Monday, April 21, 2014

Return to Tumbleweed Junction

So, as I see it, I haven't really written much lately on this blog. I'm still playing World of Warcraft as much as ever. Well, we did reduce our raid nights by an hour per night--partially to prepare for joining forces with another guild (who prefers three-hour raid nights to four-hour raid nights) in order to be able to do mythic raiding in 6.0 (because god knows we have no realistic hope of recruiting enough to get up to 23-24 people). But 6.0 is far away, we didn't have to reduce hours now. The other reason we trimmed hours was because it seemed like several of our raiders might be risking burnout. It just seemed like a good combination of reasons.

I wasn't among the people getting burned out. I've rarely found raiding current content less enjoyable over time. The few times that I have, it's been due to social reasons rather than the raiding itself. As an ancient Chinese philosopher* once wrote: "Raiding instances is easy; humans, is what's hard."

*I can't remember the name of the philosopher, but he wrote it in English

So this downturn in blogging output isn't related to lack of interest in the game. It's that I've stopped having opinions, apparently. At one time, I had lots of opinions, opinions about everything. Opinions about raiding, about healing, about music, opinions about the beauty of a sunset. Then one day, I woke up without any. Is this band any good? I dunno, they certainly have a sound. Is the sun hot? I wouldn't want to venture a guess, but a textbook might provide you an answer.* What's healing like in 5.4? Eh, healing is healing.

*Are the Beatles overrated? Yes. Because some things don't change.

I don't know how you, the four of you who read this blog, perceived this blog, but I'll let you in on how I perceive it (I may have mentioned this before, but this seems like a good time to re-iterate it, if so). Well, just before I get into that, let me say that the thinking I most enjoy doing is understanding the underlying processes behind dynamics. My job is user-interface designer--someone who designs the ways applications and websites work for the users. But you (usually) don't get a degree in "user-interface design." The degree that leads to this sort of job generally, depending on the school, has some combination or version of these terms: "cognitive science," "human-computer interaction," "human factors."*

*Not that the specific degree has to matter. You could be the guy or girl who gets a degree in anthropology and then follows your dream to be a self-taught biochemist or astrophysicist. Perhaps not the easiest or simplest path, but it's been done. Also, this has, thus far, been an exceptionally asterisk-commented entry.

A big part of that type of discipline is understanding processes, usually so you can either design that process better or design something well based on that process. It suits me, as I said earlier; I enjoy understanding the underlying processes. My perception of my blog (which wasn't always a conscious initiative all along) is taking a concept (like Spirit for healers) or activity (like, healing) and breaking it down into the underlying processes so that it might be more understandable and some insights might be gleaned that weren't obvious from the eye-in-the-sky view of it.

What has happened, then, is that I've exhausted the processes to write about. Or rather, when surveying the vast emptiness lately on this blog, I've run out of processes that I, personally, find interesting to talk about. I'm still playing, still trying to do my best for God And My Country. However, nothing new has piqued my interest to write about. And there's no point trying to write about things that don't interest me, because that way lies filler articles--the very notion disgusts me!*

*This post is not filler. It's going somewhere, just you wait and see. And won't you feel bad for doubting me when you see? On the other hand, it can't be a good idea to push confrontation with my last remaining reader, so I apologize.

So what now? Well, I still consider this a World of Warcraft blog. If I do keep adding entries (and it is my current plan to keep writing, when I can), the majority should still be about World of Warcraft. If the plan, or the actual reality, changes, I'll say so. That said, I have also been playing Hearthstone quite a bit. Hearthstone is a collectible card game (CCG) that Blizzard has developed based on the World of Warcraft universe. If you've played Magic before (I have, though long ago) or the World of Warcraft trading card game (I have not), this game will be immediately familiar to you, though with some differing mechanics from Magic.

If you have never played a CCG before, the general premise is that you start with a pool of cards that cost mana and either summon a creature (called a minion in the game) or have a one-time effect (spells). You assemble 30 of these cards into a deck, which is shuffled into a random order. You and your opponent are each dealt a starting hand of 4-5 cards and you each start with one mana. Every turn, you each draw another card at random and get another point of mana added to your mana pool (to a maximum of 10, though many games go more than 10 turns). Each turn, you can spend whatever mana you have (with some exceptions that aren't important here) to play the cards in your hand (if possible...obviously, you can't play a card that costs more mana than you have). Playing those cards will either put a minion in play or have a one-time effect, depending on whether you played a minion card or spell card. You and your opponent each have 30 life and the first player to bring their opponent's life pool to zero wins the game. You can attack your opponent, or your opponent's minions, with your minions or spells.

There are a few more complexities to it, but that's the broad overview. It's light entertainment (matches rarely go more than about 10 minutes and there isn't a huge amount to know, if you want to play relatively casually) but it has enough strategy and logic to be satisfying. There's also some depth to the game to allow you to put in more time commitment, if you desire. But it's far from necessary to play the game enjoyably. The other big concept (and what puts the first 'C' in "CCG") is that you only start with a small percentage of all the possible cards in the game. You can buy packs of cards (with gold, which can either be won by playing casually, or purchased with real money) or you can win cards (and gold) by playing arena matches, which has a gold (or real money) cost. The more matches you win during an arena run, the more rewards (cards, gold) you win. Acquiring more cards in your collection expands the types of decks you can build--deck-building can be a fun outlet for creativity and a major selling point of CCGs.

Don't be daunted by those mentions of real money. The game itself is completely free and you can quite easily expand your collection of cards without spending a cent. I haven't used any real money at all and I'm quite satisfied with how my collection is filling out.

If you've never played Hearthstone, the above was meant to give you an idea of what it's all about, in case it interests you. I'd suggest giving it a try and seeing if that style of game is for you. If you do play, my next post is going to be my collected wisdom about Hearthstone that may be of use to you (assuming that you're not already a pro player). As a new game, there are processes to playing it that I can mine for an entry! An easy conduit to another post.

Again, though, I still consider this a World of Warcraft blog, so don't see this as a format change to a Hearthstone blog. But since I am playing and, presumably, a fair number of people are, it seems within reason to dedicate a post to Hearthstone. Which will be my next post, coming Soon.