SOPA and PIPA

I have been asked to share my thoughts on the SOPA and PIPA issues, and so I shall. But only because I was asked to.

I will share with you what I have told my district representative and both senators who represent the state of Minnesota within which I reside, and what I partially posted as a comment on the petition I signed to stop the ESA from standing as spokespeople for the gaming industry while supporting the SOPA and PIPA, by banning one of their largest sources of revenue, E3.

As a former US Marine who has served this country and the freedom she represents, I view the SOPA and PIPA legislation as nothing less than a direct threat to that freedom of speech and personal expression upon which this country was founded. I expect my elected representatives to hold the interests of the citizens of this country above that of business interests, no matter how well funded or represented by lobbyists, and I will vehemently oppose any politician or organization that seeks to strip from me those freedoms which I do NOT take for granted, but instead consider part of the legacy that I have inherited as a citizen of this country, a legacy to which I have had the honor to help preserve.

I encourage each of you to contact your own state representatives and senators, and make your own feelings on this issue clear. Your individual words to them may not matter, but you can rest assured that your email will be counted on a spreadsheet list as one of X number of registered voters who have contacted that representative upon that date to state your opposition.

Politicians may ignore what you say you want as an individual, but when it is made clear that the sheer quantity of people willing to throw off their lethargy and send an email threatens their majority for the next re-election campaign, they take notice. At that point, it is in their own self-interest to pay attention.

We can only hope that their desire for re-election outweighs the ‘contributions’ large corporations and special interests are making to pay them off.

Oh wait, did I say that out loud?

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How Do They Rise Up?

Topic of the day; Looking For Raid and new game opportunities.

The one area where I think LFR has succeeded the most is in opening up the world of large group raiding to those of us that could never be part of an organized raid group before.

It goes beyond taking raids and making them accessible to people.

I see a lot of discussion, mostly from people who were already raiders, about how the existence of LFR has affected their gameplay, dumbed it down, cheapened it, how it’s not really raiding.

Well, I say “get over yourself” to that, but let’s not forget the effect the LFR has on the rest of us.

How many people out there aren’t in raiding guilds? How many are in guilds with raid teams, but have never been part of the raid groups?

There are still a lot of friends and family guilds in this game, guilds that may not even have ten or more players. Guilds that would like to raid but suffer with too few numbers and too high standards, groups of people that insist on playing with friends and if they don’t have enough to form a raid without inviting strangers or potential asshats into their social atmosphere, just don’t?

How many people out there playing World of Warcraft have never had the opportunity to see what a big raid is like live?

Let’s take a step further back.

How many people out there have never taken part in a large group raid before, because they were afraid of screwing up in front of 9 or 24 other people while trying to get their UI adjusted, addons lined up, and marks/focus/assist/roles/assignments all figured out on the fly while everyone else in the raid is popping green for the ready check on the screen?

It’s not about being able to play your class, understanding your abilities or having addons enabled. You can know how to play your character extremely well in five person groups, and you can have Deadly Boss Mods and Omen and other raiding addons, but there is a lot to setting up a raid UI, or at least understanding what components go into a raid UI and which you need, what they do, and whether you can safely ignore them.

How often in the normal course of the game do you have to know what an assist is? Do you even know what the interface menu options for turning on “attack on assist” mean? What about role settings, and assignments, and knowing who is supposed to heal what, and how to organize it right?

What are all those extra tank and off-tank blocks in VuhDo for, and when should I use them? Who is my assist target, and what the hell does that really mean? Who do I focus on, or do I even focus on anyone for what we’re about to do? Am I shackling anything? Will I need tranq shot on my bar, and how will I know when to use it, or will I be told? 

If you are invited to a real raid for the very first time, especially with people whose opinions you value, what do you do if you are afraid you’ll end up screwing up, wiping the raid, and disappointing everyone when you’re trying to figure all this crap out?

Looking For Raid has done more than just open things up. It’s allowed people who could never get their schedule lined up to join a raid team before an opportunity to go in and do a raid, a real 25 person raid, and experience what it is like.

You can say whatever you want about EZ modes, getting carried, streamlined content, and how LFR isn’t a ‘real’ raid.

LFR has adds, bosses, various mechanics, 25 people, all the traditional roles, and lots of flashing lights and raid warnings and DBM updates and threat indicators and all that stuff going on. It is a raid in everything except the crushing likelihood of failure if you screw up just once with your timing on one thing.

Or, as Shadowson likes to say when someone starts a “This LFR group sucks so bad on this boss” story;

“But did the boss get killed?”

Why, yes, yes it did. No matter how sucky the group was, yes, eventually we get the boss down anyway.

In LFR you will not get guidance in how to play your class, you will not get kindly advice unless something really strange happens, and you WILL see players at their worst. But you will also get a chance to test your abilities, become a part of a raid team and see what works and what doesn’t in a live test bed without screwing over your friends.

If nothing else is remembered about LFR in the months to come, I hope this one thing is.

LFR has given everyone an opportunity to gain experience in raiding 25 person content. Everyone. People who never were able to raid before can now do so, and gain valuable experience and confidence that will serve them very well.

In the future, if these people are invited to step into a raid that needs one more person, they can do so knowing that yes, the mechanics will be different, and yes things will require tighter timing and coordination. But they will also know that they have learned to cope and excel in an environment where people don’t communicate shit, do weird ass things, try to fail intentionally, and went on to win anyhow.

LFR. If you can learn to raid without getting pissed at stupid asshats here, if you can keep your head, buckle down and be the person that carries the morons here, then you can raid with an actual GOOD team anywhere.

What I hope to see are people who used to hold raiders in awe stepping into LFR themselves, getting their raid on and seeing what it’s like, finding out how good they really are once they have the opportunity to try and apply themselves, gaining confidence and coming out with their own blogs to share how much fun they’re having and how they made it work.

 When Mists of Pandaria does come out, we are going to see the largest community of seasoned and experienced 25 person raiders WoW has ever witnessed come together, all having had their taste of raiding and wanting more. Here’s hoping Blizzard understands what they’ve set in motion, and bring the raiding goodness.

If they’re smart, they’re getting ready to make good on their promise to bring smaller content updates on a more frequent basis to feed the LFR beast. Clearly, there is a HUGE market for it.

Bearwall alert and grumpy bear soapbox from hell

I knew it was bound to happen someday, and now it finally has.

Besides this being a Bearwall, that is.

I feel disconnected from what everyone else is talking about when it comes to WoW.

I read blog posts, WoW forum comments and blue responses, and I swear I don’t know what game some of these folks are talking about. What happened? Where the hell did I go, and what did I miss?

When I read blogs and forum comments, the narrative these days seems to be, “People in randoms suck and that makes them unplayable and it’s Blizzards fault, we beat LFR and thus the game, now there is nothing to do and it’s Blizzards fault, I got the best gear I can from LFR and valor so there is no point to playing anymore and it’s Blizzards fault, the game is boring to level an alt through again for the thirtieth time and it’s Blizzards fault, everyone hates pandas and thinks the lore of Pandaren is stupid so the next expansion is worthless crap and the death of WoW, Blizzard jumped the shark, game over man, game over.”

Apparently I missed the memo, spilled my cup of kool-aid, or don’t follow media reports closely enough to have been brainwashed into buying the narrative.

Silly me, I’ve been logging in and playing every night, and I have been SO busy with SO many things to do I am literally unable to do everything I’d like. There is just no time. I have to prioritize my fun to aim at the things I really want to do that I think will be MOST fun, and walk away from the game each night knowing I left some fun back there on the table. “If I’d just stayed up later, if maybe I only really needed 4 hours of sleep, maybe I could have taken home more of the fun last night.”

Why is it that so much of the discussion out there is about how dead the game is? I don’t even PvP, I haven’t done anything in the new Darkmoon Faire, and still there is just too much.

If a few people feel the game is dead, hey, I am truly sorry your game experience sucks. Paying money on a monthly basis to stare at the walls of Orgrimmar really would suck.  

But that’s not what I’m reading out there. I’m not reading a few individual people saying, “I feel like things are boring and dead”, I’m reading people making sweeping blanket statements like, “Everyone feels the game is dead, there is nothing to do, Blizzard you should…”

Here’s my take on the narrative. And when I say this, I am speaking MY opinion, and ONLY mine. YOUR EXPERIENCE MAY VARY, AND I DO NOT PRESUME TO SPEAK FOR YOU.

First, the “Pandas are Jumping the Shark” thing.

Pandas are WoW jumping the shark? Mists of Pandaria is fail, stupid, whatever?

Two words; Space Goats.

If you can really tell me with a straight face that disco-dancing space goats fleeing a demon horde across the endless dark, then crashing their spaceship city into a world was all fine and dandy, and a world breaking apart from the power of demonic forces but still retaining atmosphere and maintaining a self-sustaining ecosystem is spiffy, but martial arts pandas bringing balance to the force make you choke on your lore, I’ve got a face in a palm I’d like to show you.

What I’m saying is, that shark was jumped a long time ago. The Fonz jumped the shark while being pulled on his skies by a flying gnome-engineered helicopter.

What you have to do is get over it, and roll with it. If you didn’t quit then, why the hell would you quit now? The game is awesome anyway. Many whelps. Left Side. Handle it.

Second, the “WoW is boring, there is nothing to do” thing.

We’ve been over this ground before. Every period between content releases, we have this same discussion. And why?

Because there IS a period between content releases.

Until that far off distant day when new content is created as fast as or faster than it can be played through, there will always be times when new content was added, we played what parts of it we were interested in, and then wondered what to do until more new content.

Me, I suggest trying some other fine multiplayer game, such as Alpha Hex, when you are bored with the game you’re in.  

Would the lack of fresh monthly content even be an issue if folks didn’t pay a monthly fee, and thus felt entitled to a full months worth of fresh content every time their bank got tapped? I dunno, I don’t play any free-to-play games to have a perspective. Personally, I look at the game as being a real world that exists, floating in an alternate dimension, and I pay a monthly fee to visit, much like having to keep my passport up to date, but without the intrusive anal probes at customs.

My point is not to say that we should not get new content, or even to say that we are or are not getting new content at a satisfactory rate.

My point is that everybody is going to experience that content at a different rate based on their own available time to play the game, what parts of the game they are interested in, and how many friends they have to play with to serve as a force multiplier. it’s kinda hard to judge just how often is “often enough”.

To put this in a different perspective, I know a few folks that are upset at the quantity of new content we just got. It’s too much. They feel guilt at not doing everything that got released, but they don’t have the time. No, I’m not talking about me. 🙂

They feel like they SHOULD be doing all this new stuff like Darkmoon Faire and the LFR that came out, but they just don’t have time. This makes them feel bad, that they are being left behind, and I’ve heard it said they wish the content had been spread out over a few months instead of dumped all at once. 

And then there is the other side of the coin.

Just this last week someone in my guild logged in (cough, Dipro, cough) and complained about how bored they were and how there was nothing to do, and how Blizzard needs to release new raids right now, the game is boring and the new raids are boring and suck ass. 

Someone else replied that the Dragon Soul raid was almost brand new, and Dipro responded by saying “You run DS every week on LFR with four characters and tell me how fun that shit is. Blizzard needs to release a new raid.”

Really? Yes, really.

I try and give people the benefit of the doubt, but if someone runs a full 8 boss raid clear not once a week, not twice, but FOUR TIMES, and not just some weeks but every single week, then whose fault is it again if they burn out?

Blizzards, apparently, for not preventing him from being able to play too much, too fast.

Congratulations, we now have a classic example of where ideas like gating raids through quest chains and reputation grinds come from. Why? Because people either won’t or can’t take personal responsibility for living online, playing 24/7, and burning through the content in two weeks. If you want to do it, then fine by me, but where do you get off blaming Blizzard for it?

And as long as we’re talking about personal responsibility….

Finally, the biggest issue. Asshats in raids ruin the game.

I’m going to say it. This isn’t a “there are asshats in the game, Blizzard should get rid of them” issue.

This may surprise you, but the reason there are asshats in the game is that in the real world, there are a lot of people who are asshats. That is who they really are. They are asshats. They wear a hat on their ass, I can’t put it any plainer than that.

Or, as I used to say, “there are a lot of people who are alive in this world for no other reason than that it’s illegal to kill them.”

What many people don’t seem to grasp is how many asshats there are out there in the real world.

Most of the time, in the real world the asshats act like everyone else. Thank god they DO seem to be in the minority, so they hide who they really are by default in public. They do so because they get benefits out of being thought to be nice, or honest, or trustworthy, or mature, or dependable.

It all comes down to what is considered acceptable. If asshat behavior is acceptable, then asshats come out publicly. If it isn’t acceptable, then they hide, and feel other people out carefully to try and find other asshats in hiding that they can form a clique with.

In most modern companies, asshat behavior is written into employee manuals as unacceptable. Enough big companies have been sued successfully for toxic work envinronments that they have learned there is a monetary cost to allowing asshat behavior to run unchecked. If you act like an asshat you get written up, reprimanded, denied pay raises for not being a team player, lose out on promotion prospects, or get fired. Or sued for harassment or discrimination. Or get promoted to branch manager, if the culture approves of asshats and hasn’t been sued yet.

Why are there laws allowing for the sueing of a company based on a toxic work environment or for other issues dealing with respect and fair treatment? I feel, again, it’s because the asshats are in the minority. This is my own opinion, after all, you’re more than welcome to disagree. 

In most social groups, if you act like an asshat, people won’t hang out with you, you won’t get dates, at least until you find enough other asshats to form your own social group. And thus, the fraternity was born.  

Asshats tend to pretend to be what they are not, because as I said before, I truly believe most people are not asshats, and so the asshat minority hides what they really are so they can be accepted into the larger group and get what they want from others. If there is nothing they want from the other people around them, and there is no chance in their opinion that word of their behavior will get back to whoever they DO want things from, then they just act like an asshat, and say things like “I do what I want and to hell with what other people think”.

It really is all about what is acceptable. You want your guild to grow asshats like mushrooms after the rain? Asshats always make little ‘off-color’ remarks, are looking for other asshats to bond with, and so they feel other people out looking for other asshats in disguise. If they make overtures of asshattery in the guild chat channel that are received with approval instead of disgust, it gets a little bit more accepted in your guild. Other asshats in disguise may see that guy get away with it or be joked with, and feel it’s okay for them to come out a little as well. It spreads, it grows, it becomes accepted as part of the culture.

If that is who the majority of the guild people are, well, shit happens. But if not, then those who hate asshattery better be prepared to shut down that kind of behavior before it grows. I know I don’t want to play where asshat behavior is an accepted part of the team dynamic.

If asshattery become an accepted part of the guild culture, then when a non-asshat enters the environment, boom. Welcome to a toxic environment to be in, and you’ll lose the nice people fast. 

Am I talking about the real world, or the game world? Both. This all happens in the real world as well as WoW. Every day. And every different situation and environment you enter has the same underlying social dynamics going on. It’s just more obvious in WoW, where there are more opportunities to act without repercussions or long term consequences. Get too much of a reputation, get too many people friending you to track your name changes, and you can just make a new character or server transfer. In the real world, when people burn too many bridges they pick up stakes and move to a new town or state, job hop, switch regular bars or hangout places, whatever it takes to leave the consequences of their behavior behind.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m lumping racists, sexists, jackasses, homophobes and all the other crap into one term; asshat.

When you come into World of Warcraft, all those same asshats are in the game. The game did not create them, it did not train them, they were not nice people until the game turned them into asshats. Asshat is their true inner person, their default state of being. They are only pretending to be nice to get what they want.

If they can get what they want AND act like an asshat, it is utopia. I have no idea what a guild formed solely of asshats would be like, but then again, I’ve never been in a fraternity, either. But hey, they don’t need a guild… they have LFD and LFR!

All those asshats, hiding behind their masks in front of their guilds… you get them on a cross server random BG or raid, surrounded by strangers, and let them loose. What happens?

You get people say all sorts of trash talking, people rolling Need on everything they can. Intentionally kill the Corruption tentacles to wipe Spine of Deathwing, again and again. Intentionally start encounters before they can be kicked, or before a full group can form. Pull oozes while people are still zoning in. Go afk in the middle of a fight, so if the group wins they got carried, roll need and leave with a sneer. Run addons that spam meters and spell activations until you can’t see actual text buried in the scroll going by.

LFD and LFR do not create asshats. Blizzard does not create asshats. They were there before, and the sudden lack of peer pressure and accountability encourages them to be themselves. The anonymity of LFD and now LFR did not create asshats, it just provided an opportunity.

I applaud every effort Blizzard makes to try and isolate asshats from affecting other players. The problem is, the convenience of LFR and LFD is just too damn sweet. For all our bitching about how LFR and LFD kill off server based communities, the fact is we all love the convenience of forming groups that don’t take all night sitting in one sitting spamming trade chat. We all hate the asshats and the lack of a reputation-based community policing itself and stifling the unchecked asshat behavior in our groups, but we also want fast groups.

This is all my opinion, based on what I’ve observed in my life and what I really think about asshats in the real world and in WoW. I don’t honestly know how Blizzard can be held responsible for blocking the ability of asshats from being in the game, without accepting that part of the responsibility has to be ours to shut down asshat behavior in our own day to day lives, and make it clear that asshat behavior is never acceptable.

No matter what, though, ignore works, and the majority of people I meet in game are not asshats. With the anonymity the game provides, the very fact that the majority of players I meet are NOT asshats fills me with hope, and a good bit of joy as well.

I joke about being a grumpy old bear sitting on my lawn yelling at the kids running by, but damn, talk about living the dream.

Exploring Enchanting Alternatives

It’s been an enchanting few weeks in the BBB household.

Cassie and I are playing a priest/paladin pair through the levels (we’re now 81!), and she decided to go Tailoring and Enchanting. I’ve also recently server transferred my old level 78 priest over, who was at the time maxed level in Jewelcrafting and Tailoring… when Wrath of the Lich King ruled the servers.

On my new server, I already have a max level Jewelcrafter, with epic recipes and stuff, and I ran out of the need for Truegold cooldowns months back.

What I don’t have here is an enchanter. Nice to finally have my tailor back to make bags, though. Spending money on bags in the AH is a crime against the gold gods.

Two enchanters to level simultaneously.

Have you seen AH prices on enchants and mats? Holy crap, right?

The low levels are fairly easy, and in Outlands it was extra nice, because with transmogging, running instances over and over to get gear meant a steady flood of greens to send off for disenchanting. No worries.

Once Cassie and I hit the Wrath of the Lich King level of enchants, it all went wahooney shaped.

Why?

Well, I wasn’t being very imaginative, for one thing. I was stuck in the traditional wisdom, running along the ‘what everyone knows’ groove.

Everyone knows that it’s best to level Tailoring and Enchanting together as you quest, because you can take the cloth you get from killing mobs, make stuff to increase Tailoring skill, then turn right around and disenchant it for the mats to increase Enchanting. Synergy, which is a fancy word for “these things complement each other well”.

Along those lines, I started farming cloth, researching who had the best drop rates for cloth, and I even took my (now level 82) priest back to Northrend to quest for rewards to disenchant. Yay.

If I ever got to higher level, I could start shattering materials that result in tons of WotLK mats. But you’ve got to level past needing the WotLK mats to get the spell to be able to shatter them, damnit! Grrr.

So be it. Cloth, cloth, cloth.

Amusingly enough, it took The Daily Blink to snap me out of being so stupid.

Right along the time I was getting fed up and dreading questing for the next month in Northrend just to get greens, along comes this pair of hilarious comics showing the pain we were feeling, and exploring alternative methods of gathering up the cloth we needed to level enchanting the traditional way.

It was the idea of exploring alternative methods of farming that got me finally thinking.

Farming cloth for tailoring for disenchanting is certainly one way…

But since when are Tailors the only crafters that make greens?

I am such a dumbass.

I have other characters. I have max level Herbalists, Miners, Jewelcrafters, Blacksmiths, Scribes… surely SOMEBODY can make SOMETHING useful, so I don’t have to farm all this damn cloth!

I looked to my Blacksmith, and asked him… what can you do for me in Northrend greens done dirt cheap?

My Blacksmith had an answer.

If I farmed Cobalt Ore, which is plentiful in Zul’Drak, then one Cobalt Ore smelts into one Cobalt Bar, NOT the normal two ore per bar BS.

There is one delightful item, the Horned Cobalt Helm, that costs only 8 Cobalt Bars to craft, and is a level 75 green. As most of you may know, the *5 point in items is where a crafted item goes from small return on D/E to a larger return. Any green from equippable level 75-79 will give you more mats per disenchant on the average than a level 71-74 item.

So, whether it’s ore or cloth, it’s still farming. The difference is, I can take my max level Blacksmith with fastest flight off on a route around Zul’Drak, and after a measly hour of farming easily be able to craft over 30 high level Northrend greens to disenchant. As opposed to grinding mobs or quest rewards? Oh, yes please!

Yeah, Cassie and I blew through Northrend in a single night of ore farming.

But then we had two enchanters looking for Cataclysm mats.

OMG, right?

Ah yes, but can my Blacksmith make anything now? I like farming the new ores.

Hmmm, before I check on that, why not see what kind of stuff my Jewelcrafter can make? I vaguely remember leveling JC by crafting rings and necklaces.

HOLY SHIT!

It turns out that Jewelcrafters can make rings and necklaces, all right. And the mats are a JC vendor jewelry setting costing a couple gold or so, and two green uncut gems per crafting. There are four recipes in total;

Jaspar Ring (ONLY ONE Jaspar)
Alicite Pendant (2 Alicite)
Hessonite Band (2 Hessonite)
Nightstone Choker (2 Nightstone)

Finding these four recipes in my crafting list was like being hit by lightning, but in a good way. Kinda like, hmmm. Getting a few beers in and then hitting a roller coaster. Dazed, a little woozy, but thumbs up!

The reason these didn’t really register was you needed two per point, and the resulting item’s enchantment is completely random. So, when I leveled I made them but also focused on cut gems for most points per gem.

Fast forward to now, when I prospect ore I’m looking for the blue quality gems, and these greens are either worthless, or can be used for the daily JC quest. I don’t save only the gems needed for dailies, I don’t look that closely at it. I just stuff gems in my JC bank. How many? Well, I typically keep about, oh FORTY of every kind of green gem before I start vendoring the leftovers. I figure, 40 of any given green quality gem is enough, right?

You use 3x Jasper for the Ogrezonians daily, 3x Zephyrite for the Nibbler daily, and 3x Nightstone for the Present for Lila daily.

I had mats on hand to craft 80 green items to disenchant just out of what I had lying around in my bank, and I don’t even want to think about how many greens I could have crafted from vendored gems over the last year.

I like farming ore. Did I say that already? It’s true. It’s like Hobbes saying “Smock”, I just like farming ore. Smock, smock, smock. It IS a good word when you think about it.

The way we level these days, the accelerated pace of it, it can be so damn hard to gather mats at the same pace we level. It’s good to know that if we do make new alts, the ‘traditional’ methods of feeding the fire isn’t the only way to go.

I could wish I would have checked earlier, but I’m damn glad I didn’t think of it AFTER we hit max level!

I truly hope that someone out there thinking of leveling an Enchanter will be helped by my experience in this, and I also hope that anyone wanting to make a little cash off a Blacksmith or Jewelcrafter keeps in mind some of the non-obvious ways your cast off mats can make money.

Green quality gems are far more valuable than I thought!

Druid Dreaming

This is just a quick note to myself.

You ever have someone tell you that you should keep a dream diary beside your bed, so that when you wake up with vivid memories of a dream, you can write them down fast before they vanish like a Rogue in the night?

I don’t do that, but this one time I’d like some lasting record of a dream I had. If this kind of thing annoys the shit out of you, I do apologize. I know it won’t make sense, it was MY dream. But I’d like to save this one for future reference so I can recapture how it felt.

I have been working a lot lately, managing crews of people cross-shift in a plant that has continuous major breakdowns. I’ve also been interviewing and hiring a lot of new people to build up my department to what it should be.

I have noticed, oh how I have noticed, that my posting has gotten scant lately, not from lack of writing topics but from time. I am at work at least 60 hours every week, so when I get home I spend time with family, play WoW and then sleep. I almost never have time to read or even browse the internet at work. Oh noes, am I right? I don’t even take breaks most days, and that was my prime blog writing time!

Shoot, I even bought a twelve pack of beer last Thursday, and I still haven’t had a chance to crack the box and drink one.

Now, when I’m in WoW, the number one thing I’m doing is playing my Druid. I am in ur LFR, kitty DPSing the boss, I’m in ur 5 mans, tanking ur fast runs.

With LFR being what it is, I am also spending a lot of time waiting for LFR to pop by farming and flying.

Last night, I slept after playing with Cassie (on our Paladin and Priest duo, which makes the dream even stranger to me), and in this one vivid dream, I was in Home Depot, getting tools for the job site. I don’t know why, since I actually use a local hardware store called Menards to buy tools instead of Home Depot. But I did used to go to Home Despot a lot for tools, so who can tell. It was a dream, and sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

In the dream, the employees at Home Depot were milling every which way like sheep, as they so often do in the real world. Suddenly, in my mind I knew it was my job to get people organized and to work at the tasks that needed to get done. I started assigning people to jobs, giving work direction, etc.

I stressed to each of them the importance of getting their tasks done right, because I knew that the Home Depot was guarded by Arabian Nights-themed djinns, spirits that would keep everyone at work at their jobs, imprisoned and unable to leave until everything was done correctly no matter how long that took. These spirits surrounded the Home Depot at all times in whirling lines of air and force, materializing hands and arms and claws and upper torsos of giant djinns to punish and grab and pull people back in the plant.

I didn’t grasp it while immersed in the dream, but what I had imagined was an orange Home Depot building crossed with that one instance from the Throne of the Four Winds that is all ramps and platforms. Seriously. But instead of floating high in the sky, the whole thing was on the ground and surrounded for miles by a black tar asphalt parking lot with crisp yellow lines. And the harsh winds of the djinn swirled and surrounded us, blowing hard and fast.

I was organizing people, bringing order out of chaos and dealing with all the people milling about not knowing what to do until I told them, when suddenly a thought hit me.

“Pop flight form for a second and get a better look at where people are at and what they are doing.”

So I did. I popped flight form, transformed into the exact trademark purple birdie I see on the screen every time I play my Druid, so yes I had a third person view on it at first, but at the same time I was the bird, I was the one flying, and I felt that sensation, and then I had a first person view as the bird.

For the first bit as a bird, I was focused on battling the air currents, clawing my way higher into the sky so I could get a better view on where people were so I could get them to work.

I swooped and dove to get a better view.

Then, while up high, the thought distinctly registered, clear as a bell, “I should go down and get a camera so I can take pictures of the view of the plant from up here. You’d normally need a helicopter to see this, this is cool.”

At that point, the dream broke from the established narrative, as I reveled in the glory of being able to fly as a Druid in flight form, and I spent time swooping and diving and soaring and climbing.

I spent quite a bit of time from there flying around, being aware that it was a dream but fighting like hell not to break myself out of it.

It’s hard to describe, but I knew without knowing, just bubbling under conscious thought that if I let myself think about how impossible what I was doing was, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d be aware ‘formally’ that it was a dream instead of reality, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything ‘not real’.

I don’t know how long I hovered on that edge of flying, and enjoying flying, but trying to avoid thinking too hard about what I was doing, and trying to avoid thinking too hard about not thinking too hard, stressed that I would lose the glory of doing what I was doing but shouldn’t be able to do, and so on.

Fortunately, before happy-time dissolved in self defeating double-think, I flew down closer to the Air Elemental Home Depot, where I saw some of my new dreamland employees being harassed by a djinn in one corner near the parking lot, unable to get past to freedom.

I swooped down, landed in the middle of the scrum and went into purple kitty form to fight it, yelling to my employees to run to the safe zone (which was, in my mind at the time, the break room, wherever the hell that was. I’m sure the dream employees knew.)

Instead of turning into a real catform, though, I turned into a Worgen version of night elf cat form, purple with cat features, but the Worgen half animal/half cat style, with my long claws at the fingertips of my furred hands.

I had another moment to register a fleeting disappointment that I wasn’t all kitty the way I was all flight form before.

I launched into full-on furry furious cat attack on the djinn, ripping and tearing at it’s form.

I had no health bars to gauge it’s vitality, no level indicator to know it’s power compared to me, no casting bar to tell me what it was going to do next. It was just it and me, in an all-out furball fight, my cunning and strength against whatever it could do, and I moved and hopped around and bounced, pounced, danced around it, keeping it whirling around disoriented, slashing and grabbing chunks of air and trying to get it focused solely on me and away from the rest of the people that scattered like sheep.

It blew at me, and it’s huge hands grabbed at me and punched and it tried to throw me aside into walls and off ledges…

And then once the people had all scattered away, I tried to go into flight form to fly off in a long range hop to get some distance and bring it into a more open area where I could really move on it.

I did manage to fly and gain altitude, fighting the air that pulled at me, but the double-think was even stronger now, and within moments the entire thing dissolved and I woke up enough to think, “Wow, what a great dream, holy shit I’ve NEVER had a flying dream that felt so much like I was really flying before”, and then I tried to immediately fall back asleep to get right back into that dream, but instead I fell into a dream where I was still in the Marines, and some of the people I manage now were in the dream new Marines and I had to bring them up to speed on working at the plant, and yadda yadda… NOT what I was looking for, dream wise, at all.

As an aside… looking back on it, I have to wonder. What would World of Warcraft be like if we had no health bars, casting bars or level indicators of the enemy at all?

Just how different would the game be if we had no way of knowing how strong our opponents were, or how much life they had left?

Would we see people attack an enemy, and when they tried like hell but started to lose health, and had no idea what shape the enemy was in, would we see some of those players break and run instead of hang and fight knowing the bad guy was just that close to dying?

Would we see more people face every fight as if it might be their last, using stealth and guile and trickery and cooldowns and every tool in their arsenal, even while leveling up?

How much does our knowledge of our opponents every move and capability affect our attitude towards the game? Would it be considered as ‘easy’ and boring to so many people as it is now?

Looking for Your Experiences at Walt Disney World Deluxe Hotels

I know this is not gaming related, but I have had a tradition here of asking you for vacation advice and you’ve always come through. Since this is THE BIG ONE, help me ObiBearwani, you’re my only (trusted) hope!

The Big One. This is it. The Once in a Lifetime, buckle your seatbelts, do that one crazy vacation trip thing that makes no financial sense whatsoever but will provide a cherished memory for the children that will last a lifetime, rah rah rah.

We are heading to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in mid-March for a special spring break vacation, coinciding with Alex’s birthday. He has no idea yet, which makes for interesting conversations around the house.

Sound good? Sound fun? Just don’t start thinking about the material items that kind of money can buy, think instead of supporting the economy and building memories.

Just keep spending, just keep spending, what do we do, we spend, spend. I mean swim, swim.

Anyway, we have a bit of decision making to do, the kind that a careful planner can stress about for days and lose sleep over.

We have booked the whole trip already. Soup to nuts, all-in meal plans, multiple parks planned, the whole enchilada. Mmm, enchiladas.

Bacon enchiladas? Hmm. Must investigate.

For our stay, we had booked one of the new Royal Garden Rooms at the Port Orleans Riverside, where they have been doing extensive renovations – a pretty looking themed resort based on the movie The Princess and the Frog, what Disney considers a ‘moderate’ level resort with multiple pools, nice eating options, and the plus of a freshly renovated room with 2 queen beds and really neat theming.

Any gamer can appreciate making selections based on level. The difficulty level of this resort is moderate. In MMO terms, you get more guild perks, but you don’t get a mount unless you upgrade.

Situation: The Port Orleans Riverside Royal Rooms were set to open the middle of February, so we thought we were being safe in giving it a month to get the damn thing done remodeling. Guess what, last week it was discovered that construction is three weeks behind (at best) and will now not be available until after we arrive. Maybe.

Through Cassie’s research and forum activities (read in there – crazy stalking) on some Disney boards, she learned of this big ass delay just last week, and she’s  been following the process of how they are handling it. Reading the forums devoted to sharing information about Disney trips, forums essentially devoted to stalking every move Disney makes at their resorts, seems to pay off.

It seems that people who had a royal room at the Port Orleans Riverside booked, who now won’t be able to have that room for their trip, are getting bumped to a ‘deluxe’ resort instead of the ‘moderate’ for no additional cost!

There’s some question as to whether we’ll get the offer because the new rooms are projected to open a day or two after we get there, so there’s some potential that they could offer us a different room at POR and then move us.  But general consensus/gossip is that all who are affected in any way are getting the upgrade option.  Some are getting a choice from a few available, others have been getting to basically choose their dream deluxe resort from all of them.  Contemporary and Grand Floridian are typically not being included – although a couple people reported they were able to select the GF, so it seems to flex a bit depending on which representative calls.

Do you get the Fairy Godmother or the Wicked Witch that day? Only the call center knows.

We want to be ready with a decision if they call and Cassie has been obsessively looking at all the options for days now, and she wants some advice.

Here’s where we’re at:

The majority are choosing and/or being offered the Polynesian first.  It looks like a really nice option and has the monorail available (which Alex would probably be super thrilled with riding in), being able to watch Wishes and the Electric Water Parade from the beach, great tropical feel, nice quick service food option for breakfast.  Downsides are the volcano slide is going to be waaaay too scary for Alex based on a video Cassie watched (he’s getting braver with longer slides at Wisconsin Dells, but nothing enclosed all the way at the top and really dark like the volcano one) and there’s no hot tub (which is also one of Alex’s favorite parts of any swimming excursion).

Wilderness is probably out because we have the Great Wolf Lodge that we frequently visit in Wisconsin Dells and the theming feels a bit too similar, so it’s not as exciting to us (although the lobby is beautiful).

Grand Floridian looks beautiful, but is a little too “fancy” for our tastes especially with Alex.  Seems more like an adult type of theming.

Beach Club/Yacht Club also looks very nice and we like the option to walk or boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  But not sure how much time we’ll really have for swimming or what the weather will be like in early/mid March either.  Plus again, it’s a fancy waterpark which we have lots of at Wisconsin Dells and the slide looks too scary for Alex at this one too.

So that would leave:

The Polynesian (see thoughts above)

Animal Kingdom Lodge, which looks really cool, but we probably would not get the upgrade to a Savannah room, instead would have a standard view (parking lot, buildings, etc). While everyone affected by POR situation is getting upgraded to deluxe, the category you get there is limited to the type of royal room you booked.  We booked garden view as it was the only one available at the time, but there were also water view and river view options added afterwards and those people get the Savannah view, Lagoon View, Theme Park view, etc at the Deluxe level.  We like the look of the pool and, of course, the animals at the AKL.  Downside is that it’s more out of the way, especially since we only plan to do one day at AKL and our room wouldn’t have a nice view unless we get super lucky at check-in.

Boardwalk Inn – The pool area at this one looks really fun and like something Alex would enjoy (the crazy clown slide, animals around the pool, etc).  Downsides are really not much for quick service options for breakfasts/fast meals and a bit more adult feel to the resort from the pictures we’ve seen.

So, what are your thoughts/experiences from those that have been to any/all of these?  Cassie is going insane and has viewed hundreds of pages of comments/opinions/fact sheets/videos/etc (and keeps trying to make me look too, which cuts into my WoW time!), so please help us (and quickly since the call could come any moment).

Any advice on specifics on what you liked or disliked from the point of view of a trip with an 8 year old, not very adventurous boy would be HUGELY appreciated! Considering this is about three years savings for this trip so Alex gets his one chance at having a Disney World dream come true, I’d like to make it our best possible for him.

Thank you all very much!

 

Edit based on comments – We should have included this in our original post.  We definitely will have a car the entire time we are there (it is already completely paid for and we are going off property several times so that’s a done deal at this point).  We know for hours of research how wonderful the Disney transportation is, but regardless, we will have a car and may choose to use it at times especially for our non-Disney days which are already planned.  We will likely not use it for our Disney days, but don’t want to choose a hotel based simply on transportation concerns because we will have the choice of Disney options or our car.

Final edit and update: We did get the phone call from Disney that we were expecting, and were offered a different resort to choose from since ours was still going to be under construction. We have confirmed with Disney that we will be staying at the Polynesian at a nice garden room, and I have to tell you that we are really looking forward to it. With all that you folks have said, I think that this is going to be the best possible vacation we could hope for, and I do appreciate everything you’ve done to help guide us to that. Thank you, very much.

Bears and Cubs

Blizzard had recently held a holiday sale of World of Warcraft. For $35 total you could get the entire game of WoW, vanilla through Cataclysm direct through their store.

Sadly, that sale is no longer in effect, but I took advantage of it while I could.

For months now, my son Alex has had a free account to play in WoW, and by watching over his shoulder I’ve seen just how miserable it really is to play on one. My son was initially excited to play WoW on a free account, but one of the biggest draws was the idea of playing with mom and dad, grouping and chatting and questing.

His enthusiasm waned pretty quickly, and as I want him to do what he wants without being pressured into playing with what I think he should (or with what we spent a lot of money on and damn well want to see played with, that shit is expensive yo), I let it go for a while.

Recently, I asked him why he wasn’t really playing WoW anymore.

He said it was because his WoW is different than ours, and because it was so difficult to do the stuff we take for granted. On a free account, he can’t participate in trades, he can’t be in a guild, he can’t just log in and say hi to us (initiating a conversation), get or send mail, buy things on the auction house, make a Worgen or Goblin, etc.

All the things that prevent free accounts from being useful to a thief. Er, by thief I mean gold seller, a title which is semantically equivalent to thief, but should have the added emotional qualifier of ‘unwashed scrotum sack’.

This made me a sad bear. We do spend time with Alex of course, but he sees both Cassie and myself play WoW as our only real ‘adult’ hobby thing. Being able to play WoW would become yet one more thing we did together as a family.

So I caved. Last weekend, I used the fresh WoW boxes to upgrade him to a full WoW player.

Queue the doom bell.

Alex was very excited, and I found I was in the perfect position to see the game through fresh eyes. What would he run to do first? What excited him most that he hadn’t been able to do?

What would be his impressions?

The first thing he did was make a dwarf shaman. Then a dwarf rogue. And now he’s got a dwarf hunter. WTF?

I found out why he makes so many dwarves… Dwarves are SHORT, like Alex is! He can relate to the short little buggers. Doesn’t answer why they all have beards, though. Or why he doesn’t like gnomes.

Well, I guess the ‘doesn’t like gnomes’ thing is self-explanatory. And he’s too short to punt them himself. (Sorry Gnomer, love ya man.)

He also explained that when he makes his new dwarves, he looks for faces that appear kind and gentle, he doesn’t like the fierce or angry faces. Surprisingly, there are some peaceful, kindly dwarf faces to choose from when making a character, and he selects those.

He got going on his shaman, so I made a dwarf mage to travel and quest with him, and we had a lot of fun cruising to level 10 before we quit for the night. I let him do all the leading. I nudged him a bit to keep us on track with going from quest to quest, but otherwise he had made so many dwarves in the starter set that he was well familiar with the area.

First impressions;

He may go from quest to quest, but there is ALWAYS time to stop and kill the wabbits.

He prefers killing the fat wabbits to the skinny wabbits. I didn’t even know there WERE fat rabbits. Lrn2rabbitrecognition.

He doesn’t want to get overwhelmed with things to remember, so he has been taking one quest, doing it, then turning it in before taking a second quest from the same place. I explained that the game was mostly designed so all the quests available from one place at one time could all be completed in one trip. This came as quite the surprise.

Shamans are cool because they can drop colorful totems with neat flames and stuff, and because they can cast spells that make their weapons glow with fire. Also, they can shoot things with lightning. Shooting things with lightning is great. It’s also great to be able to beat things up with two weapons. But since he doesn’t like to get hurt and wants to be invincible, why can’t he do Enhancement combat with a mace and shield? Why does his special ability require an offhand weapon? He likes his shield.

Funny how unsatisfying it can be to answer, “Because the game is designed that way.”

The next day, he decided to create a Worgen. A Worgen Druid.

I created a Worgen Warrior just to help out, because Gilneas ain’t easy mode. All that instancing and scripting makes for buggy play. Fun and interactive, but buggy.

In an eyeblink we were both level 6, and he was having fun playing with me, but very, VERY frustrated at playing as a caster. He was ready to toss the character and try something else.

Why?

Because his shaman can cast neat spells like lightning, but when it came time to fight there was a mace and shield to beat up the bad guys! This druid worgen is all lame, smacking things with a stick.

I encouraged him to hang on until level 8, when he could get kitty form.

Once level 8 came around, he started having a lot more fun. He likes hopping around, killing rats he passes by (because cats kill rats, don’t you know), going into stealth and moving around that way, and using Rake.

I may have made a mistake explaining the relationship between Mangle, Rake and Ferocious Bite.

He gets the idea of combo points, he explained to me (quite patiently) that he didn’t HAVE to wait until 5 combo points to use Ferocious Bite, he could use it at one or two, and it does lots of damage.

What he does as his main attack, though, is use Rake.

I explained to him that Rake was a damage over time attack, just like a snake biting and poisoning the bad guy.

He seems to like the idea of poisoning the bad guys and making them suffer, so he uses Rake as his main attack, so he can poison them. He does also use Mangle, I’ve been watching, and I’m impressed with the way he mixes his attacks up with Mangle, Rake and Ferocious Bite if something lasts long enough to get it in there.

What I really find interesting is my response to how he fights.

I haven’t said anything, but as I watch him, I see him flip into Kitty, use his Mangle and Rake, flip out to caster and Moonfire Spam the SHIT out of something, flip into Bear and smack it, go back into Kitty for a Mangle when it’s dead, and then on the next mob just stand as a caster, sneak up and blast the crap out of it with Starfall, then Moonfire Spam again, and then a Wrath.

My gut reaction was to want to coach him to stay in one form to maximize his damage output with combo points and finishing moves. Just for a second, but watching him switch out of kitty in melee range to cast Wrath hurt.

I had to ask myself… why? Why feel even a moments twinge? That’s the way it’s supposed to be played. Even now, casting something like Wrath as a pull before shifting in is legitimate to get some starting aggro, although with the changes to aggro all that precast stuff is mostly redundant as long as your group holds their horses.

I used to pride myself on taking the time to have fun swift shifting in combat, just for the hell of it. Here my son is doing just that, and it feels like I’m watching someone doing it wrong, just because he cast the kitty stuff first before switching to caster for the long cast times when already in melee range.

He’s trying stuff out, and he’s migrating naturally to fast reaction time stuff. Early days.

I still haven’t decided whether to laugh or cry that my 8 year old instantly discovered and fell in love with Moonfire Spam.

Getting Kitty form was just the beginning, and once he got Bear it’s been shift city.

“I like bear, it’s great being an Invincible Bear!” (bounce bounce bounce)

We wrapped all the questing and leveling up the other night at level 17 (one more night ’til he gets his first mount!), and I watched to see if he’d log out, or what he wanted to do.

He logged into his dwarf, and found that I’d mailed him a pet cat (the calico) that looks just like one of ours. He saw that, I showed him how to learn the pet and display it, and then he asked where I got it. I told him the auction house, and he insisted I show him where the AH was, and how to use it.

Once I got him started, boy did he take off.

What did he want to do?

Browse pets he could buy.

He even bought a pet himself, a cockatiel he thought would be very pretty. He pointed out one rather odd feature of the pet section of the auction house.

Why can’t you get a picture of what the pet looks like when you’re browsing pets? How do you know if you want it, if you can’t see what it looks like until after you bought it?

I have to admit, that’s a good question. It makes me think the feature was intended for collectors who want to buy every pet they don’t already have, regardless of what it looks like. Adding picture preview for pets would be awesome.

One last observation.

We’re in the Gilneas starting zone, and we’ve just watched Lord Walden jump off a cliff. As we head up the trail between the hills, the path is covered with a flock of sheep.

A lot of sheep in a very small area.

It turns out kitties like killing sheep.

As the slaughter of the lambs began, Alex made the comment, “I hope none of them are mechanical sheep”.

It took me a minute before I remembered what he was talking about.

A while back, I flew down on my druid to group with one of his old free starter edition dwarves, and fly it around on my dragonform.

As we flew over the mountains from Stormwind to Burning Steppes (I think), we flew over a point of interest that included sheep.

I landed, and he killed sheep.

I noticed something, and mentioned it to him. One of the sheep had that engineering robot look to it. Nobody around, no dwarves or NPCs, just a flock of sheep with one mechanical sheep hanging out. Clandestine Robot Sheep.

Alex, attacked it, and it blew up, blasting him in the process.

He remembers that, and it made him pause months later to do an Exploding Robot Sheep check.

How cool is it that I live in a world where I can write that last sentence? That right there is reason enough for the internet.