Monday, December 5, 2022

Meme Monday: You All Meet in a Tavern Memes

It's a standard trope in any RPG, whether it be a tabletop game, a video game, or even an MMO*, that "you meet at an inn/tavern" is how the party gets together. Given that I spent my weekend repairing my tavern (painting my home office and moving stuff around), I thought it appropriate to share some tavern themed memes.

At least I can read/write Common.
From Dungeons and Dads on FB.


You know, I don't think I have
started a tavern fire yet.
From Pinterest.


You know, I could make
a month's worth of Meme
Mondays just dedicated
to Goldshire. And not
have them officially NSFW
either!
From Pinterest.

...and one straight outta Jojo's
Bizarre Adventure.
From ifunny.co.




*Think Goldshire... No no... DON'T think Goldshire! Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Watching the Bronco Busters Work

I'm watching the initial posts about Dragonflight from the sideline, such as Kaylriene's, and I wonder whether Dragonflight is for me.

Or maybe a better question to ask is whether Dragonflight is for someone who liked the open world of Vanilla Classic but gradually became disappointed with the tone and direction of TBC Classic and Wrath Classic. 

I already know I don't like the revamped Old World brought about by Cataclysm over a decade ago*, and the focus of you in Wrath (and onward) as a sort of superhero for merely doing the job of killing ten rats kind of wears on me. Yes, other MMOs have something similar in design --such as SWTOR and LOTRO-- but... the transition from Vanilla's do a variety of things or a couple of mini stories in a zone to your character having a soundtrack straight out of a Bonnie Tyler song by the end of Wrath doesn't quite do it for me. 

If I'm coming back to Dragonflight, it will be from the standpoint of a player who had effectively retired after defeating Arthas, teaming up with Neve to teach apprentices away from the crowds of Stormwind and Silvermoon. Card would have to be coaxed out of retirement by acquaintances among the dragonflights; in her case it would likely have been Haleh (or maybe Awbee) asking Card to come help explore the Dragon Isles since her eye for detail would prove invaluable. 

Coming back into the fray after having been (effectively) away for 20 years would be difficult for Card, which mirrors my own difficulties stepping back into Retail and finding so many different systems and expectations beyond what things were like in Retail Wrath.** Look at it this way: there have now been just as many expansions in World of Warcraft after I left than before I left, 8 years ago. That's a lot of "learn something only to discard it two years later" playing, but also a lot of changes to the basics and the systems behind the game. 

One need only look at the map to see evidence of that.

This is Wrath Classic, but it's functionally
unchanged since Vanilla Classic.


Yes, that's the original Azshandra.
The map is that smallish thing
with all of the quest markers and
whatnot in it.

The integration of the map with quest markers --along with other items-- would have been provided with addons until when the default map was changed, sometime after the Mists of Pandaria expansion. 

You can customize the map to an extent:

I had to hunt around for it, but this
is brought up by the magnifying
glass, above.

But not too much. The main quest markers are still present.

I guess I wouldn't complain about it so much if it was something I was used to from the start, such as SWTOR's map, 

Courtesy of my baby Imperial Agent.

except that SWTOR's map has changed a bit over the years. Some of the "non-story" quests are now hidden by default, and you have to manually select an option to show them, but largely it has remained the same. In fact, the quest design itself behind SWTOR is very similar to that of Wrath Classic, down to the display in the default UI.

Linna taking a short break at
Valiance Keep. Note the list of quests
in the upper right.

It's been so long since I played this
Agent that some things have been
reset, but the quest list is still present,
again in the upper left.

Of course, I never knew that the quest list being turned on by default was an innovation in Wrath itself until I began playing Vanilla Classic and discovered it simply didn't exist wasn't turned on. [EtA: corrected this but kept the original in editing. Thanks to Indy for pointing out the miss here due to my lack of clarity.]***

What I have found is that throwing away the map and playing in a non-optimized manner allows me to just explore and figure things out on my own, something I'd never experienced before in MMOs until I had the chance to in Vanilla Classic. I'm obviously in the minority here, because MMOs have evolved away from exploratory play and in favor of directed play. All you have to know about that is that Retail conditioned players to sprint to max level to begin the grinding of prepping for raids, despite design intentions in Dragonflight to counter that FOMO.

The relevant portion is at 0:51:10, about the
design change of players logging in without
mandatory content. However, if you've the time
the entire video is VERY much worth it.

Old habits are hard to break, particularly when the next expansion is well underway.**** 

***

All of that aside, the question remains: will a person who likes more of the open world, more cold war version of the pre-Cataclysm World of Warcraft find enough to love in Dragonflight, which on the face of it seems to be a completely different game?

If it were a matter of using the same subscription to go ahead and play that'd be one thing, but WoW still requires a person to pay for the expansions, so it becomes a matter of whether $50 is worth it to buy, play for a few hours, and then discard if I don't like it. And I don't know about you, but especially during the Holidays I don't have $50 just sitting around to blow on what to me seems a pretty risky gamble, so I'm going to sit on the fence for a while. I'm kind of used to that, as after all, it's not like I haven't done that before.




*I've been pondering that quite a bit lately, and I considered several reasons why I didn't like the revamp: the focus on the Horde and Alliance conflict, the shoehorning of Goblins and Worgen into an already existing world, and the constantly depressing viewpoints of the conflict (::cough:: Hillsbrad ::cough::). But I think the biggest reason why I didn't like the revamp was the need for every single zone to have an overarcing zone story. In Vanilla WoW, and to a lesser extent TBC and Wrath, there may have been stories set within a zone, but with a few notable exceptions (such as Westfall) there hasn't been a singular dominant story arc like that found in The Storm Peaks in Wrath. However, almost all of the revamped Old World zones have one dominant zone story to help propel the questing from hub to hub.

**Yes, for the record I stopped playing at the end of Mists, but I effectively stopped playing any sort of PvE group content shortly into Cataclysm; the toxic atmosphere and LTP noob nature of the LFD tool killed any interest in learning how to do group content beyond the occasional Normal dungeon run. Instead, I focused on (regular) Battlegrounds and by the time Mists of Pandaria was coming to an end I grew tired of the pervasive nature of bots and how the Alliance could only win the 40 person BGs. 

***Hence the prevalence of the Questie addon in the Classic community.

****It's like that in any software development house. At the one I worked at back in the 90s, the "official" release of our product was barely noticed by the development staff, as we were about 1/3 of the way into the projects already identified for the next release. And we didn't have issues like MMOs do, where the reception of systems and changes for the current expansion won't have a true impact on the game until two expansions later. That's because you simply can't change direction on a dime and devote a huge amount of resources to changing the game potentially mid-to-late expac development. In our case, it was a matter of which project got priority more than changing projects entirely.

EtA: I meant to put the proper code for Preach's YouTube video in there, but I forgot. Oopsie.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Meme Monday: Questing Memes

Oh, I could fill a year's worth of Meme Monday's strictly with memes from quests, but here are four that popped out of my pile...

And it even has "you meet in
a tavern"!
From Pinterest.

I guess being a courier IRL
is good training...
From Reddit.

Ah yes, quest weirdness.
From ifunny.co.

Pick a quest... any quest...
From knowyourmeme.com.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Good Enough for Government Work

I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in
--Night Moves, Bob Seger, from the album Night Moves


This week is the first anniversary of my brush with the Hereafter.

After that week, and my subsequent trips to visit the Diabetes team, my Cardiologist, and my Primary Care Physician*, the past year has been... Rather boring.

Which is to say, that's a very very good thing.

I continued to lose weight --not a surprise given the diabetic and low sodium diet I'm under-- and my numbers continue to improve. To put this in perspective, let's talk about my A1C percentage. 

A1C is a measure of my blood glucose levels over a three month period. No, it's not a three months long test, but it measures the percentage of hemoglobin in my blood that has sugar attached. Everybody has some glucose attached to your hemoglobin, but diabetics have a greater percentage. And since it takes about 3 months for diet and other changes to affect those levels, that's why it's said that my A1C percentage measures the past three months' worth of blood glucose.

Here's a handy chart for what the percentages should be**:

Normal:            Below 5.7%
Prediabetes:       5.7% to 6.4%
Diabetes:          6.5% or above

Now that you know what the numbers ought to be, when I walked into the hospital a year ago, my A1C percentage was 12.6.

That might not sound all that large to you, but when I mention that to diabetics I've gotten to know, they all stop what they're doing and go "HOLY SHIT!" Typically followed by "I'M SHOCKED YOU'RE STILL ALIVE!"

So yeah, 12.6 is a lot.

Over the course of the past year, my primary care physician set a goal for me to get my A1C down to 7.0% and keep it there.

By June, I'd smashed through that goal and was down to 6.2%.

At my physical a couple of weeks ago, I tested at 5.8%, barely in the Prediabetic range.

My physician was pleased, and during the physical he began talking about dialing back some of my medications. (Within reason, of course.)

My cardiologist has also been upbeat, as since my tests back in April 2022 confirmed that my heart function was back to normal, she's been on the "keep doing what you're doing" path as well.

***

So where do I think things are?

Overall, a lot better than where I was a year ago, but anyone could say that.

I know I still don't hit my numbers all the time, and I've been repeatedly assured that I'm doing great by everybody, from my Cardiologist down to the Diabetes Team. Outside of persistent aches and pains that I've inflicted on myself by exercising too much at once, I feel pretty good. There have been a few notable side effects --one of which I have another prescription for that shows up on television commercials on a regular basis***-- but overall I guess I can't complain.

(About this, anyway. I mean, complaining is in my job description at PC here.)

I don't mean to disappoint people with more angst, but I'm doing well enough that it feels embarrassing to be talking about it. I mean, who wants to read a post saying "I'm still doing okay, thanks!" without much drama?

But I'm here, and that's good enough for government work.




*That is the current standard name for "my doctor" these days.

**Courtesy of cdc.gov.

***I swear, just about all commercials --outside of those for eczema or gout or HIV-- seem to cover drugs that I either currently take or had taken in the past. I suppose I should have more angst about this particular side effect than I do, and I'm sure that a lot of people in my position would do precisely that, but I'm happy that the drugs work. My having to plan my life around medications --and this is just one more on the pile-- is something I'm going to have to live with. My life is very much a planned set of activities, because I can't afford to let my guard down, and this is just another part of my life I have to regiment and plan for.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Meme Monday: Thankful Memes

This Thursday is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, which is a day to be thankful for the friends and family we have.

And watch football.

And, unfortunately, listen to your crazy relatives spout off about whatever is stuck in their head at the moment.

But still, the original sentiment is a noble one.

Truth.
From makeameme.org.

"Mmmm.... Eat turkey, you will..."
From geeksandgamers.com.

From munofore.com.

And for my son, a Warhammer
Thanksgiving.
From warhammer-community.com.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Just A Taste... A Small Taste...

"No Regrets?" Silk asked Garion that evening as they rode toward the sharply rising peaks outlined against the glittering stars ahead.

"Regrets about what?"

"Giving up command." Silk had been watching him curiously ever since the setting sun signaled the resumption of their journey.

"No," Garion replied, not quite sure what the little man meant. "Why should there be?"

"It's a very important thing for a man to learn about himself, Garion," Silk told him seriously. "Power can be very sweet for some men, and you never know how a man is going to handle it until you give him the chance to try."

"I don't know why you went to all the trouble. It's not too likely that I'm going to be put in charge of things very often."

"You never know, Garion. You never know."
--Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings, pg. 50.


I've been noodling around Icecrown Glacier in Northrend, because the progression across the continent has taken me there. 

And when you get to the point where the only places left to explore are Sholazar Basin and Icecrown Glacier, you go to where the quests point you first.* I mean, I suppose I could have gone to Sholazar Basin just because, and it's not like I haven't done that before, but my memory of that place is pretty much "meh". Icecrown is where the expansion comes to an end, and it only makes sense that all the drama points you in that direction. 

But the further I've quested into Northrend, the more the "subtle" changes to questlines and quest texts become overt.

We've gone from this...


...through this...


...to this.

Yes, even OG Cardwyn got that first quest above, which I found particularly amusing since she had never visited Outland at that point.**

When your quest text starts sounding like the theme from Cheers, you know you've veered heavily into celebrity territory. 

I imagine a substantial portion of the player base either doesn't care or likes this change from Vanilla/TBC, especially given that Blizz went all in on this story slant in future expacs. But to me, it simply rings hollow. You're basically doing what you're told to do, and because you can follow orders you're a Champion of Azeroth? I mean, I do what I'm asked to do all the time at work (or at home), and never once has that ever translated into anything other than "Meets Expectations" on my performance review. If I want to get a better review, I have to go above and beyond following the basic instructions.

It might be a limitation of the state of Wrath Classic that Blizz can't break out of questing format, but I suspect that Blizz simply moved in the direction of making Reputation and the story line more overtly about you, and how powerful you are. Like Garion, we have been granted some power, and while we're really really really limited --story wise-- how we can use it, it's undeniable that first comment you get when you pass by an NPC when you're Exalted with their faction can be... intoxicating.

Much better than being "dragon dinner", I suppose.

I guess the thing that bugs me about all this is that I'm being fêted by these factions (and the quest text) without me feeling like I've really done anything that important. When you reach Exalted with a faction they lavish praise on you, such as Wyrmrest Accord in the graphic above, but they'll do that even before I entered into the Oculus for the first time, much less The Eye of Eternity or The Obsidian Sanctum. While I can understand the dragonkin being happy to see me after The Nexus War was brought to an end, but before, when I spent most of my time grinding rep by running instances?*** Come on; I know better. You could make a pretty big argument that I spent just as much --if not more-- time dealing with The Sons of Hodir ("Hodor!") via in-game quests than three other factions combined (Wyrmrest Accord, Argent Crusade, and Ebon Blade), and I'm only up to Honored with Big Blue Nation.****

In the end it's all a simulation --and not a very complex one at that-- and I shouldn't expect anything more than what I'm getting. But still, it irks me that this wasn't what I remembered about Wrath. I remembered interesting stories and fun instances and --unfortunately-- guild blow ups due to the difficulty raiding. Now, years later, I can see where WoW began moving in a narrative direction that didn't appeal to me. The instances are still there, and I've countered the raiding issues with being recruited into a 10s team that is focused on fun and not speeding through progression. And I still have my friends. It's just that the focus on the player --in the manner presented in Wrath Classic-- no longer appeals to me. It becomes less about you the person and more about you the wielder of great power. And in that sense you are merely a tool for others, something I never even thought about at the time. 

Circling back to the quote I use to kick this post off, is this taste of power and influence sweet? For others it might be, but for me, it feels... Tainted. Something feels off about it. Perhaps that's part of the influence of Arthas himself, and how he allowed his fatal flaw of revenge --and the pursuit of power for revenge-- to corrupt him into The Lich King he is today. Will we find this taste of power and influence so sweet that we are, in turn, corrupted as well? And if we are, how can we see it without others to point it out to us?




*Yes, I'm quite aware there's seed quests for both Sholazar Basin and Icecrown at the landing platform in Dalaran, but I've ignored them in favor of quests from out in the field. If nothing else, the overall lack of quests out Northrend proper that send a player to Sholazar reinforce my opinion that Sholazar Basin was merely tacked on because Blizz felt obligated to have a place where Hemet Nesingwary would end up. At least as far as the Mists expansion, Hemet is considered too important a side character to not have some quest hub and chain assigned to him and his crew. If that held true all the way through Shadowlands, I'm not exactly sure I want to know how they pulled that off with Hemet in the Afterlife.

**She has since had to go there because the Enchanting trainer wouldn't give her Outland's Enchanting, whereas Tailoring had no issues with giving her Outland's Tailoring ability. I'm inclined to think it a "feature", not a bug. And Blizz would likely give me a weird look if I told them I skipped Outland and leveled to 70 strictly in the Old World.

***A very 'meta' way of gaining rep, but hey, that's how you do it in Wrath Classic.

****Sorry, University of Kentucky Wildcats, those overly large giants are more impressive than coach John Calipari's plausible deniability about recruiting basketball players.


Monday, November 14, 2022

Meme Monday: Frosty Memes

We had our first snowfall of the Fall on Saturday, which got me in a more seasonal mood. So I went with those memes that encompass gaming, RPGs, MMOs, and --of course-- snow.

And this is why Hogger should be
a raid boss.
From ifunny.co.

This is why Wrath of the Lich King
gives you that frosty feeling.
From Pinterest.

Forget the dice, I want to know
what the hell Cambridge Naturals
is, and whether I should be concerned
if it's a NSFW site or not.
From Pinterest.

They're more menacing that the
White Dragons I knew and loved,
but hey, still accurate.
From diy.despair.com.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Playing Around With Resonance

Playing an MMORPG is an exercise in compromises.

There's the ability to play with others, and there's the ability to play by yourself.

On one side, developers have to accommodate group content and make it available for all, but on the flip side players want to feel like they've affected the world in a way that a single player game* provides.

Originally, MMOs did not have instanced content. Everquest was (in)famous for raid bosses spawning at random times and the first guild to make a hit on said boss got the credit for the eventual kill. This led to some rather dubious behavior among some guilds who would have toons parked, watching for boss spawns, on an around-the-clock basis. The hardest of the hard core guilds wouldn't even allow for bio breaks, which gave rise to personally disgusting methods of relieving oneself** while performing your duty to your guild.

Despite popular appearances, Blizz was not the first MMO to solve this problem: it apparently was Anarchy Online. Even Everquest beat World of Warcraft by about a year. However, Blizz integrated the concept of instanced content into World of Warcraft from the start, along with a lack of loading screens between world zones and other innovations, that it's understandable that many still believe that WoW "created" instanced content: they merely popularized it.

But with the stories that Blizz wanted to tell with WoW, they had to do more than just instance 5-person and raid content: they wanted to provide that "affect the game world" feeling that single player RPG video games have.

If you've spent any time at all in
front of Karazhan from TBC through
Wrath (at least), you've seen this 
interaction on repeat.

It was into this environment that Blizzard decided on a "solution" when Wrath of the Lich King debuted back in 2008: phasing.

***

On the face of it, phasing looked like an elegant solution to the problem of affecting the game world yet allowing players of various levels of progression to still be there. People could permanently see the results of their questing, yet the "important" content --5-player, raids, and BGs/arenas-- remained instanced.***

Kind of ironic that phasing turned into yet another method of FOMO and player annoyance in implementation, particularly in Wrath Classic.

Fun With Phasing.

My first exposure to phasing in Wrath Classic wasn't the Wrathgate, although that was a close second. The Wrathgate is easier to explain, however: a dungeon group of my raid team was heading out from Dalaran to wherever, and we passed by the Wrathgate area. I took note that everybody except me was marked as 'In a different phase' and I quipped, "Well, it's easy to see who did The Wrathgate and who didn't."

"Oh?" the tank asked.

"Everybody else is listed as 'in a different phase'."

"Ah."

But people --and I-- expected that.

My first encounter with phasing in Wrath Classic was in nearby Wintergarde Keep, where my questing buddy needed a hand in killing a mini boss. I rode up to her, and promptly was attacked by a steady stream of respawning ghouls. 

I didn't worry, since she was on her Priest, and she could heal me without batting an eyelash.

The only thing was, she wasn't healing.

"Uh..." I said to myself after the third wave of ghouls respawning so rapidly I couldn't stop to eat and drink and recover.

"Are you being attacked?" she asked in chat.

"Uh, yeah," I replied.

"I can't see any of that."

"Shit. None of it?"

"Nope."

I eventually managed to break away from the onslaught long enough for me to get my health and mana back. We then acquired a couple of other people nearby who were on the same quest as she was and we engaged the boss.

"Are you on the quest?" she asked me.

"No."

"Here, let me share it... Says you're not eligible."

"I guess I'm not far enough along the chain to get it."

"Okies."

The boss was successfully downed, but waves of ghouls came at me again in the middle of the fight and I think I died once along the way. No worries, I thought, I'll just rez and go back to the Inn at Wintergarde Keep and find a vendor to repair at.

I arrived at the Keep, but something was missing.

LOTS of somethings.

"Hey," I typed out, "where is everybody? Am I missing the Innkeeper or something?"

"Oh!" my questing buddy replied. "You have to do the first couple of quests here to unlock all of  those people."

"You have GOT to be kidding me."

"Nope."

"@#$% phasing."

"Yeah, it sucks. Do you need a hand in doing those first quests?"

By then, my stubborn streak reasserted itself, and I was determined to give the game the middle finger. "No, I'll get to it when I get to it," I replied, angry that the game was not-so-subtly trying to force me into doing quests I didn't want to do right then. I came over to help someone, not be helped when I didn't need it.

"Okies."

***

After that sequence of events, I learned fairly quickly that Wrath Classic made far more extensive use of phasing than I remembered.

Such as in Zul'drak with the Zandalari quests, or The Storm Peaks with the Hyldnir/Thorim/Sons of Hodir questline. But phasing is most egregiously used in Icecrown Glacier, where in Scourgeholme that first screenshot in this post was taken.

Just the other day my questing buddy needed a hand with some bosses, and I hopped on Deuce to help out. I flew over and...

"Where are you?" I asked.

"I'm phased. I thought this might happen."

"Shit."

I dropped into the area where the boss was, and not only could I not see her, but I couldn't even see any enemies at all.

"Let me send you a screenshot so you can see what I'm seeing," I told her and sent the pic above (the unadulterated version) to her via Discord.

I was able to find a small portion of Icecrown where we weren't phased, so I could buff her and give her some food, but after that I was reduced to being a cheerleader for a fight I couldn't even see. All I could do was watch her mana go slowly down... down... down...

And then the Questie alert popped up. 

"Hey, gratz!" I typed out.

"Thanks!"

I followed her blip on the minimap until she headed south into Crystalsong Forest, and then I was able to assist on killing some mobs, but with phasing keeping us separated in Icecrown and my ire at being not-so-subtly pressured by the game into 'catching up' with her, I told her that I was just a spectator, and I logged for the night.

***

I get it. I understand the why of phasing. It exists so that more detailed stories can be told in the game world. It's just that unless you're completely on the same phase with another person, grouping up to quest together is a pretty useless endeavor.

Which sucks.

Layers, which is WoW Classic's bastard cousin of phasing****, has similar problems. Such as last night, when my questing buddy was going to go on a Naxxramas 25 person pug.

After she unsuccessfully tried roping me in*****, she asked me if I could get her some Mage food.

"Sure," I replied, parked Linna, and hopped on Deuce.

I hopped on a flight over to Wintergarde Keep, along the way answering multiple whispers who wanted me to join the Naxx raid with a "No thanks"#, and landed.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"At the flightpoint."

I tried targeting her, but no dice. "Uh, what layer are you on?"

"I don't know."

"Well, crap. That's probably why I can't see you. You'll have to drop from the raid and invite me, so I can then see you."

A few moments later I received an invite, which I accepted, and she reappeared next to me.

I handed over the Mage Pastries, gave her a wave, and swapped back over to Linna.

That entire sequence was far more complicated than it needed to be, mainly due to the presence of layers. You should be able to go right up to someone, hand over what's needed, and then leave. But now, with layers, you have to group up so you can actually find each other, which is a royal pain if one of you is already in a group. And if you're phased, well... Sucks to be us, I guess.

***

I already know the 'answer' to the problems phasing creates.

"Just consume the content!"

Yeah, but here's the thing: not everybody wants to --or is able to-- go at the same pace as everybody else. And by creating that artificial barrier, Blizzard is inserting FOMO into something it was never meant for.##

I realize that I'm likely the only person who gets annoyed at phasing in this way, but I don't like to be pressured and told what to do, whether it be directly or indirectly. And WoW has enough peer pressure already present in game without any more being added, thankyouverymuch.





*Or a tabletop game.

**You were expecting me to say more? No way. I'm pretty sure nobody wants to read about THAT while eating a meal and perusing their blog readers. And if you do... What the hell is wrong with you?

***Kind of interesting how Blizz has pretty much ranked what is important using the three tiered system: Normal Quests; Phased Quests/Quest Chains; Instanced Content. Different players might have different opinions on what they perceive to be most important, but Blizz put the unofficial imprimatur on their design based on which content goes into which bucket.

****Several MMOs in a post Wrath world that use multiple servers do have layering in place. They just call it something different. I think SWTOR calls them Game Worlds, for example. But more and more, MMOs are migrating toward a singular megaserver with multiple layers to accommodate the sheer population size yet also adjust the game to make the game not seem overwhelmingly populated.

*****She did give it a good attempt, but I wasn't interested. There was more drama in the franken guild that day that I heard about secondhand, but it was sufficient enough to not make me want to go into any 25 person raids put on by the guild.

"It's Jes' raid," my questing buddy replied, trying to lure me in, and pointing out to me that it's not an official alt/pug raid put on by the guild.

"I know," I replied. I like Jes. A LOT. And she does a great job at raid leading. But the most recent 'official' response to an incident concerning the guild banks is to restrict the guild bank usage to the 25 person 'real raids' only. This is not what I'd consider a correct response (punish the offender and change operation of the bank so that withdrawals need to be handled via a banking toon identified by the guild), so the capricious nature of the response just stuck in my craw. We already knew that 10 person raids were considered 'casual' by the guild's leadership, but lumping our raid team in with the person who caused the problem, and implying it's a 'casual vs hardcore' issue rather than someone who abused the guild banks infuriated me.

From my perspective it certainly seems like they're pissing away all of the goodwill they'd earned over on Myzrael-US, and they're going to acquire a poor reputation on Atiesh-US if they keep this up. And why would I want to be associated with that?

#There were enough whispers that I wondered briefly if I was conned into swapping over so I could be recruited. But I knew better; I was just being paranoid.

##Unlike, say, Apple stubbornly refusing to change their iMessage app to utilize the RCS standard, which is quite deliberate. Apple is --in a passive aggressive way-- utilizing peer pressure and bullying by iPhone users to force people into swapping from Android phones to Apple's iPhones. It's mainly a US based thing, since most of the rest of the world uses WhatsApp or Signal or other messaging applications, but it is quite effective, especially among tweens, teens, and 20-somethings, to pressure their peers into buying iPhones so they can stay with their friends' group chats. You'd think that Apple CEO Tim Cook, who as an LGBTQ person was likely bullied, would step in and try to change this "marketing tactic", but I guess profits are more important than integrity.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Magical World of... Whatever

When I last encountered the Mage-ocracy of Dalaran in the World of Warcraft, it was 2010. 

Sure, I’d parked the original Neve there, retired from adventuring and permanently having a drink at The Legerdemain Lounge, but there’s a big difference between hanging around at a tavern and actively using a place as your home base.  

Back then, I had little idea as to what Dalaran really was. I knew where it should have been; you can’t miss the Dalaran Crater if you quest through Alterac and Hillsbrad Foothills, and I was so confused when I’d see Souldat’s location as “Dalaran” when I checked out the Social tab that when I hit L70 I went back to the Crater to see if something had changed.

Narrator: It hadn’t.

You bet your ass I'm bringing this
screencap back out.

It was only when I began playing through Northrend that I began to realize that Dalaran was actually up in Northrend itself, hence the crater. 

In fact, reaching Dalaran was also my first exposure to phasing in World of Warcraft: Soul was escorting me (on Quintalan, my Paladin) on the way from Sunreaver’s Command in the Dragonblight, and when we drew close to the Kor’koron Vanguard he vanished.

“Uh,” I said in Vent, “You disappeared.”

“I did?” he replied.

“Yeah, you just faded away.”

“Let me backtrack.”

A few moments later, he reappeared.

“That’s weird,” I said, doing my best Captain Obvious impression.

“Oh, I know why,” he realized after a very long pause, “you haven’t done The Wrathgate yet.”

“The what?”

“Don’t worry, you’ll get there. For now, just go up to the flight point at the Vanguard, grab it, and then head east. I should reappear shortly.”

Sure enough, Souldat reappeared once we got far enough away from the Kor’kron Vanguard, and we continued up into the Crystalsong Forest.

For some reason, I was ignorant of the quest at L74 to enter Dalaran, because when we got to the teleportation crystal on ground level beneath the city I couldn’t use it.

There was a long pause while Soul checked something out. “Oh,” he said finally, “You can’t get there until you’re L74. Well, that sucks.”

My memory is hazy after that, so I don’t know if I either waited until L74 to get the quest or we got Soul’s wife –who played a Mage—to port me to Dalaran. It’s probably the latter, because I don’t recall the quest until my next series of toons, Tomakan and Neve, made it to Northrend after Cataclysm was released.

Upon my arrival, I looked at Dalaran as simply another home base in much the same fashion as Shattrath was before it: a place for the Horde and Alliance to congregate before heading out to do stuff in Northrend. It was a safe hub in a PvP world (on a PvP server) and this was where you could get access to some of the daily quests, such as the cooking and fishing dailies. I was ignorant of anything resembling Dailies for instances (I believe the Heroic ones were replaced with the automated LFD dailies that didn’t require an official “Daily” quest), raid gear, or even that this was where you could purchase Heirloom gear.*

I’m sure that today, in Wrath Classic, that’s what Dalaran is to most people: just a place to hang out and crafting stuff done.

But to me, I've found myself reluctant to be inside Dalaran in Wrath Classic.

***

As I told my questing buddy a couple of weeks ago, she's probably seen all the times I've been in Dalaran, because it's a place to open a portal to after an instance (or a raid). The city is centrally located, so if you're trying to get somewhere after having run an instance on the edge of the map, such as Gundrak or Halls of Lightning, it's easier to have your Friendly Neighborhood Mage (tm) open a portal to get to Dalaran first. 

The few times I've been in there, the place hasn't changed: the streets, the lights, the sounds, the NPCs. Everything is still as it was back in the day.

Then why don't I like hanging around Dalaran much?

I changed. Or rather, my circumstances changed.

Back in the day, I hadn't any concerns about things such as guilds, raiding, or endgame in general. The servers I was on, first Stormscale-US and then Area-52-US, were huge servers with a good sized Horde population. A-52 was approximately 10:1 Horde back then (the ratio is much worse now), and more importantly there was no such thing as layers, so a crowded Dalaran was just that: a huge mess of a crowd. 

Normally I'd avoid crowds anyway because I dislike them, but I quickly discovered that crowds as found on A-52 brought anonymity with them. Nobody knew me, and using the automated LFD tool meant most people I found via the tool didn't know me either. Since I didn't raid, I had no titles next to my name. No Gearscore to worry about, either, since that was only utilized in reference to pugging raids. I mean, if you had people looking for Gearscores of 5000 to run Heroic Halls of Lightning, they likely wanted to be carried. Even the non-"friends and family" guild I eventually joined with Soul and his wife, The Grey Death Legion, was small potatoes compared to the rest of A-52.**

Now, in Classic, the script has been flipped. 

Atiesh-US is a much larger server than A-52-US ever was, but due to layering there aren't many crowds in Dalaran. You'd think that was a good thing for an introvert who doesn't like crowds much, but because so many people from Myzrael-US migrated to Atiesh-US, I always see people I know the few times I enter into Dalaran. Especially ex-guildies.

It's a constant reminder to me that I left Valhalla by remaining behind while everyone else migrated to Atiesh-US, and I fully intended to remain mostly on Myzrael-US until I was recruited into the 10s raid that I'm presently in.*** So here I am, mostly on Atiesh-US these days despite my original intentions, and while I've made it plain that Deuce is not OG Cardwyn, people still whisper me periodically about how I'm doing and whether I'll join the franken guild. 

Yes, I'm doing fine. No, I'm not joining.

So far, my explanation that Deuce predates any migration (or even the announcement) from Myz and I wasn't planning on Maining her until I got recruited into a raid has been enough to satisfy people who inquired. However, I do know at least a few people who --if given half a chance-- are going to ask "why?" and won't take a simple "It's a private matter" as an answer.****

I've seen enough guild drama to last a lifetime, and I'd rather not cause any more.

***

That aside, there's a larger reason why I don't hang around Dalaran: it doesn't feel like home to Cardwyn.

This is 100 percent due to my fiction. Card has been around; she's traveled, she's fought against powerful enemies, and she's even spent time away from the fray due to PTSD from the fight against Kel'Thuzad. Her initial idealism about Mages was deflated early on in her career and replaced by a certain degree of cynicism. This has been encouraged by her first teacher, Evelyn, who grew up in Dalaran and saw the shades of gray and blindness in that community that allowed a Kel'Thuzad to grow and flourish before his betrayal and creation of the Cult of the Damned.***** The full extent of Evelyn's involvement with Dalaran is unknown to Card (before you ask, yes, I know what it is) but Card knows enough that she can see beyond the utopian veneer presented in the avenues and shops to acknowledge the reality that Dalaran is not what it seems. 

To a Mage who is not part of the Kirin Tor, Dalaran can feel... well... like your know-it-all "Golden Boy" sibling who, despite their best intentions, always feels like they're perpetually mansplaining things to you. What'd be especially grating is that in the aftermath of the rise of the Scourge and the destruction of the Northern Kingdoms, Dalaran turned tail and hid behind it's own bubble, belying all their lofty aspirations. 

"Oh no," a Dalaran Mage tells you early on in the Nexus War questline, "We're not allowed to torture people to extract information from them. But you can." The implication --that we can't get our hands dirty performing tasks that are beneath us-- would grate on Cardwyn. 

"Either you believe in torture or you don't," Cardwyn would have replied. "Just because I act as your proxy doesn't mean you're absolved from any guilt, so don't give me any of that 'holier than thou' bullshit."

That little exchange could have set the scene for so many more "shades of gray" interactions with the Kirin Tor that I'm disappointed that Blizz didn't head in that direction. Instead, that quest was a bit of an outlier in the whole "We're magical Paladins!" feel that I got out of interacting with the Kirin Tor this time around. 

It all boils down to whether Cardwyn would want to be associated with a society like this, and based on Card's backstory and personality, I'd say no. Or maybe grudgingly so.

***

Finally, there's one picture that came out of Retail several years ago that haunts me to this day:

This is Disney in a nutshell.

That pic, from Legion, looks like it'd be something out of Spaceballs

Or maybe a Disney Channel mashup of Star Wars and Cinderella's castle.

Darth Vader: Where are the plans to make a Genie's Lamp?

Cinderella: I don't know what you're talking about. I'm on a diplomatic mission to see Captain America!

Vader: You are a member of the Princess Alliance and a traitor! Take her to the Black Pearl!

Either way, it has to be one of the sillier things I've ever seen. 




*Yes, I was aware of Heirloom gear at the time, and while I was leveling I was insanely jealous of all the people who had been at Max Level and were populating their toons with Heirloom gear. It was such an obvious advantage for a player to speed level with gear that essentially was like having Blue gear that scaled with you all the way to that Max Level, particularly if you ever set your foot inside a random Battleground, that a new person felt like a scrub until they finally started getting gear from Heroic instances once they reached max level.

**It was mostly notable for being a guild that wouldn't let you curse in Vent or guild chat. That didn't prevent the guild from blowing up due to the difficulties in ICC, however.

***About 3-4 weeks ago while I was on OG Card for something or other I was contacted by a leadership member of the franken guild asking if I was going to join them on Atiesh. "Not planning on it," was my reply. And that was that.

****How do I know this? Because I've seen them do this before. And that's part of the reason why I'm not in the franken guild; that some people in guild leadership are people I simply can't respect.

*****And Neve won't ever let anyone forget that in addition to being the Prince of Quel'thalas, Kael'thas Sunstrider once was a member of the Kirin Tor.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Wrath Classic Phase One Raids Part 3: Something Something Something Black Dragonflight

Monday night my raid team ventured forth to do battle with Malygos (again) and then to the only raid instance I'd yet to see in Phase One of Wrath Classic, The Obsidian Sanctum.

Once again, I hunted around for a quest --any quest-- that pointed people in the direction of the seedy underbelly of Wyrmrest Temple, but I rolled a "1" on my Intelligence check. 

"Is the redone Onyxia [raid] out yet?" I asked in voice.

"No, it still says L60 if you go visit her," our Warlock replied. "I think the redone Ony dropped around the time of Trials of the Crusader."

"Then I'm trying to figure out why we're here. I couldn't decide if Blizz decided to redo Ony after it created Obsidian Sanctum, or before. It feels like this raid [Obsidian Sanctum] came first, then Onyxia's revamp, but unlike Ony there's absolutely no reason for us to know this raid exists in game."

"Oh, this definitely came first," the Raid Leader replied.

"Yeah, but unlike Eye of Eternity and Malygos, there's no quests at all for the reason why we're here. At least the Nexus War had a big long thingie for it."

"Thingie?"

"Whatever it is. Brain fried from the time change."

But that's the point, really: there is no reason why we're at The Obsidian Sanctum. If it weren't for Blizz saying "Hey, this is a new raid," you'd have no reason other than pure curiosity as to whether there's something underneath Wyrmrest Temple. 

***

Blizz has mentioned in the past that they're already looking, storywise, a couple of expacs ahead. I've always thought that was something they did later in WoW's lifetime, but I suspect it was happening even back in the "ancient days of WoW", pre-Cataclysm. 

After all, the evidence is right in front of you when you walk into The Obsidian Sanctum: Three Twilight Drakes.

Years before we got to know them well in Cataclysm, there they were beneath Wyrmrest Temple. No explanation, no nothing. Just... there. Arrogant as hell, even as drakes they feel superior to Sartharion, and their presence there make the raid totally chaotic.

So I'll give kudos to Blizz thinking ahead, but without any in-game reason why the raid is there, it's just, well... disjointed.

***

Oh, the fight itself?

Uh... I died. A lot.

I'd never been in the raid before, so of course they wanted to try killing Sartharion with two drakes up.

I very quickly became acquainted with what "two drakes up" meant: you can kill Sartharion with anywhere from zero to all three drakes alive when you first attack Sartharion, but the more drakes you leave alive before you start the fight the better the loot that will drop.

And the more chaotic the fight gets, too. 

The basics of the fight are simple: kill Sartharion. However, Sarth summons fire elementals to pester you and whelps to hound you. Oh, and there's this thing called a Lava Wave (or something to that effect) where walls of lava come rushing at you like you were out surfing in Hawaii, with a gap that you can stand in if you're fast enough.

I was frequently not fast enough. 

Oh, it's not that I couldn't see the gap, or that I dropped casting (I did), it's that I often chose a gap too far away from me to try to make. And with my Blink ability frequently on cooldown because I constantly had to move to avoid mobs/AOE/whatever, I had to hoof it a lot.

That's a type of mistake that I'll fix the longer I'm exposed to this fight. 

Yeah, starting out on the second highest difficulty setting for 10 person Obsidian Sanctum wasn't the best introduction to the fight. The Raid Leaders finally decided to dial it back a bit and take down Satharion with only one drake alive before the boss fight began, which made things much easier to process for me. Whereas before I saw only chaos, I was able to understand the mechanics of the fight better because I wasn't constantly running for my life. 

As is what I've discovered in the Phase One raids, I do better when I can stand and cast. Fire Mages' abilities don't lend themselves well to fights where you have to be on the move: our instant casts are pretty piss poor, damage wise, and even if a Fire Mage was standing, my damage output is definitely inferior to an Arcane Mage.* However, I can do better --and have more of an impact-- with AOE damage for all of the adds that spawn. Get them down, and the fight is much easier. 

***

Like the Onyxia fight back in Vanilla/Vanilla Classic, The Obsidian Sanctum is organized chaos. It is also the most difficult fight in the Phase One raids for 10 people. Yet despite that, it is the one raid that has the largest disconnect from the entire expansion. Kind of like how Blizz shoehorned in a Troll Raid (Zul'Aman) into a Burning Crusade expansion that had nothing to do with Trolls at all.



*More on that for another post.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Meme Monday: Time Changing Memes

Here in the US we set our clocks back one hour this past weekend.

Again.

The older I get, the more annoyed I am at having to do this on an annual basis. My body complains more and more every year about this, and the discernable benefits --to the outdoors industry anyway-- don't help my own personal health much.

Trying to explain to my oldest's
guinea pigs that there's a time change
simply doesn't work. I tried.
From imgflip.

I've got coffee going, and if it
weren't for me likely getting scalded,
I'd be doing this. From Houston Chronicle.

Then again, this was my body on
Saturday night.
From imgflip.

Of course, this is me for
the next week. But I've got
enough friends to remind me when
it's raid time. From imgflip.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Wrath Classic Phase One Raids Part 2: How to Make Something Less than Epic

As I alluded to in my previous post, we cleared Wrath Naxxramas over the course of two nights, with plenty of time to handle Vault of Archavon and the Eye of Eternity. While we didn’t get to Obsidian Sanctum this first week of my raiding participation, the raid team did clear it the week before. That means there’ll be a third post on Phase One Wrath raiding when I visit Obsidian Sanctum, so you have been warned.

After dealing with the Uncanny Valley Effect in Wrath Naxx, the two other raids were completely new to me. I mean, I knew of them back in the day, but as I wasn’t a raider back then I never actually saw them. During Mists I considered trying to go in and solo the Malygos fight, but I was vaguely aware that there were drakes involved, and if I were required to use a drake’s abilities for a decent portion of the fight then it would be impossible to solo. But Vault of Archavon? I really don’t know why I didn’t care about soloing that raid, but it just wasn’t something I was interested in seeing.*

After we turned Kel’Thuzad into a puddle of goo at the end of Wrath Naxxramas, we ported out to Dalaran and flew over to Wintergrasp. 

“Everybody should have the flight point,” someone in the raid said. 

“I don’t,” the raid lead said.

“Nor I,” I added. Given that the only way to get to Wintergrasp is via flying, my purchase of Cold Weather Flying the day before meant I didn’t have that flight point. I wasn’t planning on short circuiting the storyline and grabbing all of the flight points available just because riding wasn’t as fast as flying.**

I tried flying over to Wintergrasp –and yes, I got turned around on my navigation and initially went the wrong way-- but because I was also one of the few people without an epic flying mount the rest of the raid made it ahead of us and summoned us over.

“Don’t ask me to navigate,” I grumbled to myself, dismayed at how low my map reading skills had fallen from the days of being the family’s navigator when we went on vacation.*** “Maybe I should reread that book on orienteering that I bought back in high school.”

We went inside and I followed the crowd to the raid entrance. I’d never been inside the building before, so I was surprised to see another location where you could queue for battlegrounds. As if there weren’t enough of them already.

***

People call Vault of Archavon VoA for short, which gave me flashbacks to my shortwave radio days as VoA is also short for Voice of America, the long running international broadcast of the US Government, in much the same way as the BBC World Service or Radio Nederland or Radio Moscow were for their own countries.

Or it reminded me of a few songs from the 1980s…****

Holy crap is this music video so campy!
And I thought "I Can't Drive 55" was bad...


It wouldn't be an Asia album without
the Roger Dean cover art.

As for the raid itself, there’s not a lot of ‘there’ there.

I knew absolutely nothing about the boss fight, but neither did I die nor did I feel like I was in any sort of danger of dying. It was pretty much a typical spank and tank fight, with an AOE effect that you could move out of, and that was that.

The gear dropped was, well, PvP epic gear. No big deal, but hey, better than I was wearing at the time. I won the pants, so that was worth the fight, I suppose.

Then it was off to Coldarra and the fight I really wanted to see.

***

Malygos the Spellweaver, despite the very poorly written reasons as to why he began the Nexus War in the first place, was the collision course we’d been on from practically the moment we arrived in Northrend. 

From the “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” initial quest (on both factions), through your first “don’t piss me off or I’ll eat you” interactions with the Red Flight, the Keristrasza tragedy, and becoming the messenger of the Kirin Tor to the Dragon Queen, everything led to this.

I made the entire Nexus War personal for Cardwyn with that short fictional piece, but it also underscores the genocidal nature of Malygos’ “solution” to the problem of overuse of Arcane magic. When you decide to control the overuse of magic by “limiting the supply of Arcane users” one way or another, you’re essentially authorizing the slaughter of children with a talent for the Arcane. And entire families who may have one Mage in the tree, because talent is inherited. (My interpretation.) 

Despite every valid reason to limit the overuse of the Arcane, Malygos’ solution is far worse. And Blizz’ crappy reasoning for creating the conflict in the first place aside, for a being supposedly as wise as a Dragon Aspect, it feels incredibly small minded to have settled on “Kill them all” as the solution. 

The Lich King couldn’t have cooked up a better conflict if he’d have tried.

When we arrived at Coldarra, I was nervous, having only briefly skimmed the fight, but ready to go.

Except for me almost entering The Oculus’ instance by mistake.*****

Yeah yeah yeah, the old
"I'm invincible!" speech. 

We wiped about 3 times on Malygos before we got all of the mechanics down, but this fight definitely does not play to my strengths. The first phase does, but the second phase has those adds all over the place and my tendency to strike the one closest to me ends up poorly, with me as a dead Mage lying around. Once I resisted the temptation to simply wail away at random adds, I was able to survive that phase and enter into the "Drake Phase", where the ground crumbles beneath you and you're rescued by Red Dragonflight drakes, who then turn and fight Malygos (with you riding them, naturally). 

It was an interesting fight, but not that memorable. What really made it less than epic was the voice acting itself. I described listening to Malygos in raid as being voiced by an Accountant lecturing on tax law; maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but the voice actor was absolutely not what I expected the Spellweaver to sound like. Maybe some reverb or other vocal manipulation would make Malygos sound a bit better, but for a gigantic Dragon Aspect the voice simply didn't fill the space like the Spellweaver himself did. Compared to Nefarian's and Vaelastrasz's voices, Malygos' voice is very uninspiring, which by extension makes the raid encounter weaker for it.

It's not just a problem with the Spellweaver. Alexstrasza and Keristrasza both sound "less than" as well;  although to be fair I thought the acting of Keristrasza in The Nexus good enough, but it just doesn't sound "dragonlike". If this were Keristrasza fighting us in her polymorphed human form that's one thing, but she's fighting us as a dragon. Maybe Blizz is having difficulty making the vocals sound like they're coming from something as gigantic and epic as a dragon in their true form, but my belief is that the difficulty lies in adjusting a woman's voice to make her sound like a woman and yet inhabit the full throated cavernous power of a dragon in their natural form.

Now that I think about it, this is not a problem confined to the dragonflights, but those who are simply gigantic compared to us. The Keepers' and Watchers' vocals in The Storm Peaks are pretty hit or miss, although to be fair they tend to be closer to the mark than a lot of the dragons in their true forms sound. But when you hear the petty shrillness of the Hyldnir's vocals, which are pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect of those who remained loyal to Thorim all these years, it is nothing but grating to the ears. 

***

It's a shame that the Eye of Eternity was so underwhelming to me, because I'd hoped for an epic battle to close out that chapter in Wrath Classic. Much like how I found Wrath Naxxramas to be "close but not quite" like the real thing, the Eye of Eternity could have been great but just was... pretty good.



*It probably had something to do with that there was no real backstory behind that raid. From my perspective, it was the “PvP raid”.

**Yes, I’m one of those people who would have used the “pity mount” in Storm Peaks rather than purchase Cold Weather Flying. I remember being able to navigate a lot of The Storm Peaks –the Norse Mythos inspired Thorim questline notwithstanding—via a riding mount back in the day, and I realize now that a lot of that is due to what faction I played. More on that in an upcoming post.

***And yes, growing up in the 70s and 80s meant we drove everywhere for vacation. In a station wagon. No, not one with the “gun turrets” in the back, but a mid-sized 1980 Chevrolet Malibu.

This is very similar to the one we had.
The paint is the same, the interior as
well. Only difference is this had the V6
engine, while ours was a 267cc V8.
From smclassiccars.com

That wagon became my second car when the old 1976 Plymouth Volare finally kicked the bucket.

****Before you ask, yes, I have both albums from back in the day. Sammy Hagar’s VoA I have on cassette (!), and Asia’s Astra on CD. The latter was one of the first CDs I’d ever bought, and I bought it from a secondhand record store near UD called Second Time Around. 

*****No, I hadn’t been to The Oculus at the time of that raid. It appears to not be everybody’s favorite instance, and I tend to go with the flow in that regard.