Friday, February 26, 2010

The Picture of the Day

I had planned to write a rather long and thoughtful post. It’s almost finished, so you’ll see it soon, don’t worry. But something else came in my way that I just have to get out of my system.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I seem to have lived in a bubble, a dream world, where I believed that the WoW community was an astounding bunch of people, hosting smart, creative, differently thinking men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, from all over the world.

This environment, especially the blogosphere of course, has always inspired me. It’s kind of silly, but whenever I read for instance Tamarind and his academically influenced walls-of-text I always feel a little bit smarter myself. It’s an illusion, but in someway I can’t help thinking his smartness is sticky, that some of it will influence me when I read, think and react to his blogposts.

Or take Tim Howgego, the creator of El’s Extreme Anglin’, but also the man behind some less know, but yet brilliant essays on his personal blog. This guy is what I would call SMART, and as far as you can come from the old cliché about the fat, stupid no-lifer living in his mothers basement.

It’s a community that I’ve always been proud to be a member of and interact with.

The Community team picture
But today something came in my way that made me cringe. I started to see things as they are in reality rather than in my fantasy. There may be small enclaves of intelligent people, like Tam and Tim, but the community on the whole is still just a Boys Club.

What made my pink coloured glasses fall off was the picture that the Blizzard Community team suddenly, out of the blue, posted in a forum thread.

There’s nothing wrong about posting the photo, quite the opposite. From a PR perspective I approve - this is a way to give this mega sized and rather anonymous cooperation a few more faces than GC. Nothing bad about him, but the creation of WoW isn't a one-man show. We still don’t know who’s who, but the picture shows a bunch of pretty young, casually dressed, smiling people, who seems to be happy with what they’re doing and look pretty much as I suppose that my guildies look.

What makes me annoyed isn’t the picture, but the community reaction to it. Have you seen it? On the official forums there are already 12 pages of comments and more incoming. At the MMO Champion, it’s the same. Commenters aren’t discussing the latest incoming changes to classes anymore. It’s all about The Picture. Or rather: it’s all about ONE person in the picture: the “hot” red haired chick in the middle, Nethaera (edit: or possibly some one else, according to one of the commenters to this post).

Drooling 14 year olds
Drooling 14 year old boys, who are about to explode from a hormone overdose any minute. They’re all over the place. Is this the WoW fan community showing its real face? I’ve always found non-girls-allowing guilds quite silly or even repugnant. But suddenly I can see the need. Those males aren’t humans. They’re animals.

It’s a Boys Club. And I look at myself into the mirror and ask: what am i doing here?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It came from the bar: The Simple Pleasures.

Once again one of the guests frequenting the bar of The Pink Pigtail Inn has decided to speak up and share a story with us. As a matter of fact, this voice is getting quite familiar, since it's the same guest writer as the previous times, Holly Elizabeth from the US Feathermoon server. New or not, she's very much appreciated by the innkeeper who takes the opportunity to slack a little bit in a corner, just listening to the buzz, sipping a pint.

This time Holly has done something rarely seen at The PPI: she has included a bunch of fancy screenshots. Now, Blogger isn't exactly the best tool for doing flashy goodlooking posts with a ton of screenies. And as if this wasn't enough: Holly also wanted to provide a link to a video. "Imbed it", she said.

Larísa has been scratching her head, trying to figure out how to make the pictures and the video look if not glorious, at least decent. There's a distinct risk however that this won't work as intended. After all: this blog was made for writing walls of text, not for publishing pretty pictures. Anyway: if it looks horrible, we just want to let you know that Holly is innocent. Blame Larísa.

And now... take away your eyes from Larísa and listen to Hollly's story!

Hello again! After doing a mind numbing amount of heroics on my newest 80, grinding old world dungeons on my lowbie (it has tree form now!), and questing for a few hours on my lowest of lowbies, I started to get bored of yellow question marks and looking for dungeon queues.

It was about this time I realized something, I hadn't really just enjoyed the World of Warcraft in a long time. It had become to me, all about progression, get to the next level, get to the next item, get to the next raid, get to the next...well anything, when was the last time I, to coin an old addage, stopped to smell the roses?

I realized it had been a very long time, burning crusade long actually. I remember after grinding island dailies for many many moons, getting my slow flyer on my priest and flying for hours. Flying was so cool then! I used to tease Honor Hold and see how long I could stay with the debuff dodging the things they shot at you, dive bombing on unexpecting players and see if I could surprise them, teasing the felreaver by aggroing him then flying out of his reach! I had hours of enjoying the beautiful skies, and hitting the flight barrier and watching my mount have a heart attack.

My drood engineer made it's roflcopter and I enjoyed sitting idle in the air, watching the engines cut off (it's idle animation) it dropping only to be saved at the last second by the engines coming back on in Blizzard's sick way of saying 'we -could- have made this malfunction too!.'

So when was the last time I just really had fun looking around? It'd been a while, and I was going to fix it. The question was, where to start. I actually just spent about four hours flying around Northrend and outland, turning down every dungeon invite I got, explaining to people I couldn't run their lowbie through stocks because gosh darnit, I wanted a day to just play.

I then spent another three hours or so running around Azeroth, and I had -fun-. I went to try to find places I hadn't been before, like if you head south from Feralas via ocean, on the very southwest tip of Sillithus is an empty tauren village, and an empty cave! I had heard about it but went to see it for myself (yay for levitate.) It occured to me towards the end, when I was visiting some of my favorite places, to actually take screenshots to torture you with! And also luckily the sunnart viewpoint art add-on I use makes the perfect place to post commentary to burn your eyes!

Have you just given up with the fast paced dungeon from time to time? Maybe go farming for a pet you wanted for a while, or visit some of your favorite locations? I recommend if you do, putting on classical music (I did Pachelbel's canon in D mostly because of the rant I'm going to link below because it is -hilarious)

I highly recommend if you're getting burned out with the 'gogogo' attitude, if you find yourself longing for Cataclysm for some fresh air to just....stop, and go play in the world, it's massive! There are so many fun things, go hang out with Mario and Luigi twins in Un'goro. Explore some of the caves in sillyfish! Have fun and just see what -you- can find, or look up some of the references in Warcraft, and go find them for yourself!

Hope that made you giggle! It did me, now I'll give Larisa the spotlight back, even though it's so pretty, and warm, and makes my lunar festival drink even sparklierererest. . . nooo don't take it back, my light! my light! gah! stupid unhumanly gnome strength *sad face*

Holly over and out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Guy Who Wanted to Become One in the Crowd

We got a spontaneous application to the guild from someone who had found his way to us through The Pink Pigtail Inn. It was nicely written, he was dedicated, experienced, well geared and full of knowledge about his class and the game in general.

There was just one minor problem. Or I should rather say: major problem to be honest: he hadn’t read my blog closely enough to realize that we’re a EU guild on a EU server. And even though you can change most things with your characters in the game as long as you’re willing to pay for it – server, hair colour, race and even faction – you still can’t cross the Atlantic barrier. I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to. So I’m afraid he’s not likely to join us anytime soon.

The pillar who wanted to leave
However, my reason for bringing up this application in a blog post isn’t to once again complain about the ocean barriers (which I deeply hate, since it effectively keeps me from ever being able to come over and say “hi” to Gnomeaggedon). No, I’m writing about it because I couldn’t help being somehow touched by his story.

Apparently he was one of those pillars that you’ll find in every fairly successful raiding guild, one of those who keep the place going, one of those who other players put their trust into. It was just that he was sick and tired of this role and he needed to find a way out of it.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“The more I think about it the more I realize I don't wanna be a Class Leader anymore (nor Officer, nor Loot master, nor part of the loot council, nor Backup raid leader, none of it, nor even a 10-man raid leader for that matter), I just wanna be there Blasting the boss and being happy with it.”

“I'm tired of being the guy that explains the fights on vent and tell people how to survive this or that, I'm tired of being the one people come to ask where to put a talent point, what gear to get or how to enchant/gem it, I'm tired of being the one that organizes the non-official raids and that replaces the RL if he can't make it for some reason, I'm tired of being asked "[name], who do you think should get that item"... Dunno if I'm being clear enough but, for a change, I just wanna be the guy with a light blue name plate that throws colored shining things at the boss.”
Possible to step down?
I think many players who ever have been in a leading role in a guild can recognize the sentiments, even though it’s something you really can’t share with anyone except for possibly fellow officers. It comes with the job, and that’s why it’s advisable to think twice before accepting such a position.

However your feelings toward a job can change over time. People get burned out and should be able to step down, letting someone else have a go at trying their leadership skills. The question is: is it even possible to do it? Can you leave your duties and remain in the guild in a new position in the background?

In theory and the best of worlds, the answer is “yes” of course, but in practice I think it’s quite hard. Being a true leader isn’t just a technical thing where you set a certain rank in the guild management settings. It goes far beyond that, and if you’ve once been chosen for a certain role in a group - not by being appointed, but by gaining their trust - it’s if not impossible, at least very hard to change it. It takes a huge effort from everyone involved and a lot of communications if you want to step down to become one of the foot soldiers hiding in the shadows.

A clean cut, a new start in a fresh guild is probably the easiest way to go if you really want to succeed in your mission to gain a lower rank.

Enjoying the crowd position
I don’t know what will happen to this applicant. He seemed a little bit unsure himself, not 100 percent certain that he really wanted to leave his guild. And isn’t that typical by the way? He’s feeling responsible to the very end, even though it apparently had turned the game into something more stressful than his ordinary job.

I can only wish him good luck and hope that he’ll eventually be able to play again from a perspective that he enjoys fully.

And to all the rest of you, who like me are just ordinary raiders without any special rank, I’ve got a message: Even if you’re not aware of it, I bet many of the officers wouldn’t mind changing with you. You see: the truth is that officers aren’t just people with high status. Most of all they’re servants. We in the faceless crowd are actually the privileged ones, we who don’t have to worry about anything else but nuking the boss and watching the pretty yellow numbers on the screen. Enjoy what you have!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

VoA Achievement Request: A Triumph of Stupidity

A guildie of mine couldn’t get a pug spot in VoA. Why? He didn’t have the achievement for the latest boss. The fact that he had cleared three wings in ICC or that he had ridiculous good gear, spotting four pieces of T10 and belonged to one of the most successful and well established raiding guilds on the server didn’t matter. “Link achievement or no invite.”

I know I probably shouldn’t write another rant about this, it’s like beating a dead horse, as I think you English people put it. Everyone knows about the Link-achievement and Gearscore stupidity that has invaded our game, sucking the fun out of it. But I just can’t refrain from having another go at it because it makes me so mad and I need to get it out of my system.

The VoA embarrassment
Asking for achievements as a qualifier for an invitation to VoA is nothing but insane. The instance is so ridiculously easy that it’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for Blizzard, who put it up in the first place, without any proper design, just reusing some old models, not putting any effort whatsoever into the environment. And it’s embarrassing for the players, since it’s the essence of a loot oriented playstyle, where challenges and efforts mean nothing.

VoA is far easier than many, if not all of the five-man heroic instances. Totalbiscuit did a lust murder on the topic in his last Blue Plz Show, and I can’t but agree on everything he said. That place IS an abomination. It’s disgusting, it’s lazy design, and it’s actually an insult towards any raider who has spent a number of nights wiping on pretty challenging bosses in ICC to just hand out those tier pieces in a weekly lottery.

So thinking closely about I maybe should congratulate my guildie for not being invited to that horrid place. He hasn’t missed anything, except for the opportunity to become incredibly bored with a boss that, to quote Totalbiscuit, is just standing there doing NOTHING, just waiting to be looted.

Nevertheless – I can’t blame him for wanting to see the frost dude at least once with his own eyes. Content is content, right? So when I ended up in a 10-man pug for VoA this weekend (greedily collecting the last few frost emblems I needed for a crafted upgrade – I promise, I won’t make it a habit to go there) and there was a spot open, I quickly managed to get him invited. He got his achievement and I guess it will do as an entrance ticket for the 25 mans in the future. If he ever wants to do it again that will say. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.

But to all those little boys with small egos and probably even smaller… well you know… to those disgusting little creeps, I just want to say that you should be GRATEFUL if a player of the calibre of my guildie wants to join your run. I despise you when you request achievements and a skyrocketing gear score for such a pathetic mission as to clear a place that doesn’t deserve to be called a raid instance, since it’s nothing but a loot machine. If anything you should be begging for him to come and help you out, because he’s far better than you deserve.

Awwww. Feel the rage!

A few thinking people
Thanks God there still are a few thinking people out there, who gives me some kind of hope for the future of mankind. There are players who make their own judgements, based on knowledge about the game and all the classes, players who look upon Gearscore requests as an insult. A few days ago I saw someone advertising an ICC pug, saying: “If you link your Gearscore I’ll put you on ignore”. More of that, please!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Can This Sugar Kick Really Last Until November?

Something's been going on for a while in the Blogosphere, but it wasn't until last week that it became clearly viewable: the small, but distinct signs that we've hit the next phase in this expansion. We're approaching the No man's land - the time when you're done with the current content, but there's nothing new incoming anytime soon.

Decrease of Energy Level

There's been a distinct decrease of energy and activity in the community. Our dearest hunter blogger Pike is leaving. Not because she's done with the game - she still assures that she's as hooked as ever - it's just that real life is calling her. Still the effect is the same. It's sad to see the veterans go.

Others are not quitting entirely, but are openly talking about cutting down their time spent on WoW radically. Nibuca wants to spend more time on other hobbies, Mike Schramm is going into an hibernation period, Brigwyn is having doubts about his future blogging and Dechion is most of all longing for Cataclysm. To be honest this WoW lethargy debuff seems to have effected more or less everyone, at least in the part of the Blogosphere where I dwell. Last week it was as if people had run out of things to talk about. The blog roll showed more and more blogs not updating for days or several weeks. And once they update, the bloggers are rather talking about other games such as Star Trek and Starcraft 2, which still have some novelty aura around them, than about WoW. It's as if the spark is gone now that the initial enthusiasm for random dailies have worn off, and the holiday events are more or less the same procedure as last year.

Candy to cranky children
However, just as I was about to write a post complaining about the lack of spirit, something happened that cheered us up radically. Blizzard seems to have felt the same vibes as I did, and quickly tossed out some news about incoming patches, and especially about the next raid dungeon - Ruby Sanctum . They're tossing a piece of meat to the barking dogs. We don't have any clear schedule for it, but the very knowledge that it will come is enough to make us excited.

Actually it reminds me a bit of what happens if you give candy to cranky children. Their moods will instantly raise to a distinctly higher level. And that's nice of course. The only problem is that it's far from sustainable. The jump-up will inevitably be followed by an equally sudden and deed fall-down, as soon as the effects from the sugar kick has worn off. The cranky child will be back - and this time he or she is in even worse shape than before.

And I'm afraid that this decrease of atmosphere will come far sooner than we would like. Remember Onyxia? It didn't take many goes before we decided that we were done with her again No one's doing her, no one's talking about it. I fear Ruby Sanctum will be about the same, with the difference that there is a hardmode available.

What to do until November?
Back in October Elinia, my former bartender, did a prediction that Cataclysm would be released on February 1 2010. He was dead wrong of course. I guess it was an effect of wishful thinking. Being a non-raider he was running out of content way earlier than a raider like me.

Long after it stood clear that the prophecy was wrong, readers of the PPI have kept discussing this issue in the comments to that post. It's been suggested that it won't be launched until November. And even though I'm an normally an optimist I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be right. It makes sense to release a game with Christmas sales not too far away. At least it makes more sense than if they'd try to sell Cataclysm in August/September, when there's still summer temperature and everyone except for the most dedicated enthusiasts would rather spend time outdoors than powerlevelling their toon to 85.

I can understand the reasons for Blizzard not to rush the expansion. It's not only about timing to maximize the sales; they've got a reputation for high quality to care about. So far the playerbase has so far been very forgiving about the slow pacing of content, as long as they keep up their standards. This time around the community as well as the expectations are bigger than ever. Perfection takes time to execute.

However, I can't help feeling slightly worried about the long wait. Let's say we get this new raid instance in April. I don't think that's a rather realistic guess. And let's say that it keeps us occupied for a month or two, as a complement to ICC to give us more variety in our weekly raiding.

What will happen next? It's just like with my rogue when she was combat specced - I pushed that adrenaline rush button and it really improved the game play for a while, but it only lasted ever so long, and when it was gone it was gone and it felt kind of empty.

There's an evident risk that players - among them probably some bloggers - will go on a hiatus, at least until the 4.0 pre-patch of Cataclysm, which we could expect a month before it will be launched. I don't blame them, but I'll miss them.

The long wait for Cataclysm
In my mind I'm already preparing for a very, very long wait for Cataclysm. I can't rely on the community buzz or an abundance of new extra content to keep up my energy level and enthusiasm for the game. If I want to play all the way into the expansion, I have to find out the fun stuff, the lust, the sparkles, the motivation by myself - especially when we've reached the point when we've downed Lich King and done the hardmodes that are within our grasp.

So what to do? Well, I can always go back to my things-I-want-to-do-before-I'm done-with-WoW-list. It's actually really good. Yesterday afternoon I rolled a troll shaman, and to my own amazement I had a ton of fun just casually doing the quests in the starting area. I pondered over how to use totems - without looking at advice on EJ and other places, just trying to figure it out for myself. I died quite a few times and I haunted the lands in the form of a ghost, with a smile on my face. I got lost in the very first cave, just as I did with Larísa so long ago in Don Morogh. I admired my discrete tusks and I enjoyed the game music in the troll villages, suddenly falling in love with this race, just out of the blue.

It's new content. A LOT of new content, just waiting for me to come and devour it. I don't know how long this sugar kick will last me, but it definitely looks promising.

What about you? Do you think you can keep up your passion for WoW if Cataclysm won't come until November?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chaotic ventrilo in Paragon raids

I've understood that Scandinavian people often are considered to be somewhat introvert. We may be talented for organization and efficiency, but when it comes to socializing we fail. We're shy, if you put it nicely, plain silent and even boring if you're more blunt.

Is it true or just prejudices? Well, I guess there was a grind of truth in it historically. On the other hand, the national borders and special features seem to fade away these days, not the least thanks to the modern global life style, where we take for granted that we interact with people from all over the world on the daily basis, in MMO:s and otherwise.

Some people don't like to blend up with other nationalities though. And apparently Paragon, the guild which in the moment I'm writing this is closest to grab the world-first kill of the heroic Lich King, is one of those.

Paragon inerview
In the latest issue of the Swedish WoW Magazine Level, they have a very well timed interview with one of their officers, Lazeil, who tells a bit more about the guild and how they're raiding. I didn't know a thing about them, so it was quite an interesting read. What especially brought my attention was the fact that this guild is entirely Finnish. But this doesn't mean that the raids are silent, on the contrary. I'm quoting Lazeil:

"We have chaos. Complete chaos. If someone wants to say something you plainly have to shout louder than anyone else. My sound input is a bit higher than the one everyone else, because if I'm leading the raid I must make myself heard somehow, so I normally shout a lot. There's so much noise, people shouting out what's happening, who's making an error, but somehow it works for us. New members are always wondering what the heck we're doing, but we love it. I remember when we were raiding Algalon and I was at home with my parents. I screamed so loud that they came to me and slammed the door. It's as one of our new members said: "You don't GET the chance to speak at the vent of Paragon - you TAKE it".
To be honest it wasn't quite the image I would have of our neighbors in the east. On the other hand they DO live up some other expectations. A high consumption of alcohol is a part of the Finnish raiding culture, according to Lazeil.

I'm somewhat surprised I must admit. Like the interviewer, I would rather have expected a guild of this caliber to have a military discipline in the vent channel, where only the raid leader and a couple of assistants were allowed to talk. And they're Finns! They're not supposed to be talkative. In our guild we have only one Finn and I still don't know how his voice sounds.

A ventrilo culture
I guess that in every guild a ventrilo culture will develop naturally over time, regardless of nationality or how far progressed the guild is. Our guild is multinational and I suppose somewhere on the upper part on the raiding scale. We're definitely not any elite guild, but we take our raiding seriously. And our vent is often so silent that it happens that I start worrying that vent has stopped working for me. I have to whisper a fellow raider just to make sure: "Am I missing something on vent right now, or is it just silent?".

Sure, we do get assignments, we do coordinate stuff and we are allowed or even encouraged to speak up in appropriate times, providing some entertainment during corpse runs. But most of the time people don't say anything more than necessary, and to be honest I find it peaceful and even necessary for me to keep my concentration. The kind of chaos that Paragon has would have a seriously bad impact on my ability to perform. But to each one his own.

Yesterday night we finally got Putricide down, after some weeks of frustration. I honestly think we would have gotten him earlier, if it hadn't been for the lag feast we've been suffering from for a while. Anyhow, it was a huge relief for everyone, and of course there were some happy cries at vent, but far from deafening.

And I couldn't help wondering how it sounded when Paragon got their first kill of him, over a month earlier. If their normal state of vent is chaos, what is it like in the moments of triumph? Tinnitus warning I suppose. They've definitely got another vent culture. Not because of their origins but because they're just a different kind of guild.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blizzard's Secret Club for Selected Guilds

Did you know that Blizzard has a special program for selected guilds?

I bet you didn't, since they don't market it very much. I happened to stumble upon this as I was exploring one of the darkest corners of Blizzard's official European website, the part which they have dedicated to community related information. Upon further investigation I found a similar page on the US equivalence, where they also linked to a list of the participating guilds. (I dcouldn't find any list for EU, so I guess we're just not good enough.)

Currently there are four guilds in the world who are subjects for this special treatment, if I should believe in the list. And why shouldn't I? Admittedly there isn't any "latest update" information, which I really think this kind of website should have, but you would expect a company as Blizzard to keep their information correct and relevant, right?

The privileges
So what privileges do those four guilds enjoy? Well, among other things they get:
  • "Eligibility to participate in upcoming beta tests" and
  • "Invitations to live online chat sessions with Blizzard game designers".

Wow. Who wouldn't want that for your guild? Especially since they also add the exciting sentence: "Additional features and benefits to come!". I wonder what that would be. Let me guess... an exclusive vanity pet? Guided private tours in the Blizzard HQs? An authentic GC pony? The sky is the limit.

And how do you become a member of this illustrious club?

It seems as if you qualify by doing good deeds for the community. If you read the list of examples they provide, it's apparently a merit to participate in constructive discussions at the official WoW discussion forums. The guild relations section is especially mentioned as a place where you should be active. You can also write fan fiction, create gaming guides that you make available for the community or do WoW-related movies.

They don't mention running a WoW blog, but I suppose that the work that some of the more prominent and informative kind of bloggers do would count as a merit. "Anything else that demonstrates a genuine willingness to help other members of the World of Warcraft community is welcome", as Blizzard states.

How to apply
I know there's more than one guild out there hosting a bunch of bloggers, making movies, guides, even podcasts, guilds that would be more than willing to become beta testers and have exclusive chats with the designers. And of course you're wondering: how do we apply?

I'm sorry to tell you: you don't. They seem to have a "don't call us, we'll call you" approach to the recruitment to the program. On the EU info page, they put it like this:

"Once enough members of a particular guild begin to stand out in this fashion, the leader of the guild will receive an invite via the email address registered to his/her World of Warcraft account, along with further details".

Kind of exciting thought, isn't it? Which guild leader wouldn't become extremely flattered to get such a recognition from Blizzard themselves? And to such an exclusive club! Only four guilds in the entire world are included in this!

To be realistic though, would you really trust such an e-mail if you got it? I probably wouldn't. It's a never-heard of program with benefits that sound very much like the ones that are offered in the scam letters filling our spam boxes. Probably I'd rather tear it into pieces, trying to erase every trace of it from my computer to prevent those bastards from stealing my account. Sad, isn't it?

Does it exist?
Honestly, I'm not certain that this guild program still exists. My website browsing instinct tells me that this looks more like the leftovers from an idea they had once upon a time. It never took off, it was replaced by something else, faded away and they've just forgotten to remove the information. Why else would they be so silent about it? There are also more evident signs that the information is old. The European article mentions the "now Guild Relations forum", and as far as I know this has been around for years. On the other hand the four guilds that actually are on the list seem to be active and running, which speaks for that they at least pay some attention to it, otherwise there would probably have been some dead links around.

Alive or not, I think it's a bit of a shame that the program is dwelling in the shadows. There's nothing wrong about the idea as such. It wouldn't cost Blizzard that much effort to handle out some beta keys and possibly chat a couple of times with the players who build and maintain the community. Day after day those players enhance the gaming experience without getting as much as a "thank you" in return.

The question is: why not pick it up again? I reckon there's a beta for Cataclysm incoming in a not too far distant future. They say that they plan to encourage guilds, for instance by the idea of guild levelling. Wouldn't a selected guild program fit pretty well into this? All it takes is a brush-up of the webpage and a little bit of marketing.

By the way Blizzard gods, in case you're stumbling upon on this post as by a miracle: I wouldn't mind if you sent an invitation letter to my guild master. It's perfectly OK with me. I won't sue you. No kidding.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Are the hard mode bosses going down too easily?

So the match is still going on. Or at least it was as I wrote this post in the middle of the night, before going to sleep. I'm talking about the battle of the first world kill of the Lich King in heroic mode. The hardest boss in the final instance. The crown of this expansion. A handful of guilds are currently playing day and night, because they know that the one who snatches the first kill will be regarded as the kings of the game in the next few months.

Admittedly, most WoW players probably have no idea that this race is going on. According to the news today, 70 percent of the players who try WoW will stop before they turn level 10. People are just WAY more casual than I think any of us realize. They've never heard of Ensidia, Paragon or Vodka. As a matter of fact I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the players only have a vague idea about what ICC is. It's easy to forget this. We keep taking for granted other people share our interests in the game. Actually most of them probably don't.

Complaints have started
I don't know if I'll wake up tomorrow morning to the news that the king is dead and the race is over. Maybe. Maybe not.

What I do know though is that the complaints have already started. At this moment all bosses but Putricide and Lich King have been killed in hard modes. And people are already writing about it in the forums. This is a typical example, coming from the MMO-champion forum:

"It's pathetic that hard modes are getting crushed this easily. I was expecting a few weeks minimum before limited attempt bosses would start going down".

In one way I guess the posters are feeling a bit disappointed. They would have liked to see the Top of the Top among players struggling for a while more. It's kind of exciting to follow after all. And when they kill everything so fast and seemingly easy, isn't that a bit humiliating to the developers who "failed" to give them some proper resistance?

But in all honesty I don't agree with those concerns. I can't help thinking they're a bit silly, even embarrassing, since I don't believe for a second that most of those people whining would be capable of doing those quick heroic kills themselves. They want to believe that they're somehow in the same class of those elite guilds, when in fact they're not. They will be quite likely to wipe with the rest of us for yet a couple of months.

The whole idea that you should tune the encounters so that they should be worthy opponents to the best handful of players in the world is just ridiculous. They ARE challenged already - by the limited attempts and by the pressure to play day and night, on mains, on alts, in 10 mans, in 25 mans, just to become number 1. Sure, they're doing it within a short time span, but they're definitely challenged and have to make up a good strategy on whether to practice with their alts or switch over to their main attempts.

A cross country race
I come to think of when I ran the women class of Lidingöloppet, one of the largest cross country races in the world a few years ago. It was a 10 km run and it wasn't like anything I had ever encountered before. Where I live the terrain is flat, but Lidingöloppet constantly went either up or down, and in the very end there was a hill that resembled to a slope where you're going downhill racer skiing that you were supposed to climb.

I conquered that hill and I finished the race out of pure will, high on adrenaline, carried by the cheering masses and my own insanity. I did it on 58 minutes, blood taste in my mouth, more exhausted than I had ever been in my life, stumbling around, completely lost, on the verge of unconsciousness. But happy. My goal had been to beat 1 hour and I did it!

Sure, there were people in the race that ran it on 34 minutes. But did that matter to me? Did that in anyway decrease my own achievement? Did I think: "oh, this race was really too easy for the elite runners, they should have made them run up that hill another 10 times so they would have had some proper resistance? " Of course I didn't! They had their challenge to beat each other. I had my challenge to reach my own goals.

The nature of the challenge will always depend on the circumstances, from where you are coming.

I'm not entirely certain that our guild will be able to beat the Lich king in heroic mode before the expansion. I'm pretty sure we'll manage it in normal, but heroic? This remains to see.

Ensidia and Paragon may have beaten some of those bosses very quickly, but they're in a completely different class, just like the 34 minute runners are different from me.

To sum it up: I don't worry. I really don't. I think we'll be occupied in ICC for quite a while before we nail all those fights that are awaiting us. We will still be out in the trail, running, while the top guilds are gone, doing something else while they're waiting for Cataclysm. I'm actually not even sorry for them. Sure, they're running out of content. The trail ends there for them. But that was exactly what they were aiming for.

In a few hours I may wake up to the news that the heroic Lich King is dead. And it doesn't worry me at all. So my answer to the question I put initially will be: No. The bosses don't go down too easily. At least I don't assume it before I've tried them myself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Angry Rant About Server Lag and Blizzard’s Lack of Communication

Let’s put it straight: I’m starting to go low on my mental mana. There’s a curse put on me, a dot that slowly is draining me on whatever energy I have, sucking the fun out of my WoW playing. It’s spelled l-a-g.

I’m not talking about the “normal” kind of lag, that all players every once in a while will encounter, which basically is caused by faults in our own computer. We all know that if a 25 man raid suddenly decides to aoe a crapload of trash mobs, you can expect the fps to go down in the drain, turning the game into a still picture show. And there’s a lot we can do about it, such as turning down our graphics, refraining from the use of addons or simply by investing in a better machine to play on. I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

No, the kind of lag I’m talking about is beyond any description, and it has affected the server I’m playing on (Stormrage, EU) for several weeks by now. Since the patch last week though, it has gone from bad to catastrophic.

Complete malfunction
To be fair, I don’t think “lag” is an appropriate word for the phenomena; it’s rather a matter of complete malfunction of the game. However it only appears at prime raiding time, between 7 pm and 9 pm, after which it slowly decreases to disappear around 10 pm. It doesn’t show on the ms meter. Judging from that, everything is business as usual. But looking at the consequences of it, the ms number should be six-digit.

The lag feast starts already as we’re logging in. The log in screen is somewhat pretty, but I assure that after studying the “tips of the day” for five or even ten minutes, and you know the raid is supposed to start soon, it starts to become rather annoying.

And then it goes on in the same manner. We all know that interacting with vendors can be a bit of a pain in Lagaran, but now this slowness has spread to Ironforge. If you’re one of the poor souls dwelling at my server, you can expect the NPCs to ponder at minimum of 30 seconds before deciding whether to buy your trash or sell you some reagents.

Maybe you want to check what’s in your mail box next? Well, count on waiting for a minute before you can even see what’s in your box. And good luck if you want to loot them for your latest AH bargains. Won’t happen.

Would you like to make some potions or buff food before your raid? Forget it. You’ll probably smash your pc out of pure frustration before you’ve even made one stack.

In the old days world lag used to be a lesser issue once you entered the raid instance. But this has changed. The Gunship battle, that used to be amusing, with the fancy, silly rocket jumping, is insanely boring when every spell cast takes you at least five seconds and your feet are like glued to the ground. We spent at least half an hour just getting thorough it last raid, after wiping the first time, because of the complete randomness that the delay will cause. It definitely didn’t work as intended.

And while I normally love progression raids, wiping on new bosses, learning the encounter, this has become a pain. Every wipe results in that we have to zone in, and therefore once again getting stuck on the loading screen for several minutes. Sure, you can try to avoid it as much as possible, dying near the entrance and ressing people on the spot. But should this really be necessary?

To this you should of course add the "additional instances can't be launched" issue, which forces our officers to come online at least an hour before we're supposed to start so they can start trying to get us an instance - it will take them a while. It's not the same issue as the server lag, but you bet it's annoying.

Spamming “report lag”
I guess you can hear from my voice that I’m pissed. I really am. And of course I’m spamming the “report lag” button all night long, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. At least they shouldn’t be able to say that we never told them about our misery!

So far it hasn’t resulted in any change. One time I took some time to write a more detailed report, explaining all the problems, including the slow loading screen, which isn’t any option in the “report lag button” feature. But the only answer I got was a standard letter, which suggested me to use the “report lag” button instead and that I should to go to their forums and check out their suggestions how to improve your system performance.

And I tell you my friends, that the pieces of advice you’ll find there are an insult when you’ve been suffering from server lag so badly and for such a long time as we have now.

“Remove your Interface, WTF and Cache folders”. Yada yada yada. It’s about as relevant as to tell the passengers who are waiting for a delayed airplane to polish their shoes or cut their toe nails.

What Blizzard should do
I have no idea what’s causing the server lag. The most common theory I’ve heard is that Stormrage was one of the first European servers and that the hardware is getting old and needs to be upgraded. I’ve seen suggestions also that the bracelet creation boxes of the Valentine event somehow have added more strain on the system. But honestly, we’ve had our prime-time lag for much longer than this event, so I don’t buy that explanation.

Hopefully Blizzard has an idea about what’s going on. I still carry a vague hope that things will improve over time. If not, I’m afraid they’ll lose customers. The game is barely playable at peak times as it is now. And even though players may put up with that for a short period, like immediately after the launch of an expansion, they won’t accept it in the long run. They’ll look for some game that actually works. And now we’re not just talking about a handful of annoyed players with old, sucky computers – we’re talking about a whole server population – or possibly several, since it seems as if it’s affecting the entire battle group. Successful businessmen don’t neglect their customers.

However: I really think that Blizzard should reconsider how they communicate about this kind of problems with the players. They’ve admitted that there are some problems in a post at the EU forums. “We’re aware of that there are some realms where players are experiencing high latency issues”. But that’s far from enough in my opinion. It wouldn’t cost them much effort to provide a server specific message as you were logging in, telling about the state of your current realm. They could list the problems that are reported – the looting, loading screens and slow spell casting. They could also tell us that they’re working on it and an expected time frame, either for when the problem will be solved or – if they can’t tell – when they will update this information.

They should do exactly what professional transport companies do when there are delays in the traffic. You admit it, you inform about the nature of the problem, what has caused it and when you expect it to be fixed. And if you don’t know when it will be fixed, you will set a time for the next update of information.

You see: most players are rather patient, either we’re wearing the title or not. We can accept a ton of annoyances and things not working as intended. After all an MMO is a rather complicated thing to run. A ton of things might go wrong. We understand it and we accept it. But we want something in return: communication! Confirm to us that there is a problem going on. Inform us about what you’re doing to solve it and when we can expect a change. That’s all it takes to keep us calm.

It’s strange that they haven’t figured that out by now. Damage reduction. The most basic of PR activites. Ever heard of it?


When I’m logging in for the raid tonight, there has been another server maintenance taking place. Maybe they figured it out this time. Maybe.

I’m really running out of mana. My pigtails are turning pale and lifeless. And the lag dot keeps ticking.

Puh. I think I'm done. This was quite a rant. But if you for some reason haven't had enough and want more angry testimonies about the current state of the game from a lag perspective, you can go to Screaming Monkey, Bio Brake and Slashgab.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Come rain! Come thunderstorms! Come blizzard!

Have you felt the earthquakes recently? They remind me of the days when I was struggling in Hellfire Peninsula, spending 75 percent of my online existence as a ghost. Every time I managed to get out of the way from the boars who ate me alive, I could count on that a fel reaver would stomp me into a pathetic pool of blood. The world trembled, and so did I, out of fear. (Actually I don’t think I’ve ever been as close to giving up and quitting the game as I was for a while there).

Now the world is shivering again, and even though we don’t see any direct consequences from it yet, it makes me smile out of excitement and expectation. Those quakes are not just a promise that we’ll see an expansion in a not too distant future. They are an example of that WoW still, in 2010, offers more than rollercoaster-like gimmic encounters and glorified chatrooms. There is still a WORLD out there, outside of the Dalaran lag feast, outside of the badge grinding and achievement hunts.

And there’s still someone in Irvine who cares about it! Not everyone in the Blizzard crew is assigned on RMT duties to find new ways to increase the incomes. Some guys are working on the world and maybe even - yes, I dare to say the forbidden word aloud! - our immersion in it!

The use of weather effects
I hope that the earthquakes marks the beginning of a new era, when Blizzard once again will use devices such as earth quakes and weather effects to make the world feel a little more believable and "for real".

Let's ponder a bit more upon the weather effects. Do you ever think about them, as you're doing your daily route of dungeon jumping? I bet you don't. Not much sunshine available in the Halls of Lightning, right?

Then I'd like to remind you that once upon a time the weather was a big deal and it was even launched as the only content in one of the earlier major patches.

According to this article from 2006 (found thank's to Wikipedia's article on weather), Blizzard had spent five years working on it and they were eager to see how the audience would receive it:

" 'Is there too much weather or not enough weather?' That's the big question that we're asking ourselves right now," said Kaplan. "I feel like the jury is still out on the weather." He wants everyone to experience a few weeks' worth or storms before they decide. “

It's said that they even had a special “weather guy” appointed, just to watch the fan reactions and possibly prepare some new weather patterns. (He did this on part time, apparently he was also working on The First Scourge Invasion, preceding the arrival of The Original Naxxramas.)

But you could guess that the rain, sunshine and sandstorms never got that much of fan love. The jury wasn't charmed. Or at least it wasn’t popular enough for them to allocate a lot of developing resources into any continuation. In the article they’re speculating world-events such as a monsoon, on seasonal weather that would have an impact on the world, such as herbs growing better after a rain. Nothing of this has happened as far as I know.

A step backwards
As a matter of fact TBC seems to have been a step backwards in weather terms, at least from my newbie point of view. The skies of Outlands were pretty, but they felt more like the painted ceiling of a cathedral than something you could believe in. They felt static and didn't make the world come alive.

This trend has continued in WotLK. Apart from the fog on a few beaches – which is constant and not quite as sophisticated as the randomly appearing weather in the vanilla zones – Blizzard doesn't seem to bother much about the weather anymore. While the atmosphere in for instance Redridge Mountains shifted radically depending on if it was in the dry or wet season, Borean Tundra is the same old place whenever you visit.

And I think it’s a shame. I don't suggest I'm representing the silent majority - probably many players don't think much about this aspect of the game. But nevertheless: I was much more impressed the first time I noticed that Larisa actually made real footprints walking in snow, than I was by any of the monsters I encountered in the starting zone. I thought to myself: so THIS is what they mean when they're talking about creating virtual worlds.

In TBC there were those nights when the rain was pouring from the grey sky as you were summoning your friends. In best case you were in the raid and could soon slip into the relatively cosy castle. In worst case you were on reserve spot and spent the night fishing at the pond, ice cold rain drops dripping in your neck, making you shiver.

That's all gone. And I don't know if it's just because the weather is gone or if it's because the speed has changed and we're in too much of a rush to bother to even pay attention to it.

Players don't care
Maybe the players who inhabit Azeroth these days just don't care. Like Brian "Psychochild Green" commented in on Wolfshead's recent post about the lack of immersion in the modern WoW:

"Initially the game was a deep world full of mystery for gamers to explore. As WoW has penetrated into more of the mainstream, they have to appeal to a different type of person. The geeks who want to live in a fantasy world are being displaced by people who see WoW as something a lot more social to do with others. It’s like playing golf or shooting pool: you play the game and bullshit with your friends. Getting immersed into the world isn’t important to WoW’s current audience. I think most of the hard-core gamers have left WoW by now, but it’s the more casual people who are interested in just hanging out that make up the larger audience now. So, while immersion might have been vital to the game at launch, it’s no longer such a major part of the game for the audience still playing."

He's probably right. He's a game developer after all and knows his stuff. And I'm just an old geek, still lingering in Azeroth in the hope to revive some of those first magical moments when I was wrapped up in the huge magical world. The foostep in the snow. The sandstorm covering me up in the desert of Tanarsis. I want to experience that thrill once again.

The earthquakes give me hope.

Come rain! Come thunderstorms! Come blizzard! Come Cataclysm! Shake up the world and make it come alive again!

Monday, February 8, 2010

It came from the bar: Roleplaying or Role Playing?

This is yet another guest post written by Holly from Feathermoon (US). As opposed to the innkeeper, who is a closet wanna-be-one-day role player, Holly does it for real.

The Difference Between Roleplaying and Role playing
What can a simple space mean in the world of roleplaying, at least to a silly little Holly bear? To me it means how serious you are about getting into the role, and what rules you're willing or enjoy breaking. Does your character fit into the world designed, game or not? Do you use out of character knowledge? Is the roleplay dramatic, comedic? Did you stick to the genre, or do something way out in left field?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's a wrong way to roleplay. It's just that depending on your style and seriousness of it, finding a group that accepts and enjoys what you do can do is the real challenge.

My Roleplaying Experience; Old, Older, and Present. No not presents, the present
Since well before joining World of Warcraft, I've often found ways to sneak into a roleplaying community. Sometimes it's erotic, sometimes fantasy, sometimes futuristic, but I've never been short of far too many identities to count. When I found World of Warcraft I started on a normal server (argent dawn, partly because it was the beta server) but soon moved to a roleplaying server (Feathermoon, mmmmm, Feathermoon)

I've hopped guilds a few times, and something that amazes me is the difference in roleplaying style and seriousness from group to group. Sometimes you have to do world RP and guild chat is restricted to out of character talk. Sometimes guild chat is in character and you don't world roleplay much, sometimes you get things like guild chat is in character officer chat is out of character, and then there's the seriousness of the roleplay.

The hardest thing I think when roleplaying is figuring out how much fourth wall you can break, and how much you limit yourself to the game mechanics. I've often found these two things tend to make or break how fun roleplay is. I've made many characters, serious and silly in various guilds, I usually take them from my stories (they're terrible, trust me, you don't want to read them.)

Lately though I've actually found myself in only one roleplaying guild, where the roleplay is so drastically different depending on which characters are on that it's mind boggling, sometimes it's more serious if our resident headmistress mage comes on. Sometimes it's so ridiculously off the wall when our waffle loving moonkin logs in and starts waving her kinetic waffle iron about. And my only real character, a mute, illiterate pallygirl raised by trolls (she's secretly a tauren pally in blood elf disguise***) fits somewhere between the two. I often wonder how I'd do in a more serious roleplaying guild these days.

I'd like to think I'd step up, and really get into character, a beautiful backstory, and not breaking the fourth wall, trying to stick to only in game references and knowledge. But honestly, lately my creative juices for roleplaying have mostly been run dry. The desire to slip into someone else's head is severely lacking and I think both my writing and my roleplaying has suffered greatly because of it.

Seeking Inspiration.
Normally when my creative juices run dry, and my desire to slip into another skin is a little light, life deals me a lemon, and that escape becomes much more desirable, lately though, the lemons I've gotten haven't helped inspired me.

Sometimes I find reading, either blogs, forums, books, magazines, anything I can get my hands on will get me in the writing mood. There's something about seeing words so eloquently written, ideas being converted into language everyone can understand, wonderful descriptions that transport me away from my little 6'x8' room in the middle of nowhere to rolling plains, beautiful skies, raging seas, or intimidating mountains, or climaxes that have you sitting on the edge of your seat, crying desperately in your lover's arms, or feeling a blissful moment lost in more wonderful thought, that can really get my creative juices flowing. I wish half the time I could write a tenth as well as some of the people I read (resident innkeeper included.) Lately though I've found my lack of skill at grammar and my usually generic ideas has left me feeling more bitter than creative.

So lately I've been trying to find a new inspiration, fire the old muses and hire a new one. I've been looking up beautiful works of art, to see if a visual muse might help me gain a passion for writing since my ability to draw doesn't extend far beyond stick figures. Because when I get the inspiration to write, I can, by association get the inspiration to get inside characters. I've tried opening myself to new experiences, trying new foods, new shows/movies, expanding my musical knowledge, etc. . . .

I hope to find my own inspiration soon, till then I have found the inspiration to send another post to the sexy gnome who, when she mans or womans the bar, needs a stepladder to see the customers and reach the bottles.

In closing I'd like to ask a few questions, okay?
To those who roleplay often, where do you find your inspiration? What type of roleplay do you enjoy most? Do you roleplay in game, in guild, in a private channel, or away from WoW altogether? Do my grammar and poor language skills make your eyes bleed? If your answer is yes, how do you type so plainly with bleeding eyes? Will I stop asking questions? Will Larisa bap me if I continue in this manner? Do gnomes really make a squishy sound when punted? How is a raven like a writing des-*ow!* Okay, stopping now, how do gnomes swing bar stools that ha-*ow!!!* Really stopping now, Holly over and out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Should we feel sorry for Ensidia?

It’s only February, but we have already a good candidate for the Pink Pigtail Inn award Guild drama of the year of 2010.

In less than 24 hours Ensidia didn’t just get the world first kill of the Lich King, they also got their achievement removed and a 72 hour ban, since it was judged to be the result of an exploit.

One of their prominent members, Muqq, wrote a rather agitated blog post about it.

When I first saw the title, “I just got banned and I liked it”, I actually assumed that he took the whole thing as a gentleman. Maybe this would be a humble confession, where he made clear that they had no idea that this bug was an exploit, but where he also expressed his understanding, since it’s important to keep the game fair, with strict rules? Ensidia might be a victim in this situation, but for a good reason.

However, when I finally could read it, it turned out to be a classic, angry rant, as a matter of fact a complete rage quit. He’s done with the game, and takes this incident as an opportunity to quit altogether. It remains to see if more will follow his example or if he’ll reconsider once the 72 hours are gone and he’s had some time to chill down a bit.

Should they have known?
I can definitely understand his disappointment. The thing is that the ban doesn’t only deprive them of the title and achievement, which they've worked insanely long and hard to get. The bigger problem is that they’re locked out from the instance and the heroic modes for yet another week, and will fall behind their competitors that are going for world firsts.

The question is if they had any reason to think that their use of bombs was an exploit. I’ve been told that any engineer will use those things as a part of their rotation, and if that’s the case it sounds a bit harsh to me. How were they supposed to know that the frozen platform or whatever it was, shouldn’t rebuild? It’s not as if Blizzard hands out a leaflet on beforehand telling us every detail about the mechanics, asking us to report any deviation from it.

As one of my more outspoken guildies put it:

“There are no exploits in the game. Full stop. Period. End of discussion. There's only retard designers and good players. If retard designs a building and good player uses bomb which does siege dmg, who in this case should get the "ban"? Any person with any common sense would fire that stupid designer so fast he'll be doing mcdonals free games for the rest of his life.”
Warning bells
On the other hand: if you’re in the position of Ensidia, you’ve got a reputation to protect and every reason in the world to be cautious. Didn’t they hear any warning bells ringing: isn’t this a little bit too easy?

In our guild we always pay attention to those bells. We’re not fighting for any world or even server first kills, nevertheless we want to do this right. No one should ever be able to come and claim that we didn’t get our kills using fair play. In the Northrend beasts encounter in ToC some guilds used to put levitate on every player to make it easier to avoid the fire bombs. We never did. Our guild leader was very clear on that point. Even if it had never been stated anywhere officially that this wasn’t allowed, we’d rather be safe than sorry. The strategy wore the smell of exploit, so we wouldn’t use it. Period. And I’m honestly glad about this very strict non-exploit policy.

I’m sorry Ensidia weren’t as cautious as we are. For believe it or not, I’ve taken a liking in those cocky, ûber skilled elitist jerks of players. I guess I’m a bit biased because of their Swedish and European origin, but they're sort of “our guys”. One reason is probably their website. Reading the blog of Kungen, you can see that those guys are more lighthearted than you would expect. They seem to be in it not only for the money. And they’re serving the community, generously posting guides and answering questions from Average Joe who asks their class leaders to have a look at him in armory and tell him how to gear and spec. This kind of commitment is impressive.

I sincerely hope they’ll pull themselves together and make an effort to grab the world first heroic clearance, even if the odds now are against them.

And yeah, deep down I think I feel sorry for them. A little bit.

AH Access Offline: Slightly Worried – But Not Freaking Out

I’ve been pondering a bit upon the news about Blizzards work on giving us access to AH when we're offline - provided that we pay for it.

What do I think about it? Is this yet another step on the slippery slope that started with the introduction of the pets for sale? Are my pigtails vibrating and sparkling with electrical charges, am I ready to punch someone because this is the end of WoW? Am I working up myself to a TotalBiscuit state of mind, exploding in an aoe-wave of utter contempt at the current development of the game?

After debating a bit with myself, I've come to the conclusion that I'm definitely more worried than Matticus, who simply says "yes please!". Like Healer Trek, Miss Medicina and Green Armadillo, I see some potential problems. But I'm not freaking out in the way I would have expected.

The gold game
To be honest my reaction - or lack thereof - is a bit surprising. They're suggesting that you should be able to pay for a service that is likely to give you a real advantage in game, which is a change from the payment model they've had until now. I'm a fan of the simple flat all-inclusive subscription fee, which saves me from a ton of reoccurring, energy consuming choices. So why not rage, Larísa?

I think it's because I deep down don't really care about the gold game. I've got the gold I need, as I wrote a while ago . (My fortune has increased with 10 k g since that post was published, and I swear I really haven't been doing ANY effort to make this happen. You don't NEED to do business at AH to support your raiding).

Sure, thanks to this change, there will be some people who spend a part of their time at work or school flipping, flopping or whatever they do at AH. Probably it will have some effects for the goblins fighting for the spot as the richest man on the server. I suppose the competition for bargains will grow harder, especially if some clever people will make bot like addons that will crawl all day long, digging through the piles of AH junk, fetching goodies for their masters.
On the other hand, in real life you can still do business on the stock market, even if you're not spending all your day in front of a screen, watching the numbers minute for minute. You can do it in the evenings if you want to, and I can't see the reason why the WoW market should be any different. I can't imagine that for instance Gevlon would buy this additional service from Blizzard, and yet I'm convinced that he'll be able to keep up his wealth, doing good business in the future.

The AH players might be a little bit affected - but I doubt that players like me, whose transactions at AH consists of the sale of a daily transmuted gem and occasional stacks of disenchanted mats from pugs, will suffer badly. Regardless of at what hour the goblins do their business, regardless of if they do it from work, behind the back of their bosses or from home, behind the back of their spouses, simple market mechanisms such as supply and demand will keep prices to an acceptable level for everyone.

Developer resources
What bugs me most, apart from the one-step-further into the RMT model, is that Blizzard are putting developer resources into it. You could argue that WoW players come in all shapes of course, and that the ones who are in it for the gold probably are as entitled to development as raiders, role players or PvP:ers. But still - have you ever heard anyone subscribing to WoW because you can have so fun getting dirty rich at AH? There might be a few hard core goblins out there, but are they so many that they really matter to Blizzard from a financial point of view? Even if they charge players who use feature I doubt that they'll be so many that the fees will cover the costs for creating it.

And I can't understand why they put such an effort into it - they admit is a complicated thing to do - while the player base is craving for more game content.

Everyone knows that the player activity and general interest in the game will decline as it always does before an expansion. The question is how soon the valley will come, how deep it will be and how long it will last. Even if Blizzard isn't panicking about it, since they're pretty certain people will come back for Cataclysm, they probably don't want the fall to be deeper and harder than necessary. Do they sincerely think that people will keep subscribing, even paying more for it than before, just so they can flip flop at AH?

Test balloon
The final question is of course: how long will it before we see this come true? Are they really far gone or is the announcement rather to be regarded as a test balloon, where they're awaiting the reaction from the community before deciding to proceed?

I honestly don't know. We've seen a couple of features recently that have become reality quicker than at least I expected, such as race and faction changes. On the other hand there are also those "sometime" projects that we're still waiting for to finish. Dance classes, anyone?

There is a difference though. The dance classes were never marketed as a premium service. They were supposed to be something you with your ordinary subscription. Maybe that's why they're still waiting for the attention of the developers, while other features, such as this, are worked on. The RMT projects. And who can blame them? Business is business and time is money my friend.

My personal belief - and now I'm just speculating, I admit that I might be dead wrong - is that the offline AH services won't be available for a very long time, if ever. I base this on the lack of interest for it among the players. There won't be enough people willing to pay for it to finance it fully, and while it may be a nice "extra" for a few players, it won't sell any additional subscriptions.

You see: most people play to explore fantastic scenic worlds, to slaughter cool dragons or other avatars or to chat with their friends (the socials.) Those things are fun. Mass posting inscriptions just isn't. It doesn't get more fun just because you're not logged into the game.

And that's probably why I'm not outraged. Even if it will be launched at some point, I don't think the impact will be huge and I doubt it will be any success.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Tank Who Apologized

It was my 26th run in Oculus. I had stolen myself some 20 minutes of game time in one of our offnights and my mission was clear: to grab those two frost emblems as soon as possible, taking me one tiny step further towards my tier set.

"I wonder who's going to tank this group?", I thought to myself as we buffed up and my eyes quickly hovered over the player pictures.

There's supposed to be a smallish icon over every portrait telling us, but for some reason my UI eats the symbol for everyone but me, so I have to figure it out for myself. Normally I can at least distinguish the tank through the health bar, but not this time. There wasn't anyone sporting 40-45 k health as there normally is in the groups I'm tossed into. I only saw two possible candidates - one DK and one warrior, both at about 25 k hp. But before I came around starting to inspect them, the DK, who had a gearscore of 3 000, spoke up:

"You're all free to leave now".

? What do you mean?

"Yeah, I've just dinged 80 and I know that my gear lacks a bit so I understand completely if you leave, no hard feelings."

Admittedly I only had 20 minutes and not all night at my hands. There wasn't really any time for trial and error or drake flying lessons, so I asked him if he had done Oculus before on some other character. And it turned out that he had - and not on just "any" character, but on his prot pala and feral druid. This was his third tanking character! And yet - here he was, apologizing.

I'm glad to say that not a single one in the group bailed out. We told him that this would work fine and of course it did. As a matter of fact it was one of the smoothest out of the 26 runs I've had there. We just had to give him a couple of seconds in each pull, but after that he had no problems whatsoever to tank anything. I could even fall into my modern habits of going nuts, sprinkling blizzard all over the place. The mobs were like glued on him. We didn't have a single death, not a single mistake in the whole run. And no one uttered those words that I despise so much, that make me cringe and immediately sucks out the fun in the game: "ffs", "gogogo". We ran Oculus in complete harmony with this blue geared tank. Halfway through someone said: "yawn" and I couldn't but agree. We finished it with several minutes to go for the speed achievement.

Adjusting to stupidity
But what leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth was the fact that he felt compelled to apologize for who he was in the first place.

"He was just fishing for compliments" said a more cynical guildie of mine as I shared my experience. But I beg to differ. This wasn't that kind of guy. To me it seemed that he was only adjusting to the stupidity that reigns in the golden days of Gear Score The DK didn't want to be bullied and deserted. By apologizing he could take control over the situation and somehow preserve his dignity.

Maybe he even saw it as an opportunity to get rid some seriously ignorant players, the kind of players who rather would take a 15 min debuff than take a chance with a tank that required them to check their threat meter every now and then. Offering them the alternative to leave was his way of weeding out the trash. Perhaps.

Still I must say that it's weird how far things have gone when not only new players, but also a truly experienced, solid tank like he will start doing this kind of apology rant in the beginning of every instance. (I wouldn't be surprised if it was a macro he had taken the habit to use.)

This tank may have lacked hp, but he had an abundance of the true core stat of a tank: deep knowledge of the tanking role. It doesn't show in armory and it doesn't show in any addon. It shows in performance. But that's something that those instant bailing cowards will never recognize.

As we bid farewell I said that I hoped we'd meet again. And I really meant it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Some Inside Information and a Toast

Time flees and we’re putting another year in the history of The Pink Pigtail Inn to the records. I can’t quite understand how it happened, but today I’m apparently celebrating two years as a WoW blogger.

Over time I’ve come to write several hundred posts and if you printed them all it would be enough to fill a book volume, if not two. How is it possible to have that much to say about one single video game? After all there isn’t much of what you could consider substance in those writings. There’s no theorycrafting, no strategies, no overviews of how to play a mage the best way or maximise your gold income. It’s just the ponderings from a pigtailed gnome the banter among the guests relaxing in front of the fireplace.

Still - apparently there are some people around who like this kind of blogging. When I started this place – originally in Swedish, back in February 2008 – I had less than a handful of readers. It was basically just a couple of guildies and friends who kindly had a look at it every now and then so I wouldn't feel quite as lonely. One year forward, in February 2009, the readership of PPI had grown to 200 subscribers. I was humbled and amazed and I never thought it was possible for the inn to grow much more than that, but today I’m counting over 1300.

This is of course nice, but still not overly important. The PPI is written out of the pure joy of writing. I don’t have any ads, I don’t have any costs for hosting that I need to cover and I don’t have any urge to spread any gnomish ideas over the world. As long as there is someone listening and responding to my ramblings – be it 13 or 1300 – I’m perfectly happy.

So you could ask why I even bother to mention the numbers. Well, I do it in the hope that it might somehow inspire and encourage the new upcoming bloggers out there. Don't dispair when you have 10 daily visitors and zero comments! Don't dispair even if this doesn't change within a month or two. Trust me, every single blogger out there, no matter how established he or she is, has started from scratch, tossing posts out into a big dark void, met by a compact silence. Just keep doing what you're doing, trust your own voice, blog your heart out and the readers will come. Eventually. If a middle-aged woman with no previous experience in gaming or blogging whatsoever can do it you can too.

Some inside information
Before I’ll ask you to join me in a toast I thought I should grab this moment to answer a blogging questionnaire that Keredria put together almost two months ago. I know I’m a bit late for this meme, but I thought the anniversary would be a suitable occasion for completing it.

So here you are – some inside information about how the Pink Pigtail Inn is run.

1. How long have you been blogging? What made you start? Who inspired you?

I’ve been blogging for two years. As most other bloggers I was inspired by reading another WoW blogger, a Swedish blog called Consentire (which now is dead, as so many other blogs). I think one of the reasons I started was that I was curious about the blogging media and I thought that starting to blog myself was a good way to get to know more about it. Once upon a time I used to make amateur fanzines (here’s the story about this), but for many years I had only written professionally, which is a different thing. Through the blogging I found a way to get back to writing out of lust and pleasure, rather than for a living.

2. About how many hours a week would you estimate you spend on your blog?

Ouch. I don’t really want to think about that. Don't ask! A post probably takes at least an hour to write and I normally have three or four posts a week. And apart from that there’s all the managing and replies to the comments, and reading other blogs to keep up with the community. I can only say: waaaayyyy too many.

3. What kind of experience or background do you have with writing?

I’m a trained journalist and used to write for local newspapers. For many years I’ve been working in the information/marketing/PR area, currently I’m focusing on media relations. So writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. However writing in English is new to me. Apart from taking a university course many years ago, I hadn’t been into this at all, until I decided to convert PPI to English.

4. Talk about how you come up with blog topics. Where do you get your ideas? What or who inspires you? Where and/or how do your brainstorming?

I get a lot of my inspiration from reading other blogs. Blogging without the interaction and communication with other bloggers is quite unthinkable to me. Without the network and all those ideas bouncing around I wouldn’t have half as much to write about. Many of my posts are one way or another commenting on current topics. Some posts are more of diary notes, inspired by what I’m currently up to in game. I often pick up things I see in the guild chat or conversations I’ve had on vent. There can be just a statement that somehow will trigger my thoughts. The wheels start spinning and eventually it will end up in a blog post.

5. Do you have any blogging rules or guidelines you follow? Is there anything you will not blog about?

Very early in my blogging, in April 2008, I wrote a post about my ethical guildelines and what I wrote at that time is still valid. I basically don’t write about things that might put my guild in a negative light. You know, guild drama, incidents, those things that are normal in any guild.

I’ve never ever made a secret about my blogging to any guild I’ve been a part of. I let them know what I'm doing, in case anyone's interested, and I also make sure never to write anything in the blog that I wouldn’t be able to tell people straight away. I know there are a few bloggers out there who have made other decisions, since they feel more free and comfortable when they openly can vent about the latest actions of their stupid GM or their ongoing guild drama, but I’ve chosen otherwise. I enjoy the freedom of honesty and openness towards my guild. And it rarely happens, if ever, that this feels like a restriction, that I remain silent about things that I would have blogged about if it wasn’t for my own guidelines.

The other rules I follow are pretty basic, what any other decent blogger would do. You know: don’t steal ideas, but it's ok to quote and link as long as you give proper credit. And of course I don’t have any gold selling ads, or any other ads either for that sake.

6. Do you have any sort of a publishing schedule in terms of day of week or topic? Where do you do your writing?

Since most blog readers seem to read the posts in the weeks, I normally don't publish during the weekends. There isn’t much point in doing it. For a long time I've been averaging about four posts a week, but I'm probably cutting down a bit on it this year. It’s great fun to blog, but it takes a ton of time and I have other obligations in my real life that are calling for my attention.

My writing is done in different places. Sometimes I manage to toss down a post at work, during my lunch break. But often I write my posts at home after work, late after a raiding night or during the weekend.

7. How many drafts of potential blog posts do you have right now? In what medium do you draft your posts? How often do you completely scratch or delete drafts or blog post ideas?

The flow of drafts and posts vary. Sometimes I've had posts prepared for a week in advance, but currently I don’t have anything in pipeline more than some vague ideas in my backhead. I don’t normally delete blog posts. Once I’ve started working on something I finish it. I normally write in Word and copy-paste from there. The Blogger editor is very basic and not suitable for writing or editing. For instance it has no spelling check, which is essential for me as I'm not native English speaking. I make a lot of mistakes of course, but the word editor at least prevents a few of them.

8. If you had to leave your blog in your will to another blogger, who would you choose? To ask this in a slightly less morbid way, are there other blogs that you feel are similar to yours in content, style, or voice?

A good candidate would probably be Tessy from Reflections from the Pound, who also is a guildie of mine since last autumn. We resemble each other a lot – she’s almost as old as I am, from Sweden and has children in the same age. And I think there’s something in the tone of our blogs that connects us. In the hands of Tessy, the blog would probably keep much of its atmosphere. However the question is rather hypothetical. In reality if I stopped blogging, the inn would close, not being passed on to someone else.

9. Has anything surprised you since you started blogging?

I could never have imagined that I would keep going for such a long time. And I also find the bonds in the community rather amazing. Being a part of the WoW blogosphere is like having an extra guild. We - the bloggers as well as the readers and commentors - have never met each other otherwise than through our writings, and yet some of you feel like old friends. At least a few of us leave out ourselves quite a lot, which creates a special kind of intimiacy. If we met each other one day we would probably fall into each others arms and it would feel completely natural.

10. What are your goals or plans for your blog going forward? Any specific goals or plans for your blog in 2010?

No, there are no plans at all for the PPI. I will keep writing and running this place as long as it’s fun and I have something to say. And if the words fail me I'll stop.

I have no idea if the blog will be around next year or not. Time will show. I’m pretty sure that if I ever stop playing WoW, I will also shut down this blog, since it’s so intimately connected to the game. It wouldn’t surprise me though if I started another blog. Blogging has really gotten back my lust for writing for lust as opposed to writing for money or fame.

The final toast
And that was the end of this questionnaire. One thing remains – to grab our pints to join a collective toast for the inn and people who use to hang around here.

Thank you all for the good discussions we’ve had here the last two years, for the support you give me day after day, for your love and friendship.

I've said it before and I say it again: You make this happen!