Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wanna run a BG? Um, what time is it?

No, seriously.

I've some time off this week, so my AV runs have been split into two separate groups:  early morning and mid-afternoon.  And believe me, there's a huge difference in group personality between the two times of day.

The early morning runs are quieter with less chatter, and more attention paid to details.  Call outs are the norm, defense and back-caps are common, and you'd better run in a pack if you're a glass cannon (aka Mage).  People actually thank you for the Lock cookies, Feasts, and Rituals of Refreshment.  If you say "need 1-2 more to defend SHB", you'll actually have 1-2 (sometimes 3) toons appear from nowhere to assist in defense.

Mid afternoon, on the other hand, is an exercise in confirming stereotypes.

I've rushed in, taken Iceblood Tower, and then watch everyone else as they moved on en masse.

"Need 2-3 more to defend IBT."


When the inevitable backcap happens, a flood of recriminations spits over BG chat.

"You @#%&ing idiots!  What a fail group!"
"Somebody go back and get it!"
"Get it yourself, retard!"
"Doesn't matter, we can win pulling with two towers up."

When THAT strategy doesn't work, you get:

"What a fail group!"
"Yeah, healers suck!"
"You're tanking in Fury Spec, you idiot!"

Oh, and did I mention the 3-4 people who hang around the BG entrance, waiting for the free Honor?

Why the huge difference in group personality?

I can think of one reason:  the early morning runs aren't populated with the teens/college kids that the latter runs are.  After all, those folks are probably sleeping in until noon anyway.

If that's the case, then shouldn't the 5-man LFD runs mimic the BGs?  You know, I don't know, given that I haven't run LFD in ages, but it wouldn't shock me to find that out.  My experience from previous times, however, is that LFD is such a small sample and such a mixed bag that you never know what you'll get.  BGs, having larger numbers and are quixotically quicker than your average LFD run, tend to take on distinct group personalities.  And when those personalities change --due to an injection of teen hormones, for instance-- the result is noticeable.

Dealing with the mid-afternoon crowd isn't too difficult, just keep your expectations low and ignore most of BG chat.  Well, and also console yourself in the fact that the current AV queue time is 1-2 minutes.  At least you're not waiting 1/2 hour for LFD to pop.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to Feel Like an Old Fogey

It's the end-of-the-year rush on at work, so I've had less and less time the past week or so to actually jump on WoW and play a bit.  That said, I did get some good AV time in.

Since colleges in the U.S. are now on Winter Break, you can find an AV run fairly quickly at all hours of the day.  The drawback is that the BGs are populated with college (and to a lesser extent) high school kids.

Remember the old EDS commercials about herding cats?  No?  Here's a reminder:

That is what BGs during Winter Break are like.

All the more reason to find a friend and group up with them, even across servers.  Even in as big a sprawling BG as AV is, a group of three working in concert can be enough to turn the tide.

Now, who among my WoW friends gets up waaay early or has insomnia?  Hmmmm.....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 5 -- Alliances and Conclusions

We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.
--Benjamin Franklin

WoW has a history of using organizations that welcome all races and factions to propel an overarching story to completion.  In Vanilla WoW with the Qiraji, there was the Cenarion Circle.  In Wrath, you have the Argent Crusade, the Ebon Blade, and the Ashen Verdict.  Cataclysm has brought the Earthen Ring to the forefront, and the Burning Crusade had the Shattered Sun Offensive.

Unlike the other groups from other storylines, the NPC component of the Shattered Sun is composed solely of Draenei and Sindorei, with the Naaru as a guiding hand.  The two races which drove the major storylines of Burning Crusade banded together at the Sha’tar’s request to lead the assault against Kael, Kil’Jaeden, and the Burning Legion.

Oh, all was not Pollyanna in racial relations on Quel’Danas.  There were the digs against each faction (“…Cryer.  Oh, I’m sorry, I meant Scryer.”), which provided a look behind the veneer of amicability.  I found the selection of Scryers to spy on Kael’s forces served a twofold purpose:  while a Blood Elf could spy upon other Blood Elves more easily, at the same time those Blood Elves could also be seen to be more expendable than Draenei.

Nevertheless, the Shattered Sun could not have succeeded without significant buy-in from both races.  You had to be able to trust the person next to you to do their job, whether Draenei or Sindorei, for without that trust the entire organization falls apart.

I’ve said before that I’ve wanted to see more ex-Argent Crusader involvement in a post-Wrath world, because a group that accepts everyone allows their members to see behind the faction/race to the individual.  When you’ve fought alongside someone of a different race or faction, it is difficult to see them as an enemy.  To my disappointment, the only big storyline that focused on this came out of the Ebon Blade and the Andorhal quest chains. 

Then again, we didn’t see anything come out of the Shattered Sun Offensive, either, but you still see Sindorei and Draenei training together and chatting around Shattrath.  You can still watch Lady Liadrin come before A’dal and redeem the Blood Knights.  You can watch children of both races playing together in the Lower City (the only place you’ll find Draenei and Sindorei kids in Azeroth outside of Children’s Week).


When I started this exploration, I figured I’d get a post or two out of it, nothing more.  I sure wasn’t expecting to get five, and yet here I am.

I hope these posts have given you some food for thought.  If you are on a RP server, maybe this will provide some hooks for your toon’s backstory.  (Guilty confession:  the first time I took Nevelanthana into Magister’s Terrace at-level and we downed Selin Fireheart, she walked over and kicked his corpse.  “You always were an arrogant ass, Selin,” she said.  And I don’t play on an RP server, either.)

One thing I would encourage people to do is to give the other side a try with an open mind.  I think that if you do, you might be surprised.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 4 -- I'm No Angel

Listen, don't mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right. [returns to the Germans] So! It's all forgotten now, and let's hear no more about it. So, that's two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering, and four Colditz salads.
--Basil, Fawlty Towers

I’m sure that you’ve done some questing in the Cata zones, and you’ve come across Twilight’s Hammer minions doing Deathwing’s work.  Or maybe you’ve been in Scourge infected areas where the Cult of the Damned gathered.  Ever notice how the so-called “goody two shoes” of the Alliance is well represented?

Now, that’s no real surprise, given that Blizzard wants to demonstrate both the global nature of the threat faced (whether it be by Scourge or Deathwing), and how no race is immune to the siren song of power.

What is interesting, however, is the reception given Tuluun, the sole Broken at Azure Watch.  The sneers and contempt from the surrounding Draenei are striking, given the constant exhortations from random NPC Draenei to “Open your heart to the Light” or “Be kind to those less fortunate”.

Oh really?

To say the Draenei are a wee bit hypocritical here is an understatement.  However, this disconnect between words and actions, particularly concerning the Broken, are nothing new.

The Broken and the Lost Ones represent a conundrum for the Draenei:  they have been corrupted by Fel energies, and are unable to contact the Light.  For most Draenei, that is a worse fate than cutting off both arms and legs.  I’ve often wondered if the Draenei expected the Broken to commit suicide or something should that happen, but the quest chains don’t really say.  What picture they do paint, however, is one that shows the majority of Draenei are unable to relate to their ‘cousins’.

There is the obvious racist contempt found in various Draenic locations throughout Outland, yet the Draenei’s belief in racial superiority manifests itself in other ways.  In the Alliance-only quest chain in Zangarmarsh, a player attempts to convince the Feralfen tribe of Lost Ones to join with the Draenei, yet they refuse and instead want to forge their own destiny apart from being “Redeemed”, as Elder Kuruti put it.  When informed of the Lost Ones’ decision, Anchorite Ahuurn at Telredor is confused:  “They refused? They are welcome to choose their own path, of course, but their choice surprises me. I would think that all the Draenei, including the Broken and Lost Ones, would still remember that we're all a part of the same people.”

The same motivation that pushes the Anchorite to disguise a player as an Arakkoa blinds him to the reality that if you stopped treating the Lost Ones (and the Broken) as less than an equal, maybe you would get a more desirable result.  Not everyone who has been corrupted wants to be Redeemed, but if they do, they want to do it on their terms, not someone else'.


If the Draenei’s blind spot is their racism toward the Broken and Lost ones, the Sindorei’s blind spot is to their own personal addiction, magic.

Oh, they know about it.  Everybody and their brother knows about the Sindorei’s addiction to magic and how it helped lead Kael and Co. first to Outland and then into the arms of the Legion.  From practically the first moment a Blood Elf player begins to explore Sunstrider Isle, they are forced to deal with their magical addiction and the consequences of failure in the form of the Wretched.

And yet, if there’s magic to be found and/or exploited, the Sindorei are there.

If there’s an easy way to cure their addiction, there’s some Sindorei working on it.  Remember Magistrix Elosai, the exiled Blood Elf in pre-cata Thousand Needles, who was working on her own version of methadone to cure herself of her addiction?  In the end, she accelerated the addiction process, turning herself into one of the Wretched ala Jekyll and Hyde.

You’d think that with the recreation of the Sunwell the Sindorei wouldn’t need to seek out more magic to slake their thirst, but the Reliquary proves otherwise.  You can find them throughout the post-Cata Old World, hunting down titan and pre-Sundering relics and fighting off the Explorer’s League in the process.  Sure, they're taking the relics for "safe keeping"; they wouldn't even think of using the magic held inside for themselves...

The sense of denial in the Blood Elf actions makes me roll my eyes at times.  I’m often reminded of a drunk pounding down shots of bourbon, all the while proclaiming that “I have willpower!  I’m fine!  Just one more drink and I’m good.”  In that respect, at least some of the Felbloods are honest in their cravings, like when Selin Fireheart drains one of the nearby crystals in Magister’s Terrace:  “My hunger knows no bounds!”


In the end, these flaws in the BC races’ character serve to make them more realistic, although the temptation to stereotype all members of a race remains strong.  Both races aren’t perfect, and neither race should be perceived as such.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 3 -- On the Brink of Oblivion

The dark times will pass.
--Blood Elf NPC saying

The Naaru have not forgotten us.
--Draenei NPC saying

When a new Blood Elf player quests through Eversong Woods, there are a few themes running through the zone.  The Amani trolls are on the move, the Wretched seek magic –any magic—to feed upon, and there are malfunctions with the existing Sindorei magics.  Oh yeah, and there’s the Scourge.

The Sindorei live with the Dead Scar plowing straight through their homeland, and the Scourge rise up and assault the outskirts of Silvermoon and Fairbreeze Village with regularity.  Such is the life of the Sindorei, struggling with the constant reminder that racial oblivion is only a few Rangers away.

On the flip side, Azuremyst Isle is like watching a World of Warcraft version of Swiss Family Robinson play out.  You have the shipwrecked Draenei, attempting to survive and create makeshift living arrangements.  There are the interactions with the native, mutating wildlife, and there are first contacts with the Furbolg, Night Elves, and Humans (who also have their own ship up for repairs).

Then there are the Blood Elves in Amman Vale, the Naga close to Odesyus’ Landing, and the traitor in the midst of Odesyus’ crew.

The Draenei are clinging to the edge of survival, and all it takes is a little push and they teeter over the edge.

Both races have suffered near extinction as the Burning Crusade opens, yet they have shown remarkable resilience.  The Draenei are in an alien world, putting the pieces back together and forging new friendships.  By contrast, the Sindorei are forsaking their old allegiances (and the Light) that they believe failed them in their hour of need, turning instead to the Thrall-led Horde who at least offered a very lukewarm hand of friendship.* 

Even in Outland itself, both races have the will to keep going.  The Draenei ruins scattering the landscape are testament to what they have lost, yet Shattrath is still alive.  For the Sindorei in the form of the Scryers, they not only have to fight the Legion and Illidan, but their own people in what amounts to a bloody civil war.


However, their resilience and bitter experience has also given both races a singular focus on defeating their enemies.

Forget about Velen and Ishanah.  Seriously.  No matter what they say, pay attention to the Draenei out in the field in the BC zones.**  With very rare exceptions, they zero in on the Sindorei, whether they are allied with Illidan, Kael/Burning Legion, or the Scryers.  In Bloodmyst Isle, the elements of the Burning Legion (the Satyr) and the Naga are merely secondary to the Blood Elf incursion; nothing else really matters.  The Draenei in Aldor Rise are constantly spying on the Scryers, expecting this whole “fealty to the Sha’tar” thing to be a Trojan Horse.  And it’s not like the Scryers haven’t noticed that distinct lack of acceptance, either; like the Arcanist Adyria says while you’re given the tour of Shattrath, “I'm a Scryer, I always watch what I say. More enemies than allies in this city, it seems.”

Can I blame the Draenei for being so suspicious?  No, not really.  It’s very hard to accept having to fight alongside your enemy, and the Aldor no More quest chain really hammers that point home.

While the Draenei are watching the Sindorei, the Sindorei/Scryers have their eyes on the Scourge and their former friends in Kael’s forces.  Circumstances won’t allow them to forget –not with Undead showing up at their doorstep every five minutes or so—and they have no inclination to do so anyway.  The focus of the entire Ghostlands quest chain, to kill the Scourged traitor Dar’Khan Drathir, serves as a reminder for a new player as to what the Sindorei had to go through.  (Well, as if the Eastern Plaguelands being effectively impassible was enough of one already, that is.  In a post-Cata Eastern-Plaguelands-is-no-longer-L60 world, it’s still way too dangerous to make a run for it.  Believe me, I tried.)  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that the Blood Elf starting zones were designed for Wrath of the Lich King rather than for Burning Crusade.

Once a player gets to Outland and Shattrath, however, that focus turns almost completely on Kael’s forces.  Just like how the worst fights you get in are with siblings, the Scryers are locked in a do-or-die fight with the one group that knows them best:  their own kin.  The Scryers who set up shop in the Sanctum of the Stars next to the Kael led forces at the Path of Conquest did so by design.  Who better to watch and disrupt the plans of the Eclipsion forces than those who fought alongside them?  Just like in Netherstorm, who better to infiltrate the Sunfury forces there than their brethren?***

The specifics are different, but the results are the same.  You don’t see the Draenei or the Sindorei talking much about the Orcs (or Fel Orcs, for that matter) in Outland.  They both live in the present, against their very real enemies.  Ironically enough, such a focus and a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” helped with the creation of the Shattered Sun Offensive on Quel’Danas far more than any platitudes could have done.

*Yes, I’m well aware that the Sindorei abandoned the Alliance in favor of isolationism at the end of the Second War, but this is about their personal perceptions.  And besides, during the Third War, Garithos pretty much poisoned any residual feelings between the vast majority of Sindorei and the Alliance.  Never underestimate the power of prejudice.

**Quel’Danas excepted.

***There are some Scryer/Horde only quests in Netherstorm in which you infiltrate the mana forges to eavesdrop on the Sunfury leaders inside.  On the Alliance side, this is replaced by the Aldor No More quest chain.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 2 -- The Corruption Story

“Ray, when someone asks you if you are a god, you say YES!” 
--Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbusters

The racial origins of the Draenei and Sindorei are well known, but one aspect of their history bears repeating:  were it not for the Burning Legion, neither would exist in their current form.

Certainly the Legion had a hand in shaping all of the Azerothian races, but their influence is most directly felt on the Elves and Eredar.  Were it not for the Legion, the Draenei would still be Eredar.  Maybe they wouldn’t be on Argus, as Sargeras doesn’t really like people saying ‘no’ to him, but the division would never have happened.  Likewise, the Elves might not be so dominant in Azeroth as they were during the rein of Azshara –the Old Gods would have seen to that—but there would be no Queldorei were it not for the Legion and the War of the Ancients.

The temptation and corruption of an individual/race/nation is a standard tale in SFF circles, and it is used repeatedly in WoW to great effect.  You could argue that with the frequency of its use, the corruption tale is a sort of Murphy’s Law in Azeroth:  anything that can be corrupted, will be corrupted.  The Eredar were corrupted, and those who refused the Gift of Sargeras fled, renaming themselves Draenei.  On Draenor, some Draenei were corrupted by the exposure to fel energies, becoming the Broken and Lost Ones.  The Elves were also corrupted multiple times –first most of the Highborne, then the Sindorei—and each time only a fraction of the race resisted corruption.*

Now, I kind of glossed over the division between the Queldorei and the Sindorei, since that division had less to do with the direct hand of the Legion and more with so-called ‘normal’ forms of division:  racism, addiction, and political disagreements.  Some of the Queldorei were holdovers from the disagreements on High Elven isolationism after the Second War, others refused to debase themselves by allying with Illidan and harnessing fel energies, while still others were not directly exposed to Garithos’ racism.

That split aside, the Burning Legion had a direct hand in forming the two BC races as they are seen today.  The main difference between the two races is that the Draenei’s corruption happened in the distant past, while the Sindorei’s corruption is revealed over the course of the Outland questlines.

A Draenei player has a big leg up on a Blood Elf player in this discovery process because Kael’s Blood Elves are their primary focus in the starting zones.  Blood Elf players don’t even know Draenei exist until they reach the Dark Portal and see one for the first time.**  A Sindorei player, remember, has a starting zone that says “we need to get out of here” and “AAAH!! The Scourge!!”  Outland is presented to a Blood Elf player as a Shangri-la, while a Draenei player knows that things are not well in the state of Denmark.

Once a player gets to Hellfire Peninsula, the discussions of the NPCs at Falcon Watch and the Temple of Telhamat prove to be very telling.  The Sindorei are already grumbling about how Outland was supposed to be a nicer place than it’s turned out to be, while the Draenei are trying to reconnect with the Broken and warning people to avoid Falcon Watch.  There’s disillusionment and caution, yet without focus.***  In Hellfire or Zangarmarsh, you don’t see non-allied Blood Elf NPCs as the enemy –even from the Horde side—until the conclusion of the Raging Colossi quests and you discover that Kael’Thas was behind the giant crystal shard.

It’s only when a player reaches Shattrath and is presented with the story of the Scryers that the corruption tale takes off, but the way the story is presented one could easily interpret Vorenthal’s vision as referring to the Sindorei’s association with Illidan rather than the Burning Legion.  The quest lines through Terokkar, Nagrand, and almost all of Shadowmoon continue to hide Kael’Thas’ involvement with the Legion, leading a player to believe that the Legion is merely attracted to the Draenei and the Fel Orcs, with Illidan as a nice bonus.

One could make a very successful argument that the Draenei’s suspicion of the Scryers was borne from experience –not necessarily on Draenor itself, but from many years of dealing with potential enemies.  However, given the frequency of how the corruption story plays out, why the Draenei fail to see its effect in the Scryers remains puzzling.  If the Draenei are immortal as they are hinted to be, then you’d think that the older ones at the very least would recognize what is before their eyes.  In a way, this disconnect is implied in the ‘Aldor no More’ quest line in Netherstorm, where the youthful Draenei Kaylaan has become disillusioned and is unable to call upon the Light.

In Netherstorm, the Socrethar’s Seat quest chain culminates the big reveal that Kael is in league with the Legion, and the side quests associated with it flesh out that even some Sindorei who didn’t join with the Scryers are refusing to associate with Kael anymore.  You would think that at this point that the Aldor would be more accepting of the Scryers, but that had to wait for the Quel’Danas/Sunwell expansion.

Nevertheless, a corruption story is a corruption story, and although it is cloaked in the complexities of allegiances to both Illidan and (for the Sindorei from Quel’Thalas) the Horde, the fall of the Sindorei remains a high point in the Burning Crusade quest lines.  The Quel’Thalas and Scryer Sindorei have discovered the fall of their brethren at the hands of the Burning Legion, just as the Eredar experienced eons ago. 

Did the Sindorei set themselves up for it?  Sure, just as you could argue quite successfully that the Eredar did as well.  Sargeras was no slouch, and the fallen Titan knew exactly what strings to pull to get a race such as the Eredar to ally with him.  Just as with the Sindorei, most of the Eredar willingly agreed to an alliance with the Burning Legion, and from the looks of it, they don’t exactly have buyer’s remorse.

*In the interest of completeness, the Orcs were corrupted multiple times as well, first the division that caused the break by the Mag’har, and the later division by the Frostwolf clan.  However, the Orcs were redeemed at the end of Warcraft III, which is out of the scope of this analysis.

**Unless they run into an Alliance player while out and about or they invade an Alliance settlement.

*** If anything, the Apothecary in Falcon Watch is the most repulsive character in the zone for the experimentation on a captured Draenei.

EtA:  Corrected a plural issue, and replaced "that" with "than".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 1 -- Introduction

“I hate the Space Goats.”

“Blood Elves are gay.”

“Draenei are stupid."

“BE women are designed just for oversexed teenagers.”

“Female Draenei are like looking at J-Lo with a tail.”

“Blood Elves aren’t real Horde.”

“I go out of my way to gank the Goats.”

“When I see a BE, I want to punch them.  Pretty Horde my ass.”

Sound familiar?

If you’ve played WoW any stretch of time, you come across a lot of strong feelings about the two Burning Crusade races.  Sure, there’s plenty of love for them out there, but there’s been just as much (if not more) hate.  These two races rarely seem to inspire a ‘meh’ reaction from the WoW crowd.

I’m a bit of an odd man out in that I not only play both races but I actually like both of them.  I recently finished the Loremaster of Outland achievement on Tomakan, and I can now share a belief that’s been growing on me the past year:  the two races have enough in common that they could be considered fraternal twins.

Yes, I know, this is a bit of a departure from a previous post of mine, but that post concerned the low level experiences of both races in the Old World.  That post still remains valid because Blizzard didn’t change things very much for both races in the post-Cata Old World.  As for the entire breadth of Draenei/Sindorei lore present in WoW, consider the following racial history:

  • Tempted by outside powers, the majority willingly turn to Darkness.  As a reward, they are granted tremendous power.  Those who refuse flee.
  • Finding a safe haven, they rebuild a semblance of their prior life.
  • Invaded and decimated by outside forces, what remains clings to life support.
  • These outside forces are the focus of their ire to the exclusion of almost all else.
  • Convinced of their superiority, the race has a blind spot the size of New Jersey.

Now, which race am I talking about?

Anyone?  Bueller?


What I intend to do the next few posts is expound upon how similar the two races are, so that maybe they can be seen in a different light.  I’m going to focus upon the in-game lore, because that is the lore that gets the biggest dissemination in WoW.  If you play WoW, you have access to the in-game lore; not everybody is going to read the books/comics or watch the DVDs from the BC Collector’s Edition.

Of course, I’m not finished with Alliance side Loremaster --I might miss a few isolated things in the post-Cata Old World-- but I’m reasonably confident that I’ve got most of the Draenei/Sindorei in-game lore covered.

Hopefully, these posts will help a player gain some insight into these two BC races, and encourage people to explore the in-game lore for both sides and come to their own conclusions.