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Archive for July, 2010

Getting to know your mouse

There are a lot of ways to interact with the world of Azeroth. Bliz in their wisdom put in multiple ways of controlling and interacting with your character. Having various ways allows people to have different play styles. I will not spend any time being critical of people that only use the mouse and only use the keys and all that jazz. I will cut to the chase.

In our gaming we sometimes find we are not as good at something as we want to be. Mouse camera control is one of those things that many are not good at. So I want to lay out this post to give you some tips on getting better. Don’t worry. It will be pretty painless.

The final goal of all this is that you will be able to rapidly look in any direction without losing a sense of where you are looking and where you were looking before. This is not an easy thing. Some people are wired very differently on this.

Personally I am one of the ones that is very visual-spatial. This means I tend to think in terms of shapes and three dimensional positions. Not everyone is wired this way. Many people tend to be more auditory thinking and understanding things better that they hear. Others are more symbolic and process oriented, understanding inter-relational concepts independent of a physical framework. Everyone has some capacity to think in every different way of thinking (there are others as well). So even if someone TENDS to think a different way that does not mean they cannot not think in a different way. Even if they might not get AS good as someone more spatially oriented they might still get nearly as good. In fact they might even get better. Human potential is pretty impressive. It could mean they have to work at it more or it could just mean they need to approach the concepts and activities differently.

As I mentioned before WOW as a game is designed with a wide variety of play styles in mind. This means even if you never learn to play a way that you don’t like to play…. So what! But you can get better at ways you are not as good at. Or learn to adapt some elements of other methods into your game play.

As I mentioned I am very ‘visual’ in my thinking style. Consequently I really can’t give any advice on how to think more in terms of physical position and location. I just do it so I can’t really explain it. However I can lay out some ways to approach the concept and also some activities that can be done that will build up the skills for it.

These exercises and activities will help find your own way. As you do them you can come up with your own way of thinking about things and make situational awareness work for you. Remember, the goal is to see more and be AWARE of more. To reach this goal we will learn to be able to move differently. This will give us the ability to move in directions while looking in other directions. With practice you will be able to do this naturally and without confusion or ‘over thinking’.

Your mouse

There are there are 4 things you can do with a mouse in WOW. First of all, as you know you can click on stuff. This is mainly used for targeting things. You can also right click to talk to NPC and to loot things. (you can also turn on the click to move option but I will ignore that here)

The second thing you can do is turn your camera. This is down by clicking and holding your left mouse button. With the button held down you can move the mouse and the camera will move. Try this.

The third thing you can do is aim your character. This is done just like moving the camera except you use the right button instead of the left. Click and hold down the right button and move the mouse around Now while you are also turning the camera you are moving your character with it. There is something else to notice here. Your character IS facing where the mouse is pointing as long as you have that button held down. Even if it does not look like they are. The character on the screen might just turn their head at first but for game mechanic purposes they have already turned to face where your mouse is pointed.

The last main thing you can do with a mouse is click and hold both buttons at the same time. This makes your character start moving forward ad at the same time allows you to steer. This is great if your other hand is busy and you need to move. For example you can have one hand hammering spell buttons while you are still moving some where.

Options

Now a player will usually prefer to move with the mouse and press spells with the keys, or to do the opposite, or to do just one or the other. But if you want to be better at WOW in general you will learn to do either, both or all of the above. No you don’t have to be GOOD at them but it is useful to know how. The more ways you are able to interact with the game the more options you will have to tweak your play style and improve.

STOP! Before you go any farther I want you to go into your mouse settings and slow them down. Slow them down until it is annoyingly slow and then bump it up just a SMALL amount. I will explain why later.

Practice 1: Smell the roses

First off you want to get good with the camera. This is easy. Do it by taking a look at stuff. The point is to look at things that your character is NOT pointed at. When you are flying on the gryphen, (bat, etc) take some time and use the ‘left click and hold’ to look around. Watch people on the ground. Pick something and control your camera to watch that object as it glides past you. Do this a lot. Do this all the time. Trust me this is useful.

Also take a look at stuff as you are riding. Hit your auto run (num-lock) aim your character at something far away and then use the mouse-look (left click and hold) to look around at the stuff you are passing. Look at your character from all angles. Try maneuvering a little with the keys while you have your camera at a funny angle. Yes this will be hard so don’t try it much. But do try it a little.

Practice 2: let your mind wander

Find something to fight. Make sure it is something that is unlikely to kill you. Attack it. While you are autoshotting or wanding, or melee swinging take a moment to pan your camera around. Look behind your character and see if there is something sneaking up on you. Pan the view around and find all the nearby critters. For a mental exercise determine if any of them are threats. Pick something to watch and aim your camera at that. You can let off the left mouse button and leave your camera aimed at that. Do this. Now finish the fight while keeping an eye on what you were pointed at.

Practice 3: How am I looking now?

Look at yourself with the camera from different angles. While fighting do this. Check out how cool you look from all angles while you are shooting/blasting/melting/freezing/stabbing/hacking and generally being mean to the inhabitants of Azeroth. Do this randomly for fun.

Practice 4: Getting jiggy with it

While fighting and moving your camera, move a little. Just a bit. A few steps forward or back.

Moving one way while looking another

To anyone that has not played a lot of first person shooters this might be a tough skill to work on. But fear not we can find ways to get better at it. Trust me! There are some easy ways to practice at get better.

Strafe!

Strafing is where a Messerschmitt swoops down and machine-guns… no wait…

It is the Q and E keys. As you probably know WASD is the standard movement keys. Many many many games use those for maneuvering. This key configuration goes way way way back. Probably ever since mice made AZ obsolete. So it is no surprise that WOW uses it. I know that many people use the arrow keys instead. Some use the arrows because they are left handed mousers. This does not prevent WASD. Move your keyboard 4 inches left and use WASD with your right hand.

There are two reasons the arrow keys are inferior to WASD. First they are far away from the number keys. It is very easy to reach the 1-5 keys and fire a few abilities/spells if your fingers are on WASD. The other reason is that the WASD keys are have Q and E. Q and E are the strafe keys. Strafe means your character moves right and left. No, they don’t TURN right and left. They just step to the side. It is very intuitive. Just a jump to the left or a step to the right (ack! Fishnet!)… where was I? Strafing right. Just like you can step to the side while still facing forward. The nice thing is your character does this at full speed just as if they were walking forward (not slow like walking backward). What does this all mean?

Strafing means you can move one way while facing another way without even touching the mouse. You stay constantly fixed at 90%looking to your left or right from your line of travel.

Like this.

But why do we care? So what? Right?

Not so what! This means you can move off the fire without stopping shooting (or getting closer or farther from the boss) You get to keep doing DPS and stop frying.

Don’t worry. We don’t have to find fire to stand in to practice this one.

Practice 5: slip down the hall

Use strafe indoors. Anywhere you would normally turn, take two steps and then turn back just use the side step. Try to go out of your way to use it. The more you use it the more it will become second nature. So find excuses to use it.

Practice 6: Dodge the fence!

Another great use for strafe is while travelling down a long road. All those small bends and annoying fences, light posts, and trees get in your way. Don’t keep steering by turning your whole body. Just side step by using the strafe key.

No, don’t give me reasons why that is extra work and your way works fine. The point of this is to get BETTER. Fence dodging is a great way to practice a new skill. The goal here is to turn it into a new reflex you probably already have the WASD reflexes (same as the arrow ones). I mean you don’t stop and think when you decide to move forward. Your finger is ‘wired’ in your brain to hit ‘W’ (or up-arrow) when you think about moving forward. The goal of practicing strafing is to wire in some extra reflexes. Don’t make excuses, just try it. And keep trying it. Try running from Stormwind to Redridge or all the way across the Barrens with only minimal ‘turning’. By turning I mean use A and D or the ‘right-click and hold’ mouse steering as little as you possibly can.

Practice 7: Walk this way

Now try other ways of travelling. If you normally use the mouse to steer try spending some time using nothing but WASD+QE to steer. If you normally use just the keys. Try forcing yourself to only drive with the mouse for a while. Doing this while travelling is GREAT practice. Roads are very forgiving so you don’t have to die a lot. Plus with auto-run you will get where you are going in the same amount of time.

Did you do all that? Did you notice anything interesting about using strafe to dodge fences? When you hit the side step key while moving forward, where did you move?

That is right. You moved forward to your left or right at a 45 degree angle. Interesting? No? Try this concept. You can move straight ahead, straight back, straight left, straight right and forward and backward at 45 degree angles all with only 4 keys (not including turning here). Even if you never run backward at a 45 (using S+Q or S+E)… does that even work? Whoever does that? Forget that part. Focus on the combinations of W + Q and W + E.

Who cares right? I mean so what if we can run at all these angles… This is great stuff and I will tell you why. If you learn how to use Q and E and QW and WE then you will run circles around your targets!

Practice 8: Circles

No really. I mean actual literal circles. How? Simple, you use the right mouse button to look at the target. Go find something. Now look at it. Now press W. Keep the target in sight. Keep aiming your camera at it.

This is the path you should run. To do this you will have to use the key combinations shown. You will have to alternate between Q and Q+W. That is for moving ‘clockwise’. If you want to go around counter clockwise then use E and E+W. All the while you are using those keys you will be holding down the right mouse button and aiming your mouse at your target. Just pick any old tree or object in the game and run around it.

Notice how using one key combination makes you move slightly farther away from the target while still keeping it in your sights and the other key combination moves you slightly closer. And both of them keep you aimed at the target.

If this is awkward keep doing it for a while. Try going both directions.

Why does all this matter? What am I getting at? It is about situational awareness. How you ask? I am glad you asked. Situational awareness is the art of being able to see what you want to see when you want to see it despite anything else going on. The goal of all these key moves and mouse controls are to allow you to move your character where it needs to move, aim it at what it needs to aim at, and still be able to see other things. Either around you, or in front of you. Being able to keep your target in sight while moving around it allows you to keep doing DPS on it and also to SEE it. Seeing is the start of awareness. If the boss does something strange while you are faced the wrong way (move out of the fire) then you are disoriented when you look back. If your view is constantly snapping back and forth as you move then you lose valuable moments and you find the boss again or get your character faced back in the right direction.

Here are two ways to try using this concept.

Practice 9: Running while turning, keys only

Run past something using nothing but your arrow keys but keep that object in your view. For example run down the road past a tree while keeping the tree in your view and while ALSO trying to stay on the road. Do this using nothing but the arrow keys. Try not to stop moving while doing this. Hint, this will require pressing 2 and 3 keys a lot.

Yeah, pretty hard isn’t it? Don’t spend much time on that. But doing it once or twice might teach you ways of moving that you did not know where possible… why does that sound wrong?

Practice 10: Facing a target while moving in a straight line. Mouse and keys.

This is it, the holy grail of movement. But let’s take it slow. Here is what I want you to do. Run past something while keeping your character facing it. You do this by holding down the right mouse button and keeping your camera looking at the target. That part is just like ‘practice 1’ above. The difference is you have to use combinations of movement keys to keep moving.

Is this getting really hard? Don’t fear. Even someone ‘really good’ at using the keys and mouse at the same time might have some issues and a lot of clumsiness doing this.

That is all the practice for now. Next time I will talk about actual game playing activities you can do that will help you with this. But before I go let me talk about why I suggested the mouse speed thing.

To be ‘situationally aware’ your brain needs to be able to fit what it sees into a framework. You brain is AMAZINGLY good at this. So good that programmers are nowhere near able to make a robot understand the world around them compared to what a baby can. Or even an animal. The ability of living things to see stuff and piece it all together into a composite picture of the world is astounding. But sometimes it needs help. Your eyes need to see enough clues to know how everything fits. If you give your eyes and brain too few clues you get disorientation. That is your brain telling you it is having trouble merging together and fully understanding what it is seeing.

But what does this have to do with the mouse speed?

Simple. The mouse can pan your camera very fast. I mean really fast. So fast that the image on the screen does not ‘pan’ it simply jumps to a different view. Now your eyes and brain are seeing something that is not connected to what it was seeing the instant before. Look at your computer screen. Now close your eyes, turn half way around and open them again. This is what your WOW screen is showing you when you use a very high mouse speed and pan your camera. You brain is left to piece the first image and the second image together into a ‘picture’ of the world around you. How far around did you turn? Just from the images your brain does not know. It has to figure it out from all the tiny clues around the room. Well in an unfamiliar place this can mean you are instantly and totally lost. Even in a familiar place the small instant it takes your brain to piece those flashing images together into your ‘world picture’ can cause you a feeling of disorientation. If you get lost and confused just walking through up alliance inn and trying to get upstairs then there is a GOOD chance your mouse rate is far too high. I will go into this concept more when I do part two.

Situational Awareness and You Part 2

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True Story

Corporate Raider

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Good Job, Blizzard

No RealID on forums. Glad you listened; don’t make us do this again. Too much blog angst this week.

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We got a few search terms with questions in them. I think I answered them in my tanking posts but I thought it might be good to recap it.

The point of them is the difference between a taunt and a forced attack.

“if you have full threat and you taunt wh(at happens?)”
Nothing. You get no more threat and no benefit at all. Oh one thing does happen… if you taunt a lot the target gets a temporary taunt immunity.

“taunt forces them to attack you for how (long?)”
For most taunts, no time at all. You only hold the target for as long as it takes for someone to get 10% more threat than you (melee) or 30% more (ranged). If that happens a nano second later then you drop the target right away. If that takes 3 hours then you hold agro for 3 hours. A different class of ability causes things to attack you for a set period of time. Those are called ‘forced attacks’. I am unaware of any ability that contains BOTH the attributes of a ‘taunt’ and those of a ‘forced attack’

To recap for both of these questions:

A ‘taunt’ bumps you up to 1 higher threat than the highest thing on the targets threat list and then makes it attack you. This is also called ‘bumping to you to the top of the list’ (since  you have to actually have 10 or 30% extra to get there manually). So it basically does a ‘forced attack’ but with ZERO time duration. The only thing that forced attack does it make it so you don’t have to have 10% or 30% higher than the next highest critter.

A true ‘forced attack’ does NOT increase your threat. It simply makes the target go after you for a preset period of time. Basically the ‘agro list’ in the critter’s head is suspended for a few seconds and it only cares about you. When that time is up it goes back to whoever is top of the list.

NOTE: They put the micro forced attack on taunts because otherwise they would have had to make you get 130% threat from a taunt. Which would have been over powered.

As I said before I know of no ability that does both a real ‘taunt’ and also an actual ‘forced attack’ that last more than a nano-second. Some abilities do have tip text that makes this misleading. I am looking at you ‘mocking blow’.

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Hiring guidelines

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Value to the Consumer

I got a comment from a user named Bristal about my last post. I wanted to reply more in depth so I made it a new post. Here is the comment:

Clearly it is a move toward the (incredibly successful) trend of social networking sites to create a usable member community that represents value.

The case that it’s in all ways BAD is what I’m not clear about.

Isn’t it inevitable that playing an MMO-type game on the computer will be associated with some type of social/community network? Companies like Blizzard with millions of subscribers and a near-monopoly on a quality MMO cannot afford not to attempt something like this.

The Facebook database is worth BILLIONS. Much of it potential earnings, much like the early dot com years of creating nearly useless websites and selling them for millions. Most of us wondered what all that was about, too.

It seems to me that a social network functionality would obviously improve player organization, allow fansites for players, help police idiotism, in short, do some of the things Blizzard has been criticized for not doing.

Not to say that Blizzard is doing it right way, at the right time, or that there isn’t significant risk in pissing many of us off.

But it certainly seems inevitable.

It has to have value to the user. The value of Bliz selling our identities to Facebook does not move us as consumers. It is only the value that they provide to US, the users. In the end that is what will make or break them.

Value in anonymity

And this is what they lost sight of. They forgot that for a large number of us players there is value in insulation. I don’t play WOW to be known as myself. Anonymity has value. Having an alternate persona also has value. In many realms of life we have insulation. We might not talk about politics with our prayer group or religion at work, We might not talk about sports with our spouse or what we do in the bedroom with anyone outside of it. There are many aspects of life we like to keep segregated into their own channels. For example I don’t want to know how my guild-mates voted in the last election because knowing that might make it harder for me to respect them. In game I respect them for their in game activities. I have played MMOs with a wide variety of people and the level of anonymity they provide has allowed me to make a connection with them that is deeper than what I might have made had I known more. Good or bad people make judgments about others. Removing the veil of secrets does not make that go away.

Some people seem to want a vast experiment where no one has secrets from anyone. Personally I want no part of that. People need their spaces and their outlets. How many times have you heard someone lament that someone found their blog that they did not want to see it. Or someone read their email, or someone’s parents got on facebook and wanted to be their friend.

Value in connection

There is a fine line between too much connection and too little. In WOW since launch there has been too little. Server populations are not that high compared to the population of the game. So the chance of you meeting a fellow WOWite in real life and being on the same server was very low. And there was no way to change servers. Then they added ways to do that but you have to pay money and leave everyone you know in game behind. So there is simply no way to play with people you know unless they deliberately sacrifice for you (or you for them) by rerolling (and leveling for weeks) or by leaving all their old friends.

That has not changed. There is still very little way to keep with IRL peopled or to go play with them in game if you did not level together.

But they have added tools. For example anyone can see your armory and see what you are up to online… SO? That is not a connection that is a window. They provided a window whereby strangers could see what you were doing like a bug under glass.

They also added cross sever BG and instances. Very cool! Except… no connections there either. You have no control over who you get from another server. You only have a limited server pool and you have no way to keep in contact with someone after the run. Connection made. Connection instantly broken.

Doing it wrong

Then came Real ID. We can monitor and talk to friends. So we can see what they are up to but we still can’t PLAY with them unless one of us server transfers or rerolls. So the VALUE, to the actual USER is very limited. Personally the only use I have for it is to see if the ONE IRL friend I have in game is online. Then I have to log over to a different server if I want to play with that friend. Of course a quick loggin over there would have told me the same thing. And the PRICE of this limited utility was that I have to give up my identity to anyone I want to connect with. So to gain a small utility I have to give up all that. Which means I can only use it for IRL friends. And that means the pool of people I can connect with through Real ID goes from dozens to just one. And the ‘value’ all but evaporates.

What we WANTED and the player base was asking for was cross server friends list. That and some way to party up with them and dungeon together. Not with real names, with character names. Sometimes people want space even from their guild. Maybe they have a secret alt they go to when drama shows up. There is nothing wrong with that. So why is Bliz making it harder to do? They dangle a carrot of utility before us and then demand the price of total privacy loss. “We will install a telephone in your house if you agree to move to a house of glass.”

Cross server friends and parties. That was the next logical and useful step. Selling their and our souls to Facebook was NOT it. Hanging the privacy of their player base out for all the scammers, hackers and stalkers to see was NOT the next logical inevitable answer.

What makes me mad they are doing it based on their (some Executive’s) ideas of what the internet social scene should be and completely ignoring what the players want.

Yeah I would not mind checking if someone of my FB friends play WOW. But since I can’t actually play with them without a server transfer then it does not matter. So there is very little VALUE to me there. But on the other hand since I have a unique name and the industry I work for DOES discriminate against gamers…. There is a LOT of value for me in anonymity.

So Bliz making deals does not impress me. Selling my identity does not impress me. Yeah who I am has value to other companies (ads and what not) but I am not interested in participating. It does not give value to ME, the playing customer. If you piss off your customers to make a buck you are doomed. I seriously think they are jumping the shark on this one.

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It is bad enough that they implement this sort of change (Real ID on the forums for those that have been under a rock) that is so full of fail and certain to drive thousands of mature and thoughtful potential posters away… but I think the worst part for me is the lies. Seriously do they expect us to believe this is an anti troll plan? That is the reason they gave. Total garbage. Anyone with half a brain knows that it will not keep rudeness away. And anyone with 3/4 of a brain will connect this change to their partnering up with Facebook.

But do they come out and tell us what their plans to manipulate our ‘social gaming’ are? No. They just make vague hints about a larger plan and then claim reasons for this change that are clearly nonsense.

Blizzard is burning through their store of player trust in a terrible hurry.

Personally I want the executive who thought this up fired and I want his resume on a pike.

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Lfm 4

LFM

LFM 2

LFM 3

LFM 4

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Post Certified 100% RealID Angst Free!

So last night Reversion and I got on our level 80 SAN alts – my pally, his druid – and ran a few randoms for badges; I need the heirloom bow for a hunter I want to roll. We queued up. The second heroic we got was DTK. Our DPS were a shaman, a hunter, and a dk. Right off the bat, the hunter pulls. I pick up the aggro, figuring it could have been a tab target issue. We kill things, finish buffing, start down the hallway.

Then the hunter and DK start speaking in tongues not even a Pentecostal would recognize. Took us a couple phrases to decide that no, they were not speaking another language. We noted the pair was from the same server but different guilds, shrugged, and played along, throwing some random Japanese and a few nonsense words out there. Trollgore died, we went upstairs. I notice the hunter isn’t following us as we move toward the summoner boss. Who cares; things are dying fast and I’m starting to suspect this guy is fooling with us.

“Skip this” the dk says as we enter the summoner’s room. First time I’ve ever been asked to skip that boss. We ignore him, the shaman triggers the boss by running past him, and we kill him down. The hunter rejoined us at some point. We proceed.

“Skip this one,” the hunter asks as we near King Dred.

“We’re here for badges,” we explain, and I pull raptors.

“Fine,” he snits. “You kill him. [dk] come over here.”

They proceed to go hide in a corner. The shaman says nothing – and pops Heroism as soon as we pull the boss. Awesome.

I notice that the hunter is now displaying his Kingslayer title. As expected, this is a Big Raider here for Frost badges and nothing else. Ah well, who cares.

On the upper landing, he starts pulling trash. I try to let him get killed but the shaman, who I’m not resentful of, keeps dpsing and pulling aggro. So I kill things. Then he runs down to the end of the hall, shoots a couple. We’re well clear and I’m going to let him eat a few hits – but the mobs start running right for Reversion, who is healing. Yup. He misdirected to the healer.

I easily pick up aggro. He and his dk bud are upstairs already. “[Shaman] don’t get aggro,” I say, as the dk dies. I keep trying to kick the hunter.  First, I still had time to go (This was annoying, I’d have sworn that I was one of the sort of people who rarely kicks and should get insta-kick rights!). Then it kept being too soon after combat.

The DK released and was running back; I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect a rez. The hunter, meanwhile, engaged the boss while the rest of us stood around well away. He must have fake died and reset it, because the boss stopped talking and the hunter wasn’t dead.

Finally, there it was, the vote kick option. “The vote to kick [Huntard] has passed,” my screen said, and I declined to pick up another person.

“[DK], you going to play nice or should we three man this?” Reversion asked.

“I’ll be good,” he promised, and since he was already back, we went ahead and took out the boss.

“[Hunter] is my rl friend but I’ll tell him he’s an a**hole,” the DK added after we finished the boss.

We shared a laugh and told the DK he was ok even if his friend wasn’t. The whole thing put a smile on my face. That hunter was back in the queue to get his frost badges, due for another 15 minute wait because he could not be civil for one fast dungeon run.

And I had a decent start toward that heirloom bow.

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Real ID Gets worse

Wow.Com is reporting that Blizzard is changing their forum posting system so that your real name will now be displayed when you post.

This is a bad idea.

A bad, bad idea.

If your name is John Smith, you may not think this is so bad. The chance of anyone connecting the Blizzard forum posting John Smith to you is pretty low.

But if your name is Dena Anschwelter, or Lyndon Frellingham, you might see the problem. I used to be a lot less concerned about my real name online; my name was basically the same level of common as, say, Jennifer Brown. But then I got married and it changed to being an absolutely unique id; nobody else has the same first and last name as me. Nobody has the same first and last name as my husband. 50% of online references to [our last name] are us or our immediate family. All of a sudden I got a lot more paranoid.

I have my facebook settings locked so nobody but my friends can see my stuff, and I don’t post things I don’t want getting out. So this change really bothers me. Not that I troll on forums, but that there is a gaming stigma in real life, and I don’t really want people like prospective employers (I am working on being a freelance programmer) seeing that I’m into WoW. I’m just not ok with that, and Blizzard should be more sensitive to me.

There’s a lot of ways to get their stated desires – less trolling, less anonymous idiocy – without using real names.

This had better not be retroactive. I won’t be posting on Blizzard’s forums ever again.

Which means the next time something happens like, say, an official discussion of whether I like Tree Form or not, that affects my class later on, my voice won’t be heard.

I know Blizzard won’t care, but I do.

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