Cast of Characters

I’ve posted before about how I wish I had the drawing ability to be able to publish a web comic. Well, I haven’t exactly made any progress in my ability to draw, but I thought I could at least get my cast of characters down…
  • Kbar (aka “Kbardamus the Old”) – Guild Master, Main Tank*. Old as balls. Gets grumpy sometimes, especially when he hasn’t has his Elixir of Mastery (read: whiskey).
  • Jpedius – Off Tank, Melee DPS. My college room mate. Might actually be good at WoW, but it’s hard to tell since he plays a class that requires zero skill to play. (heh…sorry JP)
  • Aloranay – Healer. Mother of a couple of guildies. (Sorry, Nay – I know your kids’ names I just don’t know their names in-game.) Is likely to break your eardrums if you spend any amount of time on vent** with her.
  • Jarhead – Healer. Father of Marioo, Jasmama, and Quickkillz. Mexican from Chicago who lives in California***. One of the handful of guildies I’ve met IRL. He was a marine – can you tell? 😉
  • Fhina – Healer. Is actually playing on a different toon with some weird-ass German-sounding name now, but everyone still calls him “Fhin”. Used to work with this guy.
  • Macdowell – Healer. Altaholic****. Folks who have been around a while know him as “Jak”, since one the  toons he used to play is named JakBauer.
  • Tomolak – Ranged DPS, Healer (sometimes). Russian Jew who lives in New York*****. Would have me believe that NFL football is better than NCAA football (it’s not), that soccer doesn’t kinda suck (it kinda does), and that fantasy hockey is a viable fantasy sport (it isn’t). But he’s a good guy, all the same. 🙂
  • Khully – Melee DPS. QQs (complains) about “garbage” loot despite being #1 on the damage meters. Wins every roll, every time when a mount is involved.
  • Werzul – Melee DPS. Knows Khully from outside WoW.
  • Amyeez – Melee DPS. Target of a significant amount of ball-busting from Yours Truly, but since she’s one of the 3 people who read this (and I count twice) I’ll keep quiet this time. 😉
  • Setekh – Ranged DPS. Significant Other of Amyeez.
* – While there are multiple types of characters in WoW, they really boil down to 3 primary roles – Tank (badasses with a lot of health whose job is to take all the hits from the Bad Guys), DPS (stands for “Damage per Second” – these are the ones responsible for killing the Bad Guys), and Healer (this one should be pretty obvious).
** – Ventrilo, a voice-chat application commonly used by online gamers.
*** – This is one of the weirdest sentences I’ve ever written, but I couldn’t think of a more accurate way to phrase it.
**** – People who play WoW have a main character (“main”) and might have one or more alternate characters (“alts”). Altaholics are people who spend a significant amount of time playing on their alts.
***** – Okay, I’m having a bit of trouble distinguishing “ethnicity” from “where one is from” from “where one lives currently” from “what one identifies with”. Doing my best…


The in-game economy of World of Warcraft is an interesting thing. In some aspects, it works in the same way as a regular economy. There is an auction housein which the laws of supply and demand generally prevails; you can expect that rare and highly sought-after item to cost you an arm and a leg. In general, the more difficult and/or time-consuming and item is to obtain the more it will cost. There are vendors that sell fixed-price comodities, and people that will try to resell those comodities at an exorbitant markup to those unaware of the vendors’ existence.

Auctioneer Grizzlin

There is certainly inflation. There was a time when 1 gold was a lot of money in WoW. The leader of my guild is fond of reminiscing about the “good old days” of vanilla WoW when fast land mounts cost 1,000 gold and nobody could afford them except for rich guild leaders who taxed their “constituency” to get them. Having one of these mounts was a status symbol. Now everybody has them, and there are daily quests that pay out 16+ gold for 5 minutes of your time (and you can do up to 25 of these a day). There are various mechanisms in place to try to keep inflation at bay – namely “gold sinks” like ever more-expensive mounts and skills to take money back out of circulation – but at the end of the day when there is an infinite amount of currency inflation is just going to happen.

There are also some ways in which WoW’s economy works in the exact opposite way of what you would expect. IRL, typically raw materials + time spent = finished goods at some markup reflecting the time and skill required to create those goods. In WoW, raw materials typically cost more than finished products. This seems a little bit odd unless you understand a bit about WoW. First of all, the “work” put into producing goods is fairly trivial – the click of a button and a few seconds of waiting. Gathering of materials is typically more time-consuming/difficulty by far. Second – and more importantly – WoW is almost entirely a numbers game. Everyone is striving to achieve max level, min/max their stats, get all of the achievements…in short, he who has the biggest numbers “wins”. This generates a tremendous demand for the raw materials that can be used to increase one’s skill in a given profession on the way to maxing it out.


There are also things in WoW that are simply not for sale in that it is impossible to sell them. There is a concept known as “soulbinding” or being “soulbound“; that is, an item will either bind itself to its owner when it is picked up or when it is first used. Once bound, that item can no longer be sold nor traded to another player. I can’t think of any RL analogue for soulbound items. I mean sure, I have a handful of things that I probably wouldn’t sell for any amount of money…but I can’t think of anything that I own for which I am able to say “I cannot sell this due to mechanics” or “The laws of physics have literally bound this item to my soul and I am unable to part with it.”

I’m sure there are other quirks of the WoW economy that I’m just not thinking of at the moment. They’ll have to wait for another time…

WoW Web Comic

For a while now I’ve said that if I had any artistic ability at all I would publish a web comic. *ahem* That is, any drawing ability. There are a handful of web comics that I’ve stumbled across at one time or another and ended up spending an afternoon or even an entire Sunday “catching up” on archived panels. I don’t know what it is about the medium that I like so much. I never really read comic books as a kid. Maybe I’m just compensating for that lack of comics in my life?

At any rate, I find myself not only wanting to meet some of the amazing people that produce these comics but also to create my own. One idea in particular that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is a web comic detailing my experience playing World of Warcraft.

I’ve been playing WoW for the past…oh…5 years now? I’ve taken a couple of breaks in that time – lulls between the dying breaths of one expansion and the next, busy summers, etc. – but by and large I’ve been involved with the game for about that long. I started playing with a buddy of mine when we were poking around looking for an MMO to play. We tried out a handful of different MMOs – EVE Online, Dark Age of Camelot – but when we inevitably ended up logging into the biggest MMO out there, it was completely different. WoW just did everything right. It was visually better than any other fantasy-based MMO that we’d tried at the time, and what’s more it was just plain fun to play.

My buddy quit playing after maybe a couple of months. This probably begs the question of why I continued to play. Well, at first I was at least hooked enough on the game itself to want to keep exploring and leveling my toon.

Then I joined a guild.

I’ve said for a long time now that sort of the “secret sauce” to WoW is “come for the game, stay for the people”, and that’s really the reason I still play today. Sure, I still enjoy leveling up, killing dragons, and getting loot (although not as much as I once did). But the real reason I play is that WoW became (for me) what it started out as to begin with – a vehicle for me to spend time with my friend. Only now it’s friends (plural).

Let me be clear here that when I say “friends” I mean friends. I’m not talking about “my ‘online friends'” (as differentiated from “my ‘RL friends'”). This isn’t like those people you passed once in the hallway in high school and several years later decided to “friend” on Facebook. Incidentally, I am friends with quite a few of my guildies on Facebook. I have some of their phone numbers and talk/IM/txt a handful of them on a daily basis. I know what’s going on in their lives, what they’re up to this weekend, what their kids did in school today. In a lot of cases, the only thing keeping us from going out and grabbing a beer on weekends is physical distance.

So my web comic about WoW wouldn’t strictly be about WoW. It would be about playing a game with a bunch of friends that just happen to have a common interest in killing bosses and getting loot. …which puts me back to: Now, if only I could draw…

The Death of Video Games

I read a great piece yesterday about the death of video games. If you’re a gamer, relax – games aren’t going anywhere any time soon (I don’t think). However, this article is something you should be paying attention to.

The article’s main focus was “casual” online games that have some kind of monetization strategy built around purchasing in-game currency with real dollars (think: Zynga). In addition to being entertaining and insightful, it paints a pretty grim picture in which the future of gaming is decided in the board room by suits who don’t give a shit about making entertainig games. These games that cater exclusively to “gamers” that have been conditioned to understand “games” as this type of microtransaction-based drivel. It’s more-or-less an insidious sort of psychological manipulation that says “How can I addict people to my game as much as possible to ensure that they’re going to continue to play and, perhaps some day, pay me $5 or $10 for what is essentially nothing.”

Now I’ll admit that I’ve played these kinds of games. I was into Mafia Wars for a while, as well as a handful of nerdier variants that involved swords and spells and whatnot. (Note that I never played fucking Farmville.) …and then one day I gave them all up. Just quit cold turkey, deleted all my accounts, and never looked back. I understand the obsessive sort of time suck that these games can be. …but that’s not what I think the real problem here is. The real problem is the “conditioned” part that I mentioned above. The real danger – at least for anyone who enjoys playing genuinely enjoyable games – is when the market for the real games ends up being impacted by these pseduo-games because the players every game to be “like what I play on Facebook.” In short, it is training gamers to like shitty games. And that just won’t do.

Now, you may say “But how is this different from any other game? They don’t give you anything in return for your money, either. This seems a bit like splitting hairs…” Well, if you’re saying that then you aren’t a gamer, so let’s break this down into something that might hit a little closer to the mark for you: movies. Or sports. Or, perhaps, ballet. None of these things gives a direct return on investment. However, I don’t think I need to argue very hard to make the point that entertainment – in whatever form – does have value. Now suppose that instead of the entertainment you’d come to expect, someone decided that it would be better monetized by breaking it up into small chunks that only take a minute or so to “enjoy” and adding some form of hook that makes it maximally addictive. For the movie example, suppose you can watch it on your iPhone in 2 minute increments, each of which ends in a cliffhanger…and you can’t watch the next part until you’ve either (a) waited 5 minutes, (b) payed a dollar, or (c) texted all your friends and told them to watch the “movie”, too.

Now suppose that a huge amount of people – say, everyone on Facebook – started getting hooked on “mini-movies” by Mynga, Inc. Suppose it’s enough to sway the motion picture industry to start thinking “Hey, let’s start making all our movies that way – these Mynga guys are making a killing!”

Yeah. This is what they’re doing to games.

Update: Oops! Forgot to thank Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing for pointing this article out.

Just how big is the World of Warcraft?

I came across this amusing post on the dimensions of the World of Warcraft today (thank God for BoingBoing!). Some of the methods employed are questionable (one commenter noted that using Blink would be a *much* better way of gaging distances) but it’s good for a laugh.

The longest straight, flat line that an adult human can walk in Azeroth without being interrupted by obstacles, mobs or the Horde stretches from the eastern end of the north parapet of the bridge into Westfall, across Elwynn Forest to the southernmost of the Three Corners in Lakeshire. An adult human walking at a steady pace will cover this distance in 18 minutes and 15 seconds. Humans walk at an average speed of 5.6 kilometres (3.5 miles) per hour, and therefore this route is roughly 1.7 kms (1.05 miles) long.

The Noob Comic

Someone drew my attention to The Noob Comic the other day, and I ended up spending the next hour or two “catching up” (there are over 300 comics in the series at present). It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever played (or thought about playing) an MMO. I think I actually laughed out loud when I read the Arsemode comic