Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Where's the Shower?

I was in Isle of Conquest, having snuck up from the Quarry to the Hangar, when it happened.

The Horde had taken the Hangar and left, leaving a lone undergeared Hunter to guard the place.  By the time I'd arrived, a Worgen Feral Druid was circling his prey, waiting for an extra body to strike.  I closed and we struck, wiping out the Hunter.

As I captured the Hangar, the Druid whispered, "Can I ask you something?"

It's not the first time I'd gotten whispers like that, so I barely batted an eye.  "Sure."

"Can I have a touch?"

That wasn't what I expected.  Well, whatever I was expecting, it wasn't that.  Surely I was reading the wrong thing into that whisper.  "Um, what?"

"We're too undergeared to do anything, so why don't you pop out them titties and we can have some fun?"

No, that was exactly what he was thinking.

I snorted, both in-game and out of game.  "We can have some fun" really meant "I want a cheap thrill playing with the virtual breasts of a stranger."

Really?  We're in the middle of a battleground, we're actually in the process of capturing a base, and THIS is all you can think about?

I was about to say "You DO realize that I MIGHT be a guy," but stopped.  For this person, it probably wouldn't even matter, and it might actually encourage him further.

Before I could say a simple and blunt "No," he was jumped from behind by two Horde.

I crept away, leaving him to his fate.  Never had I been happier to see a Warrior and DK combo in my life.


I've been playing MMOs for almost four years now with a mix of male and female toons, and that was the first time I'd been propositioned like that.  My male Blood Elf bank alt had been wolf whistled at by female toons when he made the journey to Silvermoon, but this was something else entirely.

My first reaction to that encounter --aside from revulsion-- was bewilderment.  How on earth could that person think such a crude come-on would work?  His toon isn't in a position of power over mine, so what made him think he could attempt to dominate me like that?

Oh wait.  Real life.

We all bring our experiences to the table when we login to an MMO, whether we like it or not.  Some people take advantage of the anonymity that an MMO provides and use it to satisfy their own sexual urges.*    Just like how some people take advantage of Trade Chat to spew racist and sexist crap, others just wait for situations like this.  If you're on the receiving end of it, you simply can't win, either.  If you refuse, you're an uptight bitch who won't loosen up; if you report you're a crazy bitch who can't take a joke; if you say nothing that's tacit approval.

Four years without being harassed like this in-game is a fairly long time, but for my mind, not long enough.  My only regret was was that I didn't take down the toon's name so I could report him.  I know kids who play MMOs, and the last thing they need is an encounter like that one.

*In a mutually agreed situation, that can (probably) work out fine, but this was anything but that.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not These Guys Again

Anybody remember when the Zandalari were the good guys?*

Now, they're reduced to the role the Nazis filled in the Indy Jones movies.

Zandalaris....  I hate these guys!
I reached the end of the "original" Pandaria quest chains, and I find myself...  Disappointed.  It seems that Blizz walked up right to the edge with the Mongols Mogu and decided that it was too risky to have new baddies out there all by themselves.  Therefore, they dug into their collection of past enemies and pulled out the Trolls.


I should have seen this coming; after all, both vanilla and every expac of WoW that has been released has featured Trolls as the baddies in some form or another:  Zul'Gurub and Sunken Temple (Vanilla), Zul'Aman (BC), Drak'Theron and Gundrak (Wrath), the 5-man Zuls (Cata).  While they don't get their own separate instance/raid, they are heavily featured in raids such as Mogushan Vaults and Throne of Thunder.

You can't go more than 100 feet in the Isle of Thunder without smacking into a Troll.  And if it weren't for a Rogue's stealth ability, I'm sure I would have.

I just feel like there was such a great chance to Blizzard to fully commit to the Mogu as the balance to the Sha in Pandaria, and they decided that the Thunder King and company couldn't stand on their own.  What's going to happen in the next expac, anyway?  Should they skip other baddies entirely and title it "Trollmageddon"?


As an aside, I had to wonder about the naming of Lei Shen's home.  Isle of Thunder doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but when I switched it around I realized one reason why it shouldn't be named Thunder Island:

I'm actually disappointed that nobody has created a WoW music video based on Jay Ferguson's 70's tune.  Of course, I don't think that you'll find people "chasin' love" out there on WoW's Thunder Island.


That does bring up another issue I had with the questing in Pandaria.  Blizz deliberately went for the darker feel in their quest writing, making Vashj'ir seem like a walk in the park by comparison.  But even then, they snuck in their traditional pop culture nods and humorous hijinks.  (Hayden Christophen as the Alliance Honor Quartermaster, for instance).  This time, however, I think that the humorous asides actually detract from the rest of the questing.  Like how Toshley's Station (and to a lesser extent Area 52) are jarring enough that you lose your immersion in the game, quests like the ones associated with the Grummies left me grinding my teeth.

At times like this, I wish Blizz would dial back the humor a bit and at least take themselves more seriously.  We already get tons of "kill ten rats" quests as it is, I don't think a spoonful of sugar humor is going to help that medicine go down any easier.


The ending to Dread Wastes, however, is right up there with the ending to Vashj'ir, where you watch what happens and think "Holy shit, we're screwed."**  That said you only get that sort of emotional punch out of an ending once, and if you mess it up you've lost a golden opportunity.  Blizz did a great job on that one.  And on the Jade Forest's ending as well.  For some reason, Townlong Steppes and the combined Krasarang Wilds/Valley of the Four Winds endings didn't have the same sort of punch.  And of course, Kun-lai Summit's ending is in an instance, so it gets an incomplete.

All in all, Blizz did some things right --a bit less quests on rails, although it is still quite noticeable-- which pretty much balance out the issues I had with questing.  I knew I was getting near the end when I kept saying to myself "Just hang in there, Dread Wastes has got to end soon."  The last time I was saying that, I was in The Old Republic and slogging through Belsavis.  And that's a shame, because the overall story behind Dread Wastes was very interesting.

*Or at least semi-good guys.  Hey, scholars are good.

**At least a real raid came out of this, compared to what happened in Vashj.

EtA:  I forgot Zul'Farrak for Vanilla.  That's what I get for hanging around the Eastern Kingdoms lately.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Old Fashioned Way of Doing Things

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
--Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.
--The Jedi Code*

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I wrote about how corruption was a major theme in Blizzard's work.  A couple of expacs since that time, Blizzard hasn't really changed their tune very much.  In fact, you could argue that Blizzard is simply coming up with new ways to use corruption.

Okay, Twilight's Hammer was a gimme.  You're tempted by power and who looks like the winning side, and you join with Deathwing.  Even the Sha are pretty blatant.  You open your heart to those non-Zen Buddhist emotions such as fear, anger, and hate** just a tiny bit, and the Sha sneak right on in and corrupt you.  In a very real sense, the Sha are the ultimate excuse for bad behavior:  "I was possessed by the Sha!  They made me do it!  Somebody release the Sha that's inside me!!"

But the war between factions?  Garrosh?  Well, Blizz has gone on record for saying that Garrosh is simply a "bad egg".  Oh, he may eventually become corrupted by the power within Pandaria (/cough 5.4 /cough), but he was evil and/or power hungry to begin with.

O really?

Has everybody forgotten the kid in Nagrand who was so afraid that he'd turn out like his father that he let the Ogres and evil-aligned Broken walk all over his tribe?  The kid who only began to grow a spine when Thrall showed him how his father redeemed himself?

Even though that questline has pretty much dried up due to conflicts --Thrall not being Warchief these days-- that's pretty telling that Garrosh wasn't exactly a "bad egg".  He became a bad egg due to his experiences.  He saw when he first arrived in Orgrimmar that bluster worked.  That aggression worked in Northrend.  He took a strong offensive stance and freed the Dragonmaw from their Legion tainted leaders, learning that putting pedal to the metal worked.  He surrounded himself with "yes men" and marginalized those who would provide better counsel:  Saurfang, Cairne, Baine, Vol'jin, Rexxar, Eitrigg, and Lor'themar.***

In short, he became corrupted with power just like any number of despots.

If he'd had different experiences, if he'd have learned something by the way he was duped into killing Cairne, or if he'd have learned something about power and responsibility after Stonetalon, Garrosh would have turned out differently.  But he didn't.

Seduced by the Dark Side, he was.

*Good thing that the Tao espouses a lack of passion, because some lawyer somewhere would have a field day on this.

**You can hear Yoda saying this, can't you?  "The Dark Side are they...."  That said, the one thing that TOR has that Blizzard doesn't have is romance in the questlines.  The world's biggest generator of fear, anger, and hate is romance/relationships, and Blizz simply refuses to examine that outside of, say, the books.

***I didn't throw Sylvanas into the mix because I'm not convinced she'd give good counsel, and she's also too far gone with her version of total war.  If Liadrin were not consumed with rebuilding Quel'Danas and managing the Blood Knights, I'd have put her in the list as well.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Cusp of the Weekend

Well, that didn't take long.

Somewhere in the middle of Kun-lai Summit my rogue dinged 90 without a single piece of heirloom gear on her (that was still active, anyway; I kept the Inherited Insignia of the Alliance just because).

This was the quickest I'd leveled to max level in a new expac area, and if I'd have been a non-stealthie class I'd have finished even sooner because I avoided a lot of mobs while out questing.  By comparison, I dinged L80 in Storm Peaks on Q, and L85 in Twilight Highlands on Neve and Tom.

And while it's going to be nice for questing, PvP just got a big punch in the gut.

I mean, really.  Most of my gear is in the L414 range; what do you think would happen if I got into WSG with that gear iL?

I considered running scenarios and/or instances, but really, they didn't appeal to me.  I didn't feel like dragging down a scenario with my (relative lack of) DPS, and while instances might work, if I'm going to be spending time getting badges I might as well get Honor instead.  Okay, I have to be honest:  I queued for an instance long enough to see the DPS wait time for a normal was 45 minutes, and decided I'd much rather get two BGs in before a single instance popped.

That said, just any old BG won't do if you're not geared up for it.  A rule of thumb of mine is that the more the players on a side, the lesss impact a single player will have.  Therefore, for an undergeared toon, my best bet is to stick to the 40 man BGs and ride on some coattails.

Oh hai, Vann!  Nice to see you!


It feels weird walking around Neverwinter.

The last time I was in the Jewel of the North was in the video game Neverwinter Nights, back before D&D 4E and the Spellplague.  Even though she is dead now, I keep expecting to see Lady Aribeth, Paladin of Tyr, wandering around the Protector's Enclave.

I also expect --as a Cleric-- to be managing my available spells and keeping an eye on balancing healing with utility.  But in Neverwinter, based as it is on D&D 4E, all of that is out the window.  Neverwinter is far closer to a Diablo-esque game than a traditional MMO in terms of gameplay.  The commands alone feel better suited to a gamepad than a keyboard.

Still, it is an addictive game, and I recognize the Forgotten Realms lingo in the NPCs you meet.


Kids and MMOs, Part Whatever:

I called the kids down to dinner last night, and as she sat down my youngest got a funny look on her face.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I didn't park my Smuggler before coming down.  She was in Black Sun territory."

I headed for the stairs.  "I'll take care of it."

After moving her toon into a corner, I returned to the table.  "Kiddo," I began, "Why is your Smuggler wearing a dress?"


"You realize you put on gear meant for a counselor, right?"

"Oh, so THAT's why she looked weird!"

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Embarrassment Of Riches

I was thinking about this last night, when I was goofing around on several MMOs.  While I'm sure that some will disagree, it seems that right at this point in time we've got a lot of really good MMOs that we can sample and play as much as we like.

From MMOs based on known properties (ranging from Star Wars to Conan to D&D) all the way to new designs such as The Secret World, it seems that we're in the middle of an MMO F2P/B2P explosion.  Yes, the basic MMO design hasn't changed too much since the EQ and early WoW days, but how it's implemented and for what property has.

As much as some people want to complain about how the F2P and B2P games make their money*, the fact that they not only are able to survive but put out new content has to be heartening.  Look at a game such as Age of Conan:  after a huge launch, it was pretty much written off and/or left for dead after the glitches and the "Tortage vs. the rest of the game" experience.  However, it just finished it's fifth anniversary after having spent the past few years as F2P.  The Old Republic suffered from the "nothing to do" syndrome after a toon reached max level**, but after it went F2P Bioware has not only provided new updates and content but has seen a stabilization in subs and a rise in players.

The F2P/B2P models aren't panaceas, and I'm not altogether certain they are the wave of the future, but what these two models do provide is choice.  Don't think WoW or Rift is brutal enough?  Go try adventuring in Hyborea for a while.  Need more Cthulhu?  There's an entire game devoted to that feeling of dread and despair (The Secret World).  Tired of killing Sith?  There's a Klingon D7 with your name on it.  Or maybe you want the feel of returning to an old haunt like the Forgotten Realms?  Or an even older haunt like The Shire?  Or maybe you just want to be an angel for a little while, such as in Aion.***

And that's not even touching games such as Guild Wars 2 (and the upcoming Wildstar).

I think it's pretty safe to say that I'd have burned out on MMOs in general if there weren't such a variety to play with these days.  It can cause problems for me when I get into an instance or a battleground, but in general I really enjoy the variety of worlds to play in.  My only regret is that I can't pay these companies more for their work (budget, you know).  But I do what I can.

Is it too much to have someone look at the old Darklands video game and create an MMO based on that?  Now THAT would be cool.

*I was thinking of the Ten Ton Hammer article on how much they hate the lock boxes for Star Trek Online, but the reality is that those lock boxes and those announcements in-game are no worse than seeing hundreds of sparkle ponies in WoW.

**As well as a lack of grouping tools, etc., that players had become accustomed to.  Remember, even Blizzard tried to mix things up in Cata by having players find the entrance to the instances before they were allowed to queue for them, but what happened was that players would simply avoid the instances they didn't like (/cough Stonecore /cough).

***Now that I think about it, an MMO based on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series would be pretty cool.  My kids are presently working on an RPG for Percy Jackson using the Savage Worlds system and the Super Powers Companion books as a starting point, and I'm sure they're not the only ones out there who have had that idea.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Oh, This is Gonna Hurt....

I was working on the Red Crane Temple area of Karasang Wilds with Anduin in tow* when I ran into yet another gearcheck wall:  the two mini-bosses in the separate wings of the temple.  What was more annoying this time was that I was properly equipped with as much green and blue quest gear as would be expected as someone attempting this.  If it weren't for the ads that show up when the sha bosses are halfway down I don't think there'd be as much a problem, but those ads force me to use up all of my CDs, and then I'm just a sitting duck in leather gear** trying to build up combo points.

I'd been chatting with Vidyala from Manalicious in-game, and hearing of my latest wipe offered to help.  (I'd forgotten about CRZ capability in Pandaria; it's there, lurking beneath the surface.)  I gratefully accepted her offer, and when her Mage Millya winged in, I crept around and assaulted the first mini-boss.  Two zaps from Vid and the mini-boss was a smoldering heap.

"Holy crap!" I said.

Vid laughed.  "You're still L88," she pointed out.

"Yeah, but..." then I noticed her health bar.  "You're more than twice my health!"

"Did I ever tell you about the time I tanked Elegon?"

"Yeah, but...  Wow."  I knew that she was on the current raiding tier, but this discrepancy was almost as much as the discrepancy between a fresh L85 and a Mists-geared L89 in a battleground.

We circled around to the other mini-boss --she flew and I crept over-- and repeated the fireworks.

"All I can think about is how it's going to hurt when I ding L90 and get into a BG," I said, awed, as I thanked her for the assist.

Even now, I can see myself as a smudge on the ground, with the "L2P Noob!" ringing in my pointy ears.  Just when you thought you made it to the top of the mountain....

*I'm already sick of that kid.  For a Mists release, he sure seems to be fighting with the punch of a Wrath-era toon.  I find even Corso (the Smuggler companion on TOR) less annoying than Anduin.

**With a conspicuous opening right between the breasts.  Reminds me of the old Female Armor Sucks comedy skit that Collegehumor put out a while back.  Yes, go watch it through the link; it's a classic.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hellooooo! Anybody home??

Such was my feeling working my way through Pandaria.

I'm already on my third zone, Krasarang Wilds, having completed the first two.*  While I know two things --cross realm zones are turned off for Pandaria and I've already passed one of the big "dailies" hubs at the Tillers area-- I'm still surprised at how few toons are out and about in Pandaria itself.  I've seen more toons in Hellfire Peninsula than in the first three Pandaria zones, and that's kind of scary.

There's obviously players out there, as Cynwise demonstrated in his class distribution post, but wherever they are, it's not in Panda-land.

I am not going to jump to conclusions here, but I suspect that people like me who took their time to level a new toon are outliers, and most of the utility in the new zones is already spent.  As the "game starts at max level" people will tell you, that's not a surprise.  But think of all the effort it took to generate the data in those new zones, and you'll understand why I'm more than a bit concerned about the future of WoW.

Just like in Cataclysm, Blizzard expended a lot of effort to create new content (and a new continent), but the usefulness of that content evaporated once the big wave made it to L90.  I suppose you could make the argument that 2 years of development was useful for the majority of players up until patch 5.1 dropped, only a few months worth of playtime.  That's not exactly fair, but the dearth of characters out in Pandaria feed the perception that Blizzard would be better off spending time devising new raids and BGs.  (And pets.)

For those people (like me) who have complained about Blizzard's use of the WoW novels and short stories to advance the lore rather than develop it in-game, this is a pretty damning result.  If you were a bean counter at Blizzard, which would give you more bang for the buck:  a novel or in-game content?   And what's more, if you knew the in-game content would be tossed aside at the earliest opportunity, where would you put your development dollars at?

It's a shame, really, because when Blizz' development staff take themselves and their topic seriously they can create some really good content.

*Given my current leveling rate, supplemented by BGs, I'll be at max level by the time I'm finished with Kun-Lai Summit.  That's great for entering the Dread Wastes, but for a BG-er, that's going to be painful.