Playing favorites

I got to thinking this morning.

If you have been around for long you know that usually is followed by some random observation about life, Warcraft, or the state of mind I happen to be in. Today however, that is not the case.

Instead of reading the news or any other such thing I decided to look through my past posts. I have quite a few posts I really enjoyed writing. Some were funny, some were serious, some were not even about Warcraft. Hell some were not even on this blog.

Anyhow, since I spent my time woolgathering instead of brainstorming I don’t have any good ideas for todays post. On the plus side I did spend a good amount of time enjoying some of my other stuff. 

I suppose instead of just ignoring my friends on the intertubes I’ll just afflict you with  “best of” list.

Well, maybe not the best, but some of my favorites anyhow.

Not so funny stuffs:

Casually Addicted (um, yes)

What are epics worth? (whatever your willing to pay)

Will heal for food (I never feel like this anymore, thankfully)

Everything I needed to know about WoW I learned in the Barrens (yep)

Something was missing (They nerfed it to the ground, then kicked it)

Kinda funny stuffs:

This just in (Arena really would make more sense like this)

Dads kiss up points, or DKP for short (yes, it’s working)

Way beyone grumpy (a rant, but a funny one)

/Headdesk (I still do things like this, often)

Blah (all purpose patch notes)

Stories about that place thats not Azeroth:

Five hours and counting (from yet another meme)

Escape to Azeroth (like a vacation commercial, only not)

Farewell old friend (once upon a time I lived there)

What would you ask? (what the next gen’s genera is going to be)

Oh, snap! ( I hate it when that happens)

Fan fiction/ stories:

And the lights grow dimmer (my all time favorite post, it just felt right)

Blood in the water (why don’t they clean up after themselves?)

Mirrior mirror (it would  be an odd feeling)

The same, except completely different (Mmmmm…. beer)

Missing (a diferent take on Mirror Mirror, and better written IMO)

Stuffs from my other distinctly non-WoW blog what might be entertaining:

A line in the sand (I wonder what I would have done?)

Frogs (still makes me laugh)

Oh cool, I found it! (yes I know it’s a recent post, but it’s a good one)

Mans best friend (sadly only one is still with us)

A ride (makes me want to get the bike out and go)

And there you have it, the perfect post for a day when I had no idea what to write.

Well, at least its not a gear list.

Showing a surprising lack of judgment I was invited to go hang out with the wonderful folks that make up the Sidhe Devils Gone Wild podcast. I would say they had never heard me talking before, but there is always Vent. They should have known better…

Anyhow, It was a blast. If you haven’t heard it yet you really should go check it out. I had a blast making it and got a good laugh listening to it this morning. Even though I already knew what was going to happen.

Go ahead…. go listen. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Assuming you come back after hearing me babble like a clueless noob.

Nothing to do with todays post, I just found this hilarious. I should cook mine like this tomorrow.

Oh, wow. Your back.

Either you didn’t go listen or you’re a real glutton for punishment.

 

Um… Well I didn’t really expect anyone to come back, so I guess I’ll try to throw a post together right quick.

Ooo… I know I’ll do a gear list, those are always fun.

Then again, with 3.3 dropping any day now it would be kinda pointless.

 

How about a rant? Rants are always fun.

Then again, the only thing that has ticked me off lately is getting to 39/40 turkeys for the Turkinator achievement three separate times and missing out on the last one every time. Annoying and bothersome yes, worthy of it’s very own post? Not so much.

 

I could try to drum up some interest in my non-Wow blog, perhaps by linking the post about how I found a needle that had gone missing in my house, and the hilarity that ensued . Then again, no one wants to read about that. This is supposed to be a WoW blog afterall.  

 

Well, I suppose I could just send out a happy Thanksgiving to everyone, both in-game and out.

Yep. we’ll go with that.

Just a quick note

Just a quick note on something of great importance.

Pink%20Ribbon

A guildmate of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  The guild, Sidhe Devils of Keal’thas (alliance) will be holding an event to both show our support for our friend and help raise money for further reasearch.

A whole lot more information (and a much better written post on the subject) can be found Here.

Please take the time to go have a look.

If nothing else, please have yourself checked as recommended by your physician.

I now return you to you originally scheduled NaNoWriMo hiatus, already in progress.

-Dech

The State of the Blog

November is a wonderful time.

The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, things are starting to settle down for the winter.

There are holidays such as the Day of the Dead, Veterans day, and Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful relaxing time of the year.

This year though, along with everything else, there is a little something new.

Something that will likely consume all my free time, making blogging infrequent at best.

 

For the curious, it is a challenge. An attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Needless to say I likely won’t be posting much here during the month of November.

I do have a few things that I have already written that are scheduled to go up, but not much. A Winters Veil guide to the achievements, a veterans day post, and a mostly finished post on leveling tailoring similar to the way I did Alchemy (although I would still have to do the experiment).

So there you have it. I’m not going away for good, but taking an insanity break.

I’ll stop by to check comments and respond to emails, but otherwise the blog is on autopilot until December.

Kick back and enjoy the archives, theres beer in the cooler and a pot of chili on down by the fire.

Try not to mess the place up too much before I get back.

Escape to Azeroth

I, like thousands of others, just had a really interesting post from Wow.com drop into my feed reader. The Breakfast Topic is generally something they post to bring about a bit of discussion. Most days I simply skim over it, but todays post about real life cataclysms kinda hit close to home.

I’ll briefly recap for the one person out there that may actually follow my ramblings and yet not read Wow.com. The post was about how at times the game can reflect the suffering in the real world, and yet at the same time be a refuge from that suffering. If you have not read it, go check it out. It’s worth your time.

Be advised, this post is not so much about Wow as it is about my personal experiences and those of my family. If you choose to read on do so knowing that. Also know that this is my life I talk about today, not just the game. If you choose to comment please keep that in mind.

 

A little over three years ago… has it really only been that long?

Life was a lot different back then. So was I.

I was talking to a friend of mine from work about the game that he played. He was far from pushy about it, but got across the basics of the game. I picked up a copy and started goofing off with it, not realising where it would lead me.

Have you ever noticed how the smallest things seem to loom with importance when looked back upon through the lens of experience?

I was bored, all the shows I cared to watch were in reruns, and I picked up a game to amuse myself. I had no idea where that path would take me. I still don’t know where it will end, we shall see.

Slowly as I played the game I made friends online. Starting with the coworker who had introduced me to the game and moving on to guild mates. I have made some very good friends in Wow, and honestly I don’t know how I could have dealt with the next few years without both their support and the separate reality that is Azeroth.

About six months after I started playing, shortly after The Burning Crusade my mother made a mistake. She was living on her own after the death of my dad and doing relatively well. My family and I visited often, and when we were not there we were on the phone. She never went more than six or eight hours without someone either calling or stopping by.

The doctor said that is probably what saved her life.

 

One day I called to see if she would like to go out to dinner with us, as we often did back then. When she did not answer we waited a few minutes and called again. When she did not pick up that time we just hopped in the car and headed over, figuring she was napping.

When we arrived I saw what no one really ever wants to see…  mom on the kitchen floor laying in a puddle of spilt orange juice, the refrigerator door hanging open.

Mom was diabetic, badly so. Somewhere in the afternoon she had made a mistake with her insulin and diet, Taking her shot and then falling asleep before she ate.

She never did remember what happened. I can only assume she awoke on the couch realising that her sugar was low and tried to get some orange juice into her system before it was too late. She lost that race.

Had we not stopped in when we did she would have ben gone that day.

 

When she got out of the hospital a bit over a month later she moved in with us. I learned way more about diabetes during the next two years than most folks learn in their lifetime. I also learned about other things like Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain management, and drug side effects and interactions.

For two long years my family and I watched her slowly come unglued as her health failed. We spend countless hours with the doctors working to make things better. Even the doctors eventually said all we could do is keep her comfortable until the end comes.

By all rights we could have simply put her into a nursing home and awaited the inevitable call. Most folks would have, especially towards the end.

We could have, but we didn’t.  As long as the doctors who were monitoring things said we could still handle it at home we did. As long as they are able a family takes care of their own, thats just how it works. Anything else is so foreign to me that it doesn’t even register.

Watching it all happen was, shall we say, less than pleasant.

During one of her stays in the hospital, a bit over two years after moving in with us, the call came. My brother and I needed to be there… like now. We made it there just as she finally was too tired to keep fighting and passed away.

 

During those two years I found refuge in the game. I could log in any time day or night and know that everything would be right where I left it. I might be up at three in the morning farming primals, I might be pugging my way through Shattered Halls, I might just be sitting in Shattrah watching the trade chat trolls banter back and forth.

Escaping into a virtual world could not make the pain go away, but it could make it slip to the back of my mind for a little while. It was never completely gone, but for a little while I could slip away to a place where things were easier.

It was a place I could go and have fun relaxing with friends, while still being home if I was needed.

Friends that sat up talking to me all night long when things were so bad I could not sleep.

Friends that said not a word when I left with no more than a quick “Afk” before I vanished, sometimes for days. No matter what we were doing in Azeroth I could walk away and it was understood.

Friends that in some cases I have now met in real life and talk with more out of the game than inside it.

The friends I made in that virtual world are just as real as those I have made anywhere else.

Many, many a long night I sat up with them, one ear on vent and the other ear listening. Waiting for any change in her ragged breathing, or a call to come help her.

 

The world of Azeroth may not be real, but the people there most certainly are. During my own personal cataclysm it was a refuge. A place I could go where I could still have control. A place where things made sense and the reward always came if you finished the quest. The quest giver never said “sorry, you did everything right and it still didn’t matter”.

 

A lot has changed in the year and a half she has been gone. I don’t play nearly as much anymore. Most of the friends I had then are scattered across different servers. Some have quit the game entirely, some just want different things from the game than I do now.

One thing I have learned though, is when things were really bad one of the things that kept me sane was Warcraft and its virtual world.  I could log in, if only for a while, and take a mental vacation there.

Almost as though, before it all happened,  my friend had sent a touristy postcard saying “Escape to Azeroth”.

Rolling up my sleeves

As I said in yesterdays post, Dechion’s place is going to be taking on a new direction.

I thought a good bit about this last night. There are ten classes, call it nine since DK’s start at 55, and are well covered.

Even if I just gloss over faction specific or race specific information that’s an awful lot of ground to cover, just to get the basics down.

Then we start getting into professions…. (I call can ‘o worms on those, lots to go over there)

I can do this but it’s going to take some time to really get the ball rolling. Honestly I am not sure if the current layout of the blog will handle what I want it to be able to do.

I suppose i’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

The first thing that needs to happen is a re-labeling of all my older posts. Some may be more relevant than others, but all deserve their place in the tag cloud. When I originally went through and posted things I did not so much keep track of how I tagged things.

One example, I had tags for Wow, WoW, Warcraft, and World of Warcraft…

Kinda makes it difficult to find things.

Well, that and the fact that nearly every post was tagged with one of those and little else. Over 250 posts and even I had a hellava time finding anything. Everything having the same tag is as good as nothing being tagged at all.

confusion

So, my plan for the next few days is to go through and organise the site to be much more user friendly. With any luck I will be able to adapt the current format to my new needs, if not… well lets just hope I don’t have to go there. I really like this theme and would prefer not to have to change it.

Another major change that is going to happen is the posting schedule. Up until now I have simply posted as the muse took me. Sometimes more than one a day, sometimes only a few times a month. This needs to be more regular.

The types of posts I am going to be working on take a lot more time than something like what you are reading now. Particularly since I need to double check all my information. I don’t actually play every class, so I will be learning a good bit of this as I go.

So, while I will still drop in the occasional odd day post like this one, as the muse takes me,  from here on my plan is to post once a week.

Tuesday sounds like a good day.

 

Until next week, Keep your powder dry.

Good hunting.

Bring some class to your car…literaly

For those who may not have known about it (like me until TJ pointed it out this morning) there is a wonderful site full of (war)crafty goodness. These stickers are sweet, I plan on ordering in a few myself. They can guard my laptop when I am not around and keep the curious away from my car.

If you haven’t been there yet check it out, you just might find something nice to get for fathers day *hint applied with sledgehammer for my kids*

Warcraft, security, and reality

In the time it takes you to read this everything you have worked for in Warcraft could be gone. It has happened to lots of folks. Some of them had (relatively) good experiences with it like Lassirra illistrates in her blog Here. Others have been much less fortunate as posted about by Big Bear Butt Here. Others know lots more about this topic than I do, one site in particular that comes to mind is confessions of a serial ganker.I have found his work to be well written and informative.

I am A maintenance man. I work as an electrician, mechanic, and machinery repair man. I have had years of training and experience in systems analysis and analytical troubleshooting. That being said, when I look at something that is not working well I tend to think of ways to make it work better. On the other hand I tend to err on the side of over-engineering at times.

Like an almost headache that you feel in the back of your head, this one has been bugging me for a while. I sat down with a good friend of mine we will call “Wayne”, mostly because that’s his name. The idea was to look at suggestions that would help Blizzard make our Warcraft accounts more secure. Wayne got drafted for this for three reasons. Firstly he plays warcraft so he knows the system I am talking about, secondly he has worked in IT at a security company, and thirdly he is a friend of mine so I can bribe him into helping me keep this realistic. I’m thinking pizza, possibly even with breadsticks.

If you are not familiar with the story my brother’s account getting hacked i’ll give the short version. He was logged in to his second account and watched his first account log in and start ransacking his main. He immediately tried to log into his primary account to change the password while others online put in tickets explaining what was going on to GM’s.

when trying to change his password he found it had been changed by the “bad guy” and was unable to revert the change without the new password. He was completely stripped, everything sold, and as we later found his characters deleted. While this was going on he was attempting to get with someone on the phone to stop this.

 
It took a bit over three weeks to get his account restored, however he did get his character and most of his stuff back. The communication he received was hard to come by and in many cases downright confrontational, despite the fact that he was the victim in this case Blizzard seemed to imply that he had stripped the account himself and now wanted all his stuff back after mailing the money off. That may not have been their intention, but the poor communication seemed to imply it.

 
The story overall had a happy ending, but was very frustrating while it was going on. Now I am going to break this down into several different things that went wrong, and see what could be reasonably done to keep it from happening again. These are both my thoughts on the topic and ideas I have had suggested to me by other users. I will then bounce this off of Wayne and post his response as well.

 
1. The account was compromised by a key logger. We later discovered the key logger had picked up his full log in information while he accessed the forums to post from a friends house.

   a. make separate log ins for forum use and admin/character log in (the friend had the account name saved and only typed the password, he was never completely compromised)

   b. have the forums/admin log in screens have the option to remember account name like the character log in does.

2. his password was changed by the “bad guy” to keep the rightful owner out.

   a. have password changes require a email link-back to make them final.

   b. make certain the log in name and customers email address are different.

3. There was no way to stop what was happening, even with putting in a ticket to GM the response was just too long in coming.

   a. put a “panic button” of some sort into the game for cases such as this. If we can have an instant report button for gold spam, we can have  a button on the ticket screen for this too.

   b. give GM’s authority to put a hold on the account upon suspicion or report of this happening, instead of waiting for a TOS violation. Besides last time I checked logging into someone elses account WAS a TOS violation.

4. his characters were deleted as well along with unlearning all his skills.

   a. require an email link-backfor character deletion above say level 10 as well. If It takes a link-back to transfer a toon it should take one to delete it.

5. Telephone response was not available.

   a. Blizzard runs a game that operates round the clock all year long, customer service should reflect that. they are staffed 40 hours per week, however taking maintenance into account the game is running approximately 160 hours per week. This is only 25% customer service coverage and that is unacceptable. Hell, my bank is open more hours and more days.

6. The form letter emails were difficult to come by, and worded in a way that appeared to accuse the victim of wrongdoing.

   a. If form letters are the way to go please have more than one or two letters. Perhaps one for accused EULA violators and another for folks who have been victimised.

7. The account was turned back on fairly quickly, however the character was returned naked, broke, and skill-less.

   a. Even a set of level appropriate greens, or return quest rewards from some level appropriate quests would have helped him get some use out of his account while waiting for resolution.

 
note: when the resolution went through several weeks later he did get his skills and most of his gear back.

 
I sent the first half of the post over to Wayne at this point and received this reply in return.

 
Since I was formally part of the IT end of things, as a simple user I still tend to see both sides of the coin and play devil’s advocate with all issues.  First, I do understand Blizzards reason for not returning items.  On their end, there is no way of telling the difference between someone looting their own character, or someone being hacked.  It looks the same as far as a computer or database is concerned.  However, what would be nice is if they kept some sort of log of all transactions over 100, 500, or maybe 1000 gold.  That way they can see which character got the money sent to them, and then see who owns that account to catch either the bad guys or their accomplices.  They must have some sort of log of the character post deletion though if they were able to rebuild him.  So you would think that they could have restored the skills and rep too.  Why keep a record of one thing but not the other? Programmers…

 

I know it’s terribly annoying, but frequently changing passwords and/or having different passwords for all your different accounts is necessary in today’s world.  Most people don’t want to be bothered with it though, and hackers depend on this to get you. Key loggers are a real bitch too.  The logistics of an in game panic button to instantly/temporarily freeze an account could be just as devastating in a different way.  Now you have hackers randomly going into peoples’ accounts and freezing them just to be a prick while the real person is actually playing.  Can you imagine being in the middle of a huge raid and about to defeat the boss when suddenly you get booted and your account locked.  By the time you clear everything up, your team is all dead and you have to start over.

 

As for form letter responses, those are more and more common throughout tech support in all fields these days.  Operators are needlessly tied up answering the same silly questions over and over and this is a way to answer some of the simpler ones.  Operators are free to handle more complicated issues, and you save money by not needing as many operators because you have handled half your load through automation.  Most of the time the email isn’t even sent or seen by a real person, but by a computer without human intervention.  The computer scans the service request for key words and then sends the form letter that best matches what those words are usually about.  I’ve gotten standard responses at times that had absolutely nothing to do with my problem, but it picked up on the wrong keyword.  A real person doesn’t get involved till much later typically.  I would love to see 24/7 live support, that would be awesome!  Heck, I would like to see my in game tickets answered within 5 hours.  I consider blizzard moderators like the government.  The government wants you to believe that they are capable of so much stuff so that you don’t do anything wrong out of fear of being caught.  Blizzard is the same way, “don’t do that, the moderators are watching”.  Sometimes I think they are just as real as the vendor I get my items repaired at.  Don’t believe me, like a moderator scanning the system couldn’t tell that a level 1 character in orgrimar with the name of asdfghjklis isn’t up to no good…  

 

Email verification of all these items sounds simple, but that’s going to be a load on the servers, and slow down when people are actually really trying to do something.  Humans, more specifically Americans are inpatient, they aren’t going to want to wait and have to confirm in an email every time they want to do something.  They want it quick and easy.  Security is only considered “after” you have had a problem.

 

As with everything in life, it’s all about finding the delicate compromise and balance between security and ease of use.  Plus, there is a triangle in business between price, speed, and reliability.  As the sang goes, you can have any two but not all three.  We can have WoW be fast and stable but it will cost a bloody fortune, or we can have it be fast and cheep but crash all the time. 

 

After looking at it from the position of someone who actually has some experience on the other side of the tech support and IT security issue I have narrowed down my wish list just a little bit.

 
1. I still think having separate log ins for the admin and the game/forum sides of things would increase security quite a bit. It would also improve the parental controls aspect of the game as the parent could have the administrative password and the child could be only given the character log in password.

 
2. I do now realise that an email link back would not be a good idea for everything, however I would still like it to be in place, if only for password changes.

 
3. I still believe that telephone tech support should be staffed to some degree 24/7. At very least a small staff that could handle the issues where time truly is of the essence.

 

To sum it all up I think these few things would go a long way towards providing better security in a way that is at least somewhat realistic. In the end however any security tools that Blizzard can provide will only ever be as secure as the person using them. Do your homework, read up on how to keep the bad guys away, come up with a security plan and stick with it. If its worth spending an hour poking around the net to figure out which armor kit would work better on your legs, it’s worth an hour to help those legs still be there when you come back online.

At least that is my two cents on the matter. (void where prohibited, some assembly required, your milage may vary)

 

Truely epic

I don’t plan to do a whole series of “I raided last night and got the following loot” type of posts. I will smile and say I reached a bit of a milestone last night. My raiding main ( a holy priest) has been forever running around with A crafted blue dps helm gemmed for healing and a set of level 60 blue gloves also gemmed for healing.

In my Kara run this weekend that finaly changed, From Attumen I picked up the gloves of saintly blessings and from Prince the light collar of the incarnate. So now as soon as I farm up some enchanting mats I will be in full epics with not a single pvp item to be found.

*pats own back*

That being said, that was not my good news. The best most truely epic things happen in real life, not as purple pixels in a game. For truly epic I need to look towards next Saturday.

Even though she plays a pretty good warlock this has nothing to do with Warcraft. My oldest daughter Meg will graduate high school this week. I am tremendously proud of her, and feel like telling everyone. So if you happen to be one of the few who stumble across my ramblings you get stuck reading about it. You see I was a dropout, I never got the chance to experience many of the things she has. A parent will always hope for their kids to do better than they did, Meg has fulfilled that wish and then some.

Did I mention she already found herself a good job? Or that she decided to start MONDAY? That’s right, after her graduation ceremony on Saturday she took a whole one day off to enjoy herself before starting her post highschool life as A productive member of society. Did I mention I am proud of her?

*Pats Meg’s back in public, even though the thought of it annoys her*

Good job kid, dad’s mighty proud.

Customer disservice

Another in a long string of occurrences that make me question Blizz and their notoriously bad customer service.

I love the Warcraft. It is a wonderful social game where I have made several good friends, friendships that bleed over into real life and will be there when wow is dust. I have also had the honor of having experienced the wonders of their customer service as I watched my brother log in when it was not him, watched him go from the bank to the mailbox while not answering tells, watched him strip to his shorts and make one last trip to the box. The whole time I had in a ticket, for hours no one replied. Locking the barn after the horses get away is pointless.

Even with the screen shots, the instant ticket put in, and phone calls my brother tried to make while we watched him get ransacked, it still took weeks to get his character back. Now in a knee-jerk reaction Blizz seems to be throwing their nets wide and not caring about the consequences. I suppose when you have ten million accounts losing a few might not seem to matter, but new things are on the horizon. If folks are unhappy enough they will move elsewhere.

Remember all the companies that outsourced tech support over the last decade? Look into how many lost business as a result. Now many companies are moving back to doing their own in house customer service. A shining example of this kind of callousness can be found on Temerity-Janes blog Here. I don’t know what else I can say other than good luck. Some times bad things happen to good people, I hope your story has a happy ending.

Edit: An interesting post about the why of the ban series can be found at priestly endeavors here.

My point is not to scream at Blizz for this particular issue, but for their very difficult to work with customer service in general.

Their recent tactic in using prior purchases with the same credit card information to support a ban I strongly disagree with. A for instance would be if I were to purchase a gaming keyboard that has programmable keystrokes with time delay built in as a gift for a friend who does not play wow, never installing it or it’s software in my system. Would this be considered sufficient wrong doing to hit me with the ban hammer? I understand that the credit card info they received was for purchasers of glider software, but it sets a dangerous precedent.

I don’t see this as having a long term impact on purchasing such things, it merely makes sure the “bad guys” pay for their hacks with cash and their accounts with game cards. I don’t know how far this will go, but I would like Blizz’s customer service to be a bit more forthcoming and a bit less confrontational.