Monthly Archives: June 2009

Negative reinforcement – when punishment is actually a reward

Okay, so this is a follow-up post to the one I wrote about the behavioral psychology of loot random drops.

In that post, I described how random loot systems can be reinforcing to increase the amount of time people spend playing the game. In this post, I’ll describe how sometimes things that are supposed to be punishment are actually rewarding to people, and how not responding is the best way to deal with people who are bothering you (in or out of the game).

Lets take a forum posting example that Ghostcrawler does a lot. Here’s one from a shadow priest thread:

Do not fish for blue threads. Do not bump threads. Every time you say: “We don’t care, we’re just going to do it anyway,” you’re going to get that response.

Here’s his attempt at discouraging threads that just ask for blue posts with half the posts being /bump, and the OP usually saying something like “QQ stop ignoring me”.

You would think that his telling people to stop posting in that manner would be punishing, right?  I mean, he didn’t answer the question people wanted him to at all.  However, a lot of the time, those people just want to be acknowledged and even saying “stop it” is still attention in some way or another. So, telling people not to fish for blue threads just encourages them to do it more. “but ignoring them doesn’t seem to work, either!” you think…

Remember from my other post – how reinforcement schedules work? By rewarding any of the trollish posts in that forum even on relatively infrequent intervals, it tells them that if they try long enough and hard enough, eventually their trolling might pay off. The WoW role forums are a case of any attention being good attention, and thus they are receiving negative reinforcement for their trolling (thus, intead of the desired effect of trolling going down, it just remains steady or increases, in some sort of viscious cycle).

Negative reinforcement happens sometimes with things like barking dogs. My parents have a dog that barks a lot, and they keep it in their backyard most of the time (it’s mostly an outside doog). So, whe it barks and it annoys them, they’ll go to the back window and tell the dog to be quiet. It works for a while, and then the dog starts back up again, so they get up and go give the dog more attention by telling it to be quiet again (negative reinforcement), and the dog just keeps going back to barking and never unlearns this bad habit of barking at the door. The act of my parents yelling at the dog is reinforcing for my parents because the dog stops for a while, and it’s also reinforcing for the dog because the dog got a little bit of what it wanted (attention).

but surely forum trolls are different than barking dogs… well, no not really. So, what’s the lesson we learned here today? Mostly, that the only way to stop the trolls is to stop feeding the trolls (or maybe to give them permanent forum bans – there are ways to stop bad behaviors that involve things which aren’t that rewarding), however I also think that it’s really not possible to stop forum trolling, as trolling seems to be mostly what the forums were designed for in the first place…. However, this idea of negative reinforcement is the same principle for the people who respond to drama on their guild forums, or respond to in-game harrassment: giving the person attention (regardless of what kind of attention it is) will just mean that they won’t ever stop what they are doing to bother you.

Posted in Uncategorized

PTR for 3.2 means constant changes – here's a look at a few recent developments

Okay, so I blinked and the PTR patch notes for 3.2 changed again.

It looks like some of the tier 9 set bonuses may have been place holders, or that they listened to feedback and changed some of them.

Only 2 druid set bonuses are changing to:

  • Druid T9 Feral 4P Bonus – Reduces the cooldown on Barkskin by -12.0 sec and increases the critical strike chance of Rip and Ferocious Bite by 5%.
  • Druid T9 Balance 4P Bonus – Increases the critical strike chance of your Starfire and Wrath spells by 3%.

So, the tanking bonus lets you use barkskin more often, instead of increasing how much it reduces damage. I believe that the rip & FB crit increase didn’t change.

The balance druid set bonus change isn’t really a surprise, since the changes to balance DPS overall means that giving crit to only one of the two spells would make it a bad set bonus. So, with this change, it should (more likely) be a worthwhile set bonus. However, it’s interesting to see that the feral bonus is 5% crit to 2 abilities, whereas the balance bonus is 3% crit to 2 abilities. At the very least, we’ll be able to benefit from the set bonus for both solar & lunar eclipse portions, so it’s probably better than before, but Graylo is already crying big tears of angry about the 4-piece moonkin bonus.

Other changes worth noting:

  1. They made the warrior 2-piece tank bonus decrease the coodown on taunt, so it’s more similar to the druid feral tanking 2-piece bonus. I’m really not sure why they needed to decrease the cooldown on all the class’ taunts right after they put taunt on diminishing returns. It doesn’t really make sense to me. However, having this as the set bonus for all the tanking classes at least makes it “balanced.”
  2. They changed the way that boss tokens will drop for the coliseum, so that the tokens will let you buy any of the set pieces (but the tokens will still have the class restrictions). The token you get from the first boss you can use to replace any of the armor pieces (helm, chest, legs – doesn’t matter which piece you get).
  3. Also, it looks like with new faction changes, druids may be able (in the future) to change from Night Elf to Tauren (and vice versa). I really don’t like the idea of faction changes, but since Blizzard has been caving in on the other ideas people have had (ie. paid server transfers, sex changes, name changes, et cetra), I guess it was just a matter of time before they tried this. It likely won’t make it out for 3.2, but it really just makes me sad…. My druid will NEVER, EVER change factions (I’m more likely to just finish leveling my tauren druid if I wanted to switch factions). I can’t imagine changing my druid’s race from what it is right now. Your race and your faction are just as important as what your class is, and changing that huge decision to something else just seems to trivialize what this game is about.
  4. Also, my favorite change of all is the change they are making to items in the raid dungeons -> you can trade them to other raid members for a short amount of time (IF they were there for the kill!). Have you ever had a raid leader that just couldn’t seem to assign loot to the right person? Were your guild members constantly opening tickets to trade items to the right person? Yes? then this change is going to save your raid from an awful lot of frustration!
  5. Also, does your raid need an extra day (or few!) to kill another boss? Well, good news! You’ll now be able to extend your raid lockout timer, to give you a little extra time for those pesky new bosses that just won’t die before Tuesday’s reset!
  6. Looks like the purple with green hair NE bear form finally made it to the PTR.
Posted in Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 3.2 WotLK

Lore helps us remember what we're fighting for (and some druid related lore stuff)

So, on the plane ride back from my California trip, I had a chance to read the Arthas book, which contains a story of the life of Arthas who became the Lich King. The book covers things from his childhood, recounts the culling of Stratholme events (that you should remember if you did the caverns of time instance), a lot of events from Warcraft III, ending in the destruction of Dalaran (before the bubble-hearth), and does a good job of summarizing some of the events that happened during World of Warcraft’s history. What the book felt like was a summary. However, it put together pieces of the lore puzzle that I hadn’t grasped, since I never played Warcraft III (I didn’t get into Blizzard games until WoW, since WoW came out the summer after I graduated from Undergrad and had more than 10 minutes a day of “free time”).

Anyway, what reading the book reminded me is that lore is really important for making the game fun. If all you do is kill a boss over and over again and have no reason what the significance of killing them is (or why some of them won’t just stay dead!). While you can just read lore summaries on WoWWiki, having the lore in book format really helps tie all the threads together. I mean, why are we in Northrend? Why d0 we need to slay all the bosses in all the raid dungeons? If your battles feel like they have a greater purpose, and you really feel how evil the bosses are, then clearing an instance has much more meaning. Lore is a tool to help with emersing yourself in the game world.

The only strange feeling I got reading the book was related to the events (like the instance for culling of strat) where I feel like I’ve been able to help shape some of the history through the game, and I’m reading about in-game events that I’ve seen with my own eyes. For people that played all of Warcraft III, my guess is that the Arthas book was dissapointing, since you’ve seen most of the events. However, for someone like me (who likes the lore but didn’t play the earlier games), it’s really interesting to be able to read about the lore and feel like I have a somewhat better understanding than I did before, and when I get to help kick Arthas’ rear-end somewhere down the line, I’m going to find that the kill will be much more meaningful.

On a Somewhat related note: So, I found it completely ironic that after thinking about the importance of lore during my plane ride home, I logged onto my computer, and saw a druid related Lore article on Wowinsider ( The article is mostly speculative about what the NPC conversation means, but it’s interesting to think about how druids might play a role in the fight against Arthas, in more ways than just being player characters in a raid instance. After my newly refreshed interest in the lore surrounding the game, I am really interested in seeing how this plays out.

One interesting thing that the article also talks about how the NPC conversation also leaves open the possibility of getting more druid spells that have to do with sunlight instead of the mostly “moon” themed spells. Another flavor of spells would be neat for balance druids to have. We could have a sunburst spell or solar flare spell, or things that might spice up the moonkin spell arsenal a bit and have at least some justification for it (The Solar & Lunar eclipse talent also helps give the wacky idea some ground to stand on). It’s just speculative on the part of the players guessing things that could come, and probably isn’t worth keeping your fingers crossed or anything. It could just be a conversation between two NPCs that isn’t entirely that meaninful on it’s own… Then again, fire-ish spells overlap a lot with shaman spells, so maybe it would just be sun-themed arcane & nature spells instead of having actual fire spells… At any rate, in the next expansion, the moonkin need new single-target spells to add to their rotations, as switching back and forth between starfire & wrath (while keeping up DOTs) isn’t going to last in whatever the next expansion is – because in the end, it’s really not that fun to have such a limited range of spells.

edit: and excuse any typos. I’m exhausted from traveling all day… but I wanted to get a post out because I feel like I neglected my blog all weekend.

Posted in Druid - General

Congrats to my Little Sister

So, my sister is getting married today (in real life, not in the game). That means I don’t have much time to post this weekend. I rushed to get out the 3.2 PTR posts before the weekend, and then ran out of things to talk about, so that I could mostly take the weekend off of posting content (sometimes, you have to realize that RL > WoW). I had to take a whole week off of raiding to be able to fly out to California for her special day, which is why I rushed to get done with the summer holiday achievements early…

Congrats to Jen & my new Brother-in-law!


If you want something to read today that is WoW related, there’s a Shared Topic posted up on Twisted Nether, based on something I posted about a while back (Paying attention to your surroundings when you are raiding). There were a bunch of replies to the shared topic that you can see on the Twisted Nether site, covering not only healers but DPS and tanks, too!

Posted in Uncategorized

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