Saturday, 30 January 2010

Adopted unrealistic expectations

Today my favourite druid recalled a funny incident we experienced yesterday in our good-night-PuG, which took us to Drak'Tharon Keep and teamed us up with a DK, a shaman and a mage.

To recap. The mage asked if people wanted a table, to which the DK responded with "nah let's make it a quick run". How is that even a contradiction? How does free food make a run less quick? Oh yes, I see, because you don't have a draining resource, no one else has to consider theirs either. Of course. Consequently, when I stopped before the first boss and called for "regen", seeing the mage and shaman both below 40%, the arduous DK smartly remarked after the fight "just go no time to wait all over". As usual, my response was a simple /slap. After the second boss the DK dropped group, supposedly because things were not going "quick" enough. We got a replacement-hunter within seconds (of course) and finished the dungeon without any further incidents.

The story would hardly warrant retelling, especially not on two blogs, if it wasn't for some ironic details. Like, as pointed out in the linked post, the DK wearing the "Patient" title. Yeah, right. Or, more on the subject of this post, that he was, in a way, correct - the run was going less quick than expected. I noticed that. See, I'm pulling stuff, and then there's the stuff, and ... why isn't the stuff dying? We fumbled around with those stupid spiders until they called in their entire families, pets and their pets' families and families' pets for us to fumble around with. So, I had a look at Recount, fully expecting to see the impatient DK doing something in the 4k ballpark and the other two dragging along in the 1k range (his attitude was implying more something along 5-6k, but that would not have been possible, since if even one person does that sort of damage, stuff dies quicker than it was). What did I actually see, however? Go on, guess. Oh, right, you read Alquiel's post so you know already ... right.

What we had there was a mage and a hunter, both at about 2.2k, and the DK well behind in the 1.5k vicinity. As well as me comfortably leading the way at above 2.5k, because when I pull entire rooms of stuff, those Cleaves, Thunderclaps and Shockwaves pad my numbers as well, but that's beside the point. For the sake of the point, let's make a few observations here.

  1. For a heroic 5-man dungeon (excluding ToC and ICC), 1.5k DPS is, speaking in terms of feasibility, more than sufficient. This means, that if all your damage dealers perform at that level, as well as tank and healer providing their role-equivalent of 1.5k DPS, you can clear it without much trouble. You won't clear it in 15 minutes though.
  2. Doing 2.2k DPS in a heroic 5-man dungeon (again, excluding ToC and ICC) is actually good performance. It is not a particularly good performance as measured by currently available gear, but measured by the approached content, it is good nevertheless. Although again, it won't make you clear the dungeon in 15 minutes.
  3. Damaging below the tank (especially if your tank is a warrior) is not exactly a badge of honour, but one has to keep in mind, that a tank's DPS is not a universal measure, but a moving target. As Gevlon recently pointed out, an iLevel200-DPSer damaging below the iLevel245-tank isn't slacking, he's doing content appropriate for him, while the tank is doing content he vastly overgears.
  4. The Dungeon Finder matches groups with a "mentoring" principle in mind. It always attempts to place one or two people who just barely qualify for that specific dungeon into a group that could, give or take, clear it on their own. It's a good way to ensure a smooth transition from levelling into group content.
  5. If you're lucky, your group will consist of a seriously overgeared tank, a slightly overgeared healer (this is more for the benefit of the healer, since overgeared healing tends to become slightly boring), 1-2 barely geared DPS and 1-2 vastly overgeared DPS. This may enable you to blast through a dungeon in 15 minutes.
  6. Being regularly matched into groups as described above creates the somewhat skewed perception, that dungeons can always be cleared in 15 minutes, even if you are the underperforming DPS yourself. A case can be made, that the longer you linger at scrub-level, the more often you're matched with T10-DPSers who will AoE the entire dungeon faster than a mage can summon a table.
  7. Scrubs think a dungeon can be cleared in 15 minutes just by yelling "gogogo" at the tank convincingly enough. Those who actually effect the fast clear may know better.
  8. In our PuG yesterday, the vastly overgeared people were the tank and the healer, while the DPS were merely "appropriate" or "good". While this setup pretty much guarantees you a smooth and uneventful run, it also means things will take a little more time.
  9. The dicknight was so used to being carried, that he failed to realise, that the speed of a run is, among other factors, a direct function of his DPS-contribution.
  10. He further failed to realise that his DPS-contribution sucked.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Skill vs. entry barrier

Today I want to talk about tanks being the most awesome beings in the (MMO) world. And by that I mean, I want to explain why they're not.

The astute reader may be aware of the recent "meat in the room" discussion. Are tanking and healing harder than DPSing? Do they require more skill? If they do, how comes members of top-guilds settle for the "lesser" jobs? They are all highly skilled, they should all be playing "high-skill" roles! Maybe they're sacrificing themselves for the sake of the guild by playing the undesired DPS roles - which would put an interesting twist to the commonly spread perception of tank and healer "sacrifice". Or maybe the whole argument is based on a flawed assumption. The secret, you see, is in entry barriers.

First, let's talk about healers, since this is the role I am personally least familiar with, but have been observing it being executed long and close enough to come to the following realisation: healing, above all else, is about having the right mindset. A great healer is not necessarily the person who thrives at polishing rotations and perfecting execution infinitely. A great healer is, first of all, a person who is capable of immersing themselves into looking after others. This is the great challenge in the mastery of healing, the ability to transition from "I do" to "I help". The MMO worlds are full of those who do not possess that ability, the "battle healers", oh don't we know those. They may make for highly competent DPS, if you'd let them, but "forced" into the healer role they'll always have an above average rate of slip-ups, cock-ups, focus-losses and accidental deaths. Those who do possess that ability, they may never rise to the top when DPSing, but when they're healing, you feel safe, in bold letters. They got your back, no matter what. Salutes to my favourite druid as well as a certain priestess who may or may not still read this blog and may or may not be still very angry at me.

However, this is not necessarily an entry barrier. It's the path to mastery, and it's a precondition for feeling comfortable with a healing role in the long run, but not something you absolutely cannot do without. You can. As long as the encounter is not too challenging and/or there's someone to cover up for you, in one way or other, it's possible to just round up those healing buttons and roll along. You'd be surprised how far you can roll this way. Or you wouldn't, because you've probably seen it yourself.

Tanking is somewhat different. Its mental transition is far smaller. While one has to abandon the "I destroy", the point of destination is a very vicinal "I am indestructible". You're still the fighter who wrestles with the monster (to save the princess?), the change is marginal. What changes a lot is the entry barrier you need to overcome to even begin tanking. In WoW it is currently best expressed through the defense skill. If you want to tank heroics and do not bring at least 535 defense (skill, not rating) to the party, you're asking for disaster. They're doing away with it and incorporating it into talents in Cataclysm - which is a good thing. But defense is only one aspect of the barrier, and easiest to judge, because it's measurable.

The thing is that tank failures are very hard to recover from and to compensate for. Not impossible, especially with competent DPS and a dedicated healer, but hard. Case in point: a tank needs to keep mobs in front of himself, while melee DPS needs to attack mobs from behind. It's basically the same thing - positioning. By attacking from behind (or the side, if it's a dragon), the DPS removes the possibility of being parried, improving their damage output by roughly 5% at the same time as not causing additional damage on the tank through parry-haste, plus avoiding cleave attacks themselves. It's a win-win-win. But when you're only starting out in group play, those 5% are negligible, parry-haste is not as common (or feared, due to the effective removal of crushing blows) as it used to be, and beginner-level mobs and bosses won't exactly cleave you to death on the spot. You should learn it, and you should learn it soon, but you're safe starting out without and learning on the job.

The equivalent task of the tank (keeping the mobs in front) on the other hand is not at all optional. Being attacked from behind means that your parry is removed. As well as your block and your dodge, in short, your entire avoidance is stripped, save for the miss chance (inherent 5%, modified by your defense skill - depending on mob level usually 10-15% total). You are going to eat 2 to 3 times as much damage. And since you, as a beginner tank, are likely to be running with a beginner healer (look, being carried doesn't count), they won't be able to compensate. So, those 5 mobs you're about to pull, with a caster and a hunter type? Yeah, have fun dancing around trying to keep them all in front of you. Your ability to do that will make or break your group's ability to progress. Oh, and your melee DPS will hate you for it.

But is that really hard? Is it so heroic and incredibly awesome that everyone needs to be at your feet for doing it? No, not at all. It's not hard. It's basic. Your task of keeping the mobs in front of yourself isn't really that much harder than the damage dealers' task of staying behind them. But the tank has to learn to do it now, while the DPS can learn to do it later. That's all the difference. When I struggled with AoE threat, I spent several restless hours analysing my rotation and spec, pinpointed what I was doing wrong, changed a glyph, and the next time we lined up for heroics the problem was solved. If I was instead struggling with my AoE-DPS, I could have easily afforded to gradually tweak and improve over weeks.

Tanking doesn't require more skill, nor is it that much more stressful - not if you enjoy doing it! What it does require is the ability and dedication to tackle and solve problems the moment they occur. Actually, you're supposed to solve them before they occur, because, see above, tank failures are very hard to recover from. When Rem slept on picking up Herald Volazj after the insanity phases, two people got subsequently one-shotted. I screwed up, I shouldn't have let that happen. It is the tank's job not to let such things happen. It was a learning experience.

Which leads to the next important remark: yes, there is a lot more to learn when it comes to tanking. It is not just "learn the basics and you're set forever". I learn every day, every time I tank, no matter what I tank. Experience is invaluable. But you need the basics.

Last but not least, let's talk about DPS. See, any damage is a contribution. Even 100 DPS, although laughably low, does, mathematically speaking, still contribute to mobs going down. This is why there is virtually no entry barrier for damage dealers. Okay, there is: don't do outright stupid stuff! But other than that, unless there are enrage timers in play, or the realistic chance of running into mana trouble, pretty much everything you bring to the table is more than would have been on the table if you were not there.

Does this mean DPS takes no skill, since it's always useful? Oh, hell no. The flip side of the coin is that more DPS is always more useful (unless there's Mirrored Soul, or Overlord's Brand, but .. come on, work with me here!). Sky's the limit. And while it takes not so incredibly much skill to start contributing some DPS, it takes one helluva lot of skill and dedication to contribute really amazing DPS. And this means that contrary to popular (well, with some) belief, proficient DPS should be valued very, very highly. And I guarantee you that the proficient damage dealers in the top guilds mentioned at the beginning of this post are valued very, very highly. Because they had the determination to go past the "I'm doing okay" stage, transcend the "I'm doing good" phase and banged their head into the "I want to be freakin' amazing" place they're in now.

Have you noticed a common theme in all three roles? Yep. Dedication. Love what you do and do what you love. And stop worrying so much whether your job is the more important than someone else's or not.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Introducing a new tag: game design

Having mastered the "November/December Rush" and having more time on my hands now, I am once again tempted to drift where every gamer with any programming skills tends to drift: making The Best Game Ever! Now, before you roll your eyes (as you should) and walk away, let me elaborate quickly.

I am fully aware of realistic capabilities of a single person - even if said person were to work on a particular development project full time, which I (at this point) do not intend. I am also aware what it takes to create a piece of gaming-software that would be even remotely capable of holding its own compared to what else is on offer. I absolutely understand that there's no way I sit down with a drink and cookies, code to myself for a few hours a week and, look and behold, half a year later The Best Game Ever is born. Doesn't work that way. The net is full with downloads of software (not only games) where some guy had some great idea, hacked together an ugly and unhandy piece of something and threw it out there. I don't want to be that guy. I appreciate that the quality and success of a software product, particularly and especially a game, draws from many sources like graphics, artwork, ergonomics and a few dozen others. I know that I am not very knowledgeable or even flat out untalented in several of those areas. Even if I were, and had the necessary resources, it'd take me 10 years to finish everything on my own. That's an optimistic estimation.

However, there are things I am kind of, sort of, talented at. Making up and developing concepts and mechanics. And to some extent, you know, programming. Therefore, I am not intending to write a game. Instead, I will try to present and elaborate on concepts I think would make for a good, fun and involving game experience. I will also program a bunch of little parts and components representing some of the underlying mechanics of those concepts - a toolbox of sorts.

This place, this blog, is where I am going to write down thoughts and ideas, inviting you, dear readers, to join in and contribute your thoughts and ideas. The "game design" tag is meant to be a combination of "thoughts on game design" and "thoughts on designing a game". Let's be clear, I do not claim that everything presented here is an idea no one ever had before me. Most will be inspired by things I see, hear, read and experience, bits and pieces I gather together and improve (in my opinion) upon. Some of it will probably be genuinely original, but to be honest, I can't even know.

Therefore, if you like what you read here and happen to be capable of making games, well, you have two options. You can just take the ideas and put them into a game - I'll be happy enough to play it. Or, better, offer me a job helping you make that game. Obviously, same goes for contributions in comments. Inversely, by submitting ideas over the comment function you agree on them being possibly used by whoever happens to read it. Sorry for being a megalomaniac ass about it, but better safe than sorry.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Achievement nodes

Today, Gevlon is once again reasoning about node ninjaing. Well, actually he's reasoning about social norms, but he uses node ninjaing as an example. Thus I will tell you a story I wanted to tell you anyway. Makes sense, no? Okay.

Some time last week, when my favourite druid's arrival was delayed by snow (and recovery from having bested it), I used the time for some domestic tasks. Flying down to Azjol-Nerub to hand in the watcher quest, then a few relaxed rounds of ore-mining through Icecrown (yes-yes, I know, only morons farm, but I actually like doing it for a bit now and again, so, sue me!).

On my way through Dragonblight I spotted a cobalt node. Descending upon it, I noticed nearby fighting. An orc rogue, level 73, was busy with a couple of mobs. Now, I do not nurture any particularly warm feelings for the Horde, or orcs in specific, and a case can always be made, that cross-faction meanness is very much in the spirit of the setting. But we're not on a PvP server. What? Oh, no, that's not what I mean. I did not intend to say that on a PvP server it is okay to steal ore, and on a normal server it's not. No-no.

What I meant is that on a PvP server the situation could have been settled with game means. I could have attacked him with all my Prot-OP'ness (not to mention a 7 levels advantage), or simply taken the ore and then stood there in a "don't like it? come take me" pose. Or, assuming I'd be stealing from someone potentially more powerful (there's always a bigger fish), risk being retaliated through force. This is not an option on a non-PvP server. Therefore, my actions would not have been directed against the character, but the player behind it. Players, in most cases, all belong to the human race, and, despite what Gevlon thinks, deserve human treatment. Long story short, I did the usual drill, hovered next to the node on my gryph and waited for the rogue to finish. She then hastily mined the node and /thank'd me. I /salute'd back, continued on my way .. and suddenly felt good inside. I think I even smiled.

Roughly half an hour later I was in Icecrown, flying my usual path. One of the nodes in the "ghoul field" was up - and it was titanium! Now, I shall remark a couple of things. These days, I don't really mind what metal I mine up. I farm mostly because 30-60 minutes flying from node to node, listening to music, can be quite relaxing when not done too often. It does earn me some money (especially when sold as Belt Buckles), but I could be just doing dailies instead - sometimes I do. Saronite is useful for the "everyday business" stuff, titanium for the rarer occasions. I'm always happy to see the blue-ish glow of a titanium node, but not getting all hot and bothered about it.

The other thing to remark is that I particularly enjoy going after those "troubled" nodes. Not those with just one mob or so next to them, but those in seriously tricky places, for the simple reason that I could not have dreamed about fetching many of those 2-3 months ago, even in the company of my favourite druid, so it's a bit of a challenge and a comparison with my past capabilities. So, I get down to the ground and to work with those ghouls. The really nasty part are the casters, because if I charge them, I get too close to the next bunch, and my ranged silence is on a minute cooldown. This particular fight goes a little pear-shaped, it takes me a while to get into "efficient mode" and get full control of the situation. I don't know exactly how many I pulled in total, but I did more than 160k total damage in the process (first fight after Recount reset), so, it must have been something in the 12-15 household. Oh yes, and midway through it, a blood-elf paladin (it's always blood-elf paladins) flew in and grabbed the ore.

So, I mounted my trusty gryphon, ascended into the air, looked down at the pile of corpses (they .. were dead before anyway .. I know) I produced and smiled again. Gaming is all about achievements. Achievements are gaming's vehicles to fun. You rescue princesses (from another castle), you kill dragons, you're having fun in the process. Scoring a /thank from the opposing faction is an achievement. Clearing out a dozen ghouls around an ore node is an achievement. Cunningly grabbing a node someone else was after is .. an achievement as well .. in a way. I guess.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

In which we call out bullshit

Not in the mood for a lengthy rant, so I'll just add my voice to the many and point out that this guest post on World of Matticus is complete and utter bullshit, from the first to the last sentence. Shame on you, Matticus, for even allowing it to be posted on your portal. As for the author, he is either an idiot with a very limited and tunnel-visioned grasp of the game (yes, I just publicly called someone an idiot - for calling members of his team "meat in the room", "a dime a dozen" and so on. Deal with it), or cunningly sparking controversy for the sake of clicks to his own blog. For my part, I decided to never again click on a link leading to We Fly Spitfires. Sir, you are blacklisted.

Kind regards,

a tank

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

PvP is CvM

This whole Warbringer debate once again reminded me of why I simply cannot enthuse myself over the idea of PvP. In an MMORPG, player-versus-player combat inevitably spawns a casters-versus-melee conflict, and you simply cannot balance it out. There is just no way to do it, since there is no state or situation in which both are happy. When the caster is successful at kiting, the melee dies without being able to touch the opponent most of the time - if the melee manages to stick close, the caster will be interrupted, silenced, stunned, pummeled and ultimately ripped to shreds. Blizzard stated more than a year ago that melee needs to be in range and casters cannot be balanced around kiting. Fair enough, but it's not working. It can't work, because no matter what else you put in place, being at long range is a huge advantage for the caster (they can't be hit), and being in close range a huge advantage for the melee (they can, you know, actually hit). And so PvP turns into one big arms race between snares and gap closers. It's always either the melee complaining about being kited to death, or the clothies complaining about being blown up. Or both.

Truth is, the traditional classes-and-levels MMORPG is unsuited for PvP combat to begin with. Yes, this is a blanket statement. No, I'm not going to qualify it. I am going to justify it. Somewhat. The problem, you see, is in the early design process. Most MMORPGs, strangely sometimes even supposedly PvP-centric ones, such as AoC or Aion, are, at their very core, designed as PvE games. How can I tell? By looking at classes, class roles and skills. The holy trinity is a PvE concept. Whenever you see neatly separated tanks, damage dealers and healers, taunts, detaunts and threat modifiers, you know where the wind blows from. In Warhammer, tanks actually have a role in PvP. In AoC they're the guys with not enough damage output to kill anything and a ton of irrelevant survivability.

WoW? No matter how often Ghostcrawler, whom I respect a lot, says that WoW has two parts, both PvE and PvP, it is, at a design level, a game as deeply grounded in PvE as it gets. They wrote down roles, they wrote down tools, and then distributed them among classes. It is glaringly obvious, that the question never was "how would an encounter between a warlock and a paladin play out?", but always "in which specific ways would a warlock and a paladin contribute to a group's success?". Because the tools were given out to classes assuming their co-working in fighting an outside enemy, how those tools would measure up against each other did not come into focus until much later. Moreover, many of the so called utility skills are designed specifically to neutralize particular mechanics the player, or rather the group they're in, is confronted with. That mechanic may happen to be a fundamental offensive or defensive tool of another class. So, you end up with "counter-classes" and the ever popular rock-paper-scissors principle. Except, RPS is boring, because the outcome is mostly pre-determined.

But PvP isn't balanced around 1v1! Yeah, I'm sorry, but if you do not balance around 1v1, you effectively do not balance around anything. Cleverly, they iterated to claiming they don't balance around 2v2 either, weighted the respective Arena bracket down, and thus moved the problem into 3v3. Is WoW-PvP balanced around 3v3 now? Not really. It's just that at that level complexity gets so high, that you can always wave your hands in the air and say, well, there are so many variables and possibilities, the composition is just one of a plethora of factors. Which is kind of true. But drowning a problem in magnitude is not the same thing as solving it. In the end, no matter the macro-format, on the micro scale, you still have one character and another character beating up on each other, and one of them has to win. Yes, they have teammates, but if A is doing more damage to B than vice versa while at the same time taking less in return, A's teammates find themselves at an advantage.

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not advocating the case of those who try to argue, that you should be able to grab an arbitrary assembly of classes and have an equal chance of success regardless. I do not support that notion (neither does Blizzard). Composition should matter. Synergies is what MMORPGs are all about. Which is exactly what puts them at odds with fundamentals of competitive eSports. The very idea of any sport is to create an even field, on which the competitors can, well, compete in terms of the discipline in question. However, to even out the field in an MMORPG means to turn it into an FPS where you shoot fireballs instead of lasers. And no one would want to play that, because Quake is simply better at being Quake (and Unreal Tournament at being Unreal Tournament, and Counter-Strike at being Counter-Strike, and so on). I heard there was a PvP-competition MMORPG-style game called Fury, a year or so ago, that had all "serious PvPers" excited .. for about a week, and then they all went back to their games and all the serious FPS players went back to laughing about them.

Why do we have PvP at all? Because games are played by humans, and humans love to match with each other. You have a character, I have a character, just out of curiosity, let's see how they perform against each other - sparring fight! And there, you have a duel function. It's more fun when it's large scale, so we get BGs. It's even more fun when it's rated, so we get Arenas. And people get so excited about it, that they forget it's just an afterthought in a game with a fundamental PvE mindset. As long as the developer teams get together and start their brainstorming with "okay guys, we need tanks, healers and damage dealers - ideas?", we'll have PvE games, which will then contain some sort of PvP interpretation and implementation, and everyone will be bitching for years about PvP balance issues, because no one thought about that sort of balance right from the beginning, but instead about who gets to cast fireball and who gets to cast rain of fire.

Only if the designers sit down right at the start and ask "so we have the ranged guys and the melee guys, the guys who can heal and the guys who can't, the guys who can deal a ton of damage and the guys who can take a ton of damage - how is this going to match up?", only then will the result have a chance at being a balanced PvP game (cf. Darkfall, in some respects). If that'd be still fun or popular, now that's a different question.

Monday, 4 January 2010

This guild's bank is guarded by a corehound

Just had a thought. Assume you're running a guild, and thus you control a guild bank. Whom are you going to give access to it? Obviously, people you trust. However, there is also the possibility of people you trust being hacked. Admittedly, just like Tobold, I believe that in the vast majority of cases "having been hacked" is simply a euphemism for "having done something very stupid". But it happens. Clever people can do stupid things - when they're half awake, when they're distracted and not paying full attention, or whatever. Windows does its share by still using the "hide known file extensions" default, thereby opening something that cannot be legitimately called a backdoor, but rather a user trap. You see, those very intelligent people whom you really trust as much as you trust yourself may happen to just not be geeks. Those who are not geeks may be legitimately unaware of what file extensions are and how they work in Windows. Long story short, account theft happens.

Surely, it is again a matter of trust. In addition to asking whether you can trust a person to treat guild bank access responsibly, you may have to ask whether you can trust that person to treat their own account securely. Enter the Blizzard Authenticator. While not a "slay all" weapon for security problems, it does reduce the risk of "being hacked" significantly (see Tobold's reasoning on how it's a dual-improvement). So, we can simply demand people to make use of an authenticator, if they want access to the guild bank.

How can we verify if they have an authenticator? Corehound pet. I don't know if Blizzard had this in mind when introducing the pet and the way it works, but if they had, compliments. If someone can summon a cosmetic corehound pet, it means an authenticator is linked to their account that very moment.

What if they unlink it later? We can't make them show their corehound every day, after all. Well, at the very least, that would constitute a conscious move towards compromising their own account security. Which would be stupid. We covered clever people doing stupid things, but is unlikely to be one of those. Why a person would unlink their authenticator is beyond me. So, as long as you can verify that you're dealing with sensible people, and maybe hold regular "Banker's Trust" meetings where everyone shows off their corehounds, that's one step against unexpectedly empty guild banks.

Mind you, this has just as much to do with responsibility and credibility. "Yes, the log shows I've emptied it, but I was hacked. Luckily, I got my account back before they sold off my gear and sent off all my gold, but the guild items are all mysteriously gone. Sowwy guys" - just doesn't fly. Either you did it, or you compromised your account in a grossly negligent way (as opposed to the "oops" way) by putting the corehound to sleep.

Want access to the bank? Show your pet. If you can't, you'll have to resort to asking others to retrieve stuff for you. Until they get sick of it and tell you to GTFO and get an authenticator. See, smoking's not the only thing peer pressure can lead to.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Year of the Pookie

Strictly speaking, it only starts some time mid-February. But that aside, according to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the year of the striped grey tiger.

Happy New Year (of the Pookie) everyone!