a dent towards Revered?
  • Gotten top gems, enchants, potions, flasks etc?
  • Poured gold for a Darkmoon Faire deck/BMAH epic?
  • Poured more gold into any other 476 BoE?
  • Read up on a boss fight, since you didn’t get to test them out since they were open on beta when you were at work?
  • Sit at a target dummy for an hour practicing your new rotation?

If so (and you have the time leftover), grats! Farming up those +300 foods is now your next priority. If you haven’t, doing any of these things on the list will increase your output more so than cooking. (A point could be made that Pandaren get +50 from top-level food instead of +25, but that’s still less than the overall benefit of buying a 476 BoE that would at least last until LFR.)

There’s a disproportionate spotlight on needing to max out cooking. There hasn’t been the same general outcry that people feel pressured or stressed that they need to complete epics like a Darkmoon Deck, which has a much larger impact than a stack of food. (There are exceptions–my guild has a long Darkmoon Faire forum thread.) Also, there’s been a general outcry that people “wasted several hours” farming food, but quite frankly, not everyone has that many hours of free time to waste in the first place. Either because you’re busy to the point where your overall login time is hampered (in which case, various forms of raiding may not be for you), or because you don’t have extra time left after the hours spent on more sensible raid prep. Someone prioritizing food over anything else on this list is choosing to buff their character a minimal amount requiring a large timesink. (I realize the time argument is a slippery slope, with “I don’t have time to learn dungeons, give me LFR” at the bottom of the hill, but cooking +300 stat food right now is at the other extreme.)

Cooking is a deceptively-familiar angle for raiders to harp on. We’re used to the pre-MoP model, where Raid Leaders dropped relatively-cheap feasts and you were considered very lazy for not having an extra stack of your own buff food. A lack of having every consumable was considered to demonstrate a poor attitude. Cooking takes much more time now and there are other factors besides a bad attitude that could lead to +275 food, but raiders are trained to point fingers at people in a raid group who seemingly do less, sometimes missing the larger picture of fixing positioning or a raid strat. And nobody needs to feel guilty mid-raid that they ran out of time to fish up an extra stack of food, which then in turn will probably lead to a bad mood or lack of focus. If you are lucky enough to have a lot of time/gold and raid very seriously, then sure, farm max-level food over say, archaeology. However, one should not be considered an unskilled raider because they don’t have enough hours in the day to farm up some extra +25 stat food but are otherwise prepared–especially if your guild does not have top aspirations.

This last bit has focused on perceptions within the raiding community, but we also need to address the the recipes themselves.

Cooking had a lot of changes in MoP–specializations, ingredient turnins, TIller farms for vegetables. These all appear to be beneficial changes: you don’t need to learn useless recipes, you can turn miscellaneous mats into useful ones, and you can get some of your supplies for free. However, the materials needed to complete the best recipes are both difficult to farm and do not reward an appropriately-strong stat gain.

One could argue that these high-end recipes are intended only for cooking aficionados. It’s true that there are aspects of Cooking that appeal to a narrow audience–learning additional Ways for achievements. One could also make parallels between the difficulty of Nat Pagle’s friendship grind and the time needed to acquire many +300 stat foods. However, Nat Pagle’s rewards are fishing/vanity related–where else would you use food besides competitive content? Cooking does have a system in place for people that like to farm up ingredients–the “Tradition of Cooking” series with the ApronRolling Pin, and Frying Pan, as well as the Cooking School Bell and the Flippable Table. I don’t think these foods are meant to be a similar elusive reward though. They’re things to eat in raids, not something you can periodically summon for a vanity screenshot.

A bottleneck for many players are the Ironpaw Tokens. These tokens are turned into vendors for things like Black Pepper and Rice–you can’t farm these on your own. These are only acquired from introductory Tillers quests, one daily quest, and by turning in stacks of other ingredients into grocery bundles. Players are both out there in the world farming meat and fish for dishes (a time-consuming process on its own), as well as to convert into tokens. It’s a time-consuming process and the tiny stat gain is discouraging. As players gear up more and their to-do list shortens, they’ll have more time each day to devote to cooking–which coincides with more and more raids unlocking hardmodes. However, having to maintain such a high time commitment for such a small consumable is something that hasn’t been seen for a few expansions.

There is nothing wrong about wanting to enhance your character as much as possible. Throughout WoW’s history, there have been fights where using consumables with annoying farming requirements have been justified. Greater Shadow Protection Potions for Loaetheb, Elixir of Demonslaying for Sunwell demons. This continues in MoP with Challenge Modes benefitting from odd consumables like Invisibility Potions. However, the +300 foods are both annoying to farm and have a very small reward.

Black Pepper Ribs and Shrimp (+300 Strength). 5 servings:

Eternal Blossom Fish (+275 Strength).

To have a fair comparison, 5x Eternal Blossom Fish would take 5 Jade Lungfish and 25 Striped Melon. You don’t need to farm up a token and additional meat when making +275 food.

For good measure, let’s throw in the Pandaren Banquet, which offers +275 stats to all, regardless of specialization.

Pandaren Banquet (serves 10, 5 charges):

So for twice the effort of making a +300 stat food for one person, you can make +275 stat food for 10 people (with the same number of charges).

One part of the solution is to have max-level food be both easier to farm (reduce the requirements, change the mechanisms behind acquiring Ironpaw Tokens) and to buff the stat gain. However, the other part of the solution is not to assume someone is a lazy player or waste of a raid spot because they prioritized enhancing their character in other ways besides max-level cooking. (We all know it’s much easier to change some stats around than it is to tell people not to goad each other into being hysterical, though.) Striving to perfect your toon within reason is a healthy goal players should strive for, but the current Cooking system narrows the range of players who can justify farming up stacks of +300 food without neglecting larger upgrades or blowing off real-life time commitments.

————–

Hamlet:

A few comments.  Firstly, your main thrust here is exactly right.  People are making a big deal about this food, because it’s there, when it’s really simply not something they should bother with.  Any sensible raid leader is telling their people right now that expected preparation for everyone in the group is a flask and +275 food (really, the guild should be organizing feasts anyway).  Just to attach a few numbers to what you point out–going from 1 green gem to 1 blue gem gets you +40 of your main stat.  That costs a few gold and is permanent.  Upgrading one item by one tier (13 ilvls) should get you about 100.  But anyway, you’ve made that point already.

What I really want to get into is that this reveals something interesting: people don’t really understand min/maxing.  I see a lot of people making a lot of noise about how they feel compelled to get this food–as though if they don’t, they’re failing as a player, letting down their teammates, compromising their goals.  To me, these people don’t sound like serious high-level players who are trying to min/max their characters to the highest degree.  They sound like they’re going through the motions, imitating an certain image they’ve seen of top-level players, without understanding why they do what they do.  To put it bluntly: posturing about how you’re the kind of player who needs to farm this food because you pursue every possible avenue of optimization does not impress anybody.  It makes you look clueless.

Actual serious high-level raiders understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and how much benefit it gives.  The way you would show a better understanding of the game is by showing that you can compare all the various ways to advance your character and prioritize the more useful ones.  This has come up a lot in situations other than food/consumables.  For example, it’s always been a big red flag for me when evaluating guild applicants if someone enchants DPS stats on their boots instead of run speed.  Some of them would argue vehemently about their commitment to min/maxing their character, but in fact it just revealed a lack of perspective on the big picture of what was important in the game.  This is similar.  If you claim to be someone who takes every possible DPS increase, you’re revealing that you’re not even bothering to actually optimize your play–you’re just pretending to do so.

People have long made a big deal about ensuring that their raiders are always impeccably gemmed/enchanted, brought consumables, and similar.  What I think a lot of people gloss over is that much of the value of that is signaling.  A guild applicant with perfect gemming is showing off that he knows his class very well–in fact it’s one of the best ways to show it.  Similarly a guild app who brings the raid preparations that everyone’s expected to bring is showing that he’s someone who cares enough to do so.  A person who doesn’t do all those things perfectly isn’t going to wipe you due to the miniscule loss of DPS, but they show you that they might be not be as likely to be the sort of dedicated player you want.  In this case of cooking, no properly-informed raid leader should conclude that from a player using 275 food.  Honestly, even if I were in the sort high-level guild that I used to raid in, if I saw an app using 300 food for every generic pull, I’d ask, “why?”

P.S. One topic neither of us has gotten into at all is that it still is a bad idea for this food to exist in the first place.  I don’t understand why they put it in.  I just wanted to at least note that, even though the main point of the post is that players are being irrationally affected by it.

50 Shades of WoW

1. “Show me how you died to the boss.” “What?” I frown. “Don’t be coy, Ana, show me,” he whispers. I shake my head. “I don’t know what you mean.”

2. “I think we’ll do LFR later,” he says. “Let’s queue up for Tol Barad.”

This is not a sentence I had ever expected to hear from Christian Grey, and only he can make it sound hot, really hot.

3. “Are you backpedalling deliberately?” he asks darkly. I blink up at him, gasping, strafing out of the fire.

4. I eye Christian’s healthstone. It would be like having him in my mouth. Grabbing it quickly, I eat it in double quick time even though I’m at full health. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.

5. Holy hell, he’s been working out at the training dummies. He’s in Tattered Cloth Pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and Tattered Grey Vest, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and alt-tab.

6. Kate looks wistful. “Yeah, took almost a year to catch the sea turtle in Northrend and here you are… first catch?”

I nod shyly. My inner goddess sits on her slow turtle looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.

7. 15.19 The Raider shall not click the Lightwell without permission from the Raid Leader.

8. Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he buy and sell accounts? Is he part of some underworld Chinese farmer syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he bad at WoW? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities.

9. The elevator arrives and we step on. We‘re alone… and suddenly for some inexplicable reason, possibly our proximity in such an enclosed space and skeletons littering the ground, the atmosphere between us changes, charging with an electric, exhilarating anticipation… my breathing alters, oh my… His head turns fractionally towards me, his eyes darkest jade. I backpedal.

“Oh fuck the elevator boss,” he growls and he lunges at me pushing me off the Blackwing Descent elevator, holy shit…

10. Holy crap. How did this become such an intense and meaningful boss fight? It’s been sprung on me like a frost trap I’m not prepared for.

11. Tentatively, I look at my debuffs. Should I run? This is it, our lives hang in the balance, right here, right now. Do I let him do this or do I say no, and that’s it? Because I know we will all die if I stand still. Do it! My inner goddess gives me Power Word Shield, my subconscious is as paralyzed as I am. “I’m waiting,” he says. “You are the Bomb.” Oh for the love of all that’s holy. What if I run the wrong way? Blood pounding through my body, my legs are like jelly.

12. “Christian transmogged his gear to Tier 3.” I shrug.

Kate stares at me open mouthed. I have to say – I love these occasions – Katherine Kavanagh, silent and floored, they are so rare. I take a brief and luxurious moment to enjoy it.

“Yep, he has Tier 3 gear, which he farmed at the end of The Burning Crusade,” I state proudly.

13. “You beguile me, Spine of Deathwing. Completely overwhelm me. I feel like Icarus flying too close to the sun as I roll off your back.”

14. I must not nuzzle. I must not nuzzle. I must move 10 yards away and not chain C’thun’s eye beam. I repeat the mantra in my head.

15. Holy Fuck. I can’t bring myself to even consider the consumable list.

16. Tyrande shall conduct herself in a respectful manner and shall address him only as Mal, The Sleeper, or such other title as he may direct.

17. They didn’t give me the legendary. I cannot believe my world is crumbling into a sterile pile of ashes, my hopes and dreams cruelly dashed.

18. “You don’t need to wait for the ready check–just go in,” and I push open the door, tripping over my own feet and facepulling the boss.

19. The Raider will conduct herself in a modest manner at all times. She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Guild.

20. Oh! I really must stop tweeting every item I loot the instant I loot it, I scold myself.

21. My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her ilvl 384 boot impatiently. Holy fuck, I can’t even bring myself to read the Encounter Journal.

22. My inner goddess is clapping her hands, bouncing up and down like a night elf. Please, let’s blog this… otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of leather scraps and your pet rocks to keep you company.

23. “Are you going to vote-kick me?” “Yes, but it won’t be to hurt you. I don’t want to punish you right now for going afk.” Holy cow.

24. My inner goddess is spinning like a world-class Al’Akir failure, tornado after tornado.

25. “I don’t understand. If you have willing pugs, why am I here?””I want to wipe on this encounter with you, very much.””Oh,” I gasp. Why?

26. “Why don’t you like to stay for the whole raid? Why do you only show up for one boss?” I whisper, staring up into soft gray eyes. ‘Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up.’

27. “Don’t loot that. I want you frustrated. That’s what you do to me by not giving me that epic, by denying me what’s mine.” His eyes blaze.

28. “Don’t laugh at me, but what are Valor Points?”

“I promise not to laugh. I’ve apologized twice.” He glares at me. “Don’t make me do it again,” he warns. And I think I visibly shrink… oh, he’s so bossy. “Valor Points are currency for gear that you get from instances like Zul’Aman. They’re fun.”

29. “This is your first 85?” he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He puts up a DND sign and looks to be counting to ten.

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” he types. “We’re going to rectify the situation right now.” He flies me on his rocket to the heirloom NPC.

30. “I disabled your authenticator, Anastasia.” Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal?

Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of firewater that’s still floating in my brain, but because it’s him I don’t mind.

31. I ignore his facial expression and very bravely fly up to the Stormwind AH roof, putting him on follow to watch his deft, 310% speed mount fly around the Trade District. He pauses fractionally, and then dismounts on the mainbox.

“Where was that mount from?” I ask softly.

“Ulduar. Yogg, 0 keepers. Or the Black Market Auction House, if you’re interested,” he murmurs.

32. Christian sits in a Beacon of Light as he plays the piano. He looks naked too, though I know he just transmogged his PJ bottoms.

33. Little Miss Gnomish Pigtails returns, all coy glances and swaying hips, with our entree, a Roasted Clefhoof, I think.

34. My subconscious is quaking at the knees. He’s mad about something – could be no enchants, bad gear, dying a lot. Jeez, he’s easy to rile.

35. I am once more in the Ring of Valor. It’s the same, the smell of leather, citrus, polish and dark wood, all very sensual.

36. His voice is warm and husky like a mage’s pyroblast… or something.

37. Will I ever understand this man? Hmm- this loot is shiny.

38. I swallow, and my inner goddess squints from her sun lounger where she’s trying to catch rays with a silver reflector fanned out at her neck.

Vicious Gladiator’s Felshroud

39. “Hush, Tyrande,” Malfurion darkly said. “You should really bite your lip more, it’s in the contract.”

40. So you felt demeaned, abused, assaulted wiping on the boss- how very casual of you. I believe it was you who decided on the raid if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a hardcore raider would do.

41. Okay. A cutscene interlude, not what I was expecting. Does this boss ever do what I expect?

Jeez, I hope it’s skippable.

42. Nothing’s changed, my subconscious barks at me again, glaring at me over her half moon winged glasses.

43. I throw myself into the dungeon, pausing only between pulls for some water. It’s extraordinary how much my mana goes up once I’ve drank something.

44. I did not resort to tears, shouting, or murder, nor did I succumb to his sexpertise when I lost that roll. But I’m glad he traded that mount to me.

45. “Have you been offered a summon to the instance?”

“Um – no.” Oh dear, is Warlock Number one in trouble?

Warlock Number Two frowns and eyes the young warlock afk.

“Would you like a summon, feast, buffs?” she asks, turning her attention back to me.

“A summon to Firelands. Thank you,” I murmur.

“Olivia, please click on the summoning stone for Miss Steele.” Her voice is stern. Olivia comes back from afk immediately and scurries to a large vampiric TV at the other end of the room.

“My apologies, Miss Steele, Olivia is our new warlock. Please join vent. The raid leader will be another five minutes.”

46. I race for the wide swirling portal, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Undercity.

47. I can hardly contain the riotous feelings or is it heroism that rampages through my body.

48. I shall go to LFR without a weapon enchant. Anastasia Steele! My subconscious chides me, but I don’t want to listen to her – I almost hug myself with glee because I know this will drive the other pugs crazy.

49. “I know you’re not going gear up and xfer.”

“I wanted to.”
“No you didn’t. You just thought you did.”

50. He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor mage table. My inner goddess is doing the Heigan dance with some Sunwell moves.

50 Shades of Grey is a slightly-modified work of Twilight fanfiction. It is also a national bestseller. It tells the story of a sexually inexperienced woman manipulated into a relationship who is ordered not to tell anyone about it. Since the guy is wealthy, she puts up with his demands, describing the relationship to the reader in sexytime language such as “I was hit/beaten.” To round out the mood, the guy believes all of his sexual interests are the result of childhood abuse, leaving him with a deep-rooted impulse to now beat women who look like his mother.

The trilogy is set up as a fantasy where an innocent women sacrifices her time and energy to redeem an troubled prince. Besides the problematic aspect of BDSM representing a troubled personality, the redemptive part of this plot arc sucks. It’s simply a return to more domestic forms of manipulation. Christian, in his enlightened state, does things like bruise Ana on their honeymoon when he dislikes her skimpy beach attire, forcing her to cover her body up for the rest of the trip.

The cringe-worthy writing is by far not the most problematic part of this book, but it’s the easiest to snark. The Trouble with Prince Charming Or He Who Trespassed Against Us by Roxanne Gay and Jen Reads 50 Shades of Grey by Jennifer Armintrout are both great reads that effectively tackle the serious issues behind this pop culture phenomenon. 50 Shades glamorizes abuse, using damaging BDSM stereotypes with a sugar-coating of wealth as a justification for this unhealthy behavior.

So, here are the WoW/50 Shades mashups I came up with, for a universe where Christian’s helicopter is a Mimiron’s Head and he refuses to let Ana loot the boss. If you are looking for better erotica, try rereading that abandoned fanfic draft from high school or A Steamy Romance Novel: Blue Moon.

Diablo III Banner Customization Guide

There isn’t much personalization in Diablo III, but your character can display customizable banner on the menu screen and in-game. Since the banner interface is unwieldy when it comes to matching up locked designs with achievements (it tells you the name of the achievement needed to unlock any design, but doesn’t link you to it or give any other information), this guide covers the information behind all banner shapes, patterns, sigils, and accents. It presents each row of banner shapes, patterns, sigils, and accents as they appear in-game, with a description of all the achievements required.

There are patterns among the types of achievements and rewards: kills on certain difficulties reward specific augmentations, as explained below. Worth noting is that among Co-op kills, only Inferno ones have banner rewards, and among Hardcore boss achievements, only Normal kills have rewards.

Overview:

There are six ways to customize a banner. Shapes, Pattern, Sigil, Accents are covered in detail below. The Sigil can be placed in one of 12 arrangements, in different sizes or repeated on the banner. As for dyes, there are three types: for the banner, pattern, and sigil. The banner and pattern can be two-toned–but you will only select the main color. The accent will be a shade of the chosen color.

Banner Shapes:

Killing bosses on Normal difficulty, completing all quests per act, and doing some crafting achievements will yield banner shapes as rewards.

Default: Bold, Sage, Noble, Classic.

Rugged: Default
ArtisinalBasic Gemology: Teach the Jeweler a design. Category: Crafting / Jeweler
StatelyA Question of Lust: Kill Cydaea on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign /Act III
KurastianThe Coven Overthrown: Kill Maghda on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.

RichFlawless Gemology. Category: Crafting / Jeweler
ResplendentLevel 60. Category: Classes
StalwartMaking a Breakthrough. Kill the Siegebreaker Assault Beast on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
ImmortalLevel 10 (Hardcore) Category: Hardcore

GrimMurderer. Torturer. Monster.: Kill Zoltun Kulle on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
ChainedButchered!: Kill the Butcher on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
ThornedDeath Metalworking: Teach the Blacksmith 100 recipes. Category: Crafting / Blacksmith.
TribalThe Ravening Beast: Kill Ghom on Normal difficulty. Category Campaign / Act III.

ArcherThe Black Soulstone: Complete all quests in Act II. Category: Campaign / Act II.
HolyThe Mad King’s End: Kill the Skeleton King on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
DruidicMind on the Metal: Teach the Blacksmith a recipe. Category: Crafting / Blacksmith.
TriumphantAngels’ Bane: Kill Rakanoth on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.

AscendingVictory and Sacrifice: Complete all quests in Act IV. Category: Campaign / Act IV.
LiberatedThe Lord of Lies: Kill Belial on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
AngelicSpare Change: Pick up 50,000 gold. Category: General.
FieryThe Lord of Sin: Kill Azmodan on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

KnightlyThe Wages of Sin: Complete all quests in Act III.
DiabolicalThe Prime Evil: Kill Diablo on Normal difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV
HoradricThe Last of the Horadrim: Complete all quests in Act I. Category: Campaign / Act I

Banner Patterns:

Killing bosses on Hell difficulty and various elites yield most banner patterns.

Default: Plain, Checkered, Diagonal Check, Quarters.
Hourglass, Horizontal Stripes, Left Slant, Right Slant.

Default: Right Shade, Left Shade, Diagonal Cross.
Diamond HourglassThe Mad King’s End (Hell): Kill the Skeleton King on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.

ArgyleThe Lord of Sin (Hell): Kill Azmodan on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
CrossedThe Lord of Lies (Hell): Kill Belial on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
Rectangular CheckNot So Tough Now: Kill 50 champions of the following types. Category: Challenges.
Right StripeRarely There: Equip a rare (yellow) item. Category: General / Exploration.

Left StripeLevel 20 (Hardcore): Reach level 20 in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore.
XSteeling with Feeling: Level up the Blacksmith. Category: Crafting / Blacksmith.
FlamesButchered! (Hell): Kill the Butcher on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
Small HeartsThe Coven Overthrown (Hell): Kill Maghda on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.

Large HeartsA Question of Lust (Hell): Kill Cydaea on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
Low WavesMaking a Breakthrough (Hell): Kill the Siegebreaker Assault Beast on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
Full WavesMade to Order: Craft 5 items. Category: Crafting.
Large WavesMurderer. Torturer. Monster. (Hell): Kill Zoltun Kulle on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Dark LightningThe Ravening Beast (Hell): Kill Ghom on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
Bright LightningRarin’ to Go: Kill 50 rare enemies of the following types. Category: Challenges.
Large LightningLegends of the Brawl: Equip a legendary (orange) item. Category: General / Exploration.
TargetAngels’ Bane (Hell): Kill Rakanoth on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.

Inverted Target: Default
Dark CracksThe Prime Evil (Hell): Kill Diablo on Hell difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.
Light CracksElitist Bubble: Kill 1500 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies. Category: Challenges.
Spider WebThe Elitist: Kill 500 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies. Category: Challenges.

Large RunesStaying Gold: Pick up 1,000,000 gold. Category: General.
Small RunesBless You: Get the following benefits from shrines. (Desecrated Enlightened Shrine, Desecrated Fortune Shrine, Blessed Desecrated Shrine, Desecrated Frenzied Shrine.) Category: General / Exploration.
Light BleedRainbow Connection: Use the following dyes. Category: General / Exploration.
Dark BleedThe Comfort of Strangers: Recruit the Templar, Scoundrel, and Enchantress. Category: General.

Square DiamondsJust Like New: Unsocket an item. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.
DiamondsIn the Loupe: Level up the Jeweler. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.
BejeweledBejeweled: Combine gems. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.
ChevronLevel 40. Category: Classes.

StarsIn the Land of Killer Unicorns: Find the hidden level. Category: Feat of Strength.

Sigil:

In addition to many default sigils, killing bosses on Inferno difficulty (both single-player and co-op) and completing Act IV yields sigils.

Default:
Bear, Bear Claw, Chicken, Moon Raven
Dragon, Ferrets, Fish, Flame
Fleur-de-lis, Fly, Gauntlet & Arrows, Hydra Head
Lily, Lion, Ram’s Head, Scarab

Default:
Scorpion, Sea Serpent, Rib Cage, Vipers
Spiders, Swan, Toad, Tree

Double-Headed Hawk: Default
DespairAngels’ Bane: Kill Rakanoth on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.
Grandmaster HunterGrandmaster Hunter: Complete Act IV with a Demon Hunter on Inferno difficulty. Category: Classes / Demon Hunter.
DiabloThe Prime Evil (Inferno): Kill Diablo on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.

Dark RiderLevel 40 (Hardcore): Reach level 40 in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore.
PentagramThe Lord of Lies (Cooperative Inferno): Kill Belial on Inferno difficulty in a cooperative game. Category: Cooperative / Act II.
DeathKeep it Rare: Kill 10 rare enemies of the following types (see comments). Category: Challenges.
CydaeaA Question of Lust (Inferno): Kill Cydaea on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

GryphonButchered! (Cooperative Inferno): Kill the Butcher on Inferno difficulty in a cooperative game. Category: Cooperative / Act I.
Swords & ShieldAn Impenetrable Defense: Block 5 attacks in a row. Category: Classes / Barbarian.
The Skeleton KingThe Mad King’s End (Inferno): Kill the Skeleton King on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
Greedy Pig: Default.

Eye of AnuThe Prime Evil (Cooperative Inferno): Kill Diablo on Inferno difficulty in a cooperative game. Category: Cooperative / Act IV.
AzmodanThe Lord of Sin (Inferno): Kill Azmodan on Inferno difficulty.
Lord of HellThe Lord of Sin (Cooperative Inferno): Kill Azmodan on Inferno difficulty in a cooperative game. Category: Cooperative / Act III.
BatBeastmaster of Tristram: Read the following Bestiary lore books in Act I (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act I.

Beast MonsterSmash! Jay, Smash!: Kill the unburied Jay Wilson. Category: Feat of Strength.
BeetleLord of the Flies: Kill Maghda without getting hit by her insect attack. Category: Challenges / Act II.
BelialThe Lord of Lies (Inferno): Kill Belial on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
Chakram: Default.

Trophy SkullAmong the Elite: Kill 200 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies. Category: Challenges.
HellspawnLevel 10. Category: Classes.
Minion of HatredLevel 30. Category: Classes.
ElkBeastmaster of Caldeum: Read the following Bestiary lore books in Act II (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act II.

Leoric’s CrownInstant Karma: Have the Skeleton King kill 15 of his own Forgotten skeletons before killing him. Category: Challenges / Act I.
WolfIn a Hurry?: Complete the speed run challenge achievements listed below (clear each act in less than an hour). Category: Challenges.
Butcher’s CleaverButchered! (Inferno!): Kill the Butcher on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
CloverGolden Packs: Kill 20 Treasure Goblins. Category: Challenges.

CraftyPerfect as Tears: Craft a maximum level gem. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.
A Little BirdDirty Little Secrets: Complete the follower conversation achievements listed below (Templar: For the Order, Scoundrel: To Catch a Thief, Enchantress: Secret of the Ages). Category: General / Conversations.
DemonspawnLevel 50. Category: Classes.
Hell SteedTrophy Hunting: Kill each type of rare enemy in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore.

BallistaOh, the Places You’ll Go!: Explore the following dungeons in Act III (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act III.
Fallen LunaticSheer Lunacy: Kill 100 Fallen Lunatics before they can explode. Category: Challenges.
Fist of the GodsAmbuscade from Seven Sides: Hit 7 enemies with one Seven-Sided Strike. Category: Classes / Monk.
By the HornsPunch Diablo: Punch Diablo. Category: Challenges.

Khazra ShamanElitist Few: Kill 20,000 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies. Category: Challenges.
Golden TouchDeep Pockets: Pick up 500,000 gold. Category: General.
HareBeastmaster of Arreat: Read the following Bestiary lore books in Act III (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act III.
AnvilA Life with Meaning: Raise the Blacksmith to level 10. Category: Crafting / Blacksmith.

WandererSuch Great Heights: Explore the following dungeons in Act IV (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act IV.
Skeletal ChargerNever Seen that Before: Kill one of the following unique enemies. Category: Challenges.
Khalim’s WillThe Garbage Disposal: Complete the crafting achievements listed below (One Hero’s TrashOne Warrior’s TrashToo Good To TossResource Management). Category: Crafting.
MaghdaThe Coven Overthrown (Inferno): Kill Maghda on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.

Maiden of LustNaked Lust: Defeat Cydaea without any items equipped on Hell difficulty or higher. Category: Challenges.
MeditationShut Up and Take My Money!: Buy each type of item from merchants (aim for white-quality items to save gold, spirit stone is most rare). Category: General / Exploration.
Rune of IvgorodGrandmaster: Complete Act IV with a Monk on Inferno difficulty. Category: Classes / Monk.
TomeSwing That Bloody Hammer!: Craft items that have each of the following 15 properties. Category: Crafting / Blacksmith.

OrbI Must Be Going: Use Teleport while at less than 5 percent of your maximum Life. Category: Classes / Wizard.
OwlBeastmaster of the High Heavens: Read the following Bestiary lore books in Act IV (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act IV.
Boar’s HeadCrop Dusting: Kill Ghom without getting hit by his gas attack. Category: Challenges / Act III.
DeceiverWe Are the Champions: Kill each type of champion in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore.

ScytheDiabolical: Complete the Diablo challenge achievements listed below (There Can Always Be OneUncagedSelf Sufficient). Category: Challenges.
Great ShieldCustom-Fit: Craft 100 items. Category: Crafting.
Death’s HeadNot Dead Yet: Resurrect another player in a cooperative game. Category: Cooperative.
Star of XiansaiJust a Hobby: Raise the Jeweler to level 10. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.

Fallen StarThe Takedown: Kill 10 champions of the following types. Category: Challenges.
SteinNo Stone Unturned: Explore the following dungeons in Act I (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act I.
Summoning CircleThe Art of Conversation: Complete the main character, follower, and artisan conversation achievements listed below. Category: General / Conversations.
SunGardening: Destroy all the corruption in the Gardens of Hope without leaving the game. Category: Challenges / Act IV.

Desert SunNooks and Crannies: Explore the following dungeons in Act II (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act II.
El DruinBul-Kathos Reborn: Complete Act IV with a Barbarian on Inferno difficulty. Category: Classes / Barbarian.
HourglassA Second to Spare: Escape the Crumbling Vault in under 90 seconds. Category: Challenges.
SiegebreakerMaking a Breakthrough (Inferno): Kill the Siegebreaker Assault Beast on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Ghost TranceShaper of the Unformed Land: Complete Act IV with a Witch Doctor on Inferno difficulty. Category: Classes / Witch Doctor.
Zoltun KulleMurderer. Torturer. Monster. (Inferno): Kill Zoltun Kulle on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
UnicornIn the Land of Killer Unicorns: Find the hidden level. Category: Feat of Strength.
FetishPuppet Master: Have 7 pets and/or followers at the same time. Category: Classes / Witch Doctor.

Archmage’s CrownProphecy Fulfilled: Complete Act IV with a Wizard on Inferno difficulty. Category: Classes / Wizard.
GhomThe Ravening Beast (Inferno): Kill Ghom on Inferno difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Sigil Accents

Killing bosses on Nightmare difficulty and Normal Hardcore, as well as class-specific achievements, tends to yield sigil accent rewards.

Default:
None, Beetles, Tendrils, Butterfly
Crossed Staves, Curls, Gemstone, Teganze
Filigree, Flowers, Horns, Jewel
Leaves, Lion, Locusts, Wingspan

Default: Branches, Wolves
Crossed AxesThe Lord of Lies (Nightmare): Kill Belial on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
CrossbonesThe Culling of Hell: Kill 1,000 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies in cooperative games. Category: Cooperative.

Crossed MacesOne Hero’s Trash…: Salvage each of the following crafting materials. Category: Crafting.
Crossed PickaxesBashanishu: Hurt Bashiok using Rakanishu’s Blade. Category: Challenges>
Crossed SwordsBlowin’ in the Wind: Break 2,000 objects with Whirlwind. Category: Classes / Barbarian.
Lightning BoltsA Guiding Light: Use the Templar as your follower. Category: General / Exploration.

Tribal: Default.
Soft WingsMoneybags: Pick up 100,000 gold. Category: General.
OrnamentationI’ll Be Your Wingman: Let a follower get the killing blow on all of the following enemies. Category: Challenges.
Chain HooksDead Meat (Hardcore): Kill the Butcher on Normal difficulty in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore / Act I.

DragonReign of Terror (Hardcore): Kill Diablo on Normal difficulty in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore / Act IV.
Skeletal Fingers: Default.
AngelicThe Hero’s New Clothes: Defeat all of the following enemies without any items equipped on Hell difficulty or higher. Category: Challenges.
Full WingsLevel 20. Category: Classes.

Fair WindsHeroes of Circumstance: Join a public cooperative game. Category: Cooperative.
Druidic Knot: Default.
GemsA Fistful of Gems: Combine each of the following gem types. Category: Crafting / Jeweler.
Troubled HeartA Question of Lust (Nightmare): Kill Cydaea on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Crossed ScimitarsMaking a Breakthrough (Nightmare): Kill the Siegebreaker Assault Beast on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.
SpiderAntivenom. Kill Cydaea without taking damage from her Spiderlings. Category: Challenges / Act III.
ThornsElitist Jerks: Kill 5,000 elite (champion, rare, or unique) enemies. Category: Challenges.
FeelersThe Ravening Beast (Nightmare): Kill Ghom on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Grasping ClawsWanderer of Arreat: Complete the Act III exploration achievements listed below (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act III.
FlamesThe Prime Evil (Nightmare): Kill Diablo on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.
GoldThe One Percent: Pick up 100,000,000 gold. Category: General.
HeartsSlice of Life: Use 50 health wells. Category: General / Exploration.

KeyMurderer. Torturer. Monster. (Nightmare): Kill Zoltun Kulle on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act II.
Crossed LongswordsNo More Lies (Hardcore): Kill Belial on Normal difficulty in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore / Act II.
ScrollDeath’s Cold Embrace: Kill 1,000 frozen enemies. Category: Classes / Wizard.
StarGreed over Need: Kill 100 Treasure Goblins. Category: Challenges.

WaterMe, Myself & Eirena: Use the Enchantress as your follower. Category: General / Exploration.
ArrowsDeath Trap: Kill 15 monsters in 5 seconds using Spike Traps. Category: Classes / Demon Hunter.
BarCursed Captives: Free 6 prisoners in 120 seconds in the Cursed Hold. Category: Challenges / Act I.
ScarabsThe Coven Overthrown (Nightmare): Kill Maghda on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign: Act II.

BowWheel of Misfortune: Experience all the possibilities of the Ancient Device in the Desolate Sands. Category: Campaign / Act II.
TorchesGot Out: Escape the Crumbling Vault before it collapses. Category: Challenges.
Crossed CleaversButchered! (Nightmare): Kill the Butcher on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.
Kingly CrownThe Mad King’s End (Nightmare): Kill the Skeleton King on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act I.

Imperial CrownLevel 30 (Hardcore). Category: Hardcore.
ChaliceAll That Glitters: Pick up 5,000,000 gold. Category: General.
Heart & Daggers: Default.
Elegant FlourishWanderer of Tristram: Complete the Act I exploration achievements listed below. Category: Campaign / Act I.

Sylvan FlourishAttacking the Darkness: Kill 20 Shadow Vermin, Gloom Wraiths, or Shade Stalkers at once. Category: Challenges.
Floral FlourishImp Slapped: Knockback 5 imps at one time. Category: Challenges.
Skull & BannersSavior of the Fallen: Resurrect other players 50 times in cooperative games. Category: Cooperative.
Double BladeThe Lord of Sin (Nightmare): Kill Azmodan on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act III.

Flower BannerMade it Work: Equip your head, shoulders, torso, legs, feet, and hands slots with items dyed in all different colors. Category: General / Exploration.
GauntletsNo Man Left Behind: Keep all soldiers alive while raising the catapults on the Stonefort. Category: Challenges / Act III.
Crossed HalberdsHe Thought He Was So Clever (Hardcore): Kill Azmodan on Normal difficulty in Hardcore mode. Category: Hardcore / Act III.
Knight’s HelmetsArmed to the Teeth: Equip all Inventory slots with items that have a minimum required level of 25 or higher. Category: General.

Champion’s HelmetsKulle Duel: Kill Zoltun Kulle without killing either of his Eternal Guardians. Category: Challenges / Act II.
Helm & ArmsThe Exalted Few: Complete the artisan level achievements listed below (A Life With MeaningJust a Hobby). Category: Crafting.
Demon HornsAngels’ Bane (Nightmare): Kill Rakanoth on Nightmare difficulty. Category: Campaign / Act IV.
HorsesWanderer of Caldeum: Complete the Act II exploration achievements listed below (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act II.

PipeWanderer of the High Heavens: Complete the Act IV exploration achievements listed below (see comments). Category: Campaign / Act IV.
PotionBorn to Dye: Dye an item. Category: General / Exploration.
QuiversStolen Moments: Use the Scoundrel as your follower. Category: General / Exploration.
Crossed RapiersCut Off the Head: Kill Headcleaver before killing any of the Royal Henchmen who arrive with him in Leoric’s Passage. Category: Challenges / Act I.

Winged ShieldReturn to the Light: Release 25 Impaled Angels. Category: Challenges / Act IV.
Winged ChaliceShort Reign: Kill the Skeleton King in under 20 seconds. Category: Challenges / Act I.
Barbarian BladesTo the Victor Go the Spoils: Complete Act IV with a Barbarian on Normal difficulty. Category: Classes / Barbarian.
Demon Hunter’s CrestI Am Vengeance: Complete Act IV with a Demon Hunter on Normal difficulty. Category: Classes / Demon Hunter.

Monk’s Maces: Restoring Balance: Complete Act IV with a Monk on Normal difficulty. Category: Classes / Monk.
Witch Doctor’s WeaponrySpirit Guide: Complete Act IV with a Witch Doctor on Normal difficulty. Category: Classes / Witch Doctor.
Wizard’s WandsLive to Fight Again: Complete Act IV with a Wizard on Normal difficulty. Category: Classes / Wizard.

Feats of Strength

Details related to Feats of Strength are invisible on the banner selection screen, unless you have already unlocked them. The d3db links will have linked images under “Achievement Information.”

The Auction House is Currently Available

Another collaborative essay by Perculia and Hamlet (see About for more info), this time not about WoW.

Diablo has always had a formula: elevating the mundane task of clicking and looting into something inexplicably enthralling. Everyone who’s played any Diablo game understands it, other games have tried to replicate it, but nobody ever seems to know exactly what the secret ingredient is. Diablo 3 looked as though it was going to remain safely in this well-charted territory. But over the hours we’ve spent playing in the first four weeks since the game’s release, one element we didn’t foresee has, for better or for worse, altered the formula on quite a fundamental level. We want to discuss the new system in Diablo 3 that, since it was released into the wild, has bent the entire game around its existence: the Auction House.

Blizzard has remarked that the game’s testing was done in an AH-free environment. While simulating the AH for internal testing would have been obviously difficult, it seems the ramifications of the AH have taken everyone by surprise. Having had time to see it in action, we discuss how the AH has affected players across the spectrum, from low-level first-time players which make up a large part of the user base to high-level Inferno players. We also explain why we now believe the AH’s omnipresence was inevitable once it was introduced.

As of this writing, on the planned eve of the arrival of the real money AH, the effect that will have on the landscape remains speculative. There’s no doubt it will be interesting, and will provide fodder for more analysis once everyone has digested its effects. But we wanted to write this piece before that took place, because the effect of the AH on the nature of the game, even without the more complex real money factor, is quite dramatic in its own right.

Low Levels: The Big Red Button

While leveling up, the AH has an unusual and somewhat unprecedented effect. Any character, including a player’s first character, has access to twink gear with virtually no added effort from the player. This leads to a drastic variation in gameplay experience between players who use the AH and those who don’t. To be completely clear, “use the AH” refers to the mere effort to click on it occasionally and browse for 5 minutes. The gold an average player collects from normal leveling is, at any point, perfectly sufficient to not only thoroughly obsolete all other sources of character improvement, but to do so while only using a small portion of her funds at any point.

Our first trip through Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulties on our mains was fairly clean. We weren’t spending a huge amount of time reading about the game or doing much of anything besides work, sleeping, and playing. We didn’t look at the AH too closely for either buying or selling because we assumed it would be daunting to learn about item pricing, and playing was more fun. The game felt more or less like you’d expect from Diablo or similar adventure games with gear-based development. Our stats were somewhat random at any time, even on basic points like whether they were offensively or defensively balanced. Sometimes one of us would die a few times and we’d notice that it was due to having almost no HP, simply from unwittingly upgrading away from all the Vitality-bearing items we had a few minutes ago. When we’d gone without weapon upgrades for a few levels, getting a new one was a huge windfall. It would even sometimes make one of us significantly stronger than the other for a time. We don’t have to go on here; you know what it feels like to live off the land in a game, and get along with what you find on the way. And we only realized later that it all happened because, by sheer accident, we’d ignored the AH.

Let’s be more specific. Since in this game you level somewhat quickly, you often go many levels without an upgrade in a particular slot. It seemed that items on the order of 5-10 levels behind our actual character level, in each slot, were typical. A magic-quality drop that was at a level equal to ours with a relevant stat for one of our classes was a huge upgrade, and usually lasted for many levels. If it was a weapon, it was likely to instantaneously double a character’s DPS output, or more. Perhaps that sets up the context for where this is going: imagine if at one point, out of nowhere, we’d suddenly had such powerful items in every slot. The whole game would have been different. The spots where things were a little rough, where we had to hunker down and come up with something of a plan, would never have come close to happening. After playing later characters with the benefit of the AH, we can verify that. And the salient point is that anyone can do this. If you’ve never tried it, we’ll reassure you, sight unseen: you have enough gold to make it happen without even making a dent in your reserve.

Should you avoid the AH on your first playthrough? We’ll leave that alone for this essay, but hopefully you come away at least well-informed about how you want to play. An apt analogy is using cheat codes in a single-player game. If you’re someone who tends not to do that, similar logic would apply here. At the very least though, the import of that decision is not something we’d anticipated.

As far as characters beyond your first, that’s where the impact of the AH is least disruptive. That’s what we, and likely most people, had in mind for the AH–you’ve played the game already, you can use your gold to make future characters level quickly. It’s akin to the purpose of heirlooms in WoW. The fact that you can have the equivalent of heirlooms on your first character however (something much stronger, in fact), is probably unintended, given that the game was developed and tested largely without the AH being involved. What this means to us is that they failed to anticipate that the AH would have a greater impact on the Diablo experience than any other innovation they’ve introduced. They thought it was a great side feature, but the game would still be as we described it above: primarily about finding stuff. The rest of this is piece is about what happens when a game is changed into something new (for Diablo purposes): a game about buying stuff.

Inferno: The Life of a Salesman

You’ve hit 60. You’ve gotten some decent drops from the end of Hell and slowly worked through the early Inferno quests, and now you’re stuck on some Invulnerable Minions in the crypts. You have to make your characters stronger somehow. This is Diablo, so you know what to do: repeat the last bit of content you can do. If you’re not overgeared for it already, upgrades must flow! There is a novel option though: sell everything you get, and buy items with the exact stats you want. Ultimately you’re going to do one of the two. Overgearing the content is a much easier solution playing meticulously (and very slowly), and even if you do play very well, timed enrages and other gear checks ensure that characters cannot progress arbitrarily far on skill alone. Players with limited time, especially, will be much better served buying upgrades instead of struggling through a new quest or doing farm runs.

What’s even more of a shakeup to the natural order of things is how you get the gold you need to support these purchases. You can farm gold–either by farming items to sell, or using actual gold find gear to farm certain areas. The former, for reasons explained below, will grow more difficult as items that are worth nontrivial amounts become increasingly rare. The latter is fine–it sounds tremendously boring to us because you don’t even get the fun of gambling for good drops–but more importantly, it pales in comparison to another activity: pure Auction House trading. The concept is obvious: buy low, sell high. The interesting details of this game-within-a-game are best reserved for another article, but the key points are: 1) your yield is essentially unlimited, and grows exponentially with your bankroll rather than linearly with your character strength, 2) game knowledge is at a premium–knowing what stats are valuable will help you out here more directly than it will when you actually play, and 3) finding great deals can be fun in its own way.

A typical evening of progress through Act 2 Inferno

An Act I run culminating in a major boss (Skeleton King or Butcher) with 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor and magic find gear swapped in before every meaningful kill will not garner as much gold as a few simple AH flips. With Act I and II dropping low-level rares, the items you loot generally won’t be worth listing. Now at the end of Act III Inferno, we took a break this past weekend to plow through all of Act I for fun, and we may have gotten enough gold to rival the profit from finding one mediocre Attack Speed neck that’s underpriced. It was more enjoyable than obsessively checking to see if deals had slipped through our AH filters, but it didn’t contribute to improving the strength of our characters. We received no useful drops and didn’t make anything close to the million or so gold we needed to buy anything of use off the AH. We did it because playing our characters for an evening is a fun time, but to imagine actually getting from Act 2 strength to Act 3 strength by doing this–well, one can see why Blizzard thought that it would take people months to get into late Inferno.

The crafting system is similarly overshadowed by the Auction House. The Auction House will always return a well-stocked set of search results for anything you like, while crafting is a gamble. Currently, crafting is a risk on top of an initial gold loss: you must destroy items, pay the Blacksmith a fee to craft, and then turn the shards into an item that more likely than not will have a lackluster stat combination, since there’s no way to control the output. And to drive the point home, when you do get a good item from crafting, what do you do with it? You sell it on the AH. Blizzard plans to address the unpopularity of crafting in a few weeks, but the basic issue is that crafting items will remain a gamble, albeit a less risky one, while the AH returns precise search results from the entire playerbase. To make crafting more appealing, Blizzard must do more than lower the crafting fee and required materials. In Diablo II, gambling served a function, because excess gold needed a purpose. But now, where gold is the benchmark of progress, gambling it away is is far less appealing.

In the first weeks of Diablo, players would run Act I Inferno to accrue an initial pool of gold, play the AH to deck their characters out and trivialize Act II, and then either farm Siegebreaker or Act IV Aspects with magic find gear and glass cannon specs. Those areas were easy farming spots that yielded the chance of high-value items, much more profitable than suffering through an act in chronological order. Leveling together, we don’t have the time or inclination to spend a huge amount of time playing the AH, but after spending a few minutes a day on it and seeing our problems with particular quests dissolve with upgrades after having tried conventional methods for hours, we’ve had to embrace the system somewhat. The AH has warped the concept of max-level progression.

And if you do decide to tackle content in chronological order and rely on the AH for help, you become further entrenched in the system the farther you progress. Gear requirements become steeper across acts, and ideal upgrades on the AH skyrocket in price. Purchasing upgrades swiftly moves from several thousand gold to over a million; to keep up with harder content, players have to step their AH game up to maintain a satisfactory gold reserve. A player content to casually check the AH to buy some basic level 60 upgrades may get discouraged after several rounds of the AH game, when they must generate 20 times that to stay afloat and gamble on already-expensive items to flip. The Act I experience shared above, of simple flips outweighing playing the actual game, is magnified in harder content when higher repair bills (especially after the upcoming patch) and lack of NV hamper gold acquisition. We haven’t even touched upon learning bosses–that’s because most people don’t want to spend hours wiping and respeccing while undergeared to get some meaningless blues. Log off and relist some underpriced items. Playing the AH is not only the most effective way to get gold, but also to progress your character. Playing your character has little tangible reward.

The Law of Perfect Competition

One of the interesting questions is, what’s so different about item acquisition from Diablo II? People traded in that game. In fact, high-level players had to acquire most of their gear on the trading market, for roughly the same reason as in D3. Since gear was totally random, most of the good stuff you found was for characters other than your own, and gear was much more build-specific in Diablo II. The difference is not obvious, and that’s largely why we think this basic change in the Diablo experience has mostly crept up on everybody. The system has moved along two axes however. First, gear dilution is even stronger–the percentage of gear that’s not complete junk is lower than ever before. Second, instantaneous access to a single worldwide market is sufficiently different from Diablo II’s third-party trading forums so as to not be comparable at all.

We’ve not done a detailed study on itemization distributions in D3 vs. D2. But a few simple points of logic suggest that elite loot is going to be very rare. For one, sub-60 gear can drop even in all levels of Inferno. That’s a substantial fraction of loot that may as well be white or grey. It exists primarily for flavor reasons; part of the subjective feel of the game relies on the constant shower of loot as you move forward, including blues and rares. Getting an ilvl 52 weapon in Inferno doesn’t serve any possible purpose no matter what the stats are, but someone somewhere decided that the flash of hope as you see the yellow text should be fed to you at a certain rate to make you keep clicking. At any rate, those items are completely illusory for economic purposes; they’re disguised gold drops. Next is the fact that rares have to roll up useful stats over junk stats, but that’s more or less akin to Diablo II. It is relevant that, at least until a later patch, rares are usually substantially stronger than legendaries in D3, because rares have the added hurdle of rolling up useful stats (and actually, D3 legendaries all have random stat affixes, we believe for the same reason–to ensure that there are a percentage of bad ones). Finally, variance in numbers on each stat roll is very wide. Since truly elite items need to be near the top end of their stat rolls, this is another filter of randomization that makes them exponentially rarer. In Diablo II, many very important affixes (+skills and +school skills in particular) had little or no random variance. Putting it all together, the item pool in D3 is orders of magnitude more dilute. Quite a sequence of rand() rolls have to turn out well to produce an amazing item. Every time we find a weapon in Act 1 with amazing stat rolls and only 500 DPS, we think about how it’s very different world from the one in which merely seeing the words “Colossus Blade” in gold letters was enough to mean your day was made.

The point about worldwide trading with no barriers is simpler but likely more significant. You have access to the drops of everyone in the world. If you just stop and think about it, the result should be obvious. Don’t get tripped up by the economics; the fact that you have to pay gold for others’ items but not for your own is a red herring. Gold is the medium of exchange; we all have it, and it flows around in the closed system of the AH, but items exist independently of gold. Similarly, the 15% AH cut is ultimately meaningless on the gold AH. The gold flows in a circle as Blizzard gives it to you and takes it back; it only serves to make AH flipping slightly less profitable than it would otherwise be. The facts are simple: we all have far more items than we need. If they can all get allocated to people who need them, people will have an incredible overabundance of relevant gear. Now, the AH doesn’t come close to allocating everything perfectly, but it comes close enough. Experience shows that if you want merely adequate gear at any moment for any character, it is available for a pittance. And the logic in this paragraph should show why that’s completely expected. To make it clearer, imagine yourself zooming out to watch everyone in the world playing Diablo. Whenever one person thinks “I want a level 34 Monk weapon,” within a few seconds of him having that thought, thousands of such weapons have dropped for other people. Within the 36-hour AH window, millions. Even if a tiny fraction of those are picked up and bothered to be listed on the AH, there is no way whatsoever that that player has to pay more than a token cost for what he wants. Basic economic reality cannot be changed, even by Blizzard.

At low levels, only the first factor, the extreme abundance of adequate items, is relevant. Since looking for perfect items is unimportant, the result is one-sided–there is not even a semblance of scarcity. In Inferno where the desire for optimized items becomes relevant, the extreme mathematical rarity of superb items plays against the sheer volume of items constantly appearing. High-level items are designed to have such an enormous spread in value because it preserves some sense of scarcity in the face of worldwide availability. But this is like holding back the tide with a teaspoon. Diablo 3 sold 6.3 million copies in its first week. Without knowing how many more sales there have been since, or how many people are still playing, it’s fair to guess that it’s on the order of millions. When they are trying to balance a game to be played both with and without the AH, they are thinking of two different games where effective item drop rates differ by a factor of millions, or close to it. Perhaps by now you are convinced that there is no way to have both games play out in nearly the same way.

Conclusion

Moreover, there’s no clear way that any of this can be changed, even though the upcoming patch will bring about a number of changes to iron out issues in the gameplay. Some will have an effect on the economy of gear: allowing ilvl 63 loot to drop in Act 1 and generally nerfing the hardest content. However, we don’t expect these modifications to significantly affect the issues discussed here. They may render the problem somewhat academic for high-level characters by making the game easier, which may well be desirable for other reasons, but that is not an actual resolution. And nothing is changed for players below level 60. Without restating the whole argument, the effect of the AH on gameplay is endemic to the nature of a worldwide trade system with instantaneous and cost-free access.

The core experience of Diablo, bathing in the shower of items while scanning for that yellow gleam of a potential diamond in the rough, couldn’t be more at odds with–well, with going shopping (or depending on how you use the AH, with being a sort of fantasy adventure day trader). If you’re a casual player, you have the choice to use the AH or not, but games are defined by the choices they present. That button on the main menu just under “Public Games” that’s labeled “Free Gear” is a hard thing to ignore once you know it’s there, and in any case plays a curious role in a game that’s wholly about gear. For Inferno-caliber characters there is less of a choice, with AH-free play being a strenuous self-imposed challenge that would come at very significant cost in terms of time and effort. In both cases the underlying effect is more subtle; once you know about the complex global marketplace, you can’t unknow it. Logging on hoping to find anything in a barrel feels just a little more quaint, a relic from past games. The AH was supposed to be a useful support feature for character enhancement or to fill in gaps, but it has developed a life of its own, overshadowing the primal need to loot everything on the ground. Looking back on an evening spent playing, it’s not always so clear which one is the main game and which is the side activity.

Armor Dyes in Diablo III

This post has nothing to do with theorycrafting. It will instead cover Armor Dyes found in Diablo III, including what difficulty level they are first available in, item costs, vendors, and related achievements.

General Info

  • There are 20 dyes available, not counting two reusable dyes from the Collector’s Edition. Dyes are purely cosmetic items and will recolor a player’s armor.
  • Each level of difficulty unlocks several new dyes. Dyes available from easier tiers are still available for their cheap prices in later tiers.
  • Each in-game dye can be used only once. It can dye one of the following armor slots: helm, shoulders, chest, gloves, pants, boots. Belts, bracers, weapons, amulets, and rings cannot be dyed.
  • Dyes can be traded between party members, sold on the AH, stacked up to 20, and put in a stash. They are initially found on vendors (see section below).
  • There are no level requirements to using dyes: a dye only available in Inferno can be put into a stash and used on a fresh level 1 character.
  • The following list of dyes shows the earliest difficulty level the dyes can be found at. The dyes then have a chance at showing up in all later levels.
  • Some details on distinctive armor cannot be completely dyed. An example of this are chest panels on Demon Hunter-only shirts. Other dyed armor may only show a faint tint on an item’s metal detail.

Dye List (First Appearance)

Normal (360g)

  • Aquatic Dye: Light Blue. Sailors from Lut Gholein distill the waters of the Twin Seas and apply the bright blue mixture to their sails in order to blend in and avoid detection by pirates.
  • All-Soaps Miraculous Dye Remover: Returns item to default color. The miraculous, mystical tonic that removes stains, cures rotfoot and tastes great! It’s got what plants crave! Warning: Do Not Drink.
  • Spring Dye: Light Green. Bright green garb is traditionally worn during the Hearth Festival in Bramwell to celebrate the first thaw of springtime.
  • Tanner’s Dye:  Brown. (appears to first show up in Act II) Leatherworkers use a variety of oils to seal their skins with a rich, natural brown pigment.
  • Vanishing Dye: Turns armor invisible. Causes materials to vanish before your very eyes! Be sure not to apply this to your undergarments.
  • Winter Dye: Light Grey. Jars of crushed Veilwood petals are buried in the snow throughout the winter to create this soft white hue.

Nightmare (1020g)

  • Autumn Dye: Orange. The monks from the Order of Yir crush the first orange leaves of autumn into tea, and apply it to their robes during the Ceremony of the Harvest Moon.
  • Cardinal Dye: Red. Once reserved only for nobility, this rich red pigment is now donned by both the influential and the courageous.
  • Desert Dye: Beige. Sandy brown pigment is carried by the merchant caravans of the Dry Steppes to reflect the sun and hide dust.
  • Ranger’s Dye: Olive. Hunters and bandits alike use the bark of the Gorsenna plant to blend in with the rustic green shadows of the forest.
  • Royal Dye: Purple. For many years the color purple was forbidden to all citizens of Kingsport outside of the Royal Family.

Hell (2160g)

  • Elegant Dye: Magenta. The bright magenta colors of the Hezna flower are always a favorite amongst the fashionable elite of Caldeum.
  • Lovely Dye: Pink. Named for the beauty of Queen Asylla, who once had a thousand gowns created in this beautiful pink color as a gift from King Leoric.
  • Mariner’s Dye: Dark Blue. Officers of vessels navigating the Skovos Isles wear deep blue garments to indicate seniority.
  • Summer Dye: Yellow. This bright yellow dye is extracted from spices shipped from Kurast at great expense.

Inferno (5040g)

  • Abyssal Dye: Dark Grey. The inky blackness seems to grow even darker when exposed to the sun, as though it were drinking in the very light that touches it.
  • Forester’s Dye: Green. The Wardens of Duncraig wear coats of rich green velvet while patrolling the woods for poachers and wolves.
  • Golden Dye: Gold. Flecks of gold are melted into boiling oil to create a rare pigment used strictly by nobility.
  • Infernal Dye: Bright Red. The bottle is warm to the touch, seeming to flicker with bright red liquid fire.
  • Purity Dye: White. This mysterious mixture seems to make any material it is applied to impossible to soil, swirling and coalescing like a perfect white cloud.

Collector’s Edition

  • Unlike other dyes, these have an infinite use and cannot be traded.
  • Bottled Cloud: Ice. The gentle wind of the heavens cools the air, infusing the area with a soft glow.
  • Bottled Smoke: Dark Silver. An eerie howl emanates from within as creeping shadows spill forth.

Dye comparison chart from DiabloWiki.net:

Vendors

  • Select vendor types have a miscellaneous dye tab–Collectors and Merchants. Other types of vendors will have a tab selling trinkets and amulets instead.
  • Vendors will generally sell between 4-8 dyes. There will be a larger pool of randomly-generated dyes as you level up (6 in Normal, 11 in Nightmare, 15 in Hell, 20 in Inferno). All-Soap’s is the only guaranteed dye that will show up every time.
  • The dye selection will reset by changing characters, changing quest chapters, and logging on/off the same character. Using a waypoint or checking back after an extended AFK will not change the dye selection.
  • Each act has a vendor in town that will sell dyes, as well as vendors from randomly-generated dungeons and events.

Act I
Arghus the CollectorNew Tristram
Wandering TinkerTinker’s HovelFields of Misery
Rodger the Alchemist

Act II
Javad the MerchantRotting Cellar by Dahlgur Oasis. Sells all items for half price–really profitable on Inferno!
Tilnan the Collector: Caldeum Bazaar
Zaven the AlchemistDahlgur Oasis.

Squirt the PeddlerSundered Canyon and Caldeum Bazaar

Act III
Vidar the CollectorBastion’s Keep Stronghold
Halmin the AlchemistThe FoundryMachines of War

Act IV
Vidar the CollectorBastion’s Keep Stronghold

Achievements