Five Things You Might Not Know About The Pot’s History

Did you know that the Pot runs an awards ceremony? Or that Rebecca was a well-known blogger before starting the Pot? Or which website inspired us to create the Melting Pot?

As regular readers will know, the MMO Melting Pot celebrated its second birthday last week. This week, I’m looking back at the Pot’s past, and then forward to the Pot’s future.

Today, I’m doing a bit of a Did You Know session about the Melting Pot – facts and details that you might not know from our two years collating the best of the MMO blogosphere. On Friday, I’ll be looking at the future and talking about some pretty big plans we’ve got for the site – which I think you’ll like!

But for now, Did You Know…

  • Rebecca, who launched the Melting Pot, was an MMO blogger herself before she started the Pot. She blogged under the name “Mimetir” over at World of Matticus, mostly writing about raid leading and the practical details of healing. You can still read her old posts over there – Mimetir’s posts on WoM. The Melting Pot was actually inspired by one of the most famous websites on the ‘net – BoingBoing, the Directory of Wonderful Things – as Rebecca wrote for WoM, the amount of great writing on MMORPGs continued to surprise us, and we started to feel that such great writing deserved more showcasing and more visibility, via what we initially referred to as “BoingBoing for MMOs”.
  • The Pot launched in July 2010 – obviously enough. Some of the writers we featured in our earliest days are still active in the MMORPG blogging community – we featured Pewter talking about the Goblin racial emotes in the Cataclysm beta (shades of Jin Firepaw there), Graylo talking about the battle between 10 and 25-man raid sizes (a topic that’s still hot today), and Kurn talking about guild relationships.
  • We’ve tried a number of special events or features over the years. Some of them have been huge successes, like the Pink Pigtail Awards for MMOs and MMO blogging, which we took over from their originator Larisa, my massive review of the year in MMOs, and of course the MMO Blogger Map. But we’ve tried others, too, which didn’t survive for one reason or another, like my roundups of the latest in class theorycrafting and our attempt at an addon spotlight column.
  • This one’s probably better-known, but I keep hearing that people are surprised by it – so, did you know that we also write a huge and very popular selection of guides to various aspects of various games? We started off writing these guides when Rebecca and I started playing A Tale In The Desert – here’s my terribly out-of-date guide to setting up glassmaking in ATITD – but Rebecca was the first to start on WoW guides. Since then, Rebecca, Johnnie and myself have all written a pile of informative stuff – you might well know about our LfR guides or our quick-start guides for new WoW patches (which I tend to write in one massive, exhausting week of effort), but did you know we also dabbled in amusing raid tactics or quest guides for particularly irritating quests?
  • We have heard a couple of people say they’d like to hear more opinions from the Pot staff – well, we do actually write editorials from time to time! You can find all the Pot staff’s editorials over in the Editorial Features section. Generally, they only get written when one of us is annoyed or particularly enthused about something – and 2012’s been pretty quiet on that front – but you never know, MoP or Guild Wars 2 may yet irritate us enough to get our own opinions on the page again…

And so, there you have it! I’ll be concluding our birthday celebrations on Friday, looking at what we’re planning to do with the Pot in the next two years…

Any other memories of the Pot’s history that you think we should have included?

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Why I love being gay in WoW

There’s something that’s been bugging me for a while, and I’ve only recently managed to figure out what it is. The recent news that a sexual relationship in Star Wars: The Old Republic will be enough to earn your character Dark Side points has upset me. The ‘sex is evil’ meme is such a strange (and potentially damaging) one, and it’s sad to see it rear its prudish head in such an unexpected place. Even worse is the news that SWTOR will not allow same-sex relationships.

That’s a real line in the sand, as far as I’m concerned. You may think I’m over-dramatizing the issue – and I’ll admit that the title of this editorial is deliberately inflammatory – but I think it’s important. There’s a serious point at issue here, which is perhaps not immediately apparent.

Blizzard have already made this mistake, in a less obvious way, with World of Warcraft. The storyline for each new Goblin character dictates a relationship with another goblin of the opposite sex. If you create a male goblin character, you will automatically have a ‘girlfriend’ in the form of Candy Cane. If your character is female, she will have a boyfriend – Chip Endale. The silly names distract from the issue, but the fact is that (if one abides by the storyline Blizzard have set out, and from which no character has the capacity to deviate) every single goblin player character in the game is heterosexual, at least ostensibly so.

Is that such a big deal? Sex is rarely important in mainstream MMOs, sexuality even less so. The goblin storyline was overshadowed by another piece of controversy anyway – namely, that the goblin starting zone plot later forces you to murder your cheating boyfriend or girlfriend, literally ripping their beating heart out of their chest as vengeance for their treachery, which understandably made a few people slightly uncomfortable.

[inline-ad]

Blizzard have always shied away from any explicit sexuality in their games. The realism of the game world, such as it is, is more often played for laughs than for serious intent. The few relationships that do pose a danger of provoking some genuine discourse (such as one of WoW’s very rare potential multi-racial relationships) are often erased from the game (in this case with a very heavy-handed center-stage plotline, which saw Thrall marrying a fellow Orc in an in-game marriage ceremony with the player as a witness). As for SWTOR, Jedi hardly have a great track-record as far as romance goes, with Anakin Skywalker’s doomed love ultimately driving him to asthmatic villainy, and his son coming within a hair’s breadth of sleeping with his own sister – there’s a case to be made to say that Jedi shouldn’t be allowed to have any relationships until they learn to do it properly.

These implicit statements of sexual normality are massively important, though, to me at least. They’re important because they mark a default. They lay down a set of parameters, saying “Here is a normal, standard situation. Any differentiation from this norm is deviant, different and (most importantly) not normal.”. That’s simply not good enough. It’s a very dangerous statement to leave unchallenged. Silence on a subject is all too often taken as assent, especially by bigots and idiots who hold the erroneous belief that the majority of people share their views.

It’s not as if I don’t understand the reasoning behind it – some of it, at least. Blizzard and Bioware are merely picking one path, to make things as simple as they possibly can. The sexuality of characters in the game, PC and NPC alike, is just not important. Indeed, focusing on it would detract from the core of the game (that being, in essence, ‘killing things and taking their stuff’). I understand that, and I’m sympathetic. The problem is that the wrong decision has been made. Instead of removing explicit sexuality from the game world, they have instead made sexuality a definite part of the game world – but only in a very specific flavor. Like it or not, that sends the message that only one type of sexuality is necessary in order to create a believable, fully-sustained world and background. As we all know, that’s not the case.

My main in WoW is gay, as are most of my other characters.. It’s not as if I’ve spent hours plotting out an intricate sexual history for each of my toons, but as a tabletop roleplayer and storyteller in real life, I can’t help but invest each of my characters with some basic personality and simple backstory. A lot of them – it turns out – are gay, including my main. It’s not something that makes a big difference to the way I interact with the world and the other players within it, but it’s something that makes a difference to my enjoyment of the game. More significantly, it’s a choice that I’ve made, and I’m glad that Blizzard have left any such decision – as none of them are Goblins – entirely up to me.

I’m not suggesting that Blizzard add a Sexuality drop-down menu to the character creation screen, and I certainly don’t propose making MMOs a flashpoint for sexual politics. I would have been happy to leave the question of sexuality to the individual interpretation of each player. Unfortunately, by adding an openly-stated ‘default’, Blizzard and Bioware are forcing players to either accept the decisions imposed by the game, or to actively stand in opposition to them. When a personal choice is singled out as so far outside the bounds of normality that the system simply doesn’t have the capacity to implement it, a dangerous and falacious statement is being made. Gay or straight, game or no game, that’s not something we can afford to tolerate.

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Editorial: Four visions of the future of tanking

We’re all thinking about tanking at the moment. Does the future contain tanks? And if it doesn’t, is there anything left beyond “lol we al jus DPS”?

Is the future of MMOs an endless hell of mid-60s just-post-Wrath instances with 5 auto-healing, overpowered Death Knights?

Not at all.

Tanking as a mechanic, as Ben Sanders said yesterday , evolved in response to the earliest MMOs’ very simple AI, and the problem of not having clothies die instantly. Buncha monsters? Guy in a dress? What’s to stop them attacking him?

Well, we could implement collision detection, but that’s Hard. Or we could just give another party member the ability to change the monsters’ AI so that they only attack him or her.

And so the tank was born.

But there are a lot of other solutions to the “why doesn’t the clothie die instantly?” question, taken from other computer games, pen-and-paper roleplaying, and even practical experience with real swords. Here are four visions of the future of tanking that doesn’t look a lot like our current “Oy! Ya momma smells like cheese!” model, and frankly, could be a lot cooler…

Shove past the plate

A Live-Action Roleplaying or re-enactment fight goes a lot like this: Two lines of fighters look at each other cautiously. There’s guys with swords and shields at the front, guys with two-handed swords or spears behind them, and either archers or, if you’re in a fantasy setting, guys in cloth with big books at the back. There might be the odd guy in the brush skulking around too, but unless you’re good at that role, it’s a fast path to a long lie-down.

And then… CHARGE! Or, more usually, cautious shuffle. There’s no way you’re getting to the guys at the back, because the guys at the front are physically in the way. And trying to close fast on anyone who’s supported by a pike or a two-hander is another good way to get a nice lie-down. Instead, you’ve got to rely on your own mages/archers to open up a breach (a well-timed Fear spell can do wonders), superior combat skills (if you can take one or two of the armour-clad people down you can break through the line and go crazy with an axe amongst the guys in light armour), or occasionally a crazed charge.

In computer games, of course, there are a bunch of well-known problems with enabling collision detection, mostly to do with douchebags blocking the door to the Auction House. But those are solvable problems – possibly solvable with a “shove past” mechanic – and once you enable physical blocking, you end up with a very interesting mechanic that can enable a lot of complex interactions.

Fighters desperately blocking doorways. Rogues taking the long, hidden route around to come up behind the enemy. Mages blasting the enemy back and opening a hole in the line for the fighters to charge through. Complex, interesting tactics.

Smart mobs mean smart PCs

“Right. I’ve scouted the next room, and we’re looking at half a dozen Orc barbarians – pretty dumb critters, they’ll just attack whatever’s nearest, so paladin, you stand at the front and keep them busy. We’ve got bigger problems, though – there’s a skirmisher there who’s going to try and circle round us, so our rogues need to be watching to counter that, and they’ve got a shaman in there with a big guy in armour who looks like a warlord. They’re going to attempt to take out the weakest member of our party, so – “

“Oh, god, not the dress again.”

“Yep, that’s right. Mage, grab a shield and a sword and try to look threatening. Warrior, get in the dress already and look like you’re casting something.”

There’s no threat in PvP, and yet plenty of people seem to enjoy it. So what would happen if we rewrote monster threat to incorporate varying levels of intelligence?

Well, for starters, we’d see a lot more variety in dungeons. No longer would it be the case that everything’s either going to run toward the closest thing or the thing that did the most damage. Instead, you’d have to learn how different monsters worked – dumb monsters would just attack the nearest thing, whilst smarter monsters might try to target weak enemies or healers, hit the highest damage dealers, mob single targets or charge forward to try and get through the lines. And players would have to use PvP-like tactics to counter them – stealth until the time is right, look like a class you’re not, protect and surround the weakest of your party, bait-and-switch the monsters with situations that look tempting but are dangerous.

From my point of view, that sounds pretty damn cool.

“You’re mine!”

The ogre stares at his opponents, confused – then a hole opens in the squishy humans’ group, and there’s a single human there, not wearing armour, with fire building up on its hands. He doesn’t notice the figure lurking in the shadows – instead, he growls a warcry, and charges at the weak, unarmoured creature.

He gets closer – closer – closer – and then the party’s rogue dives out of his hiding spot, slicing neatly at the ogre’s hamstrings as it charges past, ignoring him. It stumbles and falls – and the rest of the party dives upon the now-helpless creature. One down…

Dungeons And Dragons 4th Edition was heavily inspired by WoW, but didn’t want to take the “threat” mechanic across in its entirety. So the designers came up with what’s possibly its best mechanic – “Marking”.

Essentially, most melee classes have the ability to “mark” a target as theirs – focussing on it in combat. That means that they’re concentrating on it as their main opponent, and if it doesn’t concentrate on them, they can take advantage of that.

Provided that monster attacks them, it won’t be under any penalties – but if it attempts to change its focus and attack someone else, various Bad Things happen to it, from taking a bunch of Holy damage from the Paladin’s ability, to being stunned and unable to move if they’re trying to avoid a Warrior.

I rather like this approach – it’s probably the most similar idea of the ones I’m suggesting here to the existing tank idea, but it makes a whole lot more sense. You’re not insulting a monster into attacking someone else – instead, you’re engaging them and taking advantage of any distraction. It also enables a lot of interesting tactical situations, from the horde of monsters (which ones do you mark?) to the creatures that will cheerfully take the damage if they manage to maneuver to attack your clothies.

The Merlin Effect

It’s 2016, and you’re playing a WoW SuperHeroic Dungeon. You’ve got a full party. One Shaman healer, a rogue, Druid and Death Knight DPS, and your tank, or as they’re known now, “controller” – the mage.

Combat starts, and the DPS charge in and start doing what they do best – spamming AOE damage abilities and, if the healer’s lucky, getting out of the fire. Three of the monsters, meanwhile, spot the guys in cloth at the back and charge toward them, cheerfully ignoring the Death Knight hacking away at their backsides. Strangely, the clothies don’t look too worried.

The mage spins around, and wind howls across the map. The creatures charging toward her are suddenly picked up and flung violently back to where they started charging. The rogue’s getting beaten down by the huge ogre he’s fighting – another spell goes off, and a blast of fire temporarily blinds the creature, allowing the rogue to get behind him and neatly fillet the ogre’s intestines.

Someone’s Done It Wrong, and a pile of adds come charging in from the back toward the party – the mage spins again, and a wall of stone tears away from the ground and blocks their path…

The other great idea from D&D 4th Edition is that of the “controller” class – a class that doesn’t do much damage, or healing, but simply messes with the battlefield and the opponents’ movement. Blasts of wind that knock opponents back or down, walls of elemental earth or fire, illusions that fake opponents into attacking where the party isn’t, the whole nine yards.

We’ve already got these abilities in the game to some extent – Warlocks, for example, can often solo two or three elites by creative use of Fear spells, and Druids and Mages can both root monsters in place. What if, rather than having a “tank” class, there was a class or several classes who had far, far more of these abilities? A tank would be pretty much unnecessary – with a skilled controller in your party, the monsters are only ever going to get in range of the people who you want them to be in range of.

Of the four ideas, this one’s probably my favourite. It’s a really interesting and different way to look at a mage, druid or shaman class – it feels powerful and interesting, and would certainly give the control freaks like me who like being in charge of the battlefield something to do. It allows the monsters to be as smart or as stupid as the game designers want, and unlike a tank class, it’s something that the monsters can have too – an enemy Controller would make for a really interesting fight.

Plus, we’d get the chance to see the mobs dodge out of the way of our fire for a change.

What do you think? Any oideas for the future of tanking? Do any of these visions grab you, or can you think of something even cooler?

_Images from http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/249140-Who-s-going-to-Icon-2010, http://elementz1.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=45474536, http://www.dalakora.com/?page_id=120, and http://www.cpvipers.co.uk/larp.php_

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Diablo III – it could get a sucka killed – Editorial

So, the Diablo III Auction House will allow us to pay real-world cash for in-game items – any in-game items.

I’ve seen people saying it will be awful. I’ve seen people saying it will be pay-to-win. I’ve seen people saying it will be genius.

But I’ve yet to see anyone commenting from an… “exploit-focussed” perspective. (As opposed to, say, “cynical and untrusting”.) Now, for better or for worse, I tend to think in that direction. And so, a few things have occurred to me as likely unintended consequences of the real-money Auction House in Diablo III.

A note, before I begin. This stuff will probably not happen to you. It might not happen to anyone you know. But if Diablo III ends up with millions of players, it will happen to someone.

And the Legendary Sword goes to the gentleman from the Rosthchild Foundation

Tobold has commented that he thinks items will be far, far cheaper than expected. He’s absolutely right – mostly. The per-hour rate for “work” in Diablo III will stabilise at far below minimum wage for the average person, thanks to 3 factors – people cashing in items they aquired for “free” (“Woo! I was playing Diablo and I got this awesome sword! Free cash!”), farmers in developing countries (it’d be very easy to set up a Diablo III content farm in the Phillipines paying about $1-2 per hour), and people who are desperate to make money who fail to understand basic economics.

The latter will probably be the biggest problem – on every other “easy” money-making opportunity (Ebay, for example) there tend to be hordes of people trying to make money who are satisfied with insanely low profit margins, or make basic commercial mistakes. In WoW, this would be the classic “I farmed the mats, so they’re free!” error.

On the other hand, some items will go for insanely high amounts of real world money. Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Assume the legendary for your WoW class (or equivalent in another game) is coming in Patch 4.3. Assume it takes the usual amount of work to aquire – ie insane amounts with the full support of a large guild.

How much real-world money would you pay to get your hands on one of them, completely legitimately? What’s the maximum one of your guildies would pay?

Right. Now imagine you earn $30,000 per month in the real world.

How much would you pay for the legendary now?

There will be Diablo players out there who earn that much. There will probably be Diablo players out there who earn a lot more. I seem to recall one of the major EVE players is actually a Russian millionaire if not billionaire. These people will have no problem dropping sums that most of us would consider insane, just to outfit a new alt.

Of course, this very much depends on how large the market for Diablo III is. But if it gets anywhere close to WoW, very, very rare items are going to go for art-world level prices. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But not all items are going to go for that much, of course. You might not ever see an item worth $1000 in years of playing Diablo.

That doesn’t mean RMT won’t affect your gaming.

AWKWARD

Here’s another thought experiment. You’re off playing Diablo with your friend, who happens to be going through a rough time – she’s broke, she’s unemployed, maybe her health insurance is running out. Maybe she’s got debts.

And a very rare world drop randomly drops. Something that won’t sell for a fortune, but will sell for $50 or so. It also happens to be a massive upgrade for you.

What do you do?

As far as I can tell, there’s no good social outcome here. You Need, you feel like a bastard. She might well be legitimately upset – that’s $50 she just lost, and she really needs that $50. You give it to her, you probably feel a bit resentful, she feels like she’s had charity given to her, she also feels bad because she got an item you needed. You both roll, whichever one wins feels bad.

Now, you might be saying that of course you’d see past that. She’s your friend.

Now imagine she’s in your regular group. And you’re pretty good. Every night you see 3 or 4 drops, worth about $10 each. Every night she’s down, and talking about how her mum’s medical bills are hurting her, or how she’s getting sued by creditors. And every night, you have to make the decision above three or four times.

That’s going to start to suck.

TL:DR – gaming groups with major income disparities – and there are a lot of them – are not going to find Diablo III much fun sometimes.

But what happens if you DO see something valuable drop?

Someone’s going to emergency, someone’s going to jail.

Gamers, I think it’s safe to say, are not universally well-heeled, highly intelligent people with a great deal of sense and impulse control. All sorts of people play games. Some of them are not very nice people.

Sometimes, you don’t know that much about your guildies.

Now, I’m sure all your guildies are lovely people. But I think you’ll probably in the past have had the experience of being in a guild – perhaps even a raid group – with someone suddenly turned very nasty. If not, you’ll have heard of it, perhaps on WoW Insider’s Drama Mamas column.

Some guilds are going to have that problem in Diablo – but a lot worse.

We’ve all seen some pretty major loot drama from WoW. I know of plenty of friendships breaking up, threats being made, torrents of verbal abuse, sometimes even physical violence.

Now imagine that each of those fights were backed by anyone involved having either won or lost some fairly serious cash.

Go Google “Poker murder”. A lot of people get killed over poker – a game involving real-world money – every year. Enough that it doesnt show up in the national news – because it’s sufficiently common.

Think of the worst loot argument you ever got involved in. Now imagine if there had been hundreds of real-world dollars at stake there.

Think anyone could have gotten hurt?

If Diablo III’s a WoW-level success, someone’s going to get their legs broken over a Diablo III item, and probably sooner rather than later. Someone’s going to go to jail.

Someone’s going to get killed.

What’s a serious Diablo III group going to feel like? Think dark glasses, smoky rooms, and quiet voices

Now, don’t get me wrong. None of this stuff is a good reason that Blizzard shouldn’t institute RMT in Diablo. I’m not against poker, either – indeed, a friend of mine is a semi-professional poker player.

But if you want a good idea of what a serious Diablo III gaming environment is going to look like, you probably want to look at the equivalents currently existing.

The closest equivalent I can think of is poker.

We’re talking very intense expressions. We’re talking a lot of very controlled people – after the first few Nasty Incidents happen, people on Diablo III are going to start prizing calm, reasonable, grounded guildies with stable income streams a lot higher than anyone who might go mad with an axe. We’re talking very, very dedicatedly polite gaming.

(Oh, and just like you get professional poker cheats, you’re going to get professional ninjas. See “This Is Not A Game” by Walter Jon Williams. Lovely.)

Of course, all of that only applies if there’s some way people can track you down in RL. (Don’t use the same username you use ANYWHERE else on the Internet – I personally have tracked one person to his RL identity from their WoW handles. It’s easier than you think.)

Which brings us to…

Forget “Dirty cop”. Think “dirty GM”

The biggest, fastest money in Diablo – assuming you’re not a very nice man or woman – will be made by compromising account security in one way or another.

The AH is going to be anonymous. That’s a very sensible move – as previously mentioned, tracking most peoples’ online identities through their WoW handles isn’t too hard, and you do NOT want any yahoo on the Internet being able to track you if you’re currently selling a $75,000 Legendary. Or undercutting someone else’s.

However, just how good will that anonymity be? For starters, will GMs have access to the account details of people who are trading on the AH? It’s quite likely that some of them will – after all, Blizzard will want to be able to monitor and police activity. If Blizzard’s development team don’t think too hard about Bad People (a very common mistake), all GMs will be able to break AH anonymity at least to the character name level.

Being a GM is not a very highly-paid profession. Being a GM who passes on contact details for people selling high-priced items, however, could well be a very lucrative profession indeed. Even if nothing nasty subsequently happens, if you can directly get in contact with the guy who is selling the Legendary Staff of Awesum, you may well be able to negotiate 10% off his asking price – that’s serious cash.

And Nasty could well happen. Getting the account details of someone with said Staff of Awesum is worth $75k, after all. That’s good money for a wide variety of criminal types, from hackers to legbreakers. There will be people out there intending to make money from Diablo, and not all of them will be doing it in legitimate ways.

Most of the time, it’s perfectly safe to sell a valuable painting, too. But not always.

Even if Blizzard are more clever than that with their security, exactly how good will it be? True anonymity is hard to do. And as the Sony debacle proves, games companies ain’t always at the top of the security game. Once serious RMT starts happening – on a huge scale – a lot of very serious computer cracker types are going to be interested in breaking that security. I hope Blizzard is prepared.

(They might want to start by reading “Halting State” by Charles Stross.)

Oh, and as a final point – if you manage to get your hands on the Super-Rare Staff of Massive Awesum, may I heartily recommend you don’t Tweet or blog about it?

It’s not all bad

Now, you might be thinking I’m saying that Diablo III’s going to be a total disaster, and that people are going to be getting killed like they were in a civil war.

That’s not the case. There are plenty of games out there where a lot larger volume of money changes hands than will do in Diablo III, and for the most part, they’re perfectly safe and fun to play. Poker, backgammon, horse racing – these are major and legitimate sports and games that add fun and relaxation to the lives of millions of people worldwide.

But what I’m saying is that the environment of Diablo III is going to look a lot less like WoW, and a lot more like one of those games. And the various unintended consequences of the RMT in Diablo III will be much more wide-reaching than anyone realises – even more far-reaching than EVE, a game without much in the way of random drops and an overall gameplay that’s not terribly mass-market appeal.

That might be a good thing. It might be a bad thing. It might depend on who you are.

A lot of this will depend on how the loot system in Diablo works.

If it’s very non-random, and the most valuable items are only accessible to people who put in the hardest work, then you’ll end up with a poker-type situation. Very low-limit poker is basically completely risk-free. Very high-stakes poker, on the other hand – well, let’s just say I wouldn’t expect to get into the Diablo equivalent of Paragon without a criminal background check.

(Of course, in the future, the hoped-for result from that criminal check for some top groups might end up being “right, you’re part of the Mob too, let’s get on with exploiting the hell out of Heroic Diablo for the $65 grand loot payoff”. With the amounts of money that might be at stake, cybercriminal groups could be extremely interested in getting early access to top loot. Imagine the current exploit dramas around top guilds, and add in six-figure payoffs. I look forward to the official Russian Business Network raid group. )

On the other hand, if there are random, ultra-rare item drops which are very useful or otherwise sought-after – you’re going to have more the equivalent of a lottery, or roulette.

Very nasty things happen to lottery winners sometimes.

We don’t know which way it will go. But, regardless, when you think Diablo, you might want to add to the usual jokey Vent conversations, Twitter flamewars and loot arguments the image of smoke-filled rooms, desperate lucky-break hopes and large guys with lumpy suits and shaved heads.

Just sayin’.

Update – Diablo III has individual, not group loot. That solves the problem of loot drama to some extent – however, I’d expect groups to rapidly come up with informal trading rules anyway (“Hey, Bob needs that healing mace more than you”). Blizzard wants RMT, so they have a vested interest to make sure many items that drop are more useful to other people than to you.

Do you think Diablo III will be carefree and fun times? Or shady and a bit scary? And which would you actually prefer?

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WoW Insider publishes a guide to griefing. WTH?

We have a rule on MMO Melting Pot – we build people up, we don’t tear them down. We never feature an article unless we love it.

I’m about to make an exception to that rule.

Because either WoW Insider’s rogue columnist, Chase Christian, has just published a spectacularly awfully judged attempt at a joke, on the largest MMO blog in the world…

Or WoW Insider has just published a detailed guide to griefing.

Yes, their rogue column today is a guide to “world PvP” – read “ganking” – in the Firelands daily quest area. You know those total assholes who keep making a painful grind even more painful and even longer? This guide is aimed at helping them ruin your day even more effectively:

Your only objective here is to throw a wrench into your enemies’ plans. You don’t have to kill them to succeed. If you’re doing your job properly, there will be a handful of enemies camping the ramp on the edge of the safe zone, waiting for you to slip up. There will also be a parking lot of enemy players up the ramp, trying to pull mobs into the sanctuary zone so that they don’t have to fear your wrath.

When there are multiple players hiding at the sanctuary out of fear for your blades, you’ve done your job. Every minute that they’re delayed is another minute you’ve stolen of their time.

As we say at the bottom of every MMO Melting Pot article, “this is a direct quote” – from Chase Christian’s article. WoW Insider is now in the business of assisting griefers.

I really don’t know where to begin. If you enjoy PvP, more power to you. But if you enjoy fighting players who don’t want to fight back, who offer you no challenge (and the guide actually goes into detail on how to avoid anyone who might give you a fair fight), and who you’re only killing so you can have the pleasure of bullying them, you are a fucking asshole and I want nothing to do with you.

(We don’t usually swear on the Pot either. I’m making an exception.)

Many of the commenters on the post have gone into full-on apologist mode and are claiming the article’s some kind of joke. I really can’t see any sign of that, and even if it is, it’s still full of useful information for the idiots whom the joke is supposedly on. I play a rogue, have done some PvP, and to the best of my knowledge, the information’s accurate and useful. If this is a joke, it’s the equivalent of publishing a parody article about car theft that includes usable instructions for hotwiring.

Otherwise, I’m afraid that for this one particularly unfortunate day, WoW Insider has joined an extremely small and unfortunate list. That being the list of MMO blogs that are actively involved in making the game worse for many players through griefing. Assuming there’s no retraction from them, we’re going to have to carefully consider if we will ever link to WoW Insider again.

I’ve been reading WoW Insider since it launched. I’ve occasionally been very proud of them. I’ve never before been this disappointed in them.

Really bad call, guys.

In responsible journalistic fashion, I intend to contact WoW Insider and ask for their comment on this article. I’ll post any responses I get.

_We’re not linking to the article in question because we don’t want to give them traffic or Google rank for this article. However, if you really wish to check it out you can find it at http://wow.joystiq.com/2011/07/20/encrypted-text-how-to-run-the-molten-front/ .

Quote taken directly from Chase Christian’s article.

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Editorial: Jumping Into The Deep End With Raid Leading

_Rebecca’s note: Honestly, you wait for an editorial for a month and two come along at once! They’re like busses. Or patches. Anyway, who is this Ross guy who’s posting an editorial? He’s a friend of all of us at the Pot, a long term gamer and a blogger on and off, young son and hectic life permitting. He’s written here before but is now officially joining the staff to post occasionally. Please welcome him to the Pot – you can read more about him here (his blurb is hilarious) – otherwise, I’ll leave the floor to Ross…._

“If you ever need me to raid lead for an evening, just to take the pressure off, just let me know”

I had to say it didn’t I? Anyone who has ever had any contact with the armed forces, or even contact with anyone who has been in the armed forces will know very well the old adage: Never Volunteer.

Let me rewind a couple of ice ages and put this in some kind of historical context. I raided a little towards the end of Vanilla WoW, just the occasional Core Hound pack wipe in desperate efforts in getting a shot at Lucifron and some shinies. Even back then, I had taken it upon myself to learn tactics for every single boss in every single raid up to C’Thun in AQ40. I worked really hard to get all my attunements (including the damn Onyxia quest chain – Jail Break ARGH!!!) but alas Burning Crusade hit before I could get my backside in gear to raid properly and I was level 64 before I saw Rag go down.

Moving on, I joined a small raiding guild doing Karazhan twice a week for a while until Age of Conan dragged everyone away in the pre-expansion down time so I hopped back into a guild of friends and applied my raiding experience to leading Kara runs.

When Wrath dropped I lost momentum, levelled to 80 just as my friends were getting Kingslayer and practically stopped playing after too many early heroic experiences involving lolboiz and GearScore.

My game of catchup in Cataclysm is still being documented on my personal blog at Return to Azeroth but needless to say I got geared and ready for raiding just in time much to my general excitement.

Raiding was exactly how I remembered it, challenging. I’m told Wrath was pretty straight forward but I never even set foot in Naxx so I have no comparison. It was hard going – lots of fire to stand in, lots of tactics to remember, great fun! Suddenly at the point where we’d gotten to 212 – that is Magmaw and Algalon down and several weeks of Omnotron Defence System wipes that I found out in private that our usual leaders were on the verge of burning out. That’s the point at which I mindlessly volunteered myself. The very next week I was in the driving seat, and ye gods I’d forgotten what it was like.

Now we try and do guild runs but we are literally ten people so as soon as someone cannot make it then it’s off to find a replacement. One of our members has had non-stop internet issues so we’ve always had one stand-in since we started raiding Cata. Of course it’s easy to maintain a policy of behave or get booted but at what stage do you draw the line? I’ve had folks argue about tactics I’ve spent hours preparing because it’s not what they have done with their guild – not kickworthy in my books but then it’s upset the rest of the raid because it’s happened in /raid. So you have to prioritise peoples’ happiness, happiness of the greatest number, happiness of the guests, happiness of your friends and regular raiders – where do you begin?

There’s almost too much to remember as well. Not only do you have to explain tactics (several times for those that weren’t listening – no that’s not fair – a few people always miss one little bit or another though) but don’t forget there’s trash as well – need to make sure they’re not going to kill you. Oh and no one mentioned being an expert in every single class the game offers… I’ve got no idea how paladins work, what a Beacon is, what Timewarp does or why Death Knights run off cliffs. But suddenly people were asking me who to Beacon, when to cast Timewarp and why the Death Knight had run off the bloody cliff. No idea.

Ok so maybe I’m painting a bleaker picture than necessary. I’m getting an absolute thrill out of raiding and even more from leading. We’re now at 412 after 3 weeks under my delicate wing having seen Omnotron fall on my first week in and Halfus on our first go at him the second week in. Theralion and Valiona attempts were slightly abortive due to a short time schedule and some slightly rushed tactics explanations but we still managed to give Algalon his weekly spanking before calling it a night.

All in all I have to say it’s not for the faint hearted, you have to make harsh decisions, deal with endless well meaning (and less well meaning) whispers, share out loot, put in tons of prep for progression content but it’s so damn worth it – I’m completely addicted, I’m not even sure how I could not backseat raid when it’s not my turn anymore. My only concern now is that I’m going to get lazy raiders again soon once patch 4.2 drops. I’m sure I’ll find ways of keeping them busy – perhaps 9 man runs – insert evil cackles here.

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Editorial: Blizzard Burying Raid Content – Quick, Light A Candle

Awwwww, nevermind. *pat pat* here, have a cookie.

That’s what Blizzard’s just said to my raiders and I who are still on Valiona and Theralion and Maloriak. Normal. Maybe you too, or your alts’ raid, or your friends’ raid guild. But they haven’t stopped there.

Have all of the cookies! Well, the old ones anyway. And here, we’ll make them fall from the sky so you don’t have to put any effort in at all – not even stretch a bit to reach the cookie jar on top shelf. All you have to do is stand around in vaguely the right place, slack jawed and glassy eyed, and you’ll snag some nommable drops.

You can handle that right? It’ll be fine. It’ll be just like the raids in 4.2!

I like cookies as much as the next disheartened, previously quite competitive small-guild raider who’s been pushed from pillar to post since Cataclysm arrived. But I don’t want Blizzard fiddling with how I get cookies just because there’s a newer brand on the shelf, and I certainly don’t want them falling from the sky. I want to feel like I’ve earned my cookies. Just like I want to be able to feel like I’ve earned my raid kills.

Last night Blizzard announced in 4.2 they’re planning to nerf tier 11 raid content across the board. Not a stacking debuff as worked so well in ICC, and not a small nerf to just take the edge off, if they must nerf. Not even a “your raid leader can switch it on or off” nerf.

No, they’ve announced a whooping 20% nerf on average to all bosses, with some receiving extra special treatment (less maggots on Magmaw? Really? Make my life as add tank boring why don’t you?)

Let’s have some context here. In Wrath my guild downed the Lich King on 10 man one week into the 15% buff to damage/healing being active: we just missed downing him on 10% by a few perecent. For a small 10 man (and no more) guild of friends who raided once a week, twice if we felt like it, that was bloody good going.

In Cataclysm things changed drastically for us. Some changes to the game such as LFD and guild challenges basically steam rollered the support networks we’d grown in order to survive as a raiding group. We lost people before Cataclysm. We took ages to get into raids because of the heroic ilevel requirment. We started raiding about 6-8 weeks ago. And we’ve downed four bosses.

We recently accepted the fact that we don’t fit into WoW the same way we did in Wrath: we accept that we’re now more social and casual than we were then. The game’s changed, our group’s changed, we can’t be what we were. We are downing bosses slowly. It’s just about the right level of challenge for us now, although by thorison’s beard do I wish there were less “don’t stand in the fi- … oh well” fights.

Heroic modes are so far in the distance they might as well be the restaurant at the end of the universe. Normal modes, right now, this level of difficulty, is our territory.

This 20% nerf is going to bulldoze it. Bear in mind that we’re already going to be having a much easier time in the raids thanks to the justice point gear available post 4.2.

The 20% nerf on top of that will take it from challenging but doable and rewarding a sense of achievement to a cakewalk. It’ll be an express lift to tier 12, which will feel a whole lot less satisfying than had we walked up the 12 flights of stairs and got to the damn banquet by ourselves. To tier 12, where we’ll probably smash into a brick wall and be even more dispirited because of the false sense of ease the remainder of tier 11 will have given us by then.

Do not want. Bypasses do not have to be built.

Ah, you say, but the intention of this nerf is nothing to do with players like you! Remember you’re just a small section of the playerbase, there are lots of others out there!

You’re right. So who’s the lucky intended recipient of these cookies falling from heaven? Is it the shaman I had in my dungeon group just the other day, who insisted on skipping to the end boss because “this dunagen is boring [spelling and everything]”, and that he could tank because the tank left? And did so, gave the healer cause for repeated heart palpitations, causing them to leave? The shaman who then boldly waltzed into a room full of angry dwarves armed to the black eyeballs with rifles, got us all killed, then “gtg”? No, I don’t think it’s aimed at him. I think he’s probably safely tucked up in bed before his guild raids.

Or maybe at the three (count them) druid healers I got one after the other in a ZG PUG shortly after the instance was released. Three of ’em because each one left saying “lol you guys [the ones doing 14k DPS] are crap”, as we didn’t know tactics like the back of our hands yet? No, clearly not aimed at them, their gear showed that they’d already done the raids. Or at least their guilds had, and had fed them shinies for tagging along.

Or maybe it’s aimed at the real social, the next level of laid-backness down from me, the ones who occasionally do a dungeon but don’t raid because it’s “too hard” if you believe the accepted wisdom? Well,I have characters on another server and they’re all in an incredibly laid back guild like this. Said guild doesn’t raid, and yes, the content difficulty is one of the reasons. But there are a whole bunch of other reasons before you get to that one. Reasons like never having enough people on at once, never being able to organise anything because people have small children and real lives who they always prefer to put first, or not having enough tanks/healers to fill the roles. Why do these reasons get in the way of raiding? Because it’s not a raiding guild. These players mightn’t mind seeing the raid content they’re missing out on – the raid content Blizzard is about to nerf allegedly in the name of content tourism – but they’re not particularly fussed either. They’ve got lots of other things to be doing like chatting to each other and bimbling through the end game content that doesn’t involve the words “blackwing” or “Chogal”.

So I can’t see who they’ve aimed this at. Let’s take a look at some motives behind the nerf rather than looking for whom Blizzard wants to put on the “special” bus.

Scenario 1 – raid tourism

Blizzard say they’ve done this because they want everyone to see the content. Awwwwww, isn’t it sweet, little Blizzy wants to show everyone what he drew?Images thanks to Lara604 and goldiekatsu @flickr

The raid tourism defence doesn’t stand up – see above. And yes, I know there are a nitwibble tonne of other guilds out there who are less progressed than my guild. But I think they, like us, would do just fine with either a 5-10% nerf or a stacking debuff a’la ICC. An across-board blast with the nerf BFG isn’t necessary.

Scenario 2 – enabling PUGs

There have been a *lot* less PUGs for tier 11 raids than there were for any Wrath raid. I wonder whether Blizzard wants to help people gear up all the faster for tier 12 content and are nerfing tier 11 so much that people will have no fear of forming PUGs and stepping boldly through the door to kill the bosses by doing /fierece emotes at them.

Scenario 3 – dumbing down

I’m not even a top raider and I’m saying that Blizzard wants, for some obscure and idiotic reason, to dumb the game down even further. A lot of people have been saying for aaaaaaaages that Blizzard keep dumbing the game down but this is a whole new level of dumb. I don’t know, maybe they’re scrabbling to keep subscribers by making sure they can see the content rather than driving them away. Who or what was their control group for making this decision anyway?

My prediction? The opposite will happen. Smaller, more casual guilds like mine will rush through the rest of tier 11 and then hit a brick wall in tier 12. And because there are only 7 bosses and 1 raid instance to house them all, there’s no variety. Everyone, whether they get stuck or complete the content, will get bored. And I’ve no idea when or what the next patch is. Let’s see what the subscriber numbers do then, eh?

That’s it. Apologies for the nerd rage, though I believe I have some fair points here. Our guild has been pushed from pillar to proverbial lava decayed post since Cataclysm, and we’d just about clawed ourselves a way to survive as a raid group. By just about I’m not kidding – we’ve had so many setbacks and problems we’ve been dangling by a single thread for so long and the only reason we’re still here is because we’re a very close knit group of friends. But Blizzard bulldozing that way we’d carved, that territory, is like a slap in the face for not getting through the content fast enough and then a condescending pat on the head and cooing reassurance that they’ll make it all better.

Do. Not. Want.

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Editorial: Please Answer My Million Gold Question

Let me tell you a secret. I’m worried. Okay, not breaking news given I worry about things every day, like anyone else. Y’know, I worry that I’m getting fat (or as I like to put it, “going floom”). I worry that my new I Am The Intersect T-shirt looks silly because, while it wins geek points, it only came in mens’ sizes. I worry that overnight my country will morph into  something in which citizens have no basic rights and there are knocks on the door at midnight.

Those are silly things to worry about. Except maybe the last one. For the most part they’re things I don’t need to stress over. But what I want to talk about today is something I’ve been wondering about for a while and which affects you. At the end I have a question for you, whether you’re a blogger or non-blogger.

I’m worried because the MMO blogosphere is said to be an insular community. It’s a well known fact that there are loads of blogs out there, most of them WoW-based, and only a fraction of all MMO players read those blogs or even know they exist. Blogs tend to attract other bloggers as readers first – though to be fair there are a few exceptions to the rule, mostly larger blogs. Generally, working out how to attract non-blog readers is a constant conundrum acknowledged by many gaming bloggers out there.

By extension, I’ve been wondering whether MMO Melting Pot is going that way: it seems that bloggers interact, discuss and comment more, and that non-bloggers are more passive – I’m wondering whether they feel less welcome. Or simply whether I notice this trend more than I should because I know who out there is a blogger 😉

Some of the things we do at the Pot are focused specifically at bloggers, like the blogger map. On the other hand, many of the things we do are focused at both bloggers and non-bloggers: simply featuring posts or highlighting new blogs on the site gives bloggers some extra limelight, and gives non-bloggers something interesting to read (we hope), for example, and the upcoming features are very much for both non-bloggers and bloggers to interact simply as fellow gamers. And of course, there’s loads more. Either way I think (without solid prove) that a lot of our readers here at the Pot are bloggers, rather than non-bloggers.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that bloggers come here and interact, and we couldn’t be this blog without you. But maybe we, too, are falling into the insular “blog read by bloggers” state. And given that our #1 purpose is to be here to serve the community – which includes both bloggers and non-bloggers, I want everyone to feel welcome and included, and like we’re a resource for them. Bwah. Maybe I’m worrying for nothing.

So anyway. I figured I would open this can of worms and find out how you feel both on a single blog level and on a wider blogosphere level. I know there are no good solutions to helping gamers to find a blog or website if they don’t have any way to know you exist (though if you think I’m wrong and have ideas on that, feel free to share). Basically what I’m asking is this:

If you’re a non-blogger, do you feel welcome here, or do you feel a bit like there’s an exclusive ‘blogger’ club and that you’re not as included as you might be? Why? Do you feel that in general about gaming blogs? Is there anything you’d like added/changed to this site to make you feel more at home to share your thoughts, or anything you think the blogosphere at large can do?

If you’re a blogger, do you think this is a problem in the blogosphere? Have you noticed it, do you worry about it, do you wish there was more we can do to reach out to non-blogging gamers? Do you have any ideas? Or should we, primarily, follow the age-old addage: write for ourselves and not worry about who our readers are or where they come from?

But the million gold questions – firstly this “gaming blogs are an insular community” thing has been around for ages but are we worrying for nothing – is it a vampire myth and untrue, or is it actually true? And then if it is, surely we’d hypothetically like to reach out to include more people in our community – and surely there’s something we can do about it?

Let me know what you think. I’m listening.

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EDITORIAL: So, Call To Arms, then…

Lest you hadn’t heard: Blizzard have decided that the only way to entice enough people to play tanks or healers in the effectively-anonymous LFD tool is to bribe them with rare mounts and occasional flasks.

The blogophere’s already exploded with opinions, so I won’t go for a lengthy dissection of the pros and cons of the Call to Arms idea as a whole. See our roundup of posts about it if you want all the opinions you’ll ever need! But here are a few points I’m not seeing discussed terribly much…

  • This system only rewards tanks for completing dungeons – if the group falls apart or you get kicked, you get nothing. That’s likely to discourage the flood of DPS DKs in Blood Presence that some people are expecting. However, it’ll also mean that a significant number of the tanks in the LFD system are incentivised to drop group as soon as they believe they’re unlikely to complete an instance. Expect Grim Batol and Stonecore to be a tank-free wasteland as every new tank zones in, goes “Oh, god, this one’s a nightmare to complete”, and promptly goes offline…
  • Various people have noted that this new approach doesn’t address the core reasons why people don’t tank at all, instead merely pasting a band-aid of additional reward over the problem. I agree – the problem’s that tanking has a higher chance of attracting abuse and hassle, and that’s a function of the LFD tool and the environment it fosters.Many people have then said that this is Blizzard’s desigh failure. There I don’t agree. IMO, Blizzard have shown pretty consistently, with the introduction of the LFD tool and subsequent changes aimed at making it harder to vote-kick, that they have a very specific design aim – to create an environment where everyone, no matter how socially inept (or, to put it another way, no matter how much of an asshole they are), is able to join a dungeon group and thus have at least something to do at endgame. This approach maximises Blizzard’s incoming revenue – a lot of their playerbase have social problems, either of ineptitude or poor impulse control. If their design strategy was to exclude or punish people acting in an antisocial way, those players would leave and take their monthly fee with them.

    Blizzard don’t get paid more money for happier players – just for more players. We may not like the approach they’re taking (and I believe it has long-term issues, as I’ll mention below) but it’s a consistent and rational approach to social design for the game from a business perspective.

    • But surely it would be impossible to fix the actual problems with LFD? Well, no, it wouldn’t. I’ve been managing large communities for nearly 14 years now on the Internet, and the LFD Tool community is simply manifesting a fairly well-known problem. Fully-anonymous communities with no oversight and very few to no consequences for their actions tend toward a very specific social style, characterised by disregard for real-world social norms and a very high level of aggression and confrontation – see 4Chan for the best-known example. There’s a well-known and tested fix for this, which is to introduce a level of moderation: the best-known success story was the BoingBoing comments, which were able to reopen and maintain at least some level of civility after Teresa Neilsen Haiden joined them as community moderator. Blizzard could work along similar lines – either by introducing a reputation system, or simply by tightening their TOS to prohibit harassment and verbal abuse, and hiring a bunch of additional moderators to police the increased complaint load.

      However, either solution would dramatically change their playerbase, and probably result in WoW losing a considerable number of the less socially able players – which, as I mention above, would seem to run counter to their current community design goals and revenue strategy.

      • A tiny point – why now? Because of the change to daily quests in 4.1. With tanks able to run all their Valor-producing dungeon runs in a couple of multi-run sessions with guildies, we’re going to see even less tanks in LFD. Blizzard are predicting this and moving to, at least temporarily, stem the flow away.
      • This is a band-aid. Yes, it is. It’s not going to work forever. However, I’m increasingly starting to feel that the current WoW design strategy is aimed at life-support rather than long-term stability and growth. I don’t have a lot of proof of this, but the combination of an obvious temporary strategy to increase the utility of the LFD tool, the increase in re-worked dungeons rather than original content (a cheap way to extend the game’s lifespan), the general reduced content of Cataclysm compared to previous patches, and the fact that it’s well known the top WoW designers have all moved on to the Titan project all contribute. I get the feeling Blizzard knows and has accepted that WoW’s days are numbered, and is using strategies like this, like the larger strategy of keeping the maximum playerbase in play, and like reusing content wherever possible, to extend the revenue stream from WoW as much as possible without investing too much new designer time so that TItan and other projects can progress and eventually take over.

        What do you think? Anything else about the Call To Arms that we should have spotted?

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