Thursday, October 11, 2012

2.11. Divergent Paths, circa 2007
Source: SXSW

The Latest Fad

"Check out this new website."

I tilted my head to the side, peering around my work monitor, revealing Ater. His gaze remained fixed on his own computer's monitor, the clacking of keys producing a steady hum from his side of our collaborative desk arrangement.

"What's the url?"

" I guess it's been around awhile but I heard about it through South by Southwest. It's bizarre." Ater got up, walked around to my side, and pointed to the registration link. "Here...set up an account."

I clicked the link, filled out my info, waited for the confirmation, and then logged in. A lone window greeted me, with a single label above it: 

What are you doing?

"This is weird. Who would care about what I'm doing?"

"I know...crazy. But I bet people would use this for all sorts of things." He walked back around to his desk and took a seat, "Maybe even like having public conversations."

"That's just creepy, though. Following people's conversations? I mean, I can have a conversation over the Internet in IRC if I want to."

"Right," Ater shot back, "but how many people use IRC?"

"A hell of a lot of nerds, that's for sure!" I laughed.

"Nerds, yeah. But not the masses. Think about what you have to do to get into IRC. Gotta know what server to connect to, and then deal with all the lingo. Figure out what channels to go into. IRC is still pretty least for the general user. IRC is great for people who are tech like you and me. But not very usable for the masses. That's the difference."

I looked back at the website, and then looked at Ater. It was as though every time he spoke, there was some deeply insightful message that just seemed to be as plain-as-day to him. The masses? General everyday users, uninterested in technology, barely knowing the difference between Yahoo! and Google? They're going to be the ones having public conversations where strangers eavesdrop on one another? 

If it had been anybody else making such a bold prediction, I would've laughed them out of the room. The masses have never flocked to technology. As long as I've been alive, non-tech folk have always expressed frustration and dismissal when it came to technology. Cool for us...confusing, boring, and dull for them. Even at the agency where Ater and I built websites for customers specifically paying for technology, we struggled with training them. Things were too complex, too many terms to learn, too many buttons to press and an awful lot of "why doesn't it just work."

I couldn't help but be reminded of the plight of the casual.

Two Separate Roads

Every so often, a lone forum post would pop-up on the Battle.Net forums about why there weren't more raids like Karazhan. Smaller, less oppressive raids, allowing players to rely on fewer of one another to accomplish the same tasks. Most often, Blizzard wouldn't respond to these complaints. The folks in charge, namely Tigole, tuned it out as white noise. Raiding was never meant to be for the masses, the great majority of players that were confused by basic concepts like moving out of the fire. Should it have been any wonder that Tigole himself came from a background of hardcore late-night raiding in EverQuest, ranting on his guild's website about the undeserving whiners who were slowly forcing EQ into a watered-down grave. Raiding was a privilege, not a right. You want it? You get off your ass and you do it. No complaining of size or of having to interact with other people. You take that energy you'd normally use to bitch and moan about how you have it so hard...and you simply go and get shit done. Anybody that complained of raids being too large, too many things to learn, too many buttons to press...didn't belong in raids in the first place.

I looked back at the website, asking its presumptuous question. Ater did have a point. It was simple and accessible. Certainly something that far more users could take advantage of. IRC was involved, did have a lot of techno-babble baggage associated with it, and I got how it could turn the masses off, scare them with horror stories of pedophiles and pornography and pirated software. This...Twitter site definitely made things a lot more accessible. And it certainly wasn't going to replace IRC by any means. They'd serve different audiences -- maybe even both! But they would ultimately maintain unique purposes. If all you cared about was posting a public thought, this new Twitter thing would serve that crowd beautifully. Tell Twitter you're playing a video game, and maybe get a couple of followers as your reward. But if you wanted to take it a step further, dive deep down into the depths of IRC, get your hands muddy with mods, channels, binary file transfers and bouncing between servers, stuff you would never get through Twitter -- IRC was still an option.

One action with two separate levels of effort and two separate degrees of reward.

The Twitter thing suddenly made a lot more sense.


"I could only imagine someone like Blain using this. How goes the search for a Blain replacement, anyway?"

Ater glanced back, "I've been talking to Volitar. He might be interested in helping out."

"Ah, nice. Volitar's a good choice."

That damn site was still up on my screen, the dialog box practically begging me to type something into it.

"Twitter, eh?"

Ater smiled, "That site is gonna be huge. Keep an eye on it."

What are you doing?

I clicked into the box and typed a response:

Completing Twitter registration.

I closed the browser and went back to work.

Hanzo's Druid alt, Oxanna,
Thunder Bluff


I logged in that evening, checking to see who needed assistance in completing their attunement, when Breginna shot me a tell.

"Can I chat with you for a bit?"

"Sure, of course! Let me hop into Vent."

I alt-tabbed and fired up Ventrilo. Breginna was one of our newest raiders, our lone Restoration Druid. In the wake of a myriad of class changes that The Burning Crusade gave us, I struggled to find quality healers of the druid affinity. Many, as was the case with our very own Dalans, had felt forced and betrayed into a role of healing during Vanilla. They wished to take advantage of all of the bestial forms they'd been granted by rolling the class -- and that meant inside raid encounters as well. But in Vanilla, Druid tanks were clunky and difficult to get right, and their feral and balance DPS wasn't up to par with the purer DPS classes. So if raid progression was the goal, Druids were expected to heal -- and many didn't like it.

Come TBC, Druids gained far more viability in their multiple forms, and they -- like Dalans -- said good-bye and good-riddance to healing. Great for them, horrible for me. The pool of available healing druids withered away to practically zilch, and this was not good. Even with all the changes that TBC brought to the table for the variety of playable classes in the game, Restoration Druids still dominated one very specific niche of heals -- the ability to stack a multitude of HoTs on targets. Between Rejuvination, Regrowth, and Lifebloom, Tanks that normally experienced huge spikes of damage would have their health bar changes smoothed to a much more tolerable level, which in turn, eased the minds of the remaining healers and kept us from having an aneurysm.

"Hey, Hanzo." Breginna's voice was refreshing. In the sausage factory that was Descendants of Draenor, having a gal in the guild was a relief from the daily testosterone fueled chat. It was fine most of the time...but even I needed an occasional break from random bouts of excessive profanity.

"What's up, Breginna. Everything OK?"

"Yeah! Yeah...everything's great. Getting settled in to the raids now, really psyched about Mag."

"Yes. Mag. He is going to be a tough one. You'll absolutely be key in the guild pulling that off."

"Well, that's why I wanted to talk to you..."

Oh, God, no...

"You're not leaving the guild on me, are you?"

"Oh no no, no not at all!"

Jesus H.

"Thank God! You scared me!"

"No, I am going to be around for a long time, if you'll have me! The reason I wanted to talk to you was to let you know about an upcoming event in my schedule that I need help with..."

"Sure, anything! What can I do?"

"Well, I have a job coming up that I have to travel for, and it'll be a couple of weeks at least. So, I'm not going to be able to raid, I expect. I mean, I don't think I'll have access to a computer that will be WoW-ready."


"OK,, that sucks. But how can I help with that?"

"Well, I was thinking...what if I give you my account to play on? I mean, do you think that is a possibility?"


"Yeah. I guess that could work." I stumbled a bit, lost in a train of thought as I attempted to deal with this curve-ball. Awkwardly, I blurted a thank-you back to her, "That's extremely generous of you to offer up your account."

It could work. She wouldn't fall behind in gear, and Kerulak pretty much had everything he needed from the content we were able to complete thus far. And as the lone Resto Druid blanketing the raid with HoTs, her presence was going to be pivotal in our success -- never mind the fact that it was one more battle resurrection we desperately needed.

"Alright. Let's do it."

I had some Druid homework to attend to.


Anonymous said...

Ouch I bet that backfired; with people chiming in favoritism and whatnot.

Anonymous said...

Was a resto druid for t1 wrath but stopped playing in t2, my guild leader loved raiding all the time but hated leveling alts, and I knew him IRL so I let him play on my account. He geared the crap out of 2 of the characters in the process. Meanwhile I had quit the guild basically stopping wow, but still stopped by the forums.

People were angry I was getting a 'free ride' even though I had no plans to come back. Even when I actually did come back to just see cataclysm with gear that got obsolete real fast (and not even hit max level) people were STILL making comments.

I can guess how this is going to go...

Anonymous said...

Played resto Druid off and on for 5 years. They were so much fun starting in BC. I remember being in charge of raid heals and keeping the tank topped off on Mag. There was one time where I managed 25% of total healing. Felt so good!