Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When you find out that you had it all wrong

Does it ever happen that you find out that the things you thought you had figured out was way wrong – that you have lived in an illusion? It happens to me. Often. Luckily enough I’m old enough to find it amusing rather than embarrassing.

WoW offers excellent opportunities for this kind of self entertainment, especially when you’re a beginner. I still remember two brutal reminders of my ignorance in the beginning of my WoW career, one and a half year ago.

The strange disease
The first one was the meaning of the strange man who suddenly appeared on my screen. He was yellow to begin with, a sickening colour. So I was convinced that my paladin, the first char I ever rolled, had caught some disease from the evil defias people in Elwynn Forrest. I just prayed it would wear off by time. It didn’t. It got worse. Helplessly I saw the man turning red, at first a part of him, and finally the whole guy. And my character started to die constantly. Finally I deserted her and rolled Larísa. It took me a few more days of playing before I realized the truth, feeling utterly stupid.

The Gnomegaran encounter
The next “Oh, THAT’S how it is-experience” was in Gnomegaran. I was around level 10, a happy little gnome on her first exploring expedition in Azeroth. I had just found Ironforge and was enthusiastic about the place, even though I felt a bit foreign among all those dwarfs. Since I had seen Stormwind with my deserted paladin, I imagined there should be a home town for the gnomes as well. One town for the humans, one for the dwarfs, one for the gnomes. It seemed logical. So when the map showed me there was a spot called Gnomegaran, I was delighted and thought I should pay it a visit.

I must admit I thought the entrance was a bit strange. It wasn’t really as welcoming as Stormwind or Ironforge. The guards outside were hostile, trying to kill me. But I shrugged and continued, convinced that I’d meet friendlier faces once inside. I just had to pass the dangerous passage to get there. So I went into the elevator. I took the ride down. I went out, prepared for a hearty greeting. And then the truth dawned upon me in a quite brutal manner.

I could only laugh at my stupidity and laziness. How came that I, brought up in a home where reading was as natural as drinking or sleeping, couldn’t manage to read the brief manual book accompanying the game? I could have got the whole background there, ever so easily.

The mage in the water
We’ve all had those “Oh, I’ve been stupid”- moments and I can’t get enough reading about them. The funniest misunderstanding I’ve read about so far was a mage confessing on a forum that he (or she) for a very long time was convinced that in order to be able to conjure water you actually had to be standing in water yourself. So whenever he needed some water he had to find a lake to stand in! I can imagine how relieved he must have been when he found out the truth.

But it isn’t just newbies that suffer from misconceptions. I’m totally convinced that I still regularly show evidence of my lack of knowledge, giving other players the opportunity to smile behind my back. And I’m OK with it. The other day for instance I made a blog post about reputation. I consequently used the word “fraction” in it. Then Zakesh asked me why there wasn’t any mathematics in the post, since I was talking about fractions. I didn’t quite get what he meant but when I checked it out I saw that it should have been “faction”, just as it’s spelled in the reputation sheet in the game. And all this time I thought it was spelled with an “r”. To my defence I must say though, that in Swedish, for instance the terror group The Red Army Faction is called the “Red Army Fraction”. It never occurred to me that it was different in English. Anyway I’ll let it stay that way in the blog post, spelled the wrong way, as a reminder to myself that you never can check out the facts and spelling in your post too many times.

Pronunciation is another area where you easily can get used to something that is way wrong. I remember when the kids were younger and we read all the Harry Potter books aloud to them. Then a few years later the first of the Harry Potter movies were made and within seconds my reputation with the kids as a storyteller was lost forever. The brilliant girl hero was called HermIone, with emphases on the second syllable! My own invention of how this never-heard-of-name should sound was… well… it’s enough to say: very different.

With that lesson in mind I avoid to be the first one to pronounce new NPCs and places in the game. When WotLK arrives I’ll definitely listen to what the other say first, before I open my mouth. Trying to save at least a little of my dignity, if I still have any.

Now I’m eager to increase my collection of interesting misunderstandings. Please, share your secrets with the other guests of The Pink Pigtail Inn!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Learning boss fights by other means than reading

Read tactics before the raid takes off! It’s one of the basic not-to-be-broken rules. Before a raid you always do the three R:s: you Read, you Repair and you Refill your reagents and consumables. It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of progression; it’s just something you do.

The strategies from Wowwiki and Bosskillers are so commonly accepted, that if you’re pugging a raid, you expect that the tactics suggested there are the ones you’ll be following, unless someone has a really brilliant other idea and some pretty convincing arguments for it.

But reading isn’t the only way to learn. And it isn’t necessarily the best way. In this post I want share my view that we sometimes put to much attention to the written descriptions of the boss fights and that we should look for other ways to increase our knowledge.

Learning styles
In educational matters, you talk about different learning styles. Some people learn better by seeing, others by hearing, others again by doing or feeling it with the help of their senses.
Do you know what kind of learner you are? If not, there are tons of websites about this, many of them offering free self tests. If you’re curious, this is a good starting point, providing links to many test sites.

I always considered myself a reader, but at least one of those tests suggested that I may learn things better aurally. And when I thought about how I act in the game, it did make sense. I’ll give you an example:

When I switched guilds a month ago I also switched arena for my raiding. I had to quickly get the idea about a number of new encounters. So I read about them, but found it pretty hard to get a clear picture of what I was to expect in my head. It wasn’t until I spent some time watching videos – while talking to an experienced gamer, who commented everything we saw on vent – that I really got a proper understanding of the fights.

Learning by discussing
I think I’m not unique. You can read ever so many tactics on beforehand, but if we don’t add short explanation of the fight from the raid leader, many raiders will find it hard to apply the written instructions to the actual fight. There’s nothing as clarifying as when the raid leader puts a mark on him (so that we can see him properly) and quickly shows the positioning. “This is where you tank him! This is where you go if you die”. If you’ve done an encounter several times this is unnecessary, but if there are new people in the raid, giving this a few minutes will really save you some pain.

Sometimes there is no time for explanations and demonstrations. You need every minute you can get for real boss attempts. If you know this is what the raid will be like, and you tend to bang your head into the walls of text, without really understanding or remembering them, I suggest you try a new approach. Find a friend to discuss the fight with before the raid. Do you read the strategies the same way? Have you got the same set up as they or will you modify something? Explain the fight to your friend and you’ll learn it at the same time.

Learning by doing
Reading and discussing are great ways of learning, but in my opinion it doesn’t beat the third way, which is to practice. Learning by doing is very efficient, especially when you can do it out of the raid and save the time the entire raid has to spend on the learning phase.

The example that first comes into my head is the Archimond fight in Mount Hyjal. For you who haven’t been there, one of the crucial things about this fight is that all raid members need to master a version of slowfall. Every now and then raiders will be tossed up way high in the air. To come down safely they have to use a thing in their inventory – not too early, because the effect will wear off, not too late, since they’ll be smashed into the ground and dead. You get the item from a nightelf, and the wonderful thing is that he’s standing right next to a steep. So anyone coming new to this fight has a perfect opportunity to practice the tears clicking, to see how close to the ground you should be before using it. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read about it – it isn’t until you practice that you learn it.

Another example of fights that you can practice out of the raid situation is Gorefiend in BT, where you’ll be turned out into a ghost and expected to take down four mobs on your own or you’ll wipe the raid. The pressure if you’re the one who’ll get this random assignment is huge, but luckily enough there’s a free online simulator you can play to get the idea of what it is all about on beforehand. (Sadly enough I haven’t been able to beat that game yet, but I guess I’d be even worse off without it.)

Now it’s your turn. I’m sure there are some of you visiting The Pink Pigtail Inn who have been practicing raid bosses out of raids. What did you do? Please share your ideas about how you can learn raid strategies by doing rather than by reading!

Friday, September 26, 2008

17 excuses to play WoW when you know you shouldn't

Have you ever felt a bit bad about dedicating so much time to WoW? Have you ever deep inside known that there were other issues in real life that you should have dealt with before logging in, but just ignored your own objections and played anyway?

If the answer is “no” you can stop reading now. (Liar!) For the rest of us, I’ve composed a list of excuses to keep ready whenever you risk to be critically hit by a guilty conscience.

1. I’m really not going to play! I’m just checking my auctions and my ingame mail, I’ll be done in 10 minutes so it really doesn’t count like playing. (This excuse will be erased from your memory 5 minutes after logging in, so have no fear; it won’t keep you from joining a “quick heroic instance run”).

2. It’s just this night, OK? I’ll make up for it tomorrow!

3. I’ve had a terrible day at work/school/whatever. The boss was yelling at me, the customers hate me and I fluked the test. I deserve to relax.

4. I’ve had an awesome day at work/school/whatever. I got a new contract/raised wages/passed the test. I deserve to celebrate.

5. If I didn’t play I’d just watch TV anyway. WoW is better since it’s interactive.

6. The more I play, the better value I get for my subscription fee. It’s a waste of money not to play.

7. I contribute to improving the world economy playing. I feed Blizzard, Blizzard employs people and even some poor Chinese people will get their income from people playing WoW, like it or not. I’m happy to whatever I can to make the world a better place.

8. I’m saving the environment! If I didn’t play WoW I’d probably take a ride in the car and pollute the air. WoW is climate friendly. It’s just takes some electricity to run the computer, and that is so little that you can probably just ignore it.

9. If you think about it this is rather a language course than a computer game. My English has improved immensely since I started. So this is serious business, education rather than entertainment.

10. Following the guild chat will improve my knowledge in management and group psychology. Who knows, one day we may end up putting WoW playing on our CV!

11. I think well while I’m grinding. It’s like meditation; I’m sure I’ll solve some major life problems while playing.

12. I’ve played so much this week anyway, so an hour more or less won’t make any difference.

13. My toon needs to get some air, she’ll be disappointed if I don’t let her get out and have some fun.

14. I can’t miss my daily transmute. It’s free gold!

15. Actually I’m not going to play. I’m just logging in to say hello to my mates. It’s no different to use MSN, so why hesitate?

16. I could do so much worse. At least I’m not going to a pub and grab a drink. Thinking about it, playing WoW is pretty good to my health.

17. Who will care about what I did this very night in 100 years?

Now over to you! Can you come up with some more well working excuses to keep ready when you’re debating with yourself?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The trinket I think should be banned from the game

I’m a huge fan of trinkets. Especially the ones which offer a bit unusual abilities, not just pure spelldamage. Like the three little gnomes, which I’ve written about before, or the lovely nifty stop watch, my lifesaver when I levelled my mage.

But there is one unusual trinket which I don’t like at all. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I hate it. As a matter of fact I’d rather see it banned from the game.
By using this trinket you can harass other players of your own fraction. It’s the perfect tool in the hands of a bully minded player.

Yes, I’m thinking about the Piccolo of Flaming Fire, which dropps from Hearthsinger Forresten in Stratholme. The trinket by which you can force players in your neighborhood to dance, either they like it or not.

I got it recently at my little rogue. A nice pala tank I now has taken upon him to boost her, aoe-levelling in a couple of instances. (It’s amazing to see how quick it goes). I was looting my way through the heaps of dead mobs, when he suddenly said: “OK. Here’s a trinket. You may have it, but only if you promise to never ever use it on me”. I gave him my promise and picked it up. And I can assure you I intend to hold to my vow. I know playing the flute would be then end of our friendship and I wouldn’t risk that for anything.

But thinking about it a bit further, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t use it on any other person either. How could I? The thing with this flute, which annoyed my friend so much, is that it makes the victim of it loose control over his toon to someone else.

You could argue that it’s just the same with sheeping or rooting or trapping other players and that after all it’s a part of the game, to take control of your surroundings, may it be bosses or other players. But there is a significant difference. You can’t sheep another player unless he or she has agreed to play that kind of game, either by picking a PvP server, or by flagging PvP on a PvE server. It’s tough luck, but it’s voluntary to take part in that kind of game. The flute on the other hand can attack anyone. Some people may appreciate it and even think it’s a bit fun. But others won’t. They are ridiculed and there’s nothing they can do about it.

I’ve seen the flute in action only once, ages ago. I was at AH, when I and several other who were in there suddenly burst out in dance. I didn’t mind it a lot – it looked fun, and at that time it was just another of those surprises which the games holds for you.

Nevertheless, the more I think about the principals – that you should have the right to keep control over your character – the more I feel like my friend: this trinket is evil, or rather: it’s made for evil people.

Players who pick it up should use it only with great carefulness, on people they know, who agree to such things. But the best thing would be if it was eliminated from the game altogether.

When it comes to me I’ll probably disenchant it. The fewer of these things there are around, the better.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are healers responsible and dps just having fun?

Last week Rohan of Blessing of Kings wrote a post about Warhammer. I just threw an absentminded eye on it, since Warhammer honestly doesn’t interest me a bit – I’m totally stuck in WoW as it is. But then there was a passage, which wasn’t just about Warhammer, but about WoW as well, which made wake up, abruptly:

“The healers are the ones being responsible, letting the DPS have fun. When I'm DPS in a group, I feel bad that I'm making the healers work, while I'm having fun.”
I’ve never played a healer myself, but it felt like if I suddenly got access to the brain of a healer. It was ust like the guy looking out of the eyes of John Malkovich, if you remember that brilliant movie.

So that’s how it is! You healers are feeling responsible. All the time. You work. And we, we just mess around mindlessly, having a fun time.


That could explain the “healing burnouts” I’ve stumbled upon a few times in the game – healers claiming their job is boring and monotonous (especially if you’re asking a paladin). They say they’re just doing the same thing over and over again, and keeping their focus on the raid they sort of miss out much of the encounter, they don’t seem to enjoy the scripts, the actual encounter with the boss, the same way as I do.

Yeah, I suppose they miss some of those fun parts because of the overwhelming feeling of responsibility.

Healers in power
Now, Rohan didn’t just moan about the role of the healer. He admit it’s fun and challenging, but it’s a different sort of fun, as he puts it.

He doesn’t state what’s so fun about the healing, but other healers have told me it’s about the feeling of having it all in your hands.

There may be a tank around who thinks he’s the raid leader, but as a healer you’ve got a solid influence of the outcome of the fight. You’re the master of your own fate, of life and death. You’re in charge, even though the other players don’t quite realize it. The dps classes may THINK they’re powerful when they’re on top of the damage charts, but in fact the real power belongs to you.

The working dps:er
So how do I see this from a dps perspective?

Well, when you’re building a raiding team you can’t hide the fact that you always first of all try to find a solid core of tanks and healers. I’ve never ever heard of someone first looking for mages and warlocks and then “filling in” the raid with some random tanks or healers.

As a dps:er you’re one on the crowd, and even though we may have a few utilities, like cc or buffs, we’re pretty easy to replace. If a few go down it won’t necessarily mean a wipe, while a healer down is a huge problem.

This gives dps-players a feeling of non-exclusivity. I’m sort of faceless, one among many foot soldiers or like a worker ant, pulling the needles to the anthill.

But does this sound like fun? To me it sounds like work! It’s just that we’re the ones working on the floor, rather than in direction premises.

At the same time I can see where Rohan is getting. If you don’t feel directly responsible to the outcome of a raid it’s possible that you’re not quite as much on the toes as the healer is. You may take risks and do stuff in a way that is interesting or fun for you, but not necessarily the best for the raid. You trust that the healers will sort it out in the end, as they always do.

A new mindset
I think it’s time to switch mindsets a bit, and that goes for the healers as well as the dps:ers.

To the healers: stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re way up in the hierarchy; you can’t possibly be envious of a worker ant. And he’s working just as hard as you are, but with a different assignment.

To the dpsers: Even if you’re not a healer, pretend that you are in the sense that you’re just as responsible as they are for the outcome of the raid. The higher you go in content, the less room there is for individual performances that are less than perfect. You’re not there for a fun ride, provided by tanks and healers, You’re there to do your share. No less, no more.

In the best of raids there’s no difference between the healers and the dps:ers. We should all be responsible. And we should all have fun doing so.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Keep the fun and focus with a fake enrage timer

A lot of players seem to be affected by the pre-expansion blues. Not all, but many of us, judging from the comments on my The World has changed post a while ago.

Where we used to fly forward, full of adrenaline, passion and fighting spirit, we now seem to be stuck in chewing gum or slowed downed by the chilling effect of a well placed frostbolt.
It’s boring and frustrating for all of us who are used to get our kicks by raiding.

Unless you want to have a break from the game, you must find new ways to challenge yourself.

I think we need to start to think like high jumpers. We can’t rely in Blizzard raising the difficulty for us by offering new instances. We need to challenge ourselves and try to break our own records.

One way to do this is to put up strict time limits for yourself and your party - to make a fake enrage timer. This is what this post is about. I suggest you to start to play against the stopwatch.
A new experience
The heroic instances nowadays aren’t really any challenge for many players, geared as we are, in badge items or PvP rewards if nothing else. But do it quick and dirty and I promise you’ll see it from a new side.

Being under time pressure you’ll limit your marking to the most necessary. You’ll keep cc:ing to a minimum. You won’t wait for full mana regain after every single pull. You’ll take more risks and play on the edge in order to break the record.

Recently I made Black Morass in 18 minutes and I had more fun there than I’ve had in a long time. It was full speed from the beginning to the end, except for the two forced-on-breaks after the bosses (very annoying).

If you rush the chances are bigger that you’ll make a tiny mistake and then get the opportunity to deal with the consequences and improvise.

Now, unfortunately, except for in Zul Aman, Blizzard hasn’t any special loot to award speedy players. So it’s up to you to motivate yourself:

  • Put yourself into the state of mind that there’s an enrage timer that you’re fighting. To your aid you’ve got the new Stopwatch feature that was introduced in the last patch. You get access to it by typing /sw. Let everyone in the party start it at the same time and make sure that you’ve got the same goal.
  • Be hard on yourself if you fail. And cheer if you succeed. The more seriously you take it, the more you put your heart into it, the more fun you’ll have.
  • Keep record of your achievements. I wish there was some kind of addon where you could keep track on how quick you’ve done an instance historically (maybe there is one I’ve just missed?). But a paper and pen isn’t a bad alternative. Take notes and put up golden goals for yourself.
  • Compete. If you’re really lucky you may find another five man-party to fight with. Who will clear the daily heroic instance in the shortest time? Or which party could make the most number of badges in 1 hour?

An exemple
I think most instances could be brought back to life using this technique.

Karazhan, for instance, is pretty dull after running it so many times, at least if you do it slowly and carefully, not taking any unnecessary risks. But let’s make an illusion. Imagine there’s a gnome-engineering experiment going on in a secret cellar below the animal bosses. In fact the whole place will explode in 2 hours unless you clear the place, turning the pretty nearby Stormwind into a ghosttown. You and your party are the last hope, you’ve got to clear the place quickly to stop the process.

Do you feel the pressure? Do you feel the pulse? Good. Switch on the stopwatch and enter. Let’s rock, let’s sweat, let’s conquer, let’s have fun. Just as we used to.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Someone sucks. How do you deal with it?

This post is about sucking. There are different ways to deal with it. One way can lead to guild kick. And the other way to progression towards eternal fame and glory. Which one do you pick?

The story begins a few nights ago. It was one of those nights which won’t be remembered as epic; to be honest it was pretty bad. We sucked. A lot.
We were in Mount Hyjal, doing bosses which we’ve had on farm for a long time. They should all have been one-shotted, and then we would get some time to work on next one in line – Archimond. But somehow things didn’t go as smoothly as they should and we ended up with only three boss kills.

The raid wasn’t just experiencing one problem, but several. People seemed to forget about the basics – such as moving out of fire and other stuff that hurts. And the dps was insanely slow, we could barely take the waves in order, giving us no time for decent recovery for the mana users.

We were all pretty disappointed, especially since it was one of the first raids we’d managed to get going after reorganizing the guild. We had recently split up from a raid alliance and. now we were supposed to rock on our own, to let our beloved guild shine in all its glory. This was not what we had expected.

Being drastic
When the raid finished quite a few players logged off, without saying much. It was just a “good night” and then they went offline, probably wishing to forget about the raid as soon as possible. That’s the privilege of a non officer, to be allowed not to take full responsibility.

For others, the players in charge, the night wasn’t over. There was more work to be done. Now it was time to deal with the suckiness – to face it and to take necessary measures. You won’t progress one millimetre if you flee into denial. So what did they do?

The first thing that happened was that one player got kicked from the guild. Yes, that sounds a bit drastic, but I think the guild master did just the right decision. This was a trialist, a new recruit who was doing his first raid. What got him kicked wasn’t just the fact that he sucked. He would probably have gotten a second chance if he had just been able to communicate. But he didn’t. He didn’t respond to suggestions or orders from the raid leader and he didn’t participate in the class channel as he was supposed to. “I kicked him because I couldn’t see how he could improve”, said the GM.

Being constructive
But of course it wasn’t just because of this single player that the raid wasn’t a success. We were several raiders who didn’t do our best performance ever. This was obvious when you studied the wws chart, which as usual was posted on our forum.

So what happened next was that an officer made a comment about it. He wrote a few lines, declaring how disappointed he was and mentioned a few basic things that didn’t work. He also encouraged us to start discussions in our class forums, asking each other for ideas how to improve, and also to speak up if there was anything about tactics we didn’t understand.

It didn’t take long before the first post appeared from one of our rogues:

“Ok, I have to be honest and say that I somewhat suck doing MH trash. Looking at yesterday’s report it’s obvious that xx kicked my ass goooood…and I wasn’t slacking!”

Right after that another “help me please” post appeared from one of his colleagues. Soon enough they got answers from an experienced rogue, who after looking at the wws charts had suggestions about rotations as well as gear.

I think this post from the rogue was awesome. This guy had the courage to admit he needed help. And that opened up for some sharing of knowledge. It was humble, it was honest and the whole thing was dealt with in a non-aggressive manner – still without lying or being overly polite. It was straight forward and I’m pretty sure those rogues will shape up soon after this.

Similar discussion threads were initiated for some of the other classes and I’m pretty sure that many players will have improved a lot to the next raid.

Communication is everything
Now to my conclusion:

If someone is playing sub-par you have to deal with it. It’s not pleasant but it has to be done or you’ll soon find yourself on a dangerous road which for a raiding guild eventually will lead to despair, failure and breakdown. The guild kick came because communications didn’t work. If this player had talked about his problems, listened to instructions, been open on how to improve, he definitly would have got more chances to show that he was a capabel raider.

The players who on the other hand didn’t deny their problems, but were willing to discuss them openly, aren’t facing guild kicks, on the contrary. These players show maturity. They help the guild to increase the total amount of knowledge. They help the team to grow stronger. They’re an excellent example of good communications.

To those of you who are in leading postions: I don’t deny that it takes a lot of courage to deal with players who suck, unless you’re extremely hard skinned and don’t give a damned about the feelings of other players.

But if you’re brave enough to do it, it’s very rewarding. You grow as a leader. You grow as a player. You grow as a team. Talk openly to the players who suck, trust your ability to communicate and you’ll be successful.

Next time in MH we’ll own the place.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mage abilities I’d like to have in real life

TyphoonAndrew’s asked us what abilities – spells, affects or powers – from the game we’d like to have in real life. We’re not allowed to pick more than five of them.

He mixes the classes freely, from flight form to mind control and divine shield. Being a dedicated mage I’ve decided to stick to the mage class. There are enough goodies there to make me think twice about it.

This is the five I finally came up with:

Just imagine being able to head off for a stroll in Central Park NY, and then instantly go to Paris for a lunch in Quartier Latin…. Not having to think about air pollution. Sigh. Though a Star Trek beam would be even cooler, but now we’re limited to the warcraft universe

It would be tempting to pick one of the offensive spells of the mage. Like a fireball or at least a smallish but quick icelance to protect yourself against anyone attempting to rob you or knock you down. But since I sincerely think that the abundance of weapons circulating contributes to violence and crime, I couldn’t possibly have one of those abilities myself. Polymorf on the other hand is just perfect. I couldn’t use it unless attacked (= turning PvP-flagged), and then it would be the most peaceful defence mechanism you could think of. Just keep the robber polymorfed, tie a rope around his neck and lead him to the police station.

Slow fall
I’m too scared to try out parachute jumping, but if I had a reliable slow fall I’m convinced I enjoy it immensely. I'd visit every accessable high point in the world I could think of and then just enjoy the ride.

I did think about this one twice. It kind of sucks if you compare it to vanish/stealth of a rogue. The duration is very short, so you can’t sneak around for long, learning secrets and doing investigations on things you’re curious about. But the aggro dump is a good thing as it is. You can escape any kind of conflict situation with this one, whether it’s your other half, your kids or your boss. And there are moments in your life when you make a fool of yourself and going invisible for even just a few seconds, long enough to escape the place, would feel like a blessing. The competitor to this spot was Counterspell (to make stupid people shut up).

Ritual of refreshment
You can’t deny it’s handy, though I’m a little afraid I’d overuse it. Won’t the diet become sort of repetitive after a while? I just hope it’s like the Tolkien elf bread, that it tastes a lot better than it looks.

A warning
Finally a little warning to the readers: don’t start thinking about this. It gets stuck in your head. I’ve surprised myself now several times, visualizing how people would look in sheep form, or dreaming about teleporting to the other side of Earth. But if you do, don’t blame me. Blame TyphoonAndrew. It was he who came up with this silly idea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gear or talent – where’s the spellpower?

A while ago I published a rant about skill versus gear. There’s a general opinon that a skilled player with crappy gear accomplishes a lot more than a crappy player with excellent gear. Which is true to some extent, with the modification that you should think twice about what a skilled player really is.)

Today I’ll save you from the rant, but I’ll put almost the same question, but with a little twist:

I wonder: If you take a mage at level 70 and let him go nuking some mobs (why not Dr Boom to make it simple), what is the most crucial factor which will decide how well he’ll perform in his damage dealing role? Iis it the talents he has (in the talent tree that will say, not as a player) or is it the gear that he wears?

Let’s make a thought experiment. Take one average-geared mage at level 70 keep and let him keep his gear on, but take away all of his talent points, leaving the talent tab empty. Take another level 70 mage, let him keep his damage dealing spec, for instance 2/48/11 fire, but take all his gear off, leaving him to nuke almost naked. Which one of those two mages will do the most damage?

I guess it should be possible to calculate it by some basic theorycrafting. And else it would be easy to try it out if I just sacrificed some gold for the respeccing. But confident as I am that my readers know more about this stuff than I do, I throw out the question to you. What do you think? And why?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Magrams hate me an I have no idea why

I’ve obviously done something to annoy The Magram Clan Centaur. They’re really pissed off with me, even close hateful. I have no idea why. I can’t recall even seeing these guys. The Gelkis Clan Centaur on the other hand seems to like me. What have I done? Groomed their backs? Baked them a Chocolate cake? I’m clueless.

Today I’m going to write a rant about reputation and what I think about it, and the first place to go was obviously to have a closer look at my own reputation list in armory.

Never heard of fractions
It’s puzzling to say the least. There are so many fractions that I’ve never heard about, some of them with very exotic names. Like “The Shen'dralar”. It sounds a bit like the mythological “Shangri-La”, a place of wonders. I have no idea if I should strive to be hated or loved by them. So far I’ve done what we do where I live: I’m staying absolutely neutral. I just wonder how it comes that they have heard about me in the first place – I’ve never heard about them. But I guess it’s like a saying we have in Sweden: “Everybody knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one.”

Now Blizzard gives us some help with information about some of the fractions. I hadn’t noticed it before, but most of them are actually linked to some further information. There’s a pretty long explanation about The Thorium Brotherhood, dwelling in the Searing Gorge, for all of those who forgot about them after we were done questing there. But it still is a mystery to me who The Ashtongue Deathsworn are – the link from armory only leads to a list of rewards. So I guess I’d better get on terms with them.

Some players like it
To some players reputation seems to be a bit deal. It’s a bit like levelling to see those bars grow longer and the messages in the log about every tick you gain. When they’re hated by all they want to annoy and exalted with the cool guys, I guess they get some sort of feeling of accomplishment. They have completed the game in once aspect. Revast at The Muffin Factory is one example. He recently wrote about what he had left to do until the expansion. And even though he hadn’t downed all raid bosses yet he didn’t care about it anymore. But getting exalted with Stormwheedle Cartel was a big thing, so now he’s running Dire Maul to get there.

What I think about it
And, no surprise if you’ve read so far, I’m just the opposite kind. I don’t care much at all. I just think about reputation from a practical point of view. There are two aspects of reputation that are valid to me:

1. To get access to privileges
If I can get hold on a special item I need, I’m totally willing to grind rep, like I did with Cenarion Expedition, to get the spellhit ring, which I needed at that point (now collecting dust in the bank vault). It made me accept to kill hundreds of nagas in Zangar, which was pretty boring, just so I could buy that transmute recipe. But it’s all related to that I get a reward that I need. I cared a lot about Honor Hold reputation as long as I wanted to buy the sword at the exalted level. Then I got a dagger in Karazhan and I couldn’t care less about HH.

Of course the benefit doesn’t necessarily have to be useful. I like vanity things as well. I totally understand anyone that sets for a Netherdrake mount for instance.

2. To display experiences in the game
Reputation doesn’t really lie. If you’re pugging Karazhan, or recruiting to a guild and a player claims that he’s got plenty of experience from it on this char, it’s SO easy to see if he tells the truth just by checking his rep with The Violet Eye. It surprises me sometimes that some players (probably kids) don’t seem to think about it – that experience is so clearly reflected this way.

If you look at me for instance you can see that I’ve obviously set my foot into Zul Gurub, being neutral with The Zandalar Tribe. But I can’t really have any in-depth experiences from there, which is true, since I’m a post TBC player.

So… now over to the readers. Do you care much about your reputation?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cooking for free when your bags are full

I love campfires – in real life as well as in the game. If I’m early on spot and waiting for a raid to start it isn’t unlikely that I lit a cozy fire to enjoy for a while. I also always ensure I’ve got flint and tinder and enough of simple wood to be able to make a fire whenever I need to do some cocking or just want the pleasure of it.

But there are times when even the most self sufficient gnome doesn’t want to bring matches. Perhaps your bags are so full that you aren’t prepared to waste the two slots. Or you’re saving every single silver you can get hold on to treat yourself with something special. And that’s when you start to look for the Cooking-for-free alternatives.

Where to look
Until recently I only knew about one place to go to cook for free: at the pot beside the guy who gives you the daily cooking quest in Shattrath. After some research I’ve found a bunch of other places where hungry travelers get access to pots and fires. So I made a list.

Some of those places probably are well known to you – but some may be new. Personally I’ve been very frustrated in Stormwind, that the inn doesn’t have a cozy fire. (What is an inn without a fire? I’m just asking.) I’ve always made my own fires in the middle of the square. Now I’ve finally figured out that I’ve just been frequenting the wrong inn. There is a free fire if you just go a bit further away, to The Blue Recluse in the Mage Quarters.

During my investigations I also found that Ironforge on the other hand is a heaven for stingy chefs. You can cook everywhere for free using Dwarfen Braziers!

Sometimes it seems a bit random which fire works for cooking and which doesn’t. There are braziers in other places which look exactly as the ones in IF, but they won’t work at all for cooking. So spotting cooking facilities takes a bit of patience and a good memory.

About the list
Much of the information in this list comes from the Wowwiki list: Locations of fixed devices.

However I thought that it was a bit too long, since it included forges and mail boxes. I wanted a list that only dealt with cooking. I’ve reorganized it a bit to make it easier to read and made it alliance oriented, since I couldn’t verify the information about the horde fires. Finally I’ve added some fires I knew of that were missing in Wowwiki.
I’m pretty sure there are many more to add, so see it as a source of inspiration, rather than like the total list.

Major cities:

Fire - trade and professions area, Lower City behind Viggz Shinesparked, 64,70
Cooking pot beside Grizy Spicecrackle, 62,16
Bonfire Nicole Bartlett's boarding house, Lower City, 74,49
Bonfire - near the World's End Tavern, Lower City, 75,36

There are Dwarven Braziers all over the place – even inside the bank. They work as cooking fires. Just don’t get too close too them or you’ll burn yourself.
Warm Fire - Pig and Whistle Tavern, Old Town, 75,36
Warm Fire - The Blue Crcluse, Mage Quarter, 40,92
Warm Fire - unnamed building, Dwarven District, 68,19

Cooking Fire - Craftmen's Terrace, potbellied stove near cooking trainer, inside the house with a sign for cooking
Cookpot - near Mumman, the cook, 55,27


Blades Edge
Bonfires outside Gruuls Lair 68.25
Campfire - Longbeard's Camp, 24,72
Campfire - Nesingwary Safari, 71,40
Cookpot Halaa 42,43
Ancestral grounds 26.59
Stove - Cosmowrench
Stove - Stormspire cookpot, 44,35

Several fires by the rivers in the east:
Veil Shienor, 59,29
Stonebreaker camp, 63,42
Allerian post 70,44
Campfire - Sporeggar, 19,49
Campfire - Cenarion Refuge, east end over the bridge, near Lauranna Thar'well, 80,63
Cookpot - Orebor Harborage, 42,27
Cooking fire - Astranaar across from Inn
Cooking Fire, 61,92

Azuremyst Isle
Cooking Fire - Odesyus' Landing, 47,71
The Barrens
Broken Keel Tavern, Ratchet, 62,39
Bloodmyst Isle Cookpot - Blood Watch, 55,58

Campfire - Opposite Inn, Feathermoon Stronghold
Campfire - The Forgotten Coast, 44,43
Cauldron - Dunemaul Compound, 40,56
Cooking Stove - Mining vendor's shack, Gadgetzan, 51,28

Campfire - Frostfire Hot Springs, 33,36
Campfire - Gryphons by Everlook, 62,36
Cooking Stove - Mining Vendor's Shack, Everlook, 61,38
Eastern Kingdom:
Arathi Highlands
Cookfire - Refuge Point, 42,47
Campfire - The Hushed Bank, 7,33
Cozy Fire - Scarlet Raven Tavern, Darkshire, 73,43
Eastern Plaguelands
Campfire - Light's Hope Chapel, 80,57
Elwynn Forest
Cookfire - Inn basement, Goldshire
Cauldron - Zeb'Tela, 77,42 - conflict area (Shadowpines)
Camp Fire - Hatchet Hills, 70,69
Redridge Mountains
Cozy fire - Lakeshire Inn, Lakeshire, 26,42
Silverpine Forest
Cooking Fire - North Tide's Run, 33,17
Stranglethorn Vale
Cooking Stove - Sea Wolf MacKinely's shack, Booty Bay
Western Plaguelands
Campfire - Chillwind Camp, 42,83
Campfire - Sentinel Hill, 57,53

Friday, September 12, 2008

There’s no escape from the surgeon knife

This can’t be true! It must be a joke.

That was the first thought that flew through my mind when I read the breaking news from Siha of Banana Shoulders yesterday about the changes Blizzard are planning for the gnome faces in WotLK. She has posted a gallery of faces. I don’t know yet which one of those that will belong to Larísa, but I know one thing: I don’t like them at all.

They’ve managed to make the female gnomes look a lot uglier. In my opinion they’ve got some sort of troll look and they’re definitely less attractive than they used to be. So I’d better say goodbye to the advantage of being cute.

Surgical operation
When I first heard the news I actually thought that those new faces would just be something you could pick if you’re rolling a new gnome. But when I asked Siha in the BA Chat room, she confirmed that my char will change in the expansion, whether I like it or not.

One night when I log in she will have undergone a surgical operation while I was asleep. It’s nothing she has asked for and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

It isn’t just the new look in her face that upsets me. After all she may not turn out as bad as it seems; Siha assured that the models looked much better alive than on the pictures. But it’s the principle of it, the very idea that the face of your character suddenly can get a new look, that is wrong in my eyes.

Even though I understand and accept that other players will do such things as changing their names or hair cut, I wouldn’t do even such a small thing and changing her face is out of the question. Larísa should stay the way she is; it’s a part of her identity.

The neck is all I see
The only comfort I have in this is that I won’t see much of it. How often do you really see the face of your char? Not that often. Most of the time I play I stare into a pink pigtailed neck, and I reckon I’ll continue doing that in WotLK.

As with any other change I guess I’ll learn to learn to live with it, and since there are no mirrors in the game I won’t be confronted with the new face of Larísa that often.

Or wait… there was this new mirror spell. They must have put it up just to make me face my new face!

There is no escape to see the results from the surgeon knife.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why the “casual” word has lost its meaning

How do you define a casual player vs a (supposed) hardcore raider? Which group do you belong to, how did you end up there and what do you think about the other groups?

This is the shared topic for the week of Blog Azeroth of this week, initiated by 2nd Nin at Life of a Nin.

I used to call myself casual. Until the other day you could read in my "About Larísa" description that this blog is about “casual” raiding among other things. Now I’ve erased “casual”. I write about raiding. That’s it. You can judge from my posts what kind of raiding it is, if it’s something you can identify with or not. But I won’t label it, neither as “casual”, nor as “hardcore. Why? Simply because I think the words are unclear, associating to different things to different people.

What is casual always depends on where your own horizon is. If you’re spending five hours five or six nights a week in Sunwell, you probably think that Larísa is casual, only raiding for 3.5 hours two nights a week. If you on the other hand just log on spontaneously to play an hour or two a couple of nights a week, never planning life so that you can raid, you probably would consider Larísa extremely hardcore with an unhealthy obsession with the game.

It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

Is casual bad or good?
To some players the word “casual” sounds pejorative. It’s associated with a bad slacking attitude and lack of knowledge. A bit “dirty”, as Isisxotic at Musings of a Raider says in her post on this subject.

To others “casual” is just the opposite. They use the word about themselves in order to make themselves stand out a bit, to brag a little, in a very discrete and intelligent manner.

How do I mean? Well, let’s say that you raid Karazhan or ZA regularly with some success, insisting on that you’re just a casual player. Isn’t that a way to hint that you’re in opposition to other players are so skilled and talented that you don’t have to spend insanely lot of time on the game to get anywhere? You can show off that you are cleaver enough to manage to progress and still always let real life come first. You’re not caught in the spinning wheel of grinding like the other losers. Honestly I think quite a lot of players who call themselves “casual” actually spend more time in the game or thinking about the game outside of it then they want to admit.

Think about it, how many players do you know who proudly announce that they’re “hardcore”? It’s like loudly announcing: “I’m a no-lifer, my job sucks and I haven’t got any bf/gf, this is my big escape from real life”. Who wants to do that? Not that many.

Different mindsets
While not liking those words, I still have to admit that there are different mindsets among players when it comes to ambitions, goals and playing habits. And that’s natural; it’s no different to any kind of hobby. Look at people who have dogs as pets. There those who are perfectly happy to just pat their little creature with unknown origins, feed it, walk it and enjoy its company. And there are others who dedicate every single second of their spare time to it. They travel all over the world at exhibitions, they spend hours every night cleaning and brushing their dog, they commit themselves to voluntary work in organisations and train their dogs to do the most amazing things.

You meet exactly the same variation in WoW.

Maybe the cutting line goes between those who have WoW as their major hobby on one side and those who just see it as one of many sorts of entertainment on the other side.

The former, the “serious” players, spend as much time as they can on the game (no matter if it’s a couple of nights a week or every single night). They will also put some time and effort while not playing to improve by reading forums, blogs, downloading addons and trying out macros.

The latter, “careless” players, don’t do anything of this. They just play when they’re up for it and avoid making any kinds of commitments in the game since it may interfere with other hobbies which they consider more important.

To make it even more complicated, you can be more or less serious or casual about different parts of the game. When it comes to PvP I’m definitely casual. I’ve tried (and succeeded) to like it a bit better than I used to, but you won’t catch me watching a PvP movie or even picking talents for PvP. I won’t make any plans for PvPing, it’s just something that happens every now and then. My raiding nights on the other hand are sacred to me. I’m anything but casual about them. I prepare in every way I can, in real life and in game.

The same goes with my pet collection. I’m pretty casual about that one. Of course I think my burning bird from MgT is cute and I love my fishing daily croc, which looks like a centipede, but I wouldn’t break my bones to get a special pet. My focus is somewhere else.
Final thoughts
I've think I've made my views clear by now, that words like "casual" and "hardcore" are pointless and should be used as little as possible. And still I know I'll probably keep writing them every now and then, without thinking about it. And they'll continue to be debated in forums and in blogs. How come? What's in those words that make them so sticky, why do we bother?
I think one reason is the constantly ongoing discussion about where Blizzard should put the most of there resources for develpment. The words are used to define the needs and wishes from different kinds of customers who all want to feel that they get the gaming they want for their monthly fees.
People who argue that most money should go to making easy available content like five man instances and quests tend to categorize as many players as possible as "casual", claiming that the majority can't be wrong. People who want very challenging and advanced 25 man raiding instances on the other hand will argue that the hardcore players aren't as rare as you may think.
We also come back to the labels over and over again, because we use them as mirrors. Every time we discuss them we relate them to our own gameplay, if nothing else unconsciously. We want to identify with a certain kind of player in order to understand where our mental home is in this huge and diversified world. It's a way to sort things out, to see patterns where there is chaos.
I have made my decision. I'm not casual, nor hardcore. I'm just a player who has lost her heart to World of Warcraft and the community connected to it. And that's enough for me to know.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ask Larísa: How do I make my blog noticed?

A regular reader and commenter of The Pink Pigtail Inn, Ghostboci, has sent me a question:

Like many blog-reader, the fate has reached me and started my own blog. http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/
I just want to ask one question from the experienced bloggers here: how can I let other people know that it exists?

Larísa’s answer:

First of all: congratulations to starting your own blog! Since you’ve been posting comments for such a long time I’ve just been waiting for you to take the next step. I really hope you’ll enjoy it!

Advice # 1
Now to your question. Making your blog known will take some time. Matticus didn’t get over 700 subscribers overnight. He worked hard and systematically to reach it as he writes in his summary when he recently celebrated his one-year anniversary.

And it’s been the same with me. Even though I’ve got far from the reputation that he has, this inn has slowly become more and more crowded without any big efforts of advertising. After a few months of blogging you’ll probably get a better ranking at search engines like Google (don’t ask me how it works, but it does), and more and more people will find you.

If you keep writing it’s bound to happen. It’s the nature of blogs.

So my advice number one is: Be patient.

Advice # 2
Of course you should announce your entrance on the blogging scene! Actually you’ve just done it, whether you thought about it or not.

You see: Commenting on other blogs is a great way to get noticed – provided that you’re doing relevant and interesting comments (which I know you’re capable of doing, after your long commenting on this blog) and not just promoting your own blog. There are unwritten ethic rules about how to comment on a blog. Stick to them.

Commenting other blogs in your own blogposts is also a good idea. Most bloggers – new as established ones – just love when their own posts are discussed in other blogs. I assure you: if you write something intelligent, a follow-up on something you saw on another blog and you give proper credit with link to the original source, you can be pretty sure that the original poster will pay you a visit out of curiosity.

So advice number two is: comment a lot. To comment – in your own blog and on others – is in my opinion the soul, the core of what blogging is about. This is a social media, it’s like a never-ending party. Join it!

Advice # 3
Your blog is still brand new. I’d recommend you to wait a couple of weeks until you’ve produced a few more posts and have a little more clear idea about what direction the blog will take. Then it’s time to make an Offical announcement of your existence at Blog Azeroth! Just register and make an introduction.

Another spot where you should register is The Twisted Nether Wiki, which is growing day by day and currently comprises hundreds of WoW blogs.

I suggest that you join Warcraftbloggers. It’s like a huge blog reader where you get the first paragraphs whenever a registred blog publishes something. You could also try go get your blog on the new WoW-blog list at Alltop.

My advice number three is: inform about your blog in the established community forums

Some further reading
During the summer Wowinsider published a series to inspire new bloggers and one of the articles were about how to establish yourself in the WoW Blogosphere. You’ll find a few more ideas there and I suggest you check it out.

You should also listen to and read the website of the Twisted Nether Blogcast. Anna and Matticus publish posts there every week to educate and inspire bloggers. I don’t think they’ve covered the marketing and publicity area yet, but I recommend you to read the posts anyway; there are lots of great advice there for a fresh blogger. Anna also gives advice for bloggers in the shows, another good reason for you to listen to them if you’re not already doing it.

Final words
Finally I return to Matticus once again. I like the way he always remind the wanna-be-bloggers to stick to the basics. And that is simply: to write.

I just have to quote him, because it’s so true:

I’ve been there. And I’m urging you not to give up. You can get readers and fans. There are people that will genuinely be interested in what you have to say and what your thoughts are. It doesn’t matter whether your interest is in PvP, or raiding, or RPing. What matters is that you keep writing. You can use whatever blogging techniques you want with SEO optimization, and other blogger mumbo jumbo. But at the end of the day, readers will reward your perseverance. It may not be now, it may not be later but it will happen. You have to stick with it. When you’re blogging, you’re grinding reputation with all of the Internet.
If I look at blogs from the reader's point of view, I want blogs which feels alive, where the content keeps flowing. You may have the most fancy kind of layout and features, but in the end, it’s what’s inside that counts. You don’t have to publish every day. But, at least when you start, you should try to publish pretty often. Because it’s when we read your posts that we get to know you. That’s how you naturally grow into the Blogsphere.
Be confident. Trust your own voice. You will be noticed, sooner or later.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Darnassus vs Exodar

Where do you go to visit AH and do other errands? A little while ago I made a comparison between Stormwind an Ironforge, in the belief that the Alliance players pretty much were either SW lovers or IF friends. Reading all the comments I realized though that I’d been pretty careless, even though my intention was to do this properly.

1. I didn’t with one single word mention the horde major cities. It totally slipped my mind and I guess it’s an example of alliance self centred behaviour at is worst. I can only apology to my horde readers. Even if I had remembered horde cities, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything about them, since I’ve just had a brief look at a couple of them on some low level alt ages ago. Anyway, you helped me out in your comments, so now we’ve got some information about those exotic places as well. Thank you for that!

2. I acknowledged that I purposely had let out Darnassus from the evaluation. But I didn’t say anything about Exodar. I just didn’t think about it. I guess I’ve never ever felt at home there since I look upon it as a sort of trap, which is better avoided.

A trap? What do I mean by that? Is it some kind of lore thing – perhaps draenei and gnomes are at war? No, not quite. The thing is that I’ve got a notorious bad sense for directions and easily get lost in dungeons, as people who have met me in game know by now. It has happened a few times that friends from my old server have dropped by, creating an alt at this server, just to say hi. Usually they want to see Larísa face to face, so we can do a few cute emos and they can inspect me. And for some reason they insist on making draenei. So it always end the same way:
Friend whispers: “Can’t you pop by and say hi?”. Larísa teleports to Exodar but is unable to find the exit. It ends up with the friend having to come to Exodar and meet up, since Larísa is still trapped in the glass palace.

I guess it’s no wonder that Exodar isn’t on top of my mind. I’ve simply repressed the memory of it.

Anyway, I clearly felt that my comparison was sort of half after last time. So even if I can’t do anything about the horde cities, at least I could do some research about Darnassus and Exodar, in the same way as I did before. And here are the results!

Distance to facilities Portal place (where I appear) – bank
Darnassus: 30 sec
Exodar 14 sec
Both places are well below the numbers of IF and SW and Exodar is just amazing. An extra plus for Exodar is that you actually appear right in front of a repair guy.An extra plus for Darnassus is that you can stay mounted while at the bank. In Exodar it’s an annoying walk down into a cellar.
Bank – battleground masters:
Darnassus: 20 sec
Exodar: 29 sec
Again the distances are shorter than in IF and SW. In Darnassus it’s just a wonderful, straight line, where you can mount the whole way and you have waters nearby where you can level your fishing while waiting for the AV lines.

In Exodar it’s a little more tricky to get there, but still not far or annoying as in SW.

Auctionhouse – mailbox/bank
Darnassus: 25 sec
Exodar: 12 sec/0 sec
The AH in Darnassus is quite far away and you’ve really got to know where to look if you want to find it. I couldn’t see any mailbox closer than the one at the bank, but I may have missed one.

In Exodar the bank and AH are close to each other. Still they’ve put up a mailbox right outside the AH, which is just wonderful.Bank – reagent vendor: Darnassus: 38 secExodar: 16 sec Comment: Again I was looking for a reagent vendor with full stock, who sells vials as well as powder and runes. Now Darnassus is very spread out and confusing. I may have missed something, but I couldn’t find any vendor closer than the one at the alchemist trainer. A very annoying place to reach since you’ve got to come from the right direction, jumping to the platform. Bah.

Bank – repair guy
Darnassus: 19 sec
Exodar: 14 sec.
The repair guy in Darnassus is available while mounted, as many other things in Darnassus, which will save you a great deal of time. In Exodar you’ve probably already repaired since you spawned right in front of him.

2. Looks and atmosphere

Neither of the cities have the majestic looks of SW and IF. They are rather outposts in the wild. Both are pretty bright when it comes to colour. Personally I prefer the open skies and the greenery of Darnassus to the transparent mysticism of Exodar.

What really strikes me about the atmosphere though is that both places are pretty empty of anything but NPCs. If you put it nicely you can really be left in peace here. It’s places for contemplation. If you look at it from other side it feels very lonely. Not that I miss the beggars and gold sellers, but hey, it’s supposed to be cities – you want some people around you.

3. Miscellaneous observations

  • Those places are really far away from everything. The fp of Exodar is a bit further away from the bank since it’s outdoors, but why would you want to go there in the first place, there’s only one destination to go to… I think the portal to the fp in Darnassus is pretty cool and you can mount the whole way. But there aren’t many places you want to access this way. If you’re going to CoT in Tanaris for instance you use the portal in Shattrath or at least go by Theramore. Only reason I can think of if you’re lvl 70 is to collect herbs in Winterspring and such. So if you go to either place you’re likely to HS back to where you came from.
  • Darnassus is excellent for fishing. That’s the good side about building a city in a marsh, at least if you want it to be a bit quiet around you when you fish. To fish in Exodar you’ll have to walk outside, but it’s not far. Neither of the places offer daily fishing q though.
  • If you’re a Mooncloth tailor there’s a moonwell in Darnassuss.
  • Doors and such in Exodar are said to be better adapted to draenae players and their mounts (I can’t verify this, since I only play gnomes at the moment.)
  • Exodar is ridiculously hard to learn to find your way in. Everything looks exactly the same – transparent glass and pinkish and purple light. I finally found the way out of town (an annoyingly long run up the ramp). There’s also a well hidden way out on the backside, but it doesn’t save much time. When I did my research I got lost several times. It really gave me a headache.
  • Darnassus is also very confusing. I can’t believe those tradesmen really get many customers.

My conclusions

Even though there are a few good things about Exodar and Darnassus, neither of them is really quite as good as Stormwind or Ironforge. I think they’re too messy and the atmosphere doesn’t attract me. They’re also isolated, far away from everything. There’s no interesting raiding instance around and when it domes to Exodar, you’re stuck on a very small island.

You could go to the outposts if the pesting from beggars in the major city just becomes too much to you. Perhaps you just want to wait patiently for a BG queue? Then Darnassus is a nice waiting spot in my opinion. You can also go there if you just feel that you need a change of environment, like you’re off for vacation.

Or you may call them your home if you really want to stick out from the crowd, not walking the same roads as everyone else in the game does. It’s a part of your identity: “I’m an Exodar fan”.
When it comes to me, I’ll stick to the conclusion from my former post – I’ll give Ironforge an honest chance, which I haven’t before.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A short interruption for sharing some memories

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but normally this blog is always related to either World of Warcraft or to the fan community around it.

I look upon The Pink Pigtail Inn is a kind of playground, a place where I relax and add new dimensions to my game play. It’s an escape from the so called real life and real world (I don’t wholeheartedly like the terminology - the friends you get in the game are just as real as the friends you see eye to eye. WoW is very real in one aspect. But you know what I mean.) I want the blog to stay that way, being a reserve for recreation.

It happens that I relate my posts to experiences from my ordinary life, but the starting point, the center of the blog, is always Azeroth and the people I meet there.

Today I’m making an exception – probably the one and only ever.

The thing is that I have been “tagged”. A number of blogs have written posts about what they remember from certain “world changing news”. Now 35 yards out and Altoholic’s Altoholics are us for some reason seem to be interested in what Larísa did and thought when those news broke.

After thinking a while I’ve decided to join the party after all.

The reasons for this are:

  1. I'm very bad at saying no to requests (which gives me a lot of trouble.)
  2. I’ve liked to read the posts about this topic this so far, probably because I’m hopelessly curious about other people. I want to see the world through their eyes; I want to know what they think and feel. I'm an ethos addict!
  3. Until now all posts have been written from a New World perspective. Probably my European/Swedish one will be a bit different and add something.

So… if you only want to read about WoW – stop reading now (probably you have already). There will be other WoW related posts soon enough - be back then! But if you for some reason want to take part of some real life experiences from Larísa – keep reading!

September 11 Attacks, September 11, 2001:
It was a beautiful late summer/early autumn afternoon. I was walking through our capital Stockholm, on my way to the railway station to take the train to my hometown. I hade been to a job agency, where I had been doing some tests, since I was looking for a new employment.

I had a small portable radio device and I plugged it into my ears and put it on, just to listen to the news or some random program. It took me a minute to understand what they were talking about and get a picture of what was going on.

This was very soon after the attacks, at the most 15 minutes later and the reporter were just as confused and in chock as I was.

I don't think I could take in the width of what as happened instantly. I was caught in a bubble. Was this for real? It was alien, weired. Especially I remember the strange feeling that I knew something which most of the people I met in the street didn't know yet.

I knew that the world had changed, but the word hadn't spread yet. All those happy, innocent faces, meeting me in the street an on the train. I wanted to tell them, but I didn’t know how to do it. So I kept silent. It wasn’t just United States that was under attack. It was humanity. And even today I shiver and get tears in my eyes whenever they resend the pictures of the crashing planes on TV.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster January 28, 1986:
Frankly I have no idea what I was doing that day. Not that I didn’t notice. Of course I did. But there has always been accidents connected to space travel. This wasn’t the first one, this wasn’t the last one. I think this was the one when there was a civilian aboard, a school teacher, if I remember it right? That touched me and made this one a bit different.

Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2005:
I’m sorry, but I have no memories to share. It’s just another piece of news passing by. Some parts of the world are affected sometimes by natural disasters – earthquakes, floods and so on. This was one of those events. What I remember most clearly from it was the picture of all those thousands of people sort of trapped into a sports arena. It seemed like a nightmare.

Reagan Assassination Attempt March 30, 1981:
Nothing I recall. It was noticed of course, but it surely meant more to US citizens.

John Lennon’s Death December 8, 1980:
He was just another of those immortal pop stars who die too young (though often from other reasons). Like Jim Morrison. Like Sid Vicious. It was sad, but it didn’t turn the world upside down.

Kurt Cobain’s Death April 5, 1994:
I never listened to Nirvana. So nothing from me on this one.

John F. Kennedy’s Assassination November 22, 1963:
Pass. I was born in 1967.

Brandon Lee’s Death March 13, 1993:
I guess I should be embarrassed for my lack of knowledge, but I have no idea who this guy was. I haven’t seen any of his movies what I recall.

Larísa's addition
Of all those events, it’s just the 11 September attacks which made the world stop and never bee the same again to me. On the other hands I’ve got two other pieces of news which had the same effect on me, but aren’t on the list, since the perspective is so US oriented. Actually I doubt most of you readers have ever heard about them. But I’ll tell you anyway (here comes the Swedish dimension).

The murder of Olof Palme February 28, 1986
I was on a train when I first heard about it. At that time I lived about 700 km away from my boyfriend and I had taken the night train to see him and was sitting in the corridor in the morning, waiting for us to arrive at the destination, when the conductor passed by, telling everybody that the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had been shot during the night.

We didn’t know what to think. Was this really true? Mind you, in those days you didn’t have mobiles or internet connections to check out for yourself. But when I met my bf at the station he confirmed it, and so did the news bills, which soon were all over the town.

Sweden lost it’s virginity that night, that’s the only way I can describe it. We had stayed out of the world wars (for good and for bad). We had become use to live in a country where the prime minister could go to the movies with his wife, just like any other citizen, and then stroll through Stockholm, without any lifeguards around.

This murder was just like the black riders arriving at Hobbiton. Violence and terror had reached even to this distant corner of the world. This was the end of the era of innocence.

The Estonia disaster September 28, 1994
This is another piece of news which you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re Swedish or at least from Europe. Estonia was a passenger ship, which connected Stockholm and Tallinn. One night it was foundered in a storm and most of the passengers, 850 people, died.

When this happened my youngest daughter was four months old. I learned about it in the morning, as I switched on the TV to watch some news as I was breastfeeding her.

The pictures from the rescue operation, which was still going on, were heartbreaking. It was evident that all hope was lost already. All over the see there was just empty floatation devices.

I think what made it so chocking wasn't just that you could easily imagine the horror the people on the sinking boat must have endured, but also that it was the first time that Sweden was severely affected by a catastrophe caused by natural elements.

Draught and flood, earthquakes and storms causing hundreds or thousands of deaths – had until now been something happening in distant places, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, India or China. It surely couldn’t happen to us. This event made us realize that there isn’t such a thing as a safe spot on Earth. And 500 deaths is a lot in a country with 8 million inhabitants. Everybody didn’t know anyone on the ship. But it was pretty likely that you knew someone who knew someone. It all came very close to us.

But I didn’t just feel horror – I also felt frustration. At this point I was on maternity leave from my job as a journalist at a local newspaper. I had moved to another town though and was planning to switch job, so in reality I was cut of from the editorial staff. Now I was watching this world-changing thing happening, bound to be breastfeeding instead of writing. I knew what the reporters were up to now, giving all what they had, being under a totally insane pressure, feeling the adrenaline rushing through their veins. I wanted to be there and I knew I was needed.

I understand that this probably seems a bit strange to a non journalist. It sounds like if I wanted to make sensations, profit on the misery of others. But that's not the case. It’s more like wanting to help in a critical situation and perform the job you know you can do.

Just as a doctor have an instinct to help injured, no matter if he's on duty or not, a journalist has an instinct to help to provide relevant, true and fast information, which no doubt is needed. To stay at home felt totally wrong, even though I deep inside knew it wasn't. My first duty was to my daughter and nobody else.

Back to business
This is the end of the One And Only Non WoW post at The Pig Pigtail Inn. I won’t send any any tag about it to other WoW bloggers, simply because I never forward chain letters. Ever. Anyway the topic is spreading so quickly, so most blogs will have covered it pretty soon.

Tomorrow I'll be back to business and my escape from the world with a post about another important aspect of Azeorth which urgently needs to be examined:

Can Exodar or Darnassus compete with Ironforge or Stormwind when it comes to making your errands?

See you then!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The world has changed

The world has changed... I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air.

Yes, I steal this quote from Galadriel. It sort of got stuck in my head when I reviewed it a little while ago.

Because it isn't just about hobbits. It's about Azeroth as well. Something has happened. Vacation season has passed and you would expect people to gome back to business. Stormwind should once again be teaming with life - nice people as well as the annoying ones. At the summoning stones outside the major raid instances there should be a crowd at peak raiding time, making you lag badly so you get a bit worried about the coming night.

But it isn't. People seem to have lost interest. If they even log into the game tehy don't play it with the same happiness or dedication as they used to. They log in to level alts they want to bring up before the expansion or just to change tradeskills or gather some herbs for the inscriptions. But the burning desire is gone.

I feel a bit cheated to be honest. I woke up one day and saw that I was the only one left at the party, still dancing, to drunk and stupid to notice that everybody else had left an hour ago.

The expansion blues is here. It seems like resistence is futile. And still I keep fighting. It seems like I can't stop dancing - no matter if I make a fool out of myself doing so.

The Dark Legacy was spot on the other day. A guildie pointed it out to me, after one of my rants.

Even among the bloggers I see signs of the blues. Pike just left her guild. 2nd Nin is trying to reorient himself and seems a bit lost.

Something has changed. You can hear and feel the blues all over the place. How do you deal with it? Do you fight it, deny it or embrace it?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What makes me fall in love with your WoW blog

Recently I’ve been thinking about why I like some WoW blogs more than others. There are blogs where I eagerly lick every single word that comes out. They’re so excellent that I always feel I’d wanted a little bit more. And then there are other blogs, some of them actually very well established, with hundreds or thousands of daily visitors, who leave me absolutely indifferent.

You could say it’s just a matter of taste, a gut feeling or something like that, but I’d like to explore it a little bit more. What exactly is it that makes me fall in love with a blog? What do some blogs have that other lacks?

The ongoing competition at World of Matticus has highlighted the issue even more. How would I make my choice among all those extremely talented wanna-be-bloggers? Would I make the same choice as Matt and Wyn or do I have other criteria?

It’s pretty hard to tell what kind of blogs appeals to Larísa if you just look at my blogroll. The blogs represent very different styles and cover different parts of the game. It’s hard to see any pattern.

After some pondering I realized that I should go further back in history to find the answers. - all the way back to the old Greece. I think the well known authors and philosophers from that era would have become excellent bloggers. They really knew how to catch an audience.

According to the classic rhetoric you should use your Ethos, Pathos and Logos, which is exactly what many of the best bloggers do, whether they think about it or not.

Blog with Ethos

Ethos is about your person, how you make the audience sympathise with you and trust what you’re about to say. Interesting enough you don’t have to do this by telling the world how good and cleaver you are. Often the readers will like you more if you’re not afraid to share your shortcomings. To confess your failures, to show some humbleness and self irony are classical tools to catch the audience.

I like blogs where you get at least a glimpse of the person behind the blog. In my world it’s one of the things that make a blog different to a website. The art is to keep the balance, to be personal without writing about entirely private things that won’t interest anyone else. And I’m afraid there aren’t any easy guidelines to stick to. It’s more about intuition.

Writing with ethos also takes courage. If you write about hard facts it’s much easier to cope with a cold reception from the readers, negative or non-existing comments. But if you write with a strong ethos you make yourself more vulnerable. The stakes are higher. On the other hand – if you succeed, the rewards are the bigger.

Several of the Big Names among bloggers are very strong when it comes to Ethos. Like Big Bear Butt. He has already deserved the love from the audience, his personal brand is so strong by now that we’re ready to love whatever he writes. We WANT to like it because we like his person.

Here are a couple of examples of recent blog posts with a high amount of ethos, which I loved:
Turning the Corner: Overcoming Pressure Situations in WoW and Real Life, posted by Krizzlybear at Frost is the New Black
Casual by Circumstance by Lassirra at The Hunter’s Mark
Letting go by Pike at Aspect of the Hare

Blog with Pathos
Pathos has, as most of you probably know, to do with feelings. This is how you really touch the audience, how you make them feel and react to your post. If they get angry, sad, thrilled or uneasy at your writings, you’re much more likely to be noticed and remembered. One effective way to do so is to share your own feelings.

It doesn’t have to be a long rant. You can just as effectively stir up the feelings with a very short note. If it comes from your heart it will cut right through the daily buzz of the Blogosphere.

Just look at the very short post by Softi at A little WoW for Me: Every time I log off I cry a little inside. She had over 20 comments at this little post. No wonder – she really struck in a chord that many could identify with.

Another example: Sir, I respectfully disagree by Auzara at Chick GM. This one is very cleaver indeed. She says that she vehemently disagrees, but the tone is rather mocking and self assured; you don’t think her feelings have made her loose control for a second. In fact this post, as well as the other posts I’ve mentioned above, uses both ethos and pathos to get through to the reader. It’s typical for good bloggers – the ability to use all of the tools, which I’ll come back to.

Pathos doesn’t necessary have to do with sad feelings or emotions – it can as well be to make the audience laugh. Humour is a very good tool to gain an audience. One who does this very well is Gnomeageddon at Armageddon’s coming. Just check out those posts: Why aren’t there any undead taurens and How to AFK in raids.

Or have a look at Krizzlybears talent tree for Podcasts. (He’s very talented himself, in my opinion.)

Blog with Logos
Logos is about knowledge and rationality. To prove to the audience that you’re right by logic and common sense.

Many bloggers have a mission to educate their readers a bit. To share their little piece of the big puzzle that WoW makes in the hope that other players will find it useful. Some bloggers do this at a greater extent than others. If I was looking for some good theorycrafting about resto druids, I’m pretty sure I’d end up with Resto4life as many others. Her “logos” when it comes to those things is pretty convincing.

Critical QQ, who also writes with ethos and pathos, is an awesome mage theorycrafter. I wouldn’t think of questioning his calculations.

Don't forget that it takes more than pure knowledge to make a high profiled Logos oriented blog. You must also have a pedagogical talent, be able to explain things to a less knowing audience. To grab their attention it’s often a good idea to add a pinch if ethos or pathos to the post.

Just like Zupa does in this wonderful post about how to aoe-grind effectively as a frost mage or Krizzlybear in this post about mana efficient mage specs, disguised as a rant about a hang over. Check it out!

Mix it up
Every blogger has a special temperament. A personal fingerprint if you say so. There are blogs that are pretty cool and intellectual in their style, not trying to win the audience with any big gestures, but still convincing having such a clear logos (and discrete pathos and ethos). Such as Blessing of Kings.

Then there are others who emphasise pathos so much that they even put it in their name. Like My mage sucks.

And there are blogs with such a strong personal identity that you sort of get to think that you know them, they become like friends. Like Cynra at Airee.

If you want to find a permanent spot in my must-read-every-day blogroll you should combine the different aspects.

It isn’t by hazard that Sydera’s post got the best reviews in the first round of the SYTYCB event. Her open letter to the badge of justice, managed to combine the three aspects, even though the emphases was on pathos.

Matticus himself is an example of a balanced blogger who does it all. Part Time Druid is another one. I don’t know if this Ethos-Pathos-Logos balance is something those two bloggers think about consciously. “Hey’ now I’m going to use a bit more of my ethos”. Probably not. Maybe they “just do it”, talented as they are.

But for us not-quite-so-gifted bloggers I think the trinity of the classic rhetoric works fine as a recipe for succesful blogging:

Ethos - Let the readers get to know you.
Pathos - Make them feel something.
Logos - Everybody isn’t a theorycrafter. But everybody knows something about the game. Find a way to share your knowledge.

Preparation: Make a tasty mixture of it.

Result: Enjoy the love from your readers. At least from Larísa.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Seven lessons learned from trekking

As I spent a few days trekking in the Swedish alps a while ago I pondered a bit upon the similarities of mountain climbing and doing progress in WoW. (Yeah, I admit it, I’ m born a a metaphor addict, I just can’t help it.)

I’ve been into the mountains quite a few times since my childhood and learned some strategies for how to cope with the struggles and make the tour a bit easier. Here are a few of the “wisdoms” I’ve inherited from my parents and other “know how to do it”-guys – and the way I think you could apply it to the game.

1. Don’t overload your packing. But be prepared for the unexpected.

Making a great packing is an art. You've got to be prepared for bad weather, heavy sunshine, some basic first aid... and still it shouldn't weigh a ton. Making up your mind what to bring is actually one of the harder things you do, at least if it's a long trek you're about to do.

In the game it's just the same, even though it's maybe not as crucial as in real life. But don’t you agree with me that you feel sort of lighter at heart if there’s a decent amount of spare slots open in your bags? So that you don’t have to start throwing away junk in order to pick up precious loot (blushing, I must admit that happens to me every now and than) and waste precious time and focus messing around with your bag. It should be neat, tight and under control.

At the same time you should of course be prepared for upcoming changes. OK, you know some else mage is going to tank Gruul? But shit happens, right? What if he dc:s and you’re next in turn? Why not bring your very best stamina gear right from the beginning, to be on the safe side?

You’re heading to SSC? Supposed to do Lurker and Leotheras? But what if the raid leader changes his mind and wants you to give Hydross a try? Wouldn’t it feel better to have a bit of resist gear with you, rather than keeping it in the bank?

Use your imagination and figure out what situations could come up during the night. It’s way too often that I’ve seen people HS to go grab some gear and then be summoned back. It’s really an unnecessary time sink.

2. Look up and get inspiration now and then from the distant top that you eventually intend to climb. But also pick a one or several smaller goals on the way to it, goals that are easier to grasp and reach.

I often use this way of looking at tasks that are awaiting me, whether I’m about to start a huge grinding session for exalted by the x fraction, or if I’m levelling a new toon or if I’m entering a new raid distance. Try to make partial, reachable goals on the way. Still – don’t forget the final, challenging goal in the distance. Let it inspire you while you’re dealing with the smaller hills that are in the way.

3. Keep an even pace. Don’t rush. Don’t stop. Just go on, step by step. It saves you energy and effort and you’ll advance faster than you think.

When I was a child I never could understood how my dad from the very start of the walk always picked up a (in my eyes) rather slow pace, and how he then kept it that way. Never going faster, never slowing down, no matter what. As a child you just want to rush of and have a look at all the stuff NOW. You rush up the first hill you see… and then you get tired pretty quick and start whining for a break. But that’s when my father’s way of walking started to shine. He just kept walking… uphills, downhills. And of course it won in the long run.

I think this strategy is viable in many situations in the game. Set your focus, make up your mind what to level or what PvP gear you want to grind for or whatever it is. Don’t rush it so you grow bored after a while and drop it. Do it systematically. A couple of BG:s a day, so you see the marks drop in. Farm a couple of primal shadows before you call it night. Or whatever it is. Keep an even pace and you’ll get surprised how far it will take you.

4. Learn the names of the stuff you see. It will give you pleasure.

You’ll see a lot of stuff on your way to your goal. Flowers in the nature. Or mobs in the game. I’ve learned that when you actually pay attention to your surroundings – when you for instance learn the name of the flower - that this is a Alpine Gentian, which only will open it’s flower in full sunshine, and not just “something blue”, the walk will become more interesting and also feel shorter. To distinct the distance mountain tops from each other and not just look upon them as “another alp” will make you notice their beauty.

Applied to the game this is like learning more about the mobs. Not just about the bosses, but also about trash and other NPCs. Learn their names and their abilities. Read the lore, and read the quest info a little bit more carefully than you normally do. Also learn about the history of the zone you’re questing in. What exactly IS Alterac Valley about?

I promise you – it will add another dimension to the game and even an otherwise boring grinding session can be quite tolerable.

5. Treat yourself with candy every now and then.

I can’t emphasise it enough. Whenever we walked as a child we had short breaks now and then. Sometimes we were treated with chocolate, sometimes it was just small Tic Tac mints (introduced to us as “magical pills” that would give us “supernatural power”. Even if you take this game pretty seriously, try to do stuff that’s just fun and easy for the moment, treat yourself from time to time, in whatever way you can. Get a silly, useless, lovely pet just for the fun of it. Or treat a friend with an unexpected gift – maybe you’ll get one back when you need it mostly.
In raiding environment there are other ways to fill your physical and mental mana pools, se a special blogpost I wrote a while ago.

6. Don’t underestimate the dangers of downhill walking

Climbing a mountain takes a lot of effort. You long to reach the top, because when you walk down you’ll just have a rest. It’s easy to think that way. It’s just that it’s totally wrong.
Going down from a mountain top is just as hard – if not harder – as to climb it. You have to pay attention to the steps you take. It’s so easy to go too quickly, which will mean that you’ll stumble and fall, hurting yourself and in worst case others as well.

This applies very well to farming content as well as clearing of trash mobs. I’ve experienced way too many times that the raid keeps wiping for stupid reasons on the trash mobs, while the boss fights are flawless and easy first-kills. And how many times haven’t you experienced the annoying backlash on farming content? Bosses that should go down easily suddenly don’t. It’s the downhill effect, trust me. The challenge is to make people put just as much attention and focus into downhill content as they do on uphill. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable, if you’re aware of the phenomena.

7. Enjoy the victories. Stay for a while on the top of the mountain and have a look at the view.

Every minute’s precious during a raid night and you’re eager to go on to have as many shots at the next boss as possible or to fight the timer for some annoying respawns. But still: don’t forget to enjoy the view from the top. Enjoy the victory. Taste it. Be proud of your achievement! For a fresh, inexperienced, undergeared guild, downing Attuman or Moroes can be just as challenging as it is to a 25-man raid to take down bosses in BT.

A first kill is a first kill, no matter of at what level it is. If you’re in a hurry, at least try to take a picture. Write a little story about the event, give praise to the participants on your guild website. Enjoy it. This is precious fuel for the next mountain climb of your raiders. Don’t waste it.

Or if you’re on your own – well enjoy it anyway. I know a guy who took a screenshot of his char every time he levelled from 1 to 70. Not for anyone else to look at, but very enjoyable for himself.

Celebrate your victories some way. It gives you the fuel you need to climb the next top.