Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wordpress Doesn't Seem to Like Me

No, really.

I've commented on several Wordpress blogs lately, including The Last Chapter Gaming Blog, Kamalia et Alia and The Ancient Gaming Noob, but the comments never appeared.

My first thought was that I'd somehow screwed up and pushed a Cancel button or something instead of Post Comment, but I've since discovered that there is no Cancel button.

Okay, I thought. Maybe I ended up on a spam list somewhere.

The only issue with that is that I'd assume that if that were the case I couldn't post on Blogger hosted blogs as well, but I have no issues there.

So go figure.

It's not as if this sort of thing hasn't cropped up before. My wife managed to get our main PC infected several years ago, and even after I removed the infection our PC showed up on some block lists that our ISP subscribed to, so I had to wait until our PC vanished from those lists before we could connect to the internet once more.

I'm kind of hoping that's not the case, because removing infections can be a royal PITA.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Musings in a Brave New World

In these extraordinary times, when "shelter in place" and "pandemic" and "cancelled" have become active parts of our lexicon, I've been wondering about gaming. Obviously, if you're stuck inside the house one of the activities you can do --by yourself or with family-- is play games. If the mini-Reds were a lot younger, we'd be playing a ton of boardgames in our free time*, but nowadays they've been playing video games.

And yes, that includes MMOs.

The oldest mini-Red has noticed an uptick in gamers in LOTRO recently, and I've noticed more players online in WoW Classic as well, although the opening of Arathi Basin might have something to do with that.

As for ESO I can't tell, because I mainly craft these days.** and I've only been puttering around Belsavis and Hoth in SWTOR lately, which aren't typically your most populated zones.

But I've also been playing a lot of Civ IV games, and the second mini-Red has been playing a lot of Civ V.

What have you noticed? Has there been noticeable uptick in gaming?

*Relatively speaking. I work from home, and that hasn't changed. And my wife still works retail, and her job hasn't shut down yet as it's kind of important to distributing food and supplies.

**I've got it in my head that I'm going to do all of the expansions (both major and minor) in order, and that means saving up money to either subscribe or buy the mini-expacs outright, so I'm kind of in a holding pattern there.

Monday, March 16, 2020

You know the world has turned upside down when....

...I pull out an album I've not listened to since roughly 1990.

My wife asked me to fix her old Magnavox
stereo system, ~1987, so...

Some of the oldest mini-Red's university stuff is to the right; her university is going virtual for the rest of the semester, and I'm pretty sure that the second mini-Red's university will follow shortly.

EtA: Aaaand we just received word that his university is definitely going virtual. I guess it's time to hit the road again.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Happy Tenth!!

In the midst of everything going on, I forgot to mention that Kamalia of Kamalia et Alia has celebrated her tenth blogoversary on March 9th.

Kamalia's Gravitar.

I've enjoyed her fashion sense with her Sunday on the Promenade recurring series, having been able to create fashion outfits out of the tons and tons of WoW gear that you can use. Me, I'm just happy if I don't look like Burning Crusade clown gear, but maybe I should learn a thing or two about fashion sense (and I don't mean wearing white after Labor Day).

Over the years, Kamalia has seen her family grow with two new additions, and I can truly appreciate her efforts at keeping the blog running with two little ones around.

Happy Tenth, Kamalia!!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Two Inc To Lumber Mill

Yes, that means that Arathi Basin opened this week on WoW Classic, and Zul'Gurub and Nightmare Dragons next month.

A short refresher. And no, that's not
Cardwyn on the left. (From Wowhead Clasic.)

I guess that makes up for E3 being cancelled, among other major cancellations out there. eSports is but one venue being hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, but for gamers eSports and cons such as E3, PAX, BlizzCon, and GenCon are huge social events. Of course, gamer events are, comparatively speaking, small potatoes to some of the cancellations and/or modifications happening in other areas, such as the NBA suspending the rest of their basketball season, the NCAA Hockey and Basketball Tournaments to be played without spectators, and the Italian Serie A football season suspended.

Fast news week, if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shooting Robo-dinos with Arrows -- Coming Soon to a PC Near You

To get away from fiction for a while, news came out yesterday that the PS4 title, Horizon: Zero Dawn, is coming to PC.

From The Verge, who credit Guerilla Games.

Of all the PS4 exclusives, this is the one I was most interested in, and I know I'm not the only one. However, I'd kind of resigned myself to never seeing the game on PC because, well, Sony would like to keep their exclusives in-house and make you buy a PS4 instead.

I guess Sony must have run the numbers and decided there was more money to be made by releasing the game on PC rather than keeping it in-house. I'd like to think that's the case, as I can't possibly be the only PC gamer who simply doesn't have an XBoxOne or PS4 lying around.* Additionally, it certainly seems that consoles are driving the video games market, so PC ports can be more trouble than they're worth: with the XBox and PS architecture, you only have to design for far fewer sets of hardware than in the PC market. Additionally, PC gamers are used to much higher framerates and graphical detail than can be found in the console market. Nevermind that the number of PC gamers who have hardware that can achieve those lofty heights aren't that numerous, that the potential is there is the important part.

Officially, Sony is saying that they want to lure PC people into using the PS4, but I believe that everybody who wants and/or owns a PS4 already has a PC, so chasing after dollars from people like me --who don't have and don't want a PS4-- is kind of a head scratcher.

But hey, I'm happy to accept this lure by Sony. Sony had better not expect me to drop the full price for the game, however, as a) I don't have that sort of money just lying around, and b) I'm busy with other games first.

*I'm not including the Nintendo Switch here, as third parties aren't exactly flocking to putting their latest and greatest on the Switch. Their loss, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

On Being Debriefed

Now that the story is fully posted, I can take a deep breath and relax.

Once I started in on the tale, I didn't expect to be flirting with a novella length story*, but that's what ended up. I know it's cliche to say it, but the characters themselves insisted on a manuscript this size, although I did chop off quite a few words during editing.** Cardwyn in particular shoved me out of the way and took over the keyboard, insisting that "this was how it happened".

I originally started this project writing in third person, but it just didn't feel right. I personally prefer third person, because you can get multiple viewpoints from scene to scene, but once I converted to first person the story flowed much better. There are events behind the story that Card was never going to know --at least at the time, anyway-- so I had to create a cheat sheet with a timeline to keep everything straight.


One thing I immediately decided upon, however, was to expand the size of Azeroth. As of now, in both Classic and Retail, Azeroth is just big enough to allow people to travel and keep things interesting going from point to point. In much the same vein that Turbine/Standing Stone took towards creating LOTRO, if Azeroth were as large as it really should be, there'd just be tons and tons of walking around with absolutely empty countryside. Think of it this way: in LOTRO, you can ride from Bree to Rivendell within a day of game time whereas in Tolkien's Middle-earth it would have taken close to a week's riding travel to get there.***

An ancillary point is that according to the map of Elwynn Forest, there's a grand total of four farms present in the zone, with one of them a vineyard and another a pumpkin patch. That's simply not enough farmland to feed all of Goldshire, let alone Stormwind. Walking (not jogging) from where Guard Thomas is stationed at the stream near the logging camp to Goldshire is something around 15-30 minutes of game time, which makes sense only from a plot/game perspective.

Based on all of this, I essentially blew up Elwynn Forest into a super-sized version --complete with many more farms-- which also means that Goldshire takes on more importance as a regional farming hub than the WoW Classic version would allow. Consider the difference between Troyes and Paris in Medieval France: while Paris was the center of the monarchy, Troyes was a major trading hub in the Medieval period, enough to command its own fairs and draw people from throughout the region. Troyes even has its own cathedral, which is a very big deal in Medieval Europe.

There were other items, however, that I did not tinker with.

I knew in general what Evelyn and the others could do, and also knew that the four veterans (Balthan, Daryn, Evelyn, and Mona) were considerably more experienced than the Defias they were facing. That also meant that in game terms they were significantly higher level than the Defias, so they should have been able to steamroll the Defias in a fair fight.**** The leaders of the Defias gang undoubtedly knew this, and even though they thought they were originally going to fight just Daryn and Mona, they decided to use as many dirty tricks for leverage as they could. But once the actual fight began, I had to keep in the back of my mind whether things that Evelyn in particular did were possible within the context of the game.*****


In addition to this being Cardwyn's story, I wanted to keep any involvement from the "main" WoW NPCs to a minimum.

If there's one thing that bugs me the most about the WoW stories that Blizz puts out, they always focus on the "big players" within Azeroth. What makes WoW --and especially WoW Classic-- tick is that it's us, the players, who have the direct involvement in the story. And WoW Classic in particular doesn't elevate us to the level of the power brokers in Azeroth, and it doesn't try to either. You might be part of the army --represented in game by 40 person raids-- that takes down Onyxia, but you're not Luke Skywalker or Aragorn. At best, you're somewhere around Fatty Bolger's level#, who had a part to play but was one of many.

But the WoW books spend so much time on the "big players" that they miss the point of what makes WoW interesting: us.

I was determined that Cardwyn's story would not involve the "big players" at all, because this is a story about, well, us. No nobles, no kings, no high priests, no faction leaders, just people. Even the NPCs aren't exactly high up in anybody's command structure, and although at least one mid-high level NPC is mentioned in the story, there's no guarantee that he'll play a part in any subsequent tale. Additionally, there's no guarantee that Balthan is as well connected as he thinks he is. After all, the guy drinks at taverns all over Azeroth, and I can't imagine a faction leader --or their immediate subordinates or even their subordinates-- doing just that.##

That doesn't mean that along the way Card won't run into some people who qualify as "big players", but the story won't be about them, but Card herself. And I'm happy with that, because while I can wander over to Stormwind Castle, I don't have quest markers over the big players in the throne room. At least at the same rate as you find in some of the later expacs, anyway.

But an astute reader will figure out who Card's older sister is, and yes, that was deliberate. I always thought there was a story there with her, and I decided to tie that NPC in with Card's story. In as much the same way as the Blue Recluse barker or Ol' Emma roaming Stormwind, these are the stories I really want told.

No more "big player only" stories in Azeroth, please.


There is one last item, and it is presently driving me nuts, but Cardwyn will simply. not. shut. up.

It was as if I'd opened the floodgates, as once I finished this story Card has been bugging me, showing me scenes for other stories and other people, and insisting that these stories be told as well.

That's great and all, but I don't think it's going to happen just yet. And besides, I don't want to turn this blog into a fan fiction blog. I am also aware of my own limitations. I'm not that great at description, and while I don't aspire to be a Robert Jordan with his walls of descriptive text it would be nice to figure out how to describe things a bit better than the spartan level I presently can attain.

And although I'm grateful that Ancient allowed me to use Kitwynn, I don't want to create the Kit and Az Show. I do admit that it could be hilarious in its own way, but I don't want to take creative control over Kit. She belongs to Ancient, and I really like it that way.


So there it is, my big debriefing about One Final Lesson, and I'm glad I wrote it. It's something so unlike the rest of PC's output that I understand that people may not be that interested in it, but the concept behind the story was something that had been bugging me for quite a while. While I'll freely admit that when I hear "fan fiction" I immediately have "Rule 34" pop in my head, I knew that if I was going to make this story work I wasn't going to come within 10 miles of anything like that type of fan fiction.

Thanks for being patient with me for putting the story out in several posts.

*According to SFWA guidelines for the Nebula awards, a novelette is 7500 - 17500 words, and a novella is 17500 - 40000 words. One Last Lesson clocks in at roughly 18975 words, give or take some 10 words as I'd made some last minute tweaks that I need to add back to the original Word doc.

**The original draft finished at over 20000 words. I guess I tend to be a bit wordy.

***I should point out that unless you've invented the Middle-earth Express, horses can't be expected to be pushed to their limits everyday without collapsing. The same thing goes for people walking from Bree to Rivendell; I can see 10 miles per day on a normal pace (and remember a "normal pace" also includes stopping time for food/rest/camp setup before dark), and maybe twice that on a forced march, but keeping a forced march up for weeks will not leave the army with enough energy at the end to fight in melee.

****And in the end it was.

*****Yes, it could be done, if she was a Frost Mage and blew all her CDs. The only item added for dramatic effect was the time it took for the frozen Defias Mage to thaw. Typically it takes much less time in-game than what it was in the story, but as Card said, she kind of overdid it.

#If there's one thing that drives me nuts about the LOTR movies, it's that a couple of smaller but memorable characters, such as Fatty Bolger, had to get cut. Don't get me wrong, I love the movies, and I'm not really complaining about Tom Bombadil either, but I felt Fatty got the short shrift based on how Peter Jackson put the four hobbits together as opposed to the books. It also made Pippin more of comic relief rather than simply naive.

##If you strip away their responsibility, I could see a few of them doing so --particularly Magni Bronzebeard-- but the thing is that they can't. Their situation does not allow them that luxury at all, and to be honest once they get far enough removed from the common people they lose all sorts of perspective. Think of Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2: he goes out drinking and has a grand old time, but once he becomes king he has to put those aside for the serious business of ruling. What he effectively tells Falstaff and his drinking buddies is "I don't know you" once he becomes king.