monster sized signature he used in Usenet. For a modern forum poster it looks rather bizarre, and I must say that I prefer the slimmer versions we see today.

In this post I'll give you a few of the signatures I've run into during my explorations. I don't claim they're The Best WoW forum signatures ever created. I just happened to notice them. But maybe they can serve as some sort of inspiration to come up with one of your own.

Life advice signatures
Some of the signatures are about giving general good advice or setting a motto on how to best lead your life:

"Never argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience !"

"It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice."

"Life is not measured in the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away."
WoW related signatures
The majority though seem to be game or WoW related though:

"You can just hang outside in the sun all day tossing a ball around... but you can sit at your computer and do something that matters!" -Eric Cartman

"Disconnected from server! I'd complain but the forums are down..."

"Almost 6 years and a total /played around 600 hours and I'm still not the craziest person you'd meet in the skinner box that is WoW. All I wanted was the mouse pads from the collectors editions. "

"We actually talked today about adding an item level 300 shirt that did absolutely nothing but mess with mods that attempt to boil down players to gear scores. :) "

"It's not how fast one flies through content, but how much one enjoys the game."

"I am good at healing. When i'm not stunned , or counterspelled, or feared, or blinded, or sapped, or cycloned, earth shocked, or mind-numbed, or tongued, or polymorphed, or hexed, or dead."

"I'm not geared properly, my gems are wrong, my spec is not perfect, my GS stinks and my enchants are questionable. But, I'm still having fun!"

"I'm a Gnome, short but proud. I fire up my 'nades to whipe the Goblins out!"
A short story
Sometimes those few lines resemble to a poem or even a short story. Like this bittersweet one:

"I have printed off your photo and have it sitting on the sofa next to me while we watch a DVD together. Occasionally, I throw an M&M at you and pretend you giggle and tell me to stop it."
And if you can't come up with something witty you can always cheat:

"Insert funny remark here".
(No, please don't copy that - it's so old that it isn't even funny anymore.)

Blue signatures
It isn't just the players who come up with signature quotes - many of the blue posters have it as well, and they change them every now and then - especially Nethaera, who changes hers every now and then. Here's an example of her style:

"They say dreams are the windows of the soul--take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts.
~Henry Bromel"
Vaneras is more consistent, always linking to the picture of The Epic Mug of Vaneras- The Alebringer, something that appears to be drawn especially for him. An inside joke maybe?

Zarhym goes for poetry, or rather lyrics, because it comes from a song by Tool:

"Thought the sun would come deliver me, / But the truth has come to punish me instead./The ground is breaking down right under me./Cleanse and purge me in the water."
A blogger quote
One of my guildies deserves a special mentioning for picking a quote from a WoW blogger in his guild forum signature (a sign of good taste if you ask me!).

The quote comes from Big Bear Butt:

"Perhaps true Bear Tanking Attitude comes from the simple fact that, of all the classes in the game that can tank, we are the only ones that “go commando” into battle, waving our mighty wang in the enemies’ face and screaming “I’ve got a great big tonker and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it!”
I think you can figure what class he's playing.

Another of my ex guildies, who was probably the most cocky and competitive players I've ever met, chose this quote from the hitchhiker character Zaphod - which showed that he at least had some self insight about his appearance:

"If there's anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now!"
My signature
So what signature has Larísa got? To be honest: nothing worth talking about. I link to my blog on the guild forums; I figured that would be an easy way to be open about my blogging and direct anyone who's interested that way. On the official forums I don't have any signature at all. This doesn't prevent me from enjoying the creativity of other players though.

Many players shy away from reading the WoW forums, since there's just too much trash compared to goodness there. But I suggest you don't give up on them entirely. Lower your eyes and check out what hides under the signature line. Because that's where you probably find the best writing on the WoW forums.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Time for some cuddling and making up

The process of cuddling and making up again after this week's debacle has started.

There's a lovely thread at the US forum named "I need a hug" that steadily is growing. It's not as big as the Epic Protest Thread, but it's measuring + 1000 posts and more hugs are still incoming.

Netahaera is has joined the hugging party a couple of times and intends to come back:
"For the record, I am pro-hug and will hug again. Be warned."

And I just want to chime in and add to the hugging too in an effort to make up for whatever happened and get back things as they used to be.

Trusting Blizzard?
Over the weekend I've pondered a bit more over what was written and said the past week. I've re-read my posts and asked myself if I've been too harsh. Was it unfair of me to say that I've lost a bit of the trust for Blizzard? What part have I in the fact that the community seems to be split in half? One long-time reader said in a comment he'd never set is foot in this inn again due to my childish writing about this. Maybe he was right?

After thinking it over, I've come to the conclusion that my trust in Blizzard as a part of Blizzard-Activision company is damaged and that I stand for the posts I've written. Maybe my words were little bit too strong sometimes, but it reflects the deep concerns I've had over this.

This forum-identity incident has made me wonder if some of the people in charge of this colossus are so keen on looking into business opportunities connected to social networking, such as Facebook, that it might take overhand over the ambitions from others within the company to create gorgeous games and fantasy worlds. I know others have said this for a long time, but it wasn't until now that I fully understood what they meant. And there's your trust issue.

There are other players - not the least of the more open minded Facebook generations, who welcome this development. I have the fullest respect for you and you have every right to express this opinion. I think those who support the idea will get their way eventually. This is where it's heading and resistance is probably futile. And yet we who don't like it speak up. Because if we didn't say anything, how would they know that we cared at all?

Trusting the employees?
I've also reached the conclusion that I haven't lost my trust and my love for many of the Blizzard employees. I think they're making a fantastic job, trying to keep a steady course in the chaos of expectations and wishes from players, shareholders and others, trying to think about what's best for the game in the long run and make as good decisions as they can. Sometimes they need to compromise with their gaming ideals to make sure that the business has a sound economy. Hence sparkling ponies. I can understand and accept this and I hold nothing against them for it.

I trust the game developers. I trust the blue posters, like Nethaera and Bashiok. I'm skeptical to Bob Kotick, especially after reading so many statements about his - to me - rather appalling and strange view on how to handle his human resources - the employees. I'm skeptical to those other nameless people, not necessarily in the Blizzard building, who have an agenda which I think has very little to do with the interests of the gaming community.

In this storm that was, I believe - and I know this is speculation, but that's what I think - that many of those we trust at Blizzard secretly agreed that this was a stupid idea, but they were naturally prevented from saying anything about it.

Reading the happy, relieved posts now from the blues, I can't help thinking that they were with us all the time. They assure us over and over again that they really were listening all the time this was going on, making sure that all the feedback was sent forward into the organization to the decision makers. And now they hug us.

Views among the staff
Cruising the net I found a post that supports this view. Originally it was posted in the US thread on the Real ID issue, as post number 35 821. Since then it's been removed, I found it at a forum, thanks to a link from some blog, unfortunately I can't remember which one. Anyway. Take it for what it is: second hand information that I definitely wouldn't post if I wrote this in the role of a journalist. But I'm not. I'm a blogger and I think it sounds believable enough to refer it.

Nachtjäger, Suramar, 59 Night Elf Death Knight post 35821 wrote:

"Got in touch with my ex-flatmate, whose sister works as a GM for Blizzard, to see what the internal buzz on this was. Apparently, at the moment the employees are largely as pissed as the players, and she stated that despite attempts to keep it hushed, it has become known that the big creative players within Blizzard are pretty much as unhappy about this as we are. Everybody has been told they are not free to comment on this situation outside of specially prepared statements.

It's still going ahead, however (and here's where in-house rumours and hearsay really start coming into play): from what they've picked up, the Blizzard leads have been told in no uncertain terms that the non-gameplay-related direction of the game is working to a different blueprint now. GC and company are free to play with shiny new talent trees all they like, for example, but for the first time the decisions regarding implementation, Real ID, and plans for the general acquisition of new players for the business are no longer in Blizzard's own hands, and that's not going down too well."
If this is true, I must say that I feel truly sorry for the employees. I know they're professionals, this is what they're paid for, but it's never fun to stand up and take the shit consequences for a decision that you never supported in the first place. If you're a manager, you've probably got a salary that compensates for it. But I doubt that the blue posters have it.

About internet bullying
I feel especially sorry for those who were plain bullied by Internet jerks.

It was without doubt an act of reckless bravery and misdirected loyalty from Bashiok to publish his real name. But we didn't need to take advantage of it. It would have been easy to use it as a deterring example, stating that "I now have this, this and this information about you Bashiok, is that really OK?", without actually publishing the information or start calling for pizza.

No one - regardless of position in the company - not even Kotick - deserves that kind of Internet stalking.

US players, feel free to give Bashiok a hug from me. I can't since EU players aren't allowed there. Don't ask me why, and I won't start to argue about it either. I've had enough of arguing about the forums for a little while.

But when we're done with the cuddling I hope we remember what we've realized about the direction the MMOs are taking.

If we don't like the way they're going we shouldn't hesitate to raise our voices There are definitely people who work for Blizzard who we trust. We must keep giving them good arguments so they can come out strong in their internal discussions. What appears to be harsh criticism can in fact be a supporting hug.

Finally: if you haven't read it already, head over to Psychochild and read his take on the Real ID/forum topic from an introvert/extrovert perspective. It brings some new light to why we felt as strong about this as we did.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Can the wounds be healed?

I don't know what to say. But they listened to us. The Real-Names-On-Offical-Forums-Thing has been cancelled!

My immediate reaction is of course that I'm relieved. And I suppose we should celebrate. Big time!

With a huge community effort we made them listen and change their minds. When it really matters we can influence the giant, and that is a comforting thought. We who have spoken up against this idea have all a part in this turn. Be proud!

But at the same time I'm not as excited as I'd like to be. I still feel a bit at a loss. The ting is that I lost a great deal of my trust in Blizzard during those events and I'm not sure if it ever can be restored or how long it will take.

Hatch recent post shows clearly how advertisers, not gamers, are Blizzard's real customer base today. Dechion talks in an equally heartbreaking post about how we, the players are sheep and have been for a long time. Anna has cancelled her account and I don't know if this will make her change her mind.

The wounds are deep. Even if they'll heal eventually, there are scares I think never quite will disappear.

I think a little bit of the magic with WoW is gone for me. Forever.

Nevertheless: let's celebrate tonight! We have deserved it!

Good news: They’re disarming the noob traps!

OK, it’s Friday night and God knows it’s been an awful, absolutely awful week in the WoW community. They’ve placed an elephant in the living room and it’s almost impossible not to look in its way. But let’s pretend it’s not there, just for a little while. At least I need a break from it.

Some bloggers have suggested that it’s just a cunning manoeuvre of misdirection when they release the news about the new design of the talent trees in Cataclysm. I don’t care. I’m gong to talk about it anyway. It’s a brave move since I’m not a theorycrafter at all, but hey, I suppose an average player is allowed to have an opinion as well.

In short my overall impression is that they’re on the right track with this. I think it sounds like a good idea to cut down on the amount of talent points, get rid of some uninteresting talents and make players focus on one of the three trees right from the start. Of course I might change my mind about it once I’ve seen how the mage tree will turn out. But the basic concept is great.

Taking away the noob traps
The best thing about the change is that they finally, after all those years, have decided to disarm some of the worst noob traps there are in the game.

In Cataclysm it will probably be harder to distinguish a new, clueless player from a veteran and maybe we’ll see a little fewer of those “Did you buy that character on e-bay” remarks.

I remember when I first hit 10 with a character. I didn’t have any idea about what to do. I think I figured out as much as the fact that I had a talent point to put somewhere (which isn’t evident for everyone). I might even have figured out that there were three trees available and not just the one on the top. But I’m pretty certain that I picked my talents randomly during my first months of WoW playing, until I eventually stumbled upon some mage guides – actually in the official forums of all places (sic!) It wasn’t until I found that guide that I understood that I would have an easier time in game if I picked the talents systematically and not just whatever that “sounded” good.

I happen to have a talent for browsing huge amounts of information, picking out the relevant pieces in a very short time with little effort But I’m also aware of that I’m quite extreme in this, and that it’s unfair to expect it from every player that comes new to the game.

In my opinion you should be able to get yourself a decent, usable talent spec, based entirely on the information you get as you’re playing the game.

It might not be a min-maxed spec; it might not be the choice of the experts at EJ. But regardless of how you use your talent points, you should be able to get a spec that is good enough for basic questing and instance running. Raiding is another issue; I believe it’s reasonable to expect that a player is ready to do some research using out-of-game resources when you’ve come that far into endgame.

Picking a shampoo
Until now there have been plenty of ways for new players to make fools out of themselves with their talent choices. And I don’t blame them! The descriptions of the talents all sound equally tempting and unless you already know the class pretty well, there’s no way you easily can figure out which talents that matter and which ones that only are there for decoration.

It’s about the same as when I’m standing in front of the row of shampoo bottles in the store, and everyone is announcing that they’re good for one thing and another and finally I just think “screw it” and pick the one that happens to be standing closest to me. And when I get home I get scorned by my children, because of course it was a useless shampoo. But how was I supposed to know?

And that’s why you’ll run into levelling mages, running around in instances with talents such as prismatic cloak or improved blink. They just don’t have a clue.

In Cataclysm we’ll be presented, or rather steered into picking one tree or the other as early as level 10. In reality that’s how more experienced players have played it all the time (with exception for the more experimental minded ones like Tesh, who enjoy tailoring special specs combining several trees, but I believe he’s in a minority).

It’s a certain sign that you’re new to the game if you happily have picked a little bit of everything for your spec. I don’t blame those new players. They’re following common sense. Of course it sounds like a good idea to train your character to be “allround”, knowing a little bit of everything! A little bit of healing, a little bit of tanking, a little bit of dps… Why not? If you’re a mage and have got a frostbolt and a fireball on your action bar, it makes sense to improve both of them. How could you know that you’re inefficient and laughed at behind your back?

The New Deal will put an end to this.

Good for alt levelling
And the completely new players aren’t the only ones to benefit from this. It will make my life easier as well, even if I’ve been around for a while now.

I have a confession to make. Whenever I start a new alt, I’m filled with enthusiasm. There’s something about the quick levelling and the innocent, worry-free joy of discovering a brand new starter zone (I haven’t seen them all yet, after 3.5 years of playing), that makes me excited. But as soon as I ding 10 the worries start.

“Crap!” “I just got my first talent point. And where am I supposed to put that, so I use it well (and don’t make a fool out of myself)?”

It's almost more of a burden than an asset. I know very well that there’s a ton of available guides on internet, I just need to alt-tab out and go and read them. But sometimes – quite often to be honest – I don’t want to! I know there are players who get a kick out of putting together excel sheet and making lists over what gear they’re going to get where. I’m not one of those. I just want to enjoy the content and learn the basics about my class in a fairly intuitive way, as much as possible by what the game teaches me.

I’m pretty sure some of you consider this lazy, and maybe it is. However I’d absolutely go and look up a lot of stuff once I was approaching end-game. But at level 27? No thanks. I’d love to be able to pick some talents knowing that they’ll probably serve me well enough.

Getting an identity
I’m also happy about that the specialization will come much earlier. Exclusive talents will be handed out as early as at level 10, which means that we in reality will get a game with 30 subclasses rather than 10 classes, as Green Armadillo points out in a great analysis of the changes. Blizzard mentions as an example that frost mages will get their water elemental as early as at level 10. In my opinion this will not only make the game more fun – it will also foster the players so they’re more likely to know how-to-play their class once they reach end-game. They’ve been specialized into it for such a long time and become used to use all sorts of abilities that previously were tossed at them towards the very end of their levelling.

Finally I’m delighted at the idea that they want to pace the development of our characters better. Something fun and interesting will happen for every level we gain. When we’re not training new abilities, we’ll get talent points to spend. And since they’re getting rid of boring filler talents, those points will mean something, giving us access to fun abilities rather than just being a stepping stone on the way to a talent we’ll get in the far distant future.

Everything that makes levelling more fun is a good thing!

I bet we’ll hear a few complaints over this. Some players might argue that the game is dumbed down again. But I’m pretty sure that the min-maxing theorycrafters still will have plenty of calculations to do – maybe more now than before, since there won’t be as many apparently crappy talent points that you can skip altogether.

When Cataclysm hits, the first toon I’ll level will be my mage. (Provided I’m still playing the game because… you know…) But I really look forward to level an alt as well – not only because of the new classes and the rewamp of the zones, but thanks to the changes in the talent trees. No more noob traps. More fun talents. Yay! Go Blizzard!

Friday conclusion
See what I just did? I managed to write an entire post about Something Else. And it felt good!

About the elephant thing: I saw a blue comment in the EU thread by Wryxian that somehow made me feel a little bit hopeful.

Here’s a couple of quotes:

We want to acknowledge that within this thread there remains a lot of unanswered but important questions and some very valid concerns that we have not yet been able to address. We want you to know that we are still listening and still gathering your feedback and taking it into consideration. We are not, in any way, ignoring your concerns, your questions and your feedback; in fact it is quite the opposite. Your feedback has been delivered to the people who need to see it, and it continues to be delivered. […] We're listening, we're working through the feedback, and we're discussing it internally. When we do have more answers, updates or information to give about this announcement and about our internal discussions, we will be certain to update you here in the forums. In the meantime, please continue to provide your feedback as it is not in vain and we are taking it into account.

Thanks very much for being patient with us while we work through the process of gathering, delivering and discussing the feedback, questions and concerns you've been posting in this thread. We greatly appreciate that you have been, and continue to be, engaging with us here and expressing yourself with patience and admirable candour.
I don’t know why, but it sounds as if he means it. Maybe they’re taking some impression after all? Let’s say so and enter this weekend with peace in our minds.

For my own part, I’m more likely to slip into LOTRO than into Azeroth. Yeah, my 14 day free trial has passed, but I bought another month to have a closer look at it. It’s beautiful. You should see how cool my Lore-Master looks when she swings her staff, painting runes in the air, summoning her raven!

And no one asks for my name.

Here’s to a good weekend.

Edit: The elephant is gone! So let's focus on the talent tree changes!
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