In case you’ve ever wondered what the “in stitches” in my blog name is about . . .

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About a squillion years ago I did these cross-stitches as part of a contest for a now-defunct show.

Thought I might as well try and sell the patterns! They’re only available bundled because Etsy takes a cut per sale. And the reason I’m selling patterns instead of selling things I’ve stitched is, well . . . you won’t be saying “shut up and take my money!” once you’ve seen how much I would need to charge you for one of these things.

If I ever design any other patterns, or make any nerdy handmade goods for sale online, you can bet they’ll be available at http://www.etsy.com/shop/eleanorinstitches

Korean Television Producers Are My Everything: An OGN Hearthstone Invitational Fashion Review

Dat castle tho Here is how we know that the Koreans are better than Europeans in every way at producing e-sports television: OGN hired the guy who did sets for your high school play to build a MOTHERFUCKING CASTLE for some “blizzard e-sports legends” to play Hearthstone in. Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.49.24 AM Also, they did some real basic shit like putting the game, the casters, and the other players in different rooms so they can actually talk to each other without affecting the game. They hired a model to dress like a beautiful princess & say some words instead of to walk around with her torso out. They got a person who understands card games at a high level to commentate in English. And they made Savjz wear a shirt that actually fits.

Because, let’s be honest, even though /r/hearthstonevods characterized it as a “Warning, formal clothing tournament,” it’s really a “Warning, the producers dressed the foreigners up like Koreans” tournament, and I could talk about these outfits forever. (At the time of writing, two episodes have aired that were filmed on the same day. If more looks show up in future episodes . . . I may review those too.)

Also, guys, I do talk about the games that have already been played, if you care about spoilers. Which IMO Hearthstone is still worth watching even if you know who wins, but whatever. First up,

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Gyeon Yi-Seul

She is basically a beautiful angel. I suspect that this red dress is only flattering on thin Asians, not curvy white girls, but I still want to steal this look. Also, nice to see a woman on the set doing an actual necessary job, Westerners pls take notes. Hire Chloe Dykstra or somebody to co-host a thing.

Grade: A+, shine on you beautiful diamond

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Chobra and DoA

Chobra is like if James Bond was Korean. DoA is like if James Bond was some guy I slept with in college. Plus also they’re doing some of the best English commentary on any high-production-value Hearthstone show to date, very professional, very high levels of analysis, very entertaining. And their bow ties SPARKLE!

Grade: Exceeds Expectations, so debonair

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Yellow

The dude is WEARING a Lightning Storm. Plus he looks like a goddamn pop star with those white pants.

Grade: 10/10, Would Hit It, Even Though I’m Not Super Into Asians

Bonus Review, Team Big Game Hunter Translator

To be honest, I didn’t even really notice that they dressed the players completely monochromatically until I realized how much this guy stuck out on set in his green pants. In Western fashion there’s a common tenet that “service” jobs have to dress more old-fashioned than people in prestige positions, but that’s clearly not the case in Korea? Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.37.00 PM

Artosis

What a cocky motherfucker. Yeah OK he looks good in anything but that jacket is fucking IMPECCABLY tailored, plus also they’ve styled him to look 80% like a modern American hipster boy, except for the shirt is a little too black and the tie is a little too wide. But the look WORKS. He is WEARING those pants.

Grade: E for Epic

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Hafu

That dress is AMAZING, super on trend & very flattering to her figure. But like many nerd girls (myself included) Hafu is not that great at sitting in a miniskirt or walking in heels. I probably would have put her in something a little more comfortable, just spitballing here but I’m seeing a tight pant, a sequin jacket and a low pump. Of course she is thin and Asian and even though she’s Chinese putting her in this outfit makes her look very Korean. But I do think some of her discomfort was based on the fear of her vagina being seen on television and a different outfit could have helped her feel more confident. They’ve also made a very strange choice in not putting much more makeup on her than they did on the men, of course she does have a lovely natural beauty but seriously, who wears that many bracelets and no eyeliner?

Also, Internet, we need to have a serious talk about Hafu. Yeah she’s not the strongest player in the tournament, but she lost to Savjz, who is one of the best Hearthstone players in the world, indeed the universe. I don’t know how serious she wants to be about Hearthstone, but there is NO reason for an invitational that’s running around inviting Warcraft 3 players to not invite women.

Also apparently chat/comments/etc all hate her for . . . having emotions near a camera? Like OF COURSE that little arc, from lack of confidence to overconfidence to “go away cameraman I am crying,” was going to make the final cut, because that shit is TELEVISION GOLD. It’s not like the men were giving much on the emotional front, other than Savjz knocking his chair over in frustration they’re all so freaking stoic. But then nerds who hate all women because they’re not getting enough pussy are like “I am disappoint in Hafu, she is a complex human being not perfect Asian video game Barbie.” Guys, grow up.

Grade: A for demographic diversity & on-camera presence, more like a B on her outfit/styling though

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Guillame

Do Koreans really think this guy’s that cute? Or is it just because “giyom” is a pun on his name? Regardless, this fella has lived in Korea for over a decade and speaks the language so I almost believe this weird jacket came out of his closet. Before it was in Guillame’s closet, though, I think my brother wore it to be a Spanish dancer in the Nutcracker when he was 16.

Grade: W for Waiter

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Trump

Many of my Twitter followers know that I would like to steal the word “Adorkable” from Zoe Deschanel’s advertising campaigns for New Girl and instead use it to apply to boys like Trump. He makes Hunger Games jokes that probably don’t come across in the Korean subtitles! He has no idea what you’re supposed to do when a beautiful woman is crying! He’s so dorky it’s adorable!

However, he is apparently uncomfortable wearing ANYTHING on his torso other than his green Razer jacket. And what is up with that cravat/scarf thing? He’s like a lamb in peacock’s clothing, or something.

Grade: D for just poor stylistic Decision-making all round

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Gerrard and Gorush

I’m gonna be honest with you here, guys. I have no jokes to make about these outfits, or these players’ looks or personalities. I REALLY TRIED but all I got was that Gorush looks like this kid I went to middle school with.

Grade: B for Boring? Here look at a video of adorable e-sports babies instead:

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Savjz

Savjz has always seemed to me like one of those nerds who still hasn’t realized that he’s handsome. He’s got APPALLING posture, for example, makes me want to reach through the internet & give him a back adjustment whenever I see it, maybe take him with me to yoga class. I’ve probably watched every video show Savjz has appeared in, and he’s MUCH less awkward and self-conscious than he used to be, now he’s awkward in a much more unselfconscious way. It’s . . . actually pretty adorable. I know it’s pronounced Saveej but, Janne, you can savage me any time.

Oh, wait, I was reviewing fashion, not how fun it is to listen to someone mispronounce “Knife Juggler” in a Finnish accent . . .

Savjz has a very awkward amount of scruff going here (which, I approve of him growing a beard, but, dude, you’re on television), and desperately needs a haircut. When he’s allowed to dress himself, he wears his DogeHouse jersey which is about three sizes too big, or t-shirts with stretched-out necks. However it seems like he genuinely doesn’t care what he’s wearing, so they might as well give him a cravat and a Very Pinterest Boutonniere, he’s still equally as confident.

Grade: Most Improved

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Who Won At The Fashion:

Savjz’s boutonniere. Seriously tho. That thing is like if prom and steampunk had a baby.

In conclusion, you guys, I need to watch more Korean television. This show straight up filled my heart with joy, not just because Hearthstone is my favorite game these days, but because of everything about it–compared to other Hearthstone broadcasts that are being put out, where I’m watching for gameplay and either commentary or cute boys.

It’s Blizzard’s world and we’re just living in it

This Thursday I was just doing what I do best, wasting time on the internet when, after a few mentions of apparently bugged hit chance on Demolish, this tweet floated across my feed:

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My ensuing Twitter discussion with Crafticus follows:

Me: How long has this “intended system” been in place? Because this changes every little bit of percent-based decisionmaking.

Me: I thought I was playing in a world governed by the laws of probability, now I find out God cheats at dice?

Crafticus: It’s been in since launch in one form or another.

Me:  Is it part of the reason we used to have “high, moderate, low” instead of numbers?

Crafticus: Yes


PET BATTLE HIT PERCENTAGE IS A TOTAL LIE

YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN FLIPPING A COIN WHEN YOU USE A 50% HIT CHANCE ABILITY


Ok. Time to stop yelling. I’m going to back up a couple steps here and talk about the nature of randomness.

In everyday life, we use numerical probabilities to refer to single events often. “There’s an 80% chance of rain tomorrow.” “There’s like a 90% chance that those two are secretly dating.” “There’s only a 50% chance I’ll make it to your birthday bar crawl.”

However, in retrospect, an event either happened or it didn’t. Those “probabilities” were completely meaningless. I made it to 0% of my boss’s birthday parties in 2014. It rained here on 100% of this Thursdays. Those adorable kids in your guild are either madly in love or just friends. Etc.

The most meaningful way to talk about the probability of events that ACTUALLY OCCUR is through observation of many similar events. For example, in Dilbert’s office back in 1996, there was a 40% chance that taking a sick day would result in a three-day weekend:

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Bringing it back to WoW: Let’s say that every time you used Demolish (when no accuracy buff or debuff was active), you wrote “H” for every hit, and “M” for every miss. (You probably had to do this kind of “experiment” with coin flipping in math class at least once in your childhood.)

The ONLY way for the tooltip hit percentage chance (50%) to be correct and meaningful to pet battlers is if, as the sample size grows larger, the number of hits and misses approach each other. However, we know that, in the game as it stands, this is emphatically NOT the case:


Of course, when I say that probability is only about observation, not prediction, I am lying a little bit. I am only talking about “real life” as humans experience it. When talking about GAMES, this is often a lie. I don’t need to shuffle thousands and thousands of decks of cards to know that there is a 1 in 13 chance the top card (or the bottom card) is a king. Any well-balanced d20 will give me a 13 exactly 5% of the time. And every single time I flip a coin, I have a 50% chance of it coming up heads.

But here’s the thing about the coin: Each flip is independent of the others. Here’s a great example from a Wired article from a couple years ago:

 Imagine a professor asks her students to flip a coin 100 times. One student diligently did the work, and wrote down their results. The other student is a bit of a slacker, and decided to make up fake coin tosses instead of doing the experiment. Can you identify which student is the slacker?

Student 1:
THHHTHTTTTHTTHTTTHHTHTTHT
HHHTHTHHTHTTHHTTTTHTTTHTH
TTHHTTTTTTTTHTHHHHHTHTHTH
THTHTHHHHHTHHTTTTTHTTHHTH

Student 2:
HTTHTTHTHHTTHTHTHTTHHTHTT
HTTHHHTTHTTHTHTHTHHTTHTTH
THTHTHTHHHTTHTHTHTHHTHTTT
HTHHTHTHTHTHHTTHTHTHTTHHT

The second one “looks” more random–however, the first has actually been experimentally derived, while the second is made up.

Because randomness? Doesn’t give a shit about you. Randomness is crueler than your abusive ex. Randomness is BY ITS VERY NATURE completely inhumane. The lottery is just as likely to come up “4-8-16-23-42″ as it is to be “1-2-3-4-5″ as it is to be whatever dumb numbers you happened to pick.

Of course, we don’t like to live in a world we can’t control. Even the most staunchly atheist gamer (I’m talking about myself here) might blow on their dice before they roll, or whisper a prayer to the little babby RNGsus. We notice patterns where there are none: Random effects in Hearthstone, for example, are always supposed to resolve in pro player Gnimsh’s favor. And of course, we develop superstitions like the Gambler’s Fallacy: When we’re on a streak of tails, the next flip is more likely to be a head, right? After all, we deserve it. The universe owes us just one win.

But that’s just superstition talking. The universe owes us nothing.


Here is what random numbers are for in games: They are kingslayers. You may well be better at Scrabble than your nephew, but if you only draw vowels, it’s pretty hard to make a high-scoring play. MMO loot rolls are completely impartial, ignoring the deserving and rewarding only the Greedy. Dumb kids’ games like Chutes and Ladders, where “You roll the dice, and the game plays itself,” take this to the extreme–they give parents and older siblings no advantage over a three-year-old who just learned to count.


Bringing it back to pet battles: “miss streak prevention” is the opposite of randomness. Where RNGsus is capricious beyond measure, Blizzard is attempting benevolence. When we use low-hit-chance abilities when we pet battle, the gambler’s fallacy is no longer fallacious. The more times Demolish fails to land, the more likely it is to land next time. Azeroth is a world we pay to participate in; it is also a world that is, I just learned, bent around gamers’ superstitions.

It’s not hard to guess that “miss streak prevention” is in the game because losing streaks are just no fun. But shouldn’t the higher damage of low-hit-chance abilities be doing some psychological (as well as mechanical) balancing work?

I don’t pretend to be a programmer or a statistics whiz; I’m just an art-school dropout who got a lot of A’s in math class. But I can see two different ways for “loss streak prevention” to work–either instead of flipping a coin, the game could use a “Student 2″ type model:

HMMHMMHMHHMMHMHMHMMHHMHMM
HMMHHHMMHMMHMHMHMHHMMHMMH

Or, it could start out flipping a coin, “Student 1″ style:

MMHHMMMMMMMMHMHHHHHMHMHMH
MHMHMHHHHHMHHMMMMMHMMHHMH

If we just take this sample, and shorten the “miss streaks,” we get something like this:

MMHHMMMHMHHHHHMHMHMH
MHMHMHHHHHMHHMMMMHMMHHMH

I didn’t use any fancy algorithms like Blizzard is probably using to do this–I just used my intuition about what looks really unfun and the delete key. In my “miss streak prevented” results, 24/44, or 55%, or my attempts to Demolish my opponent hit–as opposed to 24/48 (50% on the nose) in the original sample.

Here is the ONLY WAY to make hit chance 50% while also preventing miss streaks: You HAVE to also implement “hit streak prevention.” But that’s kind of a problem–because while losing streaks aren’t fun? Winning streaks are AMAZING. They are the definition of fun. Demolish–or any other high risk, high reward gaming strategy–isn’t supposed to work out for you all the time. It’s supposed to sometimes fail, often be sort of OK, and every once in a while work out amazingly well and win you a game.

“Miss streak prevention” makes some sense for (say) abilities with a 95% hit chance. After all, in a truly random situation, you could still technically miss 20 times in a row with it (though the chances are vanishingly small).

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But the lower the alleged hit chance–the lower the hit chance the first time the ability is used–the harder it is to avoid miss streaks while still allowing hit streaks. (I imagine that there is some kind of breakpoint, where abilities that have been debuffed to a below-50% hit chance can no longer avoid miss streaks, but “guessing how this works” is not really my focus here.)


As you might have surmised from one of my earlier tweets, the reason I reacted so viscerally to this information is that I feel like I’ve been punished for acting “rationally” all this time. In avoiding thinking I believed to be “fallacious”–by avoiding low-hit-chance abilities, by behaving as if I was rolling dice, by avoiding low-hit-chance abilities in most of my builds, I’ve apparently been punishing myself.

How I see it, there are two ways to make the tooltip of Demolish match its behavior. They could give us either the completely unpredictable behavior of the coin flip–or they can raise the lowest base chance to be greater than 50%. Loss-streak prevention is incompatible with a 50% base chance to hit.

I for one would like the former–I would rather live (and, yes, game) in a predictable world, governed by the laws of probability I learned when I was 11: A world where, yes, the “random number” has a tiny chance of being nine forever. I would prefer a game system that can be understood, theorycrafted, even emulated & duplicated outside the actual engine, even if it occasionally just totally screws me over, to a game system where some “benevolent” force is so concerned about my “fun” that the gambler’s fallacy is actually enforced. Knowing that somebody out there is on my side just lessens my sense of accomplishment and joy. Luck is a drug; being given presents can get kind of boring.

More on Draenor pet battles: Crafticus edition!

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Over the past few weeks, the dev who’s been tweeting most about pet battles is Jonathan LeCraft–@TheCrafticus–and while he is a little more prone to .@ the really important things than other devs, there’s quite a lot that serious pet battlers might like to know hidden in his @-replies.

First off, the “quickfire round”:

So, “companions” currently available in-game but not in the pet journal will likely never make the transition.

On the one hand, I personally am not sure what a training dummy pet would have to offer me that a wild battle wouldn’t . . . on the other hand, now that we’re not going to have epic pets, we need SOMETHING in our garrison for pets!

Just really happy that a dev acknowledges my hate of the latest cheese strat! (If you are using this combo . . . I consider you to have no honor as a pet battler.)

And now, on to some meatier subjects:

On January 29, Crafticus asked for player feedback on what abilities felt least effective & important to players:

This was quickly followed by an admission that Hawk Eye (Increases your critical strike chance by 25% for 4 rounds) totally sucks:

As well as a screenshot of a redesigned Croak (Reduces the enemy pet’s critical strike chance by 25% for 4 rounds):

Based on the change to Croak (which now does damage as well as applying a buff), I feel like we can expect an overhaul of many abilities which simply apply buffs and debuffs without also dealing damage or healing–certainly most of the Critical Strike buffs will probably undergo some pretty significant revision:

In my opinion, this speaks to a very general principle of design–whether pets’ abilities should synergize in each pet’s moveset, or through the team as a whole. I personally highly prefer pets that synergize with themselves–because swapping pets, especially during a PvP battle, can cause you to take a huge penalty. Foreboding Curse is an especially odd case–it’s only found on the Ominous Flame (one of the Timeless Isle fire kitties), and as both a speed and damage debuff it would indeed synergize well with a Flurry-type ability as well as any DoT effect or ability that does its damage across multiple hits. However, the Ominous Flame has no abilities AT ALL that benefit from going first; only one DoT; and its Multi-Hit ability (Conflagrate) shares a slot with Foreboding Curse.

Ultimately I have to say I agree with @SerrineWoW here–it’s not just about bad abilities, it’s about cool abilities being difficult to use if they’re only used for flavor, and not as part of a synergistic moveset.

This is a question I asked for purely “journalistic” reasons. Way back in May, when Patch 5.4 hadn’t even made it to the PTR yet, there was some discussion of whether or not this double strength should be changed–in my opinion, a mechanical pet doing mechanical damage is barely viable in PvP when elemental pets are popular, which is annoying; on the other hand, our carefully-crafted teams to take down the hardest tamers (Terrible Turnip vs. Stormoen, for example) would all be shaken up if such a change were to occur, and some pet tamers might give up entirely rather than re-learn such an integral part of the battle system. Imagine someone who’s halfway through the Celestial Tournament when that patch hits–they had every fight solved, now they need to redo half their teams!

Ultimately, I think this double strength was a mistake, but the time to make the change was in the Mists beta or (at the very latest) patch 5.1–before there was any PvE content out there beyond Grand Master Aki.

I do have to say I LOVE pets who deal damage in a different “type,” especially when you can find a “hard counter” to a PvE pet encounter–Magical Dragons vs. Flying, Snails vs. Elemental, Frogs vs. Undead. However I am a bit skeptical about Nature’s Ward (Restores 137 health every round for 5 rounds. While healing, your type is transformed into Elemental.) Liopleurodon even deemed it one of the worst abilities:

Like Lio, I’m not quite sure what sort of situation this is supposed to save you from–an elemental that does critter damage would be a hard counter against a Undead that does Mechanical damage–not a combination that is currently in the game! It would also be a bit of a lifesaver against Undead that does Beast damage–something you see slightly more often–but the ability is not only found only on deer, it always shares a slot with Tranquility–an ability which would almost always be stronger heading out into the unknown of PvP

Type-transforming effects, for those who haven’t been using Nature’s Ward or Rot (which turns your opponent into Undead), don’t change your passive ability–only your damage susceptibility–so this effect can’t save you from Scorched Earth or Lightning Storm damage. It would be very interesting if we saw MORE type-transforming effects on new pets. Offensively, it’s easy to see what the synergy is; it’s harder to see the potential when used defensively.


On a more general level, whenever I put together a roundup like this, I start to question the use of Twitter as the primary means of communication between fans and Blizzard. It’s frankly AMAZING to get your most pressing question answered promptly–but at the same time, it means that a lot of important stuff gets lost under the radar. I try to rescue some of the information that’s most important to pet battlers–but if the only place you can find a bit of “news” is a month ago on Twitter or on my tiny blog, it’s as good as never being said publicly at all. On the other hand, any old thing said to a WoW Insider writer gets broadcast far and wide.

Hopefully we will get more info on pets soon–fansite/podcast interviews, or a longform blog from a developer–but in the meantime, join me in Twitter-stalking @TheCrafticus! Learn what he thinks about robot sharks and robot moose! And ask him lots of questions about YOUR most pressing pet battle questions.

No epic pets in Warlords of Draenor

So, guys, Mumper has been tweeting about pet battles again! And he’s very much backpedaling on some of the tweets covered in my post-Blizzcon pet roundup.

Specifically, they are no longer planning on giving us epic pets:

Personally, I think this is for the best; considering how only rare pets are used for PvP by sophisticated players, the introduction of epic pets would lead in short order to only epic pets being PvP-viable and creating a massive barrier to entry into pet battling for a new or returning player. Does anyone else remember fighting opponents with gray pets during the first few weeks of What We’ve Been Training For? The devs’ ideas of what pet quality would mean to players ended up being vastly different from the community consensus, leaving players who aren’t reading WoW blogs and listening to pet battle podcasts far, far behind. Hence the reasoning on no epic pets:

There is also still no plan to increase the pet level cap from 25–meaning that there will be no way to roflstomp the existing pet battle PvE content just by outleveling it or acquiring higher-quality pets. The fact that Pandaria tamer fights will remain relevant is great news for those who haven’t yet attempted it–but for those pet collectors who don’t love battling but want a Zao, Calfling of Niuzao to be adorable and follow them around all day, there’s no easy road in sight–just keep copying strats until you find one that works for you, I guess?

And for of us (like me) who have already completed every bit of PvE pet battling in-game (finally got around to earning my final Celestial Coin and buying Chi-chi today), the fact that they’re keeping all the old content relevant is slightly worrying for an entirely different reason–I worry that new tamer battles may not be challenging to those of us who have already amassed large high-level collections of pets. Hopefully there will be interesting & challenging types of new pet PvE content available in Patch 6.0–not just six new tamers available to everyone who’s defeated Aki.

The Future of Pet Battles: Outlook Hazy

A few days after Blizzcon, I made an excruciatingly detailed WarcraftPets forum post about everything that had been said about battle pets in Draenor on the Blizzcon stage, on podcasts, and on Mumper’s Twitter timeline.

About five minutes after I posted that I thought, what the shit am I doing, I should just make a blog about WoW and gaming and stuff where I can talk about pet battles all day long, so here I am.

I’m not going to copy/paste everything over there–a lot of it is pretty dry stuff–but I’ll hit the highlights & back everything up with a source. (If I forget to link a source, just go back to that forum post.)

First: The pet level cap in Warlords will remain 25. That means you won’t have to grind out 5 more levels on each of your max-level pets, it will keep Northrend-through-Pandaria pet battle PvE content relevant, and new and returning players won’t have too high of a barrier to entry to pet battling. We will see new wild pets, new learnable pets, and plenty of new tamer battles!

All right, let’s talk about some actual surprises: Have you heard about the garrisons we’re going to get to build in Draenor? Pretty cool, right? Well, one of the buildings in the garrison is going to be a pet stable!

We don’t know a ton of details about the mechanics of the garrison yet, but we know it’s going to be part player housing, part RTS minigame, and you’ll be able to collect & level humanoid followers of various rarities. We also know it’s going to be well-integrated into the storyline of Warlords, and that we’ll get to start building it when we’re level 90!

At the pet stable, we will be able to choose a certain number of pets who will be able to frolic in the open world. We can invite our friends in to see our garrison (by being a party leader) and although I won’t be able to show off all 414 of my little friends, I’ll be able to pick the coolest & most interesting ones. Or put together some kind of RP theme around the different holidays Or maybe I’ll just display all the moths? I . . . I really love moths, guys. They are seriously OP.

There will also be a tamer we can battle in the pet stable and . . . pet breeding? Now: the design of how pet breeding will work in its specifics is still really up in the air and a lot WILL change before and during beta. And also, nobody understands what the current design is based on what Mumper’s tweeted so far:

So . . . who even knows. Early days yet. I looked at those and thought, you start with two pets of the same family but different species and breeds. You leave with two pets, still with different species but now with the same breed. But most other members of the community think the opposite: That we will forever be farming for high-level pets of our desired breed as fodder for our deranged program. But what we DO know is that:

  1. We will probably finally be able to add Epic pets to our journal & boost our WarcraftPets scores, and
  2. We will also finally be able to have a little more control over what stats a pet has.

I do have a few concerns about breeding–I’m worried about the impact of epic pets on PvP, and I’m worried that pet breeding won’t reward the kind of collecting many of us have been doing in Mists. Just to stay on the safe side, I think I’ll be catching every blue-quality pet I come across in the wild from now on!

And now for something no one is talking about: I’d like to bring in a blue post by Crithto from this May about proposed changes to 5.4 pet battles that never made it into the game. To me at least, these seemed more like expansion-level changes than patch ones (and I believe I said as much in the thread):

We’re looking to make further Pet Battles adjustments in a future patch (potentially 5.4), and your valuable feedback is needed!

Currently, in an Elemental vs. Mechanical matchup, Elementals gain both an attack bonus versus Mechanicals as well as a defensive bonus against Mechanical abilities. In order to help even the playing field a bit, we were mulling over some potential changes to damage types, and the families they would be weak against.

Here are some initial ideas that are being kicked around:

  • Mechanical abilities would deal less damage versus Critter (instead of Elemental)
  • Elemental abilities would deal less damage versus Dragonkin (instead of Critter)
  • Flying abilities would deal less damage versus Elemental (instead of Dragonkin)

And here is a second set of ideas we’re considering:

  • Undead abilities would deal less damage versus Elemental (instead of Aquatic)
  • Mechanical abilities would deal less damage versus Aquatic (instead of Elemental)

Your thoughts on these potential changes would be really helpful, so please take a moment to reply below and let us know what you think.

I do think we’ll finally see this issue addressed in Warlords–I know a lot of players will be distressed that this will shake up the teams we use for content that’s “on farm” but I believe that Elementals’ double strength against Mechanical was a design mistake from the beginning that should never have made it out of beta. Personally, I probably won’t be running the Celestial Tournament (where comps are tightest) after I’ve gotten all four pets out of it, and since pet battles are basically a puzzle game to me, it’ll be interesting to have to “solve” my carry strategies all over again. I’m confident that the new pets we’ll see in the new expansion will have interesting new movesets that can slide into any “hard counter” gaps that might be created by these type of changes.

Shoutout to the fabulous Alludra, who inspired me to get serious about pet collecting way back at level 85, and her co-host Ben on Battle Pets! Thanks for the shoutout on Episode 35, guys. :)

Character Creation, Aesthetics and Compromise

We’ve known for quite a while that new character models for the older races would be coming to the World of Warcraft. The high polygon count, level of expressiveness, and bouncy ponytail technology available in the Pandaren race has been putting boxy Human males and unblinking Troll females to shame for the past year. Many players had been eagerly anticipating seeing new character models at Blizzcon; and many players were thrilled with what was shown in the introductory Warlords of Draenor panel as well as the ensuing art panel.

However, controversy has been brewing after Ghostcrawler stated there were currently no plans to allow free recustomizations when the new character models were implemented–something that many members of the community had been hoping for and expecting. This tweet, however, gives us hope that they will be listening to community feedback over the coming months:

And Bashiok has been community managing away on this thread on the official forums:

Again I think it’s just way too early to make a determination, and Tom certainly didn’t give a definite answer. Our artists are going to extreme lengths to ensure the new models and animations embody (kyuck knyuck?) what you know and love about your characters. Our hope (and Tom’s point) is that you log in, go AWESOME, and enjoy playing your character that still looks and moves and acts like your character – just at a much higher fidelity. If it comes down to it and we just totally miss the mark I’m sure we’d at least seriously consider offering a chance to pick something else. But again, too early to say for sure.

Gnome female side-by-side

Before I dive into the controversy, I’d just like to go on record that I REALLY loved the models they showed at Blizzcon. Just look at that gnome female. Her eyebrows are the same color as her hair. She looks more like a moving, breathing version of the gnomes you see in concept art, official illustrations and fanart. Plus, her underwear looks sewn, not painted-on!

The origins of the controversy

There are many reasons people make the choices they do in the character creation screen. Sometimes it’s for an RP reason, because of “personality.” If you look at Blizzard’s official statements above (and almost everything else they’ve said), it’s clear that they are very focused on making sure that, if you picked your character’s face because you liked the “soul” that it conveyed, you will not be disappointed when you log in on patch day–and that is an absolutely commendable goal.

However, people also like to create characters (especially female characters) that are attractive and “pretty,” and they like to create characters (especially Humans and Blood Elves) that look like themselves. And they create those characters within the constraints of the character creation system in front of them.

For myself, my main, Syrella, is a Human. I color my hair red; she’s a natural redhead. I didn’t think any of the available faces looked too much like mine, but she’s got full lips, a button nose and an oval face, which is good enough for government work. And neither she or I ever opt for a short hair at the barbershop.

Syrella Face     Syrjiki Face

My Horde main, Syrjiki, is a Troll. She has the exact same face as almost every other female Troll player character, because Trolls only have one prettyfase available in the character creation menu.

If I was offered a recustomization, I think I would prefer to keep Syrella at the “equivalent” to what she is now (maybe with a different hairdo and smaller earrings). I think she’s got a lot of personality, and I’d like her to look more like herself than she does now, the way the male dwarf and gnome shown at Blizzcon do. Syrjiki, on the other hand, has no personality. It doesn’t help that she hardly has any facial animations, of course, but she only has that face because I didn’t want her to look ugly or old.

Limited choices & compromise

The Troll female is one of the most obvious cases where the available choices (or lack thereof) means that players feel they are compromising their vision of their character. But at least you can choose if your Troll female will be ugly, old or pretty. The screenshots below show every option available for Tauren faces: five male on the left, four female on the right, and hardly any difference of “personality” at all between them.

Male tauren faces   Female tauren faces

I do not envy the artists who, while working on the beautiful new high-polygon-count Tauren models we know are coming, are limited to reinterpreting these nine bland expressions.

We should have more faces to choose from for every race. Female Pandaren have twenty different face choices. You can be pretty, cute, both or neither, and every face has a distinct personality. For male Pandaren there are twenty-one options. And the Pandaren, unlike the older models, don’t have old or ugly faces available at all–any of these faces would be appealing to a player who wants to create an attractive (if rotund) character. Now given the sheer number of new character models we expect are coming over the course of WoD, it may be too much to ask for each race & gender to have as many face choices as the Pandaren, but it would be nice if everyone had at least as many options as the female Humans do–fifteen, including the old and ugly options.

I also know that many players would also like to be able to customize more aspects of their characters. While it doesn’t look like any variety in character body types will be coming anytime soon, Sarah Pine mentioned freckles being an option for the dwarf females available at the Blizzcon WoW demo stations. If we don’t get a free recustomization, how will Blizzard decide which female dwarves get freckles and which don’t?

Aesthetic missteps vs. low poly count

There are two different things people talk about when they say that older WoW character models are bad-looking in comparison to the modern Pandaren. The first, and most obvious, has to do with low poly count, not enough bones in the skeleton, and beards clipping into shoulders. That’s what people see when they look at gnomes, dwarves and male orcs–you can see what they were going for, and they conveyed it effectively, but the technology has moved on in the past 10 years. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these aesthetically successful characters, with a very traditional fantasy look, were the new models shown in greatest detail at Blizzcon. Those two dwarves below really do look like the same dude–the one on the left is just a better-rendered version of the exact same concept.

Male dwarf comparison

The low poly-count issue is one that the art team and devs are clearly abreast of, and they know how important it is to address. That is not, however, the only thing people are talking about when they complain about the Tauren model, the Human male face, or even the Worgen female. In these cases, the aesthetic sensibility brought to these races just seems off. The character models are much farther from concept art, or from how players imagine their characters “really” look. And redesigning these models is going to be a lot more work, especially given Blizzard’s apparent tight focus on creating close equivalencies to the options already available in-game.

Old Tauren male

I’ve always felt that the Tauren models in-game were a little too “gritty” and “realistic”–oddly enough, the original anthropomorphic race never seemed as cartoony and timeless as the rest of WoW. But just look at these beautiful new Tauren male stills from the art panel! If the female is even half as successful you can bet I’ll be rolling through Mulgore the moment that model is deployed.

New Tauren male

I mean seriously, look at this guy. He’s got a personality. He’ll look great next to any Pandaren. But if Blizzard doesn’t offer us a free recustomization, there will still only be five Tauren male faces to choose from, and none of them will be allowed to diverge too far from the relatively boring choices available now. And that’s a damn shame.

Credit where credit is due: This blog post began its life as a long-winded comment on this morning’s WoW Insider Breakfast Topic. MMO-Champion compiled many blue posts I didn’t bother to quote on their blog. And I’m sure there are many other blogs, tweets and forum posts on this issue but I haven’t read them yet.