Tier Tokens and extended Tee Times!

There are incoming changes to how Tier gear will be gained in the upcoming patch 3.2, and also… hold onto your hats, you will soon have the choice of extending your Raid ID on a saved raid one week past the normal reset.

First, the gear. 

With the new Argent Coliseum, there will be a new Tier of class armor sets, Tier 9. This set, according to news released by MMO Champion (I wish I could post a link right now), will be able to be purchased with a single type of token common among all equipment slots

The quote from MMO Champion;

The biggest change here is the introduction of a common token for all armor parts, you can buy the Head/Hands/Chest/Legs/Shoulders of your set with a single item. (Example: Regalia of the Grand Conqueror)

 
There is a second piece of news, as I said, that I don’t have the quote handy for; you’ll be able to choose to extend a raid ID one week past the normally scheduled reset, giving you one extra week on a saved raid to work further on clearing.

I read all that this morning, and then rushed off to work.

It seems to me like, in the world of WoW, a pair of very important changes, and I wanted to think about it for a bit before saying anything here.

First, let me say that from the sounds of things, and going by past patch history, the existing Tier items will not be changed to work on the new system. I certainly may be wrong (and I love reading comments from people in the archives that see just how wrong I can be on predicting things), but I think that when the change to Tier items comes, it will only affect Tier 9 Argent Coliseum drops.

If you ain’t in Argent Coliseum, it won’t affect you. I find that sad, personally.

The way it works now, of course, is that each boss of a raid has a set loot list, and those that can drop Tier generally always drop the same equipment slot of Tier, but for varying classes.

Because this is a blog, I will now expand on what everyone already knows. There are a handful of exceptions. Vault of Archavon bosses, of course, drop Tier and PvP epics, but they aren’t tokens. They are set for a class, AND a spec, and are random across a few choices. (personal bet made)

Gluth in Naxxramas can drop Tier tokens, and which equipment slots they work with are a bit random. You can get Tier from any one of the other regular Naxx bosses; Leggings, Chest, or Shoulders. The Helm is from a non-regular Naxx boss, Kel’thuzad, and the Glove token comes from Obsidian Sanctum. So only regular Naxx bosses apply to his loot list. Still, for someone clearing a single Naxx wing, doing Abomination gives you two shots at Tier.

Moving on.

In Argent Coliseum, if you had a Tier Token for your class drop, and you looted it, you could turn it in for the Tier piece that goes in your equipment slot of choice.

Got Legs and Chest, and want the Shoulder upgrade next? Boom! Win a Token from any boss that drops one and turn it in for your shoulders.

I love it. Plain and simple.

First obvious question; will such a system get gamed?

Of course it will!

People will identify the easiest boss to kill, and will make damn sure, like clockwork, that if they do nothing else that week, they’ll down that boss and get someone a Tier piece.

That’s fine with me. It’s not exactly cheating to get together and do a raid. If you beat the boss, you deserve the loot, at least in my little furry universe.

The guilds that progress further, will get more Tokens.

At least in this system, the Tokens that drop will always have a far higher likelihood of being useful for someone in the raid.

In the short term, some raids may suffer some stress. After all, there will no longer be a boss where someone can say, “Hey, the two Druids, the Rogue and the Death Knight already have the shoulders. If the token drops, it’s MINE! After 5 months of waiting, finally it’s MINE! All MINE!!! Muahahahah!”

Nope! Sorry! /denied

My advice? If you’re in a raiding guild, act now to plan for this. Discuss it. Please.

Now, this is a change that will encourage people to push forward into new content. Every Tier drop from even the first boss of Argent Coliseum has the potential to be a new Tier piece, no matter what you’ve got in your set. Ys, I think this will serve to encourage more new raiding.

At the same time, there will be the higher level Emblem drops from old content. Those guilds that aren’t up to Argent Coliseum will have ample reason to do the older content with vigor, and the drops they get will help build them up to the point where maybe they CAN tackle Ulduar.

On top of this, you add the option of extending a raid ID one week past normal reset.

Now that’s going to add an interesting (even evil) new dimension to gaming!

You get to choose!

Go for a clear of the bosses you CAN do in one week, and then do it again the next week to keep gear flowing in… OR spend an extra week trying to strive to see new content, achieve new drops or accomplishments you’ve never seen before building on your current success, and risk NO new drops at all for a week?

Oooh, how evil. I freaking LOVE it!

Especially when the new Argent Coliseum will reward people with Tier drops, and if you extend your raid ID a week in Argent Coliseum and get no progress, you’re out that Tier drop the second week.

For my casual guild, it’s actually going to be quite cool.

We’re quite able to clear all of Naxxramas, we just have a hard time justifying so much raid schedule in one week. It’s summer, after all.

At the same time, you just KNOW people would love to get some Tier helms, etc.

So for a guild like ours, where a full clear even over two weeks would be far more fun than doing two or three wings each week, heck… sign me up!

I like it. It’s quite cool.

What do you crazy people think?

Wild thing, I think I love you

We now interrupt the writer’s insane giggling over the upcoming Engineering Changes (Dalaran based Engineer-only Auction House! Whee!) to bring you this late breaking announcement from MMO Champion;

MMO Champion has posted a nice blue comment from Nethaera, and it goes something like this

We wanted to give everyone a very early heads-up that, in response to player requests, we’re developing a new service for World of Warcraft that will allow players to change their faction from Alliance to Horde or Horde to Alliance. There’s still much work to do and many details to iron out, but the basic idea is that players will be able to use the service to transform an existing character into a roughly equivalent character of the opposing faction on the same realm. Players who ended up creating and leveling up characters on the opposite factions from their friends have been asking for this type of functionality for some time, and we’re pleased to be getting closer to being able to deliver it.

As with all of the features and services we offer, we intend to incorporate the faction-change service in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience on the realms, and there will be some rules involved with when and how the service can be used. The number of variables involved increases the complexity of implementing this service, but we plan to take the time needed to ensure that it lives up to expectations before officially rolling it out. We’ll go into much more detail on all of this here at http://www.WorldofWarcraft.com as development progresses. In the meantime, we wanted to let you know that because this type of functionality requires extensive internal testing well in advance of release, you may be seeing bits and pieces of the service in the test builds we use for the public test realms moving forward.

Ummm….

I think I need to go and change my fur.

Content, progression, nerfs, oh my!

The post I keep meaning to write, and then pass on.

Months I’ve been kicking this around.

I’ll put this bluntly.

I DO feel very bad for the progressive raiders in World of Warcraft.

It’s a case, in my mind, of raised expectations.

In Vanilla WoW (as it’s inevitably called) raiding was fun, but followed the 40 man trend started by Everquest.

Hey, it’s cool, Everquest led the way for others to follow. Big raids were the order of the day.

In Burning Crusade, what did we get?

I won’t go into the specific math. I could, but I’ve seen it posted before.

What we got at expansion start was a sequence of zones to play through and level through, most of them having instances tied to them. Same as Wrath of the Lich King.

Once you hit max level, the instances were available in heroic mode. Same in Wrath of the Lich King.

Let’s look at raids.

At release, we had;

  • Karazhan
  • Gruuls’ Lair
  • Magtheridon’s Lair
  • Serpentshrine Cavern
  • Tempest Keep (The Eye)
  • The Battle for Mount Hyjal
  • The Black Temple

These were some pretty sizable raids, and all were waiting on determined raiders to kick ass.

Later on, Zul’Aman was added to give more of a 10 man kick, and Sunwell brought the ass whupping uppity raiders desired.

Burning Crusade was not WoW 2.0, because WoW had been new, people were learning as they went, stumbled into level 60, looked around and gradually learned what raiding was all about. It happened over time, and raiders accumulated at the upper echelon like dandruff.

With Burning Crusade, it was the same as unleashing a flood, an army of raiders SWARMED into Outlands all at once. 

Zerg rush from hell. And they prepared for it well, grasshopper. 

An entire army of max level raid gear equipped players were just sitting there, bored out of their minds despite Ahn’Qiraj, waiting for that portal to crack wide open.

Burning Crusade opened up Outlands, and the race was on!

People leveled like demons, fought their way up to level 70, geared themselves in difficult heroics, and faced down this tough new place called Karazhan.

Having Karazhan be 10 man only, and the follow on raids all 25 man, caused massive bitching, and why the heck not? It was crazy, you wanted to learn together and prepare to play as a team together for raids, but your first introduction at level 70 raiding was a 10 man that at best split your team up tino two groups… and 5 folks were screwed each week. What, back to Upper Blackrock Spire teams? Wha?

But that’s fine. Karazhan was tough enough and fast enough that it kept folks working it all the way up to the first nerf… and by then Sunwell was open with crazy badge gear and those that were gonna progress, HAD progressed.

But once past Karazhan, the progression guilds had long, insane fights to master. Content out the freaking wazoo to do.

You want to know where your wazoo is? Ummm… sorry, it’s not that kind of blog.

A couple of short, challenging raids were there, the Outlands versions of Obsidian Sanctum and Vault of Archavon; Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon’s Lair.

The difference? Well, first off you didn’t need to trust in luck as to whether you controlled Blade’s Edge to schedule a Gruul’s Lair run.

Don’t knock the ability to consistently schedule a raid. I know that my guild would dearly LOVE to be able to schedule Vault of Archavon runs, just so we know to be online and prepared to take on that second boss. When you’re casual, it’s hard to schedule a raid on the off chance you’ll get to go in… and if you can’t people are out of the option to pug it for fun with other friends.

But let’s get beyond that. So Outlands had their two mini raids, and Northrend has it’s two mini raids.

The Wrath versions have 10 man AND 25 man versions. A clear win for Northrend, right? Well, only if you like 10 man runs. If you’re a raiding guild doing 25 man content, the 10 man version is just a way to help gear more people up past heroics in half the time. Same content TWICE a week, oh boy!

Okay, so past those two, and Outlands had Serpentshrine Caverns, and Northrend has Naxxramas.

Again, not a bad comparison. Serpentshrine felt freaking huge. Fishing the boss up was pretty cool, too. 🙂

Naxx is a clear winner, though, with more wings/bosses overall. Very big place, can take a while to take down. Really, if Naxx were in the same spot in progression that Serpentshrine was, would there ever have been complaint one?

But after those… well, what next?

Outlands offered Tempest Keep, Caverns of Time: The Battle for Mount Hyjal (omigod that place rocks) and Black Temple.

Northrend offered… The Eye of Eternity. Another mini raid. A hard damn raid, don’t get me wrong… but another mini, teeny raid.

So, Eye of Eternity versus Tempest Keep, Mount Hyjal and Black Temple.

Yes, yes I see the pain of raiders, and understand quite fully. Rather than having an equivalent number of new raids and new content to learn and admire, they got Achievements. The same content, with new harder twists.

NOW there is Ulduar, a match to Sunwell but it came faster than Sunwell did, and soon there will be the Crusader’s Coliseaum. In the distance, there might even be an Icecrown Citadel raid.

That’s not bad. It’s picking up some serious steam now.

BUT!

The amount released with Wrath showed a failure to learn from the lessons of Burning Crusade.

In Burning Crusade, all the max level players, raiders and soloers alike, were poised, ready to tear into the new content.

The level differences and gear differences were extreme enough that there was a total revamp before hitting 70 raids. No matter who you were, skill and reliability and time to devote to raiding determined who got to do what, not gear obtained from the last year.

A total reset.

Can you imagine a level 60 tank or healer in full Blackwing Lair gear making it to Karazhan at 70 without changing much of his gear? And winning?

The gear revamp in Wrath was simply not extreme enough. Part of Burning Crusade’s formula was to force players to experience earlier content in order to get appropriately geared up. No matter WHO they were. It put the brakes on a lot of the rush.

Second, the raid setup was changed from 40 to 25, and when guilds ran headlong into it, they were forced to learn how to adapt to smaller groups… especially with going down to 10 man Karazhan and then back up to 25 man Gruuls. 

Total stall.

They had to relearn many lessons, adapt to changes, and really learn to play all over again in a 25 man dynamic. The old 40’s were gone forever, and the paradigm changed with them.

Guilds that attracted massive numbers of people in the old days and could still progress with 8 slackers had to tighten their belts and really work on class balance and skill.

Some guilds adapted faster, worked harder, or held together better, and progressed past others.

In Wrath… the signs were clear from Sunwell, Black Temple and 3 man Kara clears that the natives were restless. And very, very skilled and coordinated.

You knew going into Wrath that there was going to be a huge group of players that had extremely good gear, were seasoned raiders with a solid understanding of 25 man raiding, and a drive to be first.

And to these raiders, Blizz gave them less content… they could use the same raid makeups they had already mastered to succeed, and in some cases they could even win using the exact same gear they wore at level 70.

Yes, people expected another massive content dump like Burning Crusade. They were trained to expect part of the game to be the pursuit of realm and server first kills.

I don’t blame them for feeling confused and abused when they blasted through all the content the game had to offer by January and were bored. It’s not how the script was supposed to be written.

Now, there is tons of new content out and more coming fast… but at the same time, existing content is being reduced in difficulty, and the rewards gained by the emblem system that are special now will be open to all players, at all levels of progression.

It’s a bad situation. People are grumpy. People that love progression raiding feel they are getting jerked around pretty good, feel the game is getting ‘dumbed down’ for the lowest common denominator, and don’t understand why. 

I don’t understand either. I have no magic answer to give you as to why the raiding content wasn’t as deep or the gear upgrade wasn’t as drastic as in Burning Crusade.

Perhaps a few contributing factors were me and people like me asking for more new content for all levels of play rather than just the max level raiders.

Maybe our asking them to devote development time for 10 man modes for smaller guilds is what cut the content at the top end from early release.

I know I feel that the developers did three times as much work as in Burning Crusade, but the results FEEL like fewer raids because it’s the same content, modified over and over to present different challenges.

For my part, I just want to tell you, if you are a player that prefers progressive raiding, I appreciate your distress. I really do.

I may not be a progression raider, but I can feel the allure, the pull of taking on content that everyone is buzzing about, of being part of something big and seeing something new, and of having that feeling of sporting a shiny that says “Yep, we’ve been there. We can do that.”

I will be delighted to gain my new ranking of Emblems, because for me the game is about being good at what I do, and having fun as a valuable part of the team that can get the job, whatever it may be, done. Better gear helps me do my job better, so sure, I’ll pursue it.

I’ll run lots of heroics, get lots of Emblems, and get lots of nice loot that was previously only available to people in 25 man raiding guilds clearing Ulduar or 25 man Naxx.

But I will not ever say that I feel that I deserve it, that it is my right to have those Emblems, that in order for my guild to see new content we must have this class of gear opened to us.

Because we don’t. It’s a lot like a gift, freely offered but not asked for or demanded.

I do feel sorry for the way progressive raiders are getting jerked around.

But please… hate on the game, not the playa, dawg.

Hardcore and Casual, can't we all just get along?

So, the Druid community has had a few things to say about casual and hardcore players lately.

Jacemora, Druid of the Moon had a few things to say about being tired of casuals taking potshots from hardcore players every time there is a content nerf.

In eloquent response, Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket defended the hardcore player’s right to not be stereotyped as elitist asshats, and mixed in quite a few reasons why hardcore players do have cause to be upset lately.

Even our beloved Bellwether of 4Haelz had a few things to say about the topic, in her own insightful way.

Hmmm… was the week lacking in drama? I hadn’t noticed.

Well, there’s always room for more drama!

No, that’s unfair of me. Whenever someone involves themself and their identity heavily into a subject, emotions run high if they feel themselves or others in similar situations are insulted, slighted or belittled.

I have to admit that I stopped thinking in terms of casual or hardcore, except as generic placeholders familiar with other people, a long, long time ago.

I have the opportunity to play with quite a few people from different walks of life in my guild. Some of them would call themselves casual PvE content players, and others came from what they describe as hardcore PvE raiding environments, have the gear and accomplishments to prove it (Hi Algie!) and joined to get away from it, if only for a while.

I’m sorry if this offends some people, but I have to tell you what I have learned in my time in the game;

What content someone has cleared, and the number of people with them when they did it, has nothing whatsoever to do with the potential or actual skill of the player.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

I will say that players that are consistently a large part of their guilds’ raid progression will obviously tend to be well skilled at playing their class, because those that are poorly skilled will be removed by the raid leader.

But those players are by no means the only skilled players in the game.

I personally don’t care in any way what content anyone claims to have cleared, when they claim to have done it, or what Achievements or gear they may sport.

The single biggest difference between a raiding player and a casual player is the time (and desire) available per week to play.

I said I do use the terms. When I describe someone in terms of casual or hardcore, I actually use the terms for two different categories; time they themselves personally spend per week playing, and the level of content that a guild is focused on completing.

If I say that such-and-so is a hardcore player, there is no assumption of skill implicit whatsoever in this label, not on my part. I’m merely acknowledging that the person has a massive amount (in my world) of personal time to devote to playing the game on a scheduled, weekly basis.

For your average college student that lives in a dorm and doesn’t have a part time (or full time) job, I bet what I consider massive amounts of time is barely the lifespan of a mayfly.

I know people I consider to be hardcore players whose guilds aren’t even raiding. They raid with other guilds as part of their teams, and stay in their own social guilds for the comradeship. They want to raid, really raid, and put lots of hours into it. They want to see progression, and work together with other people that have a lot of time to devote to the same pursuits.

But they like hanging with friends in a social guild the rest of the time.

Some of these people are, indeed, highly skilled.

I do know one hardcore raider that I feel has very poor skills, in every way… but he is currently a welcome member of a raiding team because he is extremely reliable in terms of being on time, being prepared with mats and repairs, and he plays a healer with very good gear.

Not very good skills, just very good gear.

I have played in raiding guilds before, and I have played and still play with the people in my casual, social guild.

I’ve seen a lot of those ‘casual’ players pull off skillful moves that are amazing. Simply amazing. And yes, I’ve been in pugs for 10 man, 25 man and 5 man content, and been with ‘hardcore’ raiders in extremely good gear from progressed raid content, and I thought they played their class like shit.

Please, I know what someone will say. They’ll say that the hardcore player was probably slumming and wasn’t bothering to give their attention to the raid. They were coasting and spending more time chatting with guildies or whatever. Maybe watching a movie. If they were actually trying their skillz would be da bomb.

Hey, if someone commits to any raid and doesn’t actually try to do well, to the point of being an asshat that wipes people without a care, I don’t care what he CAN do, he’s an asshat.

Even when I did a Karazhan pug at the same time as I did a podcast with the Twisted Nether, I was flighty on the air because I really was prioritizing my time on doing my best in the game first, for the pug, and being chatty second. I made jokes about the run, but I was doing my damndest to bring the pain to those mobs.

Look, if you consider yourself hardcore OR casual, I ask you to do this.

Drop the idea that your skill is better than someone else’s just because you can spend more time playing than they can.

Jacemora makes the case that he only truly respects the skills of PvP players, because they are testing themselves in the only venue where it’s apples to apples… in battle against the best other people can bring. 

That’s a fair case to make, if you are looking to prove someone has skill.

I will happily agree that there are a TON of highly skilled players out there.

That’s MY problem with the thing, I see far more skilled players than most people seem willing to accept. And the people that denigrate other player’s do seem to be hardcore progression raiders more often than not.

If you have the free time in your life to be able to devote four or five hours of your life every day to playing the game, and you do so… that’s your business. I would certainly hope that you’ve used that time wisely, to master the intricacies of your class.

Maybe it’s not that much, maybe it’s four to five hours just 3 nights a week, that happen to correspond to your guilds’ raid times.

But pelase, make no mistake, having a lot of free time does not confer upon you mad skills.

Effort, practise, knowledge, self-analysis and self-improvement efforts, study, inventiveness and improvisation all help to develop your skills.

People with more playtime just have more time to do this. They aren’y the ONLY ones with the time to do it.

If you think that only those people that play enough hours to raid consistently are skilled at your class, that’s your problem, not mine.

I see mad skills in the hands of both types… and BELIEVE ME, I see the results of complete idiocy in both types.

Good lord, yes.

Look, I know ‘hardcore’ raiders that take pride in raiding stone drunk, or simply stoned, and have for years. And yes, they also made progression, and did Black Temple and Sunwell and original Naxx and AQ40.

It’s not who you raided with that impresses me. It’s not what content you’ve seen. It’s not what gear you have, or what Achievements you’ve got under your belt.

My prejudice is in thinking that the people who think that stuff is really impressive, are the same folks who figure that if they get the fire engine red Lamborghini with the custom rims, they’ll get admiring looks down the boulevard as a slick hot race car driver as they tool through the mall parking lot. Err, I mean sit on their ZA bear mounts outside the IF auction house.

That stuff doesn’t blow air up my skirt, my friends.

I do not give anyone any respect on the basis of things that only people with a lot of free time could accomplish.

It doesn’t work that way in my twisted little world, my friends. Maybe amongst raiders, the desire to stand out from those who cannot raid is important… but if your ego is wrapped up in your status in a video game, there are other issues at play here.

No, my respect is given to players that show skill, that show understanding of playing their class, and above all else show that they are considerate, mature people both in the game world and in the real world.

Take pleasure in the game itself. Compete however you’d like. Strive agasint other players, or pit yourself against PvE content.

But don’t mistake having a lot of free time to play with being BETTER than those that do not.

If you are skilled in playing your character, you understand your class and how you can work with other players together as an efficient team, that’s excellent. But you’re not the only ones that can do this.

Have I said it enough times? Have I used the debate tactic of repetition enough?

I bet I did.

I think perhaps one of the reasons this stereotype silliness lingers on, is that raiding progression is the easiest way to obtain rarer gear or Achievements, and the scarcity of a thing is sometimes equated with it’s difficulty in obtaining. 

For these things, yes you need skill… but yo also need lots of free time, and lots of friends that have the same desire and free time as you.

It doesn’t JUST boil down to skill.

There are far fewer opportunities to shine for the 5 man instance crowd, but they ARE out there. It is what it is.

Like the Culling of Stratholme drake mount. That’s a very cool thing in game to show you brought some to the party, right?

But how have many folks cleared that content? Why, they went and raided until they get a lot of iLevel 213 drops across five people, and then they blew through it.

How many people tilted their lances against the Culling of Stratholme drake Achievement when in a group of all quest rewards greens and blues?

I’m sure a few did… and that’s some damn good skills there. If you did, kudos to you, you earned a hell of a solid accomplishment.

Hey, what is the most reviled heroic?

The Oculus.

Why?

The last boss requires skill and understanding only… gear iLevels have no affect on the final boss.

Hmmm.

Some people HAVE worked their butts off to learn the fight, master the drakes, and dominate the Oculus. And not all of them are in raiding guilds, know what I mean?

Bellwether is one of those people. Yes, she is a raider these days, but doing the Oculus in all it’s various hard modes… THAT is a demonstration of skill to me.

I wish people that did that got drake mounts or pretty shiny unicorns. They bloody well earned them through skill.

At least, they did until Blizzard changes things in 3.2 so that iLevel DOES affect your drakes in the Oculus. /sigh

I have to admit, knowing that the Oculus is going to be nerfed does have me wishing I had the spare time to go in there and master it first. Blizzard had set the difficulty bar, people have put their minds and efforts to mastering it, and I’d like to do so myself if they’re going to take that challenge away soon. I didn’t care to do it until they decided they would nerf it soon, lol.

You see, I do sympathize with anyone that pits themselves against a challenge and masters it, only to have the bar lowered for others later on.

Hammering on it one last time… I just totally disagree with the idea that the free time you have to play with your raiding guild is an indication of your potential skill in playing your class.

Heh… I bet a lot of my readers feel that I lack the Bear tanking skills because I’m not progressing in Ulduar, though.

But that is a topic for another day. Time to get back to work.

Congratulations are in order, I think!

This very evening, I played in two heroics on my Druid.

We did Violet Hold, and Culling of Stratholme.

The healing in these two runs was simply awesome!

Oh, wait… you misunderstand.

*I* wasn’t healing.

Oh, no.

No, it was Cassie on her level 80 Paladin. 🙂

Her first time ever as a healer, and she healed my bear butt through two heroics back to back, and the gauntlet of Culling of Stratholme went flawlessly.

One thing you have to admit, Healers have the most intense trial by fire of any class.

As a DPS, you’re learning your role as you level. As a tank, you can still DPS well enough to go full on tanking solo on multiple mobs and see how well you survive and manage them.

As a Healer, you pretty much have to grab some suckers and convince them to let you try and keep them alive and see how it goes.

First time you develop and fiddle with your Healing skills is with an audience… a very captive, attentive audience.

You did wonderful, dear. Congratulations on kicking ass!

Or healing butt, as the case may be.

A rational response to an insane situation

Okay, so first the Governor of South Carolina is all over the news in what has to be the most publicized case of epic fail I’ve ever seen.  And yes, even above the Governor of Illinois. Or is that former Gov of Illinois? So many scandals, so little time.

Anyway, the media is all over this flaming jackass and his pile of epic fail, and bravo to them I say.

Man, I love seeing it shoved up his ass. Sideways. I forgive the media on this one. Go get ’em.

But wait, there’s more!

Farrah Fawcett is dead. Farrah Fawcett-Majors, for us oldtimers.

She’ll always be Buck Roger’s ex-wife to me.

And this is on the heels of the legendary Ed McMahon’s death, so we’re reeling in the media… what drama to cover? We’re only given so much time to mourn before the news is stale, so who to cover?

Before we even get a chance to absorb this, BOOM!

Mr. Michael Jackson is dead…

I could make a rude comment, but quite frankly he is beloved by many people, and all I’ll ever know about him is what the media has said, so who the heck am I to know what’s been up with him? 

With all of this, you’d think the media has a lot to discuss.

“But wait!” I hear you cry, “This is all tabloid bullshit, what about the very real, very intense struggle going on in Iran at this very moment, as a people who believe in the freedom of a democratic vote protest in the streets against what they feel is an unjust election… and they are being beaten and killed in the streets, every effort made to stop their protests, to silence them, to shut them down, and to close off all forms of communication in and out of the country so that the world may never know.”

“What about all of that?!?!”

“Isn’t that possibly enough for the media to talk about for one freaking day?”

No.

Oh how I wish it was, but no.

Because everywhere you turn, there is one other topic that somehow is under discussion.

Jon and f’ing Kate plus Eight.

/cry.

O. M. G.

/facepalm.

I can’t deal with it. He’s a sack of shit. His only job was to be a dad. That’s it. His career was to be a good, loving father to eight children, and a supportive and loving husband.

The quotes roll out, the drama rolls out, and I can’t deal with it. I’ve turned off every possible news agency I know to block out any more of this.

I’ve got my fingers stuck in my virtual ears. Somebody whisper me when this shitstorm of mediocrity and selfishness and worthless crap is OVER!

Tell me when the flaming bus runs over those two pricks, the kids get placed in kind and loving foster homes (Hey, I can dream… and the clouds in my dream are pink and fluffy, too.)

Just tell me when they are gone. When the world has moved on. And the words Jon and Kate plus 8 are no longer uttered.

Please.

Until that time, as I sing “lalalalala” to myself to shut out the madness, I shall respond in the only way I know how.

MUSIC MIX MADNESS!!!!!

It is now time for me to fix a mix to restore equilibrium.

And I’m dragging you poor bastards (and fine ladies) along for the ride.

First, to mellow out. To try and prepare. Gotta get in the right mindset to flip a halfhearted finger at the world.

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Thank you very much. Swap “Prozac” with “Beer”, and that’s about right.

Now, to my friends amongst the US Marines, the next singer should be quite familiar to you. If you don’t know “Goodnight Saigon”, then shame on you. 

But that’s not this song. Oh no, to get this twisted party going, we gotta have something a little more appropriate.

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

 
Okay, that’s a good start.

Yes, yes I’ll include Goodnight Saigon. This is my party, and while it’s wildly inappropriate to put it here, what the heck.

Did you think I wouldn’t?

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Okay, that’s pretty awesome. I can almost feel the stupidity draining away.

Now to take it towards a faster edge… let’s go with some Blue Oyster Cult. Moar cowbell, damnit!

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Is nice?

Da, is nice.

Wow, that does wonders for my equilibrium.

But wait.

I am da Bear. I must have something at a right angle to normal reality to remind myself where I live… on the edge of “What the hell was that?!?!”

I gots just da thing…

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Ah yes…. okay, just about there…

Now to bring it on home… a capper of a song that always helps to relax me, a great song to sit back, pop a beer to, and tune out the rest of the world as you drift in fond memories of times both good and bad…

A nice little song that may mean something entirely different for someone else, but for me reminds me that what goes around, comes around, shit happens, and karma can be a stone bitch.

http://www.esnips.com//escentral/images/widgets/flash/esnips_player.swf
Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Ahhh…. peace out.

How's your enthusiasm level?

So, folks… how enthusiastic are you about WoW these days?

Think back to when you started to play WoW, whether that be a month ago or four years or what have you.

Now, compare that with how you feel today. 🙂

I’m not talking about patch worry, or summer slump, or issues over time spent playing the game that could be better spent on family activities.

I’m simply talking about how you feel about playing the game now, and whether you feel that your enthusiasm for playing has grown, lessened, or stayed about the same since you began.

The game came out in November of 2004, and inevitably people change over time. There have been massive content additions, class changes, and massive adjustments to the frame of the game.

It wasn’t that long ago that the very idea of a PvE player on a PvE realm server transfering directly to a PvP server would be met with mass hysteria.

That level of hysteria was, in some ways, a good thing, because it showed that people were vocally passionate about the game and willing to share their opinions loud and proud.

They cared enough about the game to make an effort, whether you agreed with them or not.

Now, I’m NOT saying the passion is gone. I think it entirely reasonable to believe that, over the course of time, people have gone from the rabid, passionate announcing of love for Warcraft to a mellower, more gentle, deeper love for the game and it’s depth.

It’s one of those things, a new love is a love that burns bright and hot with a consuming flame, and you can find yourself talking about it to everyone you meet.

But as time passes, the love can either grow deeper and stronger, and more comfortable, and the need to talk about it all the time lessons…

Or the passion fades, things change, and the two drift apart and stay together out of habit rather than need. 

So, if you’ve been playing for a while, it’s something I wonder about. Are you still in love with Warcraft and feel the need to log in out of desire, or are you going through the motions out of long time habit, but could take it or leave it?

I’m not even going to talk about people that have lost their love for the game, but still play because they DO love the people in their guild.

This subject is relevant to me, because we’re past 4 years of the game being out there. I’ve been writing this blog for two years now, damn near half the life of the game itself, and it feels like a very short time to me.

I’ve been talking about WoW for half the time the game has been around.

It may not be true, but it feels as though a lot has changed in the way the public itself talks about the game, the coverage it gets in media, the way players talk about things, the whole experience.

Back in the first year, the world media was wandering around stunned that millions of people would come together to play a single video game. It was everywhere, and the shock of various closed-minded media types that think that video game player = socially retarded geek was plain to see.

These days, that sensation is over. Time has passed, the amazement is over.

We now face acceptance. Ho hum, the media says. Millions play. So what?

Most media outlets have moved on from their shock… perhaps because if there is anyone other than a politician that worries about pissing off a massive block of potential voters/consumers, it’s the media.

As far as blogging about the game, a lot has changed there as well.

As short a time as 2 years ago, a blog post about feral Druids letting folks know that you get 2 Attack Power from 1 point of Strength, but only 1 AP per point of Agility, and that in cat form only, would have been helpful. It would have been something new to learn for a lot of people. Simple little tips like that.

These days, the general questions that I get from most people are based around variations of 1% hit or less, and the fine tuning of threat rotations because someone wants to get more than 1600 dps while Bear tanking effectively. Rather than one best gear set for tanking, and definitive ranked items, you can have as many as four different types of items depending on your target instance/raid situation. 

It’s the same players, but with a ton more understanding and maturity about the game.

No more innocents in the game, perhaps.

Maybe I could put it better by saying that the mystery has vanished. We know what World of Warcraft looks like in daylight without any clothes on.

Some people are fine with that, and love the game even more for knowing all there is to know and being comfortable together. Others might have lost their excitement along with the mystery. They might feel they know the game too well.

When you blog, I really feel that you should blog out of enthusiasm and passion for your subject. The reason you keep coming back is because you feel there is something to say, that your thinking is on the subject and you keep coming back to it.

With so many folks that are moving on from blogging about WoW as the years pass, it’s easy to think that the reason is a lack of passion about the game.

Is that it? Do people blog when caught up in that early love and passion, and the drive to blog fades as the love mellows over time?

Are some bloggers still writing about and playing WoW, even though they have lost that lovin’ feeling, out of habit?

Has WoW still got it after all these years, or hs something vital been lost over the years of changes?

Is it as simple as saying that some people remain faithful to their one true love as long as that love is true to them, and others will always be looking for a new affair?

Is there maybe some small bit of mystery that we need, that as long as we are promised that there will always be something new and fresh coming down the road, we will continue on? 

Over four years, and Blizzcon tickets sell out in milliseconds. That alone says something, doesn’t it?

You know what the one thing I think is, when I wish for a change in the game?

I wish that Bind on Account Heirloom items could be mailed or shared to characters of the opposite faction.

That’s it. I wish that I could trick out a hordie lowbie with Heirloom leveling items like a gun, shoulders, trinkets and (someday) breastplate.

In fact, I’d like an entire set of gear from Heirloom items. And yes, I want it across faction.

Is that the desire of someone tired of the game? Or of someone that wants to see even more of what there is to see…. but is tired of playing the 1 – 58 item hunting game.

Something to think about, that’s all.

Things I think about when I log in, when people like Aurik leave blogging and the game behind, when I think about the lack of media attention to WoWthese days as compared to it’s heyday, etc etc.

I’m going to miss /Hug. But things change, people change, and sometimes folks recognize that they aren’t getting what they need anymore, and feel the desire to move on to something new.

Creative Writing: Expand your horizons!

When you’re going to do some creative storytelling, sometimes it can be good not to get too wrapped up in tweaking the fine details when a larger change could improve the whole thing.

Whether you’re writing a fictional story, a role playing game scenario or setting, or some fan fiction, it can be very easy to make assumptions, take certain aspects for granted, and settle for being creative ‘in the margins’ instead of taking the reins firmly in hand and making something your own unique vision.

“What the bloody heck is this idiot talking about?”, I hear you ask.

An example of someone whose creative work was so profound, it changed everything?

Back in the day, our lord and master Tolkien wrote a brilliant piece of fiction, including detailed histories of dwarves and orcs and elves and such.

His work was so detailed, it brought those races so vividly into life, that most folks that have written fantasy fiction afterwards have had to take that into account.

Many simply took those ideas and built them into their own work, lifting them as a whole and building uopn what has come to be lasting stereotypes in fantasy fiction.

You say ‘elf’ or ‘dwarf’ and the people listening have a pretty damn good idea what you’re talking about, without regards for Celtic, Germanic or Scandinavian folklore.

Okay, so you want to write something yourself. You don’t want to plagiarize others, and you want to have fun.

But elves and dwarves are cool.

What to do?

Well, one thing you can do is take a close look at those races (still using an example) and deconstruct them. Break it down and figure out what is an elf in your mind? What is a dwarf? Longevity? Gruffness? A long lived culture of hippy tree huggers at one with nature? A group of short perpetually pissed off badasses with battle axes? What?

Take a look at what it is that you love… and or what it is that you need a race or culture to fulfill in your vision… and build it up from there.

In the end, it becomes your vision, something that heart and soul you understand.

Far better than adding ‘elves’ to your story, and then tweaking them to fit.

Sometimes, though, you start with a well known story element whether you like it or not. You might not have the luxury of building your own. You have to use a setting or follow certain lore conventions… but that doesn’t mean you have to be a lemming and be too afraid of the integrity of the setting to change things. 

As an example, still using elves, in the game world which I have sometimes published play by email turns here, it all started with a Dungeons and Dragons game. I was forced from the start to incorporate Dwarves and Elves because the scenario I was writing was part of an ongoing campaign.

So there were elves right from the beginning, and I worked with it, using cultural differences among isolated tribes.

Nowadays, with the massive distance the project has from it’s roots, they are still elves in name, and they still share certain physical similarities… but they are not elves like Tolkein would have recognized. Not culturally, not by a long shot. And certainly not spiritually. 

Culturally, they more closely resemble the Roman Empire as an organizational structure, albeit with a tradition of working with and living in tune with nature, being aware of and respectful of the circle of life rather than working with stone or being expansionistic and rapacious such as the true Roman Empire. With their long lives and reduced birth rate promoting an isolationist and contemplative worldview, a love of learning and study, a strong understanding and realistic outlook at national defense against aggressors, and a deep tie to a living spirituality and an introspective nature, they have all the capability to be the deadliest force on the planet… but don’t have the desire or the will to impose themselves or their culture on others.

In the world of my creation, humans encountered elves for the first time when the first human empire, ruled by a former king that had united a land of rough feuding warlords rampant with casual brutality, chose to relieve the political pressures of his own land by focusing attention on expansion and conquest of the apparently empty and verdant lands to the north. He gathered together the majority of peoples that would have caused the most strife if left to their own devices in the various fiefdoms, and organizing them into massive armies, sent them across the channel to explore, pacify and colonize.

Unfortunately for him… the fields gave way to dense forest… and invading the forest drew the attention of a force beyond their wildest dreams. A force singularly lacking in humor when it comes to violent invading armies. They were not amused. <crunch>

The second human empire, once it got past a certain point, held certain… beliefs when it came to elves. Beliefs that have proven quite long lasting, and, depending on how much of your ancestor’s family tree survived… strongly held.

Chief among them, don’t fuck with elves.

It’s one aspect of how things can be different… it is a game world whose roots are in D&D, and yes there are elves… but scratch beneath the surface, and the similarities to widely known elves in popular literature are only skin deep.

There is a race in my world that does bear a closer spiritual resemblance to traditional elves. They are actually on a different continent entirely, have never been encountered (as far as I remember) by Manny or James, and are covered in fur. Heavy fur. Very heavy fur. When first being described, the person meeting them is not going to think “oh, an elf, I can guess how they might react.” Nope, instead, they might very well wonder if they’re about to become lunch.

Depending on the circumstances, that could be a valid concern.

Things need to fit together, cultures grow in certain ways for a reason (even if the reason is “I said so”, or “Because I like it that way”).

I’ll use a WoW related example of questioning the assumptions, and taking a step back to look at how things are when you are writing your stories.

We all love World of Warcraft. This blog is about Druids in the game. So let’s use the druid design as an example.

The Druid class rocks as is. There is a reason we love it and have played it for so long. Being able to shapechange into various animal forms is pretty amazing, and is an impressive programming feat on the part of the designers.

When the game was first developed, Blizzard had to make some serious choices about what they wanted to do, balanced against what they had the time and programming resources to develop and implement in time to go live.

What we have now is very similar to what went live. Two races, Tauren and Night Elf, one race per faction, can choose to be Druids.

Each race can shapechange into an aquatic form, a cat form, a bear form, a travel form, and later on the moonkin, tree and bird forms were added.

Since that time, we have happily played this class, no matter who we are, and one of the most common refrains heard is “I wish we had more attractive skins, or even slightly better models, so the graphics of our forms looked better”.

Now we are getting those models and skins, at least for cat and bear.

But we are still talking about tweaking and adjusting the given, without looking at the underlying framework.

Now, I love our class, and I wouldn’t want things to change at this point.

But, if I were designing the classes for my own story or for a role-playing setting, I would not have gone with what we have.

I’m not saying my choices would be any better, they just wouldn’t have been mine.

For example, Tauren are big, massive, strong and feel imposing; their presence carries a weight that dominates the world around them.

Night Elves are lithe, fast, nimble and fit in with and slip through the world around them.

For Druids of these races, Druids who would transform into animals, or the forms of animals, I would have kept to animals that evoked in some way their overall feel, as well as the geographical regions they are normally found, considering those to be the areas they are most familiar with, and thus the animals they would have the most comfort and experience with.

 I would of course have kept cats, panthers as a melee DPS form, very feral and powerful, coiled muscle and claw. For speed, honestly I probably would have gone with a deer, a gazelle, some other kind of fleet long limbed herbivore. Cheetah is cool, but doesn’t fit in with my mental image of the region. And for a form that would keep enemy attention and survive, I likely would have chosen a mongoose, super fast harrying attacks and insane agility to dodge.

For Tauren, on the other hand, in DPS I would have probably chosen a wolf, huge and beefy across the shoulders, like the creature from Brotherhood of the Wolf, and colored brown or tan. A hyena style form instead of a wolf would have worked as well. For travel, this is the one that would have the cheetah form, and for tanking, I would have been likely to go with a rhino.

Totally different thinking, and choices made because of my own taste for how they would fit in my mind onto the story. A certain internal consistency.

My end point is, never be afraid to challenge preconceived ideas or established wisdom, pick at things and dig into why. Why should it be that way, why would it work that way, why would they do it that way?

Make your stories your own, and have fun!