Tag Archives: achievements

So, A Bunny Walks Into A Blizzard…

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One year ago, when I announced to my friends and family members that I was quite literally dropping everything and moving across the country to chase my dream of working for Blizzard Entertainment, they were mostly supportive, but a little bewildered. Some might move to Southern California with Hollywood aspirations. I moved to Southern California with the very nerdiest aspirations.

There were also quite a few people who were not afraid to let me know that they thought I was making a huge mistake and that I was reaching too high. And yes, there were plenty of times since landing in Irvine that I stopped and thought to myself “holy shit, what did I just do?” but somehow I managed to block out the naysayers and keep going.  Maybe I didn’t block them out completely, come to think of it — maybe they just served as even more inspiration and drive to make things happen, just so I could prove them wrong.

So I did.

As of March 17th, I will be rolling out of bed in the morning and into my desk at Blizzard’s Irvine campus. My official job title is Technical QA Analyst II, which is a lot of fancy-speak for “waving my arms up and down and screaming ‘I NEED AN ADULT’ every time I break something, THE SEQUEL.”

(I’m kidding, there’s way more to it than that. For one, you don’t scream out loud. You write it down, i.e. “AAAAAAAAHSGDJGSHDGSJGDKDS;”.)

There’s a funny story behind March 17th and how it relates to my family. That’s my great-grandfather’s birthday, and he was a man largely regarded to be the champion of our family. When we first arrived in this country and the local toughs tried to intimidate him into paying them money for “protection,” he chased them off with a baseball bat and was never harassed again. He traveled the world, mastered seven languages, and was respected throughout his community both here and back in The Old Country(tm). When I was little, I would call him the “lion man” whenever I saw his picture because of his thick white hair that looked more like a mane than anything.

Lions. Hm. Seems familiar.

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Before the interview that led to my hiring, I stopped in the lobby to take a photograph with the Alliance gryphon. I don’t really know why — I just had the urge to do it. At that time, I was mainly playing Horde. But for some strange reason, I decided to hang out with those reppin’ the lions.

Then a few days ago, I was shopping at one of my favorite clothing stores and noticed that they were selling beautiful jeweled lion rings for $5. Guess what I bought.

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Logically, I know it’s all coincidence, but I happen to be a very superstitious person. March 17th has been an incredibly fortuitous day for my family ever since I can remember, and the lion has become our unofficial mascot, with significantly less inbreeding than the Lannisters.

Of course, nothing this amazing can come through without there being a few changes. I already announced to the world that I had stepped down from the HearthPro Podcast due to scheduling issues, which was not a complete fabrication. It was more a matter of there being real challenges in getting our schedules together, but at the time having just the possibility of working at Blizzard made me hesitant to ask the rest of the team to completely rework their lives if it meant I’d only be able to stay for another week or two — and man, am I glad I made that decision now! A couple of weeks ago, I also very quietly stepped down from writing at BlizzPro after being notified that I’d gotten the position, but wasn’t yet able to go public with the announcement.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to this blog. I may cease to update it, or I may change formats and turn it into a personal blog rather than a gaming one; of course, anything you’ll find with my name attached to it on the interwebz consists solely of my own opinions, and not those of Blizzard Entertainment or any past employers. My Twitter account will still be entirely too active and I’ll be streaming my face off via my Twitch channel (my participation in this year’s Extra Life is still a go!). You won’t, however, find me on any more podcasts, guest or otherwise, and it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll be writing any more articles on lore or dreaming up game content in the community, for reasons that I’d hope are pretty obvious.

Several people have asked me what my “secret” was to get the job. I don’t have any real advice, other than don’t give up — it took me at least 30 applications and multiple interviews to get in. There were plenty of times that I was convinced I was doing nothing but throwing myself up against a brick wall and trying to make it a door, but I’d go back and re-read this interview with Brian Kindregan, lead writer for StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and the Diablo team, where he addresses those same frustrations:

Every person I know whose career has taken them to a fun and creative place got there in a different way. So the bad news is that there’s no set path. The good news is that there’s no set path! I always tell people that the key ingredient is: you should be too stupid to give up. You’ll meet many people who will tell you that you’re not good enough, that it’s not a ‘real job,’ that they don’t want people like you, that you can’t make a living at it and the list goes on. But if you’re too stupid to give up, it will bounce right off you. You’ll meet people who you will think are more talented than you, smarter, faster, better, and more creative. But those people will often give up, and you can always be better than they are at being too stupid to give up.

Color me proud to be the stupidest bunny you’ll ever meet.

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Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?

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One of my favorite parts of World of Warcraft is getting to celebrate the holidays in-game.  It’s a week or two of festive decorations, chances at special vanity items, and themed fluff quests to serve as a distraction from the regular grind.  There are Azerothian counterparts for the major American holidays — Hallow’s End for Halloween, Pilgrim’s Bounty for Thanksgiving — and even versions of holidays from around the world, such as Day of the Dead and Chinese New Year.  Children’s Week runs during the same timeframe as Children’s Day, a real-life Japanese holiday celebrated on May 5th.  The questlines are easy; just take an orphan around the world, receive a battle pet as a reward, win.  There’s no grinding of tokens or special dungeon bosses to take out, no purple gear or mounts to drive yourself nuts over.  With the advent of account-wide pets, having enough alts means you can theoretically get all of the available pets in one year.  It’s the only holiday to have an achievement that encourages you to come back year after year, which I managed to screw myself out of by deleting the character who had 2 out of 3 already because I am just that smart.

For Children’s Week, players are tasked with taking various orphans for a whirlwind tour of the world, buying them small tokens of affection, and playing with them.  It sounds tedious, but it’s actually pretty heartwarming.  The Dalaran orphan quests lead you to the Bronze Dragonshrine, where they encounter a future version of themselves who has ascended to great heights within their communities, a reminder to us all that even if you come from very humble beginnings or lives of hardship, you can still accomplish amazing things.  In Orgrimmar (or Stormwind, if you’re rebel scum), the questline ends with the purchase of a rack of foam swords for all of the children living in the orphanage, who excitedly run around with their new treasures proclaiming your excellence.  I’m still waiting to find out what’s up with the Shattrath orphans, though.  Apparently Zaladormu and the other Keepers of Time know something about their future deeds, but they’re keeping mum on the subject.

The problem is that unless you know where to go in the first place, or just happen to stumble upon the quests, you’re going to miss out on all of it.  There’s no breadcrumb quests leading you to the three orphanages.  I’ve been playing the game for eight years and only this year did I find out that there was an orphanage in Dalaran that offered its own questline, which saddens me because I can’t help but think of the designers whose work is being missed thanks to this oversight.  Nor is there any kind of decoration that shows up in the cities to let everyone know that yes, there is a holiday this week, which seems like a missed opportunity considering the event’s Japanese heritage and the introduction of craftable origami creatures for the Inscription profession.  Mists of Pandaria, while primarily pulling from Chinese mythology, also shows some elements of Japanese and Korean influence; using some of the decorative lanterns and kites already added to the game could make sprucing up the cities easy.

The addition of a Pandarian orphanage would also be great here, not just for sake of keeping up with the expansions, but also from a lore perspective.  How many Pandarian children have found themselves orphaned since the parting of the mists and the violent battles against the Sha?  Character models for these orphans would be easy, since Pandaren are a playable race for both Horde and Alliance.  The same could be used for both, or the difference could be as subtle as different colors of clothing.  There’s certainly tons of important landmarks in Pandaria itself that could be used in the questlines.  Here’s a quick and dirty example of what the chain could look like:

Children’s Week
Offered by: Matron Geum-Ja (and yes, that totally is a Sympathy for Lady Vengeance reference)
Objective: Use the Pandarian Orphan Whistle to summon your orphan.
Turn-in: Orphan

An Inky-Dink Operation
Prerequisite: “Children’s Week” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective: Take your orphan to walk on the mystical waters of Inkgill Mere.
Turn-in: Orphan

Doin’ Fine At The Shrine
Prerequisite: “Children’s Week” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective (Horde): Take your orphan to the Shrine of Two Moons.
Objective (Alliance): Take your orphan to the Shrine of Seven Stars.
Turn-in: Orphan

Just Tillin’
Prerequisite: “Children’s Week” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective: Take your orphan to the market at Halfhill.
Turn-in: Orphan

I Wanna Go Fast
Prerequisite: “An Inky-Dink Operation,” “Doin’ Fine At The Shrine,” and “Just Tillin'” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective: Enter the Sky Race with your orphan.
Note: This is done like the “Ridin’ the Rocketway” quest in Azshara, where the player enters a cloud serpent vehicle with their orphan out and the two are taken on a scripted flight path around the racetrack.
Turn-in: Orphan

It’s Bugging Me…
Prerequisite: “An Inky-Dink Operation,” “Doin’ Fine At The Shrine,” and “Just Tillin'” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective: Take your orphan to meet the Klaxxi at Klaxxi’vess and buy them an Amber Figurine.
Note: Amber Figurine purchasable from Klaxxi Quartermaster only while this quest is active.
Turn-in: Orphan

Back To The Orphanage
Prerequisite: “I Wanna Go Fast” and “It’s Bugging Me” completed
Offered by: Orphan
Objective: Return to Matron Geum-Ja with your orphan.
Turn-in: Matron Geum-Ja

The reward for completing the entire quest chain, in keeping with the spirit of the other Children’s Week lines, would be a choice of battle pet:

Of course, the design team has their hands full right now with the upcoming 5.3 patch and future storyline patches to expand our Pandarian adventures, so it’s likely that deviating from those deadlines to update a once-a-year event with new content won’t be happening anytime soon.  That being said, I’ve got my fingers crossed that they take a moment to re-evaluate School of Hard Knocks, an achievement required for the For the Children meta-achievement which is, in turn, part of the significantly larger What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.

It seems like I’m not the only one out there bemoaning this achievement, either.  I somehow managed to get it completed back in 2009, but The Fiance is playing through the Children’s Week content for the very first time and I’m finally able to see what a colossal time-sink and pain in the ass it really is in its current incarnation.  It’s standard for the holiday meta-achievements to include at least one PvP achievement, which I think is only fair; after all, designers have to cater to both the PvP and PvE players out there as best as they can in order to keep either side from feeling neglected.  The problem is that the objectives for this particular achievement leave both camps out in the cold.

Let’s look at the PvPer’s plight: during Children’s Week, the required battlegrounds are inundated with inexperienced and undergeared players who are only in there to get their achievement.  The players who are there to earn honor and who are actually concerned with victories have to spend this entire week gritting their teeth and expecting a string of losses.  I was watching when The Fiance entered a battleground and was promptly kicked because he had his orphan out.  Simply put, the general attitude coming from the PvP group seems to be “we don’t want you here,” and I understand their frustration.  It’s the equivalent of trying to do a raid and having the other 24 members show up in greens without having read any boss strategies beforehand.  Does it excuse the insults and harassment being flung around?  No, not at all, but tensions are definitely running much higher than normal this week.

The Fiance is not a PvPer.  He had fun doing the easier battleground achievements in Winter’s Veil and Hallow’s End, but he isn’t interested in PvP otherwise.  He doesn’t have a PvP set or spec.  He plays on a PvE server because he wants to avoid PvP situations as much as possible.  Without basically being carried through each objective, he has zero chance of being able to complete the achievement.  Instead of making progress, he’s being called every nasty name in the book, singled out by the opposing faction, excluded from groups where he might have the opportunity to get the achievement out of the way… if Hard Knocks wasn’t required for the metas, he wouldn’t even “inconvenience” the PvPers by entering their battlegrounds to begin with.  But he has his sights set on the Violet Proto-Drake mount, so his only option is to either keep trying and failing, or giving up altogether.

School of Hard Knocks should not be removed from the requirements.  The holiday events already have a strong lean towards PvE, and just as there are many PvE players who would rather eat their own hand than enter a battleground, there’s plenty of PvPers for whom having to do regular quests or any kind of PvE content is a slow, agonizing death for their enjoyment of the game.  Including a PvP element for them is the best way to throw them a bone that doesn’t involve the addition of an entire alternate line of achievements that cater to their preferred play style — it’d be cool to have both PvE and PvP paths that lead to the same end, but would require a great deal of work to implement.  The trick here is to simplify the objective itself so that it is still enjoyable for PvPers, but not completely out of reach of those who choose to focus on PvE.  Currently, for completion, a player needs to summon his orphan and:

  • Capture the flag in Eye of the Storm
  • Assault a flag in Arathi Basin
  • Assault a tower in Alterac Valley
  • Return a fallen flag in Warsong Gulch

These are all highly-specific events that can quickly become impossible when you’re fighting against 29 other players to complete them.  There aren’t enough opportunities in a single 15 vs. 15 round of Eye of the Storm to capture the flag.  Some serious teamwork is required in order to make these happen, and while Blizzard as of late has been trying to encourage social play and working together within the game, it’s a lesson that’s just not sticking.  Whether it’s because we’re all jaded after eight years of play and have, in turn, caused even newer players to exhibit that same malaise when it comes to being considerate, or perhaps due to the lack of accountability for one’s attitude that seems to have tagged along with the implementation of cross-server groups, expecting an entire battleground to “play nice” has sadly become a mark of naivete.  Without being lucky enough to find a pre-made group specifically going for the achievement — I keep seeing this suggestion, but have yet to actually see it implemented — there’s just no way it’s going to happen.

If the objective were changed to something much more general, such as tasking the player with winning 10 battleground matches or getting 100 honor kills with their orphan present, there would still be an element of challenge and dedication required in order to complete the achievement, but it would be much more accessible for non-PvPers.  It would put it more in line with the difficulty level of G.N.E.R.D. Rage or With A Little Helper From My Friends, a welcome change from its current status as the hardest PvP achievement required for any of the holiday metas.  PvPers might even see some of their frustration alleviated as the focus shifts from completing specific tasks within the battleground itself and more towards playing to win, meaning that even those who usually are PvE-only will be putting their best foot forward to ensure victory.  Until these tweaks are made, however, I feel bad for The Fiance and all of the other players who will be kept from receiving their proto-drake this year because of this single achievement.

 

Children’s Week is pretty enjoyable in its current incarnation, but with even the most minor of changes could still be better.  Much like the orphans we’re asked to take care of, all it really needs is for someone to remember to come and visit it from time to time.