Friday, September 18, 2009

A glimpse of the beautiful world hiding behind the addon boxes

Words, words, words. And even more words! That’s what you’ll find at the Pink Pigtail Inn. Since I started the blog so long time ago (1.5 years is like “forever” in terms of blogging), I’ve published only a handful of screenshots. I don’t have any decent picture editing program, but above all, I lack any spottable talent for composing and taking good pictures. So I’ve pretty much given up about the whole concept of showing the game through screenshots. When I paint a picture of what Azeroth looks like from my point of view, I use letters and words, rather then colours, pencils and brushes.

Because of my personal lack of graphical ambition, I tend to be a little bit of a snob in my way of looking at other WoW blogs. More than once have I expressed my annoyance with blogs that focus so much on providing pretty pictures that they resemble to a toy store one week before Christmas Eve. They makes my eyes hurt. I want ideas to chew on, not pointless decoration!

A picture blog
But the other day I ran into a blog that proved me all wrong about this. What I found was a blog that is the absolute opposite of my own: a blog without words, a blog consisting of screenshots and nothing else. And yet it said more about WoW, it told more stories than most WoW blogs ever manage to do. Some of you have probably already heard of it, others maybe not. Anyway: it’s called Postcards from Azeroth.

The title says exactly what it is about. The blog keeper Riorel, a player at The Shatar (EU), takes screenshots from all over Azeroth, gives them a layout following a set pattern, adds a few tags to make them searchable and post them this way. It’s straightforward, to say the least. One picture at a time. No explanation, no commenting. The picture speaks for itself. As I’m writing this he’s at 260-something pictures, and apparently still posting.

Some of the motives of those postcards are quite expected – well known views, which I imagine a souvenir shop in Dalaran would offer to visiting tourists, like pictures of the gates of Ironforge or an idol portrait of Illidan in The Black Temple.

But other perspectives are more unusual and they fascinate me even more. Riorel captures all sorts of views – NPCs as well as places, which we rush by regularly, too busy to stop and have a closer look. He points out all those things that we miss, because we wrongly think that we’re in a hurry to deliver a quest, join an instance group or make an errand at AH.

Hidden behind addon boxes
The thought that strikes me looking at his blog is that there’s a huge artistic effort put into this game that is a bit of a waste on me. Because of lag issues on my old pc, I’m used to always have the graphic settings at minimum, making the world into a bit of a blur, far from the detailed and clear postcards. Things have improved with my new machine, but I still suffer from having most of my screen covered by all sorts of addon boxes, such as Omen, Grid, X-pearl and Bartender. And as if this wasn’t enough, DBM, my scrolling combat text addon and another mage specific monitoring addon, keep popping up, showing huge messages covering the few empty spots there are left.

There is a beautiful world to see and experience behind all those control panels. We miss a lot when we’re letting our eyes focus on the threat monitor, the cast bar of the mob or the fire spot we’re supposed to move out of.

Admittedly, mid-raid probably isn’t the best moment to hide my UI with an Alt+z just to enjoy the view. But why not linger a few moments after the raid to really look at the place, instead of running like a maniac into the portal to Dalaran? Being a mage, I can teleport whenever I want to. So the hurry doesn’t make sense.

The Postcards from Azeroth give me a great reminder. There’s much more to WoW than just XP, loot and achievements. There’s a world to discover. Behind the addons. Beyond the words.


Anonymous said...

Wow Larisa your UI sounds wayyyy to complicated!!!

My UI is virtually empty, ive got a half circle of spell buttons, the spells that arent bound to my keyboard/mouse (about 8), the oRA2 warnings are see-through until somethign happens and then its only small bars to the left of my char. All my bags/menu buttons are invisible until you hover the mouse over them. Id post you a screenshot...but i suck :P

And nice find on the postcard blogg...though i do prefer the insightful writings i see here :P


P.S. btw why are you using grid ?

Tesh said...

Nice find. Thanks for the link! I'm a visual artist by profession, so I'm in a bit of a weird middle ground. I work with pretty pictures all day, but I enjoy writing. When I blog, then, I prefer to let the strength of my ideas carry the day. (Or not, as the case may be.)

Still, I'd have a LOT of fun doing exactly that sort of blog if I were a regular WoW player. I take more time taking screenshots than playing when I fire up a trial.

Of course, in a further twist of irony, since I'm tired of MMOs of late, one of the things I plan to do more at my place is post some art discussions, mostly about my own art. Funny how that works.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a gorgeous blog isn't it? I wish the postcards were bigger though, I'd love to use them as desktop background. I can't wait for my new laptop to arrive so I can see Azeroth in all its glory - definitely time for a holiday for me :)

Anonymous said...

You never played any other game. Therfore you are forgiven.

One can't argue with success. And therfore you are probably right and I'm wrong.

But WoW screenshots make my eyes hurt and I feel like my head is going to explode. Too much colour. Wayyy to cartoonish. And even for a 2004 game simply too chunky graphics. There is no way I could fit the words "beauty" and "WoW" in one sentence.

I'm at work so I can't access all sited providing screenshots. But if you wan't to know what my idea of beauty is you may look up these screenshots from an ex-elitist niche title:



Larísa said...

@Cacknoob: I'm pretty sure you're right. I'm not a fan of messing around with addons, I've never been. Indecisive, inpexperienced... Your minimalistic apporach sounds nice but I have no idea about how to get there without losing functionality. I use grid because I combine it with clique, thus making decursing nice and simple. Cursed people are highlighted in purple, I rightclick their boxes and alas, the curse is removed! If you compare the way I see the whole raid in grid to if I had the original UI or the x-pearl raid frames (which I use for other stuff, such as the tank list), it would take up much more space. My grid box is comparatively compact after all. And another thing: grid+clique is nice when I'm levelling my little druid and try going resto in instances.

@Tesh: It's quite natural that you want to keep the blog a bit apart from your professional life, otherwise it would hardly be as relaxing as it is to blog, would it?

I must admit that I hardly EVER take screenshots. I've sort of given up about it. Not even from first-kills since I trust on our webmaster to take one and post it.

@Tamarind: oh, grats to the new pc! I'm sure it will brighten up your day (especially since it seems a little gloomy after reading your latest guild drama post).

And yeah: it wouldn't hurt if you could chose a bigger version of the postcards if you wanted it as a desktop for instance. Maybe it's an issue of storage facilities - such things take up a lot of space that you eventually have to pay real money for.

@Kyff: you're right indeed, I'm so innocent when it comes to video games. I ask for so little, I get impressed by almost anything, so I must be the ideal customer of Blizzard. The screenshots you linked to were indeed impressive. Beautiful dragons for instance.

Rhii said...

I'm a screenshot-aholic, I have so many screenshots from each of my alts... everything from shots of me yelling "Happy Blogiversary Gnomeaggedon" to shots of things I think are beautiful (broken statuary in Ashenvale) to things that are just bizarre (floating NPCs) or fun (Having a disco party in a Super Simian Sphere).

Soon I'll have to start deleting, because they're bogging me down, I probably have thousands.

But I don't usually blog about them. Maybe I should.

Ooke said...

I see it the opposite of Kyff

Vanguard looks "plastic" to me and will always, way more so than WoW's purposeful cartoon look ever will. Maybe that's uncanny valley for you.

It's pretty sad when I can place almost all of those postcards.