Friday, February 26, 2010


This is a rage-induced public-service announcement for all of my fellow straight guys out there:

A lot of girls play WoW. It's a fact. And yet, you don't seem to encounter any of them, right?*

Well here is why:

-As soon as someone admits they are female, or even speaks with a female voice on vent, you immediately make a big deal over how "OMG THERE'S A GIRL!" Now, let's think for a second. Do you think this makes them more or less comfortable? Think for a second about why you are saying it. Are you saying it for anyone's benefit other than your own? Or can you just not resist any opportunity to vent about your pathetic sexual frustration and loneliness?

-The Blizzard community team releases a pretty cool staff photo, and every single fucking comment is about how "the chick in the front is hot". Things to note: 1) She's out of your league, 2) Commenting on her hotness isn't going to make her cyberz with you, 3) WTF happened to everyone else in the photo? 4) Do you have any concept of how uncomfortable that makes every woman who sees it, including her?

-You say "girls don't play WoW". You know why you think no girls play WoW? It's not that they aren't there. It's because -and let me emphasize this - they don't talk to you. Because they are off talking to people who don't make them feel embarrassed or objectified for being female.

-When a guy makes a mistake, you blame it on him, and him alone. When a woman makes a mistake, you take it as damning evidence that all women suck in every way at video games and men are clearly superior because she made one mistake. You think women make mistakes because they are women, and men make mistakes because they made a mistake. Now think about whether this attitude makes a woman want to approach you, or go away. You have no fucking concept of what an uphill battle it is for a woman once she makes herself known in WoW, especially in raiding. Meanwhile, roughly half of the best raiders I know and run with are female. They got skillz, despite their boobies. Crazy, right?

-You sexually harass them. I actually had a pugger in my ICC25 run the other day say to our GM/raid leader upon hearing her female voice in vent, something unintelligible about driving his truck between her legs. He got kicked so fast his head is still spinning.

All of this can be summarize quite easily into something you may not realize:

Girls are people too.

I know, shock of shocks, they aren't just there to make you a sandwich and look pretty for you!

Learn to act like someone a woman would be proud to be partnered with.

*There are a lot of good guys out there to whom this post does not apply. Those guys probably know a lot of girls in WoW, because they don't automatically repel them. You know who you are.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breaking News: Your Opinions Aren't Automatically Important Just Because You Write for!

Well, I guess that's only news to the bloggers at

Rant incoming. (formerly wowinsider) is in a unique and powerful position to influence the views of the community. And I believe that power comes with some responsibility (thanks, Uncle Ben) that lately (and only lately) the staff have begun to shirk.

A lot has been made about's supreme and shameful irresponsibility in posting hoax rumors about Cataclysm alpha as fact and stirring up an unnecessary shitstorm by massaging the facts from a Blizzard Support Department Budget Meeting. They explicitly tried to make a non-story seem like some diabolical plot by Blizzard to screw people, when it very clearly was not. They should be ashamed.

But that's not even what I'm posting to criticize them about.

When you go to, you are looking for pure news, distilled down to bullet points. When you go to Tobold or Spinks or Gevlon, you are looking for opinion. You don't go to Tobold's blog expecting updates on the latest patch notes and blue posts. And you don't go to MMO-Champ expecting opinions about WoW and its community.

But there is a place in between. This place is It is the largest WoW blog, and holds the distinction of being the only one that actually pays a staff of dozens of bloggers to keep the spigot of posts coming constantly. It can do this because it's owned by AOL's blog network and uses its unparalleled (well, unparalleled by people working alone for free) ability to produce content to drive millions of hits to the site for advertisers. I can't find the numbers at the moment, but I remember seeing some estimates, and the number of people who visit that site every day is staggering. Good for them! (But bad for the community!) covers everything. They post news in a relatively timely fashion (read: after their staff reads it on MMO-Champion), have guides to all classes and aspects of the game, follow the community (including their machinima and horde-themed cupcakes), and include editorials, classifieds, and advice columns. They are basically analogous to a full newspaper, while blogs like Tobold's are limited to an opinion column, and MMO-champ amounts to a basic news feed.

For so many years, this worked well. However, lately, the staff has begun to abuse the fact that they have the ears of a massive chunk of the WoW audience to push their own personal, petty opinions (often in the guise of news posts!) without the benefit of point/counterpoint to temper their views. They are starting to act like a pure opinion site, which poses some major problems.

They have no unified editorial voice. So any single blogger can post his/her own petty feelings and have it read by millions. Meanwhile, their name, their content stream, and their massive audience all position them as seeming to be *the* definitive source on WoW. So when their bloggers express an opinion, it's going to hold more weight than it should. It's going to seem, to many readers, like this is the voice of and its opinions should be considered greater than others.

The most egregious example of this was Adam Holisky's post from mid-December, in the wake of 3.3, entitled How the WoW Community is About to Push the Self-Destruct Button. How obnoxiously arrogant do you have to be (and this coming from someone with a PhD in arrogance) to presume to tell the entire community what they "need" to do? That because Holisky's opinion differs from theirs, they must be a "minority" that "needs" to do what he says because, for some reason, his opinion matters more than theirs? You expect more professionalism from someone getting paid. And you expect more restraint from someone with such a large audience available to him. He's abusing the audience the site gives him to trumpet his own opinion.

To all of the staff. People do not come to for your opinion. They come for information. So every time you push your opinions on them, you are failing them and failing at your job. did not build it's audience on your personal opinions. So every time you express them, you are abusing the audience.

Since then, it's gotten even worse, because now bloggers are inserting their opinions into the news stories. It's not so bad when a post is clearly labeled and titled as an editorial. It's another matter entirely when it's the only post about a piece of news, and the post actual is all about the blogger's own personal feelings on the subject.

Example 1. So Matthew Rossi doesn't like it when people skip bosses in a dungeon. Tough shit. Guess what: there's a reason why so many people skip that stuff, and it has nothing to do with "not being able to bear a 20 minute dungeon". They are only there for frost emblems, and I don't get why you think your personal desire to clear every boss in OK should outweigh their desire to skip it, especially to the point where you claim moral superiority and call them lazy. Oh, and by the way, the Blue post by Cyrgil doesn't even say what you claim it says, Rossi. It actually has nothing to do with legitimate boss-skipping in places like OK, but just explains why they don't put in a mechanism to automatically skip to the last boss in all dungeons. But thanks for spreading your misinformation without even bothering to post the quote or even understand it. Now millions will read your opinion with no counterpoint and use it to make the lives of perfectly nice and rational people more difficult. Thanks so much.

Example 2. This one is smaller and more petty on my part. Matt Low (who's personal blog World of Matticus is excellent) posts a brief news clip about the Night Elf Mohawk NPC being removed from the game. Then he goes on to fill space by ranting about how much he hates the grenade. Which is of absolutely zero value to anyone reading news. Stop it.

Imagine if you read a news article in the New York Times entitled "Obama Passes Health Care" in the news section and the article read: "I hate Obama, and today a disasterous health care bill was passed by the evil snakes in Congress that's certainly only going to screw the country up." Maybe you agree with that statement, but the point is it belongs in the opinion section, not the news section.

So please, bloggers: take the responsibility that goes with your massive audience and noteriety seriously. Stop abusing it to try to unduly influence the playerbase with your personal opinions without giving equal voice to disagreement. (I mean outside the largely-ignored comments section) Stop even abusing it to waste everyone else's time by venting your ill-thought-out personal feelings and masquerading it as content.


Oh, and if you have any sympathy for, this will kill it: check out this shit. Michael Sacco should issue a public apology. Or be . . . heh heh . . . sacked. :D

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Thoughts

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age.

I'm finally done with Mass Effect 2.

I'm not talking about "finishing the game". I've done that 3 times already. I mean that I'm finally done with the game and can move on to other things. Its stranglehold on my brain has slackened. I was unable to achieve escape velocity until I'd explored every nook and cranny, completed every quest, and gotten my fill of shooting at giant robots.

Mass Effect 2, like Bioware's other recent RPG release Dragon Age, is a game about choices, but unlike DA, it's also about consequences. That's partly because DA is the first in a series and ME2 is the "Empire Strikes Back" of a trilogy, so you see the consequences of your choices from the first game and always hold the possible consequences for ME3 in your mind (does anyone doubt that ME3 will be about uniting the galaxy against the incoming Reaper fleet?). But it also has to do with the impact of your choices in ME2.

In DA, you can't get to the end without recruiting the four main armies, and the differences your choices make in the ending sequence are largely cosmetic. Sure, your actions lead to each faction having a different leader, and maybe you have stone golems or werewolves on your side, but in the end that doesn't amount to much in the climax.

In ME2, you simply need to complete a certain number of missions to progress to the end, so if you do some sidequests you don't need to recruit every crew member, and you certainly don't need to make any or all of them loyal. Even if you do a loyalty quest, the way you choose to complete it can actually prevent that squad member from becoming loyal. You also don't need to get every upgrade to progress. This matters because all of these choices have consequences. Neglecting to upgrade your ship can actually kill your crew members in the final assault, and loyalty, along with your choices, determines who in your crew survives as the end sequence progresses. Even the choice to do sidequests before heading off for the final battle can lead to dire consequences that impact both the talking and combat aspects of the game.

I think by integrating these consequences and making your choices more impactful, Mass Effect 2 is a leap ahead of Dragon Age. Add in the fact that the combat gameplay is just so much better in ME2, and I don't see much reason to go back and replay DA even though I've chain-replayed ME2.

Much ado has been made on the internetz about how streamlined ME2 is, and how it barely qualifies as an RPG instead of a shooter because the itemization and character development have been simplified.

Having played ME1, I can say unequivocally that this streamlining is an exceedingly good thing. ME1's items and levelling could fairly be described as a "clusterbumblefuck." The reason ME2's is so good is because it almost eliminates item management and scales back on talent points without losing depth. This is a very important lesson for game developers to learn, because otherwise you end up with disasters like Final Fantasy 12 where I gave up 2/3 of the way through the game because I was tired of grinding mobs so I could vendor wolf pelts.

The beauty of these streamlined systems in ME2 is in their immediacy. There is no more fumbling with a menu after every mission, or even checking every time you pick up a new item to see if it's an upgrade. You can get to the actual play. At the same time, if you decide you want to change your weapon loadout or focus on certain skills, you can. It's just that those parts don't weigh so heavily on the game anymore. It makes the game feel more like an action game while still giving RPG depth and meaningful choices.

This idea that depth and choice without unnecessary complexity will lead to good gameplay (a tenet the WoW devs have recently embraced more fully) is evident throughout the entire design of ME2. Most noticeable is in the new combat system, where 3 different types of possible armoring on enemies leads to more interesting gameplay scenarios, and gives you a legitimate reason to switch guns or modify your strategy without being gimmicky or annoying. It makes the fights more interesting by constantly making you feel like you are making impactful strategic choices and demonstrating mastery.

The class design reinforces this. One of the greatest masterstrokes of ME2 was giving each character class a different special power that only that class has access to. For instance, my Vanguard had a unique "biotic charge" ability that would instantly teleport me into an enemy across the room, knocking them back, shielding me, and slowing down time so I could land a perfectly-aimed shotgun blast into their internal organs. My Sentinel had a "tech shield" that afforded an extra layer of tanky protection and knocked back enemies when it was destroyed. Infiltrators were the only ones with access to cloaking. I think the only place Bioware failed with this system was in making the special ability for the Engineer be attack drones, because there are a few squad members who also have that ability. The other unique class abilities are not shared by any non-player characters or even enemies. These abilities gave each class a clear identity and a totally different playstyle, a massive improvement over ME1's muddled classes.

Despite these victories, the game is far from perfect. Sure, exploring planets for resources and anomolies is streamlined into a mini-game, but the mini-game is mind-numbingly boring and tedious. If there is one thing that needs to be removed, it's that. One reviewer even demanded that Bioware issue a public apology. It's that bad.

The Security Bypass and Hacking mini-games are also tedious interruptions that could stand to be sheared off, though they are better than the "circular frogger" Bypass from ME1. I do like the idea of having some active player involvement in hacking, so perhaps instead of scrubbing the games, they should just be replaced with something better. For instance, the word games from Fallout 3's hacking system were infinitely better than the lame match games ME2 requires you to play. At the same time, F3's slower pace might have just been a better fit for that type of game.

The morality system is also limited, though it works well in its own way. Most interactions give you three choices of response: Paragon (generally "nice"), neutral, and Renegade (generally "not so nice", but not to be confused with "evil"). You cannot play a Shepard who is not trying to save the world, so either you do it by helping people out or you do it by blunt-forcing your way through situations.

The morality system suffers from being yoked to the "negotation" system. What this means is that certain Paragon or Renegade dialogue options only open up if you've already built up points by acting like a P or an R. This wouldn't be so bad, except these special options tend to be much better than the default options, and often have a major impact on your gameplay. For instance, you can get discounts at stores if one of your scores is high enough, and you can - without warning - even lose the loyalty of a crew member if you haven't built your score up in one of the two directions by a certain point in the game. I think the game suffers for this, because I tended to feel like my choice was taken away most of the time because I had to take the Paragon options just to build my Paragon score, even though I didn't think that option was the one my mostly-Paragon Shepard would really choose. The system basically punishes you for making choices in shades of grey, and that's a major failing they should fix in the third installment.

Those are my "deep thoughts" on the game, having completed it once neutrally, once as a Renegade, and once as a Paragon. On my first "blind" playthrough, I managed to keep everyone alive except for poor Yoeman Chambers. On the second, my goal was to kill Shepard, but I failed. In order to die, you need to kill off every single member of your squad, and due to some missteps on my part both Zaeed and Miranda were alive at the end to save me. My final runthrough was meant to max out my Paragon points and get a "perfect" playthrough where everyone lived, I explored every planet, got every upgrade, did every sidequest, and maxed everything out in preparation for ME3.

Now that I'm done with all that, I feel like I've finally truly "finished" the game and I'm ready to move on. Next up: Final Fantasy 13 (and hopefully Starcraft 2 beta)!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Starcraft 2 Beta Test Begins

After so many years of waiting, SC2 beta is finally starting today.

I didn't get an invite.


So um if anybody out there wants to give me an invite... well, let's just say I would be interested.




Friday, February 12, 2010

Mass Effect 2

Please see above title for explanation about why I haven't posted in a while.

Dear god, this game is good. I won't blink if it's still on "top 5 games of the year" lists even in a 2010 that promises Starcraft 2, Heavy Rain, Final Fantasy 13, Bioshock 2 and a new Fallout.

I skipped the original Mass Effect because usually that type of spacefaring Sci-Fi doesn't interest me. But so many people I respect were saying so many good things about ME2 that I had to see what all the fuss was about this time around. Not wanting to sink the money until I was sure, I bought the original ME1 from Steam first for about $25.

It was a blast. The gameplay was basically a stripped-down Dragon Age (made by same company, actually) with more action-oriented combat. Sure, I was annoyed by the same things everyone else had been - elevator rides, the inventory mess, and the fucking Mako - but I loved the game all the same. My expectations were shattered as I discovered an intriguing and mature galaxy full of interesting stories and alien races to meet and mate with. I plowed through it in a few days, and had purchased the sequel off Steam before the credits were even done rolling.

Mass Effect 2 blew me away. It simplified the game in the most pleasant ways, all while somehow keeping it from getting simplistic. There was no more moon rover, no more long elevator waits, and the inventory was replaced by an elegant but fun upgrade system. And it continued the original's process of getting me attached to the characters and to my Shepard, which is no mean feat.

But the real superstar is the combat system. It's a cover-based third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War (which I've never played) that adds in RPG elements like castable abilities and leveling. The gameplay is addictive, and I've found myself playing side missions just to get more time with the combat. That has never happened in an RPG before in the history of ever. It's just . . . it's just a joy to play.

I think one of the keys is that Mass Effect 2 never gets boring. There are only three things ever happening: either you are engrossed in the shooter gameplay, riveted by an incredibly epic cutscene, or involved in a satisfying or thought-provoking interactive conversation, all while surrounded by very pretty graphics, shockingly good voice acting, and excellent music. You are never sitting around bored. Gush, gush, gush!

[update] OK, it does get boring at one point: gathering resources from planets. You explore galaxies and scan planets for resources, but the scanning is super-slow and you have to do a ton of it for each upgrade, all while constantly replenishing your probe supply. And this is not optional because you need the minerals to buy upgrades. The hacking and bypassing minigames are also kind of tedious, though not as bad as the "frogger in a circle" known as ME1's manual bypass. [end update]

From someone who was raised on Final Fantasy instead of the PC RPGs like King's Quest or whatever, Mass Effect feels to me like the heir to the FF throne. While FF stays too traditional - sitting in the same rut and never seeming to evolve - the Mass Effect series is just chock full of new ideas and improvements while laying claim to the FF tradition of cinematic awesomeness.

Bioware are masters, and in my opinion, Mass Effect 2 is their masterpiece. I will certainly be writing much more about this game . . . after I finish my third playthrough. I can't seem to tear myself away.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ensidia should be un-banned and given back their world first.

So Ensidiagate (thanks Matticus) exploded yesterday. For those of you who haven't heard about it: Ensidia, arguably the world's top raiding guild, got the world-first kill of the Lich King in 25-man. Then, Blizzard revoked the achievements and suspended the entire guild for 3 days for "exploiting" to win the fight. Evidently, engineering items that cause siege damage bug out the encounter, causing it to become significantly easier. Rogues with engineering are known to use Saronite Bombs on cooldown to maximize their dps, and this kill was no exception.

There's been some half-hearted debate and full-hearted buzz about the subject in the WoW community, with many trying to decide if the ban and loss of the world first was justified.

Boubouille's post on the subject, including Ensidia's raid logs, should put this matter to rest.

There was no way for them to know the fight wasn't supposed to work that way. Using the saronite bombs is standard. And now they are screwed out of not only the world-first, but they have to wait an extra week to do hardmodes. This basically invalidates an entire tier of content for a world-first guild. All for doing something that they had no idea was wrong, and no way of knowing was wrong.

I'm not a fan of Ensidia, but they are in the right here, so their treatment is disappointing. Blizz should give it all back and make a big apology. Then wipe the egg off their faces.

WoW: Quick & Easy Guide to Playing a Rogue in Heroics

This post is dedicated to Arisal, the most polite saronite slave in the EU.

So you've never played a rogue in World of Warcraft before. You don't really care enough about a character that just runs heroics for badges to bother with the extremely complicated and intimidating ins and outs of min/maxing raiding rogue dps. Maybe you aren't used to playing a melee class.

Well guess what? To do reasonably good dps in heroics, (and be an asset to your group in other ways) you barely have to do anything! No extra research, no spreadsheets, no dps simulators. Just copy this spec, follow a handful of guidelines, and hit just 5 buttons for fun and profit!

Talent Spec:


Mutilate is the easiest to play. Combat requires more buttons and Subtlety sucks, so let's ignore them for now.


OK, I lied. You may need 7 buttons, depending on who is in your group, but you really only have to use 4-5 on 90% of pulls. Those buttons are, in order of importance:

Fan of Knives
Hunger for Blood
Tricks of the Trade
Slice and Dice
Garrote or Rupture (to put up a bleed so you can use Hunger for Blood. You can skip this if a dps warrior or feral druid is in your group)

Opening the fight: This is the only remotely complex thing I'm going to ask you to do. Just stay with me, it's worth it. Hit Esc to open your WoW menu. Select "Macros". Hit the button at the bottom to create a new one, and select the question mark icon from the list and name the macro "tricks". Then copy and paste the following text into the macro:

#showtooltip Tricks of the Trade
/cast [@focus] Tricks of the Trade

And drag the macro onto your action bar. Hotkey it so it's easy for you to reach.

At the beginning of every instance, target the tank and type:


and hit enter. You have now set it so that whenever you hit your tricks hotkey, you will cast Tricks of the Trade on the tank. You just became a major asset to your group because you give the tank a massive threat boost. Use this macro before EVERY PULL.

The only other concern you may have at the opening of the fight is Hunger for Blood. Keeping track of that buff and keeping it up can be annoying. The solution that's almost as effective: don't bother tracking it! Just refresh it every other pull! No complicated monitoring of the buff required.

There are two ways for you to refresh HfB every other pull. One of them is to start the fight from stealth, use Garrote, then HfB. Starting from stealth is preferable because of the Overkill talent. If you aren't starting from stealth, do a single Mutilate, then hit Rupture, then HfB. That's it. Just refresh it every other pull, and stop worrying!


AoE pulls (3+ enemies at once) are easy (and they make up most of today's heroics). Just pick a target in the pull and start autoattacking it. Then hit Fan of Knives over and over. Sure, you could squeeze out a few more dps in other ways, but it really won't matter in a heroic. Just spam FoK.

On single-target trash, you're generally just going to Mutilate until you have 4 or 5 combo points, then Envenom. You only need 4 to make Envenom worth it. If you want to ignore combo points, you can simply Mutilate x2, Envenom, repeat.

On bosses, simply add a single Slice and Dice to the beginning of your rotation. You will usually only need to use it once because the Cut to the Chase talent will keep it refreshed for you. You might need to use it again after a long break from dpsing a boss, like when the lightning guy in HoL splits into sparks or when the last boss in Drak'tharon turns you into a skeleton. Once SnD is up, just keep doing Mutilate x2, then Envenom.

Stats: every melee stat is reasonably good for you; don't sweat it too much. Put on all the agility leather you can get, gem for attack power and hit rating, and make sure you are at least over the 8% melee hit cap (though more hit after that is still good)

Weapons: Daggers. Get whatever the highest ilevel dagger is you can get, but if you have a choice get a slow mainhand (1.8 speed) and a fast offhand (1.3-1.5 speed). A nice starter offhand you can get on the AH for peanuts is Librarian's Paper Cutter.

Poisons: Instant Poison on your mainhand, Deadly Poison on your offhand. Don't forget them, and stay stocked up! You can buy them from a guy in the Dalaran Sewers.

Pictured: not the kind of Rogue this guide is about


Stay behind your target when you can.

Don't be an asshole. Being a nice and humble sub-par player is better for your group than being an arrogant ass who happens to be top dps. Take it from the arrogant ass. :)

Be an asset to your group by paying attention to fight mechanics. Stay out of void zones, stop attacking when necessary.

Be nice to your healers and tanks.

I hope this guide makes it easy for new rogues to do reasonable dps without much work or attention. Playing a rogue well can be a blast, so have fun with it!