Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Alas, BlizzCon...

Under the heading of "no surprise", Activision Blizzard announced the other day that there will be no BlizzCon in 2022.

The suits apparently need to spend time on how to reimagine BlizzCon and make it a more inclusive event, but aside from what the press release says I'd be mildly surprised if we ever see another BlizzCon again. Part of BlizzCon is a celebration of Blizzard's output, part of it is about Blizzard patting itself on the back, and part of it is for the fans of Blizzard's games. But when a massive misreading of the fanbase ("Do you not have phones?") or controversy (Google "Blitzchung and Hong Kong") are what is remembered from 2 of the last 3 BlizzCons, I find it hard to believe that Activision Blizzard is going to set themselves up for more (and well deserved) controversy with the ongoing lawsuits and corporate culture problems.

And to be fair, the company has a lot more problems than just "how do we make BlizzCon work?" If nothing else, the Activision side of things --or the corporate bean counters-- will likely try to kill off BlizzCon as "a waste of money". Because that's what they do.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Brig's Big Day*

People know the old joke about how in dog sledding the scenery only changes for the lead dog, right? The impression is that for the other dogs all they see is another dog's butt (plus tail), so only the lead dog sees where they're going.

And to be fair, that impression isn't a wrong one.

When you've got one job in a raid, it's easy to forget there's a lot of other work out there for people to handle. Likewise if you're just a cog in the raider machine, you can forget the "You had ONE job!" nature of being a "regular" raider.

But when the raid lead goes on vacation? Well, I suppose you can just stop the raid for a couple of weeks if it's not a progression raid, but a progression run doesn't simply go on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Or, if you're me, you simply don't stop running Kara for two weeks.

So I accepted the challenge of being raid lead and the sole leader for our Karazhan runs.


It has been.... interesting.

I mean, I know the fights**; we have 7-8 regulars on a week in and week out basis, and I still run my bookie routine for Opera. So the technicalities are down --with the exception of setting Master Looter, which for some reason I continue to screw up-- but it's the intangibles that I have issues with.

You know, making sure there's the right amount of chemistry in the raid, or me, Mister Nice Guy, having to be the bad guy and tell people they didn't make the raid because they signed up too late. Or they got bumped because we needed heals or a tank. 

My nervousness of being up front, leading, has evaporated. I know these people and they know me. They believe in me, and they actually freaking defer to me when a decision needs to be made. When the hell does THAT ever happen?

Anyhoo, it does happen, and I'm feeling better and better about this. I can be a raid leader. I can figure this out. I may not figure out everything about an individual raid, like BWL or Naxx, but I know enough that I can work my way through this. And given that nobody is going to ask me to run SSC anytime soon, I've got this.


Normally I'd be finished with this post, but I was on Neve the other day, having Hearthed back to Tarren Mill, and I was checking out gear when I got poked by my oldest about how Neve looked on screen. "You should screenshot this," she said. 

"Hmm?" I asked, closing my bags.

Then I noticed how the firelight caught in her staff and her clothing.

And those eyes. Light, the eyes.

It's like the Map Room in Uldaman:
the light has to be captured 'just so'....

Sometimes, the serendipity smacks you in the face with a clue by four.



*That was how the player who ran the raid logs called our first Kara run with me in charge.

**Except Netherspite, but I have plenty of regulars who know who to put in which beam, so I'm fine.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Forever in... well... you know****

A week or two ago, I was asked when I was going to get an alt to Outland. My response was that if I was going to get another toon to Outland, it was likely going to be a Horde toon. I'm not exactly sure why the people who asked were so surprised*, as I've not exactly been shy about Neve and Quintalan's existence. Maybe people just figured that I'd stay Alliance all the way or something.

But here I am, with Neve at L28, shuttling back and forth from between Ashenvale and Hillsbrad Foothills, and having a blast along the way.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that some of the Mage specific gear is similar to the Mage gear that Cardwyn accumulated, while other gear pieces are very different.

This particular robe, the Manaweave Robe, is familiar to any Alliance Mage who wore robes early in their career as part of Mage quests:

Don't get any funny ideas, Vor'el.

As you can tell, the Sindorei version of the Mage questline is quite similar to the Human one in that you get a Manaweave Robe, but the Forsaken version yields something quite different:

This is called the 'Lesser Spellfire Robe'.
I don't see anything "lesser" about them.

Does that robe look a bit familiar? Does knowing that the robe came from a Forsaken help? Well, for those who remember the Arathi Basin in-game map....

Theoretically, that's Jaina on the left.
No idea who the Forsaken on the right is,
but apparently Forsaken have a
real 'zombie rack' about them.

Yeah, that looks a helluva lot like the Forsaken Mage's robe.

And yes, I will grant anybody who noticed that yes, the Lesser Spellfire Robe looks a lot sexier than the Manaweave Robe.

Or even sexier than this "Social/RP" robe that drops in Silverpine Forest, the Dalaran Wizard's Robe:

Hmm... I think I need to get
Card over to Silverpine Forest.
Except that the Dalaran Wizards there
are all Green. Hmmm Neutral AH we go.....

But you know what? There's a quest around L27/L28 that has Neve shuttled over to Orgrimmar and talking to a Troll Mage there. I presumed that Neve was about to get the wand quest --after all, it was around that level that Cardwyn got her wand quest-- but it was a "go collect water from Xavian and we'll make a robe for you" quest. I figured that wasn't going to be too hard (it wasn't), and I ended up with this Nether-lace Robe:

Yes, Neve was in the Barrens
when I took that screenshot.
I miss Barrens Chat.

Oh yes, it's another sexy yet functional robe.

I think I see a trend here....


The ironic thing about this is that Neve has begun acquiring all of these RP-style robes as my opinions concerning these robes have begun changing. It's not that I've suddenly become a "cool dad" or "horndog dad" or something, but more that my kids' attitudes toward clothing has changed, and I've been dragged along for the ride.

For the longest time, the girls have worn t-shirts and jeans, and if they ever experimented with clothing it was out of my view. As Cardwyn's personality is a mix of my daughters', that kept Card's clothing choices kind of, well, blah. Function over form, I suppose. 

But they grew up, went away to college, and then when they came home for break, I started seeing items like this in the laundry:

Or a mesh version, but
this will do. From

Or crop tops, that would go like, well, this:

It's not like is going
to see a sudden uptick in purchases,
but you get the idea.

Or underwear or bras that definitely did not fit the "functional" end of the spectrum. 

If the girls thought they were going to faze me much, they underestimated me. I just kind of shrugged and dealt with it. I mean, I went through a"fashion revolution" when I was at university, which was amusing because right after I graduated the "grunge look" came into style, and my entire flannel wardrobe from 1989 would have suddenly been hip were it not replaced by stuff that my female friends had pilfered from their brothers' and boyfriends' wardrobes.**

But still, I never walked around with the male equivalent of sexy shorts/underwear.....


so your mileage may vary.

As you can see, the girls grew up and began to follow their own identity and make their own fashion choices. Which leads me back to Cardwyn.

It's one thing for me to say that Card's personality is a mix of the girls', but it's quite another to actually let that personality change over time. After all, Card was pretty sheltered growing up on a farm in Eastern Elwynn, and her parents had incentives to not attract attention to themselves either. But as time has gone on, she's been exposed to more and different cultures and ways of thinking. She's become an adult and has developed her own tastes. So while she still has a societal (and fashion) grounding in how she grew up, she's definitely expanded her horizons a bit. So.... while there are times when Card seems unrecognizable to me, such as wearing the Crystal Webbed Robe without a shirt underneath, I have to realize that my own children have moved on from their own starting points. What may look overly flirty and flaunt their assets in a way I'd never conceive of my wife doing***, it is only natural to them. 

And the same is with Cardwyn (or Neve or Az). Although to be fair, Az has always had a more open take on fashion and what is "acceptable" than Card ever has. And Neve... Well, she's not nothing to lose. She's confident, snarky, and glib in a way that the original Neve never was, but that's also a reflection of how my playing MMOs have changed in the 11+ years since I started her. Mage wise, Neve is very much the Yang to Cardwyn's Ying. Maybe there's a story there, how they met, because if Card ever made it to Outland, the possibility was there that two Mages of a different faction would join the same Outland faction (Scryers).


Now, about Briganaa...

She's kind of a tough nut to crack. 

Before anybody says "hey, she's your toon, dress her as you see fit!" I recognize that I'm probably agonizing over nothing. But for me, I want Brig's personality to be distinct from my other toons. 

At one point, while Brig was leveling in the mid-L60s, she was wearing some leg gear that I could only describe as Daisy Dukes. They were so short that I wondered why on earth Blizz still had her tail coming out a hole cut in the back of the shorts. Wouldn't it be easier, I reasoned, if Blizz just converted it to a skirt and not worried about the tail hole?

When I showed the (lack of) clothing to my questing buddy, she quipped, "So how does it feel?" We'd already had some amusement with the fact that Brig --as a Draenei-- was so tall that Humans were barely at an eyeball level to her breasts. But this felt different.

"I don't know," I replied. I don't really know what Brig would think about it.

"How come?"

"I think that's because I don't know what Draenei --in general-- would think about [those shorts]. Brig has her own personality, but I don't really know what that is yet."

And I still don't. 

I've seen enough Draenei NPCs interacting that I know they're not of a monolithic hive mind or something, but they've also been under siege for so long that sort of creeps into your head and affects everything you see. And, I must admit, I've seen some of the NPCs out in the field act occasionally flirty or sexy, but I know enough that they also have a sort of Pollyanna-ish attitude about them. You know, the sort of thing where if Brig ever came to the farm and greeted Card and her family with a "Good health, long life!!" Card would turn to the closest person to her and say "Is she for real?" And that presence, combined with that dance of theirs, and you'd be left wondering if the Draenei even understand what sort of vibes they appear to give off to the other races.

Those are the sort of contradictions that I have to work through before I can truly understand Brig better.

Because of that, fashion and Brig are kind of a black box right now. But one thing is certain, if you go to the Naga camp west of SSC and north of the Horde base, you'll see the female Naga wearing some sort of oversized leather dress. I took one look at that and thought "THIS. This is the sort of thing that Brig would wear when she wasn't fighting: low key, stylish, and practical." That Briganaa is both a Skinner and Leather Worker would make it a perfect fit for her as well. 

When you ask if you can have one, they
get all mad at you. Believe me, I've tried.


Oh, one last thing. This is something I've been working on for a while, and I don't know when the entire thing will see the light of day, so I figured why not and post a little bit.

As is usually the case, this is a work in progress, so it still needs editing and blah blah blah.  To set the scene, this is when Cardwyn finally reached Stormwind and is about to deliver her mother's warning to SI:7. The message is hidden, strapped to her arm and covered by the sleeve of her robes.

I picked up my pace and walked through the unmarked door.

Inside, desks were laid out in an orderly fashion with mounds of paperwork atop each, while people of all Alliance races read, marked up, and set aside one sheet of paper after another. If I didn't know any better, it looked to all the world like some large mercantile operation, organizing trading from far away locales such as Auberdine and Everlook. Portraits decorated the walls, with the occasional landscape mixed in for added flavor. Two adjoining rooms contained more desks and people, although there were primarily physical items atop each desk. On more than one desk I recognized vials similar to the ones the nameless Kaldorei used, and made a mental note to keep my distance.

I approached the desk closest to the door where a man sat, writing away. Judging by the paper he kept referencing, he was translating something.

"If you're looking for the Mage Quarter," he said in a bored tone without looking up, "you made a wrong turn. Go back through over the canal and head west, not east."

"I'm in the right place, sir," I replied. "I'm to deliver a message to the Vintner from Alice Gray."

He stopped writing, the hand with the pen hovering over the parchment. "And I'm to believe you about this?"

Mom had prepped me for this possibility. "Day or night," I recited, "rain or shine, Alice Gray always delivers the harvest to the Vintner."

All activity in the room came to a screeching halt.

I could feel eyes on me; only a fool wouldn't feel them now, but I kept my focus on the man before me. He carefully set his pen aside and looked up.

And promptly fell over in his chair.

"Light!" he exclaimed as he picked himself off the ground. "How is..."

I heard the main door close quietly behind me. If Mom were wrong, my day was about to get a lot worse. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an auburn haired woman whisper something to a coworker and run up the stairs in the rear.

The man managed to recover his wits in record time. "Well, if you've a message for the Vintner, then let's have it," he said after brushing off his clothing.

"I'm to deliver it personally, sir," I replied, certain that the man could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

The man cleared his throat. "Yes, well then. You see, the Vintner is a busy man, and if you intend to deliver it personally, you might have to wait a while."

"I can wait." If he thought I'd risk Mom's wrath by not following her instructions to the letter, he was in for a surprise.

"Yes, of course." The man returned to his chair and picked up his pen.

Dad's training came back to me. Never take your eyes off of an enemy, he admonished during a particularly hard practice session. They will try to distract you to gain an advantage. Don't let them. Keep your focus on them at all times.

As I stood there, waiting, the man tried returning to his work without success. "Begging your pardon, ma'am," he said after several failed attempts at writing, "but can you please sit down? I have this work to finish before the end of the day."

"I'm comfortable standing," I replied, "but I'll step back."

"No need," another voice interrupted. "I'm here."

A man dressed in black came down the stairs and approached me, followed by the auburn haired woman. His own hair was a shade lighter auburn color, with a matching mustache and goatee. What struck me the most, however, were his eyes: the color of a sun drenched pond, they were focused on me with an intensity I'd seen before only from Mom.

The man at the desk scrambled to stand at attention. "Sir," he began. "There's a--"

"--message for me from Alice Gray," the man in black finished. "I'll take it from here, Jasper."

"Yes, sir," the man saluted and returned to his desk.

"And you, Young Mage," the man in black added, "please follow me."
I followed the man up the stairs while the woman fell in behind me. At the top of the steps we turned right and headed into a relatively unassuming room. There were a few paintings on the walls, a large map of Azeroth spread out on a table, and a desk with several chairs.

And one small green man.

If there was a way to stuff more teeth into one crazed grin, I don't think it'd been invented yet. He was shorter than a Dwarf, and far more intimidating than a Gnome. He had pointy ears that stuck out from his head, but unlike the long slender ears of the Elven kindreds his were stout and thick, like the difference between a skinning knife and a throwing one. His eyes dripped malice, yet when he saw me he let out a howling laugh. "Was that Jasper I heard down there, Boss?" he guffawed. "I'd have given a lot to see the look on his face when he got a load of her!"

"Jasper needs to work on being less excitable," the man replied, "although I suppose he can be excused this time."

He nodded to the woman behind me. "Thanks for the alert, Sloan."

"You're welcome, Sir," she replied and turned to me. "It's an honor to meet you, Young Mage."

"Same to you," I replied, wondering what she was talking about. I hadn't done anything noteworthy.

After Sloan shut the door, the man motioned me into a seat. "Well, Renzik," he asked the green man, "What do you think?"

"If it were up to me, Boss, I'd say that some people, such as Jasper, need to do a bit more facial recognition training. Oh, at first and even second glance she's a ringer, but close ain't gonna win ya some gold at the Mirage."

The man nodded, scratching his goatee. "I guess it was inevitable that you'd come here, Cardwyn Songshine," he said at last.

Somehow, I was not surprised he knew my name. "You're the Vintner, I presume?"

"Yes I am. I'm Mathias Shaw, and this is Renzik, my lieutenant."

I think I was supposed to be impressed, but in some weird way my lack of knowledge made me bolder than I ordinarily would have. "Then this is for you," I replied, using a flick of the wrist to dislodge the letter from the leather device hidden on my arm. The letter fell neatly into my hand and I held it out to Mathias.

Mathias took the letter and turned it over a few times. "Renzik," he finally said, "I'm going to need some privacy. This is a personal matter."

*My questing buddy wasn't, for example, when I mentioned it. She knew of my fondness for Neve and Q.

**A whole lot of American Eagle was going on in my wardrobe.

***Dear, if you're reading this, go for it. Go ahead and blow my mind, I'm ready. (I think.)

****Yes, I shamelessly stole from a Gap jeans commercial. The commercial features Neil Diamond wearing Gap jeans, goofing around on a green screen. Finally he says, "Forever in, well, you know..." referencing his song Forever in Blue Jeans.

EtA: Added the explanation for the title.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Odd One Out -- The Forsaken

As you can probably guess by the title, Neve has left the security blanket of the Ghostlands and has struck out on her own. And in the case of "closer is better", that means Hillsbrad and Tarren Mill.

Along the way, she dropped in to say hello to ex-Queldorei and current leader of the Forsaken, Sylvanas Windrunner. She'd found the locket that belonged to Sylvanas, you see, and the Forsaken leader in the Ghostlands saw an opportunity to butter up Sylvanas as well as introduce the Banshee Queen to the Sindorei Mage who'd been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the Ghostlands. Because all politics is local, I suppose.

And this exchange is why I felt that Blizz
missed a huge opportunity at the end of Wrath
to take Sylvanas in a different direction.

Poor Ambassador Sunsorrow is left to pick up the pieces from an --in retrospect-- "bad idea".

Still, compared to their Queen, let's say that the Forsaken don't exactly radiate goodness and light.

I used to think that the Forsaken had kind of a bad rap, with the behavior of the Apothecaries taking up most of the 'evil' in the room. Well, I finally got a chance to view Tarren Mill again these many years later, and while the Apothecaries are the worst of the bunch the Forsaken in general are firmly planted in the Evil end of the Good-Evil spectrum. 

Which makes me wonder anew: who the hell thought that throwing the Forsaken in with the rest of the Horde was a good idea? 

Being largely misunderstood is one thing, and there's the occasional quest that stands out in that regard, but my distaste of the Forsaken isn't off the mark at all. The rest of the Horde --in varying ways-- espouse Honor first and foremost. But to the Forsaken, Honor is a weakness to be exploited. Well, everything another race loves is a weakness to be exploited. 

I mean, there's a reason why the iconic Horde Rogue is that of a Forsaken, and it's not a happy-go-lucky character ready to bust a few heads, drink some ale, and charm/bed people along the way.

Errol Flynn and Merry Men they ain't.*

The Forsaken delight in gloom and doom, killing the living and dancing on their graves. 

So why are Thrall, Cairne, and Vol'jin hanging out with these people?

I could make a better argument for splitting Humans into two separate groups, one for the Horde side (Jaina and Theramore), and one for the Alliance side (Stormwind), than just sticking a "non-human" race predisposed to kill everything alive on the Horde side. And if you want to even out the factions, just make gnomes a neutral party. As far as TBC goes, having the Sindorei join the faction the survivors of Lordaeron (Jaina's faction) were part of, in the Horde, makes more sense. To the Sindorei, Stormwind was "waaay down there", not part of the humans that originally formed an alliance with the Queldorei. In MMO terms, it's just like SWTOR's original factions: Humans, Zabraks, and Twileks could be part of either Republic or Sith Empire.


But nevertheless, the Forsaken are here, and I have to deal with them. So I'll hold my nose and survive throughout Hillsbrad, and then at earliest opportunity I'll leave the Forsaken and their Victor Von Frankenstein complexes behind.


*When I was a kid, cable television didn't exist for most of the country. So when I was sick, I was plopped out on the couch in the living room --away from my brother who got the bedroom to himself-- and watched local television. And for some reason, the Errol Flynn version of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) was always on. It's my generation's Princess Bride or A Christmas Story. So when I visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival, I'm always struck by the people who also loved that movie and cosplay as Merry Men or others of the Plantagenet era of England.

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Dozen Years In...

...and I'm still here.

In 2009, PC launched on September 29th with a post by my now absentee partner, Souldat/Deftig, entitled Kicking Things Off.

Little did I know that the "Hey, would you like to create a blog together?" would turn into 1000 posts (!) and ~462000 views? That sounds like a lot until you realize that you have to divide it by month, and then it becomes a slightly less impressive ~3200 views and almost 7 posts a month. Then, when you consider the "contribution" that bots play in those view numbers, and....

Bah. I'll still have a beer. Twelve years is twelve years.

In those early years, Souldat wanted us to promote the blog as a potential watering hole for WoW fans. I was on board with that idea except that, well, there wasn't a lot of content for us to promote. So we wrote. And wrote. 

And wrote.

We expanded to three contributors twice, but both didn't last very long. And I'm not very proud about being more vocal about one or two posts that one of the two wrote, either. But in the end, both moved on to other things, while Soul and I kept on going.

At about the point where I felt we were going to reach a critical mass in terms of eyeballs and commentary, our primary source of links, Righteous Orbs, closed up shop. Then The Pink Pigtail Inn. And WoW Insider stopped promoting blogs and blog posts. I guess we could have moved into using that newfangled Twitter to promote the blog, but I was never very fond of a platform where anything you say is right there in the public square to an extent that Usenet or blogging itself never was. And given my tendency to mouth off from time to time, I could get in some real trouble on Twitter. But despite the lack of direct promotion, we continued on.

Even Soul's declining contribution didn't stop me from just keeping with a (semi) regular schedule of posting 1-2 times a week.

By the time the WoW side of promotions was fading fast, I had already been experimenting with other MMOs, and I soon expanded my posts to include my adventures there. I also included pencil and paper gaming (such as D&D) and board games, aiming to broaden our gaming goals. 


While I still do pay lip service to our 'About Parallel Context', this blog has effectively become my own for over a half dozen years now. And until this past week, I haven't really acknowledged it. So this week there have been a few small changes here and there that allow me to bow to reality. 

Such as finally moving Soul to the "Past Contributors" section.

Or changing the title graphic to something a bit (?) more timely. I'll have to work on keeping that current, I guess.

I always wanted something like Rades did, with a gif of various scenes, but I'd have to pay for a gif builder, as I wanted a longer time between scenes than what the 'free' gif creators had. Or use a random pic selector, like what Ravanel Griffon did for Ravalation.* 

That aside, I'll continue to make some tweaks to the blog as I become more comfortable in acknowledging that I'm basically the only contributor left. So like the time I got an entire dorm room to myself my junior year of college, I'll put up a map of Middle-earth, my Dark Side of the Moon poster, and this one: 

My oldest has my poster now.

Okay, now it's time for some tunes:


And yes, I hit two birds with one stone by selecting Yes' Roundabout along with the Jojo's endings. There's a great interview that Rick Beato had of Yes' Jon Anderson, and one of the things Rick asked was Jon's opinion of the usage of Roundabout for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Jon loved the use of Roundabout in the anime, because it allowed a new generation to get to know Yes' music.

This version of Tank! is from a local con back in 2018. That sax band lead in front? The one with the red tie? He also played in Ohio Wesleyan University's Park Avenue Jazz Ensemble concerts.



And you can't have a set of tunes without dipping into David Arkenstone's vast catalog. My wife and I saw him live at a Winter Solstice concert back in the late 90s, and his band was simply amazing. Twenty years on, he still looks really good.

*Damn, I miss her blog posts. Rav, if you're reading this stop in and say hi.

EtA: Corrected some grammar.