Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not With a Bang, but a Whimper

That's how my WoW subscription ended.

With a 12 hour server downtime.

I thought it was going to end today, but apparently it ended yesterday. So much for those last few items I threw on the auction house.*

I also had hoped to drop in on Ancient, to get a snapshot of Cat and I hanging out in DB North in Alterac Valley, but that wasn't to be.**

The night before, I came across the same Night Elf warrior from Moonrunner in multiple AV runs, and since the two of us were on the backcap team, we got to chatting. I'm now kicking myself that I didn't mention that I knew some people from Moonrunner, in Business Time. Another moment of pure serendipity lost.

However, I did manage to cross a couple of items off of my list, things I wanted to solo before I no longer had the chance to.  Like all of the Vanilla and BC raid instances. Or how far could I get in a Mists 5-man instance solo as a rogue?  (Answer, not very.)

I don't miss the Trade Chat, however.  In the couple of weeks since Durotan-US merged with Ysera-US, the Trade Chat has exploded with both factions being complete and total asses to each other. It hadn't reached Area-52 levels yet, but it was certainly trending in that direction.

If there was any indicator that the (don't call them) server merges were needed to keep major gathering places relevant, the merge between Durotan and Ysera were Exhibit A. I would have counted on two hands the number of people in Ysera at Shrine of Seven Stars on most days, and after the merger the place looks filled and active again.

Anyway, the stress and frustration is now behind me. New challenges are ahead.

*Which makes me wonder, if my account is suspended, do any auctions that are still open disappear too? And does the mail from any (un)successful auction disappear after 30 days as well?

**We could have hid throughout the entire battleground and nobody would have noticed, Ancient. The Alliance steamrolls that often enough that you could go AFK.

Monday, July 21, 2014

You Could, You Know.... Ask...

The MMO music podcast Battle Bards had two listener request shows recently.  When they put out a call for requests, I forwarded along my pick to Battle Bard Syl of MMO Gypsy:

The Theme for Rohan, composed by Chance Thomas*, and featuring Taylor Davis on violin, encapsulates what I like the most about the Riders of Rohan soundtrack for LOTRO.  It's very straightforward, yet the playing is very emotional. The Celtic overtones, with the bodhran and tin whistle, add to the emotional impact of the music.

In addition to the pick, I'd also griped to Syl about my inability to find any MMO sheet music out there other than WoW's.**  Syl took my commentary and added it to the feedback section of the second podcast. Battle Bard Syp, also of Bio Break, suggested a couple of things, but the one which was a classic 'Doh! moment was to simply contact the composer(s) and ask if sheet music was available.

Of course, I'd been operating under the assumption that the game companies owned the soundtrack (and the sheet music), but hey, it was worth a shot.

I contacted Chance Thomas, composer of LOTRO's more recent soundtracks, and asked him if sheet music was available for purchase for any of the pieces.  He wrote back to let me know that while most of the music was owned by Warner Brothers, he was able to give me the solo violin part for Theme for Rohan.

The mini-Reds were excited.

My oldest informed me that a few notes in the piece go too low for her oboe to reach, but I don't think that'd deter her from making an attempt at it.

*Congrats to Chance for his invitation to conduct Theme for Rohan at the Utah Symphony!

**I've since discovered an arrangement of some Age of Conan pieces in a suite for wind ensemble, but the cost is over $395 EUR, which is a wee bit out of my price range.

EtA: Got my commentary order messed up.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Did I just see that? Yes, yes I really did.

Okay, in case you've not seen this before, this is the Ohio State University Marching Band playing a medley of classic video game tunes at the Nebraska / Ohio State football game on October 6, 2012. It was a bit of a FB sensation when it and other videos found their way to YouTube.*

Okay, that was cool. But I'll wager you weren't expecting this:

Yes, that is a high school marching band playing three World of Warcraft pieces for a band competition in 2012.

Yes, you can actually find WoW sheet music for a marching band.


Which brings me to a gripe of mine. Why is it so hard to find sheet music for MMO soundtracks not called World of Warcraft?

Sure, if you're good enough you could transcribe --my kids do that enough as it is-- but it would be nice if there were a way to get (non-WoW) MMO soundtrack sheet music.  It was easy enough to find sheet music for WoW --we have it somewhere buried under other sheet music in the house right now-- but hours of searching for, say, LOTRO or SWTOR sheet music have yielded nothing.

Those two examples are hampered quite a bit by being part of popular movie franchises, but still I've not much luck at all with finding sheet music for any MMO outside of WoW.

Which is kind of sad, given that video game music has a built in audience, and would be ideal for encouraging kids to play an instrument. You can find plenty of Mario and Zelda and other console games' sheet music, but nothing for MMOs.

*I know there's several other videos out there of other college and high school marching bands with a video game medley, but my oldest was seriously impressed by the footwork involved in the OSU production. (Having a marching band flutist in your house helps with video selection.)  And no, we do NOT cheer for OSU. I prefer the University of Dayton, thank you very much.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Just Make it Quick

Max: [Pig Killer's leg been impaled to the door with a spear]
[Max grabbing the door]
Max: Okay, we're going to count to three. One...
[Max rips open the door, freeing Pig Killer's impaled leg]
Pigkiller: [whimpering, in pain] What happened to two...?
--From Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

The irony doesn't exactly escape me.

Rob Pardo announced he was retiring on July 3rd, but I didn't notice it until today, a day after I decided to take a hiatus from WoW.

I'd been on the fence for quite a while, and I very nearly pulled the trigger when Rob's commentary regarding adding women to the development staff exploded onto the scene. Still, I found that WoW's hooks were still very deep inside my psyche and weren't going to be pulled out so easily.

So what did it for me? I grew sick of growing lack of attention to ridding the game of asshats and racists and bots.

You could always find asshats in WoW.  For pete's sake, all you have to do is watch trade chat to discover that. Area-52 (US)'s Horde trade chat was so full of racists and sexist bile that that was the explicit reason behind my telling my kids that they were not allowed to play WoW. Ysera (US)'s Alliance trade chat is better, but not exactly a model of decorum.  By comparison, SWTOR's and AoC's gen chat --particularly so outside of the fleets-- is much cleaner.*

But what I've found is that in the past year, the sheer volume of asshattery has gone up in WoW space.

I used to occasionally see people with guild names** or toon names referencing offensive material, but now it seems that it's okay to have all sorts of offensive toon names out there. I've caught myself reporting close to a third of the toon names in an average Arathi Basin game for obviously racist references, and I've been musing as to the cause with a guildie of mine.

"Maybe they're just not interested in policing people anymore," he suggested.

"I'm wondering if they don't have the staff," I replied. "If you're laying off personnel, low end and easily replaced people are the first to go."

"The L90 boost may have something to do with it too."

I thought about that a moment. "You know, you're right. Starting out at a low level means that a toon name will be seen by a lot of people who will have a chance to alert admins to offensive material. Going straight to L90 and jumping into BGs means they bypass all that filtering."


The incessant botting in battlegrounds hasn't exactly gone away either.

I've complained about it before, but the bots aren't going away. In fact, they seem to be getting worse as the sub numbers have gone down. That could be simple arithmetic --the number of bot accounts remains the same, but due to the decline in subs they comprise a larger percentage of players than before-- but I also think that admins are overworked and too few to maintain a reliable presence in BGs.

And the fact that every time someone has an issue with another person's play the response is to flag the toon as a bot means that admins have to verify all of those "false positives" as well as the legit botters.***


The result is a game that right now isn't a lot of fun to play at the moment.

But what I found unsettling is that while I've felt that way for months, I've continued to subscribe, login, and play anyway.

Last week, after an Arathi Basin game where one player had a boatload of great gear but also had rez sickness****, I finally said out loud "What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I playing something that gets me so frustrated about things that I've no control over?"

So I decided to finally pull those hooks out and end my recurring subscription.


Before anyone asks, no, this isn't the end of PC.

After all, I do still play a lot of other MMOs, and there are MMOs that I'd like to try out again. I have a Fantasy gap in my MMO stable, and while Age of Conan is interesting enough for me to play in bursts, I'd like another game to hang my hat on.  I'd like to try Neverwinter seriously once more, as well as GW2.

And I'm not so foolish as to think that WoW might not lure me back in again, either, because there are way too many cool people I know who still play the game.

But the time has come for a change, and playing WoW for almost five years has been a long time for me. My oldest has gone from elementary school through middle school and is entering her second year of high school, and our youngest will be entering middle school this fall. My oldest will be driving before Christmas. My son set himself a goal to make it to the national finals of the National Geographic Bee (he made it to the state finals this year), and he's got one more shot this year before he loses eligibility. All three kids are geeks and gamers, and they are the next generation who play MMOs and RPGs.

Were it not for me playing WoW, they'd never have picked up LOTRO. Or SWTOR. (Or, um, other games that I've got posts in my head.)

I've got a few weeks before my paid sub runs out, and then the hooks will be gone. Not so fast as what Mad Max did, but quick enough, I suppose.

*No, it ain't perfect, and there are plenty of idiots wherever you go in MMO space, but I don't have to cringe quite so often when I see SWTOR's gen chat.

**A few years ago, right after news of the Tiger Woods sex scandal broke, a guild named "Do It Like Tiger" appeared on A-52. It didn't last long.

***This makes me think that an admin for Xbox Live must be the most thankless task in the world.

****He was a DK and had only 264k health due to the rez sickness. Several people politely asked him to leave, because they pointed out he wasn't going to be any help at all until his rez sickness expired, and his response was "Screw you! I can do whatever the fuck I want to." As you can guess, we lost that BG pretty badly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014