We Interrupt This Expansion…

We interrupt this expansion with a report from our Bear on the ground, BBB!

Thanks, narrator!

Many of you are enjoying the expansion, and think it is the greatest thing ever to hit WoW.

You may be right.

Unfortunately, I have to hereby announce that starting immediately, I am no longer playing WoW.

Why?

It’s simple.

I just realised, completely by accident (ie I found my Schlock t-shirt), that I somehow lost my link to the webcomic Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor in my favorites folder.

I lost that link… about two years ago.

I have TWO YEARS of Schlock Mercenary I missed.

Two. Years.

You know, there are few things in this life as precious as that moment when you find something that truly brings you joy in your heart… and there are years worth of back issues to enjoy.

[sniffle]

I’m so happy!

Excuse me, gotta go read.

I might get back to the game this weekend. Don’t count on it.

Rule 1, baby. Pillage, THEN burn.

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Beat the Inscription blues!

Why, yes, I DO happen to have a lot of new alts, thank you!

Yes, they are just the cutest batch of bunnies you ever did see. Death bunnies. Hmm, should I make that a new gui… naaah.

And they grow up so fast!

It seems like just last week I started them all, and look, one of them’s already past level 25! They’re ALL almost to 25!

Oooh, it’s a good thing I’ve got that max level Inscriptionist with every Glyph recipe trained, so I can make all those Glyphs for them. At 25 they’ll want a Prime, a Major and a Minor… for EACH spec! And when dual-specs only cost 10g, that there be a lot of Glyphs down the road, ayep, ahuh, I reckon.

I’ll just pop on over to the Inscriptionist…. or Scrivener… or Scriber… or scribbler… or dude that makes Glyphs, or whatever the ridiculous pedantic people insist they be called when we all know what we mean, and just scribble me down a list of mats!

Oh, and my wife has needs too… alt Glyph needs, that is. I’d better get a list from her before I get started!

Okay, mats, mats… wow, that’s a buttload of inks of all level ranges. Damn good thing I have acres and acres of Ink of the Sea to trade to Jessica Sellers, right? I’ll just pass along these Inks of the Sea that I made with extremely valuable high-level herbs from Northrend, and she’ll pass over all those low level Inks that I need for 80 levels worth of varying milled herb stuff.

“Hi Jessica! how’s it going? Pretty quiet now that Dalaran is in isolation, I’ll bet!”

“Hey, I’ve got some Glyphs I need to make, so how’s about you shoot me over about thirty Moonglow Ink, fifteen Lion’s Ink… better make that eighteen, nine Jadefire, three Ink of the Sky, and toss in some Ethereal Ink while you’re at it, maybe twelve or fifteen.”

“What… what the heck do you MEAN my Ink of the Sea ain’t worth taking? Blackfallow Ink? BLACKFALLOW?!?!”

“But Blackfallow ain’t in the damn GAME yet! There ain’t no recipes to learn how to make it!”

“Oh… that’s why you want it. It’s rarity is what makes it so valuable. Gotcha.”

“So… how the hell am I supposed to get all these Inks for the Glyphs? The Glyphs you learn leveling are good for characters of all levels, but I who the heck is level 80 and rolling in ALL the low level Inks? That’s a whole heck of a lot of Ink just on the off chance you need one of those Glyphs, darnit!”

“What do you mean, farm it? Holy crap, do you have any idea how many kinds of herbs there ARE out there? How the hell am I supposed to know which herbs get milled into what kind of Pigment when I only need Moonglow or Etherial? Or what kind of Pigments turn into what kinds of Inks for that matter?”

“Oh, Wowpedia has a great page showing all the herbs, derived pigments and inks?”

“Oh.”

“Okay, that’s fine, but what if I don’t want to spend all freaking day flipping back and forth between my guild bank… um, I mean my personal bank where my herbs are, and Wowpedia, checking and cross-referencing?”

“Oh, there’s a simple addon called Millhelp that shows me what an herb turns into when you Mill it when you mouse over it?”

“Oh…”

“Well, fine! Be that way!”

Mutter, grumble… How the heck’s a guy supposed to get a good case of the cranky on if you’re gonna go and get rid of the confusion, huh? Answer me that!

Now to just go blast through a few carefully targeted low level zones to score some prime herb, and I’ll be rolling some new Glyphs in record time!

It isn’t all sweetness and light

I wanted to expand a little bit on the points Johnnie made in his editorial on the MMO Melting Pot today.

I really hope you’ll read the editorial through that link before continuing on with the post. Johnnie was very eloquent in making his points. I think it’s well worth your time.

I won’t reproduce the entire editorial here, but I think this quote is very representational of his overall point;

…everyone agreed: [the sundering] was going to be awesome. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The most tumultuous and (literally and figuratively) world-changing event in Warcraft’s history: I couldn’t wait to experience it.

Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s already happened, and I missed it.

Johnnie puts to words exactly how I’ve been feeling in the pit of my stomach as I experience the new quests on my level 20 human Hunter, and take my mains over hill and expore distant dale to see with eyes wide open firsthand how the world has become transformed.

I love what I’m doing in the game. I enjoy the surprising twists and genuine humor that coexists seamlessly with the poignant sense of change and loss amongst people and places long familiar to me.

What I don’t particularly love is the transition from the old world to the new. 

Rather than being part of the story, I go to sleep on a Monday, and on a Tuesday I find out I pulled a Rip Van Winkle act, and years have passed me by. How… jarring the transformation was, it leaves me feeling emotionally detached from any sense of immediacy. 

With the movies, the pulse-pounding energy of the prelude, I expected more of a sense of urgency towards the aftermath of Deathwing’s release.

Before I even go on, I’d better make sure I mention that I love the game as it is. I’ve got no complaints here about playing the game. The quest style and flow feels much improved. The content is great. The phasing, the humor and interaction with NPCs, it’s all good. I love where we are now. I really feel I can’t stress that enough in this post, because I know from past experience that many folks will read into any hint of displeasure I may express as being a massive whine fest “oh my god QQ just quit the game if you hate it wah”.

It’s not like that. I damn well love everything I’ve seen and done. I even appreciate how selected areas and quests were left mostly unchanged, just streamlined a bit, leaving the sense of the comfortably familiar waiting just around the next corner, as if to say, “You’ve been exploring the strange and unusual, and may feel nervous… come inside, my friend. Welcome home.”

But how the transition merged the passing of time with missing the Sundering event hurts, damnit.

The event we’ve been expecting to change Azeroth was presented in most media as being Deathwing’s breaking free from his elemental realm into ours. Right?

I was expecting that we would not be part of the actual event as the world was transformed, but instead log into the immediate aftermath.

That’s sort of what happened.

What’s messing things up for me is that not only was the Cataclysm event handled off screen, but they also took the opportunity to advance the entire history of the world of Azeroth many years past where we logged out BEFORE breaking it.

We logged back in not just to the immediacy that is Deathwing’s explosive entrance to the world, but also to a world that experienced years of political and expansionistic change while we were, well, asleep.

In my ideal game experience, I would have loved to be some small part of the event itself. To be able to say afterwards that I was there to witness the sundering of the Barrens, for example. Or that I was part of the bucket brigade that tried to douse the flames left behind from Deathwings’ assault on Stormwind.

But I knew that was unrealistic. I knew I was going to log in and it would all be over. The NPCs would experience the cool and scary events, and us bit players would walk in from off stage and react to it with expressions of dismay, amazement and sorrow. 

What I didn’t expect was that the world had also grown several years older while I was, apparently, mining for Saronite.

Perhaps our new characters are supposed to be coming in fresh, and our older, more experienced characters are ALL assumed to have been off in Northrend the entire time without ever having returned to visit during the war, single-mindedly championing the struggle against Arthas in far off distant lands.

Now, I know *I* returned quite frequently to visit, but maybe Blizzard is just deciding for me that I didn’t. It helps them plot the story better that way. 🙂

Now that Arthas is destroyed and the great war is over, here we are, weary soldiers returing to our homes in Azeroth to find that life moved on without us, new fortresses have been built, encroachments on territory have been made, tensions between factions are running high, war between Horde and Alliance is growing ever more likely, Varian Wrynn has turned into such a massive egomaniac that the prick erected a mighty statue in tribute to himself in front of the steps to Stormwind Castle, and, well, we’re finding out what it’s like to have done two tours overseas while life goes on without us.

Right? That’s a pretty powerful, realistic thing to have written into the flow of the game.

But while we were coming home victorious from the wars, someone else came along and bombed the shit our of our country. We didn’t get the chance to get reunited with our friends and loved ones, to be introduced to all the changes and see how things have grown before it all got blown apart.

That’s one heck of a lot of change to absorb all at once.

The single most jarring note for me wasn’t all the structural changes, either. It was feeling exactly how many years had passed me by.

When I first entered Redridge Mountains, there where Guard Parker used to stand, alone next to a big rock, there was now a massive tower called Three Corners.

At the top of the tower Guard Parker still stands, but now he’s been promoted to Watch Captain Parker.

At the base of the tower, you meet his wife Darcy, and they’re adorable little girl, Libby.

Wow! Why, Darcy, when I last saw you, you were working in the Inn at Redridge, and you were sweet on Parker… I brought thim the lunch you made!

And here you are now, not only married but with a little girl, as well! Congratulations!

Boy, she looks like she’s nearly eight years old!

It’s amazing how the time flies by, isn’t it? I wish your family all the best…

I only wish I could have had a chance to see any of it happen during the last five years I was playing the game.

Oooh look, shiny!

You have fun?

I had fun.

Today, what should we talk about?

I’ll tell you what.

Withers.

You go, read this righteously awesome post by Manalicious, and enjoy.

It’s not just how great the post is in terms of guidance, but honestly… how excited and exuberant Vidyala’s tone is.

That’s how to be an inspiration, right there.

Me?

Oh, I’d write something about my adventures as a Troll Druid, or as one of a hundred thousand excited Human Hunters, but honestly… my mind is too wrapped up in the doings of Baron Trendel to be able to spare the brain cells.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful time, and Blizzard has my deepest thanks and appreciation for a successful roll out of the huge change. Once I got in, I played. Period. No issues.

No issues aside from, sigh, people bitching about portals being gone.

Really, go read Manalicious and delight in the fun.

Can We Recreate the Magic?

This post is just a little bit of musing about then and now.

Tuesday will see the dawn of a new era in WoW.

Or will it?

The Cataclysm will come to the world of Azeroth, surprising our characters, but not us.

That’s not what I’ve been thinking of.

Maybe it’s Tesh’s fault, but I do spend quite some time trying to analyze the intentions of the Blizzard developers NOT from anything they say, but rather from what they actually DO.

You’re not what you say you are, no matter how loudly you proclaim it. You are what you do.

Tomorrow, for the first time since the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, the portal hubs will go dark.

For the very first time since the end of the Vanilla WoW era, there will not be a single place you can set your Hearth that gives you ready access to… anywhere you want to go.

There is much in the patch and the expansion that will move the game forward.

Is the removal of the portal hubs a move forward… or a move back?

In my opinion, trying to get into the heads of the developers to figure out how they hope this will work out, it’s an interesting move.

People bitch about ‘slippery slopes’ a lot, but one thing is usually true; once you’ve removed an action that used to cause long periods of  grinding, grunt work or downtime, if you put it back in, people resent it. 

One of the things that was true in Vanilla WoW was that moving from place to place took a lot of time. Time waiting for boats, time waiting for zeppelins, time on flights across the continents, time running across deadly zones to get flight points hoping you wouldn’t get eaten, but having to do it because there WERE no boat or zeppelin routes that would give you a convenient short cut around them.

‘Fed Ex’ style quests took no skill at playing your character to complete… but they compensated for that by taking up a lot of time in transit.

There was good cause for rejoicing when Burning Crusade brought us Shattrath; a city with Innkeepers to set your Hearth, and filled with magical portals that could transport you in the blink of an eye to any of the major cities on another world.

Suddenly, just by finding a friendly Mage or Warlock of the right level to help you get there, maybe a 10 gold tip, your character could easily pop in and out wherever they might need to go.

The consequence of this convenience was that one of the most powerful benefits of being a Mage or Warlock, or having one for a friend, was marginalized.

Even the Shaman’s ability to reduce the cooldown of the Hearth was slightly reduced in equivalent power.

The LFD tool brought even more convenience to the party, didn’t it? Instant ports, and all that sort of thing.

No question that having portal hubs saves a lot of time… time that once was spent traveling from place to place could now be spent getting it stuck into the fight faster.

The developers chose to include those portal hub cities. First with one in the heart of Outlands… then again in the heart of Northrend.

The developers have chosen to remove all of those portal hubs.

What can we glean from this decision?

I think, despite some of the conspiracy theories I’ve seen in Trade chat the last few weeks, that this is not an attempt to make us waste more time so the content lasts longer before we get bored.

I’ve seen some comments that it is being done, in part, to cut down the ‘Laglaran’ effect of having 80% of a server’s population in the same zone or city. That sounds like a very plausible reason.

I know that it’s been said by developers that a key point is to force players to be out and about running around the world, so it seems populated and full of life.

Well, if I wanted to be a picturesque local to add color for the enjoyment of the new tourists, I’d prefer to be issued a grass-roofed hut, banana leaves and a spear to shake. And a table to sell my hand crafted goods at ridiculous prices. And a bottle of rum. And some bacon.

I’m not here for the tourists. Screw the tourists! I’m here for my own paid playtime. This particular argument you make for why I should now have to spend tons of my own personal time traveling around not having fun when I used to be able to ‘blip’ effortlessly about is not compelling. Stop making it.

It costs a set amount of money to play per month. Time = money. Your change is costing me playtime I used to spend having fun, and that means you’re costing me money.

Or, as Henry Rollins once put it, you’re killing me… you’re stealing my life. Just a teeny, tiny bit at a time.

So, no, that rationale doesn’t quite float my boat, honey.

But there is another good reason they could be trying it. I say trying, because they can always change their mind back later. It’s not like they’re bulldozing, and can’t afford the zoning permits to rebuild.

By reverting us once again to the days of Vanilla WoW… we are returning to a time when having a Mage, a Warlock, or a friend who is a Mage or a Warlock was a damn good thing.

The abilities those classes learn, and  especially those Portal spells the Mages work so hard to acquire over the levels, suddenly go from being  handy once in a while to being freaking awesome.

Which is how they were before the Burning Crusade.

We’ll still have LFD. We’ll still have the new, vastly improved summoning stones as well. Well, maybe. We will even have new perks from Guild Leveling letting us summon guildies directly to the raid (unless they changed that when I wsn’t looking). And of course, the boats and zeppelins.

We’re not turning back the clock all the way back to Vanilla.

But we won’t have Dalaran or Shattrath to set our hearth to be able to pop wherever we want.

I find thinking of it as a planned change to bring Mages and Warlocks more love for their class skills far more satisfying than thinking of it as a way for Blizzard to feel that they’re running a populated world.

Unless we ever see player or guild housing, set up in seperate communities where we have a reason for hanging out there, housing that other people can peer into to see us hanging out but they can’t enter because they don’t have the friend or guild key… any attempt to make us populate world areas is purely superficial.

Oh, and Blizzard… I know you don’t read my blog, it’s cool, I’m an idiot. But seriously, from me to you. I love you, and what you do is awesome, but could you please consider player or guild housing? Think about it. If you seriously set aside areas where a guild could buy, say, a small townhouse with outdoor area in a city park, and only guild members were allowed in the area… but people could walk by and see what was going on in the outside area of the ‘lawn’?

You would likely have a real, living breathing community on your hands in that neighborhood. Instead of doing laps while chatting, people would lounge on an easy chair in the sun catching a few rays, or stand around the BBQ drinking beer while they chatted.

Oh yes we would.

Back to the point, in my opinion changes attempted to bring a classes’ unique abilities back into prominance is a good thing. Unless the class ability was poorly thought out in the first place or no longer fits the intent, and needs a revamp.

It will be interesting to see how people adjust to the changes. Will there be tons of QQ? Will people be so thrilled by all the rest of the changes they don’t even notice?

Will the number of Mages and Warlocks rolled suddenly increase?

I can’t wait to find out.

Old Butt Music Update!

One of the things I mention every now and then is music.

Music is a huge part of my life, just like everyone else. I hate to break it to ya, the power music has doesn’t change just because you get old.

I’m always interested in talking about music. My music, your music, whatcha like to listen to when you raid, when you PvP, when you chill and farm ore or herbs for 3 hours, when you drive in to work, when you’re mowing the lawn, when you’re running at the gym.

One thing, however, is an incontrovertible fact.

I am an old, old, old man.

Not as old as the Mannyac, I may have teethed on a raptor horn, but he was one of the ones that hunted ’em into extinction.

But what does my age mean for you?

This means, and damn I enjoy this, I am now old enough that anything I like listening to automatically becomes uncool.

God, I love that. It’s like a super power.

And now, if you are cool and you like the latest pop hits, I’m about to ruin your day.

Below is the track list for my latest driving CD. I enjoy listening to these songs while driving at high speeds around the turtles that block my forward progress on the interstate.

If you like any of these songs, and I do mean any of these songs…. you are not cool. You must drop them from your playlist before your friends mock you for listening to music the OLD FOLKS like.

I am hereby officially ruining these songs for the cool crowd. Oooh, it gives me shivers.

Just like when all the cool kids found out their parents were on Myspace, so they had to switch to Facebook, now you’re gonna have to switch to something else.

I am tainting these songs. Pray I don’t taint your music any further. 

Alex Parks – Mad World
The Veronicas – Untouched
t. A. T. u. – All the things she said
The Pussycat Dolls – When I Grow Up
Ke$ha – Take It Off
Shakira – She Wolf
Lady GaGa – Bad Romance
Linkin Park – New Divide
Skillet – Hero
Britney Spears – Circus
P!nk – U + Ur Hand

On the plus side, my super power to destroy the coolness of music only works on pop crap and the latest hits. Anything that is vintage and of enduring quality, such as Pink Floyd or Silly Wizard, remains unmarred by my enjoyment. You may continue to enjoy them freely.

Oh, and for those at all interested;

I like a wide variety of music, different things for different purposes. But two things remain the same.

When I go out to listen to live music, I want to listen to Irish Music. I think if I ever do a “Hang out with the Bear” thing ever again, it’s gonna be at the Half Time Rec Center in Saint Paul while the Tim Malloys play.

When I want to farm ore or herbs endlessly for hours, I put one of Lewis Black’s comedy albums from iTunes on. I have them all. It’s like listening to myself rant and rave, but without getting the sore throat.