Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who's the Hero Now?

While I enjoy reading about the WoW lore, it may surprise some people to know that I'm not a big fan of the books.  A great deal of my indifference is due to the design decision in Azerothian lore to emphasize the leaders at the forefront of everything.

Look at it this way: if you're out questing in the L1-L60 areas of Azeroth, when you report to a faction leader, it is a "big deal".  Sure, you can show up at any of the capitals, walk right up, and dance around Sylvanas*, but actual interaction with the story is fairly rare.  The emphasis, naturally, is on you as the hero.  You're out in the field, interacting with people who report up the chain to the faction leaders.  Now, there are third party groups out there you interact with, such as the Cenarion Circle and the Argent Crusade, but the lion's share of quests come from the two factions.

This format makes sense, because the faction leaders are consumed with less of the day-to-day and more  nation building and maintenance.  There are advisors and councils who deal with other things, such as the war effort.

Historically, by the time we reached the Age of Enlightenment it was a rare sight to see a monarch in battle, and a monarch having adventures was unheard of.  Monarchs weren't the strongest, most powerful, or most intelligent people in the nation, but their bureaucracies ensured that they didn't need to be.

Azeroth, on the other hand, has a bizarre environment.  In the time of WoW, Azeroth has lost a great deal of its population, but at the same time has tons of toons when a server is busy.  There are Native American inspired cultures and "the strongest rules" medieval type of societies, but also has the trappings of Steampunk and the later Victorian Era.  These are huge continents, but near instantaneous travel via portals is a reality.  And yet the societies don't have any cross pollination, despite the forces at work.

This is a world where --if you follow the books and the lore-- you have the faction leaders and their equivalents going off on adventures.  They are the focal points, because they are the strongest, the most powerful, the most intelligent.  In some respects, this is a lot like a David Eddings series.

And like a David Eddings series, after a while it starts to feel like a who's who of people at the top.  The rest of the Azerothians don't exist, except as a bunch of red shirts.

I suppose I can't blame the books, given that the authors are working within Blizzard's constraints, but it just doesn't feel right.  WoW has taken the focus of the game away from the folks at the top and given it to us, yet the books are still stuck in Warcraft 3 mode.

*Not to mention the inevitable question why you'd do such a thing.  Unless you have a death wish or something.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who Needs PUG Stories, Anyway?

I was planning on writing something else today, but a week's worth of keeping an eye on the kids while they play LOTRO has been... enlightening.


...And a Level One Gold Farmer Yelling, "You buy?"*

My son has demonstrated the best grasp of the mechanics involved in gameplay, but economics eludes him.

"What are you doing?" I asked as he ran around Michel Delving.

"Looking for the stables."

Since I hadn't played as a Hobbit, I had no idea whether the stables were needed for a quest or not.  The next thing I know, he's heading through the Old Forest and getting himself killed by a wolf 8 levels higher than him.  "Okay, you've got to get out of here," I said, taking over the controls and moving him to (relative) safety.

"But I've got a quest to go to Bree!"

"You can take the stables."  I directed him to the nearest stables, and he rode to Bree.

He turned in his quest, then ran around the city for a while.  "Why can't I buy anything that's my level?"

"Bree's a higher level city.  You shouldn't go there until you get high enough level."

"But I want to buy stuff?  Where do I get the money?"

"From doing quests and killing monsters."

"But there's no monsters where I'm at!"

"Go back.  They're there."

He then blew another silver traveling back to Michel Delving.  Sighing, I turned back to my work.

"Aaaaa!"  He had apparently found wolves to kill.  Three of them, and they all aggroed on him.

"You can kill them off.  Stop running around and face them."

He continued to run around as the wolves nipped at his heels, slowly draining him of life.  Stopping finally, he turned the wrong way and wondered why his attacks were missing.

I spun him around and started hitting his melee attacks, but it was too late.  "Now," I said as I sat back down, "you were telling me there weren't any monsters here."

"Oh.  Yeah."


And This Could be from an Older Gamer

"Why am I doing this?" my youngest asked as she ran off to kill some wolves.

"Did you read the quest?"


"No you didn't.  I watched as you clicked the 'finish quest' and then the 'accept quest'; you don't read that fast."

"Oh, um, yeah."

"That's why the words are there, so you can understand the story behind the quest."  And, I added silently, you'd not believe the number of adults who don't bother with that as well.


Who Says Guys have a monopoly on Objectification?

My oldest watcher her sister playing as a Human Guardian** when her sister's toon approached Strider to accept another quest.  "Aww...." she said.  "I hope that my elf gets a chance to meet Strider!"

"Why?" I asked, although the sinking feeling in my stomach already provided the answer.

"Because he's so dreeeaaammmmyyyy!"

*From Wowcrendor's spoof of Goodnight Moon, called Goodnight Orgrimmar.  If you haven't seen it, it's awesome!

**Just where did that come from, anyway?  I don't play tanks, and her older siblings rolled Hunters.  I fear she's been corrupted.

Monday, August 22, 2011

MMOs for the Wee Set

When do you let your kids play MMOs?

If you play MMOs and you have kids, this question will come up sooner or later.  For me, the answer has always been "when I think you're ready," closely followed by "when you can afford the cost of a WoW account."* 

I'm not worried about them handling the commands --I've seen them play the LEGO PC games-- but they have to be mature enough to handle the MMO community.  If the worst they ever saw in an MMO was Barrens Chat, I'd shrug and move on; the worst thing I'd have to do would be to rent a few Chuck Norris movies to explain who ol' Chuck is.  But when you add in all of the other items, such as nerd rage, ERP, and griefing, an MMO isn't exactly the friendliest place for a kid.  You have to learn to let it roll off of you, and that's a difficult thing to do.

Now, I have let my kids occasionally take the reins of one of my WoW toons and let them fly around.  The first time I let my son fly Tomakan around, he discovered two things:  that you plummet to the ground when you click on the 'mount' button in mid-flight, and that there are places in Shattrath City that are impossible to reach so you can rez.**  That disaster aside, the kids have generally taken care of my toons on the rare occasion when I let them explore a bit. 

But that brings us closer to the threshold of playing their own toon.

I'm not sure why I made up my mind when I did, but I finally let the kids create a few toons of their own.

However, I set up a few ground rules: no more than 1/2 hour playing, and I'm going to keep close tabs on what you're doing.

I also decided almost immediately not to let them play WoW.

My guildies are great, and the community they promote is fine, but I'm not about to foist my kids on them.  And although WoW is probably the easiest MMO to pick up and play from scratch, it doesn't have the friendliest player base out there.  Sure, you can find people to help you with a quest or a question, but you're also equally likely to find someone to say "L2P noob" or "go look it up in Wowpedia".

Where to go?

Well hellooo, freeplay.

Age of Conan was completely out --hell, I don't even play that while the kids are awake-- but LOTRO was an intriguing option.  You could play up to high levels, the setting was well known (they've seen the first two LOTR movies and at least one of them has read The Hobbit), and the servers aren't that populated.  Plus, the community is fairly sedate and well mannered.***

Therefore, the other day I let my son create a toon on LOTRO, a Hobbit Hunter.

I gave him two pieces of advice, which I shared with his sisters:  be polite, and if someone asks to duel you or join a kinship (LOTROs version of a guild), decline.  Then I let him go, with me keeping one eye on his progress and answering questions as he went.

While I figured he'd enjoy the experience, what surprised me was how comfortable I became watching him play.  He learned the keystrokes easily enough as I figured, but since the low level areas were sparsely populated, I didn't have to worry about him running into a lot of other players.  Also, this being LOTRO, there wasn't a lot of obnoxious profanity or racist/sexist stuff spewed in the chat channels, either.  After his half an hour, I felt confident he could handle this.

His older sister created an Elven Hunter a few days later --what is it with Hunters, anyway?-- and had a slightly more difficult time figuring out the mouse movement, but she slipped into the quest mode and was on her way.  Now I have the youngest wanting to play too (we'll see how she handles the keystroke commands).

Do I worry about how they'll behave in-game?  Sure; if I didn't, I wouldn't be a parent.  But I'm determined to make sure that they have as good an experience as they can while they understand that not everyone is nice out there on teh Internets.  I'm also going to make sure they understand that real life is more important than MMOs, and as the parent I reserve the right to pull the plug on this experiment if I feel they're neglecting school or other stuff just to game.

So far, so good.  But this is a work in progress.  (Kinda like my PvP gearsets.)

*As you can guess, I'm not big on providing subscriptions for my kids, whether it is an MMO or a cell phone.  For one reason, I can't afford it, and for another, if they want something for their private use with a subscription fee they should pay for it themselves.  I don't believe in writing blank checks.

**The repair bill still smarts.

***I laugh at the people who complain in the LOTRO chat channels that the community has gone to hell in a handbasket after LOTRO went freeplay.  If this is what 'hell in a handbasket' looks like, I'd hate to see what they'd think of WoW's Trade Chat.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free stuff is always great

I was very happy, today, to read that the implementation of the RealID party invites will continue to remain free.

Truth be told, I hadn't even used that feature because I knew (or thought I did) that it would eventually go away, and it was easier not to get used to it.

So, I was thinking about how this opens up the community and the possibilities that could now be available.

Here's what I'm thinking... Similar to the blogger only guild that existed on both the US and EU realms, we could get a group of bloggers together with out having to leave our own server.

Think of how nice it would be to have a group of fellow bloggers to bs with while getting a random dungeon done with out having to deal with pugs.

I know I've been idea starved lately and nothing helps motivation better than really jumping into the community.

Interested?  If so, let me know and we'll get something started!  Leave a message on how to contact yourself in the comments.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Split Personalities

I was chatting with Vidyala from Manalicious the other week when she mentioned that it was cool that I ran BGs on both factions.  "Most people have a lot of faction loyalty that way," she said.

She's right.  It's kind of funny that way, because I'll hear "We suck!  We always suck!" no matter what BG or what faction I'm running with.  Since the Battlegroups were combined, I've seen little evidence of one faction's dominance over the BG scene.  Sure, I've heard stories about how the Horde used to mop up BGs, but that isn't the case these days.

Some BGs are virtually identical for both factions --such as WSG or SoA or EotS-- but others do have a few critical differences.  The choke point in AV close to the Horde base can be a deadly trap for the Alliance (I've been on the receiving end of that before), and the current strategies in IoC (Horde to Workshop and Ally to Docks) favors the Horde with the beefier demo units.

But that pales to how identical the BG chat is.

If there's one truism about pugging BGs in Cata, it's that the amount of time spent nerd raging in a BG is inversely proportional to the effect you have on a BG.  If you're busy typing about how everyone blows chunks, you're probably not out fighting.  Sure, you could have created a "We all suck!" macro, but most nerd ragers aren't satisfied with that simple --if inaccurate-- statement.  Why stop with three words when twenty will do?

There's a special space in hell reserved for those people who need to channel their inner George S. Patton.  "Get the EFC!  Get the EFC!" says the toon who is jumping around back at the base.  Meanwhile, five of his compatriots are busy attempting to chop their way through three healers and a Hunter to get at said EFC. 

"We all suck!  We were never good!  Why did I ever FC to Ally anyway?"

Beats the hell outta me, man.  If you were on the Horde side, you'd be saying the same thing in a losing effort.


If there's one problem I've had running BGs on both factions, it's the keeping track of what side I'm on.

No, seriously.

You'd think that a (relatively) slim Blood Elf would stand out in contrast with a hulking male Draenei, but when I'm in the midst of a BG, keeping track of several things at once, I occasionally slip up and think I'm on the opposing faction.  That can get unnerving in a constantly shifting BG such as Arathi Basin or Eye of the Storm, where you could end up running into the opposing faction's territory while you're examining the map.  One minute you think you're rushing up to help defend a node, and the next you're back at the Spirit Healer.

Oh yeah...  I think I need some coffee.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Under the Heading of "That was interesting...."

I attended GenCon on Sunday, and one of the first things I noticed were the promotions for Rift.

No, not Rifts, the pencil and paper RPG, but Rift.  You know, the MMO from Trion.

The swag bag contained a copy of the game --the same copy that you find in the stores right now-- and the cloth necklace your badge hangs on had "Rift" printed all over it.

Methinks that Trion knows their audience, and if you can understand GURPS or Pathfinder, you can figure out Rift.

Of course, there were a few people pissed off at Rift because it was close enough in name to Rifts that they got some haters just because of that.  It's not like the concept of a 'rift' in time and space is anything new or unique to Rifts, so I shrugged it off.

Oh, and for the curious, there was a huge area for WoW TCG called Darkmoon Faire --which I laughed about, telling my brother-in-law that there were more people in this Darkmoon Faire than the one in-game-- and it was well populated.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Language and Respect

Back in the Wrath days, I was once in a Nexus run that I regretted finishing.

Not that the group wasn’t skilled, or even that one player played in an asinine manner, but of what was said in party chat.

You see, the group had three members of the same guild in it, and they kept peppering party chat with references to how the trash mobs and bosses wanted a piece of their ‘puss-say’.  The Druid tank in particular kept up a stream of ‘puss-say’ talk, all the while keeping his toon on the move and tanking each group in succession.  As the instance progressed, their descriptions became more explicit, and the greater my disgust grew.

I may not show it when I write here on the blog, but I have a temper.  (I’m a redhead, what did you expect?)  Typically I keep it in check, and when it does flare up I usually dip into my pool of obscenities to fling a few good barbs at the offenders.  It's been a long time since nerd ragers in an instance or a BG bothered me, but these three clowns did.  I don’t know whether it was the extremely juvenile nature of the thing or that it was incredibly demeaning to women, but before we had even finished with Telestra, my fingers were twitching.  My desire to reach through the screen and smack them good reached a breaking point by the time we reached Alexstrasza.  As the tank pulled the Malygos-dominated dragon, my mouse hovered over the ‘Leave Group’ selection.  All I had to do was click it and get away from these jerks.

But whether I realized it was a futile gesture, that the instance was almost over, or that I wanted the Badges of Triumph more than anything else, I stayed.

I want to say that I said something to them and forced them to kick me --that I stood up on principle-- but this one time I can’t.  I’ve spoken up in party chat before, defended people who did no wrong in spite of what the other party member said, and I’ve called people out for mean and spiteful stuff.  But I’m not proud of that moment in The Nexus, and I’m sure it will continue eat at me for a good long while.

Fast forward a year and a half later, and I found myself in Eye of the Storm on one of my Paladins (I can’t remember which).  A few of us were holding down the Draenei Ruins, and when the last toon --a Death Knight-- got smacked by my Hammer of Wrath, the Rogue turned to me and said “You really raped that guy!”

My mouth opened and closed.  I knew all too well what he was saying, and I thought about ignoring him.  Or leaving.  Or something. 

But I remembered The Nexus.

“I didn’t,” I finally replied.

“Oh, I saw that hammer come down and he dropped!”

“No.  I didn’t rape him.”

“It’s just a saying.  Lol.”

I ground my teeth.  No matter what I said, to him ‘rape’ = ‘pwn’ and that was that.  Never mind what ‘rape’ really means.  Never mind that you might actually be talking to someone who knows a rape victim –or is a victim themselves.  Or that your borderline misogynistic behavior paints all of us gamers in a bad light.

Words have power, and some words shouldn’t be used lightly.  They don’t make you awesomely badass, they make you sound like a five year old who overheard a few naughty words and is testing their limit.

And you’re older than that, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moar Mounts

If you've seen one of these Winged Guardians...

...you've seen them all.

They're the Sparkle Pony of Cata, or so it seems, but I haven't heard that much discontent out there about them.  Since they're not the sparkle version of "My Little Pony", I guess people are okay with them.

Well, I've a bone to pick with them.

Since Blizz enabled flying mounts to be used as ground mounts in BGs, I see them all the time.  Flying, you see them as they are above.  Running, here's what they look like:


Anyone up for a Shaggy Dog marathon?

EtA:  Both pics are links.  The mount pic is from Blizzard's web site, and the English Sheepdog pic is from a Reuters pic found on animalpicturesarchive.com.