The King is Dead…

September 7, 2010 at 1:41 am (Uncategorized)

…Long live the Kingslayer.

Apparently merging with the soul of an undead Orc shaman is better than HGH.

After that, the fact that we one-shot Halion (another new kill) and that I finally got my black drake just felt like piling on.  Though I’m not giving back the dragon.  It’s so pretty.

My inner RPer is in a bit of a conundrum, though.  For the most part, the nature of raiding (the repetitious nature of attempts to take down new bosses, the frequent dying) tends to take away from story immersion.  In part because of this (and in part because I’ve downed relatively few lore-heavy bosses) I tend to think of the bosses we down as tactical objectives first, characters second.

This time, not so much.  See, my dirty little secret is that I come up with backstories for my characters.  Not elaborate novels or anything, but a summary history in my head that helps motivate me.  And if there was a figure who loomed large in Kahleena’s backstory, it was Arthas.  Sent by her parents, with her two siblings (also characters of mine) to Northshire Abbey, to escape the plague (Kahleena’s mother having been a mage of the Kirin Tor, she had a better idea than most of the danger of the plague, and yes, I am the biggest nerd on the planet, why do you ask?), Kahleena’s entire purpose in pursuing the warlock’s path (as opposed to the path of the mage, followed by her mother and her sister) was to acquire power and pursue revenge.  Upon the Scourge and its leader.  This has been in the back of my head since roughly level 10 or so (which I would have hit sometime in late December 2006).

And now he’s dead.  At the hands of her and nine of her allies.

Which leaves me with a big ol’ heaping helping of ‘now what?’

What I will actually do, of course, is keep farming ICC, and probably down him over and over again.  Because that’s how raiding works.  And in that context, the sharp division I keep in my head between my characters and me helps, because I, the player, will be taking Arthas out with my guild.  That will be me, though.  For Kahleena, the story, is over.

At least until I can cobble together some vendetta against Deathwing.  Perhaps she bought some beachfront property in Auberdine…


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July 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm (WoW General)

Let’s hear it for screaming your bloody head off.

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Welcome to WoWbook.

July 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm (WoW General)

One fairly common refrain, when people express angst about the RealID/forums announcement, is that it’s much ado about nothing – after all, many of us participate on Facebook under our real names.  What’s the harm?  The two are, of course, not directly comparable.  Like many, I have a Facebook account using my real name.  It is, however, accessible only to people on my friends list, save basic name/photo info that confirms nothing more than that I have a Facebook account, and that I am not the world’s most graceful photography subject.  Nothing about that is likely to cause me harm.  Facebook is sufficiently ubiquitous that nobody is going to hold the existence of a profile against you, and my photos online are quite innocuous.

Alas, rightly or wrongly, playing World of Warcraft carries a stigma.  Rightly or wrongly, in many industries, it is a black mark against you in hiring.  I blog under a pseudonym because I do not want potential employers discovering I play WoW.  It’s not worth the potential cost to my real life – I would quit the game first.  So the comparison is not germaine.

In one way, however, the comparison is prescient.  Facebook has come under some considerable scrutiny of late for the ways in which it has slowly diminished its users’ expectation of privacy, and that has called attention to the fact that, at bottom, Facebook’s users are not its customers.  Facebook’s advertisers are its customers – they pay the bills.  Facebook’s users are the product being delivered to the advertisers.  Their personal information is the commodity.

Blizzard’s subscriber list is potentially a gold mine source of revenue in much the same way Facebook’s is.  Activision-Blizzard are not unaware of this – they’re not fools.  The obstacle, to this point, to developing this revenue stream is that the sudden discovery that our data was being sold would result in mass departure from the game – it would cripple WoW and any goodwill associated with the company’s name.  How to get around this?  Slowly, piece by piece, erode the user’s expectation of privacy.  First, your ID is only exposed to your friends.  Then, only if you participate in what is (unless you count tech support and customer service) an optional “add-on” – the forums.  The end result is WoW as true social network, surrounded by a game (Farmville on steroids, essentially), with advertising and microtransactions the primary revenue stream.

Blizzard’s revenue stream is subscribers, you say?  Well yes.  For the moment.  Products have a lifecycle.  After a time, when growth slows or reverses, it becomes time to figure out how to eke out new revenue opportunities from the product.  WoW-as-social-network-and-targeted-advertising-platform would be a heck of an opportunity, if they can acclimate their users to accept it.

If this is the future of WoW, I want no part of it.

EDITED TO ADD:  I could have done research on this before I posted, I suppose.  Exhibit A.

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July 7, 2010 at 7:20 am (Uncategorized)

Some time ago, my roommate had his credit card information stolen – he believed (credibly) that it was somebody he knew, who stayed with us for a couple of days.  The thief used the card info with a number of vendors, one of which was Blizzard.  My roommate, over the course of investigating the matter (little-known fact:  cops, at least in large cities, will not bother investigating low-level credit card fraud or identity theft unless the victim (from their point of view, the credit card company) begins pressing the matter, which they won’t, because it’s not worth their time) spoke to Blizzard, and attempted to procure the real identification (ha!) of the person associated with the account to which the fraudulent charges were applied.

He was rejected out of hand.  Blizzard’s reason was that, for the protection of account security and customer privacy, they would not release that information to anybody but the account holder or the police.  My roommate pointed out that, whether he was the account owner of record, he had nonetheless been called upon to pay fees associated with the account, and should therefore be able to find out whose fees he paid.  No dice.  He found this appalling.  I defended it, and in fact appreciate it in a sense, because while I wished that “just this once” they would bend so the bastard who stole from my roommate could get caught, I appreciated that Blizzard would not bend on protecting their customers’ privacy.

To my roommate, I apologize.  I was clearly wrong.

As I mentioned over at RighteousOrbs, I have an unusual name in real life, and am a member of a profession (law) that requires that I keep a public-record address, either business or professional.  While I was unemployed, my home address and phone number were posted on the internet, and there was nothing I could do about that, save letting my bar membership lapse.  While unemployed.  In the job market from hell.  I will not deal with the chance that I’ll get stalked by some maladjusted adolescent – I will simply not post.

As Blizzard’s major bug-report, tech-support, and customer support venues are on the forums, apparently I’m cut off from those as well – indeed, from any customer support that doesn’t involve putting in a ticket.  This is completely unacceptable.

I’m not walking now because I have faith this idiocy will be reversed.  If it’s not reversed by Cataclysm, I’m gone.

EDITED TO ADD:  Chas’s post at Righteous Orbs is must-read.

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Wherein our hero demonstrates how cheap a trollop he really is…

April 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm (WoW General)

It’s all about the loot.

I have finally returned to WoW.  I had taken some time off LotRO and WoW both to focus on single-player games (not to mention that whole rejoining-the-gainfully-employed thing), but ultimately, I was unable to resist.  Resist what?  Resist seeing what WoW looked like on my new monitor, which I’m pretty sure is the sort of monitor the President uses to see where the missiles are going.

Having spent most of my WoW career watching it on 1024×768, to see it at 1920×1080 is, well, something (even if I did have to turn a setting or two down to compensate).

However, I’ve poked my head in before.  I’ve even done what I did last night – hop in the LFD queue to do a few random heroics.  I very nearly bailed (for the evening, and for who knows how long after?) when Oculus came up.  But, we trudged through, I pretended I knew what I was doing, and we downed Eregos.  I hop over to the chest, and see everybody looting it, even after the gear’s been sharded.  Huh.  I look in my party chat screen, see several items I haven’t seen before called “Cache of the Ley-Guardian”.  Okay, guess I’ll loot too.  Don’t remember that one, but I assume it’s bribery to keep people from bitching about running Oculus.  I pop it open.

Reins of the….what, wha?

Okay, Blizz.  You got me.  I’ll stay.

Actually, it was a good night all around.  I got enough Triumph badges to buy my first piece of T9 (my guild’s in Icecrown, and now that I’m resolved to stay, I do want to join them and help out as soon as possible).  At this rate, I should have the full set fairly soon, whereupon I expect I will find myself desperately missing LotRO’s outfit system.  Because while I may have forgotten how to play, I haven’t forgotten that monstrosity of a set.

Oh, and Kel’Thuzad?  Still not a warlock.

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Good news for Blizzard

April 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm (WoW General)

No, I’m not making an imminent return.  Other good news.

One of the MMOs on the horizon is Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Given Bioware’s reputation, I would have said that if Blizzard wasn’t worried, they should be.  Brilliant RPGs from Baldur’s Gate II through Knights of the Old Republic show they have a great grasp of storytelling.

Then I picked up Dragon Age: Origins.

Bioware continues to live up to their reputation in terms of storytelling.  I like the characters, the writing, and the story.  But technically speaking?  This game is garbage.  They have an auto-updating downloadable content (DLC) acquiring/installing client that is broken, camera controls that are awkward when they aren’t completely worthless, the usual video-game pathfinding for NPCs, and a host of other technical annoyances big and small.  I bought a couple of DLC packs the other day.  I still can’t get them installed (or rather, the program still won’t install them – it’s a completely passive process I can’t do anything about, and it’s broken), and tech support is not exactly burning the midnight oil to help me out.

If DAO is any indication of what SWTOR is going to be like, nobody’s going to stick it out beyond the first month.  And another WoW-killer will bite the dust.

EDITED TO ADD: After going 24 hours without any feedback from tech support whatsoever, I figured out how to fix the whole DLC issue myself.  In the process, exploring the tech support forums indicates that, in ways that haven’t even begun to affect me, their last patch terribly broke the game.  And they went a month without even commenting on the problems (and they still haven’t fixed them).  Running an MMO is going to break them.  I swear, Blizzard’s greatest fortune is the incompetence of its competition.

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The Game Doesn’t Always Begin At The End

February 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm (Navel-Gazing, Raiding, WoW General)

So, I’ve been fairly quiet.  Part of that is, of course, being gainfully employed once again, which is keeping me busy.  But also, I’ve found a somewhat unexpected experience when I came back to WoW this time around.  The game and I just haven’t clicked.

I’ve taken hiatuses (hiati?) before.  I figured I’d get ramped up for raiding and be good to go.  I ran a few heroics, got a few badges, and just Ran. Out. Of. Steam.  I found I lacked any enthusiasm for gearing up for raiding.  Now, I’ve always had a bit of that essential laziness (I don’t think I ever did get exalted with Sons of Hodir), but this time, the chore just seemed even more tedious than usual.

On some level, this bothers me.  I really want to see Icecrown Citadel.  My entire mental conception of my character and her history requires her to go into Icecrown Citadel.  I’m not going to see Icecrown Citadel if I go a month at a time between logons.  But I don’t, however, appear to want to see Icecrown Citadel badly enough to gear up from Naxx25-Ulduar10 level gear to where I’d be ready (assuming my guild even still exists such that it would be an option – it’s been a month since I logged on, so I have no idea).  But when my alternative is pugging Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle again, I feel a piece of my soul die.  And not in a good warlocky way, either.

Meanwhile, the siren song of Lord of the Rings Online has sucked me in entirely.  My hunter (think WoW hunter, but without a pet, so playstyle’s an almost more mage-style nuke-em-before-they-get-to-you) is level 44, and I have a small stable of alts I’m playing with as well.  Another few levels, and I can begin heading south towards a certain rather nasty dwarf ruin of considerable notoriety.

(And once again, Turbine, I’ll go into considerably more detail about the awesomeness of  your game if you send me a big fat check, so I can be one of those Kept Bloggers I keep hearing so much about!)

Why, I find myself wondering, am I spending time in a new MMO while precious raiding hours slip away?  After all, raiding has been what I’ve organized my endgame around since I first hit 70 on the lock.  And that, I think, is what it comes down to – it’s endgame.

Everybody has heard the claim that “WoW begins at level cap”, or that the endgame is the real game.  I’ve made the argument (I forget where) that that’s only true after you level your first character to level cap – the first time through, every new zone is exciting.  Leveling alts, that’s not as true – by a certain point, you’ve either leveled through a zone before, or you don’t actually have any interest in doing a particular zone (the latter is the case for me with most of the forested Kalimdor zones, for example – I’m just not interested.)

The raiding endgame is something I got into from the perspective of being an explorer.  I wanted to see what the inside of Medivh’s tower looked like.  I wanted to see this Kael’thas guy I kept reading about in the quest text (yes, I read quest text).  I wanted to see what was behind door number 1.  That said, raiding is also about the furthest thing from exploration there is.  The whole point of exploring is to boldly go where noone who is you, at least, has gone before.  If you show up to a raid, on the other hand, not having watched the videos that tell you precisely what to expect when you enter the boss’s room, you’re not doing your job.

It reminds me of how my dad and I used to play those old Sierra adventure games – King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and so forth.  Those games, for any of my readers who are too young (/cry) to have played them, had a point system that was your score – up in the corner, you’d have a tag that said “Score: 135 of 280”, for example.  You could, if you went through the game without exploring around the edges of the game too much, complete the game with considerably less than a maximum score.  I usually did.  I wanted to see the next part more than I wanted to be absolutely positive I hadn’t missed a point somewhere in the room.  My dad, on the other hand, wanted the maximum score.  Different types on the Bartle Scale (though as I read it, despite my characterization of my motives and his, my type would actually be “Achiever”, and his would be “Explorer”).

And that’s where things stand right now – there isn’t really anything in WoW to explore.  LotRO is nothing but exploration for me right now.  And so, that’s where I am.

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Comparative MMOlogy – LotRO

December 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm (Exile in DDOville, Misty Mountain Hop, Navel-Gazing)

So, having abandoned the DDO experiment, I figured I was probably done with MMOs.  Well, as I mentioned before, WoW isn’t quite done with me (though I’m not yet raiding, so I have to admit, I’m not all that excited about being back yet), and now, having gotten to play with it a bit (after a brief flirtation with it two years ago), it turns out Lord of the Rings Online isn’t quite done with me either.

I’ll be writing in more detail, but the short version – LotRO is a great example of a game where small, subtle tweaks can radically improve a gaming experience.  Two years of those little tweaks (and they are little – there was no doubt that, as I played around with it during the Christmas break, I was playing the same game, but it was a game with far fewer elements that frustrated me than was the case two years ago) have made a big difference.

It’s also a game that, in its RP-friendliness, does much of what I wish WoW would do.  Things like armor dyes, a music system (for your characters to play music – I kid you not), pipe-weed, costumes/appearance tabs, player housing, etc. give the world life – even as LotRO is less tongue-in-cheek than WoW – appropriately so, given Turbine’s enthusiasm for remaining faithful to the spirit of the subject matter –  the world feels more playful.   Among other things, its why LotRO draws, on average, an older, and (dare I say it) more mature player base than WoW does.  My guess is a higher proportion (for obvious reasons) of the player base are regular readers (no set of four letters so sears my soul as “TLDR”)

So, I’ll probably be running a bit of an ongoing series here, like my DDO experiment.  Understanding that my rather small (especially after the constant to-quit-or-not-to-quit drama) reader base is made up of WoW players, I’ll definitely confine my LotRO blogging to stuff I think WoW players would be interested in.

No, this won’t be turning into a LotRO blog.  For starters, once I resume raiding with my new guild (of almost all the same people – meet the new guild, same as the old guild) I suspect I’ll be a bit more enthusiastic for WoW that I am right now (though for raid-life balance issues I previously alluded to, I think I’ll be approaching it more casually than has been the case previously).  LotRO still has that new-car smell.  That will, eventually, fade.  But, a glance at what others are doing can shed light on what Blizzard should consider implementing (and I’m sure Blizzard has – the achievement system has a few things in common with the deeds system in LotRO, which preceeded it by quite a bit, though they may both be based on some other game’s system for all I know).

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Okay, I lied

December 16, 2009 at 10:48 pm (Navel-Gazing)

Damn you, Blizzard.  Damn you.

I was fine until the free seven days were dangled in front of me as an incentive to give the game another try.  No, that’s not quite right.  I was fine until two events coincided:  the provision of seven free days, and finally finding a new job (after a hideously long period of time unemployed – thank you, economic downturn – you sucked and I hate you, along with the people and policies I deem responsible, but which I will refrain from naming as I don’t believe in mixing politics and gaming).  I start January 4.

I have, however, returned to WoW, at least for the time being.  I cannot say what sort of blogging schedule I will resume, except that when I have something to say, I will probably say it.  Or write it, in any event.

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Making it official

November 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm (Navel-Gazing)

Well, my disinclination to continue this blog has probably become quite apparent.  As I mentioned in the last post’s comments, it’s hard to remain motivated to post about WoW when you’re not playing WoW.   So, for the sake of anybody in the future who comes across this blog, I might as well make de jure what had only been the case de facto – I’m ending my stint as a WoW blogger.

What I didn’t mention previously, because I hadn’t yet reached any decision, is that even if things turn around for me personally in the near future (and they haven’t, as yet), I don’t think I will be returning to World of Warcraft, and while I “never say never”, I don’t expect that to change.

My relationship to WoW, and the degree to which I could be said to “enjoy” it, has always been a bit complicated, particularly once I began raiding.  It’s very easy for raiding to become a job instead of leisure.  More than that, though, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that my relationship to World of Warcraft has not always been particularly healthy.

I’ve always tended to become obsessively interested in things, and then crash.  WoW, by its nature, takes this tendency and amplifies it to what are, for me, destructive levels.  When it’s not merely my temporary fixation keeping me interested in something, but the fact that People Are Relying On Me ™, whatever small ability I have to maintain a balanced life collapses.

We’ve all heard the jokes about World of Warcrack.   And no, WoW is not (for me, at least) an addiction (I quit smoking cigarettes earlier this year, after a decade-plus pack-a-day habit – believe me, I know addiction).  But it has been a compulsion, at least at times.  And it’s been a distraction from focusing on aspects of my life that have really needed my attention.

I’ve met many wonderful people, people I’ll miss – to the folks from Legio Vici, my thanks for a great run.  To the folks from Milites Lucis, my apologies for too short a run.  To the WoW bloggers I’ve corresponded with, thanks for the laughs.  To my readers, thank you for reading.  I hope I entertained you.

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