Sunday, May 29, 2022

Because I Enjoy a Good Spanking

I guess I should feel grateful that I'm small potatoes --okay, more like the size of a single french fry-- in the MMO blogosphere.

After reading this post over on MassivelyOP and then Wilhelm Arcturus' rebuttal, I was certainly happy to not be in the crosshairs of the very vocal pro-LFG tool crowd. But then again, more than a few bloggers I follow have had commentary regarding the latest tempest in a teapot that is TBC Classic, so why bother posting about it this far after the announcement?

Catharsis, perhaps?

From Monty Python and the Holy Grail.



The automated LFD tool, when it was first released, was a godsend for people who --like me-- operated at off hours. Trying to find a dungeon group in the early morning or late at night was painful at best, and if you weren't on when your guildies were on, well... That kind of sucked. But with the tool, when you were on was suddenly no longer an issue.

Oh yeah, it still kind of was, given that the available pool of players shrank in off hours, but it was certainly better than just about nothing at all.

But like anything else, what you get out of the tool is a direct correlation to what people put into the tool. And if people are being asshats because the tool allows them to, well...

Garbage in, garbage out.


Perhaps it's better to step back and look at things from a larger point of view. Just what would the automated LFD tool solve in today's Classic community?

The tool as created in original Wrath was set among battleground groups* --a subset of servers in a region grouped together for random Battlegrounds-- and matched players to a selected instance, or a random instance, in either Normal or Heroic mode. Furthermore, players wouldn't have to use the meeting stones to be summoned to the location, the players would automatically be ported to the beginning of the inside of the instance itself. 

Convenience, we are it.

Regardless, the biggest problem the original LFD tool was meant to solve was getting players grouped and into instances painlessly, which most people took to mean avoiding the Trade Chat cesspool. And that's putting it politely, given that Trade Chat back then was a haven of racist and sexist material.

Think about that for a minute: WoW's Trade Chat back then, when Admins were far more numerous and attentive to players, was worse than LFG Chat in Classic is now.

Were there server balance issues? Yes, there were, but WoW was still in a growth/expansion mode, so the Battleground Groups evened things out a bit. It was only in a post-Cataclysm world, when the WoW population began to shrink, did server balance issues become a problem. I still remember how stunned I was when in 2014 I discovered that Ysera-US, one of the old WoW servers and where my Alliance toons resided on, had shrunk so far in population that it was a recommended landing spot for new players.

But before there were balance issues, grouping balance issues became a thing. As in, if you weren't a tank (or, to a lesser extent a healer) you were going to wait. A lot.

Yes, yes, I know, some things never change. 

But still, the tank problem from Cataclysm onward was severe enough that waiting for upwards of an hour or more as a DPS for a queue to pop could be maddening. And then if you ever thought about tanking so that you could avoid the wait, the abuse heaped on tanks --and to be fair, the tanks/healers would heap on DPS too-- could get pretty extreme.

I pretty much gave up on heroic instance runs in Cataclysm based on the crap slung around in normal instance runs, and by the time Mists dropped I found Battlegrounds preferable to running instances where everybody was expected to know everything and "lol L2P noob" was one of the nicer refrains I heard.

So why would we want to return to that?


I suppose that people in Classic who are in favor of a return of the automated LFG tool have forgotten what it was like to be learning the fights via said tool.

In my personal experience, zoning in and declaring that hey, I'm still learning this instance could be enough for at least one person to drop. Or that someone would initiate a "vote kick" against you. It might not be as bad as to have that happen all the time, but I'd say that about 1/3 of the time when I did that in Cataclysm --as a DPS-- I'd see someone attempt one of the two options. And that was for a normal instance, mind you, not a heroic. I have absolutely no idea how people behave in normals and heroics instances these days in Retail, now that mythic+ exists. I suspect that based on this thread, M+ and other instance runs are not a lovey dovey place at all. 

If everybody knows the fights and has at least a decent set of gear, then yeah, the tool can be useful for getting your badges and gearing up, but notice the "decent set of gear" part. Where to you go if you need gear to get to that "decent" level? It becomes a circular problem.

Yeah, like this.
From the Blizzard Forums.

And if your entry into running a normal instance --again, so you can learn the fights in a practical manner and get gear-- is toxic, why stick around? 


As a tool, the automated LFG tool does make the process of getting into an instance relatively painless. But the tool also operates as, well, an accelerant. It takes a potentially combustible situation and pours gasoline on everything, because it eliminates any sense of responsibility for your actions. 

I also believe that it is easier to overlook the problems with the LFG tool when you're in a guild. If you're in an active guild, you can get a group together, punch in the tool, and away you go. No fuss, no muss. Even if you need a single DPS, no big deal. You get in a lot quicker, you can do whatever while you're waiting, and it's a rather painless affair. 

If you pug, however.... That's when the problems begin. You have to prove yourself time and again,  and constant usage of the LFG tool is an accelerant on the process.** Make a mistake, and some people will judge you faster than middle school kids at lunch time. When it is soooo easy to just kick or leave instead of working through problems, you can bet that people will choose that option.


The automated LFG tool, if they were to implement it covering "Battleground server groups", would also mask other problems with the WoW Classic community, allowing them to fester without a long term resolution.

Such as server imbalance.

It needs to be said, but in the WoW Classic community the Battleground server groups are practically all the servers in a specific time zone. Which is great and all for the automated LFG tool, but when you transition to raiding.... Not so much. I've covered this before, but the reality is that the raiding scene on the smaller servers has been declining close to the point of no return, while a couple of gigantic servers are so huge because layering hides problems normally associated with them being too big: being unable to farm materials and the consequent inflation of auction house prices.

Spreading the server population out would help a LOT, because it would prevent the brain drain that is currently happening throughout TBC Classic and stretching back to the last few months of Vanilla Classic. It's one of those "it sounds great in theory" solutions that nobody seems to want to tackle head on, because it means that Blizz would have to confront one of their big cash cows: paid server transfers.


Do I know the answer to the automated LFG tool conundrum? 

No, but I do know that installing the solution implemented in Retail Wrath is a disaster in the making. 

What we know now about WoW as implemented in Classic, courtesy of 50 million walk through videos/podcasts/blogs/websites, would likely make people less tolerant of others, and that accelerant capability that the automated LFG tool has could be the spark that the community might not recover from.

Remembering the old definition about insanity as "performing the same actions over and over, and expecting a different result" is worth remembering right now.

Something different is called for here. Perhaps server merges, perhaps bans on toon creation/transfer to the giant servers, perhaps free transfers off of said giant servers or servers with huge faction imbalances, or even perhaps some combination of both, is worth trying. But what I do know is that simply going down the same old path and then expecting it'll all be fine is being incredibly naive.

*Thanks to Shintar for reminding me of this. I thought for the longest time that it was on individual servers, even though I did know it was among Battleground groups when it released; selective memory, I guess. I do know that with Mists and the coming of "don't-call-them-server-merges" the automated tool's reach did expand.


**Once, before I joined my current guild, I tagged along on an instance run of theirs. "I'm so glad we're all friends," one of the people in the run said, "because I absolutely hate pugging instances." I could understand the sentiment, but given that I got to know most of my in-game friends via pugs I felt somewhat slighted.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Letters from Outland, Part 4

Dear Sis--

I'm writing this while I'm taking a break from the fighting. It seems that the Burning Legion has a never ending supply of infernals to drop on both the Alliance and Horde fortifications in the poorly named Shadowmoon Valley, and both factions are hard pressed to keep the supply lines open.

Here at Wildhammer Hold, I can only dream of the hellscape that greeted me when I first crossed the Dark Portal and think "Ah, for the good old days." I'm sure the contingent at Honor Hold would disagree, but when the sky is on fire you tend to have a different outlook on life. 

A pleasant land this ain't.

Any other name would have likely been a better one than Shadowmoon Valley, which sounds closer to something near Astranaar than Outland, although I'm told by an Orc whom I knew back in our Argent Dawn days that the Valley takes its name from the Shadowmoon Clan, who led the Orcs straight into the Legion's lap all those years ago.

Vindicator Aluumen has told me he feels that Illidan will strike more directly against our fortifications in the coming days, but he also thinks that Illidan is caught between a rock and a hard place. As hard as the Legion is hitting us, they're also preparing to strike against Illidan himself. I guess with a name like 'The Betrayer', Illidan has a certain reputation to uphold, and he appears to have double crossed the Burning Legion too. 

Every time I turn around, the uglier
Illidan's troops get. At least they all die.

Even if we overcome the odds and hold our ground, we need to break both of our enemies before we have a chance to bring a measure of peace to Outland.

Hmm... Since I name dropped the title "Vindicator", I guess I should explain a few things about Draenei society that I've learned over my time spent here. The Draenei have their equivalent of the Knights --the Vindicators-- and the Priests --The Anchorites-- but they also have their version of military commanders, the Exarchs. These roles used to be allowed to specific genders only, such as that up until recently had been the case with the Night Elves and Tauren, but the need for bodies has broken down their rigid conservativism.* The fact that my friend Zarlie is an Anchorite is now by choice rather than by societal expectations. She informs me that her sister is yet another classification, a Farseer, who follow the ways of the elements akin to the Shamanism of the Orcs, Tauren, and Trolls.

I've also heard whispers about the Draenei Keepers of the Dead, the Auchenai, but only from the Lower City. While apparently they do exist, the great City of the Dead, Auchindoun, was destroyed in a disaster only a few years before I crossed the Dark Portal, and the Auchenai who survived have, well, gone a bit crazy. I don't know if it's the "everybody died and I can't handle it" sort of crazy or not, but what I've heard is that the Auchenai have been experimenting with things that you'd find more out of the Cult of the Damned than any Draenei organization.

Draenei may have a distinctive outlook on life, but they are by no means a monolithic race. The only thing that truly unites them is their hatred for the Burning Legion. Well, not hatred per se, but probably closer to disappointment. Apparently many of their brethren were tempted by the "gifts" offered by the Legion and chose to join the Legion instead of rejecting them, and those fallen Draenei are now commanders and leaders among the Legion's forces. 

Uh.... I was in the crate.
"Please don't look... Please don't look..."

Despite all that, I've grown to like them during my time here. I now know how you feel being the "shorty" of the household, as I've discovered that when you're surrounded by Draenei even the Kaldorei can appear small. The Draenei may at first glance seem overly pious and sanctimonious, but once you get to know them they open up quite a bit and are quite capable of incredibly bawdy behavior. Like the Elven kindreds, they have an unconscious grace and strength that can be quite stunning. 

I'm not entirely convinced they're so
uptight that they won't drink, but it's
worth a try sometime.

Either way, the Draenei have decided that the Alliance is their future, and so we have to learn to live with them. They have suffered under a certain amount of suspicion by our troops because people know their brethren from the Legion, but it's also intimidating to meet someone who is smarter, stronger, faster, and more graceful than you, who is also more sanctimonious than High Priestess Laurena. (Don't tell her I said that!)

Now that I've been on assignment here in Shadowmoon Valley, I can say that despite first impressions the place has not been totally abandoned by people. I know of a few scattered farms here and there, particularly on the northern edges of the Valley, where some Orcs refuse to leave and instead eke out a living. I've become rather fond of one Oronok who has a ranch high up away from roaming elementals; I can tell he took up ranching late in life as he still makes some basic mistakes, but I've learned not to pry too much. Like many Orcs, he has demons in his past that he'd just as soon forget, and if keeping a watchful eye on his helboars helps, I'm not one to tell him otherwise.

Angry elementals are everywhere. An organization of Shamans called the Earthen Ring has been trying to placate them without much success, and given the response from our leadership --which is mostly "get out of here, I'm busy"-- I can see why. I've been helping to get them some answers from the elementals, but not much has come of it so far. 

...except for the case of heartburn
I've got right now. Another Fire Lord?

Nonetheless, we've also had our run-ins with more of those avian types. Apparently one of them turned traitor, which is good for us, because their companions were going to try to summon forth what looks like an Old God straight into Outland. Given how much trouble they gave us at Ahn'Qiraq, I was more than happy to take on that assignment and destroy their summoning attempt.

That certainly matches a description
I'm sure you're familiar with.

Good riddance.

One more thing. I realize that this will probably hurt Elsharin, but I've encountered many of her ex-brethren here in Shadowmoon Valley as well. The Sindorei who still follow Kael'Thas have a base here --originally they had two, but the Sindorei following the Na'aru took over one of them-- and I've had to kill more than my share of this Sunfury regiment. I've even had to go undercover for a while, and thank goodness that I got to know your teacher, or I'd never have been able to pull it off.

I actually look pretty good as a redhead
and wearing pointy ears. Don't ask
where the ears came from; I'm not proud of that.

It's all in the walk. And the attitude.

The more I've seen these Sunfury Elves in action, the more disgusted I am with them. Have they all been duped? Do they honestly feel that they are on the side of justice? Do they simply not care and just want power any way they can get it? If it's that last one, they're likely going to end up allying with someone who can claim they provide it, and I'm afraid I know who that is. 

Elves and Draenei. These two should have been allies from the start, but Illidan and the Legion --and truth be told, us Humans kind of messed up a bit too-- got in the way. I'm rambling at this point, so I ought to finish up and go to bed soon. I've a long patrol tomorrow that takes me near Illidan's stronghold, nicknamed The Black Temple.

Be well, and give everyone my love!


*Again, Mistress Evelyn's grammar lessons came in handy!

EtA: Corrected a grammar issue.


If you are reading this, you saw my hidden message and guessed how to bring this out. 

I am being stalked. 

I don't have any proof of it yet, but I have this uneasy feeling that my movements are being closely watched, and someone is waiting to strike. It is not simply paranoia at work out here, although at first I thought it was the case, but I know that someone is after me for my knowledge.

A short time ago, I discovered something that could potentially tip the balance of this whole campaign in our favor, and I've been keeping this secret ever since. About a week or two later, I started noticing small things around, like evidence that my bags had been sifted through or that my gear wasn't put back exactly the same way I usually do, and as a test I deliberately moved something in my pack to another location, and when I returned from patrol I found that thing in not the same place. 

As of now, I can't go to my commander without divulging the secret I'm sworn to keep. If you don't hear from me after 2 months, something likely has happened. I don't think whomever is tailing me will kill me, as they likely want to get information out of me. But if you don't hear from me, I need you. This is more important than me or my life; when I took the Oaths to become a Knight, I swore to uphold certain things, and this is one of them. I need you to do two things. First, contact a Broken in Shadowmoon Valley named Olum and tell him "The Light provides." He will know what to do. The other thing is to contact Zarlie; she will have knowledge of where I have been, and if Olum can't be found you should be able to piece things together with what she knows.

I believe in you, Sis. You can do this. So give Naxxramas the middle finger and get out here. There's a job that needs finishing, and a Songshine's word is always good.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Someone Picked at a Scab

I saw this video today about "what's going away when Wrath Classic drops"

And I was sufficiently annoyed at his flippant "if you're one of the 4 or 5 people on your server who doesn't have an Amani Warbear" that I felt it merited a response.

If you've got Hyjal / BT gear, then yes, Zul'Aman is "a pretty chill raid." Even if you're in SSC/TK gear, you should be fine. But if you're in a raid with primarily Phase 1 gear or quest greens + pre-BiS, ignore what WillE is saying. It's a raid that is highly dependent on gear checks and having the right composition --such as having a Priest to do periodic mass dispels on the raid during the Vol'jin fight-- that if you don't have those you're not going to finish the raid. 

And god forbid if your raid is caught in between about 6 other ZA raids --not to mention the other progression raids of other major guilds-- so most of the personnel for the critical slots (Tanks, Healers, the aforementioned Priest, Shamans) are already either locked or are busy. And those roles are ones that I have no desire to pug. I've been in enough pugs that I know that those roles are ones I want people I can trust with, and a random pug --assuming you can even put one together right now on the server-- isn't where you're gonna typically find them.

I suppose that the entire tone, which is a breezy "oh, this is some box you can check off before Wrath drops but everybody will have this anyway", really ticked me off. 

Probably a good deal of it was because I'm not going to get the "Hand of A'dal" title because I never got a Kael'Thas kill in Phase 2. I never show my "Champion of the Na'aru" title anyway, and I'd certainly never bother showing a "Hand of A'dal" title if I got it, but the fact that I did get it would mean something to me. And here was yet another reminder that one of the few personal goals I had in this expac --to raid up until Illidan was downed in Black Temple-- was not going to get completed just kind of set me off.


I guess what drives my obsession about this is something I remembered back in original Wrath.

Remember the blog I Sheep Things/Oh My Kurenai? I certainly do. 

And I remember Rhii's steady stream of updates on her guild's attempts to kill Arthas in ICC before Cataclysm dropped.

But more than anything else, I remember her despair at her realization that her guild wasn't going to be able to do it, and her GM --of all people-- took off to run with another guild and down Arthas instead of trying to finish the job in their own guild. 

As I wasn't a raider at the time, I could only offer some sympathy to her plight, but I didn't really experience it firsthand. When I was a guest on the Twisted Nether Blogcast back in ancient history, there was some disbelief that it was a big deal to down Arthas by the end, with the hosts thinking it wasn't that hard by then because of the buffs and whatnot, and because I knew Rhii's struggles I disagreed. Now I have found myself in her exact same situation, knowing that one thing you wanted to get but you aren't going to get it, that hurts. It's not like a kick in the shins, because that is intense for a brief period of time and then fades, but it's closer to a long, slow burn, like when you've got acid reflux. Even when you think you've put it behind you, it's still lurking to spring out when you least expect it. 

Like now.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A Short Recommendation: Wildermyth

The other week I had a long conversation with Vidyala, the person I've described to my friends in Classic as "the person who taught me how to be a Mage".

It's kind of funny that when I mention she's a blogger, a webcomic artist, or a WoW Insider columnist that I get kind of a "Oh. That's nice." But when I say "She taught me how to Mage,"* that gets people's interest up. 

Go figure.

Regardless, we spent some time catching up and reminiscing about the old days, and bloggers that are long gone --Lara of Root and Branch, if you can read this, we miss you!!-- but she did mention a game that she and her husband Voss** have been playing lately: Wildermyth.

Vid described it a bit like Paper Mario, but there's a lot of RPG elements to it, and there's also a bit of procedural elements as well. The fact that she recommended the game so highly --and that there's a multiplayer aspect to it never hurt-- had me intrigued.

And oh look, it was on sale, with a price much much cheaper than any AAA game.

The main loading screen...


So I tried it out.

Okay, I've been playing for a little while.
When you first start playing,
no characters are seen.

There are a lot of nice small touches to the game, such as when you come back after having played before, and you want to continue your journey.

You feel like you're part of a story.
Or a comic.

There's two main screens to the game: the main map and the tactical map. What bridges the two are the stories told in game that lead from one map to another.

When you're first starting out,
there's a lot of unknown territory.


The main map provides you with a "where to go" aspect to it, but you also have to clear the area to make it safe from the prowling monsters. First you Scout, then you Patrol, then you can clear an area of an infestation. Once all that is done, you can build defenses as roving incursions of monsters in the main story will invade from time to time, so in order to buy yourself some time the defense will suffice.

The tactical map is where the fighting takes place, and yes, this is where the Paper Mario references surface.

Sorry, it's not what you might think.
Too much Lovecraft on the brain.


After a fight, if you level up....

Your capabilities are limited, and your party can't heal in combat, so be aware of that. Sometimes during an incursion you have to just let the monsters take an area/zone before you can stop them, because their initial strength is just too large.


That being said, Wildermyth thrives on its stories. 

There's a few steps between the second
and this pic, but it still makes for
fun stuff.

I'd be lying if I said that the stories didn't fascinate me.

They're very well written, and while the procedural elements creep in, it is still great fun to enjoy a story that relies upon the visuals just as much as the written word. The devs behind Wildermyth do something very smart: they don't tell you everything. They tell you just enough to keep the story going, and let your imagination fuel the rest.

The game is highly addictive, and it's really worth some of your time to try out.

Thanks for recommending Wildermyth, Vid. I really appreciate it!

*Or that she was GM of one of the best "Strict 10s" raiding guilds back in the day. THAT usually works too.

**Not his real name, naturally, just his WoW toon's name.

Saturday, May 21, 2022


I typically don't flex, but....

On the outskirts of Deadwind Pass.


Cardwyn reached the end the long grind to Exalted for the Wintersaber Trainers yesterday.

Once she reached L66 --the reason for showing my UI instead of hiding it as usual-- the XP she obtained from the mobs for the Wintersaber Rep quests slowed to a trickle. With about 5k worth of reputation to go, there was no longer any reason to artificially slow down my rep grind. And to be fair, another guildie had started in on the rep grind with her own traditional single mindedness, and had about 9200 Rep to go last morning. Therefore, I decided to push it and finish Card's own grind around my lunchtime. 

Card's trustly old Alterac Ram has finally been put to pasture.

Oh, and I can report that with T3 gear, Cardwyn can hold her own as L66 against mobs that are L69 - L70 outside of Karazhan. She just happens to pull them from a pretty far distance, that's all. And that each kill nets her ~1340 XP.

Redbeard has a new grinding zone.

EtA: Corrected from XP to Rep. Oops.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

It's About Time

You'd think that the sky was falling given the wailing and gnashing of teeth in some parts of the WoW-verse.

But no, it's the upcoming implementation of a Social Contract into Retail WoW with the upcoming 9.2.5 patch.

In case you're wondering, the Social Contract boils down to Wheaton's Law: Don't Be a Dick.

Or maybe the Golden Rule applies: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Now, we're not talking about anything resembling a "no ganking" rule; after all, that's pretty much part and parcel with a PvP server's activities. We're talking about answering questions in chat rather than saying "Go to WoWHead noob lol", or if someone asks for help and you're available, go help out. Or if you're in an instance with people, play as a team rather than being an ass and doing things like Mage pulling. Things that are pretty basic as part of an unspoken social contract in our real lives. 


But for pete's sake, you'd think that Blizzard was asking people to be placed in shackles and shipped out to Siberia. 

For example, I can sling curses with the best of them, having learned how to cuss from my grandfather the WW2 vet.* But that doesn't mean that I should just let f-bombs fly whenever I feel like it online, because I'm in a public space and that behavior isn't always acceptable there. I'm not perfect, and I do let them fly from time to time --even when I'm around my mother, who most definitely does not approve-- but I do try to accommodate people.

It's not that hard.

But apparently the right to be an asshole is what most people are concerned about, as if that was the sole reason why a certain part of the player base plays MMOs. 


The real question that everyone likely has, what sort of enforcement this Social Contract will receive, is the one that nobody except Blizzard knows. Even Blizz probably doesn't know how that will shake out either, like whether it means Blizz will go harder against offensive player names or will more frequently intervene in Trade/LFG Chat, but one could hope that some of the more egregious crap out there would be thrown the ban hammer.  

But for every person loudly stating that they were now leaving the game because of this (relatively minor) attempt at enforcing some basic standards of decency, I have two words: good riddance. If abusing people got you off, then WoW doesn't need you. To be honest, society doesn't really need you, either. Go hang out in League or something, where people get away with that behavior without consequence.

*I also learned a lot of racist language from him too, which still saddens me to this day. My grandfather was a complex man, but he was also a huge racist. My parents tried their best to raise me without racism, but I recognize that I can always do better. Therefore, with the mini-Reds I made the decision to make sure they were better than me at being anti-racist (and other biases). I explained this to each of them as they reached adulthood, and I told them that I knew I wasn't as good as I should be, but I wanted to make sure the next generation was better still.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Like Riding a Bike, If It Involved Wholesale Slaughter

I was commenting on a post by Shintar about how I've been strangely optimistic about WoW the past week or so, and I think it has something to do with a couple of factors.

Well, there's this for starters:

Yes indeed.

I think my questing buddy was stunned when I told her I joined a Horde guild.

Now, before anybody says the word "raiding", Catalyst is a leveling and social guild. It's been quite a while since I was in an active leveling guild --I think Retail Orphans kind of qualified, but they fizzled out far quicker than this guild has-- and logging in to see about 20-25 people of all sorts of levels just doing things is refreshing. When you're in a (hardcore) raiding guild, leveling toons are few and far between. Or if you find some, they don't stay that way for long as they rocket up quickly so they can be used for raiding alts or to support your main raiding toon. Just lazily leveling along is quite the exception.

To be fair, I realize that my stay in Catalyst might not be very long. Leveling guilds tend to have a pretty decent amount of churn as toons reach max level and then move on to other guilds for raiding or other endgame content. But at the same time, having a guild that isn't constantly fretting over parses or following the meta* or arguing over various aspects of raiding is quite nice. 

Some people will tell you that my current raiding guild is relaxed and social, and to that I raise my eyebrows in disbelief.

If this is relaxed and social, I hate to find out what other hardcore raiding guilds are like. 

No no, scratch that. I once had an extended conversation with someone who was on the (at the time) #2 raiding guild on Myzrael, and he was telling me that he had to come up with about 1800 gold a week to cover all the potions and whatnot they needed for raiding multiple days a week.

"1800?" I was stunned. "Are you sure you had two zeroes there?"

"Oh yes. More than once I was tempted to just buy gold to keep up."

The irony is that I do know people who (at least in Classic) bought gold just to keep up with the demand, and their raid teams were nowhere near the top of the charts. 

But still, the stress of trying to be the best would have driven me bonkers. And my somewhat feeble attempts to keep up in TBC Classic --because I was a raid lead and had to at least set a decent example if I was going to ask others to do what they could to be ready for raids-- were frequently sabotaged by my desire to zag when everybody else zigs.

Like right now in the Isle of Quel'danas.


Someone asked me last Friday before Karazhan what I thought of the Isle of Quel'danas quests and Magister's Terrace, and I told him that I hadn't been there. "There's no real reason for me to go, since I'm not progression raiding, and I figure I'll wait until the crowd has moved on in a couple of months and then I'll go up there."**

"But right now if you get into a group for MgT with a decently geared team it's really easy."

"Oh, I've no doubt, but my experience in Magister's Terrace was when my Mage leveled through there. Imagine doing MgT on quest greens instead of raid gear."

"Oh... shit."


For me, it's exactly like trying to tell someone who is kitted out with Phase 3 raiding gear (Hyjal / Black Temple) that the Zul'Aman bear run is hard to do, when your raid team is frequently a mix of Phase 2 and 3 geared toons and toons with a decent portion of quest greens or some Phase 1 gear. If they haven't walked a mile in your shoes, they won't understand it.

Or like my questing buddy telling me that I'm pretty much hiding from the guild these days, to which I'll agree completely. 

After all, being a non-raider in a hardcore raiding guild is like being a second class citizen. 

Things that you want to do for fun are shelved because there's not enough people to do them, but if it's progression raid related in some way people will show up for it. I have never forgotten being booted out of an instance run because I was just coming to help out but someone else who showed up right before the run needed something for the raid from the dungeon. The organizer felt that person's need --even though they logged in at the last second-- was more important than me volunteering to just help out and actually heading out to the dungeon entrance before getting the boot. 

There was a secondary reason, of course. I wasn't part of the guild at the time. And for me, even though I'd been raiding with them for months, I suspected that the dungeon run organizer hoped to give me enough of a kick in the pants to join the guild or something. But I don't work like that. I'm not a conformist just to do things so I can hang out with the cool people. I want to enjoy myself and do things that matter, because that's what friends do. Friends don't dump one another for others who login at the last moment.***


So, I'm in a Horde guild that is very casual, and it has reinvigorated my enjoyment in just hanging around and doing things. I don't have any pressure to be doing what's expected, or what my gear set is, or anything of that sort. Some people are more driven to level quickly than others, like one person who just joined because their uncle is hoping to get them into raiding, but I realize that person isn't going to be in the guild very long. So I'm not worried or anything. 

I can just do whatever, comment on things people bring up in guild chat, and once in a while get into a dungeon run. I've been on more TBC dungeon runs on Neve in the past 1.5 weeks than I've been on in Linnawyn total. Part of that is the lack of ability to get pugs together at this state of the game, but also that I'm trying to keep Linna on the down low for the time being. 


That does lead me to the other reason why I feel more upbeat about WoW lately.

See all those pink bars?
Paladins for everybody!!

I've gotten back into running Battlegrounds.

My Classic Battlegrounds adventures petered out when I began progression raiding, and truth be told I was tired of all the losing in Alterac Valley.  So when my questing buddy began prodding me to go capture fortifications in Hellfire Peninsula or capturing Spirit Towers in Terrokk Forest for PvP Honor****, I finally relented because she needed gear for an alt of hers and one way of getting it was through PvP. 

I went and did it, and dammit, the bug bit me. 

So I did it on both Brig and Linna. And then on Neve.

And then after another friend showing me what gear he was able to get just doing this sort of Honor farming while leveling, I realized that Linna could finally get a weapon that was at least within 50 miles of being close to what her Retribution Paladin BiS would be. Lugging around a quest green weapon into Karazhan was my nightmare, that I'd essentially have to be carried the entire run and not pull my own weight, and here was a chance of at least not looking so pathetic that all I did was engender sympathy. 

I had no idea that this was actually a remake.
This was the version I knew, but Lyn Roman
did a version in 1973.

So I steeled myself and queued up for Alterac Valley. And we won.

And again.

The next time we lost, but the speed runs that had replaced the terrible grinding losses were addictive.

And dammit, I could do this, even with my crappy gear.

So I kept running AV on Saturday night, one after another, until I looked up and it was 5 AM on Sunday morning.

Uh oh.

I went and lay down, but I couldn't sleep. I was too hyped up on this; I could run AV and get some positive direction on gear, and I could do it without running around and begging people for help. 

My honor goal toward getting Linna a weapon grew closer and closer throughout Sunday, in between yard work and eating and some other odds and ends. Having everybody else in the house out for the day had its advantages, since there are 4 drivers in the house and only 3 cars. So.... Oh darn, I can't go anywhere. I guess I'll just, oh, run another Alterac Valley.

I finally had to force myself to confess what I'd been up to with my questing buddy, and she gave me the "you need to not do this so singlemindedly and relax" bit that I typically give others.*****

"Yeah," I replied, "but I say that because I have those tendencies too, so I know what it's like."

And here I was violating all of that in pursuit of that high that had proven so elusive in Battlegrounds in Classic, and was also a big reason why I stopped playing Retail WoW. When all you feel is losing, it infects your mindset, so having an equal chance at winning is just so damn addictive. 

I did get enough Honor to get Linna her weapon --it took 25 hours, by the way-- and I took a deep breath and backed off a bit. I'm still running Battlegrounds, but not at the insane breakneck pace I did last weekend. If nothing else, I need to show I can master my emotions so I can be a good example to others. And if I can't, I need to tell people that so I can get some help.


Okay, so yes, I feel like things are moving forward after being stuck in neutral since, well, December.

And that's not even covering the changes to the code of conduct that Blizz is bringing to WoW soon. 

Thank goodness.

*Which, right now, involves running the Magister's Terrace dungeon and doing dailies out at the Isle of Quel'Danas for reputation. For... what exactly, I'm not sure of. Most of the people doing this stuff are doing it likely to get certain enchants and other items for their raiding gear, given that most people out there have Mount Hyjal / Black Temple raid gear which are much better than any reward from that area.

**There's another reason, of course. I feel that I'm, well, incomplete. My raiding career was cut short at the end of Phase 2, and I never got to even finish Tempest Keep before my last raid, so in my mind I don't get to skip straight to the end and go up there. I didn't earn the right to go to the Isle of Quel'Dans. I needed to be in the trenches, finishing Tempest Keep, and fighting my way through both Mount Hyjal and Black Temple with the rest, before I can say that "Yes, I deserve to be at Quel'Danas". Anything less would be dishonorable toward the Monday raid team, who earned the right to be there because they fought the hard fight. It doesn't matter that they've not yet finished Hyjal or Black Temple, that will come soon, I know, but I don't deserve to reap the rewards that they earned. I will not be the child of privilege who comes along after they did all the hard work and skip ahead straight to the end. So while I'd love to go there, I just can't. 

From The Incredibles.

***Sorry, I'm not saying who it was who did it. I don't need any more drama in my life, and I've pretty much cut him out of it anyway.

****One of the bosses in Mount Hyjal requires everybody to have a "get out of a stun free card", which for the raid team meant getting a PvP trinket that you can pop and get out of any stun once every couple of minutes. So, everybody had to farm PvP activities for the trinket. And when I mentioned that there's no way I'm going to get back into progression raiding right now because I'd have to study the fights and do PvP and get other gear, my questing buddy said "Oh it's easy, you just sit at the towers or the fortifications a couple of times, turn in the daily quests a few times, and you've got the honor you need!"

*****Okay, I should clarify this a bit. She tolerated my explanation, giving me the "yeah, gear is good" and a few other tidbits, before she said something akin to "I suppose I should say 'be careful and don't overdo it' that you usually say to others but you already know that," which I totally admit I earned. In a way, I'm glad she handled it the nonchalant way she did, because it snapped me back to reality much more quickly than I'd have expected. Must be a mom thing, because if you're used to whatever drama of the day your kids bring to you, my foibles are like small potatoes by comparison.

EtA: Corrected a couple of grammatical mistakes.

EtA: Clarified a part by adding "*****".

Saturday, May 14, 2022

End of an MMO: TERA

Well, TERA is shutting down.


The game, which is an acronym for The Exiled Realm of Arborea, is one of those MMO titles that can bring out strong opinions among fans of the MMO genre. Yes, it has exciting action combat. Yes, the graphics are well done. 


Almost from Day One, TERA developed a reputation for what I'm politely calling "fanservice". If you thought my cheeky (!) commentary by Neve about the Stitched Trousers was something, imagine if she got a hold of the outfits I discovered in TERA.

This was one of the milder ones I encountered.

And this wasn't bringing in the so-called running form the Castanic females have:

Apparently running, bent over, with your panties out is a thing in Korean MMOs.

But the thing is, even if all that went away, TERA would have the reputation it does because of one thing only: the Elin.

I won't dignify a link to it, but the Elin are supposedly an ancient spirit race who just so happen to look like prepubescent girls. ALL OF THEM.

And then to top it off, TERA dresses the Elin up in sexualized outfits. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DO.

The kicker is that the US release of TERA actually has the Elin's outfits toned down; the Korean release shows them even skimpier. If that isn't a call to a dark corner of the internet that "boy, have we got a game for you!" I don't know what does.

I can't simply justify TERA's behavior in this manner, because they had to know that the Elin would attract a certain crowd, but there it is. And because of it, I'm not sorry to see it go the way of the dodo.


While I'd like to spend more time musing about TERA, I think Josh Strife Hayes did a great job on the game with his Wost MMO Ever series when he took on TERA:

I think there's a good story somewhere in the game, but it's not engaging enough to overcome all the ridiculous outfits and the lolli creeper vibe I get from TERA. I mean, the graphics are great, the combat is fine, and the music is good. Why oh why did Bluehole make these design decisions?

If you'd have asked me which game would have died first, TERA or ArcheAge, I'd have picked ArcheAge. The rapid decline in server population coupled with missing pieces to the story from the get go usually would be the death knell of a game. I mean, both games share obvious fanservice elements, such as obvious boob physics and overly revealing costumes* and there's parts of the storyline in both games that make me feel like I'm in an anime. So there's a ton of similarities here. The biggest difference here is that TERA has the Elin, and ArcheAge doesn't. Full stop.

So I guess I can look at TERA and think "What if?" and shake my head.

*And let's be honest, more than just that. The walking and running motions of female toons, the exaggerated bustlines, and the tendency to wear high heels all the time are all hallmarks of Korean MMOs. Both games happen to have these in spades. 

But I think it needs to be said: I'm not a prude. If things such as the outfit options had a wide variety of available selections and you could choose what you liked to wear, whether sexy and revealing or more realistic armor, then I'd be fine with it. After all, everybody is different and has their own opinions on what to wear. It's the lack of choice that annoys me the most.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Missives to Silvermoon

Dearest Brother--

Salutations from Outland! I am presently ensconced in a Sindorei outpost here, Falcon Watch, after having arrived a few weeks ago. 

While I understand that many of our brethren look down upon our fellow members of The Horde, I must say that I have grown fond of them over our time together in Azeroth. The behavior of several of our fellow Sindorei in the face of the reality of Outland can be disheartening at times.

Consider those who have come on a pilgrimage to Outland, hoping to find the Promised Land. 

Many of our fellows are ill-equipped and ill-suited for the rigors of this arid land, as I have found pilgrims in poor condition and suffering from all sorts of maladies here at Falcon Watch, and all the while more and more arrive daily. 

Would that I could provide aid, but the best a Magistrix can do is try to make the passage to Falcon Watch easier by clearing the road of some of these native inhabitants.

I hate to say it, given our precarious position in Eversong, but many people are better off not coming to this place. Given the choice between demons and undead, the undead are a far more manageable problem.

What I am mostly disappointed in is that our abandonment by the Alliance is coloring our thinking.

The roads are fairly clear, save for this monstrous infernal machine called the Fel Reaver roaming the area, but because we do not trust the Alliance we do not use that road, much to the danger of our people. 


Instead, the path to Falcon Watch is paved through territory claimed by so-called Fel Orcs. These Orcs, unlike our fellows in The Horde, are totally in thrall to the demons. The Frostwolves in charge of the primary Horde outpost, Thrallmar, have been dismayed by these Fel Orcs who have not thrown off their yoke from their oppressors. Even more worrisome is that when I was sent into the ramparts of their main outpost, Hellfire Citadel, I discovered that they swear their allegiance to Illidan, not the Burning Legion. If they have thrown their lot in with Illidan, and they are infused with demonic power, what does that say about our own Kael'thas Sunstrider? I find it difficult to ascertain our Prince's designs here, because consorting with the same beings our ancestors fought in the War of the Ancients would be unthinkable, but here we are.

And nobody at Falcon Watch seems to want to confront the disturbing implications of this. 

I have been performing my duty as a Dawnweaver, following in the steps of our ancestors, and engaging the demons at every opportunity. As they refused to bow to them, neither shall I. 


However, I have been less than thrilled by the gear handed out to the personnel here at Falcon Watch and at Thrallmar.

There is a goblin at Thrallmar who seems to take a particular delight in tormenting me. This creature provided me with some replacement pants, which he assured me were stitched trousers, after my own were burned setting fire to some Fel Orc cannons. 



Oh, I am absolutely certain you would find them quite fetching on that innkeeper you are "chatting up", but out here they are a total embarrassment. Me, a Dawnweaver, wearing clothing meant for a boudoir, fighting the Burning Legion!


I assure you that I would fight the Scourge naked and to my last breath if I had to, but this is an unthinkable breach in protocol. 

I was totally embarrassed when I presented
myself to the Ranger Captain of Falcon Watch.
I'll get that goblin if it's the last thing I do.

I do have the honor of bearing important news from the front. 

I was sent forth to engage a Fel Orc assassin camping out on the road to Falcon Watch, lying in wait to ambush our people, but when I arrived I found him already dead with an axe buried in his back. The design was quite primitive, but also quite effective. When I returned to Commander Nazgrel with the axe, he became all excited, exclaiming "Have we found them?" He then sent me forth to a shaman, who provided me with a totem to use at the site of the assassin's demise. The totem called forth an ancestral wolf spirit, who led me up into the hills.

There, I found Orcs.

Not Fel Orcs, or even Frostwolves, but Orcs who followed the ancient ways. Uncorrupted by the Legion.

The only reason I survived this encounter was due to the presence of the wolf spirit. Here, my knowledge of the Orcish language came to the forefront, as these Mag'har, as they call themselves, were extremely distrustful at my story. They knew of the Warchief's father, yet found it hard to believe that the clans who followed Thrall had thrown off their demonic yoke and lived peacefully in Azeroth. They provided me a missive to send back to Orgrimmar, and when I returned to Thrallmar with the letter, Nazgrel selected me for the honor of presenting it to the Warchief. 

Our parents would have been so proud if they were alive today to see it.

And our Warchief was overcome by the news that some of his people had survived without succumbing to the Burning Legion.

Thrall's advisor, Eitrigg, talked our Warchief out of abandoning his post for Outland, counseling caution as our enemies would take advantage of his absence. Eitrigg and Saurfang both have a good head on their shoulders, and they temper Thrall's enthusiasm with wisdom. 

Still, it was wonderful day to represent our people in this manner, Quintalan. 


When I returned to the Mag'har with Thrall's response, they provided me a fine reward, fitting for a Magistrix.

Be well, and I await your reply. Please make with all haste to join me here, as our people are desperately in need of a guiding light that you can provide.

Your loving sister, 


Friday, May 6, 2022

Is That the End of the Tunnel or...

You know you've been out of the loop when you find out a day late that Phase 5 of TBC Classic will drop next week.

My first thought was.... Really? Really?

I think I should have known Blizz would do something like this, but I'm still quite surprised that they're pushing this hard for TBC Classic to be over so quickly. 

The original length between TBC's release and Wrath's release was 22 months. If my belief that Wrath will drop in August is true, that means the Classic version between releases is 15 months, and the vast majority of that time was spent in Phase 1 and Phase 2. 

Losing 7 months because the "meta slaves", as one of my fellow Monday raiders put it, were able to stomp the previous content isn't a good way of managing the Classic environment. And Classic's problems aren't encapsulated by Blizz releasing things too slowly, but rather failing to handle balance issues between the huge population servers and the small population servers.

Myzrael-US is down 50% from the high point of September/October 2021, according to Ironforge's Classic WoW Population website, and while there's potentially a lot of causes to that, I know quite a few raiding guilds left for the larger population servers, shrinking the pool of available raiders*. Several people I know on Myz faded away from raiding and/or playing in general, and those I was able to keep in contact with did not say "gee, we're just spinning our wheels with the same raid on farm" as a reason for leaving. Far and away the largest reason for leaving TBC Classic was burnout from trying to chase the Meta as fast as possible, particularly when there's real life going on. 

It's as if Blizz and the proponents of the Meta are expecting everybody to chase a server World First all the time, and there's real life saying "Hey, remember me? Those bills won't pay themselves, and the family is expecting you to be around for things."

Perhaps that's the biggest mistake that the big players surrounding Classic have made: the expectation that people will be in a pandemic oriented and shut down world indefinitely, which did not happen.

I personally think this rush rush rush mode will blow up in the Classic team's faces, because people will get discouraged and stop raiding if they feel there's no chance of completing Sunwell before Wrath drops. When you throw that lighted match into the tinder of the arguments over the automated LFD tool, I think that the Classic team had better cool their jets and make sure they know what it is they're doing before they bow to the "rush rush rush + I'm bored" crowd. 


Well, there's certainly no reason for me to try to catch up now, even if I was able to miraculously get into a current raid and get every single drop in my favor --not damn likely given DKP and random rolls and whatever-- I'd still be behind on gear if Sunwell is available on next Thursday. So I'm just going to focus on doing whatever I want to do, and I guess that sometime in June or early July Karazhan will close up shop as the Meta crowd start prepping for what to do in Wrath.

I do know the Monday raid team isn't ready for Sunwell. They haven't cleared Hyjal and Black Temple, because they've been trying to catch up on gear just to get to the point of clearing both raids, and I have to believe they won't be the only team saying "Yeah, we're gonna take a pass on Sunwell for some weeks, Blizz. Nice try."

*And bodies for things such as Classic instance runs that are actual runs, not boosts.