Religion, politics, and flying — 3 discussions to not have

Well.

Today we will get flying in Draenor. After almost a year of promises, non-promises, waffling and weasel wording, final decisions, final final decisions, and probably millions of forum and blog column lines on the topic. Today, though, after all that, flying will be reinstated. You would think that pretty much closes the book on The Great Flying Debate.

Hahahahaha! You would be SO wrong.

I am constantly amazed at the human propensity for forcing individual beliefs and life styles on others. Humans simply cannot, for some reason, stand it if others think differently from themselves, or heaven forbid, if the others have the temerity to live their lives according to those “wrong” thoughts.

Interestingly, the less provable a thought is, the more adamant are those who would require everyone to subscribe to that thought. Thus, we have great raging emotional debates and sometimes even shooting wars over religious and political differences of opinion. Yes, humans willingly kill and die to force others to think and act a certain prescribed way. What is wrong with our species?

It should come as no surprise, then, that flying in WoW — a subjective, non-provable concept of “fun” or “enjoyment” — has rabid adherents on both sides. In this case, those who prefer to fly really don’t seem to care if others fly or not, but many of those who do not wish to fly cannot abide the thought that others may now choose to. As with many rabid, spit-flecked, hate-filled discussions of religion and politics, logic does not seem to apply. They degenerate into a matter of “I believe thus and so, and if you do not then you are not only wrong, but evil, and I will do everything I can to force you into my way of thinking.” This is, at its core, an assumption that those who do not think as you do are too stupid to know better, thus it is your sacred duty to save them from themselves. This is arrogance at its height, and as many of you know, it is a trait I consider detestable, particularly when its manifestation in someone else limits my own actions.

So yes, I will be flying in Draenor today and for the rest of the expansion. Some of you may choose not to do so, and I applaud your choice. But personally, I am gratified that now we all have a choice.

I’ll be flying for a lot of reasons, including farming mats and leveling my last couple of alts more efficiently. I may even finish up Archaeology for a couple of alts, now that it will be reasonable to do. But mainly I will be enjoying the swooping, soaring exhilaration of flying for itself. I will be admiring the graphics and art that the devs have spent their time on, but I will be doing so now on a grand scale, not one frustrating unclimbable rock at a time. I actually expect to see WoD in a new — likely better — light, because I will be able to get a more comprehensive view of it. I don’t care if it seems small, I just want to see it spread out below me. I am someone who really only grasps layouts and terrain if I have the big picture first. I am a deductive learner by nature, not an inductive one. So for me, exploring an area rock by rock before I see the entirety of it is very frustrating and usually only results in constant need to consult the map, because I have no fixed picture in my head of the overall layout.

Regrettably, the great flying debate is likely to go on, and I predict there will be yet another screaming match over it in Legion, because I believe Blizz’s plan is to introduce it no sooner in Legion than they have done in WoD. But that’s not now. Now I am going to go log on and fly around Draenor.

Because I can.

Koster’s Laws

Over the weekend I stumbled on to Raph Koster’s blog site about game design. (Yes, I know I have no life, don’t judge.) If you don’t know who he is — and I did not before I did some research on him — he was the lead designer for Ultimate Online and the creative director for Star Wars Galaxies. He has also written a book that I think I want to read, A Theory of Fun for Game Design. He is a prolific writer and talker on the subject of game design, and his approach seems to be at once academically sound, practical, and very readable — three qualities you do not often find meshed together. I have no idea how well- or poorly-regarded he is within academic or gaming circles, but I found his ideas very well grounded.

(I subscribe to some scholarly technical journals, one of which is Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media. It frequently has some interesting studies in it, but I have to say they are very tough reading, full of mathematical formulas, obscure references, and long sentences filled with words and phrases like “ludic”, “mediated self-representations”,  “avatar-body schema integration and identification”, “traditional regression analysis”, etc. You get the idea. They are not exactly ideal bedtime reading. Or maybe they are, as they definitely promote sleep….)

But I digress. Back to Koster. One of the pages on his website caught my eye, a collection of aphorisms titled The Laws of Online World Design. As he points out, many of them fall into the “no duh” category, but I found them to be interesting. Some of them jumped out at me as being pertinent to WoW, both at Blizz’s creative apogee and in what I consider to be their current decline.

Some excerpts and comments, in no particular order:

Persistence means it never goes away
Once you open your online world, expect to keep your team on it indefinitely. Some of these games have never closed. And closing one prematurely may result in losing the faith of your customers, damaging the prospects for other games in the same genre.

This, in my opinion, could explain WoD and Blizz’s apparent “lick and a promise” attitude for the past year and a half or so. They may, in fact, realize that they cannot close down WoW, even though it is a ten year old game well past its prime, because to do so would threaten their other franchises. They are caught between a rock and a hard place — they cannot phase the game out, yet Activision Blizzard’s new games devour most of the resources. So they have opted for expansions and patches on the cheap.

In fact, now that I think about it, maybe they think subscription declines is a good thing in the long run — if they eventually get down to a couple of million players, that will give them the perfect excuse for closing down the game without negative reaction. They can claim that the player base has changed, that there is no longer any real market for this type of MMO, thus it is with regret that they [yada yada yada.]

J. C. Lawrence’s “do it everywhere” law
If you do it one place, you have to do it everywhere. Players like clever things and will search them out. Once they find a clever thing they will search for other similar or related clever things that seem to be implied by what they found and will get pissed off if they don’t find them.

One comment here: flying. Once Blizz introduced flying, they were committed for all time. In some very limited instances — mainly special patch islands like Tol Barad, Thunder Island, Timeless Isle — they got away with disallowing flying, but they made the mistake of assuming that meant they could do it for all territory for all future expansions. Wrong. Since they did it in one place — the main world where players spent their time — they were going to have to do it in all future expansion territories. Players liked the clever flying thing and the flying mounts, and assumed it was implied for all future expansions, and they were pissed off  when they were denied this.

Online game economies are hard
A faucet->drain economy is one where you spawn new stuff, let it pool in the “sink” that is the game, and then have a concomitant drain. Players will hate having this drain, but if you do not enforce ongoing expenditures, you will have Monty Haul syndrome, infinite accumulation of wealth, overall rise in the “standard of living” and capabilities of the average player, and thus unbalance in the game design and poor game longevity.

This actually struck me as something Blizz does well in WoW. Not perfectly, mind you, but well. Think about gear, for example. Every new expansion, all the gear you accumulated in the last expansion becomes essentially worthless. Same with most gathered items and crafting mats. Even within an expansion, Blizz makes us spend various currencies by putting limits on their accumulation and by setting high rates for their expenditure (like 90 Felblight to fully upgrade a piece of crafted gear, for example). They have done less well with gold, but they do have obvious and continuing efforts to manage the amounts in game, with things like the token and the BMAH.

If your game is narrow, it will fail
Your game design must be expansive. Even the coolest game mechanic becomes tiresome after a time. You have to supply alternate ways of playing, or alternate ways of experiencing the world. Otherwise, the players will go to another world where they can have new experiences. This means new additions, or better yet, completely different subgames embedded in the actual game.

I think Blizz understands this, but I think they are stumped at how to make it happen any more. They  went too far with the “completely different subgames” in WoD — the extensive garrisons and follower missions and shipyard tine-wasting are examples. But some of their previously-introduced subgames became very absorbing for players and may have kept some of them who would otherwise have left. I am thinking about pet battles, for example, or item collecting, mat gathering, achievement hunting, leveling new characters as your main activity, even playing the auction house. These are all subgames that give players an alternate way to experience the world.

Where Blizz is running into a barrier is when their penchant for dictating “acceptable” play styles conflicts with these subgames. As they narrow the end game to their “raid or die” philosophy, for example, they effectively cut out other subgame options for players at level. By defining player success in terms of gear (and also by making certain classes fully functional only with certain gear such as tier gear), and by making “successful” gear only available by raiding, they diminish the possibilities for non-raiders to experience the game in alternate ways. Yes, players can opt out of raiding, but they do so only by giving up any chance of becoming “successful” as defined by Blizz. Granted, some players could not care less about some external definition of “success”, but many others do not wish to play a game that brands them failures if they do not adhere to the prescribed path.

At any rate, I have probably nattered on too long for a Monday. If you are interested, take a look at Koster’s web page and check out some of his writings, it really is good food for thought.

 

“Small follow-up patch”

Okay, I have been patient. But it has been eight weeks since Ion Hazzikostas made his begrudging reversal on flying in Draenor. In a DevWatercooler piece on June 10, he promised flying in “a small follow-up patch (6.2.x)”.

Come on, Blizz, we all get that you did not want to do this, and that you are still having your little scream/cry/throw yourself to the ground and kick your heels and hold your breath until you turn blue tantrum over it, but sheesh. Over 8 weeks to implement a “small” (your word, not mine) patch? Especially when you proclaimed over and over again that Draenor was designed for flight? What did you do, hire one part-time intern to make it happen? If this is your dev pace, then we are probably looking at a new expansion sometime around 2018.

Except it’s not your usual pace if it is something important to the company. I guarantee, if this patch were implementing a new, oh, say, TOKEN, it would have been out so fast it would make everyone’s head spin. But flying? Well, um, you know, complicated computer things and stuff…..

In addition to dragging their heels because they are pouting, I suspect Blizz is also trying its usual thing of cramming everything into something that was supposed to be small and direct-purpose. (Think: garrisons.) So as long as they are doing a “small patch” for flying, why not overload it with everything else every department wants to fix? In fact, just today they announced they are adding the new PvP mercenary mode to the PTR for 6.2.1. Surely that will take more than a week to “test.” And by then they can easily think of something else to add, plus of course another couple of weeks to test whatever the new thing is. And so on.

Again as usual, Blizz “fixed” their huge problem over flying by promising us something just to shut us up. They bought themselves time, and they are going to push that break to the limit. I am certain they believe that the Thursday Gamescon announcement will buy themselves even more time to delay flying. They have such disdain for their customers that they think — sadly with justification — that dangling little play-pretties in front of us will distract us enough that we will stop annoying them.

I will be listening very closely Thursday to see how they parse their words about flying in the new expansion. Because I suspect their intention is to only make it available at the tail end of the expansion, just like this one. Not only does that prolong the period before people unsub, but it saves them a ton of development time, the idea being that they can push the xpac out the door in largely 2-dimensional play format, and work on fleshing out the 3-D aspects over the course of the xpac.

And, as I mentioned a few days ago, we are back to what amounts to no meaningful Blizz communication with the player base. So we have no word on when we might hope to see the “small” but ever-growing patch. Because of course the crack Blizz communications department is hard at work on last-minute tweaks to Michael Morhaime’s rosy comments for later today at the Q2 earnings meeting. Not to mention they are overloaded hyping the hype for Thursday’s announcement. Who could expect them to be bothered with such little niceties as giving their customers an update on a promise made two months ago?

This is a big news week for Blizz. I hope they are making a profit, I want them to stay in business, so I want their earnings report to be good. I also hope the Thursday announcement is over-the-top boffo, I want it to be fun and exciting. But I also want them to stop treating their customers with disdain, to stop taking us for granted.

Blizz, you promised me flying two months ago, dammit! If you are not going to give it to me, the least you can do is give me a decent reason why, beyond “It’s complicated.” And a good faith estimate of when it will be available.

Bye-bye, Bashiok

A few hours ago, Community Manager Bashiok announced today is his last day, that he is leaving WoW. There is nothing startling or surprising about his departure, he has been with Blizzard for nearly 12 years, a very long time in the world of virtual game design and development.

I suppose I am neither disheartened nor happy about Bashiok’s — aka Micah Whipple — departure. I wish him well wherever he goes from here. He has not been a flamboyant presence in the forums, especially lately, but he has had some notable impact. In particular, it was he who made the ill-fated statement leading people to believe flying would be  reinstated in “the first major patch” in WoD. In retrospect, I think he was the designated “bad news preparer” on the whole flying debacle. He walked point on the subject until the final “no flying” announcement by Hazzikostas. And I believe his statements on the matter up until that announcement reflected a sharp opinion divide within Blizz. It was telling to me that Hazzikostas, not Bashiok, made the no-fly announcement, indicating who was on which side of the internal debate. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and attribute his “major patch” words to wishful thinking on his part, in the face of what he knew was ultimately a losing battle.

At any rate, thanks for doing the best you could, Bashiok, and good luck to you.

Clearly, the end of a major expansion is a good time for people who have worked a project a long time to leave if they intend to do so. It’s a natural break point. And Bashiok’s departure makes me wonder if we are in for another round of key personnel changes at Blizz, especially on the WoW project. If you will recall, that happened at the end of Mists, just as WoD was being announced, and in my opinion it was one of the major reasons WoD turned out so badly. With the WoW franchise becoming less and less important to Activision Blizzard, my hunch is that there will be much more turnover than in the past, that people will want to establish a few good lines on their CV and then move on.

Bashiok may be the last of the “true believers” on the WoW project.

Short post today, I am need of a long weekend! See you on Monday.

Independence Day (?)

The past weekend was a holiday here in the U.S., July 4 being the day we celebrate giving the official finger to King George III by presenting him with an elegantly written document, the tl;dr version of which was we were as mad as hell and we were not going to take it any more. My weekend activities involved a lot of good burgers and good friends, and of course good beer.

Possibly as a result of the latter, I started to think about the importance of independence. Not the big lofty “Independence” of national self-determination, but the personal kind. The kind that means you as an individual are free to make your own decisions, embark on your own course, and either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of your actions. I realized how important this kind of independence is to me. My perception of it permeates my life, from my choice of a career (I am self-employed), to my choice of spouse (early in our marriage he tried to “forbid” me to do something, then laughed when he saw my look and said, “That’s never going to work, is it?”), to my choice of leisure activities (music, pottery, gardening — things that discourage rules and boundaries and that reward creativity).

I did not play a lot of WoW over the weekend, because of various holiday activities, but also because I find myself in a kind of holding pattern in the game, basically waiting for flying. I spent the first two weeks of T2 grinding rep on my main hunter, and I got my Pathfinder achievement last Thursday night. The process held my interest, but I am not looking forward to repeating it on my other hunter or especially on my squishier alts. I enjoyed the first time because it was something new, but I could not shake the feeling that I was being herded down a cattle chute — there was a defined beginning and a defined end, and there was very little opportunity for straying from the prescribed course.

It all felt too linear. All of WoD has felt too linear for me, I realized, but the confined area of Tanaan just brought it home to me. Having had years of flying in the game, to be suddenly limited to two dimensions has felt stifling.

I don’t deal well with “stifling.” Being bound to two dimensions in the game has made me feel like I am bound to linear thinking in my approach to it. Linear thinking is not creative thinking. And it has made me more sensitive to other Blizz-imposed constraints in the game, such as their insistence that raiding is the end goal for everyone, and their recent trend of binding all other activities to raiding. It’s like when you are squished into a middle seat on an airplane, you suddenly blow all minor encroachments into your remaining personal space way out of proportion.

Independence. Personal freedom. An environment in which to be creative. This is what first fascinated me about WoW, but WoD has been that middle seat in coach, and every time Blizz scoots its elbow further onto my armrest I get angrier and angrier. Reinstatement of flying will be like a move to First Class, and having all the extra space will — I hope — make me less cranky about minor incursions.

So, back to my weekend in WoW. Even though I finished my rep grind for the achievement, I still need to do it on my alt hunter, because she is my jewelcrafter. (In hindsight, I probably should have done the Pathfinder rep grind on her, not my main, but by the time I realized that, I was pretty far along on my main’s rep and opted not to prolong the achievement by switching to my alt.)

As an aside, the whole JC thing in 6.2 is an excellent example of Blizz taking up the whole armrest. I resent having to do very specific parts of the game just to get recipes for gems, when every other profession out there is able to get recipes easily. I resent having to get Brawlers Guild rank 6, complete Mythic Skyreach, achieve a grindy faction rep, kill a world boss, and kill a raid boss, just to get gem recipes THAT DON’T EVEN LET ME CRAFT MY OWN GEMS. An even worse insult is the “chance” you can actually learn the recipes yourself by having the robot craft them. Please. More RNG torture just to be able to craft a few gems. I had the robot craft 4 Immaculate Mastery gems over the weekend. Want to guess how many personal recipes I got? Yes, you guessed it, none.

Anyway, I am waiting for flying before I do much more in T2. I am sick of the stifling boundaries of two-dimensional play. I am sick of the rat maze. I want to soar above it, find where I want to go, then go there directly and structure my own activities for the play time I have. I am hoping tomorrow is the day that will happen.

I am hoping that Tuesday, July 7, is WoW Independence Day.

Hope springs eternal

Just when I was about to despair that WoW would ever emerge from the sucking morass that is Warlords of Draenor, along comes a Mamytwink interview with Lead Designer Cory Stockton (Mumper) that restored a bit of my optimism for the game. I was tipped off to this very recent interview by The Godmother over at alt:ernative chat, so thanks for that. Watching the interview is in my opinion a good use of 30 minutes. (The interview is conducted in English. There is also a transcript of it on the Mamytwink web page, but it is in French, sadly not the French dialect I learned, known as “High School French”.)

I watched the interview but unfortunately did not take notes. (I am slipping, I know.) But I was struck by a couple of things:

Overall tone. First, the interviewers seemed to really cut to the chase with their questions. They were not in Mumper’s face, but they also did not let him off the hook. They asked pretty much the same questions I would ask if I were given such an opportunity. Second, Mumper actually answered every question, and the only subject he waffled on was details on post-Draenor expansions.

Hellfire Citadel. This is in fact the last raid tier for the expansion. I don’t think that is news to most of us, but Mumper did confirm it.

Patch schedule. Although he did not come right out and say it, Mumper strongly indicated that 6.2 is the last major patch in this expansion. About the only situation that would lead to another patch is if there is an unforeseen delay in the next expansion.

Flying. I found his comments about flying to be both reassuring and at the same time disheartening. He confirmed that the huge outpouring of player response to Watcher’s “No flying, no more” announcement was in fact the reason they decided to reinstate it. So it was reassuring to know that even Blizz cannot ignore such a response. But he went on to say that the eventual compromise — the Pathfinder achievement — was good because it allows players to fly, but only after they have experienced the game “in the way intended.” He hinted that this is a good model going forward.

When you combine this statement with the idea that we are now in the last patch of this expansion, it seems clear that Blizz intends to never again let us fly in current content. No more Mists model of flying once you have leveled. No more quests designed for flight. By making us wait until well into the last patch of an expansion, we can now look forward each expansion to months of long annoying trips to a quest location, to getting dismounted by every little pissant of a wild weed we come across, to the scream-level frustration of “fun” jumping puzzles, to more commercial flying via scenic routes, to seeing everything in a zone except us able to fly freely, to once again guiding our big ole fatass flying mounts along the ground. Then, at the very end of an expansion, after jumping through lots of hoops, we will be “granted” the “privilege” of flying.

Garrisons. Mumper said they had learned some lessons about garrisons, and that many of the subsequent hotfixes had addressed most of these. (This was not encouraging to my mind, since none of the hotfixes did anything to alleviate what I believe to be the fundamental problems with them, but never mind.) He did say that Blizz is aware that the current mission lengths for shipyard missions are too long, especially given what seems like poor rewards in return, and that the mission lengths will very soon be shortened, possibly in a hotfix. (I would have preferred better rewards instead of shorter missions, but that’s just me.)

Mythic instances. He admitted that they tend to be tuned for well-geared mains but give rewards more suitable for alts. He said that soon they will give gear that can have up to two war forged upgrades, so hopefully that will encourage people to take their mains into them.

“Shards”. I don’t pretend to understand the technical explanation for these — I think it involves dynamic mega-servers — but basically shards is what provides the mini-phasing we are experiencing in Tanaan. This is what causes you to go galloping over to that rare someone just called out, only to find nothing there, because you have to be in the caller’s group in order to see it. Shards is what has twice caused me to die a horrible death as soon as I leave a group doing a world boss or grinding rep, because as soon as I leave the group I am once again in my own phase, where no one has yet killed all those mobs I find myself standing in the middle of.

Anyway, Mumper talked about some glitches with shards and how they are planning to fix them. No great revelations, I just found it interesting to listen to the way the technical problems manifest themselves.

Overall impression. In spite of some of the bad news I described above, I found the interview to be positive. For one thing, it gives me hope that the end is soon to be in sight for WoD, and the sooner I can get this expansion in the rear view mirror, the better. For another, this interview shows a continuing Blizz trend of trying to communicate better and more often with the player base. Mumper gave thoughtful, well-reasoned answers to all the questions, and even if I don’t agree with some of the Blizz logic, it is refreshing to be treated like an educated, thinking adult rather than like a truculent toddler.

Weekend grinding

I spent several hours this last weekend grinding out my remaining apexis dailies for the Defending Draenor achievement and looking for treasures to get to the required 100, all so as to have done everything I can do for the Draenor Pathfinder achievement prior to 6.2. It was not a horrible grind, but I was glad when it was done.

I had a lot of apexis dailies to do, having only done 4 of the 12 previously. The Scouting Missives you can buy for  200 garrison resources apiece from your garrison vendor were a life saver for me. The only one you can’t buy is Assault on the Pit, but I had already done that one. Buying the missives means you don’t have to wait for each daily to pop up randomly. And they are easy quests — none of them took longer than 15 minutes for me to solo on my hunter, although I think healer classes without a damage off spec might have more trouble. I did notice some people posting custom groups in the Group Finder, though, and some of them were for multiple apexis dailies. I did not join any big groups, but I did party up once with a player who was also grinding the same area I was in. I would have grouped up more given the opportunity, but I seemed to be the only one in most of the quest areas. All told, I was done with the achievement in a little over two hours.

The treasures were a lot harder for me. I started out with 41, the number I had gotten by the time I leveled my hunter. I had not been big on finding treasures while leveling, mainly because I determined early on that the reward did not begin to justify the time cost to get them. So if I did not literally stumble on them as I was leveling, I made no effort to seek them out.

I am embarrassed to admit it took me close to 6 hours to get my remaining 59. Part of this was due to a tactical error I made by starting in Nagrand. The treasures there are, almost without exception, enormously frustrating and time-intensive to find and get to, even with a map and the addon. I know some of you like doing these kinds of puzzles, and the more intricate the better. But I detest them. I spent close to 2 hours trying to find goblin rocket NPCs, in order to get fired up into an area where I could ride around and find a goblin glider, which was close to impossible to control, resulting in me crashing and not getting the treasure, causing me to have to ride a long ways to get back to the rocket guy to get blasted up to the area where I could once again gallop to the glider guy so that I could miss the treasure yet again and start all over.

This is not my idea of fun. This is Sisyphus in game hell. Take my advice, if you are just looking to knock out your required 100 treasures and are not masochistically inclined (not that there’s anything wrong with that …), do not set foot in Nagrand. If you look at a map you will be tempted to go there, because it looks like there are lots and lots of treasures scattered all around in the zone, and you will think “Aha! Easy pickings!” But you will be wrong, it is a trap. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

At any rate, once I came to my senses and abandoned Nagrand, the treasure hunting went much faster. It still took me another 3 hours to get to 100. This is due to my navigational ineptness, true, but it is also due to the twisted zone design that makes it impossible in many instances to find paths through obstacles even though it may look like there is a path on the map, or the graphics indicate there is a path. You may even get quite a ways along the apparent path only to discover it is a blind alley, and then you get to go back and start again, enjoying what Ion Hazzikostas would term “engaging, immersive fun.”

Once I got to 100, I stopped. I did not try to go on and get to 200, which is the current achievement requirement. I took Blizz at its word and believed they would give credit for 100 treasures as part of the Pathfinder achievement. (If they pull a Charlie Brown and Lucy football move on this one, I will quit this game, no ifs ands or buts about it.)

Speaking of Blizz and Hazzikostas, I did watch the Q&A on Saturday. It was not as bad as I was expecting, but it was not anything to rave about either. I thought it was very scripted, even the “brutally honest” comments such as the declaration that Blizz is intentionally nerfing demo locks into the ground because it’s time for them to be on the bottom for awhile. I thought that came off as a planned mechanism for demonstrating how sincere and open Blizz was being.

I don’t play a demo lock, so I was only partially interested in the comment, but it made me wonder if that is also their reason for what they are doing to SV hunters. Do they think “it’s time” for them to suck also? Because it seems like that suck rotation is a pretty rapid one, since SV hunters also sucked for quite a while at the beginning of WoD.

The only other thing that sort of got my attention was his comment that the reason they remained silent on the subject of flying for so long after the “no fly ever again” announcement was because there was still no consensus on the subject within Blizz. If this is true, then why in hell did they announce what sounded very much like a final decision? Was Hazzikostas going rogue? Was it a trial balloon? Is there a management coup in progress? Are they just that incompetent? I don’t know, and honestly don’t care much, but it just struck me as an illogical statement.

Overall, he didn’t address many class balance issues, and I would have been interested in hearing more about that. Even though the Q&A was highly scripted, I did think it was useful. I think Blizz could go a long ways towards improving its bad communication image by having regular Q&A sessions, say once a month, instead of waiting for the forums to blow up in outrage before they have one. They could even specialize them, talk about one class each month, or have Holinka talk about PvP on one, talk about raid philosophy on one, that kind of thing.