Thursday, January 28, 2021

Movement at the Speed of Plot

I entered The Deadmines last night for the first time in months.

With me were my oldest's Hunter, Tasarae, one of the Mage team on his Pally alt, and his daughter's Mage alt. I recruited a friend from Az's old Tuesday Molten Core runs, and she came along on her Bear tank alt.

All of us at level, and one of us setting foot inside for the first time.

We wiped three times --the last time trying to down Cookie after Van Cleef was dead-- and we pulled off a couple of fantastic recoveries after we had a couple of packs of ads on us.

All in all, it was amazing. I'd not had quite as much fun in a while.


Tasarae got to learn how Hunter pulls in an instance work, and I learned that I can tank --kinda sorta-- if I need to. My Bear friend had never been in Deadmines with a Bear before, and she was thoroughly enjoying how much fun it was to Bear tank things.* And in spite of me having a couple of levels on her, I simply could not pull aggro from her.

My Mage buddy healed us as best he could, and his daughter's Mage learned to enjoy sheeping things and blasting enemies with fire.

The instance itself, as my Mage team buddy said, was pretty much a perfect introductory instance. You learn the basics here and can take those lessons with you later on. 

I was teasing my oldest about how she was going to be gunning for our raid team's Hunter puller, and she gave me a look that said "oh HELL no". 

"But really," I said, "you're learning the same things that we use in Naxxramas today. That's why I don't like boosting so much, because this is how you learn to play your class."

"I'm still not raiding anytime soon," she replied.


The slow reveal of the extent of the weapon of mass destruction was not lost on my oldest. When we reached the final door and blasted our way in with a cannon, she said "Woah! Look at that!" 

She knew there was a boat ahead, as we'd been chatting about it in Discord, but she was stunned by the size of the thing. And the weapons.

And in that moment, the plot came full circle.

This was what the Defias were working toward, and what they intended to unleash upon Stormwind.


I suppose it comes as no surprise that in addition to my regular blogging I've been writing about Card's continuing adventures on the side, with an eye toward a climax in the Deadmines.** 

The questing in the Abbey, throughout Elwynn, and into Westfall all point a player toward a reveal as to why the Defias are the way they are, and even then there's plenty of plot points that a toon never knows about, even after the entry into the Deadmines is completed and the note found on Van Cleef's body points a player in the direction of who might be in league with the Defias within the Stormwind nobility. Hell, even once you get to L60 and defeat Onyxia you still don't know everything there is to know.

In that respect, I believe Blizz did a fantastic job of giving the player enough to go on, but not so much that they know everything. In reality, people don't know everything about what's going on --even if you think you do, you don't-- and so the Defias storyline reflects that. A player may find out everything Blizz has written on the subject (including the comics) but the player isn't privy to that information. And besides, you could make the argument that when what happens in WoW Classic contradicts the comics, I'd argue that WoW Classic should trump the comics in that regard. After all, the MMO is what we experience.

And the Defias' story is a cautionary tale as well, when your belief in your own correctness blinds you to everything else. In a way, it's a perfect tale for the past year or two.

Or, to borrow a few lines from what I've been working on...

"We still don't know who threw that rock," Mathias added. "That regicide remains our biggest unsolved case. But the Queen's murder not only crystallized the nobles against the Stonemasons Guild but turned the general populace against them as well. Tiffin was well liked, and unless you were here you'd never understand the jolt her death did to the city."
He stared at the floor for what felt like an eternity. "At the end of the riots, Edwin vowed revenge and left Stormwind with most of the Guild members. He hadn't been seen since, but I guess we now know what he's been up to."

I downed my water, wishing it was rum instead. "But why destroy everybody? That makes no sense."
"He believes that if you're not with him, you're against him," Mom replied. "That has always been a fault of Edwin's: he sees things only in terms of sharp divides. For him, and those like him, there is no morally gray area; it's only black and white. It's very easy for him to slip from feeling that he'd been wronged into the view that everybody else is an enemy. I look at Edwin and think that could have been me or your father, given the right circumstances." 
She looked over at Mathias, her eyes haunted. "It's.... hard for me to be here, Mat," she whispered. "I don't have the control I need any more, and it's taking all I have to not grab a pair of daggers and hunt for Edwin myself. He's earned a death warrant from me, but I know that once I start I won't be able to stop, and I can't risk that."

*Her main is a Warrior Tank, so she's familiar with how.... busy.... it is to be a Warrior tank.

**There's other stories floating around too, such as the Missing Diplomat questline. The Missing Diplomat questline is perfect for someone who has ties to the shadowy underworld, such as a certain protagonist whose family is connected to SI:7. It is also great in that it gets Card out of Stormwind and on the road toward Dustwallow Marsh, where she can begin the quest to assemble her own wand.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

What was that about Old Dogs?

I tend to be, well, a bit hidebound in how I do certain things in MMOs.

I'm not a big fan of "gaming" things for exploitative purposes. I don't mean illegal cheats/loopholes, but taking advantage of a weakness in game to obtain a lot of a certain item. Such as a Mage taking advantage of how mobs track to farm immature venom sacs, for example. I've seen the YouTube videos, and I get the how it is done, but I still grumble at the poor design of how aggroed mobs go after you that I have a hard time in game of actually taking advantage of the poor design. 

For the uninitiated, you can stand at a certain spot in LBRS, aggro a whole bunch of spiders, and right before they get to your toon you can jump up to a stone walkway beside you and that same mob turns around, runs allllll the way back and then gets up on the stone walkway to chase after you. Do this enough times while AOEing, and you can burn down the entire mob.

Yes, it's legal, but it still bothers me that these elite mobs --and spiders at that-- don't understand the basics of climbing a 3 foot wall.

Or the basics of doing single pulls in Maraudon. Again, not a fan of taking advantage of similar weaknesses in Mara to farm Mara.


Some other exploitative runs, such as Lasher runs in Dire Maul East, I just don't get. 

I've done Lasher runs before, and after I'm done I sit there and go "That's it? That's all the gold you get for this? That's all the useful herbs you get?" And I shake my head. I was expecting a ton of useful herbs, but all I ever got were a ton of Heart of the Wild, which any Auction House affictionado will tell you doesn't sell that much. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who loves Lasher runs, and he said "it's the grays you get that are worth it."


By contrast, I farm herbs in Eastern Plaguelands and Western Plaguelands, and in most normal times I can get some stacks of Plaguebloom, Dreamfoil, and Mountain Silversage and make 90 gold every couple of hours' worth of farming. 

Well, that was before the Mountain Silversage market collapsed a month ago.


I look at some people in WoW who accumulate a lot of gold, and wonder just how cutthroat you have to be in order to amass that much gold. How sweaty do you need to be? It's not like there's such a thing as compound interest in MMOs*, so you have to actively go out and sell things in order to obtain gold. Whether it's your services (such as selling water, boosting**, or ports), mats, or finished items, you have to sell something if you want to keep up with the increasing demands of raiding and other activities. 

It wasn't until about 7-8 months ago that I became aware of the concept of the GDKP raid. The "G" in front of the more traditional DKP term means "Gold", as in people bid gold to win items in raids. To join this "raiding of the rich and well heeled" you have to have a certain minimum amount of gold, and the raid leads inspect you to determined if you've got enough gold to play. Which sounds more than a bit like Casino Royale, but in WoW. Just let that sink in a bit: there's raids out there only for those with enough gold to join in.

Still, it's not like I'm the only perpetually poor person in our raids. I know a Warrior who barely makes enough gold to repair his gear between raids.*** And apparently there are a lot of people in our raid who need enchants, which means needing the mats + gold as well. 


I realize that this sounds like whining, which is why I'm talking about it here rather than on Discord or in WoW. But I believe a lot of this due to my approach to playing the game. If I wanted to earn gold, I'd do it the Gevlon way, which would likely earn me gold but also have some of my in game friends disappointed in my greedy methods. And while I'd like to think that changing my approach to farming in WoW wouldn't change me, I'm not so foolish as to believe that. 

How we play is a reflection of ourselves. That doesn't mean that we don't learn or grow while playing a video game, but it does mean that how we approach the game, how we interact with people in a game, and the emphasis we place on in game activities are a window into our own psyches. People who say "I play to blow off steam" and then proceed to act like an asshole in game are showing to the world what they are really like without the constraints of society.****


Nevertheless, I have begun changing my approach to farming gold in WoW. 

Instead of farming for raw materials, I've instead begun to focus on the finished items. I used to dip my toe into the tailoring market, but my lack of sales there dissuaded me from that approach. But potions? That's something I can work with. I know way too intimately just how much potions cost for raiding, and now I'm taking that knowledge and applying it to Az's potion making. Potions such as Greater Firepower, Mageblood, and Greater Shadow Protection sell well on the Auction House, and I'm focusing on what I can sell based on what I can farm. Sure, the market will change, but if I can can do this, I'm sure I can change with it. I don't need to go crazy while farming, spending all of my spare hours just trying to get enough gold for the next Naxx run, but I do need to be mindful of the lure of gold.

Now, let's just see if this old dog can internalize these new tricks.

*At least ones that I play, anyway.

**Another service I find distasteful. If you already know how to play your class that's one thing, but boosting to merely get to "where the game begins" misses the point. The leveling experience gives you the opportunity to learn to play a class, and you apply those lessons at endgame. Having to learn tanking at L60 when the only times you set foot in an instance were when you were being boosted is, well, a lost opportunity.

***Or so he claims. It's gone on long enough that its now a meme.

****Or maybe within societal constraints. After all, the past four years have been very educational in how people behave when they realize they can get away with anything.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Differing Touchstones

Last Fall I discovered just how out of touch I was with pop culture while waiting for a Molten Core run.

I can't remember the specifics of the conversation, but there was a comment made about surreal comedy, and I piped up and mentioned "Oh, like Andy Kaufman."

There was radio silence, and then a "who?"

"You know, Andy Kaufman, the guy who was the subject of the movie Man in the Moon."

"I don't really remember that movie."

"How about the REM song from the early 90s?"

"Card, you're not helping yourself any with that reference."

Well, shit.


For reference, here's the REM song.

Finally, another raider who was about my age spoke up. "Yeah, Andy Kaufman was in Taxi as Latka, and he did that routine where he challenged that pro wrestler to a fight."

"Yeah, he was kind of nuts to egg that guy who was twice his size on, just like his Elvis impersonations were so out there that you never forgot it."

At least I got the chance to make a semi-graceful exit.*


I was reminded of that generational disconnect once more while I was listening to a playlist on YouTube the other day. At one point the old Spinners song "Rubberband Man" came on, and I was bopping along. One of the mini-Reds happened by, and she said "Oh, that's the Guardians of the Galaxy song."

Not having seen anything past the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie --yeah, I'm a bit tired of superhero movies these days**-- I was surprised. "Really? The NBA used to play that song for highlights of players from the 70s and 80s, like Doctor J, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and the Big O."

At least the kids knew who the Big O (Oscar Robertson) is, because he played at the University of Cincinnati and then in the NBA for the Cincinnati Royals. I've told them the story several times about how my dad used to ride his bike to go see the Royals play at the old Cincinnati Gardens, and how Oscar was easily the best basketball player he ever saw.

The statue of The Big O outside of
UC's Fifth Third Arena. My photos turned out lousy,
so I borrowed this one put out by UC.


Why mention this? Well, because people --and gamers-- are a product of their generation. To the longtime MMO players who spent years in the old days of WoW (and now WoW Classic) have a completely different view of Azeroth than those who are new to the game.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard over the years that "XXX sucks!" Like my own personal bugaboo, Belsavis, in SWTOR. I can't stand that zone because it just keeps going on and on and on. Just when you think you're about to finish the planetary story, you go through a tunnel and reach yet another mini-area to explore and quest through.

Or the oldest mini-Red's personal dislike, Corellia. She has major issues finishing the final planet in the "vanilla" SWTOR zones because the warzone imagery depresses her so much. 

I was reminded of that disconnect when her baby Hunter, Tasarae, reached Darnassus for the first time. Of the Alliance cities, Darn has the reputation of being the most disliked. It's hard to get to, it's very spread out, and it's difficult to find anything without inquiring from the guards.

But when Tasarae walked through the open pathways with her new pet owl, she gushed about how beautiful Darnassus was. And when she arrived at Auberdine, the rugged shoreline and evergreen forests of Darkshore captivated her. 

It is the seeing of things with new eyes that energizes me. Just like when --very soon-- Tasarae will arrive at Westfall and head out on the questline that leads inevitably to the Deadmines and a confrontation with Edwin Van Cleef, the Stonemason whose thirst for justice led him down a dark path where everyone else was an enemy, and only he and his followers were in the right.

I'm looking forward to this. Tasarae doesn't know what's ahead for her, but I do. And I will once again be able to see this world through her, with new eyes.



*Thanks for covering my ass there, Zwak. 

**Not to mention all of the freaking gatekeeping by a subset of geekdom.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Return of the.... WoW in the Wild

 It's been a while, but I caught sight of this ol' minivan once more at the mini-Reds' high school:

And, I think, the same Columbus Crew MLS sticker.

Oh yes.


And it turns out they live in our neighborhood, as I was behind the minivan all the way back home.

Given that I've seen Horde stickers around the University of Cincinnati, I'd have to hang around there more frequently if I want to see more WoW stuff, I assume.

However, here's what my oldest's significant other gave me for Christmas:

Beer not included.

Yes, the Lion of Lordaeron etched on a beer glass, complete with "Redbeard" on the bottom.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my oldest's SO?

Now I need to find out where they ordered it from, so I can get some others made. Maybe a "Cardwyn" or an "Azshandra"....

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Bears as Far as the Eye Could See

Well, not really, but there was an impromptu Druid Bear form dance party at the Myzrael-US Stormwind Fountain last night. From what a couple of people had told me, it just kind of happened. A few Bears started dancing around the fountain, and then others showed up until the entire fountain area was crawling with them.

And the one player who tried to join in while shapeshifted into a Firbolg.

Alas that I wasn't there to get a pic*, but I did see some of the pics that my friends took, and it was one of those spontaneous moments of pure fun that make playing an MMO worthwhile.

Kind of like this, when I landed in Ironforge and ran to my usual spot:

There were actually two more at first,
but they began galloping around the area.

It turned out that I knew one of the people there in the reindeer lineup, and she waved at me. I waved back, and we had a chat while the reindeer patrol looked all nice and proper. One thing led to another, and I was invited to go to AQ20 they were putting on as they didn't have enough people to raid Naxx that morning.**

Just one of those things that you simply can't plan on.



*I suppose I could have asked if I could use one of the pics, but I try very hard to keep my blogging relatively unknown. It's not that I talk shit about the people I play with --I don't-- but I don't want my blogging general knowledge either. I know it's a bizarre opinion to have of a blog, since it's a public endeavor, but I've found being such an obscure blogger very freeing in its anonymity. Here's a link to a post back in August 2020 as to my opinions on the matter, but if you just click on the "blogging" label and you can see the numerous times I've mentioned this particular phenomenon.

Nevertheless, there are a few people on Myzrael-US who do know I blog, but I'm very confident in saying that those who do know don't exactly spend a lot of time reading the blog either. (Or at least they've never mentioned any of my blog posts to me.) Which is perfectly fine with me.

**Card was already committed to another AQ20, so I went on Az. I didn't need any of the drops, but I enjoyed the run. Apparently my friend hadn't seen what the Perdition's Blade looked like, so she was asking me where I got that weapon (off Raggy in MC), and how cool it looked (oh yes, it looks awesome).