Friday, January 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Blizzard: Add a Authenticator Option

Recently Blizzard (vendor of World of Warcraft as well as the upcoming Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 titles) has switched over to their networked gaming platform to manage all accounts for their games. In doing this, they've also pushed out an authenticator that's much like many high tech employees use to work from home. These little gadgets have a secret formula that they use to produce the next number in a sequence every time you press the button. knows this sequence, and can verify your identity by making sure that the code you enter is the next (or nearly next, just to allow for mistakes) number.

Recently has been suggesting that Blizzard might be on the edge of making these mandatory for the game. I understand this move, but there are two primary reasons people don't agree with it, and that it may well hurt WoW. First I'll cover those reasons and then I'll discuss the ways to work around them without giving up on account security.


A Quick and Easy Americanized Curry

I found myself without a plan for dinner the other night, so I broke out some random ingredients and found myself sort of accidentally making a vegetarian dish that tasted just like some of my favorite curries. The spices in this are a bit exotic for some American kitchens, but get them and you'll thank me. Most large supermarkets these days will carry most of them.


4 whole, green cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp powdered)
1 whole clove (or 1/8 tsp powdered)
4-6 whole peppercorns (really, you need to substitute?)
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp garlic chili paste (comes in a small plastic jar with green lid, can substitute fresh chilies that you chop and add early)
1 can diced tomato
1 can Progresso Lentil Soup (Vegetable Classics)
2 good sized handfulls of fresh, baby spinach
2 cups rice

Cook the rice while the rest of this continues on. Consider adding vegetable or a chicken stock to it and perhaps some saffron if you have it. I also love to put just a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into the rice steamer with it.

To the ingredients, you could also include a meat of choice that you cook ahead of the next step.

Combine all spices in a mortar or spice grinder and make a powder. Pass this through a sifter if you want to avoid chunks of cardamom pod in the dish. Place all ingredients except for the spinach into a large, wide pan and cook on high until it begins to bubble. Then lower heat and reduce until it's thickened.

Now add all of the spinach on top and cover for 3 minutes on medium-low heat.

Stir and serve on rice.

You can tweak the spice mix or use a pre-mixed dry curry spice mix if you wish. I don't recommend the wet curry mixes. They tend to have off-flavors in most cases, and really don't get you anything over the dry. Other spices that are nice: curry leaves if you can get them, mustard seed (use 5-10 seeds), whole cumin seed. If you use whole seeds, consider toasting them in oil before adding them to the dish. This will release their oils more readily and incorporate them with the dish.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Occulus and How WoW Can Make Vehicles Fun

World of Warcraft's Occulus is a beautiful instance. It's wide open to the sky, designed in 3 dimensions and otherwise breaks the mold that much of WoW's 5-man instance stable has set. And yet, it's widely considered to be a failure. I recently read one blog post about this that made some excellent points about why it was a failure. I'd like to analyze that a bit deeper and then discuss what I think the future of vehicles could be (yes, I think they have a promising future in 5-man instances and even raids).

Occulus often starts this way: 5 people zone in. 2-4 of them immediately drop group and port out. Why? Because they've done this before and they know that on average, even if they know what to do, they'll probably die at least once trying to finish the final encounter because someone won't. You see, having to get to know new abilities is a pain, but it's a one-time pain. Once you know what to do, you're all set. The problem is that you run a high probability of getting people who don't know what they're doing. They won't be like the warlock who's inexplicably doing half the dps they should be. They'll fail utterly to execute their role because they don't know what it is.

So, how do you fix that? There are three ways:
  1. Vehicles have no abilities and role is easy to understand (e.g. you're in a chopper... drive away from the boss until it fades)
  2. Vehicles have very simple abilities and are used only for a small part of the fight (think DTK final fight, but even slightly simpler and only once per fight).
  3. Vehicles are an optional element of the fight (e.g. one player must get on a giant and use a complicated set of abilities during a boss fight). This is the Wintergrasp model.
Players will appreciate these roles for vehicles because it doesn't violate the value proposition of having learned to play their class. Right now, lots of players are gun-shy of vehicles because of Occulus, but if they continue to be as fun and optional as Wintergrasp or as intermittent as DTK, I think that it will be a fun and enjoyable part of the game.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Wishlist for the New Comic Book Reader

Recently, a friend of mine recommended some comics to a co-worker who had just started reading them with Watchmen. He leaped right in to Warren Ellis and other authors that I think present a fairly high barrier to the average reader, so I wrote this response detailing what I think a new comics reader should be looking for. Ellis is on the list, sure, but now that everyone uses Amazon, I don't see why you can't start with some older works. There's Byrne and Gaiman, Claremont and Moore. All the great comics authors of the last 25 years are your playground, so mix it up and have fun.