So,Blizz. You certifiable, crack-brained, dumbkopfs…

Let’s open up with the uncensored version of the rant which was shown to all the attendees and virtual ticket viewers at this year’s Blizzcon, the bile begins to spew at around one minute in:

Now some commentary from a couple of other sites:

Piercing Shots & Huggywuggles

Now the Terms of Use Blizzard require us to abide by:

Section B
Rules Related to “Chat” and Interaction With Other Users. Communicating in-game with other Users and Blizzard representatives, whether by text, voice or any other method, is an integral part of the Game and the Service and is referred to here as “Chat.” When engaging in Chat, you may not:
(i) Transmit or post any content or language which, in the sole and absolute discretion of Blizzard, is deemed to be offensive, including without limitation content or language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, nor may you use a misspelling or an alternative spelling to circumvent the content and language restrictions listed above;

(vi) Harass, threaten, stalk, embarrass or cause distress, unwanted attention or discomfort to any user of the Game;

Some blue responses to complaints regarding the broadcasting of the video:

Now apparently no one at Blizzard has seen the uncensored version before, all they’ve seen is the bleeped version used at Blizzcon.  To be honest I call bullshit.  Can anyone seriously believe the lawyers weren’t all over that? Well, thinking further about it, I actually can because they and the PR people should have looked at it prior to the broadcast and shouted loudly “this is a disaster waiting to explode in our faces”.  Given how much the mainstream media like to paint gaming companies in a bad light I’m surpised they’re not all over this (though given that it’s about some semi-celebrity using abusive, homophobic language and not cute girls wearing very little getting hit on by “nerds and geeks”, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised).

This isn’t about the inter-faction rivalry, though there is a whole other post there and how much responsibility Blizz has for behaviour outside the game (verbal attacks, physical abuse, spitting and the like).  Some morons will be morons and take things far too far, always.

Whether it’s Horde / Alliance; Rangers / Celtic; England / France; Ale drinkers / Lager drinkers.

Slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, fuckwits will ever be the same.

However, large companies do have to weigh their actions because of the sheer numbers they broadcast to.  With Blizzcon 2011, it has been estimated at 26,000 attendees[1]. What we have is a company which, in it’s ToU, demands a certain level of behaviour from its customers, which is fair enough.  Then it goes and smashes their own Terms to pieces and implicitly endorses the levels of mindless thuggery and abusive crap seen day in, day out in the /trade and /general in-game chat channels.

So, Blizz, that was a first class move on your part. Do you have an encore?

It does reinforce the view that you are run by sub-25 year old males who’ve not yet got a relationship with anything that doesn’t have staples and are still fapping off to images of Jaina without her clothes on. The type that have to stress how masculine they are by putting [Anal] in trade and hitting on anything which appears to have boobs in the game.

I know you’re not a stupid company, stupid companies do not keep businesses of the scale of Blizzard running successfully for so many years.  However big companies can have their reputation trashed and, given the way – as I mentioned above – that the media likes to blame the evils of the world on computer games, I would have thought more business sense would have kicked in.

So…  Stop hiding, stop claiming “it’s a joke”, stop telling yourselves and others “it’s not serious” and start acting like you belong in the business world and not staring at dirty mags behind the bike sheds.

Edit: Online petition

Chaos Orbs

Finally we will be able to trade them as of patch 4.3, some good news.

Naturally a certain class of player has started to complain that anyone will be able to get hold of them and this will affect their profits.  Seriously guys get over the fact that you’ve had a monopoly on supply for approximately one year and been able to charge what you like.  With an artificial depression in supply thanks to those who have a pile in their bank they can’t use effectively.  Personally across the alts I’m sat on 40 of the damn things.

So yes, the price of orbs is going to tank relative to the /trade price.  This is nothing unexpected, you’ve made your gold from the closed market suck it up and deal with having to find a different source of income.  It’s not as if making gold in wow is hard these days.

I only have one request to Blizz, make them greed or need only, allowing need and greed will take us back two years to the hell of last bosses in wrath.

Authenticator change, let’s follow the money

Been pondering and I think I’ve come up with a reason for this apparently stupid change which has no visible driving reason, no screaming customers, no mega threads on the official forums (or indeed on blogs) about how terrible it is to keep entering the authenticator numbers.

Nothing which really explains why they’ve made the change.

So, let’s fall back to the standard in any business or political field and follow the money.

Authenticators, how they work

Authenticators are a third party product which are made and branded for Blizz by Vasco, functionally they’re pretty much the same as the RSA secureID system which many people will have encountered in a work environment or indeed to the systems which many banks are rolling out to their customers for online access security.

At the backend these systems tend to be the operators own authentication system, coupled with an API provided by the security vendor and hardware authentication boxes (HSM in my field, hardware security module) which do the heavy lifting of actually performing the security check on the supplied number.  Each of these machines as a finite capacity in terms of queries per second, usually some reasonably aggressive support contract response times (let’s face it having your auth system down is a bad thing) and often a license fee based on the number of queries over a set period (for example 90% of the peak value measured over the month).

All of which means $$$ to Blizzard, and the bad sort.  It’s money heading out to Vasco.

We have a trail.. let’s follow

The problem Blizzard face is controlling the costs incurred by the security system, something which is funded mostly out of reduced support costs (less compromises and clean up).  However that’s rather intangible and doesn’t keep the accountants happy.  From an opex point of view the authenticators are an overhead and one which is increasing with time, from a risk perspective there is a chance to reduce the load on the HSMs without significantly increasing the changes of a compromise.

If we look at the entire bnet customer base and extract information on accounts which have been compromised, then pull out the numbers for those compromised with authenticators and then further filter factoring in ‘location’ information based on IP.  Then I suggest that accounts which have an authenticator, log in from a ‘regular’ IP and have been compromised from that IP is a tiny fraction of the total.

Therefore altering the authentication mechanism such that it only checks for an authenticator value once ever “n weeks” or “z logins” when the auth is coming from a ‘regular’ location (defined as “the account has logged in from this location successfully using the authenticator Y times in the last P weeks”).  With some reset mechanics thrown in to drop back to full security checking when there has been suspicious attempts.  Then from the corporate point of view this is a good trade off.  It lowers the load on the HSMs, it cuts back the licensing / support costs without greatly increasing the support costs in dealing with a higher load of compromises.

Additionally we have Diablo 3 on the horizon which means fresh players, fresh authenticators and additional load on the system.  I have no doubt that the current bug which causes players to be kicked out when changing toons forcing a fresh login has also had some impact on their usage stats which might have triggered them making this live ahead of schedule.

Customer expectations

This is the big fail from Blizz, they’ve been banging the account security drum for ages, with good reason.  It’s bad PR for customer accounts to be hacked regularly, encourages criminal activity and generally annoys the paying customer.  Annoy them enough and they’ll go and get their MMO crack from somewhere else.

The biggest fail was rolling it out, letting the “good location” database populate and then stop asking for authenticators.  Which as any geek with an ounce of security sense would have told them will have normal players panicing.  The system changed, it changed in a way which the players have been told means an account compromise.

Stupid, massively predictable and stupid

If Blizzard needs to fix one thing it’s their internal processes and communication.

Recruitment drive

It’s been a while since my last decent update but things have been happening in game and out. However the focus of today’s piece of crafted stuff is guild recruitment, and particularly.. getting more bodies into the raids I’m leading 🙂

So, the sales pitch.

Immune to Psychology is a small friendly guild on Earthen Ring EU (Alliance side) with both a social aspect and 10-man raiding focus.  We need you to help us with beating up the big and the bad of Cataclysm.  Raiding on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights.

We are recruiting all roles but especially need melee and Healers. We are looking for skilled raiders who are committed to progression, know their class and always strive to improve. Cataclysm raid experience is helpful but not essential so long as you can show a knowledge of your class, practical application and have gear which is ready for raiding at the current level.

Raiding Schedule

Invites at 20:15
Pull at 20:30
Finish at 22:00 on Wednesday and Sunday, 22:30 on Friday
(All times given as server time)

Websites and other stuff

Check out our website for more information, policies and our application form

“Adding new titles is just TOO MUCH WORK”

Continuing some ponderings on the whole Exalted screw up, and adding new titles is not the problem.

Achivements as implemented were fundamanetally flawed from the word go, technically the implementation works, add some additional database fields, track what players are doing, flip flags in the DB from false to true, increment counters, award flashy thing and possibly trigger the delivery in the post of a “something”.

Technically there is no problem.

Achievements peaked too early

“Seriously!  When do you think they peaked?” I hear you cry, it’s simple they peaked at the launch of Wrath.  With the creation of “Exalted”, “Epic”, “Superior” and so on, effectively burning the ‘quality’ end of the namespace they can use at the very start Blizz boxed themselves into a corner with nowhere to go.  What do we see with the new expansion, horrors such as “Cataclysmically Epic”.

Seriously guys, that screams of a development team which knows they have an achivement slot to fill which is “fill all your gear slots at iLevel >= $foo” but don’t have a decent name in the bank ready.  I pity the poor souls who have to work on the achievements for the next expansion.

There are some notable exceptions where some good solutions have been found to the problem, the Loremaster achievement for example has maintained continuity, to a certain extent, of progress for those working it.  If you finished one of the meta’s then that’s kept but all others get reset and anyone who earnt it prior to the change retains their achievement and title.

Or more simply put achievements were designed as a single expansion feature, rather than the game spanning monster it has become.

Fixing the problem and OCD

Getting achievements back into a state where they can grow through the content patches and expansions is going to be a headache for someone, and they’re welcome to it.

Additional titles isn’t necessarily the fix, providing a grandfathered moving target for this sort of achievement seems to be the best.  Where those who get it before the expansion / patch hits keep the acheivement but everyone else has to suck it up and aim for the new level.  This keeps “title bloat” under control without annoying too many people, and it’s easier to justify than “we’re moving the goal posts and taking your title from you, tough, oh and we’ll do it again in two years time”.

Beyond that the team is going to have to look at picking the names for achievements with more of an eye to the future rather than handing out the best ones now.

and finally…

Be honest and communicate with us, too often Blizz has pulled this sort of undocumented stunt and it only pisses the players off, there is no good side to their handling of these issues.  This is the biggest problem Blizz have to fix.


So… why bother?

In 4.0.6 an unannounced change landed which removed “Exalted” from anyone who had the original achievement, requiring that a total of 50 reps are now needed.

So, why bother grinding all those reputations to re-aquire a title which had been awarded before?

To be honest I cannot see a reason, in the history of stupid decisions by Blizzard this one appears to be setting a new standard.

Does age affect your gameplay?

Just in from the Melting Pot, does your age affect your ability to play the game?

My opinion, no.

I’m guessing a little expansion on my response might be called for, firstly a datapoint or three.  I know within the social guild I am not the oldest, I’m pretty sure I know who is but there’s no way I’m saying.  Both of us are definitely on the right hand side of the WoW age demographic, while I can claim my age is 21 that’s only been possible through some cheating by using a different base.  Within the raiding guild I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest, probably by 3-4 years.

My position?  Main tank, ie someone who’s job it is not to stand in the bad, react to things going wrong, grab the nasties going to munch on the clothies and so on.

Peashooter picks up on a very specific case where he things age is the issue, dodging the bad.

I disagree, the largest problem I see with players not getting out of the bad is because they are hyper-focused on something else, be it grid (there was a term within a previous guild for a problem some healers suffered from “gridlock”), keeping an eye on coolddowns / GCD or trying to get that last cast off before moving.  All of which are either issues with playstyle, everyone the meters aren’t everything

The other is situational awareness.

Many players do not seem to have the ability to track multiple things at the same time, or keep an eye out for something new to enter the event.  I’m permanently looking for the “something bad is coming after me” and being ready to pick it up / get out of it / kill it / run away.

Of course this might have something to do with how I am in real life, one of the most regular comments is that I can’t be crept up on.  No secret to it.  Position your chair to ensure that the only route to the desk is within my perphiral vision and don’t hyper focus on the screen.

Age can have an affect, as the human body ages reaction times can slow down, but it doesn’t have to affect game play, there are many other factors which have at least as large, if not a larger effect on playing computer games.