Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Year Reset

So it’s New Year’s Eve tonight. And thinking aloud, I want to throw out a question:

Isn’t this day the pinnacle of broken dreams and lost illusions?

The expectations are so huge. While it’s perfectly OK to have a less-than-exhilarating Christmas, spent on your own or with family members who’d all rather be somewhere else, New Year is quite the opposite.

You should be with your friends at a huge crazy party where everyone drinks floods of champagne and laughs all night long - pleasantly dizzy but never embarrassingly drunk. As the bells start ringing at midnight you lose yourself in a soft and sparkling kiss with the love of your life (or at a minimum a wonderful flirt of the evening.)

In reality it’s never as fun as it is on TV. It’s more like a cruel reminder that yet another year has passed of your life, and what did you do of it? Where did all the dreams and promises go?

I don’t think you see as much faked happiness and as much true and honest loneliness as you do at New Year.

But for all the bitterness it carries, there’s still something about it that I love. The fireworks. As you might now, enjoying some fireworks after eating a chocolate cake in WoW is one of my guilty pleasures. And you can only imagine how childishly enthusiastic I am about them in real life. Of course it’s a complete waste of money and effort, the ultimate sandcastle, an instant flash of beauty, lost and gone within a few seconds, only leaving a fading trail in our memories. But it’s one of the aspects of what it means to be human.

A reset
New Year is also something of a reset, resembling to the release of a new WoW expansion or at least a content patch. Your calendar has still some empty spots; nothing is set in stone. This is the time and place to make those decisions you’ve been pondering on. Maybe level up some new skill, explore a new zone of the world or even go through a complete remake of yourself, going from a forsaken to a gnome – or the opposite way. Even if the timeline is a theoretical construction and not a physical fact, the impact is undeniable.

The world is reset, and if the American dream that “anything is possible if you just try hard enough” actually is a bit of a lie, it’s still true that many of us only use a fraction of our full potential. All dreams can’t come true. But some can. And New Year reminds us of that.

I don’t think I’ve ever given any New Year solution. Or if I have, it wasn’t serious enough for me to remember it afterwards, so I reckon I broke it pretty quickly.

Oh, or wait. I actually did write down a couple of WoW related New Year's resolutions two years ago. My compliance with them has admittedly been so and so. But it’s a good reminder to glance over them again. The order in my bags and bank could be better, can’t it always? However it’s not completely out of control, in the sense that I have some space. I still don’t charge for mage portals, but if someone asks me about the fee, my reply is “what you think it is worth to you”. I still know how to do the Heigan dance! I don’t think you’ll ever forget it once you know the steps.

Most important though is my promise to see to that I keep having fun playing WoW. This means following my heart rather than the crowd, making sure the game doesn’t turn into a job rather than entertainment.

Spending the night
There are many ways to spend New Year. I will spend it 30 k feet up in the air homeward bound, crossing a number of time zones. If I wanted to I could have a reason to drink champagne throughout the whole night. It's the New Year that never ends.

Some of you will spend it with friends and for a few of you it will be a blast and a new beginning of something, possibly a romance. For others it will be a night of disappointment.

Perhaps a few of you will spend New Year in Azeroth. And if you do, don’t feel awkward or ashamed about it. If you’re with friends, having fun, you’re probably way better of than many of those who celebrate New Year in a more conventional way.

Regardless of what you’ll do, I hope you’ll have a great night, where expectations and reality somehow end up at the same level.

Now please head over to the bar disk, have a glass of free champagne and join me in a toast!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas smorgasbord alert in Azeroth

Have you noticed how few boars there are around in WoW these days? Or maybe there are a few of them that have escaped Deathwing’s massacre, but you certainly don’t run around and kill them as frequently as you used to do back in the days. And I wonder what this will mean to the Christmas celebrations.

At least in Northrend, which is supposed to be heavily influenced by Scandinavia, this could be an issue. There isn’t very much Christ in our Christmas, there never was. It’s still a Midwinter blot in disguise, where we oblige to our ancient desire for meat, making oversized smorgasboards. A huge Christmas ham is mandatory, and it’s usually accompanied by all sorts of sausages, meatballs, ribs and other animal body parts.

To be honest, I’d rather call it brutal, bordering to disgusting, than tasty. However it’s a part of our heritage. You can’t be serious leaving those Vikings at Howling Fjord starving while boars happily walk around in Azeroth at full health. What are they supposed to eat in its place? Gold clover?

I think I see a pattern though. I suppose you haven’t missed that Vashj’ir, is entirely under water, teaming with all sorts of life including shellfish. And you might also know that Blizzard’s European office is situated in France. Now, you may not know it, but in France you don’t eat ham for Christmas. They’re far more sophisticated than the pagan descendents from the Vikings. As far as I’ve been told you’re more likely to have oysters and Champagne. Yep. That’s what I’d call a stylish Christmas!

You see the connection?

No more pigs to kill. It’s time to collect oysters for the French Christmas tables. It might not be in the game yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Blame the French influence! And you know where you heard it first.

Either you’re celebrating Christmas, some other festivity or nothing at all, I hope you’ll have a great weekend and that Greatfather Winter will bring you something nice, preferably a little more fun than the rifle from last year. I never saw the point of it. It still fills a lot in my bank, in case it will dawn upon me one day.

Here’s a toast for a Happy Winter Veil.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Call for nominations for The Pink Pigtail Inn list of 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, may I call for your attention?

I know your minds are currently blown away by the Cataclysm, but nevertheless I have a small request for a little bit of assistance. You can look at it as a piece of entertainment, something to keep you going while the activity in the blogopshere goes down due to the Christmas season.

For the third year in row, I'm going to put together The Pink Pigtail Inn list, where I appoint winners in a number of categories, covering different aspects of WoW and the WoW community. during the past year. And just like I did 2009, I'm asking for your assistance to refresh my memory.

Who do you think should win those categories, and for what reason? Suggest your favorites for one or several categories, as many as you like. You can write it in a comment to this post, or send an e-mail to larisascorner at gmail dot com. If you're a blogger you're free to put up a post about it, just make sure that I see it by leaving a comment or sending me a note.

The rules

First of all: here are the rules:
  • You can nominate almost anyone including yourself. But you can't nominate Larísa or The Pink Pigtail Inn for obvious reasons. And you can't nominate someone who previously has received the award for the same category. (Another category is OK). The reason is that I want to share the love a bit. It makes it more fun for everyone.
  • The list is intended to focus on 2010. Cataclysm arrived at the very end of the year, however I've decided that Cataclysm content will be ruled out from this list since there has been so little time to experience and evaluate the new content. You can nominate anything that arrived before the Shattering patch. It's OK to nominate content that was released in 2009 since 2010 was a rather thin year when it comes to new tabards, pets, instances etc.
  • You can suggest a completely new category and nominate a candidate for it. I might like it so much that I'll pick it up.
  • The jury consists of Larísa. My decision will definitely be inspired by your suggestions, especially if they come with good arguments. But it's not a popularity contest where the one with the most votes automatically will win. And no, I don't take bribes.
  • The prize for the category winners is the same as always: fame and honor, a special seat at The Pink Pigtail Inn and a virtual toast. If the winners want to design some kind of badge to decorate their blog, they're free to do so. But as far as I'm concerned, all I give out is my love and admiration.
  • You can keep nominating until I've announced the list, which won't happen until I'm back from my trip, in the beginning of January.
The categories
And now over to the categories. Under each one I've listed the winners from previous years, who accordingly can't be nominated again. In a couple of cases I've already decided to change the name of the category slightly to make it a little wider.

1. Best raid instance

2009: Ulduar
2008: Zul Aman

2. Least successful raid instance

2009: Eye of Eternity
2008: Sunwell

3. Most longed for instance

2009: Ulduar
2008: Magisters Terrace

4. Silliest gold sink

2009: The Dun Niffelem Mammoths
2008: Gold Eterium Band

5. Biggest addition to the game

2009: Dual spec
2008: Achievements

6. Best quest

2009:The Quel'delar chain
2008: The Wrathgate quest chain

7. Ugliest tabard

2009:Wyrmrest Accord
2008: Competitor’s Tabard

8. Favorite non combat pet

2009: Onyxia Whelpling
2008: The Phoenix Hatchling

9. Biggest community controversy

Comment: Renamed from "Most juicy guild drama". I decided to make the category wider. Please not that there's a special category for the hottest blog topic.

2009: The Martin Fury incident
2008: The merging of SK Gaming and Nihilum into Ensidia

10. Most charming Blizzard employee

2009: Patric Beja
2008: Ghostcrawler

11. Best podcast

2009: Blue Plz!
2008: Twisted Nether

12. Biggest blog facelift

2009: Righteous Orbs
2008: World of Matticus

13. Most memorable blog post

2009: Archetypes of the Female Gamer, revisited
2008: Noob world reorder

14. Most noticed blogger breakthrough

2009: Greedy Goblin
2008: Chick GM

15.Most solid content provider

2009: Welcome to Spinksville
2008: Tobold’s

16. Most hugged blogger

2009: Phaelia and BRK
2008: Big Bear Butt

17. Hottest blogosphere topic

Comment: The category is renamed from "Blog drama of the year" to make it a little wider.

2009: The Ferraro debacle
2008: N/A

18. Best writer

2009: Tamarind at Righteous Orbs
2008: N/A

And that was the list. Now please go ahead make your voice heard! I'm looking forward to the input.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A letter from the Time vault

My dear guests!

This is your innkeeper Larísa speaking, bringing a message from the future. Or the past. Whatever.

I always get a strange feeling when I prewrite blogposts for delayed publication as I’m off for holidays. It makes me think of Hari Seldon, the future predicting guru in one of the big reading experiences of my childhood, Foundation. You know the guy who every now and then makes a magical appearance as a projection in the time vault, demonstrating how he new everything in advance. Or maybe not.

Like it or not, there are things in the world that are beyond our control. Aircrafts can crash. (Even if it’s a lot less likely than that the car crashes on the way to the airport.) Servers can go down, wiping PPI from the world. And WoW could theoretically cease to exist (even if it seems rather unlikely at this very moment.) You just never know.

But provided that there won’t pop up an unpredictable pesky mutant, I predict that as you’re reading this post, you’ll find me strolling bare feet along a far distant shore as you read this. I’ll listen to the roar of the ocean rather than to the humming of a computer fan, I’ll fill my lungs with air rather than with dust and I’ll let my mind drift away to the stars rather than to Azeroth.

However, I haven’t left the inn to rot in the dust. As you might see, at least if you’re actually visiting the inn and not just reading it through a reader, I’ve hired someone who will keep an eye on the place in my absence, namely Tamarind of Righteous Orbs. He has promised to do some dusting and refilling of the kegs, and I think he scare away a troll or two if needed as well. If you notice anything weird going on at the inn, just send him a heads-up to morewitthanhonestyatgmaildotcom. I’ve trusted him with the keys.

I have put up a couple of posts for my absence. Nothing special, just a little greeting here and there and something to keep you occupied in case you run out of things to do. (Hm… wonder what that could be? I’ll give you a clue: it’s a PPI tradition!)

I’ll be back in January, probably tanned, but also quite clueless about anything WoW. From previous experiences of taking a break from WoW, I know that it only takes me a few days to completely forget about how to gear, what spells to cast or even how to move my character and use the camera properly. My muscle memory seems to have the span of five days as a maximum.

And that’s about it I think. I’ve filled my bags with books and left any electronic device at home. It’s time to unplug, which probably isn't a day too early.

Here's what I'd like you to do while I'm away:
  • Be nice to Tam.
  • Take care of each other.
  • Have fun.
See you on the other side of the New Year!



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I dinged 85 and went straight to Naxx

So, I reached 85 the other night. The first thing I did was to train my new mage toy, the godsend Time Warp. Of course. But do you know what I did next?

I went straight to Naxxramas. Yes, the same old pyramid that has been hanging over Northrend the last two years. It hasn’t’ been tweaked or upgraded, there isn’t any new surprise boss in there. And yet, there I found myself at a date with Patchwerk.

How come? Well, it turned out that it was the weekly raid quest. And you might not be aware of it, but that quest gives a decent 138 justice points for just a couple of minutes of effort. Not bad for a point- and gear-thirsty freshly dinged 85. It felt weird to say the least, and in a couple of weeks I don’t think it would be worth it. But as it is now, it’s not bad. After all a normal LFD dungeon only gives you half of it.

Talking about patchwork, with an “o”, that is what this post will be: some random observations about Cataclysm that I wanted to share before I take a break from Azeroth for a couple of weeks.

Item level – the new Gearscore?
There have been a couple of things that have been bubbling around in my mind. One is the issue of Item level. I’ve never been obsessing over Gearscore before, but I find myself way more interested in the average item level number that Blizzard provides you with in game. I learned that I needed to reach 329 to be let into a heroic instance and suddenly that became a goal per se. I looked for whatever upgrade I could get – through justice points or at AH and then I equipped it and waited eagerly to see if my average level had raised enough to reach the magical number. “Oh, noes, only 328, bugger! I need something more”

I wouldn’t go as far as to equip a completely irrelevant, useless item just because it has a higher level number, in order to play tricks on the system. But can certainly see the temptation.

I wonder if this development is for the good. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of Gearscore to death, and I’ve heard several commenters saying that you certainly need a simple evaluation tool, but that Gearscore is too dumb to make the work properly. In its place they recommend more advanced addons such as Elitist group. However, with the arrival and emphasis on item level, Blizzard might take us in a different direction. It’s way dumber for sorting purposes than Gearscore, since it doesn’t say anything about the usefulness of the gear or whether you’ve done anything about it, using enchants or gems. However, I’ve already seen it in practice as someone was announcing in /2, looking for a group to make some dungeon achievements. The requirement to join the group was to have an average gear level of 340 or more. It remains to see if this was a unique event or a beginning of an unfortunate trend.

A Very Manly Staff
While we’re talking about gear I have to mention the Very Manly Staff that I got from the new ring of blood-quest in Twilight Highlands. I’ve had a lot of weapons over the years, and I don’t remember anything about most of them. They all look the same to me; there are only so many ways you can design a gnome dagger. But this weapon will no doubt become one of those that stick in my memory. It can’t be missed.

For one thing, it’s huge. Especially on a gnome. I’ve always thought that my mage has some kind of back problem, since she’s sort of crouching as she runs. Now I know why. I would have that too if I was supposed to carry around such a burden. Oversized? Yep, you bet.

The second feature is that it moves. It’s got some kind of mechanism with spikes that randomly are folded in and out for no apparent reason.

And then there’s this name. Very Manly Staff. I don’t know exactly what it is in it that makes it so manly, but I suspect that the devs just wanted to bring the e-peen measuring to a new level with a wry smile. So far I haven’t noticed any beard growth or other changes to Larísa. Well, apart from that bad back then.

Just looking at the staff makes me a little giddy. There’s something irresistible about a pink pigtailed gnome running around with a Very Manly Staff, as if she was showing the finger to players who think that only a Big Bad Guy can kill a Big Bad Monster. Or carry a Very Manly Staff.

Painful quest
If you think about getting it for yourself, I recommend you strongly to not try it at anywhere near peak time on your server. I’m on a PvE server myself, but the competition around the quest giver, buried under a mountain of mounted players, was so fierce that it felt more like PvP. Some players amused themselves (or was stupid enough to not know better) by snatching the target from other groups who just had started the event. This resulted in repeatedly failed quests and prolonged waiting times – for everyone. If people would just have queued up nicely and taken the quests in order, it would have gone ten times quicker. But WoW players just don’t do that, unless they’re technically forced into a queue like when they’re logging in.

So to put it shortly: this quest is currently a pain in the ass unless you do it at 6 am in the morning. And I think Blizzard should think it over, if they couldn’t put it up somehow differently, through phasing, instancing or some other solution.

Raiding 5-mans
And a final note: I’ve dipped my toe into my first heroic dungeon. It felt like a raid. A raid where I’m constantly active – sheeping, throwing orbs, putting up rings of frost, counterspelling, decursing, you name it.

It was long time since it was as fun to play a mage. I lost count on how many corpse runs I did. But I did them with a smile.

Edit: Tarnop pointed out in a comment that the Manly staff probably is named after a player in Elitist Jerks called - yes, you guessed it - Manly! If you check out his armory he's currently wearing it, even though I don't doubt that it soon will be upgraded. Thanks for the heads-up!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The moving walkway

First of all: I’m having a blast as I’m questing my way through the new zones of Cataclysm. There’s so much to love – so much beauty, so much imagination, so many new and thrilling quests, especially in my current zone Uldum, which has blown me away on several occasions.

So don’t get me wrong. What I’ve seen of Cataclysm so far has lived up – or even exceeded – the somewhat crazy expectations that have been built up ever since the announcement at Blizzcon 2009. But I have a little thought of doubt: hasn’t the questing in WoW become just a little bit too streamlined?

Following the pathways
Everywhere I go, I see players following the pathway that Blizzard has put out for us. Strictly speaking I reckon I could deviate from it. It’s not like when you’re hiking in one of those heavily populated nature reserves where you’re more or less forced to follow the assigned trail to preserve the surrounding grounds. But in practice this won’t happen. The quests are supposed to be done in a certain order; one thing leads to another, moving between phases. Woe the player who dares to break the quest chain! No more quests for you, ungrateful scum! Leave the trail and you’ll be condemned to trash grinding your way to 85 killing nothing but murlocs.

Every now and then, without previous notice, the screen goes black and I’m suddenly thrown into a mini cinematic of some sort. And this adds to the feeling of linearity. It’s even more linear than the experience of reading a book or seeing a movie. When you’re consuming something in those media, you can always go back. You can replay the scene you came to think about on your dvd or you can go back and look at the previous chapter if you get lost in the novel. WoW is much less forgiving. If you get distracted in some way, you’ve missed it.

A moving walkway
Over and over again an image pops up in my head: the image of the moving walkway in the room where they keep the royal jewels at The Tower of London. The only way you can see them is by standing on that walkway, and it passes those jewels at set, nonnegotiable pace.

You blinked as you passed? Your toddler came by as the quest cinematic was running? You got a phone call and didn’t see that scene where Harrison swings around in his rope on the giant statues? Too bad for you, but the conveyor band has moved passed the jewels and the exit is there. You’ve completed the quest, here's your reward! (Which on a side note feels rather bizarr - why are we rewarded for doing nothing but staring at our screen, drinking coffee?) What are you waiting for? Hurry up, step into the next rollercoaster ride! Want to see it again? Sorry, mate. Roll an alt or check YouTube. You're in a different phase now and the ride only goes in one direction.

Who’s driving?
Tam asked: “Who’s driving this story?” and my answer is simple: it certainly isn’t me. I feel like a marionette doll, secured in the threads under the rule of the designers, in a way that I’ve never ever felt before.

I remember how I back in the days sometimes used Jame’s levelling guides, with mixed feelings. It was efficient levelling on one hand, but it took away a bit of the “a virtual world to explore” feeling from the game. It quickly became a threadmill, with a tunnel vision focus on the XP/hour rate, rather than on the thrill of adventure and uncertainty.

The last few years Blizzard has taken WoW in a direction where the guides and quest addons aren’t needed anymore. It’s all built into the UI, showing where to go and what to do next, and into the pipeline quest design. The tendency started in Wrath, but Cataclysm takes it up to the next level.

I reckon it’s my lack of experience from other games that makes me react against it. Maybe this is the way that stories normally are told in games?

I’ve become used to – and fond of - Blizzard’s open-world-design. I know that some old school players sneer at it, thinking it’s more of a theme park for players that lack any kind of imagination of their own, than a sandbox where you can make anything happen.

The same meal
Until now I’ve always thought that the theme park accusations were unfair and that there were more player freedom and options than you’d think of at first sight. You could tweak your WoW experience into something different from everyone else’s. I didn’t have such a strong feeling that we’re all having the same standard hamburger meal as I get in Cataclysm.

It’s an awesome hamburger, the best one they’ve ever made. Shiny. Entertaining, full of surprises. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as curious, excited and involved as I’ve been exploring Uldum for instance. I’ve even started to read the quest texts for some reason, and this fact surely must be a sign of a huge improvement. Quest design taken at a new level!

Perhaps I just have to take the bad with the good. Maybe there isn’t any other way to make the design than by forcefully leading us through certain pipes?

Another thing to remember is that I haven’t yet dipped my toes into Archaeology. From what I’ve heard it might offer a counterweight to the streamline questing, giving the sense of freedom, exploration and individuality that rollercoaster rides somehow lack.

It’s too early to make the call what impact the changes to questing will have on us, too early to say if we’ll enjoy all those cinematics as much next time we bump into them, or if they’re just an annoyance, “been there, done that”.

But I can’t quite get the image of the walkway at The Tower of London out of my head. The thought is a little disturbing.

Perhaps it's there because it tells us something about our real lives. Am I living my life as if I was in a sandbox, a world of freedom and possibilities, where I'm in charge of myself? Or am I just idly standing there on the conveyor belt, waiting for the trip to end when Life is done with me?

The thought crosses my mind and I pick it up and look at it briefly, before I carefully put it back in my backhead again where it came from. Some things are too scary to give a full examination.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some thoughts about wish lists – in WoW and elsewhere

Did you write any wish list for the season yet? Perhaps you’ve received one from a toddler in your neighbourhood? Or maybe you’ve forgotten about Grandfather Winter’s doings altogether, too wrapped up in the cataclysmic craziness to care?

I’ve reached the age when I dread the question on what I would like to get. I was asked about this recently, as I’ve got an incoming birthday, and my mind got absolutely blank. Or to be truthful: there was one wish that crossed my mind, but I hesitated to say it aloud. Since my birthday is in the weekend, I would love if I could spend a big chunk of the day playing World of Warcraft. It’s not something I’d normally wish for, but this year it’s a special situation, with Cataclysm just out of the oven, fresh and steaming hot. Just imagine being left alone for a while to enjoy it, no question asked, no negotiations, no need to explain anything.

Of course I didn’t say it aloud. I just mumbled something incoherently: “whatever” and “it doesn’t matter”. Age has that effect on you. I don’t really care much about my birthdays anymore, especially not from a gift perspective. I’m a grown-up with a steady income and if there’s something I know that I want, like a book, I’ll buy it, regardless of which day of the year it is. So wish lists are rather pointless.

I wouldn’t go as far as Gevlon does, who on several occasions has talked about his hatred for birthday celebrations, seeing them as the pinnacle of moronic social behaviour. If someone surprises me with a personal, well thought out gift, given out of love and consideration, rather than as an obligation, I will still be touched and appreciate the effort and gesture. But mandatory wish lists? They don’t appeal to me.

A WoW wish list
But let’s move along and bring in some WoW focus to this post. Have you ever made a WoW wish list?

In the podcast Twisted Nether, the hosts always ask their show guests: if you could wish for anything WoW related, what would that be?

Without any competition the most common answer is: to get a job at Blizzard. Actually this isn’t something I personally would wish for. From what I’ve heard, the working conditions in the game industry seem to be far from ideal. If I was to wish, I would rather like to get the opportunity to hang around in the Blizzard HQ:s as an intern for a week.

I’ve always been fascinated by the underlying machinery it takes to produce all sorts of items we surround ourselves with. As I grew up I was enchanted when they showed on TV how the process of putting together a toothbrush in a factory, from the beginning to the end.

What’s behind the curtains? What’s in the minds and on the agenda for the hundreds, not to say thousands of people involved in the creation of Azeroth? I’d love to sit like a butterfly on the wall, listening to what they talk about at their meetings and their lunch room, seeing the voice actors live or meeting the guys who spend their days designing trees and bushes, putting them into the right place.

Tear down the wall
Back to the WoW wish question. If you leave out working for or visiting Blizzard, you could also make a wish that was about game changes. If you were in power and could change one, but just one thing about the game, what would that be?

It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? If you ask me tomorrow, I’ll probably answer it differently than today. But OK, if you press me for a reply, what comes first to mind is this: I want Blizzard to once for all tear down the Berlin wall they’ve built between EU and US servers. Let us play wherever we want to, allow us to move our characters across the Atlantic at our own choice! If there’s a lag issue, the decision of how much we can put up with should be ours. I want to give my friend Gnomeageddon an in-game hug. Stop preventing me from doing that!

Haunted Memento
Then there’s of course a different, down-to-Earth way to answer the WoW wish list question. Some guests of TNB have wished for in-game items, such as Illidan’s warglaves and others want a Frostmourne replica to put on the wall or an orc statue for the garden.

I’ve never been much of an item gatherer myself, even though I admittedly have a weak spot for non combat pets. What I would like most of all though, is to get back my Haunted Memento. Somewhere on the way I lost it, probably when I cleared up my bank slots a bit carelessly and didn’t really look, thinking it was some old outworn neck piece. I miss my shadow and if someone could bring it back to me, I'd be very happy. I was always more than just a pink pigtailed Merrymaker.

What children wish for
This post is long as it is, but I won’t let you go quite yet. I have one more thing to share, not WoW related, but wish list related, namely a little piece of classic Swedish TV comedy from the mid 80s. The clip is in Swedish, so here’s a rough translation that I think will give you the jest of it.

So, Anna, if you could wish for anything in the world, what would you wish for?

A doll!

Well… I mean like something bigger.

A bicycle.

No… not a toy.

A car.

No, not things, but something superimportant that all people on Earth want.


No, food and food, I mean something that is important that you demonstrate for and that America and Russia are discussing, what is that?


Reporter (increasingly annoyed):
Bah! Money and money, what the hell is that the only you think about, dolls, bicycles and money and food and such shitty stuff, what the fuck, think if there came a bunch of soldiers to your home and shot your mum and dad, would that be fun, would you like that?


No, but what the hell is it then, what is it?


Reporter (exploding):
What the fuck are you stupid or something, that is not what you want, that is what you DON’T want, so what is it that you want?


Yes, peace.

Reporter (turns, looking into the camera, finally pleased):
And that is what the Swedish children want most of all! Peace on Earth.


Friday night toast
And with those words I wish you a wonderful weekend, with dolls, peace or whatever you wish for.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Queues, oh my!

So the queues are up again.

For my home server Stormrage EU, this means a 15 minute waiting time to come online. I can’t remember last time this happened. We used to have some pretty bad instability issues a year ago, and this resulted in a major exodus from the server, bringing down the population to middle size. But now we have a queue and I can only imagine how bad it must be at the more popular servers, those that were labelled “full” even before the launch of Cataclysm.

Of course the queues were to be expected, and I believe that most players can understand and accept that there is a certain waiting time during the peak period that follows the release of an expansion. However, the queues that are reported on the official forums now are more than long. They’re extreme. We’re not talking about 15 minutes, but rather 4 hours. The question is what Blizzard can or should do about it.

Bashiok's posting
Blue poster Bashiok has made an effort to try to moderate some of the threads of wrath and hatred, doing exactly what companies should do in situations like this. He shows that Blizzard is listening and that they’re aware of the situation, he expresses his compassion and concern and he points out what they’ve done to address the situation so far and the possible solutions for the future. But obviously this isn’t enough for the infuriated players. Finally Bashiok gives in and says that he’ll stop responding, since “people are just consistently quoting things out of context or just not reading my replies at all before posting.”

The thing with the queues is that there isn’t any quick fix to it, at least not anyone that is good.

To quote Bashiok:
“How do we handle the thousands upon thousands of people, per realm, that have come back from weeks, maybe years of not playing to play today on their old realm? Delete their accounts? Forcibly move their characters to low-pop realms while they weren't looking?”
As an emergency measure, Blizzard has decided to raise the cap of how many players that can be online at the same time on a certain realm. This seems to have helped a little, but it hasn’t wiped the queues as far as I understand it. And is it really a good solution? It will no doubt affect the player experience, with increased piling on the questgivers and worse competition for popular quest mobs. Not to speak of the risk for lag. In the end it’s a question about the balance between quantity and quality, and I hope that they won’t go too far in this direction, just to get rid of the queues. And the complaints will still be there, only that they address the density on the server rather than the waiting time. I’m not sure if it’s that much of a gain.

One thing I think that Blizzard should and could do is to give out better information about the queue situation on different realms. On the Battle-net website with the list over the realms, there’s a column called “queue”, but the only information they put there is “yes”, which I assume means that there is a queue. What it they could make live updates on exactly how many players are in queue for each realm and how long the estimated waiting time is?

Such an overview could help players to play their gaming better. Even if the queue is an annoyance, at least it won’t have to come as a shock. If you know about the queue in advance, you can join it and go and plan for other things to do while waiting. Also: if players see how bad the queues on their home realm are, they might consider spending that night on an alt on another realm, just to see the new content.

It could also possibly inspire players to consider switching to a less populated realm. Don’t be too sure about it though! The psychology of queues never ceases to fascinate me. Even if we grumble about queues, and you never hear about anyone enjoying them, we’re at the same time weirdly attracted to them, light a night fly to the torch light.

Queues as marketing
For how crazy it sounds, a proper queue can be one of the cheapest and most forceful marketing activities you can come up with. There is some strange logic that tells us that something that is so popular that there is a queue for it, must be so good that it’s worth queuing for. If there’s a queue, we’re quick to join it, because who knows how quickly it will grow?

I’ve seen examples of it in real life, as people join queues that they don’t even know where they’re leading, for instance in theme parks. Rule number one is to secure your spot in the line. Once you’ve done this, you have plenty of time to start worrying about what the line is about.

If you apply this to WoW I’m afraid that the more popular a realm is, the more attractive is it to the players. “Oh, so Argent Dawn in EU is apparently a hot spot. There must be something fantastic about this realm. What do they have that we don’t have? I’d better queue up and check it out for myself. It must be worth it or there wouldn’t be so popular”. And equally a low population realm can easily be overlooked. It gives the same creepy feeling as looking into the window of an open restaurant that is empty on customers. “Ouch. No people! There must be a reason. The food is either bad or expensive. I’d better go somewhere else.”

I guess much of the queue issues will sort out themselves in a not too far distant future, when the powerlevellers have done their thing and the holiday season arrives, when players will either go afk for real life issues or spread out their gaming over the day, since they’re off from work and school. I think Blizzard does right not to mindlessly open new realms in an act of desperation to counter the queues. If a realm is crowded now it doesn’t mean that it will be the same in a couple of months, and players on "empty" realms tend to be even more misarable than they ones that are stuck in queues. Blizzard must plan further ahead than the nearest week.

But even if they don’t act, they must keep communicating. So big kudos to Bashiok, for at least trying.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deathwing knows how to dance – my first impressions of Cataclysm

I haven’t been fortunate enough to be fried by Deathwing as he’s been roaming about in the neighbourhood the last couple of weeks. I figure a pink pigtailed gnome is just a too frightening sight even for a big bad dragon. He’s a coward, I tell you.

However I got a very close look at him last night as hundreds of thousands EU players tried to log into the game at the same time.

Dancing with Deathwing
Deathwing and I spent almost an hour inspecting each other, and after a while his appearance switched. He started to look somewhat friendly. Dragon staring has that effect on you.

By the way, in case you’re wondering what kept us hanging for so long, I can reveal the truth.

It had nothing to do with the assumed lack of login capacity. Corporate lies! Excuses! This was a cunning arrangement to make the players listen through the entire login screen music, all the 12 minutes it lasts, rather than the 30 seconds it takes to log in. At least once we should hear it. Russell Brower must be happy now.

After enjoying the piece a couple of times it started to grow a bit old. It was time to switch to something different to make sure that I kept up my happy, festive, time-for-Cataclysm mood. The good old Sweet hit Poppa Joe turned out to be exactly what I needed: a little silly, upbeat and unquestionable optimistic. It worked as intended! Both of us lit up and I could swear that I saw Deathwing dancing. He does those little motions every now and then, perfectly in sync with the music.

Then, all of a sudden, Deathwing decided that he’d had enough of this gnome and the screen switched. For a fragment of a second I hesitated. Anyone with the slightest sense and a regular working schedule the next day shouldn’t be up playing World of Warcraft at this hour. At all. But on the other hand – one night of bad sleep wouldn’t kill me. And I wanted to enjoy a bit of the launch night geeky craziness. It only happens once.

And so I entered Cataclysm, blind as mouse since I never looked closely at the beta information, and enthusiastic as a child on Christmas Day, eager to try out all the new toys at once.

It took me a while to realize that you can fly in Stormwind these days. High, high, up in the air I went, staring in fascination at all sorts of dragons, carpets and other vehicles cruising above the city like a flock if seagulls. It was as if this was the first time I really saw Stormwind, realizing what a stunning beauty it is.

I could easily have remained there, hovering over Stormwind and the surrounding areas for the rest of the night, but eventually the sirens called for me to go to Hyjal to get a taste sample of the cataclysmic questing.

Questgiver camping
My impressions so far? Well, it's too early to say anything definitive about the questing, apart from that it seems promising from what I've seen so far. I expect a pleasant and interesting ride to 85.

The starting area was pretty cramped, for obvious reasons. Since the spawn rate of mobs seemed to be connected to the player density, it was still playable, even though it no doubt would have been more enjoyable with slightly fewer players around. If there ever was a potential for immersion in WoW, it goes down in the drain as the masses enter.

What quickly turned into a bit of an annoyance was the access to the questgivers. Whenever you wanted to pick up or deliver a quest, you’d better prepare for some patient waiting.

What is it with people that they think that they have to literally stand on the quest giver to be able to talk to him? And if they want to have this close-up, how about dismounting? Grr.

Word of advice to anyone planning to go questing in the new areas: bring some stacks of baby spice, even if you’re travelling light. You’ll need it.

As I logged out I was almost halfway to 81, which felt like a decent rate. And our guild had advanced to level 2, giving us an experience boost. Sweet! Next up will be the speed travelling boost and after that the quicker reputation gain. The guild perks are way more than just cosmetic nice-to-have features. I wonder how many solo minded players that will remain guildless as they realize what they’ll miss out.

TLDR version: Cataclysm launch night. I had a close look at Deathwing. Poppa Joe saved us from dispair. Stormwind from the air is beyond anything I had imagined. Bring baby spice in your bags. It rocks to be guilded.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Preparing for Cataclysm? Nope!

It's Friday night and as this post goes live we're 79 hours from the Cataclysm release in Europe. And I swear: I'm not prepared. Not a bit.

Week after week bloggers have urged us to make ourselves ready, offering us lists on things to do, items to get and information to be updated on so that our journey from 80 to 85 will be as quick and smooth as possible.

Notorious procrastinator
It's all very kind and considerate of you, but I'm afraid I've developed immunity against his kind of advice, notorious procrastinator as I am.

I'm no different in real life. In exactly two weeks I'm about to take off for a trip to if not the other side of Earth, at least very far away. I have flight tickets and a hotel reservation, I've got a passport with an entrance permission and I've looked over my vaccinations, but that's about all I've planned for this trip. For instance I have no idea of what I'll pack in my bags and I know I'll probably wait until the last night before I'm off before even starting thinking about it, since planning my packing is utterly boring and something I refuse to think about until I really, really have to.

Considering how limited the time I will have for gaming during the month between the release and the estimated starting date for our raids, I probably should be more on the ball, trying to squeeze out as much xp as I could from my online time.

What to pack
The most ambitious preparation guide I've seen so far was the one at Manaflask, which among other things provided a list of items to pack in your bags for the Cataclysm levelling experience, consisting of:

- 30 Flasks (15 with alchemy)
- 80 x Buff food
- 40 x Scroll of Stamina (Except priests)
- 80 x Scroll of Intellect/Strength/Agility VIII (Inscriber or drop)
- 1 x Drums of forgotten Kings (Leatherworking)
- A hell of a lot of potions (including Swim Speed Potions to save some seconds)
- Food & drinks en masse

And as if this wasn't enough, classes without self healing capabilities are advised to equip themselves with 100+ Heavy Frostweave Bandages.

I suppose those items could come handy. And probably save me a minute here or there.
But I just... can't. I know it's up to me, it's my own choice, but the timing of the Shattering certainly hasn't made it any easier to approach the expansion in a serious and disciplined manner. There's so much new and fun content to do, either you prefer to explore it on your main or fill your barn with newborn alt babies. How could you possibly refrain from this and spend the nights packing your bags? The temptation to go out and have FUN is just too big to me.

Xeppe's ten point list
Xeppe at An Absolutely Ordinary Priest has made a ten-point final countdown list on what-to-do to be prepared. It's a great list and I won't belittle anyone following it, not at all. It was just that it became clear to me how little I have done. Out of 10 possible points of preparation, I failed at 8. Bad, bad Larísa. I suppose Kurn gets really annoyed with me as she reads this.
  • I haven't capped even my main for 4 k Justice points. I think Larísa is at 3k, which was rather random and nothing I had planned on. But I would rather listen to Vogon poetry than make yet another overgeared pug run in Hall of Stones just to grab a few more points.
  • I have not done the fishing or daily cookies in Stormwind every day. I did one of them, once, and noticed that the quest giver didn't keep his promise to give me one more fishing skill point (since I'm capped at 450 and you currently can't go beyond this). And with so little reward I couldn't see any reason to stress about doing it.
  • I have not made sure I have a slot spared for my upcoming Worgen (or Goblin). On the other hand I have a couple of alts I could let go of without much regrets, so it really isn't that much of a problem.
  • I have not checked out gold making blogs for last-minutes advice to make extra cash. I don't follow their advice normally either, so why would I? I'm not the richest player on the server, but as long as I've got enough to cover my repair bills and other expenses I can't see gold making as something urgent.
  • I have not "watched and read everything I can find on Blackrock Caverns and Throne of the Tides", the first two five-mans according to Xeppe. If it wasn't for her post, I wouldn't know of their existence. That's how far away I've stayed from the Beta information. I assume Blackrock Caverns is situated somewhere where BRD used to be, but I can't be sure. This doesn't mean that I won't come prepared
  • I have so not completed 25 dailies ready to hand in. I preferred to level my gnome priest to 14, and I tell you - I had such a blast doing so that I won't shred a single tear on the xp I missed out.
  • I have not reviewed every spec on every level 80 toon I have. I switched to something that seemed reasonable on my mage and I'll see if it works while I start questing. If I die more often than the mobs I guess I'll go looking for something else. Big deal?
  • I have not made a Cata entry-level raid gear list. Of course I plan to check out the loot and make a basic plan before my first raid, but it's still quite far away and I bet there will be great guides and lists out by then that I can benefit from. Sneaky as I am.
Like Xeppe, I have pre-downloaded Cataclysm. Or at least I that's what I want to believe. I bought the online version and my computer started to take down something, which I assume more likely is Cataclysm than some other Blizzard game.

Xeppe's last preparation for Cataclysm is to breath. In and Out, In and Out, looking for the Zen and flow to endure the queues and the general mess that comes with the expansion release hysteria. That sounds like something I could do.

Cataclysm is waiting. And a beach in India. And I know I'll get there, somehow. Prepared or not - as long as I'm breathing I'll be fine.

In and Out.


And Flow.

And when I come back I'll go through the remaining levels and of course I'll come to my first raid prepared, gemmed, enchanted and updated on what to expect from the encounters. Because that's what you do when you're in a team and that's the kind of player I am. Levelling though is a different creature. As I'm doing that I'm not responsible to anyone but myself, damn it.

A Friday night toast
I'm pretty sure we have players of both kinds here at the pub. Some of you are prepared to the very last pixel, ready to head out for a gaming marathon, immersing yourself into Azeroth day and night next week. Others are fellow procrastinators who have decided to take the day as it comes, hoping that we'll be fine, since we expect Blizzard to design the levelling in order to be fairly logical, efficient and fluent even without a ton of planning.

Regardless of which group you belong to, I'm glad you chose to come here to have a couple of drinks and some time for afterthought and relaxation among friends before the craziness breaks out next week.

This toast is for all the good memories we have of Wrath and for the hopes we have for Cataclysm.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Further ideas about more enjoyable flights in WoW

Let’s talk a bit more about travelling in World of Warcraft.

I won’t argue about if it was a good or bad design decision to close down the portal hubs in Shattrath and Dalaran. I think I’m pretty much done with that discussion. However I recommend you to read Tam’s thoughtful post on this of today. He disagrees with my support for the change and argues why the portals should have been kept, using his full arsenal of charm, wits and intelligence. It’s hard to resist this eloquence, so I humbly have to admit that I’m on the fence now. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing of Blizzard to do for all their good intentions? Read and judge for yourself.

Anyway – back to the topic for this post.

The enjoyable flight
When I started to play WoW, flying was one of my favourite things to do in game. The first time I used a flight path I was thrilled, almost as thrilled as I was the first time I used the subway between IF and SW and called for my family to come and watch it “Look, just come and look, how cool isn’t this, squee!”. For the longest I always looked forward to the next time I got the opportunity to get up on a gryphon. It was fun and exciting and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Eventually the freshness of it wore off – even for me, Larísa, the Merrymaker and nowadays I have to admit that I’m quite likely to go AFK as I’m flying, using one of the strategies I presented the other day. The recently changed landscape will of course increase my interest for the scenery for a while, but that effect will go away too.

Now, let’s assume that the portals will remain closed for whatever reason - disturbances in the Twisted Nether, Deathwing was mean, Blizzard hates all players and want us to suffer or they’ve screwed up the code and don’t know how to fix it.

Let’s assume that we can’t get away from travelling and ask ourselves: is there anything Blizzard could add to the flying experience that would make it more interesting, something that would keep me in game and by the computer rather than making snacks, reading blogs or emptying the dishwasher?

Steering or shooting
Well, I have a couple of ideas at hands. One is as simple as to let the players be able to steer the gryphon or bat just a little bit, like you do in those carousels at amusement parks. You can’t affect the course of the vehicle you’re sitting in, but you can affect the height of it. Imagine if you could dive down to the ground or up in the air as you wanted to. It’s a small and silly thing, but I think I’d like it. And wouldn’t it be kind of cool if you were out questing somewhere and suddenly, out of nowhere, a bat would skydive, like a seabird trying to snatch your sausage?

Another idea is to give you some kind of activity or even a mini game where you had the ability to shoot, bomb or possibly grab something from the ground using a hook. The reward could be small, bordering to insignificant, but it would give you the feeling of being more involved in the game rather than a passive observer.

What I’d most of all like to see however, is an option to talk to the mount. Just like Nils spoke to the flying goose Akka who he rode during his travels through Sweden in the classic children’s book The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

My idea is that the mounts could be some kind of lore masters, offering their knowledge to the players.

Speaking for myself I have very little patience for lore as I’m out questing. My mind is set on killing, completing quests and moving on, and I don’t take much time to optional reading of books or NPC dialogues. On most occasions, I just click through it without looking closer. At the best I pay it a quick glance, but it doesn’t stick. This isn’t a behaviour I’m proud of; it’s just the way I work.

I think I’m not the only one to be honest. I believe there are many stories that are told in Azeroth with hardly anyone listening, and it seems like such a waste of creativity and effort. Couldn’t those stories enhance our gaming experience, if they were told under different circumstances, such as in the form of on-board entertainment?

I think a long distance flight would be the perfect time and place for some proper storytelling. Let the gryphon or bat speak up about something connected to our destination or to one of the zones we’re passing. Or perhaps they could just tell random tidbits from any time or place in Azeroth.

As you started your journey, you’d get a question: “Would you like to hear a story?” And if you clicked “yes”, he would start: “ Let me tell you about [insert NPC, faction or historical event]: ….”

Even better, they could also give the alternative to hear the story read by a voice actor, rather than reading it as a text. Reading huge chunks of text isn’t for everyone after all.

I guess it wouldn’t work well for short distances, such as Stormwind-Goldshire. But it could surely make the journey from Ironforge to Booty Bay feel a little bit shorter.

More than clams
I’m not a game developer myself, so I don’t know if my suggestions are doable or even entirely good. Maybe there’s a good reason why they haven’t put those features in the game.

However I do think that Blizzard could and should make an effort to try to make mounted travelling a little bit more interesting and interactive.

Opening clams isn’t enough.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Geekyleaks

MMO-Champion posted an assumingly “leaked” document presenting a roadmap for Blizzard’s game development the next few years.

Looking closer at it, I’m not sure it’s worth to get that much excited over and I find it hard to believe that someone at Blizzard will get fired over leaking this supposedly internal presentation intended for executives and/or shareholders.

For one thing: it’s rather old, eight months, and this kind of plans are subject to constant changes. It’s unlikely that it’s still that valuable to them from a business perspective.

And secondly: There isn’t all that much new in it, is there?

WoW in Portuguese
According to Boubouille it’s the first time someone confirms that WoW is planned to be launched in Portuguese. Big news? Barely.

I suppose it makes a few Brazilians woopie-di-do happy, but to be honest – if they launched WoW in Swedish, I’d rather stay where I am – with an English speaking game and community.

A guildie of mine recently made a guild map showing the locations of everyone in our guild. Every time I see that picture with dots in various corners of Europe it makes me smile. We’re so far away from each other and yet we’re close as we’re raiding as a team. It definitely adds something when you get the chance to get to know people from different countries and backgrounds.

The global character of MMOs and MMO communities is one of the things that attracts me in the first place, and I can’t see why I would be happier locking myself behind a language barrier.

The one reason I can see to insist on playing the game in your native tongue is if your English is so poor that you can’t understand the quest texts or what you’re supposed to do. We have to respect this and maybe that’s the case with Brasil, and maybe Blizzard has good business reasons for making this investment.

But I think many players who have basic skills in English will get on pretty well anyway, and as time passes, they’ll notice how they improve their language skills while having fun at the same time. I can’t think of a more entertaining way to learn a language!

In any case: WoW in Portuguese, would it come, is not breaking news.

The next MMO
The “leak” also shows that the next two expansions of WoW would be released with 1,5 year intervals. Sounds like a plan. So far they’ve said they have the ambition to have one year between them and they’ve ended up on two. On the other hand they might have streamlined the development process as they claim, so they can do it quicker in the future – which I suppose would please the Activision shareholders.

The final, probably most spectacular piece of information. is that the secret MMO is supposed to be released in two years time, in the end of 2013. I must say that I’m a bit sceptic to this suggestion – it sounds rather early considering there wasn’t a word about it mentioned at Blizzcon.

The Wikileaks of Geeks
So what will we make of it? Boubouille seems to think that the document probably is authentic, and he’s got a huge reputation for being right. But at the same time he warns us that “a kitten will die each time you use it as a fact or post about it on official forums”. So beware and take it with a pinch of salt! We don’t want dead kittens around, do we?

I think the most exciting thing about the document is the very idea that someone at Blizzard is leaking. If the players sign three agreements whenever there’s a new little patch coming, I can imagine the NDA:s the Blizzard employees have to agree to. What’s said in the Blizzard HQ:s is supposed to stay there. Period. Who dares to leak? And what motivates him or her? Vanity? The urge to feel important? Friendship? Bribes? Revenge? Or perhaps it’s just a matter of pure thoughtlessness? This assumed that the document is for real.

I couldn’t help smiling as someone quickly stated that this was the Wikileaks of Geeks. It sure comes out so nicely, rhymed and all.

Admittedly this is just one page and not hundreds and thousands. (Am I the only one to feel a little overwhelmed whenever we hear about the latest Wikileaks publishing? Is there anyone who actually can be bothered to read all those documents?)

But still. Geekyleaks is the word.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strategies of Fun for the Frequent Flyer

So the portals are currently gone for everyone but mages. I’m one of those who applaud this. Admittedly my main happens to be a mage, but I’ve got alts so I know what it’s like to travel without magical devices.

If you ask me, I think it’s about time that we looked around in the stunningly beautiful world that Blizzard has made for us, rather than just running from one theme park attraction to the next without even throwing a glance to the sides. Journeys help to give the game a better rhythm, where periods of intense action are contrasted with slower paced activities.

Player complaints
Most reactions I’ve seen to it have been fairly negative. While I think many players agree about the reasons for removing the portals, they can’t refrain from complaining about the consequences.

And can you really blame them? The portal hubs in Shattrath and Dalaran have been around for years, making us accustomed to instant travelling around the world.

Some players are so upset that they’re taking action. The other day I read a post by a blogger who cancelled her subscription out of rage and frustration over something she considered just a waste of time: “I don’t like being forced into sightseeing and I hate being forced into waiting without even an option of doing something else in game”.

I’m not going to link to the blog in question, because it’s very small and there’s no need to point fingers or help trolls to find their way to it. She never asked for that kind of attention.

Instead I’m going to give a helping hand for the frustrated blogger and other frequent flyers in need of something meaningful to do while on a gryphon. The idea with this guide is to find out what kind of player you are and spend your time accordingly.

Hereby I present you the Pink Pigtail Inn List of Suggested Strategies of Fun to get more out of your travelling time:
1. The Blogger
Grab the opportunity to tab out and throw down a few ideas for future posts, comment on other blogs or to work on the growing pile of unread blogposts in your feedreader! It’s better to do it while travelling than to wait until you’ve stopped playing for the night and you’re too tired anyway.

2. The Explorer
There's a reason why Blizzard wants us to travel! Have you really noticed all the changes to the world? Use your camera options, zoom in and out, look around and don't forget to take some screenshots while you're at it. Notice all those hidden places you've never been to and make sure you remember to go back to them on a ground mount for a closer look.

3. The Family Guy
This is the moment when you can make up and show your family that you you're not chained to your computer. Even if you assume that you’ve already you’re your share of the household work, helped the kids with their schoolwork and kissed them goodnight properly, there’s surely something more you could do to give them your attention. Make that phone call you've postponed too long. Pat your dog. Or give your loved one a kiss, who knows what else it might lead to? If this means that you'll miss out the arrival at your destination because you were afk or even disconnected for low activity - well, you probably had a good reason.

4. The Entertained
If you're main reason for playing WoW is to be constantly entertained you might want to play another game while you're on a bird. Try one of those addon miniature games that are around. Or multitask with something you have on another platform. Or in case of emergency: feed your tamagotchi. Whatever keeps you happy.

5. The Gourmet
The gourmet won't miss a chance to make a raid to the kitchen and grab a snack. If you need suggestions for what to do, go ahead and check out the comment section of my post about the perfect raid snack. You'll find a recipe for a three-minute chocolate cake, which you'll easily put together during one of the longer flight trips. For journeys by boat or zeppelin I recommend you to stick to something simpler; they're rather quick compared to what they used to be (the turtle tour in Northrend the exception).

6. The Health Seeker
OK, you're facing the consequences of being too much of a gourmet? Had a little too many of those perfect raid snacks? Let's turn it around then. Make a habit out of doing push-ups and sit-ups whenever you travel. Count how many you can do and compete with yourself or your guildies. Or try to beat the gryphon! If you give up before you arrive at the destination, the vehicle has won. If you could make a few more after arriving, you’re the winner.

7. The Organizer
Are your bags in perfect order? If you're the kind of player who likes a tidy desk, they probably are, but in the world of a true organizer there's always something more to do. Adjust the settings in your bag addon to sort your stuff even smarter. Cleanse your action bars from old garbage, such as quest items you've returned to the quest giver long time ago. If you feel rich and your bags are too full to be practical - toss away a few gray useless items. (I won't tell on you.) Or open some clams, now that Blizzard has made the effort to let you do that mounted. If you really can't find anything more to organize, offer to help to clean up in your old, messy guild forum.

8. The Philosopher
The philosopher doesn't see the travelling as something bad; rather the opposite. Life isn't about arriving at the destination; it's about enjoying the journey, right? All day long our minds are constantly occupied with a stream of activities. Rather than trying to productive in a conventional sense, the philosopher will let the journey be a protected enclave in time when he lets go of everything. Enjoy a few minutes of complete relaxation. Observe how the thoughts come and pass by like the landscape below your mount. Listen to your breathing and feel your heartbeat. Arrive energized and relaxed (or possibly asleep).

9. The Researcher
Researchers come in a wide variety. The Number Cruncher will use this moment to polish his personal spread sheet or give his two cents in the latest EJ discussion. The Last-Minute Researcher will browse TankSpot in a futile last-minute effort to cover the fact that he hasn't prepared for the instance he has signed up for. The Materialist Researcher will drool over Atlas Loot and think about how to obtain them. Whatever sort you are - take pride in the fact that you're doing your research while playing WoW in your free time rather than while pretending to do something useful at your job. ;)

10. The Social
If you're like me and find it a little bit difficult to chat with people at the same time as you're actually playing the game, you know, killing stuff - the moments of travel will come to your rescue! Now you can finally show your guild that you're not this strange creepy guy who just logs in and out and never speaks! Scroll back and catch up on the guild chat and add something of your own. If you're known as "that quiet" guy you might want to take it a little careful to begin with or they'll think your account has been hijacked. By all means, go through your friends list. Is there someone you'd like to catch up with? Go ahead and do so, but remember to check out the location of your friend before you whisper them. There's a time and place for everything and if he or she's in a raid instance they might not appreciate your attention.

Further ideas
I've presented a few examples of player types and ideas on what they can do during their journeys. Which strategy do you use? Or maybe you have some further suggestions on how to spend your time on a flight or a boat? Feel free to share with the readers of PPI!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shattered thoughts on the Shattering

Dwism did a brief post, linking to a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon, which also nails my current feelings for WoW.

It's as if I've woken up one morning and now I'm looking out at the world with an unbroken coat of recently fallen snow. (Actually I am in real life as well; winter came early to Sweden this year.) It's a clean start, full of possibilities.

I probably look most of all like an overenergized puppy, running around in circles, back and forward, too happy and excited to settle for a certain activity. I want it all - now, at the same time!

My reaction is actually somewhat expected. As far back as in May 2008, I did some test of gamer personalities and came to the conclusion that I was an ESAK, 73,33 percent Explorer, an average Socializer and Achiever but only 13.33 percent Killer. No wonder I've felt a bit imprisoned after spending one year in Icecrown citadel, alternated with jumping in and out of various portals in Dalaran.

It's such a freaking good feeling to let out the explorer in me!

The sheer joy I feel is only shaded by the fact that it's "this time of the year" when my game time is about as abundant as my wallet will be after Christmas. The timing for this patch and expansion is simply horrible, but I talk to myself with my wisest, most parental voice, saying that the game isn't going anywhere and that there will be plenty of time for me to explore every corner of the new old world.

A changed world
I can't quite settle for what's best about Azeroth post Shattering.

Take all those brand new quests for instance. I've never been that much into questing and I've got some big parts of Northrend only half done. But just bringing up a gnome priest a few levels in the new starting area raised my appetite and I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up making an army of alts for the first time ever, just for the fun of it.

I also love all those details, the changes to the world - small as big. It was a bit of a pain not to be in the beta; especially since everyone else seemed to be there. But I resisted the impulse to watch TB:s videos, regardless of their quality And now it's harvest time for me! I'm having a blast as I'm riding around, picking up new flight paths and just taking in everything I see.

Sometimes the changes are subtle and I'm not entirely sure of what it is. "Hm... something's different about this inn. The fireplace, isn't it? And the music isn't exactly the same?" It's like one of those "find five errors games" where you compare two pictures and are supposed to find what's been changed from one to the other. Other times it's pretty obvious what has changed, like that huge chasm suddenly appearing in Westfall, cyclones roaming about.

But what I think I love most is the general freshness of the world. It's the same feeling as after a summer rain, the ground and the air cleaned from dust. Suddenly the colors are vibrant, the grass is emerald green, the pavement in Stormwind is shining, the trees have come alive and there's a depth and intensity to the world that wasn't there before. I can almost sense the after-rain smell in my nostrils.

My jaws dropped a little the first night after the shattering as I noticed the announcements in the trade chat. "LFM ICC, link ach for first 4 bosses or no invite".

"Are you serious?" I thought. We've been stuck in that freaking castle for a year and now there's a shiny new world and thousands of quests and this is what you want to do?

But on second thought, why should I blame them and what do I know? They might have been in the Beta for months and just don't care? Or maybe they've returned after a long hiatus and want to catch up on some bosses before it's too late and literally no one will care about ICC?
Or maybe they just don't give a damn about the world at any time, because they're only in the game for the raids, period. They surely have their reasons, and they're just as entitled to their way of playing the game as anyone else - even if it looks a bit mind boggling through the eyes of an enthusiastic explorer like me.

Returning players
In the spirit of the season I suggest that we also show some tolerance and acceptance all those bitter ex-WoW players who reluctantly are returning to the game. I find them slightly amusing as they stress that they're only here temporarily for a month or two at the most and that they no doubt will be bored out of their mind after that, since WoW sucks so badly. They have NOT changed their mind about WoW, but it's just expected that they want to have a look at the revamped world, right?

I'm not sure what it reminds me most of. Is it a "no, I'm not a real smoker; I just do it at parties?" Or is it the teenager who makes very clear that she's too old to see THAT childish TV-series, but yet somehow hangs around to see it "since you're forcing me"? Or is it the guy who buys Playboy, "just because of this article you see, I don't read that kind of crappy magazines"?

Anyway - regardless of their motives - be nice to them! If anything they deserve our pity, forever locked out from the wonderland as they are.

And this will end the Friday night post for this week. For being a shattered world Azeroth looks pretty awesome right now. The first half of the expansion has been released and here's to the hope that the second half of it will be just as good.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mist's Edge revisited

There was never any doubt about where I would take my farewell of this expansion. Mist's Edge, by the deserted coast of Darkshore, the same place where I spent the last night before Wrath arrived. Not once had I visited this beech since that moment. It's not a place where you go to seek out adventures or company. It's a place for solitude and contemplation.

I always knew where to go for this ceremony, but I wasn't certain on how to schedule it.

For the longest I imagined that I'd go there the night before the launch of Cataclysm, on December 6. This was until the blogosphere exploded with posts where bloggers took a fond farewell of the old world, soon to be washed away by the tides of time, and I realized that my timing was wrong. If I wanted to come back to the same spot where TBC ended to me and Wrath took off, I had better do it at this point, before the Shattering had shaken up the world forever. Who knew if this piece of coast will even exist tomorrow? Maybe it had been replaced by a murloc heaven or a new quest hub?

I for sure didn't have a clue, since I miraculously not only had stayed out of the beta, but also managed to stay fairly oblivious about the incoming changes. I had been told that Thousand Needles would be flooded and I thought that I might have caught a glimpse of some new holiday resort looking place, probably operated by goblins. Considering the cinematic trailer I assumed that Stormwind would change. But I certainly had no idea about the whereabouts of Darkshore.

One thing was clear: If I wanted to take a proper goodbye of Wrath at Mist's Edge, I'd better hurry up.

Steady progression
There is a saying that once is a trend and twice makes a tradition, and since rituals is something to hold onto in times of change, I kept it. First I lit a campfire. Then I used it to cook a Delicious Chocolate Cake with the ingredients I had brought, including some small eggs I just had farmed from the crazy owls in the camp nearby.

Two years! How quickly hadn't they passed? It felt like yesterday I was here, thinking back on my journey which had brought me from Zul Farrak to Black Temple. It had been quite a career, with a lot of bumps and jumps on the way, including server change and guild changes a couple of times.

Wrath had been different and way more stable. Adrenaline had steadily progressed through the tiers, week after week, boss after boss until we got our Lich King 25 man kill this spring. Sure, we had had some raiders joining us in Northrend and others leaving us on the way. But we were basically a well oiled raiding machine. While many guilds on our server succumbed, split up, stopped, departed, disbanded, we kept going on. We were never in the very top of the progression chart, but always right below it. Our raiding team for Cataclysm was already set, and it was pretty much the same team as had participated in the last official 25 man raids in June. A few of us have switched classes, but the people are the same.

The good stuff
But what about the game play? I asked myself if I had enjoyed Wrath. Was it a good expansion? Yes, definitely. There was so much good stuff when I thought about it. The landscape. I really had learned to love that continent at the other side of the sea. Outland had some nice places, especially Zangarmarsh, but in comparison to Northrend it didn't stand a chance. I loved the snow theme, the wilderness, the mountains and the Scandinavian influences. It all held nicely together and it felt appropriate for a fantasy themed game where you fight with swords and spells rather than lasers.

And then there was the questing - far superior to anything we had seen before in WoW. Phasing, vehicles, nicely put together questlines, even cinematics, you name it. Gone were the days of kill-ten-pigs! And they assembled them together so nicely in quest hubs and a logical order, which made levelling guides unnecessary.

Then I thought about the raiding. It hadn't gone free from criticism in the community. According to some it had been way too easy. A faceroll. And what about the hardmodes, did they really offer variety and options for the players, or was it just lazy design, giving Blizzard an excuse not to provide more content?

For my own part I actually thought the raiding in Wrath was pretty good. I can understand if Naxx had been a disappointment for those who had done it in the original, but for me those encounters were new and fun, even if they could have been slightly more challenging. They certainly didn't feel like a step up from Black Temple.

Ulduar on the other hand was brilliant, probably on par with Karazhan in quality, and with the teleport devices which made it a much more enjoyable experience than most of the 25 man instances in TBC. ToC... well what to say of ToC? The bosses weren't that bad, but it showed clearly that for all our complaints and grumbles about trash, it fills a purpose. To only fight boss after boss in the one and same room doesn't make a good raid experience.

Finally ICC. It was a good instance and I think the LK fight beats most other encounters in the game, but one year is way too long time to spend in the same place. We were burned out on it and yet we kept going, since there was no alternative.

If anything should be criticized about Wrath it was the fact that we only did one instance at a time until the next tier was released and we finally could move on. We never had much of a choice, if you don't count the single-bosses such as Malygos and Sartharion. The menu was too short to satisfy our appetite. But I think Blizzard has listened and learned their lesson, and Cataclysm will fix it. Amen.

Goodbye and hello
I took a bite of my chocolate cake and saw the fireworks light up the sky. I smiled to myself in anticipation.

Goodbye old world! Hello new world!

I can’t wait to see what awaits us on the other side of the reset.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's the End of the World and I'm searching for the Secrets of Kalimag

There I was, in the dark tent of the fortuneteller of Darkmoon Faire. Hesitatingly I pointed at three cards, not daring to look into her eyes as she would reveal my destiny. Her verdict was short, just two words, which she spitted out with a hissing voice. "Learn Kalimag". And then she made it clear to me that there was no room for me to ask any question. There was a long queue of Azerothian adventurers waiting outside. My time was over.

I nodded and gave her a faint smile before I fled, anxious to not reveal that I didn't have a clue about what she just had told me.

Kalimag? WTF?

It sounded vaguely Japanese to me. Could it be some kind of ancient martial art form, officially lost in the tide of history, but in fact kept alive within a small circle of chosen knowledge keepers who pass it on from generation to generation until the End of the World when it will be needed again? It might come handy considering the current situation in Azeroth.

On the other hand I'm a mage, not a warrior. The oracle if anyone should know that. So maybe this was in fact a school of magic - the next upcoming level in my climbing in the ranks of mages. Even someone who is exalted with Kirin Tor hasn't learned all of their secrets. For all I knew I might be nothing more than an initiate in their eyes. Perhaps the power of Kalimag was awaiting me, if I only could find the path to it.

What Kalimag is
So what is a gnome looking for the Truth and Knowledge to do? I did what anyone else of you would have done. I consulted Wowpedia (the new home of Wowwiki, in case anyone has missed it.) And it turned out that Kalimag is neither about fighting or magic. It's the standard language for all elementals.

I nodded to myself. It made sense. There had been a lot of elementals around recently. They sure seemed to be aggravated for some reason. But all my efforts to make them come to their senses had been blatantly ignored until now. The only answer for my invites to a friendly discussion had only been met by yet another angry whirl and a knockback. If I only could get my hand on a book of Kalimag, perhaps I could make a breakthrough in our communications. Or, if my peace invites were ignored, I could secretly spy on them, learning about their plans on beforehand.

So far I must admit that my mission to learn Kalimag has been far from succesful, It's not as if there's an abundance of resources to consult. While Klingon has its own academia, with published books such as a translation of Hamlet, I couldn't find a single translated word from Kalimag to English. According to Wowpedia, it's only spoken by "a few scholars", since the natives speakers "are rarely encountered in any sort of friendly capacity". And obviously those few scholars have kept their secrets well.

Kalimag in game
So what do we see of Kalimag in WoW? Most of the time we encounter elementals in WoW they don't say a thing. They just whirl. There is one quest though, Escape from Coilskar Cistern, where you help Earthmender Wilda to get out of a cave. After a while you're joined by five friendly elementals, who all will tell you: "Kranu sto aer'rohgmar", but what this means remains a mystery.

There has been a speculation that the Living Fire who on one occasion says: "Reth reth reth" in fact says: "Burn burn burn". However, in another quest, there's a manifestation of water who says: "Ma reth bromo zoln kilagrin dra ma zoern tu ko fraht ko kadrom Ma krin drinor zoln drinor Ma krin kan aasrugel korsul", using the word "reth" again. Why would a water elemental talk about burning stuff?

Things are complicated by the fact that there are several different dialects of Kalimag, one for each type of elements. So it's possible that words could have different meanings depending on the context.

From Wowpedia can also learn that Kalimag occurs in an inscription on the pedestal of Frostmourne. The writing read: "Whomsoever takes up this blade shall wield power eternal. Just as the blade rends flesh, so must power scar the spirit". Since Muradin Bronzebeard can read the text on the dais, you can draw the conclusion that he's one of those scholars who knows Kalimag. Now if we only could find a way to persuade him to share this knowledge?

The odds are against it, since Kalimag actually doesn't exist in the game files as a real language, at least not in the sense you would hope. There is an in-game "translator" which uses an algorithm to make words "look like" Kalimag. For instance a four letter word will come out as "drom", "drae", "fmer" or a bunch of other examples and a word with nine letters would be transformed to for instance "ahn'torunt", "brud'remek" or "dor'dra'tor". But algorithm mechanisms is not the same thing as a real translation if you ask me.

Continuing research
I have to be honest with you. From the research I've done so far, you can all see that learning Kalimag isn't an easy task. This doesn't mean that I've given up on it though. Hereby I invite everyone to join me in the search for the secret language of the elementals!

You know what to do. Let's go back to Karazhan and check out those books scattered all over the floors! Maybe we missed some? Let's examine every inch of the library in Scarlet Monastery; perhaps there was a hidden room where they kept the only existing copy of the Lexicon of Kalimag? Keep your eyes open at all hours; before you'll know it, the book will spawn right in front of your eyes.

I don't see that we have any choice. We have to follow our destiny and listen to the advice of the mighty fortuneteller. Who knows what curses she might put on anyone who dares to defy her?

PS. On a more serious note it made me a surprised and happy gnome to see that they made use of the Darkmoon Faire concept in the marketing campaign of Cataclysm. I haven't seen anything about it but it has brought back my hope that they'll finally come around and give it the revamp it has needed for a long time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ghostcrawler The Blogger

I've whined a lot in the past about Blizzard's lacking communication with the community.

I've talked at length about how their former website sucked and I've criticized their fumbling attempts to talk to the playerbase through fragmented, pointless chat sessions. In July I questioned the strategy where Blizzard's lead systems designer Greg Street, a.k.a Ghostcrawler, answers forum posts, more or less randomly. I suggested they rather should make him write proper columns, where he could pick an current topic and share his views on it from a more general perspective. And lo and behold! Now Blizzard is doing exactly this!

Ghostcrawler made his blogging debut the other day in the post "Why Does Blizzard Hate Healers?" where he explains how healing is changing in Cataclysm and the reasons for those changes. Here's a sample from his wrap-up:
"To be clear, we don’t want healers to constantly run out of mana. We want them to run out of mana when they don’t play well. And we don’t want them to always fail. But we do want them to feel good when they are challenged, and overcome those challenges to succeed. When someone is wounded, we want healers to consider whether to use a slow, efficient heal (because they aren’t in immediate threat of dying) or a fast, expensive heal (because they are). That’s called triage, and it was notably missing from the Lich King healing environment. We think triage will make healing more fun. We’re making this change not to make healers sad by nerfing them, but to make healers happy by making the game more fun for them."
It's a good blog post, not the least thanks to his honest approach. Ghostcrawler sounds pretty relaxed as he mentions critique from the community as well as his own doubts about the healing design in Wrath. This isn't just a text with empty marketing phrases. GC knows how to balance between his own ideas and integrity and a genuine interest for what the players have to say. And that's why we trust him and want to hear what he has to say.

A success
Looking at the reception of this post; I would call Ghostcrawler's blogging nothing but a success. I don't think the news about Blizzard's new fansite has reached more than a fraction of the playerbase, but as I'm writing this, there are already over 1200 comments on Ghostcrawler's post and more incoming. And it's a pretty good read. Most of them are decent and reasoning, even in the cases where they don't agree. Overall they're far less aggressive than what we've seen previously on the forums.

This post has also been translated into the other major languages that Blizzard supports, such as Spanish, French and German, which also is an improvement. Now it's not only the US players who get first hand information and can comment on his writings.

It's also worth mentioning that Ghostcrawler isn't the only one to write proper blog posts. Blue poster Lylirra came up with a little piece about what to bring in an Elemental Invasion Survival Kit, which was a fun read, something you could have seen at one of the fan WoW blogs, and it also got a lot of comments. I hope more will follow.

What remains on my wish-list is a little bit more of interaction with the blogosphere, now that Blizzard's staff has joined our ranks. Until now they've had us more or less on ignore, and maybe it's too much to hope for that to change. But considering the general overhaul they're going through in their communications I wouldn't rule it out completely.

In any case it's nice to see that they're making use of Ghostcrawler's potential as a popular and trustworthy spokesman. The new community site has got a good start, so let's hope they can keep it up and expand it in the future.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Feats of Strength – the real version

Let's talk about Feats of Strength again. I admit it's the third time this week that I mention them, and that's a little odd considering that I'm not that much of an achievement junkie in the first place. Not more than the average at least. But I’ve got some kind of hangup on this at the moment, so I’ll blog on and hopefully it will ease my mind. Here we go: time for this week's ponderings from the bar.

My Feats of Strength
This post takes off with the announcement from Blizzard that we’ll get yet another ”Feat of strength” if we only can be bothered to log in once during a three week period.

Reading about it I asked myself what other feats I had in my bags. Since I've never paid any attention to them, I had no idea. A quick check in armory revealed that I had acquired 18 until this day, and to be honest most of them were less than overwhelming:

  • Getting myself a Collector's Edition for Wrath, well done, pat on shoulder?
  • Getting a Crashin' Thrashin' Racer as a Winter veil gift like everyone else in 2008. Wohoo?
  • Obtaining one emblem of any kind, really? I'd rather consider it a Feat of Strenth to manage to avoid them altogether.
The Champion of the Naaru and Hand of Adal titles admittedly took a bit of effort, and so did the Winterspring Frostsaber mount - even though that grind had been heavily nerfed by the time I got around to do it, and the process of getting it was more of a pleasure than a pain. So getting it didn’t really involve any particular need of being strong.

However, most of the Feats of Strength won’t fill me with a sense of pride. The list consists of a number of randomly picked events during my lifespan as a WoW player, which happen to have been documented this way. as a matter of fact some of the feats are so cheap that they inevitably dilute the concept of feats as being special and desirable.

This is a bit of a pity, since there actually is some potential in this feature. Just like the rest of the achievement system, Feats of strength could be a tool for players to make their characters stand out from every one else.

Even if your lvl 80 mage looks exactly the same as the one next to you at AH, wearing identical gear but a slightly different hair style, your individual experiences and areas of interest in the game will differ. The Feats of strength list could offer an opportunity to put this at display.

In the current form, the system is automatized. When you do certain things in the game, a note is added to your armory profile, armory either you like it or not. There’s no way to undo an achievement; those lists are forever (or as long as the game lasts).

But let's play with the thought that the Feats of Strength worked in a different way. What if it was the player who chose them? You could pick the ten achievements you were most proud over, as a declaration to the world: “Look at what I’ve done! Those are the top performances I have done!” A die hard PvP:er would of course display his best PvP achievements, a raider would highlight the most prestigious boss kills and the dedicated grinders would made no secret of their Loremaster or Insane titles.

Picking the best achievements would be a bit tricky and I’m not sure how my own list would look, but I know it would be different to what it is today. My Twilight Vanquisher title from April 2009 required far more strength than logging into WoW for the five year anniversary, that's for sure.

True Feats of Strength
Since it's my Friday night post, I'm letting my mind wander best it likes as we're enjoying our after-work pint. So now I'll stroll away and talk a bit about what I would consider to be the True Feats of Strength, which is someting quite different to the stuff that Blizzard rewards.

If you think about it: aren't there ever so many game related activities that will require patience, effort and courage? Those deeds will never be documented in a log, never flashed out as a guild message - and yet they are what will stick to our memories as we one day in the future will recall our years of WoW playing.

What's the bravest thing you ever did in Azeroth? When did you find yourself at a turning point, taking a hard decision that took you in an entirely new direction in the game? Which are the deeds that required all strength you could ever come up with? When did you challenge yourself with a task that seemed way out of your reach, taking the risk of a bitter and embarrassing failure?

When I think back at my own time in Azeroth I believe one of the bravest things I ever did was to take the plunge into the unknown, switching to a server where I didn't know a single soul, to join a guild that was raiding 25 man T5, while all I knew was how to Karazhan. A true feat of strength. Or the moment when I pressed the cubes in Magtheridon for the first time in the spring 2008. Looking back it seems as a fairly simple thing to do, but to me - it was huge!

Joining Adrenaline, taking a leap in difficulty and expectations was another one. I knew that I would be on trial for weeks; There was no guarantee I would pass it and if I didn’t it would pretty terrible in my records. "Why did you leave your former guild?" "Ahem. They thought I sucked so I was asked to leave..." But somehow I overcame my fears and took the chance, aware, regardless of the risks.

The fact that I've stuck to my guild ever since, being there through ups and downs, no matter what, is also something I feel good about, even I most of all think that I'm just privileged and lucky to have found such a good home. So probably it's not a true feat of strength. But it's important to me. The guild anniversaries outlast Blizzard's anniversaries by far!

And then there are the offline, but still WoW related activities. The very idea to start to blog in English took me a bit of courage, and to keep doing it for such a long time and with such intensity is probably Feat of strength material, (even if it’s also bordering to being a candicate for the Insane in the Membrane title. 600 blog posts, all about one single video game? Am I out of my mind?).

I won’t ever be able to write into my Feat of Strength log: "This mage is a dedicated WoW blogger since February 2008." But it sure would tell more about me as a player than the fact that I once got a Green Brewfest Stein more or less by accident.

Real Life Feats of Strength
This post is going towards its end, but before you head off for another pint in the bar or a nightly conversation in front of the fireplace, I'll ponder a little over the next level of Feats of Strength.

Have you ever thought about how your Real Life Feat of Strength list would look?

Taking the risk to be a little boring and predictable, I believe that my Mother title would top my list. The fact that I've given birth to and raised two children never ceases to amaze me. My list would also include some radical changes my life direction. Moving to a new place to live, switching jobs and career. Daring to step up when the situation required it - even if I didn't think I was fit to do it.

Then there are some feats of strength that are more on the sad side, feats I would rather have been without. Experiences such as dealing with deaths in the family, situations where I’ve been forced to act more like a “grown-up” than I had asked for, taking responsibility not only for myself, but for others. You know. The crap we all will encounter sooner or later in our lives, either we're prepared for it or not.

My conclusion - what I’m really trying to say with this post - is that I think we give ourselves too little credit for what we achieve in life.

We're so quick to identify our shortcomings and - the job we didn't get, the so-and-so grades, the GF/BF that dumped us, the friend we let down, the competition we lost, the opportunities we missed because we took the wrong decision. We love to dwell on it, calling ourselves all sorts of names. Fail mother. Fail friend. Fail lover. Fail student. Fail, fail, fail. But how we think back of our success stories, how often do we even notice them? How often do we recongize that we that we make a difference?

We have so much to be proud of, even if it doesn't show in a feed or will be celebrated with a flash message on a screen. Don't ever forget that.

It’s time to finish and bring out a Friday night toast. This one is for all our real Feats of strength - in the past and in the future.