Friday, May 23, 2014

How I Got Into Blogging (I Was Banned Twice)

Stubborn over at Sheep the Diamond convinced me to write this story.  It's admittedly not something I really wanted to write, but perhaps it'll prove interesting/useful/whatever to someone.

I actually wasn't involved in anything beyond the official forums/guild websites/class websites for the longest time -- until probably 2011/2012.  Granted, part of that was me quitting at the end of BC until the end of WotLK, but even then I was content to sometimes post stuff on the forums, chat on our guild site, and help advance theorycrafting for shadow priests.  I even wrote the original Elitist Jerks PvE thread for shadow priests.

If you ask me how I went from that to reading blogs, I really couldn't tell you.  My guess is that someone on EJ had a blog in their signature or something and I decided to check it out one day -- then things probably cascaded from there.  But even at that point I never entertained the idea of having a blog of my own.  I simply read and rarely commented, focusing more on other things.

During that time period I obviously became acquainted with a decent variety of blogs and had some favorites.  Some favorites were due to being related to my class/spec.  Others were just interesting.  And some were due to me respecting and admiring them.  But, as it turns out, I was wrong about two blogs in that last category.  Dreadfully wrong.

And so we hit a series of unfortunate events in fall 2012 that led to blacklisting two blogs and creating this blog.

Before we go any further I want to mention two things:

1, I am not going to use names in this post.  We'll just call them bloggers X and Y.

2, if I quote someone directly I have documented proof of that quote -- be it screenshot, email, or something else -- and am willing to provide it if it is claimed I am lying or something.  If I paraphrase then I do not have documented proof and am simply relaying the situation as best I can.

So what exactly happened?  We'll start with blogger X.

Blogger X has a comment policy that has the following bits (it's larger but I'm cutting it down to the important sections):
I know that the world consists of many different people, all of whom have different opinions. You’re welcome to share your viewpoints here, even if you disagree with me, but the instant your view and the way you express it at all infringes on my view/the views of others, that’s usually the line where I’ll remove your comment.


I’m happy to enter into discussion with anyone about darn near anything related to the World of Warcraft, but on my blog, it’s done on my terms — politely and with respect.
Seems reasonable enough, no?  Can disagree all you want as long as you're not a jerk about it.  Let's see how well that holds up.

Blogger X wrote a post about how they did NOT like the Dragon Soul nerfs, how nerfs were terrible for the game, etc.  I wrote the following as a response and tried to leave it as a comment on their blog.
First, I'm the GM of a 10 man heroic raiding guild that raids two nights a week (  We formed at the very end of WotLK and built up our roster during t11.  We killed Heroic Ragnaros about two months before 4.3 hit and killed Heroic Madness the day of the 10% nerf.  We had a 2% wipe at the 5% nerf which was heartbreaking.  After that, we went back and cleared the entire place at 0% nerf (we were 6/8H pre-nerf, for reference) to prove we could and because we were really annoyed with the rapid nerfs.  In short, if anything you'd think I'd be the most against nerfs because of our limited schedule and we want to beat the content at 0%.

But I'm not.  Well, I'm against the incredibly rapid nerfs of Dragon Soul, but I'm not against them in general.

The fundamental question to me is: what happens when you reach your limit?
In other words, what happens when a guild faces a boss it simply cannot defeat.  The raid team as a whole simply isn't skilled enough to beat the boss, even with gear from months of farming.  It simply won't make enough of a difference, the people just are not good enough.  To be clear, I am *not* talking about being able to overcome the boss with some extra gear in a few weeks (or even month or two).  It's a situation where you're wiping on Heroic Ultraxion at 20% and you can only get 15% more DPS from gear eventually.

A guild in such a situation has two options:
1, replace people.  Easier said than done, especially when friends are involved.  And again, we're not talking a top world guild here.  Attracting capable recruits can be incredibly hard and drama can easily arise from someone being told "Sorry, you seriously just need to pull 5% more DPS or we can't beat this boss."
2, stop trying.  In other words, be content with being 1/8H in Dragon Soul for 6+ months.

The former breaks social bonds that Blizzard wants to preserve in these guilds because it's one of the strongest ways to keep people subscribed.  The latter gets people to quit the game since there's no forward momentum.  Neither of these solutions is ideal.  Blizzard wants these less skilled players to be able to still get a feeling of progression instead of saying "Well, we came as far as we can, might as well quit until the next raid tier."  So they slowly (hopefully) but steadily nerf the raid.  In theory, people who are serious get done with everything before nerfs hit and anyone who wasn't done wouldn't have finished anyway (again, in theory).

This obviously does have the effect of it being less respectable to finish a tier only partly.  My guild, in the midst of being formed, only went 7/13H in tier 11, but we were proud of it.  Had we formed in Dragon Soul (or in future tiers), there would be an expectation that we'd be 8/8H by the end.  But I think Blizzard's concerned with the guilds that would simply give up without nerfs since they'd literally hit a brick wall (for THEIR guild) and potentially quit.  So Blizzard tries to let them see more content via slow nerfs.

If the DS nerfs had started at the beginning of May, would your guild have been as upset (that would have given you 5 months instead of 2 months at 0%, and yes, the fact that those 2 months included holidays really sucked)?

Note that no one is really up in arms about people clearing t11 in t12 or t13 gear.  I don't really see the slow nerfs as anything different as a general principle, just a matter of timing.  Exceptions like Herald of the Titans and Challenge modes are just that, exceptions where difficulty is effectively locked in place.  But that's not the case for the vast majority of the game and I'm not sure it should be the case for raiding.

Do you think challenge mode type scaling should be applied to older raid tiers within the same expansion (aka, scale down players to 502 max for heroic vaults or something similar)?  If not, why not? 
I don't know about you, but that seems to be a pretty reasonable comment to me.  So what happened?

Well, first, blogger X's spam filtering system banned me for trying to post the comment, claiming it was spam.  Presumably this was due to length or the link, not sure.  I tried again on a different account, same result.  Tried posting some other stuff like "Testing, does this work?" with mixed success -- it worked on new accounts but the old ones were still banned.

Note that the ones eaten as spam were shredded, gone, erased.  The stuff like "Testing, does this work?" was put into a moderation queue (and I was notified of each result).

"Well, this is annoying" I thought.  So I contacted blogger X via email explaining the issue.  Got this response:
Hi there, Balkoth. I apologize for the issues you've been having. I've
taken a quick look and don't see any comments listed as "spam" that
look legitimate.

What I did was approve one of your four (!) follow-up comments, the
one using the name Sarm and as the email.
Using that name and email combo should allow you to post.

Again, sorry for the troubles. Hope that helps. I'm off to bed as it's
now 4:30am!
As you can see, blogger X was confused about what my exact issue was but responded politely trying to help.  We sent a few more emails back and forth before X understood that some comments were flat out being eaten and not even being sent to the moderation queue -- not something you really expect to happen, right?  So X said:
Well, I'm puzzled. Can you email me the comment? I'll try to post it
myself when I get back home.

Again, sorry for the issues.
Still good, trying to work this out.  So I emailed X the comment I posted above and waited to see the result.



So I emailed X a day later with a follow-up:
I was wondering if you might have an update on this.  Noticed the comment wasn't posted on the blog, not sure if you're having the same difficulties I had or if it's a different issue.


Three days later I sent a second follow-up:
I was curious about the state of the comment that you asked I email you.  I noticed it still wasn't up and you've made two posts since then (including one post mocking a rather inflammatory comment someone tried to leave).  Is there an issue?


Now, we know two facts here:

1, X REALLY cares about comments.  Massive comment policy, moderation queue, the whole nine yards.  So it seems rather unlikely X just *forgot* about this.

2, X was quick to respond to the earlier emails and quite helpful -- right up to the point where they saw the comment and realized I disagreed with them.

This makes it very difficult for me to draw a conclusion other than X is a lying hypocrite who claims to allow polite disagreement while refusing to allow such comments.  Who also effectively banned me from their blog since A, their system auto-banned me, B, X never undid this, and C, X refused to post my comment.

So I blacklisted X and never returned to their site except to copy part of their comment policy for this post.  I was thoroughly disappointed -- I had thought this was a reasonable minded and fair person who I had been reading for some time but they showed their true colors when someone disagreed with them.

And as you might guess from my previous note near the top I do have this entire email exchange as proof.

So that's one ban.  How about the second?

Blogger Y obviously runs a blog.  They're ex-military, married with at least one child.  They seemed to be a good person as well who got upset when people were jerks and weren't afraid to call out asshattery on their blog.  I admired them for that and thought they were a tremendous boon to WoW -- the kind of player that shows not all WoW players are basement dwelling jackasses.

I had read their blog for a while and one day noticed they were going to do an ICC run (this was during the mid/end of Cataclysm) -- so I offered to go along and help in an email:
I'm not sure if I've ever actually posted on your blog, but it's one of the ones I do follow and enjoy reading.  I'd be happy to go with you on the Icecrown Citadel run tomorrow night at 6, with the caveat that I would need to leave at 7:20ish for my own raid at 7:30.  I don't need anything of any kind from there, but I thought it might be an interesting experience if you were short a body.  Add Battletag Balkoth#1847 if you'd like (regardless of whether you have room in ICC, even).
Went on the run, was fun, got this email afterward:
Thanks again for coming along, Balkoth. it was a lot of fun!
That was October 29th.  The first post on this blog was November 17th.  So what went wrong?

Well, a week or so later I left a comment on their blog.  I don't even remember what the blog post was about nor do I remember what my comment said -- it wasn't anything earth-shattering or a thesis or anything.  Checked back the next day to see that it was...gone.  Not only that, but I was banned from posting.

I still had Y on my Battletag in-game, so I whispered them to ask what happened.  I don't have the beginning of the conversation but I do think I have most of it.  To keep this relatively SFW I've censored two expletives which were used in a good way in this case -- you can fill in the blanks with something nasty and you'll get the gist.
Y: It doesn't really matter at this point.  The comments are gone and clearly your tone and the way you said things offended me and <my spouse's name>.  That's enough for me to carry away from it.

Balkoth: I see.  I actually discovered this when I tried to respond on the brawler's guild post with some information from a recent blue post that answered something you wondered about in your post.  Noticed my comment didn't appear.  Checked on the other post, noticed those were gone.  You know what made me really notice your blog?  The rant you did about the <expletive> who was an <expletive> to Navi.  Because I completely agreed with you and found it refreshing to see others thing the same way.

Y: Look, the thing is, my blog is a personal place where I post things.  I never object to anyone posting disagreement, but I draw the line at things that get personal.  I'm sorry that you didn't feel what you meant to say warranted it, but what came across most definitely did, since the comment that did was originally held by <my spouse's name> as unapproved until I could look at it and see if I agreed.  Usually I'll just let stuff through, but in this case I must have thought it was directly personal.  If you didn't intend that, I can understand that.  It can be difficult to get a tone of voice accurately in type.  But, and this is important to me...I am very busy.  I was putzing around in game while waiting for something in real life to be ready.  It is right now.  So I have to leave.  I will be on again later, and if you'd like to pick up the conversation again then, that's fine with me.

Balkoth: All right, and I'd like to, yes.  Have a good afternoon.
So we already have an interesting peculiarity: a comment that was apparently so offensive it warranted banning me but Y doesn't even remember what it said.  Just that it clearly offended them.

But whatever, Y seems willing to talk about it and understands sometimes tone can be an issue on the internet.  I look forward to talking again to Y in the evening and log off myself.  Later than evening I log on and check to see if Y is online again.


Y had removed me from Battletag.



So I think "what can I do to convince Y they have the wrong impression of me because I'd like to try to salvage this?"  And I remember what drew me to their blog in the first place -- a rant about how some people were being jerks to clueless/weaker players.  Something came to mind.

A few months earlier I met a random guy in LFD who was new to the game -- helped him realize he shouldn't quest in Duskwood at level 44, gave him advice when he asked for it, helped him out when he ran into trouble, etc.  Turns out he caught on to making gold fast with the AH and wanted to buy a Heroic Ragnaros mount.  I helped him arrange a buy with a guild on his server.  Then after waiting like three months for the day the guild told him "We're not selling to you anymore, taking a friend of ours instead, bye!"

If you make a promise like that as a guild, you don't break it.  Especially not after the guy has been waiting patiently for three months (and notably NOT making other arrangements to buy the mount).  So I made a thread on their server forum to call out the guild for being a bunch of jerks.

Which seemed like something Y would love -- "Oh, hey, Balkoth is doing the same thing I did by calling out jerks on their behavior and defending people getting taken advantage of."  So I sent them an email saying "Thought you might find this interesting" and linked the thread.

Then I get a response back (sadly I cannot find this email exchange, I really wish I had it).

Y accused me of claiming I would try to get them in trouble in a public spectacle, that some people might be cowed by such a threat but not them, that they were ex-military and not afraid of me, that I could bring it on, and that if I wanted to play thug on the internet then "Maybe you could even create your own blog, carve out a public venue to share your opinions" because I was banned from their blog, presumably.  That's the only fragment I have verbatim from their rant.

So I sent an email back explaining how that wasn't what I meant at all, how I was showing that I too was defending people being taken advantage of and calling out jerks on their behavior -- just like they were.


No response.

I decided to make a desperate last ditch attempt.  I made a character on Y's server, earned 1000g, and sent it to Y with a message saying something along the lines of "Look, you have this all wrong.  Just give me five minutes on Vent to talk about this and here's 1000g for your time and proof of my good intentions."


No response.

So I blacklisted Y as well.

Note that this behavior is in stark contrast to like 99%+ of blogs -- for a very long time, those were the only two blogs I ever blacklisted (a month or so ago I added a third).  Because I'm willing to disagree and listen to someone who I can respect, but I wanted nothing to do with lying hypocrites like X and flat-out jerks like Y.

So there's my story.  I got banned from one blog for posting polite disagreement.  I got banned from another blog for...some reason I still don't know and got taunted that maybe I should make my own blog.

Well, I did!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Well, The Nerfs Are Better This Time Around (5.4.8 SoO Item Level Upgrades)

If you haven't seen this yet...
Gear changes are coming! First, in Patch 5.4.8 (which is currently in testing on the PTR), all upgradable epic items introduced to the game in Patch 5.4 will be given the option to upgrade 2 more times for a grand total of 16 item levels. This change will be applied to all items found on the Timeless Isle and in Siege of Orgrimmar. For instance, if you have an item level 553 Greatsword of Pride’s Fall and its Upgrade Level is 2/2 making it item level 561, once the new patch goes live it will display 2/4 and allow you the opportunity to bump it up to item level 569. Whether you’re working on a newly boosted character or progressing through Siege of Orgrimmar, we hope this change will provide you with the extra punch you need to take down your foes.
In practical terms, here's what it means:

If you've been diligently earning and upgrading gear, the day of the patch you can boost your overall ilvl by 4 by upgrading half of the your items (the most powerful ones first) due to saving 3000 Valor and earning another 1000.  Then you can upgrade the rest over a period of 4 weeks.  This is why I'm guessing that they WON'T reset valor -- so the people who get the biggest benefit are the people who don't need Valor currently (because they've been farming and upgraded their gear already).

If you're progressing constantly still and have pieces you've been upgrading and thus not valor capped, you can still focus your upgrades on more important items (and special items like Warforged which you probably won't replace for a while) but you'll get less of a benefit (but will eventually rise to the same bonus).

If you're undergeared/new, you can focus your upgrades but practically everything needs to be upgraded and will be replaced so you won't get much benefit until your gear is more constant (since you're already desperately spending all valor each week).

Or, in other words, the more stable and upgraded your gear is (which directly correlates to either farming full clears or being stuck on a boss and farming the previous ones for a while) the more of an immediate benefit you'll get.  Over the long time everyone will get the full benefit but you get far less if you're not at the point where you need a nerf to help you get the next boss down.

I'm of three minds on this (yes, three).

First, Blizzard swore they weren't going to do zone-wide nerfs and would instead do targeted nerfs.  So, they lied.  Which is irritating because it makes it very hard to trust anything they say on this sort of thing.

Second, I don't really like the fact that Cutting Edge achievements are going to be available with a further nerfed Garrosh.  A further 8 ilvls across your character is about a 12-16% power increase (more in some cases) which is equivalent to a 11-14% nerf.  Firelands nerfs came way too soon.  Dragon Soul nerfs made the timing of Firelands nerfs look amazing (like 8 weeks with winter holidays during that time).  But now?  We're like eight months into the tier.

If you can earn a Heroic Garrosh kill by the time the patch comes in a few weeks, great.  But still offering it after 9+ months into a tier WITH a 10%+ nerf on top of that seems ridiculous for an achievement that is supposed to be a status symbol which is supposed to make heroic raiders not care as much about nerfs like this!  It's extremely weird. least the way they're going about it is better than anything in the past, for several reasons.  There were three major issues with the zone-wide nerfs.

A. you didn't do anything, it just happened.
B. if you were stuck, better off just waiting for the next 5%.
C. if you just formed a raid and stepped into the content, you benefited from the nerf.  It was meant to be for people who were ALREADY progressing and getting stuck, to push them over the edge...not to help characters who hadn't stepped foot into the zone before.

As you might guess, this method conveniently addresses ALL three of those problems.

A. you have to actually upgrade your items by earning the valor and obtaining the items in the first place.
B. there is no future nerf planned (that we know of and I'm fairly confident there won't be given this nerf) until 6.0, so sitting around won't help.
C. as mentioned above, this benefits people who have been farming/upgrading gear already the most -- it'll barely help a new alt for a long time.  So it will actually help the guilds who need (perhaps even deserve) it the most.

On a side note, I've seen some people suggesting valor upgrades be cut to 125 each or that items drop at 2/4 upgraded already.  This would be a BAD thing because it cuts against the point from earlier -- that this is meant to help the guilds who ALREADY have mostly upgraded gear because they've been progressing and farming.  If you haven't been working on the content then you don't get much of a nerf to the content -- but you WILL if you keep working and farming.  That's the "beauty."

All in all, I'm not thrilled by it (mainly due to Blizzard saying they WOULDN'T do this and because Cutting Edge will still be available) but it doesn't leave as sour a taste in my mouth due to their exact method -- which is massively better than ICC/FL/DS.

Dare I point out, though, that if Blizzard timed their expansions properly that WoD would be out already or out within a month or two and thus this wouldn't even be an necessity?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

More Thoughts on WoD Lockouts and Loot (Also Top Two Lockouts?)

I'm working on a pair of posts (involving how I started blogging and the importance of 5% in heroic raiding) but decided to give myself a freebie here in the meantime (started as a small comment I was going to leave at Clockwerk's blog but it kept growing).

Was reading Clockwerk's recent post on lockouts and had some thoughts in response to both his post and the current comments.  Probably best to read those first.

Lot of talk lately (including comments of my own) on Theck's idea of Cumulative Loot -- which is something I wrote a post on a while ago as well.  With the changes to loot (primarily allowing master loot for Flex (aka Normal in WoD)) this opens up new possibilities and brings up new problems.

Instead of personal loot for the cumulative loot (which most guilds would want to avoid as traditional drops are much more efficient), theoretically could just have a Mythic boss flat out drop the gear for Heroic/Normal/LFR as well.  Presumably that loot could be /rolled off pretty quickly or given to priority people if that exists -- less wasted loot and would only take an extra minute or two per boss.

Could arguably not include the LFR drop if Blizzard is so convinced it'll be irrelevant so quickly for Heroic and Mythic raiders.

But even that causes issues because there's an incentive to clear it on Heroic first with 30 people for the best chance at a rare trinket or whatever dropping and then doing 20 people with Mythic.

Part of the problem is that I don't think anyone sees a perfect solution.

Default has us running at least 2 lockouts a week for a long time, most likely 3 for a bit, possibly even 4 on the first tier.

All below (personal rolls) doesn't allow master looting and if the gear is trade-able encourages stuff like bringing 15 hunters at a time to get that agility trinket for the hunter main.

All below (master looter) takes extra time per boss (not a massive issue but it may slow down less efficient groups) and still encourages to clear the place on Heroic with 30 people first rather than just doing Mythic.

All of these solutions have at least one major flaw in them.

Let me go ahead and toss another idea into the pot (which also is not perfect)...

What if only the top two lockouts you've done reset?

Simple as that.

Say you do half the tier on Heroic one week in addition to clearing on Normal.  Next week, only Heroic and Normal reset (plus Mythic since that was never locked).  LFR is not available since it's three levels down.

Or say you're working on Mythics and kill a few bosses.  Next week only Heroic and Mythic reset -- Normal and LFR are locked.  In general, you can never kill a boss for loot more than twice per week -- and in some cases can only do it once (if you're 75% through Mythic you can only kill the last boss on Heroic).

So what are the advantages?

1, you're limited to two lockouts per week, which is an improvement over three or potentially four.

2, you still have to kill the boss multiple times for the people complaining about "free loot for no effort" or whatever.

3, since you have to kill the boss on the specific difficulty, you're free to kill a boss on Mythic first if you wanted with 20 people and then still bring 30 on another day for Heroic -- avoids the problem mentioned above with wanting the largest group possible for master looter.

But I said it wasn't perfect -- what are the catches?

1, the first week of raiding you'll clear Heroic and Normal -- meaning both will reset for the second week.  On the second week you'll clear Heroic, Normal, *and* start Mythic.  That's three lockouts.  Now, assuming you can kill Mythic bosses then Normal will be locked for future weeks but that technically is a violation of the "two lockouts max" rule.

2, there's potentially a disincentive to move up in difficulty.  Let's say you're in a guild that wants to try Mythic.  If you try Mythic and kill a single boss, you're locked out of Normal entirely.  Only get full Heroic plus one Mythic boss.  Some groups may find they prefer to farm Normal for a few more weeks and would thus delay Mythic progression until they don't care about Normal.

Now, one could argue that if you're capable of killing at least one boss on Mythic then you SHOULDN'T really be worried about Normal gear and getting a few pieces of Mythic gear will help more long term than another clear's worth of Normal gear -- or at worst you might be in that "problem position" for a week or two and thus it's a very temporary thing.  But I felt it was worth mentioning, at least.