If you were in charge of Warcrafts next expansion, what would it be?

I’m old, so I have a collection of sayings, tired old sayings worn so thin they’re nearly transparent. Aphorisms. Amorphisms? No, they have shape, they just don’t have life. Anubisms?

One of my favorites is, “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s easy to forget you’re there to drain the swamp.”

That was the main theme behind most of my old pen and paper role playing campaigns. I’d give the players a big over-arching questline to pursue, something big and grand and important, and then toss little annoying alligators at their asses to see if they could retain focus.

I loved having groups that were formed mostly of easily distracted players, with that one person that would keep trying to drag them back on target.

“Yes, I know the farmer has lost sheep to something lurking in the woods, but do we really have time to woolgather when the Queen’s virgin son is slated to be sacrificed and his soul consumed at the next full moon? How’s about we tell the local sheriff about the mutton-muncher*, and get our butts on the road. We don’t have time for Larry the Lamb** games.”

Alligators and swamps.

Let’s apply that to World of Warcraft right now, shall we?

We’re right in the middle of a wonderful expansion, killing dinosaurs, tearing it up in the Throne of Thunder, smacking down Lei Shen and destroying or uncovering the secrets of his power. We are pursuing the Sha, ALL of the Sha, wherever they may lead.

We’re farming, raising dragons, battling pets and looking pretty.

The war between Alliance and Horde is at the breaking point, but instead of resulting in a free-for-all, the Horde is fracturing over the actions of the ‘chosen one’ Thrall placed over them, and the Alliance is holding that same despotic overlord responsible for all the bad shit that has happened lately. So far. Well, except for Jaina. Who knows what that lady be thinkin’.

We can foresee a grand ending, with the current Horde Warchief overthrown, and the entire faction in turmoil. Will the Alliance swoop in to take advantage during the confusion?

Where do we go next when the Horde Warchief is taken down?

What major story will the next expansion bring us?

Taking one lesson from past expansions such as Cataclysm, we’ll probably just log in to find out it’s already been a few years since Garrosh was destroyed and a new Warchief was chosen, and things will be what they will be. We can then go and read a good book to find out what our characters missed.

Sorry, that was probably a bit snarky. Accurate, but snarky.

What if we were to try and imagine what our next expansion would be?

Right now we’re all occupied with the day to day playing of the game and the digestion of each content patch. We lament the ongoing delays of Pierre and the Skyclaw mount, we rejoice over reduced Lesser Charms fees for our Mogu Runes, and generally have fun in the now.

What about the big picture? What about the NEXT big picture? We don’t really know what’s going to happen, for all we know the last Sha will signal the resurrection of the Old Gods and the coming of Sargeras to destroy them, and us.

But we think we know we’re gonna take down Garrosh.

Let’s work from there, and think about where it would be really fun to go if we didn’t have to worry about the consequences to players.

Someday soon there will be a grand battle and Garrosh will be taken down. Right?

What, exactly, happens next is anyone’s guess. Will Vol’jin become the next Warchief, as datamining seems to indicate? Will Thrall (called in some circles the big green Jesus) come back to save the day?

Will something (Sargeras) come out of left field, something totally unexpected?

I truly welcome you to share your thoughts and daydreams on what our next expansion could be, where the big story could take us next, what would be big enough for a whole new expansion.

For myself, here is what I would love to see, the expansion I can’t stop thinking about, the game I would love to play in, so maybe by writing it down I’ll purge it.

The setup:

With the fall of Garrosh, and possibly the revelation and overthrow of the final Sha, the Horde will be in disarray.

The aftermath would be a sensible time for all within the Horde to re-examine their reasons for being together, what they each as a race had brought to the Horde, and what each had lost through their loyalty and commitment to their oaths.

A time perhaps to decide whether what was gained was worth the cost, and also to ask the question; was the Horde as a group as faithful to all of the races that were part of it as those races were to the Horde?

A lot could happen from there, but what I’d love to see happen next would focus on the actions of one prime mover; Sylvanas Windrunner.

There is much that has not yet been resolved with Sylvanas.

She is powerful, independent, intelligent, she is an outstanding character that I would love to see stand on her own as the focus of her own story, setting all of the past behind and working towards brand new goals defined by her alone.

At the same time, she has her own motives that ultimately put her against everything that lives.

Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken have long been a part of the Horde, but it’s been for convenience, strength in numbers against the might of the Alliance. They share little in common with the long term interests of the other living Horde races.

What use to the Forsaken, secure fields to plant crops and domestic animals? Expanded land rights and defended territories? The Forsaken don’t need fields, they need fortresses. They don’t expand, they isolate.

What have we seen from Sylvanas since the Cataclysm?

She does not rule a distinct natural race, but she does control a united cultural group that has grown from the perspectives of intelligent and free-willed undead working together to form a new type of civilization.

She has, despite saying that there is nothing more horrible than suffering the torment of being a soul trapped in an undead body, sought to increase the numbers of the Forsaken to expand her power base.

She has used weapons of mass destruction against the direct orders of her faction Warchief when it suited her purposes and furthered her own aims, with asides to her commanders that made it clear the culture within the Forsaken is to let the living fools believe that they can give orders to the Forsaken, but we know better.

So.

Does Sylvanas strike anyone as being the kind of person to leave questions concerning the undead unanswered? Does she seem the sort to be satisfied with being told by some patriarchal living overlord, “The war is over, and that is all you need to know.”

No, Sylvanas took the power of the last of the Valkyr to make more Forsaken, and if she had access to it she would presumably seize any other legacy of power over the undead she could get her hands on.

And all that aside, after the history Sylvanas and Arthas share, does it even make sense that she would not want to know exactly what had happened to Arthas, in loving detail?

And along the way, oh yes, what became of the power he wielded over the undead?

I would love the next expansion to begin with the existing factions of Warcraft shattered.

I would want to see people log in and find three factions to choose from: Horde, Alliance and Forsaken.

That’s right. THREE.

And right there on the character select screen, you could choose which faction your existing characters were now going to be a part of.

We could use the expansion “and some time has passed” thing to our benefit. So time has passed since Garrosh fell, the Forsaken split off and formed their own faction, and we live in troubled times? Good, in the time that has passed I can decide what my character did, and create an entirely new backstory.

Stay with your existing faction and maintain all of your guild relations and history? Or take a free faction change, with ALL that goes with it, to switch factions, keeping your race if going from Horde to Alliance or back, but choosing to be an undead version OF YOUR CURRENT RACE if you choose Forsaken.

I would love it if the new expansion started with Sylvanas having already overcome Bolvar Fordragon, seized the helm and the Frozen Throne, and taken her Forsaken out of the shadows into open war against the rest of the living, ALL the living.

With her new power, Sylvanas could raise any fallen race as a new undead, and so the Forsaken faction would consist of undead of EVERY race, not just humans.

As for the Horde and Alliance, there has been adequate groundwork lain to support either entire races breaking off and changing faction, or giving individuals the choice of which faction they would choose to be a part of.

I mentioned I’d prefer the individual choice, since entire races changing factions takes the choice out of the player hands, especially where guild participation is concerned. For many of us, the friendships we have within a guild is more important than faction.

But screw it, I’m not even remotely thinking any of this could really happen, so why not entertain the idea of the Tauren joining the Alliance, and the Gnomes allying with the Goblins to join the Horde? Come on, if the Goblins were to succeeed in making the biggest boomer ever that blew all the radiation out of Gnomeregan, finally returning the city to the Gnomes, and if the Dwarves run by the Moira dominated triune were openly hostile to Gnomes, wouldn’t that make a plausible start?

We could have a Horde where the fall of Garrosh led to Bane and Vol’jin seizing power from the Orcs, breaking the chains of Orc hegemony and establishing a new Horde governed once again by a shamanistic/druidic council that looked to working with the natural order rather than the steel fortress stuff of Garrosh.

In other words, a hippy cult Horde dedicated to working together as true partners, a Horde open to establishing peace through strength. And I’m okay with a hippy cult Horde.

The Alliance has been set up to try and assist the Trolls to overthrown the rule of Garrosh, but with all Jaina has done so far, especially in Dalaran, and us handing her a powerful staff imbued with the powers of Lei Shen, am I the only one wondering what atrocity may yet spring from her irrational actions?

I say irrational, and I mean it. I still feel that, for a leader of the Kirin-Tor, and from the talks we saw during Operation: Shieldwall, Jaina is on very unstable emotional footing and is still capable of anything.

Will she be able to keep all of her still-existing rage focused on Garrosh? Or will she use that staff to unleash hell on innocents among the Horde?

Can you imagine a three front war? Horde and Alliance having to work with each other, join together to truly face the enemy of all that lives, Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the big story in that expansion could be Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken seizing and repurposing all of the power of Icecrown Citadel. And maybe adding to it the power of the Titan devices in Ulduar…

In response to losing terribly in battle against this energized Forsaken, would the Alliance and Horde be able to work together to take the terrible Titan weapons and devices they have just seized from Lei Shen and the Mogu, and learn how to control them to defend their own peoples and pit them against Sylvanas?

Legendary items are one thing, but when both sides unleash Titanic weapons upon each other, will even the world survive?

What would happen next? With such devices, such power… the power to create new bodies, of stone and flesh and other things, to transform matter from one state to another..

Would it be possible for the Forsaken to be out to convert all that lives to undeath, while the Alliance and Horde seek to master the Titanic forces of Pandaria to convert all undead once more to the living, or at least the permanently dead?

Could the tools of the Titans be used to create a final cure for the Curse of Unlife?

Remember, I said leave behind what Blizzard might or might not really do. Blizzard could go to a three faction system and explode story possibilities, but I’m sure they wouldn’t then have an expansion war that resulted in player-controlled undead characters being forcibly changed to living characters at the end.

Well, I think they wouldn’t. I know I would, but hey. I’ll take risks because I don’t have millions on the line from a commercial enterprise.

I can imagine playing that expansion. Of looking at the character select screen, and wondering… do I stay as part of the Alliance, after everything that Jaina did, with Varian watching and doing nothing to really stop it?

Do I join the Horde, and do my part to try and help rebuild in the aftermath?

Or… do I decide that my character is one of the many to fall in the final battles, and is reborn as part of the new, expanded Forsaken?

I know we’re only halfway through Mists of Pandaria, screwing around with Mogu and on the Isle of Thunder, but I can’t help thinking about the Forsaken, how ill a fit they are in any living faction, and how they truly do deserve to be treated with respect and given their own place to shine in the dark of night.

How awesome it would be to expand the Forsaken by allowing undead of every race, and not just human? I mean real undead, not reskinned colors on existing races as they did with Death Knights. Broken jawed, stitched together Gnomes is what I’m saying.

If you could imagine anything for the story of our next expansion, the cost and time of art resources and technology no object or concern, what would it be? Where would you want to drive this bus?

*Formerly muttonguzzler. I changed it just ’cause I thought mutton-muncher sounded funny. Er. Funnier.
**Like Mickey Mouse games, but fluffier. Because the story would be a piece of flu… oh, you get it.

He’s Playing My Song

Cassie and I drove down from the Twin Cities to Winona, Minnesota this weekend to see Collin Raye perform at Winona State University for a Mothers Day treat. Collin Raye is one of Cassie’s favorite musicians, and I admit I’m very fond of him as well.

Collin Raye has this one particular song that Cassie knows is probably my favorite song ever, a song that speaks to me of everything in my entire life, and how I feel about it. Probably a “I’m old” thing, but every time I hear Collin Raye sing the song, I get one of those flashback montage things in my head.

Well, Collin kinda hinted that the next song he was going to sing was going to be this song, so Cassie had enough advance warning to get the camera out and set it to record video.

The beginning is totally shaky-cam, but since Cassie was all twisted up trying to record from our third row seats without having the 1000 gigawatt light from the LCD screen on the camera blind everyone behind us, I think she did fantastic.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite song. It’s not one that goes on the gym workout track, or the “I want to drive 120 mph and feel like a Formula One driver” CD, but it’s the song that always makes me stop whatever I’m doing at the time to turn it up and listen.

I think it says it all that, during what is supposed to be Cassie’s special night to relax and enjoy the music she loves, she still thought of me to record this song. What it says is, I don’t do enough for Cassie.

I hope you enjoy it in the spirit it’s offered. And if you do, I encourage you to take the time to visit Amazon and consider buying one of his CDs. The new gospel one is, IMO,  fantastic. Undefeated is great too.

Happy Mothers Day, everyone.

In case the video embed doesn’t work, here is a direct link.

PS… I don’t get any money for this at all, this is a true word of mouth “I really love this song” thing. YMMV.

Stay Tuned

The Bear family and I are afk, vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resorts.

Sadly, the blog shall be quite quiet while we’re gone.

This vacation shit is hard work. For those of you who know me well, it should come as no surprise that we have theorycrafted the optimum multi park timeline to gain the most fun without wasted resources.

So far, we’ve nailed the objectives, but the blister boss is taking multiple tries (and nightly lotion) to down, and we experienced our first wipe when Cassie was so stubborn she made herself pass out.

True story, I thought she had died right there in animation class at Hollywood Studios this morning.

Side note, Cassie says the EMTs at Hollywood Studios are very cranky people.

Anyway, stories are what you get when life happens, and we’re in some interesting ones.

I am not idle, this is a working holiday. I am diligently gathering research data for the most epicest Big bear Butt post ever seen.

When the post goes live, I’m not exaggerating when I say it will draw millions of pagehits all on its own.

Millions.

It might also bring jail time, I’ve still got to check on that.

Still. Millions.

To use a favorite movie quote, “You just let your imagination run riot.”

In the meantime, if you find you miss your daily dose of Bear, you can find me on Twitter, I’m on it each day until the phone dies.

Just look for @bigbearbutt and follow the bacon jokes. You can’t miss me.

You wanna get in at the ground floor?

Bear with me here, because I have a confession to make.

I don’t really watch much television.

I am what you might call functionally TV illiterate.

I never watched… well, anything that you might consider “must see TV”.

Never saw Battlestar Galactica. Never saw Stargate… well, I saw the movie. It was damn good.

I saw Babylon 5 ONLY because my main man Mannyac had all of them on video. If not for him, I never would have seen such genius.

I still have never watched Firefly… although I have the series on DVD, and saw Serenity. Loved Serenity… haven’t seen the series before it.

Haven’t seen Star Trek: The Next Generation. Haven’t seen any of the Highlander TV series.

I have seen all of Buffy and Angel. THAT I have done. Own the DVDs, some decade I may even see them again.

I don’t watch much TV. Always been too busy working, or traveling, or lately, playing WoW and blogging.

What TV I do watch, I see because someone lets me know it’s out there to find, or because I happen to come across it while flipping blindly through channels sitting bored in a hotel room during a trip.

I only see Top Shot, Top Chef, Top Gear (I’m detecting a theme), Sons of Guns and Chopped because I know to look for them now thanks to you.

You folks have told me, time and again, about great shows that I never would have seen without you.

Hopefully, this one time, I’ll get to return the favor.

There is a new show on the History channel, in the same style as Top Shot and perhaps by the same producers. I don’t know, I don’t get into that behind-the-scenes stuff.

The show is called “Full Metal Jousting“. 

New episodes appear on the History channel Sunday evenings, 10:00 PM Eastern, 9:00 PM Central time.

The very first episode ran last night, and I recorded it to see what it would be like. I only knew it was coming out because of a commercial on, of all places, a Youtube WoW video I was watching.

It is brilliant.

It is real, real armor, real 2000 pound warhorses, real lances, real full contact, real competitors. They are setting it up as the start of a new full contact sport with a $100,000 prize for first, and are doing it as a ladder competition with 16 contestants.

Alex and I were amazed, and can hardly wait until next Sunday.

Are you excited at the idea of seeing real jousting and the training for it, but missed the first episode last Sunday?

Guess what.

The first episode is being replayed TONIGHT, Monday, 11:00 PM Eastern and 10:00 PM Central.

If you’re not in the U.S., or don’t have the History channel, unfortunately it’s not streamed on the internet just yet, although you can see bios and rules and stuff on their website. I wish I could help you.

But if you DO have access to the History channel, THIS is your chance to get in at the beginning.

Seriously… this show KICKS ASS. Give it a shot!

A Song for the Day

This song has been running through my mind this last week, as a constant background sound that has been comforting to me.

You might recognize it from the Discovery Channel reality TV cheese-fest guilty pleasure that is Sons of Guns.

It is Shelter Me, by Tab Benoit.

I hope you enjoy it.

[audio:https://thebigbearbutt.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Tab-Benoit-Shelter-Me.mp3|titles=Tab Benoit – Shelter Me]

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.

Halloween Challenges Galore!

Welcome to another All Hallows Eve season. I hope you’ve been enjoying it!

World of Warcraft has expanded on what is one of my favorite in-game celebrations, and brought us not one but TWO new pets to pursue, in addition to the little pumpka-dude.

This, of course, comes about 3 days after I finally reached 150 in-game pets on my Druid. Those last two pets seem kinda… well, superfluous now. Ah, well. Getting a start on the inevitable 200 pet achieve, right? Bright side, bright side.

The new kitty pet is cute, but the Creepy Crate… just, omigod.

The Creepy Crate… easts critters. It is the critter chomping crate.

Awesome, right?

I mean, I know that this certainly does reinforce the notion that those Blizzard artists, boy, they sure are serious about wanting WoW to have fewer silly things, huh? Sure does put that argument to rest. /sarcasm.

You might think that the new Creepy Crate was all win, no downside at all, but I’m here to tell you the new pet threw the BBB household into a bit of turmoil.

Our son Alex is eight, and he has the attention span of a ferret on hot chocolate. He gets enthusiasms, stays on something for a few days, then wanders off to something else for a while.

Credit where it is due, he has beaten both Mario Galaxy and Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii (thanks to an incredible reader that sent me a copy of MG2, for which I still remain exceedingly grateful). He plays games, specializing in Mario. He loves Bullet Bills, he knows the names, he has the moves.

He also, yes, has his own World of Warcraft account, but after the first paid month we let it lapse. He simply didn’t use it much. A few days here, a few days there.

With great joy, therefore, we set him up with a free WoW account soon after they were available.

Limited to level 20 on a free account? No problem! All Alex wants to do is log onto a level 5 dwarf shaman, equip a fishing pole and run around fishing. And exploring Ironforge and Stormwind, taking the tram back and forth. We can group with him, and I can take him on Dragon rides around the world. It’s all good.

Oh yeah, there is one other thing.

Alex loves killing critters.

Bunnies. Frogs. Deer. Sheep. Whatever.

I’ve told the tale of Alex the Wabbitslayer before, but he cemented his place in the critter gitter hall of fame when he proudly showed me his secret cow level in Stormwind, where there are usually 5 cows all in a clump out in a farmers field. Cows that are just itching to be whipped to death with a fishing pole, apparently.

This disturbs Cassie, who has this policy of never, ever, ever allowing a critter to come to harm through her actions.

I say, it’s better than having him setting real critters on fire in the backyard… and don’t think I ain’t watching fer the signs.

Alex saw me on my Druid last night, saw me complete the quest chain for the Creepy Crate, and then watched in stunned amazement as I went down into the Ironforge Tram and let the crate feed on rats for a while.

Oh yeah, that did it. He wanted one. Badly. A critter-eating crate pet? Oh, heck yes.

So, the BBB household faced its first true test of the season; can a level 5 free account get a Creepy Crate?

No. No, a level 5 cannot get the first quest of the chain. We tried.

Thus begins our little drama. Sadness. Crushed spirits. Dissappointment, bringing a sudden lack of interest in continuing last night.

You see, he was really excited, he got his hopes up. Once he had those hopes up and went to try and do it on his own character, and found out he could not, that he was denied, he really felt bad.

So, as I talked to him afterwards, Cassie took up the challenge. She began researching what it would take.

A little research revealed that it was possible for a level 10 character to get the quest, and to actually complete it and get a Creepy Crate.

Okay, first goal. Level his character to 10. 

This became a surprise pain. No heirlooms, no problem, right? Of course not. We’re master-class WoW professionals.

But also, no money. No money to train, no money for gear upgrades, not even from vendors. No money by playing the Auction House, you can’t use the AH on a free account. No money for flight paths.

No money from friends or trades, you can’t even USE the mailbox on a free account. And nobody can trade with you. Not money, not items.

So, you quest, you get quest rewards, you loot cash from mobs you kill and from the quest turn-ins.

I got his little Dwarf to level 8 last night, and called it. Wasn’t hard, was just a grind.

Cassie picked it up again this morning and pushed the rest of the way to 10. Go go Cassie levelbot!

After training, and buying a vendor axe for the off-hand, Alex had a level 10 Dwarf Shaman with… 6 silver and some copper.

But he could get the quest! Hurrah!

This evening, after dinner, we revealed to Alex what we had done, and told him that we would work together to do the quest chain, and at the end he would have a Creepy Crate for his very own.

Ah, the excitement! The delight! His little face lit up with pure joy.

It will be one of those moments that I carry with me and hold tight, cherished as a warm, cheerful glow for when I’m old(er), and gray(er), and he has begun legal proceedings to declare me senile and put me in a home so I’m not a bother.

Doing the quest chain together was a lot of fun, we had to run everywhere on foot, because, well he is level 10, and I’d done it on my Druid already, and I don’t have any others that have passenger vans. Err, who can carry a friend around.

As Indy might say, “We’re on foot from here!”

We ran around, we did everything together, when we had to follow the trail of purple spiders I took a step back and let Alex the mighty spider-sniffer lead us along the trail. He likes being the leader, even when he has no bloody idea where we’re going. It’s enough that someone is following him for a change.

Everything went great, right up to the point where we had to get 5 Blood Nettles, 5 Arcane Powder and 5 Crystal Vials.

Guess what? Vials are cheap and Blood Nettles are free, but the Arcane Powder were going to cost him 9 silver 50 copper. EACH. Times 5? Do the math.

Little dude had 4 silver. Screwed, we were.

Ah, shit.

Think, think…. there had to be some way to cheat like a bastard. It’s a video game, there is ALWAYS a way to cheat in a video game. We choose not to cheat in video games, we never said we couldn’t figure out how.

Ah hah!

I’m already grouped with Alex, so we know that works.

What is the goal?

Earn money in sufficient quantity to buy his quest items, minimum 50 silver, in the quickest and easiest fashion possible.

It took 5 levels to get 12 silver, so that is flat out.

But… high level mobs drop higher-value money per kill… plus vendor trash drops. And weapon drops at level 60 are frequently worth a gold all by themselves.

Time to test.

I get on my Druid, we group up, I put it on Group Loot: Free For All, pop Dragonform and fly him out to Burning Steppes, where there are swarms of mobs.

A fast kitty whompas through the crowds, and there are a ton of dead bodies littering the barren wastes.

Can he loot my kills?

Why yes he can!

Five minutes later, he had a few gold in cash plus some sweet vendor trash, and away we went back to Stormwind, and carried on brilliantly, thank you.

Yes, he did complete the quest, and yes, I anticipated the point where the level 84 bad guys pop out when you intercept the meeting. Except I think his bad guy was level-appropriate for him. It went so fast I didn’t get a good check on it, but we both turned in our quests, and I swear two mobs popped out, and mine was 84 and lasted a few good hits, but I think his target was level 10 like him and died in an eyeblink. Something I need to check on an alt.

We went and endured the long chat scenes, waiting patiently to turn our quest in so he could get his Crate AND have the moral high ground by giving it to the Archaeology student… even if I knew the student would be all greedy anyway.

Then I watched as three people ran in, one after the other, and made sure to spam the buttons on their long quest turn-ins so Alex had to wait five minutes, with other people cutting in front of him, and never getting his turn because he just wasn’t fast enough to get that millisecond response time in on the click to turn in.

After three of those, it was time to say “Screw this for a game of soldiers” and go all the way back to Ansom, who may have been greedy, but at least he was short-winded and gave Alex a chance to finish his damn chain.

For the rest of the evening, I enjoyed watching Alex travel around Stormwind, giggling and snorting as the Crate ate… well, everything.

Including, yes, cows. And bunnies. And damn near every other thing he could find.

An evening well spent.

When I think, “I could have been raiding”… it sure does put things into perspective.

In related news, we have two Wii guitars, a drum set, and Band Hero, Lego Rock Band and Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock. Cassie has the Wii version of Metallica and Guitar Hero 5 on the way.

We could play WoW, but it can’t always be Creepy Crates and consumed cows. But it CAN always be “Daddy played bass, momma played fiddle, and little Alex was joining right in there”, whenever we’d like.

Lately, having only an hour or so to do something before an early bedtime, WoW just seems like a lot of time investment with very little family fun and excitement in return. But a good song is only 4 minutes… 5 tops.

That there is good entertainment value for my gamer doller, right there. Git ‘er done!

But for tonight… tonight, there was Creepy Crate.

May you enjoy yours at least half as much as we enjoyed ours.

Chicago – Day 1 – Chilidogs and Competitions

So, our wonderful adventure started off great, with the Amtrak train being 2 hours late to the station to pick us up in Saint Paul, MN. Oh joy.

It was a fairly long day, but we are now gratefully entrenched in our hotel.

We ventured forth afoot into the ‘wilds’ of the city, looking for grub. Thanks to the decision of MoarGoar on Twitter, we dined at Portillos, where Cassie dined on chilidog and I enjoyed the italian beef with mozzarella and sweet peppers. Very good.

Along the walk, Cassie pointed something out to me that just seemed perfect.

Effen Vodka, the drink of Effen Effers the world over. She pointed this out, and I instantly thought of Alas. If ever there was someone that could use an Effen drink after this last year, it’s Alas.

So, a nice end to the night?

Not just yet.

When we got back to our suite, I swiped through the channels while Cassie did some web work. An unfamiliar channel lineup, no Bravo (damn, we’ll miss Top Chef!), no DVR, we didn’t bring Firefly to watch on DVD, shit!

I stumbled across the History Channel, and what should I see but a show JUST starting up called Top Shot.

Umm, WTF?

Top Shot… the Top Chef style competition for marksmanship.

Are you shitting me? Manny, why in the hell did you never tell me about this? OMG!

Damnit, this is a show I could have competed on, and I didn’t even know it’s out there? ARRGGGHHHH!!!!

I watched last nights episode with extreme enjoyment. It was all old style weapons, weapons I have many hours of practice in; tomahawks and blowguns.

As I watched the show, though, I realized that watching this has almost ruined Top Chef for me.

I’ve always loved Top Chef, the judges, the contests, the whole experience.

As I watched the first few minutes of Top Shot, though, my first gut reaction as a trained and experienced marksman was, “What the hell kind of bullshit is it where you can be kicked off the competition because the rest of your team wanted you gone, instead of for not being the best? If you go home, it should be because someone else was better, not because you didn’t kiss enough ass!”

Umm… oh yeah. Like on Top Chef. I never really felt how unjust it was in my gut when it was chefs; I’m not now nor have I ever been a professional chef. Put it in terms I know damn well, shooting competitions, and guess what? Suddenly I’m all outraged and shit.

How funny.

Anyway, turns out that over the course of the episode, you learn that who goes home isn’t just a popularity contest. Two people get nominated by their team to go up for elimination, sure, but then it gets resolved by a shootoff of some kind between the two… with the winner of the elimination challenge getting a $2000 prize on top of staying in the game. So it’s winner take all, just the way it should be.

“Sure, bitches, put my ass up there. I’ll win the elimination and bring home the cash too. Go for it.”

Lol. Hey, I don’t take all that raider stuff seriously, not because I’m not a competitive person, but because raiding in a video game isn’t exactly a challenge I can make myself get real worked up about.

But shooting? Real world marksmanship? Well, now. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish, my friends. NOW we’re talking serious business. Bring it!

I really enjoyed the mix of marksmanship challenges, variation in weapon forms, and the format of elimination in tonight’s show. If this same quality keeps up, I just may have a brand new favorite show to watch.

Funny the things you find when away from home, isn’t it? And yet I could have been watching it all along, if SOMEONE had mentioned it!

Oh yeah… and we’re going to the zoo tomorrow. Cheers!

Welcome to the year 2000, BBB!

So, I’ve got a new phone, and I swear I’m gonna shut up about it. This ain’t about the phone.

BUT… the phone is a gateway to new experiences right now.

It’s got a YouTube App on it, and that led me to do something I normally never do… browse YouTube just to see what’s out there.

It just felt different, seeing those little videos on a phone! Aww, so cute!

So, of all the videos on YouTube, posted from all the available bits in all the world, what do you think random chance brought me to see? What do you think I was finally introduced to, that everyone else in the known universe probably already saw?

If you said “Two girls one cup”, go stand in the corner and wait for the Blair Witch to come get you. Hush.

No, instead I saw a video starring one of my favorite actors of all time, a man I can actually gush about for an hour or more, dancing the night away.

I saw Christopher Walken dancing to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice“.

I’m trying to think what I was doing the year that came out, 2000, because this one slipped right by me. I think that was the second year I was truck driving, so I was probably in a rig crossing into Idaho.

Edit: Cassie happened to remind me that I suck at math when my head is full of ache, as it is right now with this cold. I got out of the Marines in ’94, I spent ’95 and ’96 truck driving.

Or, as Cassie put it… if we’re about to have our 10th wedding anniversary in March, and I spent the 2 years before that as her fiance, and the two years before that getting settled into the Twin Cities, how, exactly, could I have been truck driving in 2000?

So, actually, I was just clueless in 2000, not truck driving. I now return you to my previous post, still in progress.

Not a lot of TV in the cab of a truck in the old days.

Christopher Walken. That son of a bitch can dance, yo.

Oh right, you knew that. Like, eleven years ago. Because it won awards from MTV out the wazoo and has become such a massive cultural hit it’s been spoofed multiple places… that I also didn’t see. 🙂

Christopher Walken.

When I saw that Fatboy Slim video, I didn’t just see that one performance.

No, I saw shades of every great performance Christopher Walken has been in, that I’ve ever seen.

It brought back in a rush all of those incredible man-crush movie moments in my life, watching Christopher Walken just act his ass off.

The former POW returning a watch to a young man in Pulp Fiction. The mobster interrogating Dennis Hopper in True Romance. Hickey the old west gangster in Last Man Standing (and again with the Bruce Willis), the badass mofo in Suicide Kings, The Deer Hunter, good lord The Deer Hunter.

And of course the performance that stands above them all, Christopher Walken as the Angel Gabriel in the Prophecy. Hey, you don’t think that was his best, sue me.

The Fatboy Slim video reminded me, all in a rush, that Christopher Walken is, for me, one of the true movie legends of my generation. He is an actor whose work defined the way I thought of movies for decades. When I’d think of what was possible in movies, in storytelling on the screen, in the power and majesty and depth and brilliance that could leap from the screen into my brain, Christopher Walken was one of the few actors that led the way for me.

The defining Christopher Walken movie, for me, will always be Brainstorm. That movie, and the possibilities it posed, the imagination it held dear, the bravery in tackling such an impossible topic and trying like hell to present it visually on screen… that set the tone of all movies for me. It didn’t have to be about dropping some quick film to make a fast buck, it could be about something more. That was the standard to strive for.  Brainstorm, and Walken, showed me that movies could take a chance and really try and explore something massive.

The earlier generations had their own heroes, I know. John Wayne, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, so many great actors that I’m sure would bring back a rush of nostalgia to my elders. Those that ain’t in the ground yet, because I’m already getting pretty eld here.

My generation had all of the action stars with their ripped muscles and machine guns and explosions. It’s so easy to see that, and discard the entire decade as crap. Entertaining crap, but crap nevertheless.

But we also had Christopher Walken, and that means something to me.

I’m getting older now, and it’s getting easier for me to be able to look back and see where the high points were while I was growing up, what the major inspirations were that opened my mind to wider horizons, and helped me learn to appreciate how kick ass movies and fiction could be. The movies, books, and people that helped me learn how to really dream big.

It makes me wonder, who do the folks growing up these days see as their inspirations, their grand lions and tigresses of the imagination? Who sets your brain on fire and drives you to write, or draw, or create stories and images, or, yes, parodies while you drive towards your own future?

Who out there is peeling your brain open like a crazed man with a rusty can opener?

Do you have a Christopher Walken of your own? Do you have a true original, a legend that can be so many things, but never predictable?

I really hope so. I do.