Tag Archive for strength

Your Greatest Weakness

If you have ever spent any significant amount of time interviewing for jobs, you’ve probably had someone ask you, “What do you think is your greatest weakness?” Most people don’t spend any effort on seriously considering that question, and often it’s just a wankfest of trying to come up with something that also sounds like a strength. “I work too hard.” “I do too much unpaid overtime.” “I sacrifice my social life for work.” Personally, I’ve never liked that, and whenever I’ve been a part of the interview process from the other side and heard a prospect give one of those answers, I’ll either write them off as being useless or if they’ve shown real promise before that get them to answer again, with a little truth this time. If I’ve bothered to ask you that question, it’s because I want to know that you are capable of not seeing yourself as perfect and understanding that you can improve. I certainly don’t want to hear how even your flaws are assets, because if it is an asset, a strength, it’s not a weakness.

For me, my answer has often been that I’m better at fixing or finishing than I am at starting. When asked to explain, I do so by telling them about issues I have with narrowing decisions. For example, I am told to build a webpage. In what language? The choice of language will dictate, down the road, what you can do. Some languages are great at some things and weak at others, and so at the beginning stages of a project I will often spent an incredibly large amount of time trying to think of and map out every possible feature we could want in the site in an attempt to make sure I’m choosing the best language, the best approach. If instead of being told “build a webpage” I was told “build a webpage in PHP” we can eliminate a lot of time and effort. I end by saying that while it is my greatest weakness, it can be greatly tempered with information and direction, and lessens over time as I become more comfortable with my working environment.

I’ve gotten better at that over the years, both through knowledge and speed of research, and by gaining confidence in my decision-making by having decisions I’ve made work out well. And so now my answer has changed.

My greatest weakness these days is that I expect other people to do their jobs. My job is software development with a little support thrown in (small company, everyone does lots of jobs). When I’m asked to write software or if I’m handed a support call, I do it. And when doing my job requires me asking someone to do their job, I ask them and expect it to be done. Too many times, it isn’t done quickly, which holds up my ability to do work. The delays lengthen and eventually I’m missing deadlines.

In my opinion, I shouldn’t have to yell at people to do the job they are being paid to do. They should just do it, as I do in my own job. Instead, I often find that part of my job becomes checking up on other people at other companies to make sure stuff gets done.

I call in and report a problem. I’m not asking for new service, I’m reporting that my existing service is broken. When people call me for things like that, I drop what I’m doing and work on the problem, because a customer who cannot use my service now is infinitely more important than that feature I’m working on that no one is using yet. So, I’ve reported the problem and am told someone will be calling me shortly. Two hours later, I haven’t heard from anyone. I call in to get a status update and find that no one has been assigned the call yet. I am assured the call will be assigned and someone will call me within a couple of minutes. Thirty minutes later I’m calling back in again because no one has called me. They transfer me to the guy who was assigned the call, he tells me he needs to read the problem. He does, we talk, he says it needs to go to another department, and they’ll call me back. This keeps repeating, over and over.

In the end, it takes three days to fix a problem that should have taken a couple of hours at most. Probably because they are dealing with the same stuff I am when they have to call someone about part of my issue. And I know, because I used to have their job.

My weakness boils down to this: I don’t like to yell at people because I shouldn’t have to yell at people.

I know this blog isn’t read by many people, but perhaps just putting thoughts out into the universe can make them heard. Do your job, as well and as fast as you can, because if people are waiting on you, just imagine how you feel when you are waiting on other people. Unfortunately this is one of those “Pay It Forward” types of things where you may never benefit directly, only if it loops around and the people you have to wait on decide not to make you wait. But it’s worth doing, at the very least you can be completely justified in your ire at having to wait on other people since you don’t make people wait.

The story of my gloves…

One of the things I’ve come to loathe in modern MMOs is the item grind and the lack of attachment that comes with it.  In World of Warcraft, I don’t care at all about my items because the chances are pretty high that I’m going to replace them soon.  It might be a couple of days, or a few hours, or more often than I would like just a matter of minutes.  I recall one day in particular where I upgraded my character’s pants seven times in just two hours of play.  I probably could have kept any one of those since each upgrade was just a couple of points, from 120 armor to 122 or 8 strength to 9 or adding a stat bonus the previous pants didn’t have, but I felt no attachment to any of those pants.  They’d been so easy to obtain that the stats were all that mattered.

And the appearance, but when the game practically forces you to look like a rodeo clown trying to maintain a cohesive and good look is practically futile.

In my perfect MMO, character stats would be on a smaller scale.  No more crazy strength of 874.  There would be a cap, 100 is a nice number, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for the old table top D&D standard of 25.  With a smaller scale, a single point increase from a magic item would have noticeable impact.  Magic items would then be more rare.  In fact, I’d probably place true magic items only at the end of long quests, coming from incredibly hard boss mobs (assuming the game even had them) or through the arduous labors of master craftsmen.  The obtaining of a magic item would be a story you could tell.  Rather than “Yeah, I got these gloves from delivering pies from Joe to Stewart.” your story would be more along the lines of “Well, about three weeks ago, I undertook a small task for the local sheriff…” and spiral off into a series of deeds and fights or harrowing escapes.  More importantly, those magic gloves would take a long time to replace, if ever.

Over the long haul, your character would become a graphic representation of the stories you could tell, instead of a collection of the best gear you’ve obtained lately.

I think this desire, this design, springs from the years I played EverQuest as a monk.  In the early days, a monk could barely wear any gear, and he was 70% effective even naked since his gear was so weak and he fought without weapons.  Thus, every item that I wore was something I obtained through playing the game.  Some of it from long quest chains, some of it, later, from slaying dragons and other rare and dangerous beasts, from invading the planar homes of the gods, crafted by dear friends using rare materials obtained through adventure.  Even as the game changed and the design encouraged monks to wear more gear, and more monk wearable gear became available, I’d been playing one way so long that I continued.  Every item I carried was a story.  The Treant Fists were a tale of a lost weekend in the Gorge of King Xorbb, the headband of the Ashen Order and the sash of the Silent Fist that eventually lead to the Robe of the Whistling Fists and the Celestial Fists, the Iksar shackles, the Shiverback Hide armor, and so much more.

I’d love to see a game, or perhaps I’ll have to make one, where I actually care about my gear beyond the numbers it increases.

Revisiting Travian

Back in October, I reviewed my experience with the web based game Travian, and now that I am no longer going to be playing it, I would like to say just a bit more.

If you decide to play Travian, bring friends.  If you don’t have friends to bring, make friends, fast.  And if the friends you bring or the friends you make do not play seriously and begin immediately amassing power and strength, dump them and get new friends.

That may seem a little hardcore, but it is pretty much true.  Travian is a PvP game.  Building cities takes more time than conquering cities.  So if you don’t join a big alliance and start conquering other people, other people will start conquering you.

So, to that end, while I said previously that I wouldn’t be playing the game anymore, I won’t… but I would consider it if a big group of people were planning to play it and let me join in with them.

Survey: Question Number One

Would you rather play an MMORPG with no statistics caps and items overflowing with bonuses or one with finite, even small, caps and item bonuses being rare?

It is actually an important question to consider, both as a player and a designer. First, let’s tackle the player side…

As a player of the first scenario, your character has stats (strength, intellect, stamina, etc.) that start low and have no limit. As you progress through the game you’ll casually pick up items that boost stats, giving you more strength or stamina or intellect or whatever, or a combination subset of them, or all your stats. Then as you reach the higher levels of the game, the items become litered with stat bonuses, and your character sheet is lined with three digit numbers. This is actually the model most games on the market currently present to players. At level 5 you’ll get a “Shard Sword of Quickness” that does decent damage and adds a small bonus to your dexterity. By level 60 you’re drooling for “Mangar’s Mystical Maul of Mighty Mashing” that practically kills anything under level 40 in a single blow, adds more than 40 points to every stat, makes your hands glow blue, and occasionally explodes fire on your target for more damage.

In the second scenario, we’ll take the age-old Dungeons & Dragons model. Stat cap of 25, and anything over 18 is rare and exceptional. Your fighter is a tough guy with a 17 strength, and throughout most of his life from levels 1 to 60 he uses items of varying quality, Rusty Blades to Polished Rapiers to Adamantine Swords of Supreme Quality, each one better than the last, doing more damage, needing less repair, and other more esoteric qualities like the graphics. Then, at level 60, you and a group of friends fell a dark lord in a castle and you are rewarded with a Blade of Might that gives you a two point bonus to your strength when you wield it, pushing your strength to 19.

From the design standpoint… Scenario one leads to the marginalization of statistics. If you are going to be handing out stat bonuses like candy on Halloween, and characters are going to be allowed to climb from a starting point under 20 and finish up somewhere above 200 or 500 or wherever, individual point bonuses have to be tiny, almost meaningless, so that getting an item with 4 strength on it does very little, but getting one with 40 strength on it is noticable.

The second scenario, well, that can lead to disappointed players. Sure, going from a 17 strength to a 19 strength means the player goes from being a well toned human to a small giant when it comes to damage bonus and being able to kick down doors and lift open the lids of stone crypts, but that system, while possibly easier to manage and balance for gameplay, means that bonuses are extremely rare, and many players may never see one at all.

Personally, I’m actually sick to death of the dominant system on the market. I’d prefer to try a game with a more limited stat system where every point means something. So, what system do you prefer?