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Officers' Quarters: Gnome and punishment

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Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook.

Like any group that runs an organized activity, raiding guilds need rules. Rules define expectations, set boundaries for behavior that might cause problems, and establish consequences when a member hurts the team. The latter part is often tricky. The week's email asks, What do you do when someone breaks the rules?


I have a question about guild management.

Coming into MoP raiding we have afew new people and we've written up our rules on the forums such as being on time, gemmed/enchanted/flasked, etc to make it clear to everyone what we expect from our raiders. One challenge that we currently have is coming up with consequences for breaking these rules. Our guild roster isn't large enough to always bench someone from coming to raid and while we're all gearing up denying someone gear seems to just make things harder for everyone else overall. If occurrences are excessive we will recruit to replace the person, but otherwise we need some good consequences for rule infractions.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Officers' Quarters: How to persuade your guild leader

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

Every so often I write a post purely for my own convenience, and this is one of them. I get a lot of e-mails week to week all asking the same question: How can I try to change my guild leader's mind? The topics can vary greatly, from loot systems to promotions to guild bank rules to the level of roleplaying the guild enforces.

I want to point all those people in one direction. Now that this column is live, I'll be able to send them here, as a starting point, and offer to answer any follow-up questions they might have.

So without further ado, here is, from my point of view as a guild leader, the best way to persuade yours.

1. Spend time thinking about why he or she instituted the rule or the policy.

Try to put yourself in your guild leader's place and imagine what motivated him or her to do things that way. Is it a matter of convenience or fairness? Is it meant to quell drama? You'll have a much better chance to get your guild leader's attention if you can begin your argument with a statement showing that you understand why they made the original decision. The first thing your GL is going to assume is that you don't understand why, so if you can get past that point, you'll be in better shape to persuade!

2. Spend time thinking about the consequences of changing the policy.

Notice that you have taken no action yet. This is intentional. Many players approach me with knee-jerk reactions to a guild situation they don't like. They try to talk me out of it before even thinking too deeply about why that policy is in place or what would happen if it were changed.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Officers' Quarters: Policy and practice

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

With the release of Icecrown Citadel in Patch 3.3 on Tuesday, it seemed like a good time to talk about loot policy. Everyone's going to be drooling over the upgrades in there, especially some of the unique items like Deathbringer's Will, and loot assignments may become heated affairs. This week's e-mail highlights an issue that could come up in your guild -- and why you should think twice before you let it happen. (FYI, to explain why he's talking about Ulduar loot, the e-mail was sent to me in October, and I responded to it then.)

I am an officer in a guild where our loot rules until recently seemed fair to me but now I am not so sure. I have been raiding with my guild for almost a year as part of the first team and the way our loot rules work is main spec then off spec NEED rolls, if no one needs, it gets D/E. You get 1 epic and 1 tier per run unless there is no one else who can use the item or every 1 that qualifies for the item has already won something in which case you get to roll again.

This system has always seemed fair to me even though I don't always win the item I want. In fact I haven't won a single upgrade since July. Where as other team members seem to keep getting better and better geared and I am getting left behind. There is a DK in our team who has out-rolled me 4 times for weapon upgrades. His weapon keeps getting better and better and mine just stays where it is.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Blizzard and how they deal with ninjas

Wojtek sent us this thread in which he posted a long series of emails between him and Blizzard about the ninja of an Onyxia Drake. There's a lot of back and forth, but eventually, the bottom line is that Blizzard was not able to help him, whether that's because he didn't have the information right, they couldn't find what they needed in the chat logs, or they just didn't want to. Later on, the thread is locked, and Wojtek is given the usual feedback address for the GM actions.

So what does all this mean? We've heard in the past that Blizzard will occasionally help with ninjas, and we've even heard unofficially that if you get the main looter in a PuG raid to state the looting conditions ahead of time, Blizzard can go back, look that up, and then reward loot based on who really deserves it. But of course, all of that is unofficial, and there are so many variations and issues in situations like these that there can't really be a hard and fast rule -- sometimes Blizzard can help, sometimes they can't.

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Filed under: Items, Blizzard, Raiding

PopCap's addons are obfuscated, Blizzard is OK with that

We've posted about both the Bejeweled and the Peggle addons here lots -- we're big fans of PopCap releasing free versions of their games for us to play in Azeroth. But all might not be well in addon land -- a few authors have come to us to point out that PopCap's addons actually contain obfuscated code in them. Obfuscation is a little hard to define -- it's a coding technique that makes code difficult to be read by other programmers, either for purposes of compression or to deliberately hide the code's function or purpose from anyone reading it. Obfuscation is strictly prohibited by Blizzard's addon policy, and so when addon authors dived into PopCap's code and found it obfuscated, they were concerned that PopCap is dodging Blizzard's rules.

We spoke with PopCap about the issue, and they told us that yes, they run a program called luasrcdiet on their code to shrink it down and keep the memory footprint to a minimum. While working on their addons, they were in contact with Blizzard (and showed them the original, non-obfuscated code), and they tell us that Blizzard decided that since the purpose of the obfuscation rule in the policy was to allow the community to police their own addons for bad code (and since Blizzard trusted PopCap, there were no concerns there), then Blizzard was OK with PopCap releasing obfuscated addon code.

So. Has PopCap broken the rules? In the strictest sense, yes -- the rules say no obfuscated code, and PopCap's addons do make things hard to read. But Blizzard, who wrote the rules to begin with, has no problem with making an exception for PopCap, and in doing so, their reasoning seems pretty sound. It doesn't seem fair to make an exception in any case, but we admit, if you're going to make an exception for anyone, you can't go wrong with PopCap. What do you think?

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Ghostcrawler and the pace of change

Ghostcrawler has a nice long screed over on the forums about Blizzard's theory about change. Way back when the first few patches went into the game, Blizzard had a plan to adjust a few classes at a time -- one patch would be all about Mages, while the next would be about Rogues. But right around Burning Crusade, they changed their mind -- no more large patches, and instead it would be back to lots of smaller changes.

Of course, nowadays, whether they mean to or not, we're back to the way it was -- patch 3.1 will have pretty huge changes for all of the classes, and everyone is getting a free respec. GC says that while the "progressive patching" idea was a good one, Blizzard just doesn't have the chance to take that time -- patching is a big undertaking, and the way they change the game just plain leads to putting a lot of changes in a big patch. He would love to have the team make smaller patches more frequently (tweaking instead of a complete revamp), but the way things are now, the system just isn't set up that way.

He also reiterates that Blizzard is designing the game, not the people who complain on the forums. Blizzard listens to what their customers have to say, but they make their own decisions from there. Sometimes, that means we complain about problems that don't get fixed (Cower bug, anyone?), and sometimes it means they hear us complain about things that turn out not to be a problem (back in beta, a few forum posters claimed Death Knights would never be able to tank, and we now know that's clearly not true). We can hope for more sequential changes in the future, but GC says that right now, the way the game works is that Blizzard fixes as they can, and those fixes will come out in large chunks like 3.1.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Classes, Wrath of the Lich King, Forums

New mousecloning software lets you mouse multiple screens [Updated]

Update: Despite evidence that Blizzard was okay with this app, on the Customer Service forums, Malkorix tells users he "strongly advises shying away from this program." Use it at your own risk, folks.

Update II: The folks behind MouseCloner have informed us that while the app did originally use "prerecorded x/y coordinates" (which is what Malkorix found a problem with), they have specifically recoded the app to use only mouse position, in order to stay away from questions about scripting. To our (and their) best knowledge, the app is safe to use, but as always, you use third-party programs with your client at your own risk. You can find more information and ask more questions on the Mousecloner forums.

Original Post: Now here's a subject with my name written all over it. Those of you who followed my exploits over on the official forums will likely remember my responses to multiboxing questions with a nice, clear stance on what Blizzard does and doesn't support with regard to multiboxing tools. It was good for the multiboxing community -- and bad for anti-multiboxing trolls -- to have readily-available blue responses to those kinds of important questions. Even Tom Chilton (a.k.a Kalgan) has come out in support of the practice.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, multiboxing is the act of playing more than one WoW account/client at the same time. There have historically been a number of programs used by multiboxers that help with client-switching or keybinding to make controlling two or more accounts easy.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Hardware

FCC commissioner Deborah Tate resigns

The Huffington Post (among other sources) is reporting that FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate has resigned. This is the woman who, less than a month ago, said that World of Warcraft was one of the top reasons for college drop-outs. Now, I can't entirely blame someone for seeing MMOs as a bad thing, there are certainly a lot of people who don't seem to have the ability to throttle their playtime, but that really wasn't her first silly act or statement while she held her position (taking advice from corporations is bad, mmkay). A lot of people will take this news as a godsend.

Of course, that doesn't mean she didn't do any good at all. Your personal views may differ from hers depending on the topic, but she's generally pretty well regarded for her efforts when it comes to issues regarding children and their protection. Personally, I don't agree with the extreme 'think of the children!' mentality (or Tate's approach to it) that's become increasingly common, but again, my opinion doesn't represent a nation. A few out of line comments don't negate her efforts entirely.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

FCC Comissioner: World of Warcraft causes college dropouts

Oh boy. Deborah Tate is an FCC Commissioner (and will be for another three years at least -- she was appointed for another five year term in 2007), and claimed in a speech about telecom policy and regulation last week that "one of the top reasons for college drop-outs in the U.S. is online gaming addiction -- such as World of Warcraft -- which is played by 11 million individuals worldwide."

Never mind that World of Warcraft, is a game, not an addiction, and never mind that most of those 11 million people play it and are completely healthy socially and financially, and never mind even that any evidence you'd find that World of Warcraft causes dropouts is anecdotal at best. Can you really blame a game for someone making the choice to leave college? We, as you might have guessed, think not.

And there's more: Tate's Wikipedia page says that not only has she spoken out strongly in favor of DRM, and not only has she taken talking points directly from Clear Channel in trying to work on the Sirus/XM merger (a government official speaking the words of a corporation, that's just what we need), but she has also blamed television for childhood obesity. Nice one. One more reason why we are thrilled to see that we may finally get some folks in the FCC who actually know what they're talking about when it comes to online gaming.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, News items

Officers' Quarters: Unchart(er)ed territory

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

It's no secret that the game we all know and love is in a period of transition. Many basic assumptions of Warcraft are changing, from the way loot is itemized, to the way buffs work, to the very nature of raiding. Amidst all this change, I decided to update the document my guild wrote to define our basic principles and guidelines. Written in 2005, it was astonishingly outdated. I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised. Someone who stopped playing back when Blackwing Lair was the endgame would barely recognize WoW if they rolled a premade 80 on the beta servers today.

We call this document our guild's philosophy. Many guilds call it their charter. However you label it, right now is a great time to reevaluate exactly what your guild is all about and what your basic rules and beliefs will be going into the next expansion.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Belfaire on community policing and GM subjectivity

As you may recall, a few days ago, I wrote a little Dear Blizzard letter on the subject of enforcing the RP and Naming Policy. Of course, Once one writes a letter to someone, it is a good idea to deliver it, and thus I delivered it, or at least the issues therein, over on the Customer Service Forum. I was lucky enough to have Belfaire, who you may remember from his post explaining Blizzard's stance on multi-boxing, answer some of my questions and concerns. I also got some pretty well thought out feedback from a couple other people browsing the forums, including some roleplayers who disagreed with some of my points, so I think the threads worth a read in itself, and I'll comment a bit more on what Belfaire said after the break, now that I've had time to digest it a bit.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, RP

Dear Blizzard: Am I your police officer?

I think Xxleetdudexx assumed that RP stood for real pwnage. Dear Blizzard,

First of all, I really do have to thank you for changing the name of that guy called Longjohnson. Yeah, He sent us this pretty long rant about how it was unfair his name was changed, but honestly, it was a pretty clear violation of the naming policy against inappropriate references to bodily parts or functions (Sorry Jason, I'm only siding with you to a point here. Your character's name needed to be changed). That said, I'll give him this: It is pretty annoying that he was able to then proceed to the Armory and find 19 characters named Longjohnson and 60 characters named Bigjohnson. If a name is impermissible because of being profane or inappropriate on one server, it should count on them all, right? Every server has the same set of naming rules, except for RP servers, which have the extra "appropriate for an RP server" qualifier, so this shouldn't be a problem. Mike has actually observed that enforcement tends to be a bit lax in the past regarding both the naming policy and RP server policy, but I figured it was worth bringing up again.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard

Watch out for Ritual of Refreshment ninjas

I've heard about this multiple times since Ritual of Refreshment was first introduced in 2.3: Mages are a little combusted over casting this food creation spell in the battlegrounds. Their first complaint was the reagent cost-- even though casting buffs is free in BGs, the reagent cost is still there for mages, and so lots of them haven't bothered casting it at all (I ran an AB to research this story-- tough work, but someone's got to do it-- and though we had two mages, I didn't see a table at all).

But now, the other problem arising is actually ninja looters-- people are joining the battlegrounds, grabbing all the food from the table, and then afk-ing out. It seems crazy to me, but it's happening, and Neth says (as per Blizzard's rules) that stealing items from other players in this way isn't actually a violation of game policies. But it is dumb. Never mind why you would need all that food, but it seems like the issue would be easy enough to fix-- either make food conjured in BGs stay in BGs, or just make the food unique to 100 (apparently people are sometimes stealing all 50 stacks right off the table).

Of course, that doesn't fix the other RoR problems-- a few mages are also wondering why they get to lay a great spread, while only getting crumbs and water themselves, but that's a problem for another day. Have you had your Manna biscuits ganked in the BGs?

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Instances

Blizzard's forum policy against foreign languages

This post on the official forums, like many others in languages that aren't English, got closed down. Why? Because it's a policy of Blizzard that they do not "offer foreign language support" on the forums (although, in looking through the Forums Guidelines, I can't see anything that officially says that). At any rate, the rule is no language but English on the official forums, and Timbal is sticking by that policy.

And it's not just Spanish-- I've seen this come up on the EU forums as well, when someone posts in French or German. Why is Blizzard so opposed to players posting in their native language? Of course, as Timbal says, not everyone can know every language, but Timbal knew enough Spanish to realize the original thread (called "server latino") was asking for new realms. And this is 2007-- is it too much to ask for one Blizzard forums employee that speaks Spanish, or in the EU, French or German? They may not know enough to actually answer the questions in that language, but they should know enough to police players who are speaking in that language, maybe in a special foreign language section of the forum.

Now, also according to forums policy (but also not listed in the "guidelines"), you're also not supposed to request new realms, so even if the thread was in English, it would have been closed anyway. And if someone speaking a foreign language is somehow being obscene, that doesn't belong on the forums either. But it's unfair for people who have legitimate questions or requests and want to posit them in their native language to be shut down by Blizzard automatically. Nine million people play this game, and it's very likely a large number of them don't speak English as their native language-- for Blizzard to completely ignore them on the forums is a poor decision.

Update: Our terrific commenters point out that there are French, Spanish, and German forums for the EU servers. But the fact remains that Blizzard closes, without second thought, any thread started in a foreign language on the US servers.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard

Enforcing RP

The rogue Grenthar sighed as he slowly walked through the crowd at the main entrance of Stormwind. It had been a long day of slaughtering boars and thinning out the Gnoll population, but it was worth it-- he had a pack full of skins and trinkets to put up for auction. He entered the House, sticking to the shadows by instinct, and when his turn came, dealt quickly and quietly with the auctioneer, firmly setting each starter and buyout price for his goods.

Suddenly, there was a yell from outside in the city: "OMG did you just see what happened on 24? Jack BAuer ROXXORS!!"

Yeah, personally, I'm not that big on roleplaying, but I can see what people get out of it-- complete immersion in a world where they're the hero. Unfortunately for those really interested in it, the illusion is so easy to break that even on RP servers, Blizzard doesn't really enforce roleplaying that much. From what I've gathered, the majority of it takes place in groups and guilds of people committed to doing it right.

So when Patsie asks why Blizzard even has an RP policy when they don't enforce it, I can see what he's saying. And maybe Blizzard should crack down on non-RPers, just as they've cracked down on gold spammers and AFKers. What if everyone on an RP server could report someone with just a right click, and if enough reports came in on that person, they earned a suspension or even a ban from the server entirely? You have to think that if Blizzard made a serious effort to shut down non-RP activity on an RP server, they'd become what they were meant to be in the first place-- servers where everyone actually played a role.

Then again, people who don't roleplay are paying their $15 like the rest of us, and, as Patsie says, there are lots of people on the RP servers who didn't join them to RP. But if Blizzard is advertising these servers as RP, shouldn't they be taking steps (beyond enforcing the naming convention, which is iffy itself) to make them so?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, RP

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