Archive for December, 2011

On the ethics of riding dragons

Posted in Lore, Miscellanea with tags , , , on December 13, 2011 by Aeliel

It’s no secret to anybody who knows me well that I have A Thing For Dragons™. “It has dragons in it” has gotten me to try just about anything, even if I then ended up tossing it at the wall in disgust (hello, “Eragon”).

World of Warcraft has dragons, and moreover, it has dragon mounts. Great, right?

Well, yes. It’s fun to ride around on a dragon. It makes you feel heroic.

But is it ethical?

Okay, okay, stop laughing and bear with me.

Dragons in World of Warcraft – at least normal dragons from the major flights – are intelligent, not just part of the wildlife. They think, they talk, they have feelings, they can have power well beyond that of members of playable races…

…and despite this, it seems to be the case that we’re using at least some of the drakes we ride against their will, turning intelligent creatures into little more than beasts of burden.

It is a major point of Warcraft lore that the enslaving of Alexstrasza and the red dragonflight by the Dragonmaw Clan, and the forced use of drakes and dragons as war mounts, was a heinous, horrible act.

And yet it seems to be perfectly fine for players to do the same thing – at least to “evil” dragons.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Allies

Some of the drakes you can ride join you out of their own free will. The questline to obtain a Netherwing drake, for instance, makes it abundantly clear that they are joining you out of gratitude for the help you have provided to their flight:

It is an honor to meet you, <name>. We have all been keeping a close eye on your adventures and are grateful for all that you have done for the Netherwing Dragonflight.

If you choose me as your compatriot, I will fly you to the ends of this world and back. Whatever it is that you ask of me, I will do my best to comply.

(Although you can then return to Netherwing Ledge and purchase all other colors of Netherwing drake from Drake Dealer Hurlunk, one could simply argue you’re paying the dumb orcs some gold to free the remaining drakes they still have enslaved. So that works out.)

Similarly, although the Bronze Drake is technically a drop, you can make an excellent case that the drake would choose to join you because you saved a member of the Bronze flight. The Red Drake likely joins you willingly as well: although you have to spend gold to purchase one, doing so requires you to be exalted with the Wyrmrest Accord, the dragon faction par excellence. (Plus, you know, Alexstrasza is standing right there and I doubt she would be pleased with a random mortal grabbing one of her drakes and going “okay, you’re my mount now”. The last guy who did that, she had as a snack.)

(As a side note, this makes me wonder why there’s no rideable green drake in the game yet. The Guardians of Hyjal faction would’ve been a perfect place for one, considering Ysera is taking an active role there. Either that, or the Avengers of Hyjal, using Marks of the World Tree as currency to purchase it.)

Enslaved

Not all drakes fare quite so well.

The Blue, Azure, Black, Twilight and Onyxian drakes are obtained by very violent methods; the Black dragonflight is vicious, destructive, corrupted, insane and generally evil; the Blue dragonflight is on the wrong side of the Nexus War (and, going by the original method of acquiring the Blue and Azure drakes, you would have just killed their leader). At best, these drakes are insane, feral, more beast than anything else; at worst, they’re fully sentient, just your enemy. Either way, you’re essentially enslaving them.

(Yes, I’m aware it could be the one nice or non-hostile drake wanting to join you, but it’s extremely unlikely.)

The Albino Drake is another case of a dragon that’s considered little more than livestock. Consider the letter that accompanies it, sent by Mei Francis, a seller of exotic mounts:

I couldn’t help but to notice how good you are with the livestock. With all of the activity around here, business has been better than ever for me.

I don’t suppose you’d mind looking after this Albino Drake for me? I simply don’t have enough spare minutes in the day to care for all of these animals.

Yours,

Mei

“You’re good with animals, please care for this particular one, I haven’t got the time.” Okay then!

There are even more clear-cut cases of “see pretty drake, beat it to within an inch of its life, then slap a saddle on it and enslave it as your mount”, but they all belong to dragon breeds that either have been confirmed by in-game lore as being essentially beasts (Time-Lost Proto-Drake) or as far as we’ve seen haven’t displayed any sign of higher thought, such as stone dragons (Aeonaxx, Slabhide) or storm dragons (Altairus). So we can’t really be certain.

Either way, much as I love drakes and I love riding them… it makes me uneasy.

(And don’t get me started on whelp vanity pets. As much as I love them, they all originally were, and some of them still are, drops from whelps of the same dragonflight found in the game world. So essentially what you’re doing is killing a bunch of dragon kids, then finding one that’s still alive despite the beating and taking it for a pet. Nice, very nice. How very heroic of you.)

It just feels like Blizzard originally introduced drake mounts in the game to give players something amazing and heroic to ride beyond the default gryphons and wyverns (the Netherwing drakes were the very first drake mounts introduced), because it would feel great to have a dragon call you a hero and decide to accompany you in your further adventurers – but that has long since fallen by the wayside, and they just add drake mounts wherever because hey, dragons are cool, right? And it makes me a bit sad, because it did feel great to have a dragon want to come with me… and now they’re just another mount, found or bought pretty much everywhere.

On bad design

Posted in Achievements, Miscellanea, PuG business with tags , , , on December 11, 2011 by Aeliel

I got all the Darkmoon Faire artifacts this month on my main – every single one. Because I’m an impatient completionist and achievement points call to me.

The PVP ones were pretty easy. Ran a couple of Alterac Valley, stopping to loot every single corpse, got two, got frustrated and realized it would probably be more efficient to just buy the third one on the AH. So that’s what I did.

Most of the dungeons ones were easy, too. Stockades coughed up Ornate Weapons quite easily, Scarlet Monastery was farmed for Imbued Crystals (Whitemane) and Mysterious Grimoires (Doan), and Gahz’rilla kindly dropped a Monstrous Egg. These are meant to drop from the new heroics, too, and I saw some – but it was just more efficient to grind old instances and not risk getting outrolled.

Getting Soothsayer’s Runes was a simple matter of building a trade-chat PuG for Magmaw 10 only, for the specific and sole purpose of getting them. One drops for each raid member, so no problem there.

The Treatise on Strategy was the problematic item, and it’s simply a matter of poor design.

I can understand the theory behind it. In the same way the Soothsayer’s Runes are “hey, let’s get people to run raids that aren’t Dragon Soul!”, the Treatise on Strategy is “hey, let’s get people to run heroics that aren’t the new ones!”.

It’s a lovely theory, and I salute the desire to give players reasons to run old content. The way this was implemented, however, leaves much to be desired.

The problem is this:

We didn’t really like having separate queues for each tier of Heroic 5-player dungeons. The random option should be all-inclusive. […] if you want to run any random Cataclysm Heroic dungeon, we want the system to choose from all of them. […] you’re probably getting the new ones more frequently because more players are queuing for them specifically. You’re being grouped with those people by the system so the wait times are as short as possible.

(source)

In other words, players want to run old heroics (because the Treatise on Strategy only drops from there) but, at the same time, are frustrated in their efforts to do so, since the dungeon finder will drop a well-geared character into the new heroics more often than not. Because of this, players end up having to queue specifically for the old heroics by selecting them all in the “specific dungeons” list – which means they’re unable to do each heroic more than once a day and they won’t get valor points from the run, just justice points.

The former consequence makes getting a Treatise frustrating – it only drops from one or two bosses in each instance, at a very low drop rate, and it’s quite likely that several people in the group will have a Darkmoon Adventurer’s Guide and therefore be competition for the loot. The latter consequence will further frustrate players with well-geared characters, since justice points are essentially useless for them.

All this also further exacerbates the resentment between well-geared players and undergeared, under-performing or freshly 85 players. From a well-geared player’s perspective, it looks like this:

“I’m carrying these scrubs, I’m doing three or four times their DPS, they stand in all the bad possible, and I’m not even getting any valor points out of this, never mind a Treatise. This sucks.”

Or possibly even this:

“I carried these scrubs, I did three or four times their DPS, they stood in all the bad possible, and now one of them actually rolled against me on the Treatise and won? This really sucks. Ungrateful little bastards.”

From an undergeared player’s perspective, it looks like this:

“These guys come into dungeons they overgear, yell at me for being new, want to skip bosses I need loot from, boss me around and don’t even bother explaining how fights I’ve never seen work. This sucks.”

Nobody’s happy, everybody’s frustrated. Not a well thought out system at all.

I wish I could feel like it’s going to get better with subsequent arrivals of the Darkmoon Faire – after all, the Darkmoon Adventurer’s Guide stays and the artifacts drop even when the Faire’s out of town – but I don’t see it happening. More people are going to queue up for the new heroics anyway if they want valor points (because they’re faster, they can potentially provide gear upgrades and valuable BoEs as well as valor points, and “they’re not filled with scrubs”), so queuing for a “Random Cataclysm Heroic” in the dungeon finder will still drop well-geared characters in the new heroics. So well-geared characters wanting a Treatise will have to queue specifically for each old heroic, leading to the same frustration all the time.

There’s no elegant solution, either, and no solution I can see Blizzard taking. One solution would be to take the three new heroics out of the random Cataclysm heroic list – but Blizzard has openly stated they don’t want to do that. Another solution would be to make the Treatise drop off at least one boss in all heroics, including the new ones… but that would defeat the original point of the Treatise.

But then again, that might be better. Well-geared and knowledgeable players and under-geared, new-to-85 players in the same heroic together is a recipe for disaster anyway. (See also: the drama when it looked like raiders would have to run heroics to cap valor points every week.)

On the first week of 4.3…

Posted in PuG business, Tanking with tags , , , on December 3, 2011 by Aeliel

…the random raid finder gave to me…

Twelve people who dropped group immediately on joining
Eleven people who couldn’t manage to chain lightning to the next conductor over
Ten people who couldn’t be bothered stacking on red during Yor’sahj (and instead clamored for healing)
Nine “CR ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111”
Eight people who stood in bad on every trash pull
Seven people in PVP gear
Six tier tokens of the wrong type
Five idiots who died to Hagara’s ice waves (one of whom released)
Four morons shouting wrong instructions during boss fights (“kill blue!” with purple up on Yor’sahj)
Three deaths on Yor’sahj (because the other tank couldn’t understand “taunt at 3 stacks” nor notice me spamming “TAUNT” in raid chat)
Two bosses already killed
and one death immediately after loading in.

Plus a ninja-pulled boss (Hagara), a rogue whining about not being allowed to pickpocket the quest item off Hagara in LFR difficulty, whining about how the loot system is unfair and everybody should be able to needroll on everything, three “healers” doing less healing than a shadowpriest…

It was kind of fun, though, even though my poor tankadin got nothing but a repair bill out of it. Might go in again this reset at some point – my main could use the extra chance at tier tokens, and I could queue as a DPS and still roll on everything I can use without the stress of tanking for it (especially considering as a feral druid I’m rolling against DPS classes anyway). And if I get the three new heroics to cough up enough upgrades for my other alts to hit 372 equipped ilvl without cheating, the alts could go too. We’ll see…