Friday 29 October 2010

About sociopaths

I was listening to the radio on the way to work, and heard this hugely entertaining discussion on psychopaths in the workplace:

Or pick it up here:

or listen to it here (it's the first item in the show)

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Why people stand in the fire

Why don't we get the hell out of the fire? Elder Game has a very intriguing answer. But first, to understand it, take a look at this video of basketball players, and see if you can count how many passes they make:

Excellent test, don't you agree! Now head on over to Elder Game and read his interesting article on Deathtrap Design

Sunday 3 October 2010

A Draenei in the Deadmines

I have recently been levelling my first Draenei, and I can tell you, I've really enjoyed the experience: it's completely different to my previous experiences in the old world.

Firstly, the low-level experience is set at a particular point in time: just after the shaceship "the Exodar" crashed on an island off Kalimdor. Your tasks are all centred around the immediate aftermath of this event, as you try to help fellow victims of the crash, and repair the damage caused to the land you crashed in. You quickly discover that you've been followed to this world by your enemies, the Blood Elves, and you make first contact with some of the other species in your new world. The story is told immersively and you just can't stop playing, so much do you want to get to the next episode.

In contrast, all the WoW vanilla starting zones are set in a fairly timeless period, and the quests are more concerned with teaching you the mechanics of controlling you character, rather than immersion. So it's kill ten kobolds in Northshire and steal their candles. For no good reason other than that somebody asked you to.

So I really enjoyed the work I did on behalf of my fellow Draenei on Azuremyst Isle and Bloodmyst Isle. The first jarring moment in this immersion came when I reached the Exodar itself. There, Draenei commoners were celebrating Brewfest! What? How did we get involved in Brewfest? Did we meet the dwarves? I only just made first contact with our nearest neighbours, the night-elves, along with an expeditionary naval force from Stormwind.

Never mind. That was just unfortunate timing. I found a ship that took me to Darkshore and continued my explorations there.

When I started a night-elf, long ago, I found Teldrassil (once out of the starting zone) to be quite an immersive place, also. Plenty of good stories to be a part of, and not all of them involved killing ten rats. The night-elf quests in Darkshore and Ashenvale continue in this vein, and are among the best stories in Azeroth, even if there is quite a bit of Naga bashing and Murloc murdering involved. But the night the music died for me was the night I was given a quest in Blackfathom Deeps.

It is no longer possible to gather a group to go to Blackfathom Deeps simply by asking players around Astranaar and Ashenvale. They look at you as if you had two heads. A knowing smile crosses their face, the word "noob" forms at the back of their mind, and they tell you to use the dungeon finder. Another crack in my immersive experience.

So I did. I queued up for a random dungeon and found myself in the Deadmines. What the?! How did I get here? I wrote before about the gripping story of the Defias Brotherhood that leads up to the killing of Edwin van Cleef. What a sorry, half-baked version of that story my draenei met. Why on earth would he want to kill these miners, those goblins, yonder pirates and the various other denizens of the Deadmines that he met? What a horrible, horrible experience it was to be in the Deadmines without having been through the quests leading up to it. I thank the light that I at least experienced the world of Warcraft before the introduction of the Dungeon Finder. Boy, it isn't even a year old, at this point, but it has irrevocably changed the way we experience the world.

I remember how it used to be, how difficult it could be to get together a group, and I can see all the advantages there are to using it; I remember trade full of desparate requests of "LFM UK normal" and so on. All the same, Dungeon Finder as it currently stands completely breaks the immersiveness of the questing experience. I understand why Blizzard did what they did when creating the Dungeon Finder: they had already tried to fix the problem of putting together groups a couple of times, and each time it had failed, for various reasons. This time, they threw in everything they could think of, to give it every chance of succeeding. And succeed it did! Now it is almost the only way people do 5-man instances (I would hazard a guess that more people solo instances than put together a 5-man team without using the Dungeon Finder).

How could it be fixed?

Well, as I said, Blizzard threw everything that they could at it, in the hopes of making it a success where they had previously met with failure. Unfortunately, their over-egging of this particular pudding has been the cause of its problems (which are problems of success, not problems of failure, let's remember). Now that Dungeon Finder is well established, perhaps its time to remove some of the eggs from the pudding.
  • One idea would be not to queue you for instances that you haven't yet found the entrance to, or at least the summoning stone of. I think this must be foremost in re-establishing immersion.
  • Only form groups with people of your own realm, or at least give you the option of only queuing with people from your realm.
  • Drop you and your group at the summoning stone for the instance, not in the instance itself (I know this might cause problems with cross-realm parties, but they are not insurmountable).
  • Do nothing except create the group. After all, the problems people previously had was simply in getting a group together at all. It could previously take half an hour of barking in the trade channel to do it (how little the LFG channel was used!). Just form the group, and let the members take it from there.
  • Remove the free emblems or satchel of helpful goods. There should be life outside of instances as well!
  • You don't really want people entering the instance for the first time to be doing it with people doing it for the hundredth time. That takes all the magic out of it for the first timers.
I'm sure you have better ideas than me. I'd love for Blizzard to think about them.

Friday 1 October 2010

Gevlon the Bully

So Gevlon doesn't believe that "morons and slackers" can benefit from education (his definition of morons and slackers are people who don't want to play WoW the way he thinks they should), and rather than fix his problem, he would rather eliminate them.

Well, I'd rather expel sociopaths, liars, bigots, and bullies from our game, and Gevlon is all of these.

For a long time, I thought that Gevlon was just harmless. Here was a guy with some wacky economic ideas that had been tried out in the 19th century and found wanting (and led to revolution in many of the countries they were tried in), and some weird ideas about how you should play the game the way he wants you to play it. A harmless, bright but ignorant kid, I thought, who doesn't yet know much about the ways of the world. But his lack of education on such matters hasn't stopped him peddling an economic theory from the age of steam and he has been engaged in a political endeavour to persuade WoW players of his socio-economic theory of Eloi and Morlocks (or "socials" and "goblins", as Gevlon calls them). Gevlon thinks of himself and his fellow travellers as Morlocks, and everybody who doesn't buy into his theories of how the game should be played as Eloi, and ripe for exploitation and elimination.

Gevlon the sociopathic bigot

This example really made it concrete to me that he is, in fact, the sociopath that he claims to be. He has no qualms about hurting other people greatly if it makes his life slightly easier. In general he does this by first making the people he is hurting appear subhuman: they are M&S, socials, filth, retards. The subtext is that they deserve whatever he wants to do to them. Once they are labelled and defined as Eloi, then those who label themselves as Morlocks may feast on them without pricking their consciences (many of Gevlon's followers are not the sociopath that he is, and have a conscience). This namecalling and labelling is a constant feature of Gevlon's blog, and its regular readers will by now have become so exposed to this hateful bigotry that they have become inured to it. It is bigotry and prejudice nonethless.

As a sociopath, Gevlon has no affinity for (and only a theoretical understanding of) the underlying concepts and mechanisms of society (perhaps this is because his real-life society exploded so dramatically in 1989. I don't know, and I don't want to make excuses for him). For Gevlon, the only person that counts is number one, and he will do whatever he can to hurt you if it makes things slightly more comfortable for himself. His philosophy is not utilitarian, he is not after the greater good. He is after the good of only himself. Sometimes this also benefits his stooges, but he is just as happy to harm them to benefit himself (for instance, getting his stooges to transfer realms to Inglourious Gankers, then pulling the plug on it once he got bored by it).

Gevlon the bully

Unable to fit into normal society sociably, Gevlon has no idea how to persuade people to see his point of view, and his best attempt is to try to bully them into submission with rudeness and namecalling. See, for instance, his attempts to persuade players to follow his orders in Alterac Valley (this came after this classic pair of posts "sitah and helcsi" and "its not my faliure", where Gevlon completely fails to understand Ten's comments on the leadership skills needed to gel an unco-ordinated group into a successful team, as team-building is a social endeavour). Or his recent attempt to bully people in Wintergrasp into following his orders, by kicking them from the raid if they don't. Gevlon is much more bullying in matters concerning the auction house, of course, where failure to follow his one true path could get you labelled a moron or a slacker or both. And if your game is to collect pets or achievements instead of gold or bosskills, you are labelled a moron by Gevlon. Anyone, in fact, who plays the game differently to Gevlon risks his wrath.

Gevlon the liar

Gevlon is a liar. He has admitted as much and even boasted about it (see LF10M VoA25, if you didn't already read it). He thinks this makes him seem clever. He and his fellow Morlocks feel it is acceptable to lie to what they see as fair game. By labelling the other raid as M&S, in other words subhuman, it's okay to abuse them. Also, he lies to the whole realm. But that's okay, the rest of the realm must be M&S or they'd be in The PuG; and you can lie to the M&S. Even those who join your raid. Well, PuG members, don't be so sure Gevlon doesn't see you as fair game, too. His lies and his bullying behaviour are for the good of one person: Gevlon. And sod the rest of you.

Bullying, lying, bigoted, sociopathic behaviour isn't tolerated in most societies. We should not tolerate it in WoW.