The Perfect Raid Boss

So there’s been a lot of talk about raid mechanics lately thanks to Blackrock Foundry being released. Some say it’s the most fun raid in years, and others say that overkill mechanics on the final boss, Blackhand, are destroying guilds left and right. You’ve also got Hans and Franz – a fight that apparently requires more dramamine than being on a Carnival cruise while sitting in a moving car and reading a book.

Former WoW developer Xelnath has been posting a series of blog entries about boss encounters he designed. They are definitely worth a read to get a peek into what goes on when it comes to raid boss development. If you don’t want to read it (Shame on you!) and want to know what goes into the process – the short answer is: “A whole lotta.” A whole lot of what? Just a whole lotta. Not half a lotta. A whole lotta. Tons of factors go into the design process including breakpoints, damage calculations, strategery required, etc.

Raid design certainly isn’t easy but I’ve got good news for all the MMO developers out there! I’ve developed what I believe to be the PERFECT raid boss fight. It’s chock-full of mechanics that I know everyone loves. I talked about my ideas on twitter and a bunch of people chimed in with their mechanic ideas as well, so credit goes to those folk too.

So let me introduce you to my raid boss. Blorglbloog! Its full name is Blorglbloogastraszagosa’chimonde’jaeden-garRande. (Accent on the “e.”)  As we all well know – long, hard to pronounce names are an absolute must so raid leaders and folks in mumble struggle as much as possible to announce the boss during the fight.


You’ll notice that I created his design with a purpose in mind. He has an incredibly generic shape and a tiny face so it’s next to impossible for melee attackers to tell if they’re actually hitting his backside. It also ensures that his frontal cone breath attack will hit at least 60% of the raid at any given time because the tanks won’t be sure which side they need to run to in order to turn it away.

I chose light blue as a color so that he sticks out in his lime-green dayglo boss room. My hope is that by doing this, the raid is induced to vomiting within 5 attempts. People want a raiding challenge – and there’s nothing more challenging than fighting human biological issues.

As for mechanics? I picked the best possible repertoire for my little Blorglbloog.

Now, it’s a 32 minute fight with approximately 16 phases. There’s also some RP cutscenes in the beginning, middle, 3/4ths of the way, and at the last 1%. These cutscenes are 15 minutes long, mandatory, and are guaranteed to crash your main healer’s WoW client. However, I must warn everyone that the only part of the fight that actually matters is the last 2%. This is when Blorgl will berserk and do every single one of his mechanics with a 75% damage modifier. There’s a hard-enrage at 45 minutes because I wanted to make sure that the fight didn’t drag on too long.

After the raid chips away at 2% of his HP, he’ll use one of his first zone mechanics. Blorgl will spit out four types of colored acid spots on the floor.  The raid will need to stand in the “good” acid spot in order to avoid an enormous raid-wide AoE pulse that happens every .2 seconds. I’ve made a handy chart to demonstrate which color is the right one to stand in:


After 15 seconds the “bad” zones will melt away, revealing what I personally think is the best possible mechanic in a raid – an elevator. Random raid members will be teleported on to the elevators and have to wait for it to move back up to the top floor in order to rejoin the battle. Sometimes the elevator won’t load properly and they’ll plummet to their deaths, but that’s what they get for having a crappy internet connection lol.

If enough people stand in the “good” zone, the buff they receive will transform their character that specifically chose to play because they know and are experienced at using it into a “boogerling.” These boogerlings are considered vehicles and have their own action bars which may or may not require a UI reload depending on the player’s addons. Boogerlings have 7 unique abilities which the raid won’t have time to read, but one of them is a CRITICAL DoT that must be applied on the boss every 3 seconds or the boss will enrage and it will be an auto-wipe. This transformation happens to healers and tanks as well as DPS because I firmly feel that if you rolled a healer, you secretly want to learn an entirely new DPS mechanic on the fly so here’s your chance!

After the boogerling phase, gigantic ice walls will erupt from the floor. These icewalls provide a line-of-sight barrier around the room. The boss will teleport itself and the two tanks behind a random set of barriers which will leave the healers and DPS to try and figure out where the Hell they need to stand in order to keep the raid going. The walls reset to new positions every 13 seconds so the raid must constantly be on the move. This ensures that ranged DPS will never get to attack due to LOS, and also ensures that melee DPS will never get to attack since the boss is constantly moving.

go dis way

At 50%, the room will flood with a goolike, watery substance and the underwater phase will begin! The raid will be forced to operate on both the X and Y axis while trying to maintain their rotations. After a minute or so, a portion of the water will drain and the raid can hop on to small pieces of floating debris. The collision detection on this debris will purposely be poor so that it adds an extra layer of challenge to the fight! This way everyone can laugh in enjoyment as they can’t navigate the ridiculous jumping angle to get on to stable ground. If more than 1 person is in the goo after 2 minutes, the goo explodes and kills everyone.

At 20% the REAL fun begins as a curse is applied to a new raid member every 15 seconds.This curse MUST NOT be dispelled or it will blow up and automatically kill the tanks from a distance. So tell your healers to uninstall their debuff tracking addons or they’re gonna be in trouble! The curse will last until the end of the fight, so I hope your healers have plenty of mana left 10 minutes in!

Once you whittle Blorglbloog down to 15%, he will begin using his tank mind control mechanic. This is a channeled spell will target both tanks and cause a complete threat wipe. The mind controlled tanks will enrage and gain a 75% damage buff. They will also be specifically programmed to target the healers in the raid. Every time a healer is killed, Blorgl will heal up to 40% of his HP.

So now the raid is in the homestretch at 10%! Along with his other mechanics, Blorgl will begin the “council” phase of the fight. He will summon his 8 most trusted advisers that will rush into the fray! Each adviser has a different ability ranging from a cleave that AT LEAST 15 people must stack in to mitigate raid damage to a timestop spell. The only visual difference between Blorgl and his council of sub-bosses is a very small mustache/goatee combo on the clones.


Now we’re down to 5%! The real DPS race is on as Blorgl begins a countdown to self-destruct. The raid must chip off his remaining 284 million HP within 1 minute or Blorgl will permanently explode for the week, preventing any further attempts and destroying any loot he may have had on his body.

At 2%, Blorgl enrages and uses each of his abilities at a 50% increased rate. Wait, this is the final minute of the fight? Oh, did I say 50%? I mean 150%! If any of his clones are left alive at this point, they will merge back to Blorgl and heal him for 300% of his HP.

DOESN’T THAT JUST SOUND LIKE AN ABSOLUTE BLAST? I think I have developed what is, quite possibly, the must fun raid boss in the history of gaming. Look at all those AMAZING mechanics.

And wait, I’m not finished. Because you face not one, but TWO BLORGLBLOOGMUNGMAWS!

In all seriousness, it’s easy for me to sit in my non-developer chair and criticize raid mechanics. I have the luxury of not being in the industry and knowing how complicated the process really is. As a player I can sit here and demand that they add in a mechanic that causes skittles to spew out of my CD drive as a reward for downing a raid boss without realizing how complicated it may be or if it’s even feasible. Raid development is a lot of work. Blorglbloog agrees!


Corgi Island Rescue Pet Spotlight: Macabre Marionette


So picture this – I’m strolling along the canals of Stormwind during the annual day of the dead ceremonies and I stumble over a pile discarded bones. They were tiny and vaguely humanoid. Thinking they were perhaps from a gnomish murder most foul, I almost panicked and ran for Horatio Laine until I realized there was a strange noise coming from under the jumbled skeleton.

Upon closer (and incredibly delicate) inspection I realized that the sound I was hearing was coming from a pair of tiny maracas that were buried at the base of the bone pile.

Being a pet rescuer, I’m no stranger to weird creatures. I’ve seen floating skulls, flying books, and even levitating eyeballs. Something about this ridiculous pile of bones that clung so desperately to its maracas made my rescue instincts go wild, so I sat down to begin the arduous task of reassembling the little creeper.

marionettejumpWhile I am a fairly talented restoration shaman, I rarely deal with rebuilding skeletal structures so the entire endeavor took HOURS. Not to mention the danged thing kept shaking and shimmying once it had a few of its limbs reattached. When I was finished, the heap of bones reached for its hat and maracas and just starting dancing away!

I was actually kind of impressed. To go from pile’o’bones to rockin’ out with your maracas out in .5 seconds after being reassembled is pretty impressive for a non-herolike creature. Either way, I figured it had gotten lost and decided to lead it back to the festivities. When I initially returned it to the Day of the Dead celebration area, it shimmied around the crowd trying to get everyone to feel the rhythm. I was content to for it to stay there, but after I turned to leave the little one was at my heels still shaking its thangs and followed me all the way home.

And that’s how I came to adopt my own little rhythm machine!


PLAY HIM OFF, MARIONETTEBefore taking this guy into battle you’re going to want to toss him an undead upgrade stone so he reaches his full potential. And boy, does he have potential. A full arsenal of undead moves makes him a fantastic counter to humanoid pets, plus he has macabre maraca to deal extra damage to dragonkin – the pet family he takes less damage from.

While not particularly speedy or powerful, the marionette DOES have a defense shattering move in dead man’s party. Currently this is the ONLY undead style flock/hunting party style defense shattering move. Bone barrage and death and decay are incredibly useful as well. If you want to use him as a hard counter against a dragonkin pet, set up a dead man’s party and hammer away with macabre maraca for really dancin’ good time.

There are PLENTY of humanoid tamer battles to face off against in Warlords of Draenor, so adding this guy to your repertoire sooner rather than later would be a really good idea. Though be prepared for a lot of maraca shaking around your house.



Garrisons: Stop Expecting the Expected

Garrison GatesLet me be blunt and get this out of the way immediately: Garrisons are NOT player housing. I have played FFXIV and Wildstar, and THOSE are games with player housing. If you go into Warlords of Draenor expecting the same kind of experience with garrisons, you are going to be disappointed and that’s unfortunate. It would be better to instead go into WoD looking for a different kind of experience, because there is a LOT of good here. Unfortunately that good is trapped under the shadow of the “Housing HOUSING HOUSING!!” monster.

I COMPLETELY understand the appeal of regular player housing. Trust me. My Wildstar home is decked to the roof with all kinds of neat stuff. There isn’t really any of that customization with garrisons. You’re not going to have neighbors, and you’re not going to be able to change the roof/walls/flooring of your buildings.

“How can it possibly feel like home, then?”

pets pets PETSThere are other ways. For example, once you open your pet menagerie following a brief pet battle questline, the pets from your pet journal will wander around your entire garrison. Occasionally they’ll stop and chill with you.

If you choose to build a stable building, your mounts will wander around that area as well.

innIf you choose to build an inn, you can go in and see your followers and garrison workers enjoying a nice meal together. It gives it a very homey feel. In a way you could almost think of the followers as your customizable furniture, but…that’s awful. It’s kinda true though, since they’re the main feature of what brings the garrison to life.

left right leftThere are also the NPCs that will wander throughout the area, giving it a sense of hustle and bustle. Most of these NPCs are followers you’ve picked up throughout your questing travels in WoD. So I know that they seem like strangers now, but by the time you finish certain questlines you’ll be glad to welcome them to your stronghold. If they spot you walking by, they’ll either greet you as a friend or commander which is pretty nice.

The idea of the garrison is less about homey personalized housing and more about building a military foothold on Draenor. You’re not going to invite neighbors over for a BBQ, but you are going to defend the base from attacks, help it grow, and utilize it for strategic missions. You are, in essence, taking control of your own quest hub.

salute me!Yes. For once you get to be the maniacal taskmaster that sends hoards of minions out on dangerous missions. From your command table within the town hall, you’ll be doling out various forms of strategery to the followers you’ve amassed throughout your questing escapades. These “missions” (queeeests) range from 25 minutes to 8 hours and reward anything from new followers to gold to gear appropriate for your spec.

command tableDo…do you feel that? That’s the power. The power that NPCs like Varian and Thrall have wielded for all these years. Ah, yes, it feels so nice. Dance, my little minions, dance!!

You also get to kind of sort of customize your garrison by picking out the specific buildings you want. Certain buildings like the pet menagerie, herb garden, and fishing shack exist for everyone and must be unlocked via quests. Others like the barracks, inn, stables, and profession tents are chosen by the player. It’s like a sim game on rails, and long time players of strategic or sim games aren’t going to find anything challenging here.

SsssstablesAnd that’s okay. Because this is a multi-player game that shouldn’t be made or broken based on tiny buildings in one area of the game. The garrison profession buildings provide a nice bonus, for sure, but there’s a careful balance to maintain between “necessary” and “fun but gives a small bonus.” Once things start falling into the “necessary” range, people get shoehorned into doing things in order to progress more smarterer or betterer. As it stands now, I’d wager that every progression raider is probably going to have the dwarven bunker once they cap as it allows an extra raid bonus roll per week. Imagine if the garrison were FILLED with “must haves” instead of “want to have” and you can see why they put it on rails.

herbgardenRight now the garrisons are still a work in progress. There are parts of it that are clunky. Specifically you need to return to your garrison while questing to send your followers out on new missions. You’re provided a special hearthstone for this task, but having to hearth and then fly back to resume questing is a bit of a pain. Other games manage this by allowing you to teleport to the housing map and then teleport right back to the spot you initially left. Unless any changes are made, you’re probably just going to set things up to run, quest, and then return once you hit an area that has a flight path. This sometimes means you lose time on sending followers out on new missions.

But it’s still very early in beta and things are always subject to change. Hint. Hint hint Blizzard. HINT HINT HINT.

PondOh, and I should also mention that the alliance garrison is FRICKIN’ BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. I know we lost the ability to build wherever we wanted, but I think the alliance garrison in SMV more than makes up for it with its own ambiance.

So again I say – cast off your expectations or hopes for this to be WoW’s answer to player housing. It’s not. This is a different genre entirely. Perhaps someday WoW will add in real player housing, but poopooing the garrisons because they aren’t on that level is like comparing apples to coffee beans.  I think with enough polish and adaptation for it at endgame, this could be something that keeps WoD interesting well throughout the expansion for players like me. We’ll certainly see.



Thrall – What Happened, Man?

***As a note, this entry discusses model updates in Warlords of Draenor. If you are trying to avoid spoilers about those kinds of updates, you may want to take a pass on this one. Fair warning.***

It’s hard to preface this post because Thrall – as a character – is such an integral part of the World of Warcraft. Some love him, some hate him. Like Jaina, he’s very polarizing amongst the playerbase. Whether that makes him a good character is debatable. Some (MEEEEE!!) would argue that negative attention is still attention and any character that gets lore discussions going means the writers of the game are doing their jobs. Others would argue that flat writing (Garrosh, for example) doesn’t do the story any favors even if it gets people talking…or venting as the case may be. I can see both sides of the situation.

Thrall is…haha. Oh boy. I would argue that if “main characters” existed in the Warcraft Universe, Thrall would be central among them. In a world where there are countless NPCs and storylines that stretch into the fathomless Ether, Thrall and several other characters sit like the anchoring trunk of a tree. If there were Warcraft themed cereals, Thrall O’s would be right there on the shelf next to the Tyrande Wheaties. HE’S AN IMPORTANT GUY IS WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY.

With the start of the Cataclysm expansion, Thrall started to take a much more central role in the storyline. He essentially became a “free agent” which in the warcraft universe means that he was more useable in the plot. If you fly solo and have less responsibilities, you can do more in a story. The reason we see Tyrande or Jaina in less “solo” roles is because they CAN’T do that. They have people to lead, places to guard, Malfurions to ignore. Jaina can pop in now and then in a siege or two, but she doesn’t have time to go on a life altering journey of discovery because Dalaran would be sans glorious and beautiful leader.

Why they chose Thrall of all characters to be the more leading faceman of Warcraft, I don’t know. People speculate, they mock, they infer. I have my thoughts on that too. But for all the, “God WHY does Thrall keep popping up?” discussions that happen in story circles – there you go. He’s a solo agent of progressing the story. If you look back through the Warcraft franchise – he always kinda was like that. (Along with other leading characters.) Nothing has changed for him except he gave up the mantle of Warchief – which was preventing him from continuing the same role he had as a character in the RTS games.

Imagine if Sylvanas didn’t have to stay in the Undercity to keep the Forsaken under her thumb? Yeah, there you go. Responsibilities are like, such a drag, man.

On this, the year of our Lord Warlords of Draenor 2014’s eve, the alpha client has launched and the fruitful delving and plundering of the expansion’s assets has begun. With that has come the preliminary character models – Velen and Thrall included.

I try to keep an open mind, and I also want to add the caveat that: ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALL THINGS SUBJECT TO CHANGE!!!

But my preliminary look at Thrall’s model made me say, out loud: “Man, what happened to you, guy?”

The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (He just needs a little more time to find himself, okay?) human warrior:

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

(With credit to mmo champion for the image of Thrall’s new model.)

Look at that and tell me which one Thrall more closely resembles. It’s like, right there. *grabs your head and smushes your face against your computer monitor* See? SEE?!

This model update is the latest in a long line of updating the art to make Thrall appear more humanlike in appearance when compared to other orcs. If you trace the artwork of Thrall back to the RTS games, you see him gradually lose his hunching posture, his body fills out more naturally, and his face gains a more human appearance as well. WHY?!

There are a couple of possible explanations, and I don’t like either of them. The first is that he was an orc raised by humans; Blackmoore specifically. Trained to be a gladiator but taught by human hand, it might explain why Thrall has begun to subconsciously emulate the humans he spent so much time around. But…there were orcs in those camps too. Also, like, the horde has orcs and he spent a pretty long time around them? Soo.

The other explanation could be that Thrall has spent so much time on his own lately finding himself, that he’s just naturally adopted the new, less orclike posture because…I don’t know? Shaman magic and the journey of self discovery and enlightenment? Lol. *throws notecards in the air*

The obvious answer here is that they want a way to make Thrall distinctive from all the other orcs, especially now that we’re going to alternate Draenor where orcs flow from mighty waterfalls and rain from the skies on cloudy days. But I have got to say – that sucks. Both for all the other orcs, and for Thrall himself.

The guy was already going to stick out because he had green skin. Making him so human in his appearance doesn’t really serve a helpful purpose – except to make him more identifiable by the players. The age old idea of people subconsciously feeling more of a bond with him because he looks more “human” than his fellow orcs. This is the same logic applied to the dimorphism of a LOT of the female models in game. To be “attractive” is to have that more ideal human physique. But this is a world where little rat men scurry through tunnels holding candles, and bird men can be attorneys at law. What I’m saying is – was doing this to Thrall even necessary?

Here’s my main issue with these subtle changes to Thrall over the years. Thrall, the orc, was very proud and fierce. The dude fought alongside Rexxar and Grom Hellscream with orcish pride. He slung the doomhammer and Lok’tar’d to the Heavens. He was an orc then. He looked like an orc, he acted like an orc, and he was an ORC HERO.

Now he’s a humanized hero, in more ways than one. Since he’s been pushed more to the forefront, he has sacrificed a LOT of his orcish features and essentially become human. He was an orc when they needed him to be an orc, but now that they need him to step up and be a more neutral hero – he looks the part of a bland human everyman so people can “identify” I guess.

PLUS he stands among the other orcs in the horde, all hunched over. Garrosh is hunched over. The orcs in the siege of Orgrimmar are hunched over. It almost makes you equate that hunchy thicker orcs = bad and stupider and Thrall with his superior posture and physique = paragon of light and intelligence. It’s a leap, but can’t you kind of see that? And now he’s going to meet his father Durotan and his mother Draka (sort of) looking…almost like he came from a completely different race.

Honestly, I get it. Thrall has ALWAYS been a different orc. He has fought to maintain his identity as an individual and an orc in a hostile world that would see him hang because of it. But I think that is the part of his character that resonated with people so much. To see such a key part of him changing and going away just makes me feel…sad. I don’t think this new model is badass. I think it flies in the face of how a once proud orc and warrior of the horde has dropped intriguing and harrowing parts of his personality and by proxy physique as the story has gone on. And it’s a shame. If a more humanlike Thrall is what the writers want, so be it. But I’ll just sit here and miss the Thrall that once was.

What it takes to be a Lady Lore char in WoW

You’re a fresh recruit, right out of the Stormwind army’s training camps. Bright eyed, you want to make a difference in this mixed up Azeroth! You think you can do it – after all, plenty of women have worked their way up the ranks to become leading lore figures!

But as a leading lore character, what are your options? Well, take a look at this handy chart and decide which path you’d like to follow:

lady lore chars

(And to note: This isn’t even touching on how crappy it is to use insanity or mental illness as a plot device for villainy in this game. I take real issue with that, but it’s a complaint for another time.)

Look at that! A whole 4 options for you to choose from. What’s even nicer is that every choice you make, you’ll have a fanbase at your heels constantly calling you a “psycho bitch” or “whore” regardless. And you’ll have a development team that doesn’t particularly care how the fanbase reacts, because they openly admit to certain parts of WoW being a “boys’ club.” Or they encourage it by writing in quests where a leader openly calls a lady leader a bitch as well.

Okay, hyperboles aside, the above stuff was meant to prove a point. Do I think the writing team purposely portrays women this way? No. I just think they aren’t sure what to do with their women characters, and they have an increasingly hostile fanbase that twists their words to a point where any time Jaina Proudmoore is brought up, the first word uttered is “Alliance bitch.”

It’s hard for some people to understand, so let me put it this way. When Varian is brought up, he is not called a whore because he had feelings for Tiffin. (Unlike Jaina and Arthas.) When Garrosh is brought up, he is not called a psycho bitch for his genocide against Theramore. (Unlike Sylvanas and her motives. While his behavior isn’t excused, it’s usually justified by his lust for power, not his “bitchiness” or “unstable emotions.”) Thrall isn’t called a wuss for seeking neutrality.

So why the disconnect? It’s a symptom of the disrespect people have for these characters. It is the exact definition of a double standard. And the only real difference is the genders of the characters and the way they are perceived.

Let’s take a quick look at the major lady lore figures in the warcraft universe:

– Azshara: Queen of the ancient and beautiful highborne. She was renowned for her beauty, vanity, and lust for power. In fact, she embodied vanity and greed. And thus led to the downfall of her entire race.

-Magna Aegwynn: A guardian of Tirisfal. Incredibly strong, hard headed, and powerful. Blunt to a fault, she single-handedly fought off the fallen Titan Sargeras. She largely disappeared from the public eye until she sacrificed herself for her grandson, Med’an. A woman who DEFEATED A TITAN sacrificed herself so her grandson could kill Cho’gall, a beginner tier raid boss.

-Sylvanas: Leader of the forsaken and a force the be reckoned with. Deadly with a bow, and more than a match in wits for the lich king himself. Now considered to be on a power trip, players discuss how they can’t wait until she’s a raid boss and can be killed, and even in game Garrosh calls her a bitch with no repercussions.

-Jaina Proudmoore: One of the most powerful mages alive. Continuously does what she thinks is best for her people and faction, regardless of the toll it takes on her. Though she could have destroyed Orgrimmar in a tidal wave as payback for Theramore’s destruction, she resisted. She even refrained herself from smacking Thrall upside the head when he told her to get a husband to even her emotions out.

-Tyrande Whisperwind: Leader of the night elven people and a powerful priestess/warrior in her own rite. Waits dutifully for her husband Malfurion, and follows his commands to the letter despite the traditional NE idea that priestesses are to be led by the head priestess and only druids are to be led by the archdruids. Can best be summed up by the quote: “Hush, Tyrande.” and now seeks to wage war wherever she can.

-Maiev Shadowsong: Staunch in her duty, she led the powerful NE wardens for centuries including keeping the jailed Illidan in line. Appears at the end of black temple to help strike the killing blow. Later re-appears and takes issue with the fact that Malfurion let the highborne (see Azshara) back into NE society. It’s not so subtly implied that she is off her rocker, and thus she falls into the annals of “insane villainess” history.

-Aggra: Appeared in a book to teach Thrall. Had a single questline. Served her purpose by having Thrall’s son. Never seen again.

-Moira Thaurissan: Held under the thumb of a father that was angry she was not born a son. Told throughout her childhood that she would not amount to a good leader because of it. Ran away and found true love with a Dark Iron king who treated her as an equal. Said king was then assassinated at the command of her father. When she returned to claim her rightful spot on the throne with her legitimate heir son, she was almost assassinated by Varian Wrynn. Probably one of the characters most frequently referred to as a “bitch” by the general playerbase because no attempt to explain her motives exists in the game.

There are some exceptions to these characterizations in the game. Namely Alleria, the dragon aspects, and Shandris Feathermoon. (Please, Gods of WoW lore, do not take Shandris from us!) but overall I think you can see the running theme here.

It’s bad that these characters are pigeonholed into these roles. It’s even WORSE that the community will continually resort to gendered insults whenever any of these characters makes a move. I think Sylvanas could sit down and have a tea party and someone, somewhere, would call her a bitch because of it. And that’s really not right. And it’s not fair.

Thankfully, Pandaria was full of awesome characters, both men and women. It was certainly a step in the right direction! Except the mantid society. What was up with that? Helmed by a powerful queen that existed merely as a figurehead, kept constantly in check by the Klaxxi. It’s like they took the idea of insect biology, specifically bees, and warped it into some bizarre amalgam that only half worked. It was still a good storyline, but the idea of it annoyed me on some level.

Do I have hope for change in Warlords of Draenor? Not really. I am absolutely thrilled we’ll be getting a new leading lady in the form of a draenei priestess. But I don’t have much hope for her not following the footsteps of her predecessors. Or even worse, she will be subject to a fanbase that presumes to call her a bitch or a whore regardless of any choices she makes. I find that really, really sad.

On their face, the issues with the characters don’t bother me as much as the reaction of the community to them. Nothing is worse than having a good discussion about Jaina on twitter and someone randomly butting in to call her a bitch. Thanks for your input, random person, and thanks for reducing an entire character down to a stereotype about her gender. I would hope, deep in my heart, that kind of thing would be obnoxious to the writers of the game as well. They spend time trying to build up characters, only to have them and their motives explained away by PMS. But you’d think that id it did bother the writers, they would be trying to affect some change in the way they, themselves, treat and regard their own creations.

All I can say is that it does bother me. It should bother everyone.

Customer Service in WoW, What People Don’t Know

Aaah, you expected a blizzcon wrap-up post, didn’t you? Well, I’ll do one eventually but a lot of what I found was already covered by and WoWinsider. I am working up a post about Warlords of Draenor, but I wanted to post something else in the meantime. This is a topic not many people have broached, but it’s one I think is worth exploring.

I was a fool and lost my blizzcon loot card during the general Q and A. I was standing in line and must have dropped it at some point. Sucks for me, rocks for the person who found it and probably immediately listed it on e-bay. I figured it was a lost cause, but I submitted a ticket on the site anyway. Lo and behold, with some identity verification, they were able to help me out! Huzzah!

And that’s when I got to thinking – as players we deal with Blizzard’s customer support on a daily basis, but how many of you have actually sat down and thought about their quality of service and what they do on a daily basis to make the company run on a face to face level?

Everyone is more than willing to give oodles of credit to the big name devs like Chris Metzen, Mike Morhaime, Cory Stockton, etc. but the fact of the matter is, you’re more likely to deal with the tier 1 Blizzard customer support agents than any of them. You get the faces of Blizzard’s community team in people like Zarhym, Bashiok, etc. but the tier 1 customer service people are the unsung heroes of Blizzard. They are the ones that are actually helping you get what you want.

I have worked in customer service for an embarrassing amount of my professional career. Does anyone really dream, as a child, of growing up to answer questions from pissy customers all day? Probably not. I wanted to be a dinosaur veterinarian. Customer service is thankless, demanding, and physically and emotionally draining. Some of you reading this probably work in the field too and are nodding your heads. Mhm, I get it, trust me.

The general idea of customer service is that if a customer needs to reach out to you, it’s because they have an issue. They’re not calling or emailing to ask how your day is. So you go in every day with the knowledge that every person you speak to is at varying levels of distress over a problem that may or mat not be caused by their own mistakes. And that’s fine. That’s what customer service is, after all. But take a second to appreciate what that means, mentally, and what it would take to cope with dealing with it for 8-10 hours a day.

The golden rule of customer service is that you are not supposed to take anything personally. An upset customer is not upset at you as a person, they’re upset at the issue they’re having or the company you work for. Fair enough. But I think we’ve all seen the twitter, reddit, general forum, etc. posts where a smug customer brags about how they completely shit all over some unsuspecting CS rep for not bowing to their immediate whims. When that happens it’s hard not to take it personally, and we as a consumer culture need to stop rewarding people for doing it.

That’s not so say people who have genuine issues that aren’t addressed shouldn’t go to social media avenues to find solutions. I know I’ve personally gone head to head with an ISP company on twitter over a mistaken $300 charge. It just becomes a matter of distinguishing whether you are trying to get your issue solved, or if you’re trying to embarrass/shame a customer service rep. That’s personal. That’s wrong.

The meat of this post is thus – if you have ever skipped out on filling out one of those surveys you get after a GM/CS rep helps you, please don’t do that. If you haven’t worked in the industry, I’ll let you in on a little trade secret – it’s called: NPS or Net Promoter Score.

Net Promoter Score is what companies use to gauge their customer service levels against other companies. It comes directly from you, the consumer, and the surveys you fill out. Every time you answer a phone survey after you speak to your power company, or you do a survey on taco bell’s website, they have a team of analysts going over it within minutes.

In customer service, people who have an average or positive experience are about 80% less likely to tell a friend about it. Compared to someone who has a negative experience and will tell at least 30 people and all their twitter/facebook followers. This is why you take things like Net Promoter Score into account. You want to know how many people have had AMAZING experiences so that they’ll recommend your company to friends and family. It’s free advertising!

(Funny story, the industry term for people who have negative experiences is: “Brand Assassin.” So when you write a bad review of your local pizza hut on yelp, make sure you shout about using stealth and not having enough energy, etc.)

Here’s another industry secret – a lot of companies game their NPS by making it so that anything that IS NOT A PERFECT SCORE on a survey counts as a NEGATIVE score. So if you are not marking all “5”s or “Excellents” your results are basically counting against the person you are rating, or they’re not counting at all. Companies want to be able to say, “Wow, look at that, our NPS is over 60%!” and if that means that have to throw out the average ratings to get to the point that their score looks better to shareholders, they’ll do it.

Do I know 100% if Blizzard does this with their customer service surveys? No. But it’s the industry standard so I would assume that they do. What does this mean? This means that the GM you got that worked for an hour to restore the random lucky coin you got last year and happened to accidentally delete ended up having their survey thrown out or counted against them because you marked all “average” as a response.

Now, I’m not telling you guys that you should all give 100% excellents as feedback every time you get average/mediocre service. And if you DO have a bad experience, you should by all means say so. I’m just trying to point out how oft overlooked customer service feedback is, and what it means. CS reps often get blamed for things that are out of their hands – like wait times, etc. Yeah, it sucks to have to wait a day to get a ticket response, but that’s not the rep’s fault, so it’s not really something you should grade them on when filling out your survey response. That’s feedback that should be submitted to Blizzard as a company. It’s like blaming the guy behind the McDonald’s counter because the McRib isn’t on the menu anymore, y’see?

So going forward, I want everyone to be more conscious of how much customer service they receive in an average day. Do you thank your cashier at the store for telling you to have a nice day? You should. Do you thank the phone rep that fixes the huge billing mistake you made to your own account? You probably should. Yeah, it’s their job, but they deserve to be treated like human beings.

So when you do receive good customer service from a GM or Blizzard employee, make sure you fill out your survey. If you received EXCELLENT service, send feedback about that specific employee. (As a note, I know about the removal of the GM feedback email. I think it’s cruddy and it should be brought back.) “Good” customer service is relative, but I would argue that as long as you get a response to your issue that isn’t rude and gives you a solid answer whether positive or negative, you’ve been served well.

Much like the old saying about shit rolling down hill, a positive experience can turn a person’s entire day around. A CSR is nice to you? You’re nice back. You’re nice to the next person too, and then they’re nice to the next person! It’s a daisy-chain of niceness!

So yeah. A blizzcon post is incoming eventually, but I wanted to make this post to help bring some awareness to the community. Just remember it the next time you submit a ticket. :)

Complete Disengagement – But Why?

Here’s the thing – you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been completely silent for a while. I’ve been silent on the forums, this blog, and I honestly haven’t signed into WoW for about 3 months outside of here or there for a few minutes.

Why? Because I’m almost completely disengaged from the game. I always have a period of downtime between expansions, but with Mists it’s been pretty severe. An entirely new content patch was released and I still haven’t really signed on to take part in it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing other games. Animal Crossing, free to play MMOs, and I’ve especially delved into Final Fantasy XIV.

Throughout it all I’ve thought back to WoW and all I can wonder is why? Why did I lose interest so quickly? Mists of Pandaria was, arguably, one of the best expansions in terms of mechanics improvements. It had great, regularly updated content. Pet battles, farming, LFR improvements and now flex raiding…but why don’t I care anymore?

The argument can be made that I’ve grown out of the game, which is entirely possible. But I’ve been playing pokemon games with the exact same mechanics since I was a kid. I love Blizzard games. It’s why I’m going to blizzcon. So I can understand growing out of it to a point where I still log in to chat with guildmates, etc. but I’ve gone from semi-interest to “I’d rather go wash some dishes instead.” I still love talking about WoW on twitter…but why don’t I like playing it?

I’ve wracked my brain lately trying to figure out what about Mists was making me so disinterested. Now that I’ve thought on it, I have all these colorful swirls of half-created ideas and reasons floating around in my brain, and I’m going to try to put them to paper to explain my feelings.

Even though I was bored with Cata mechanics-wise, I was still very engaged in the storyline up until Thrall took over at the end. The world was literally about to end in a flash of fiery old God magic. Yeah, I was sick of my 85 sitting there with nothing to do, but I was hooked up until the very end of the expansion on just the storyline itself.

Fandral betrayed me, so I stuck around to see him die in Firelands. Deathwing was an omnipresent threat, and the heroic dungeons that accompanied dragon soul really pushed that home. There was such rich storyline everywhere I looked. Is that what kept me playing? I’m starting to think so.

Mists of Pandaria did not have a bad storyline. It had amazing writing and art associated with it. Here’s where things start to get murky in my explanation, because these thoughts are still all jumbled and muddied together.

We, as players, knew from the outset of the expansion that we were essentially going into Pandaria – a completely unspoiled land – to cause complete and utter chaos. From the very start I was uncomfortable with that key plotline. I want to be heroic, I don’t want to help unleash a Sha that destroys a decade’s worth of work for Yu’lon’s reincarnation. I don’t want to be a driving force behind Pandaren from the Wandering Isle turning their backs on their own people. That feels…gross. I can attest that throughout the questing in Pandaria, save for a few areas like the Dread Wastes, that I kept completing quests and kind of side-eying my computer at the resolutions I was given.

“Oh um…defeated this enemy, I guess…but the entire village was destroyed in the process and lots of people died…”


(True story I made this exact face at least 50 times throughout my time playing MoP.)

We’ve gone to Draenor to defeat the remnants of the legion. We went into Northrend to battle the undead scourge and plague. We defended Azeroth from an aspect drunk on corrupted power. And now we went into an absolutely beautiful uncharted land to…despoil it.

And we did. We despoiled the heck out of Pandaria.

The other major draw to the Mists expansion was the Pandaren themselves. A race of gentle, balanced folk who treasure ideals of family, unity, and peace. They were pretty awesome but…and I feel bad saying this…a little boring.

I read the book about Vol’jin. It tried to hammer home the point of Taran Zhu and the Pandaren being a serene, balanced race so hard that I struggled to get through certain parts of the book. We get it. They’re awesome, ascended people who can fight with the grace of a lotus flower. Taran Zhu can kick a Zandalari troll’s head off without a single piece of fur being out of place. Chen is super lovable and haughty and knows how to throw some punches! Haha woo! He also makes good beer! Did I mention beer? BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER. There’s a whole lotta beer cause Pandaren loooove beer!

That’s not a bad thing, but it gets very repetitive and monotonous when it’s all you get for a 2 year expansion period.

When you look at the key characters that came from the Pandaren race you get people like –

Taran Zhu: It seemed like the overwhelming consensus among my friends was that we all strongly disliked Taran Zhu. The guy was a smug, self-superior xenophobe that was ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. The really crappy thing is that he was completely xenophobic from the outset and WE PROVED HIM RIGHT. He never had his, “I was so wrong.” epiphany moment because we went in with every single faction stereotype blazing and lived up to all his negative expectations. Cool beans. No character growth there, no satisfaction, just a bland annoying character.

Chen Stormstout: It’s hard to find negatives about this guy because it seems like he was purposely written not to have any. That should say it all.

Emperor Shao Hao: We got to see his transformation into the full embodiment of Pandaren ideals. He banished all of his negative emotions except pride, and hoped that his legacy would live on in the Pandaren people. It did. If there’s one thing Mists of Pandaria hammered home to me, it was a complete lack of emotion on the side of the Pandaren.

Maybe lack of emotion isn’t the right way to describe it. One of the short stories – “The Blank Scroll” features a lorekeeper that perfectly embodies all the Pandaren ideals. She’s stoic, almost all-knowing, and exists solely to guide the other characters in the story to an inevitable conclusion and lesson.

And THAT is what Pandaria itself, and all the Pandaren are. They were a storyline that exists to lead the alliance and horde, and your own character, to a certain storyline conclusion. And that is one of the problems. That’s about as “on rails” in terms of a game/story that you can get.

The mogu and the klaxxi are absolutely fascinating in concept. In execution it was fairly lacking. The mogu got the, “We are the generic bad guys in this expansion. We exist to fill out your daily quests and an eventual raid.” and the buck kind of stopped there. Lots of little tastes of Titan and Old God lore throughout both the Mogu and Klaxxi stories, but not enough to really let us sink out teeth into it. Why were the Zandalari even there? It’s sort of explained in the book, but not to a satisfying end. They’re there for a daily hub and to fill the first wing of Throne of Thunder, I guess.

I was more interested in the story behind the Twin Consorts or the implications of it than I was in the burdens of Shao Hao.

Wrathion was a shining star in this expansion, so it wasn’t all negative. The guy is an incredibly interesting character, and I can’t wait to see how he handles future challenges.

Another huge problem is that we went into this expansion from the start knowing that Garrosh was probably going to be the big bad. That’s like being handed a book by someone who goes, “Oh by the way, the main character dies at the end.”

At that point, how you get there starts mattering less. We didn’t lose a single major lore character to death this expansion. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. There wasn’t as much investment from me because I knew Garrosh was going to be set up as the evil big bad, I knew the alliance and horde weren’t going anywhere, and I knew that any major sense of loss would be handled by sacrificing Pandaria itself instead of losing Anduin or something like that. I knew this as I started leveling my first character to 90. And that was when the Sha of boredom first crept into and took root in my brain.

In a lot of ways, I think the overwhelming amount of spoilers and datamining has destroyed a lot of the magic behind WoW. There are sites and resources dedicated to spilling out as much info as quickly as possible before patches even make it to the PTR. Can these spoilers be avoided? I am honestly going to say that at this point, no, they can’t be. I had a friend on twitter who was desperately trying to avoid being spoiled on the warchief reveal when Garrosh was killed, and she was accidentally spoiled within 2 hours. It only got worse after a few days as more and more people discussed every semblance of the plot from all possible angles.

As players, we’ve caused this problem. We’re our own worst enemy. We strive to be so well prepared and are just so curious about the game, that we remove a lot of the magic behind it by discussing changes/lore plotlines ad infinitum before they’re even in the game. I honestly think this is why Blizzard has started leaning so heavily on the book franchise. It’s a lot harder for book spoilers to be leaked to MMO champion since you cannot datamine a kindle.

Part of why I enjoyed FFXIV was because I picked it up at early release without having played the beta or looking any of it up. It was all new, it was all magical. I can’t expect that from WoW anymore, obviously, but it might be nice if maybe, as players, we can have enough respect for one another that we don’t immediately dish out every new plotline the instant it’s posted to MMO champion.

This also goes for Blizzard. You can set up an expansion without giving away the ending. I absolutely want the lore and quest devs to be involved and answer lore related questions, but going into MoP the way they did was a mistake. We knew at the last Blizzcon about Garrosh. The element of surprise was completely gone, and with it – so was some of the magic of the game.

I don’t know. Like I’ve been saying, it’s really hard to put these thoughts to words. I think I’ve rambled on enough for now. I hope some of what I said made sense. And I truly hope that at some point in the future, the game will captivate me again the way it has for the last 9 years.