Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Accidental Hipster

I was on early yesterday, before work, and people were eagerly counting down the time before the extended Wrath Classic pre-patch.

Rather than living in the moment, I couldn't help but think that in a year from now people will be similarly eager, talking about the upcoming Cataclysm Classic, because of course they will. After all, we're way ahead of schedule for following the original TBC timeline, so why not the same for Wrath Classic? And I'm sure the apologists will be out for Cataclysm Classic too, because "Cataclysm: It Wasn't as Bad as People Thought" is likely to be a headline from a site such as Massively OP or Blizzard Watch.

But that's not what I mean when I said I was an accidental hipster; that's just being a cynic. 

Chris Knight, don't ever change.

Last afternoon, after I got off a late call with a coworker, I noticed that the servers were now up. An actual extended downtime from Blizz for a prepatch that ended right on time? Amazing! So I looked at Discord and found an absolute ton of people on, even those I'd not seen online in months, all with "Playing World of Warcraft Classic" as their status. 

I switched to, and found a metric ton of people with "Wrath of the Lich King Classic" as their status as well.

And... I just went and zapped for the day and played a little Stardew Valley instead before hitting the hay early. 


If that were all I did that'd be one thing, and I'd write it off to merely an aversion to being around whatever the popular crowd is doing. After all, this is kind of my jam; back in the 80s, I used to like bands such as Toto, and then when Toto IV came out and they simply exploded in popularity I dropped them like a hot potato. Another band that followed a similar trajectory was Bon Jovi. I'd been a fan of their first two albums and liked their third --Slippery When Wet-- but when they suddenly became the most popular band in school* I stopped listening to them. 

If Simon and Garfunkel suddenly rocket
up the charts, I'll drop them too, I suppose.

If I'd have been exposed to punk back then, I'd have likely been heavily into punk until Nirvana came along and made punk inspired Grunge a thing. Instead, part of my 90s was spent exploring Jazz and Celtic music --until Riverdance came along, that is-- so I missed out on the worst excesses of the Boy Bands as well as some of the best of the Grunge bands.

And so it goes.

But for some reason, instead of simply not logging in and zigging when everybody else zagged, I just had to turn myself visible on Discord for a little while so that if anybody was actually looking they'd see that I was most definitely not in WoW Classic that evening.

It was the sort of behavior that was absolutely not necessary, and something I very rarely do, but I did it anyway.

After all, people likely didn't give two shits about what I was doing, since they were all focused on things in Wrath Classic anyway.


I guess you could say that this tendency not to do what everybody else is doing is part of the reason why I did Blaugust the way I have. 

Here I am, on August 31st, the last day, and I've written a post for 31 days straight.** I swore I would stop posting if the stress got to me, but... I haven't felt any stress at all. If anything it's been relaxing, knowing that I'm under absolutely no pressure to post and keep up appearances. I didn't sign up for Blaugust because I didn't want to toot my horn and wave a flag shouting "LOOK AT ME!", which is quite ironic since this is what I'm doing in this post right now. The thing is, I'm writing this post with the knowledge that only a handful of people will ever see it, so I don't really care. 

Even if I did sign up for Blaugust, I'd be only one of 68 blogs, which is miniscule compared to the entirety of the internet, but it would be also more than twice the core readership of this particular blog. We'd be back to territory PC hasn't seen since Righteous Orbs and the Pink Pigtail Inn were active. But it would also mean that I'd have to make a decision about what I want to do with PC, given that back then there were two of us writing and Soul was actively trying to grow the blog's readership.***

If I truly wanted to market PC, I suppose I could have done so by getting on Twitter and engaging with the community more. Or commenting on more sites and blogs. Or something more than what I've been doing (which is nothing). There's no guarantee that any marketing will bring eyeballs here to the blog --or any blog-- but it is certainly better than simply not doing anything at all. What might have happened, knowing me, is that I probably wouldn't have kept at blogging for this long if I felt like I had to keep posting. Without any pressure, I can post what I want when I want to, and the schedule is my own to keep. 

In a world where it feels like everything is dictated by someone else, having complete control over something is a rare luxury.****


If there's one thing that I don't like, it is the concept of the hipster as tastemaker and critic. Even though I only rarely engaged with the hipster crowd, I always felt that the things I liked --and by extension myself-- were considered "less than" by them as a way to make themselves feel superior. 

And now, here I am behaving in a similar fashion to them, and if I looked deep into my own soul I have those same feelings of superiority that they do. I'm not too proud to realize that likely they, like me, are probably nursing a severe case of insecurity that is actively masked by this behavior. This does not excuse such behavior, but I do understand some of the reasons why. 

There's more to it than that, of course. There's a certain level of resentment for all of those people who have no qualms about dropping subscriptions and restarting them on a whim, because Blizz has tailored Retail around spikes in subscriptions every time there's a content patch to the point where the grindy daily systems designed to keep you logging in --and subscribed-- became the raison d'etre for how Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands were designed, even more so than the tailoring of the expac toward the highest end raiders/Mythic+ participation. 

This spiking, the ebb and flow of an expac, isn't exactly unusual. I knew people back in the 90s who would change long distance carriers at the drop of a hat if another carrier came along with a slightly better deal. Hell, people even in our neighborhood changed trash removal companies if they saved about $5 a month. (Yes, that happened.) So this is not new, but knowing that companies such as wireless carriers today still tend to prioritize --and give better deals to-- new customers over existing ones leads to a certain level of behavior among the general populace.***** 

I realize that I'm old, and that I value loyalty to my detriment, but this behavior creates additional resentment in me because these spikes in subscriptions and activity also drive the desire by the Classic Team to push content harder and faster, to keep the subs up and to get to what? Potentially Cataclysm Classic and oblivion, I suppose. If anything, I'd prefer that the Classic team slow it down, because I know the end is coming next year, and I'd like to enjoy the ride as long as I can. 


But I need to do better. I need to stop being small minded and resentful when I should celebrate that so many people came back. Their fun doesn't directly impact me at all --well, considering the way I play it doesn't-- so I need to stop being an accidental hipster and instead enjoy the ride. 

This isn't how I expected to end a series of Blaugust posts, because nobody likes to be a downer, but I guess the prepatch brought up some thoughts that I needed to address sooner or later, such as the impending demise of WoW Classic next year (or very early 2024).


*That was when Bon Jovi became known as "the 'metal band' your girlfriend likes".

**Well, I have, assuming my sudden aversion to actually posting this last post and completing things doesn't override my desire to just simply get it over with. 

***I took the more cautious approach of trying to write well and actively comment on posts that interested me. By engaging people that way, I developed friendships that have lasted until this day. "Hi, Gang!!"

****If anybody wants to take a lesson from this post --aside from "don't be a hipster"-- create a blog because you have complete control over it. People can try to tell you what to do, but in the end you have control. Absolute control. 

*****AT&T was heavily promoting their change in policy last year that they would give the same deals to existing customers that they gave to new customers because it was such a departure from the norm. And before you think I approve of AT&T over other carriers, I don't. I only use AT&T because my employer pays for my service; if it were up to me, I'd use another carrier because AT&T has several dead zones less than 2 miles from my home that they are quite well aware of but have done nothing to alleviate over the past 15 years. And for the record, I most definitely do NOT live in the boonies.

EtA: Fixed grammatical issues.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

A Time for Visiting

I've been helping my questing buddy out with her Mage alt, and one of the fun things I've done is to do the Marshal Windsor questline with her. Part of what made it fun was that this is only the third time I've gone through the questline, as I have so few Alliance toons at L60 or above.

This was Linna's time to shine, and she didn't disappoint.

"Just sayin'..."

This is one of those quests that the
RP walk was made for.

"Like hell you will."

He may have known it was coming,
but it still doesn't make it easy to watch.

But the Marshal Windsor questline is merely the beginning. I know where this leads, having done it twice, but I'm still amazed at how Blizz doesn't give you any clues as to where to go next. This was truly a "get out in the world and explore" questline. When I first went through this questline, I didn't fall back on Wowhead or any guides. I had already been exploring on Az, and I happened to stumble upon a lone Queldorei out in Winterspring. So when I first was given this quest, she happened to be on the list of potential suspects to complete this quest. The leads in Swamp of Sorrows and Burning Steppes didn't pan out, so I went to Winterspring. And there, Azshandra and then Cardwyn found someone who would become an old friend...

"Card is doing well, thanks.
She sends her regards."

If there's one thing that I am pleased about in Retail, it's that the Cataclysm revamp kept Haleh alive. It could have been so easy for Blizz back then to have simply eliminated her as her quests became obsolete, but she's still alive and kicking. 

And she changed her outfit, too.

So on the day of the Prepatch for Wrath Classic, it's good to visit some old friends that have survived until today.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Fate and Circumstance

(The genesis of this story was provided by my questing buddy, who was inspired by the Wrath Classic Beta Test. She provided part of the story as well as the overall plot, and I filled in the rest and edited the overall story. As the two of us collaborated on the entire thing, she and I share the authors' credit for the tale.

I wanted to release this before the Wrath Classic pre-patch, but trying to fit in the last bit of editing while being knee deep in Blaugust 2022 wasn't exactly the smartest thing I've ever done. Still, it's finished, and here it is. 

Some final notes: This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to any people, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Honest! Any characters created by Blizzard for WoW Classic, TBC Classic, and Wrath Classic remain their property. This work of fiction uses WoW Classic, TBC Classic, and Wrath Classic as the reference points, no other version of WoW. This was written by Redbeard of Parallel Context and Zargala-Myzrael, 2022.)

Fate and Circumstance
By Redbeard and Zargala

“Okay Lewys, once your mom uses the paddle to move the bread to the edge of the oven,” I instructed, nodding at Karyn who nudged a golden-brown loaf over, “then it’s your turn.”

My nephew Lewys stood atop a chair in the kitchen, knitted his brow in concentration, and whispered the short poem I gave him. We’d been practicing for this moment for a couple of weeks, and now all I could do was wait. I bit my lip as I stood behind him, watching helplessly as wisps of the arcane came to life and swirled around us. He finished, reached for the bread, and dropped it into the cloth covered basket beside him.

“I did it!” he shouted, jumping up and down on the chair. “It was just like you said, Aunt Cardwyn! Once I got done with the poem the bread was cool enough to move!”

“You sure did, kiddo,” I exhaled, grabbing him from behind and ruffling his hair. “It’s all in the patience and the poem. Do you think you can now help your mom and Grandmama out on baking day?”

“Yeah!” Lewys turned toward my brother’s wife and gave her a hug. “Mom, I did it! Woo!”

“Good job, Lewys!” Karyn smiled with relief as she set the paddle down and returned the hug. She then looked over at me with a question in her eyes.

“He certainly did it,” I echoed and nodded.

“Good,” Mom replied, tapping her foot. “Then the two of you can help us finish up faster.”

“Well,” I said, scraping my foot on the floor, “I don’t want to take away the job I just gave him.”

“Okay then, maybe you should go check to see if something needs doing, like turning the manure.”


“Caaard!” she replied, a grin spreading across her face.

I sighed. No matter how old I got, I was always going to be her kid. “Okay, okay, I’ll go check it out. But Lewys,” I added, turning back to my nephew, “remember to whisper the poem after your mom moves the loaves over, okay? It’s all in the timing.”

“Got it, Aunt Cardwyn! You go turn that manure!”

“Uh… Right.” That kid was picking up all sorts of bad habits from Mom.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

A Collection of Guild Names, Part Deux

I've been collecting more guild names that provided me amusement, so I'm ready to unleash a few more on unsuspecting readers.

What did you think it was gonna
taste like?

You know, if you have to put it
in your guild name, odds are...

Uh.... "Moistly"?

Meh. I kind of like the dead
servers over the Soyent Green
servers, myself.

"Pie Iesu Domine, dona eis requim..."

Found the guild that
Shaquille O'Neal is a member of.

"Hello there!!"

I guess "Girls Gone Wild"
was taken...

Oh, the feels.

Hey, an Oingo Boingo fan!

David Hasselhoff and
Pam Anderson play Classic?
Who knew?

And here I am, merely
bad by accident....

An Our Gang fan club? Wow!

Here.... /hug

Sure.... Everybody's 
a critic....


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Swimming Against the Tide

It kind of goes without saying that I found this Josh Strife Hayes video interesting.

The entire point of his video, that you shouldn't make players go through a slog just to be able to play and do group content together, is a pretty sound one. And that entire slog, as found in Retail and Classic, is the reason why boosting exists.

Of course, boosting by various methods also becomes a problem --as Josh points out-- because you don't learn how to play your class, never mind your role, in group content. 

When people asked me why I wasn't boosting my Shaman Briganaa via instances, I said that I needed to learn how to play a Shaman, and leveling one the old fashioned way allowed me to learn by doing. Now, with Wrath Classic imminent, I've decided to re-learn how to be a Paladin that way as well. The Paladin changes from TBC to Wrath are significant enough that trying to figure them out like I kinda sorta did with a boosted Linna isn't ideal for me. I kept fumbling around for a while until I finally figured it out, and even then I was reluctant to take Linna into instances because I didn't know how well I'd be handling things.*

Learning how to play your class is important, and MMOs do that in spades by peppering low level content with quests designed to teach. For example, the undead troll quests in The Ghostlands are a Blood Elf player's first opportunity to encounter the "don't stand in the bad" mechanic**. The Deadmines expose a player to mobs, adds, and even adds that come from behind after a boss kill, so you never really get a chance to just hang back for a moment or three. Ragefire Chasm exposes a player to a "good luck trying to find your way" dungeon that becomes more important in places such as Maraudon.***

The problem is... well... players in MMOs such as WoW have learned their lessons too well. The horse has left the barn, and players who are interested in the journey rather than the end aren't the focus of MMOs. I may agree with Josh that MMOs should focus on putting raids and dungeons in the hands of lower level players, but the player base doesn't seem to care. Or at least enough of them don't for developers to make it worth their while.


*Even then, when I finally started going into instances I still got called out by someone saying "You should use Seal twisting as Ret!" My response to that little editorial comment was "If you get it exactly right, you get a boost to DPS. If you don't it's a waste of mana." Which is the truth. Unlike totem twisting for an Enhance Shaman, seal twisting in a Retribution Paladin is very much a thing for the highly skilled player only, and even Icy Veins' guides mention that it is an advanced tactic and difficult to pull off. After my retort the player shut up about seal twisting, but I could tell that he didn't like that I wasn't doing 'all the things' necessary to be the best. If you play MMOs long enough you can just tell; even though body language isn't a thing in MMOs, there are subtle cues.

**I did not pass that first test. Just sayin'.

***Alas that Blizz went away from dungeons that just sprawled out and were their own thing. There was a huge adventure behind places such as Maraudon, Blackrock Depths, and Blackrock Spire. A true city, such as Blackrock Depths, that could take well over an hour (sometimes close to 3 hours) to clear. It was players first and then canonized by Blizz that those dungeons were broken up into what they've become today. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

It Happens Every August

Our FF XIV player heads back to college* today.

He brings with him some Warhammer minis to paint and run stuff with --which he discovered was very cheap overseas when he spent six months in England studying abroad**-- some Starfinder splatbooks my sister-in-law's husband gave him to give to a friend of my son's, and a poster book of FF XIV art.

Yes, he's gonna have FF XIV art on his walls, right next to his flag of Bavaria and posters for other things.

Now that I've finished embarrassing him --he does read the blog-- I hope he has a great time his senior year.

And maybe I'll get off my ass and give FF XIV a try. It won't be my main --pretty sure Classic will still be that-- but it's something to look forward to. I actually created a Lancer on a server, courtesy of me having spent time reading Alfred Lord Tennyson's poetry*** recently, now I need to actually follow up with it. 

Catch you on the flip side, bud.


*Literally a college: Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

**He discovered they were so cheap that he bought some minis and shipped them back home here in the States and they were still cheaper than buying them here.

***Why, you may ask? Tsk tsk...

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Just One of Those Days

There are days when a meme just sums up what you're feeling....

Yeah, I had one of those days of
existential dread about how
Dragonflight would work out.
via World of Warcraft Memes FB group.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Of Course It Would be Armor

Some days I struggle finding things to write about. Other days I know what to write about but simply have no time to do so.

And then there are days like today, where I'm reading things in the morning and a topic --or two or three-- literally appear right before my eyes.

Okay, maybe not the best choice of words.
(From YouTube, That Works' channel.)

The kernel of this post came from a comment I made on this post by Bhagpuss, wondering about why so many Asian MMOs and RPGs have women/girls in frilly skirts/dresses. in the mini discussion that followed, Bhagpuss pointed out that it's pretty much a trope among Asian video games akin to chainmail bikinis among Western MMOs/RPGs, and why should I be taking it seriously anyway*?

I never miss a chance to bring out the old chestnut from Collegehumor, but my mind immediately went from the ubiquitous chainmail bikini to its cousin, boob plate.

This looks better than my copy.

Precisely ten days later, the princess, with Durnik once again in tow, returned to Delban's workshop. The mail shirt the craftsman had fashioned was so light that it could have almost have been described as delicate. The helmet, hammered from thin steel, was surmounted with a white plume and was encircled with a gold crown. The greaves, which were to protect the legs, fit to perfection. There was even an embossed shield rimmed with brass and a light sword with an ornate hilt and scabbard.

Ce'Nedra, however, was staring disapprovingly at the breastplate Delban had made for her. It would quite obviously fit--too well. "Didn't you forget something?" she asked him.

He picked up the breastplate up with his big hands and examined it. "It's all there," he told her. "Front, back, all the straps to hook them together. What else did you want?"

"Isn't it a trifle--understated?" she suggested delicately.

"It's made to fit," he replied. "The understatement isn't my fault."

"I want it a little more--" She made a sort of curving gesture with her hands.

"What for?"

"Never mind what for. Just do it."

"What do you plan to put in it?"

"That's my business. Just do it the way I told you to."

He tossed a heavy hammer down on his anvil. "Do it yourself," he told her bluntly.

"Durnik," Ce'Nedra appealed to the smith.

"Oh, no, princess," Durnik refused. "I don't touch another man's tools. It just isn't done."
--From Castle of Wizardry, by David Eddings, pg. 315.

Trying to make sense of boob plate armor --outside of the simple aesthetics of the matter, which are to emphasize a woman's chest-- you kind of have to go into the historical record. Oh, not that a lot of women fought in wars in ancient history, but what armor was supposed to represent. After all, in ancient history, we have this sort of breastplate too:

This bronze cuirass dates
from the 4th Century BCE.
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
there's even an audio description!

So it's not that unusual to see ancient breastplates made in (male) heroic proportions. But of course, that's not the reason why in F&SF art you find the boob plate: something something something sexy.

I'm not one to deny that it can make a woman look sexy, because I'd be foolish to say otherwise. As opposed to the chainmail bikini, at least it's on the "protective armor" side of the spectrum, but not as far on the spectrum as armor meant to be protective from the start yet also accommodate a woman's build**, such as this modern piece:

This is Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the US Army
surgeon general (in 2013), trying on the new
tactical vest specifically designed for the
female physique. From an article.

As you can see, not sexy, but damn impressive and practical.


But just how protective is boob plate anyway? 

While the intent from an artistic standpoint*** is to emphasize that the person is a) a woman and b) sexiness, as a practical matter does it protect the wearer? Or is it, as some have asserted, worse than wearing no armor at all?

I think of the assertion as a bit of a straw man, because boob plate that covers the abdomen --and along with other pieces the arms, legs, and head-- are obviously better than no armor at all. The question isn't that, but whether creating artificially enhanced metal boobs actually weaken the armor in the breast area and provide a false sense of security.


Let's just say that you can go down the rabbit hole on this subject and spend a lot of time on research.****

Okay, let's get started here.

There's historical precedent --as I demonstrated above-- for male attributes to make it into armor. I'd forgotten about the codpiece (I know, get thee to a Renaissance Festival) but I'd also forgotten that in Medieval times a small waist among men was considered ideal, and guess what made it into Medieval armor? Yes, the small waist. 

So if more women did fight in Medieval times than the historical record shows, odds would have been good that armor would have been made to emphasize certain aspects of female anatomy. 

Now, about boob plate...

As Shad pointed out in this episode of Shadiversity, the complaint about boob plate funneling strikes into the sternum would have to also be applied to that small waist, where two separate metal plates intersected, which would have actually been more dangerous than boob plate made of a single piece of hardened steel. 

However, there's a big caveat: both areas would have been made of hardened steel, which is still pretty damned strong. So an attacker would attempt to hit areas where there wasn't any hardened steel instead. If an attacker were using a polearm --a pike or lance, for example-- then the "weak points" wouldn't matter, because the blunt force that such a big weapon would deliver would hit home whether or not it struck the boob plate.

(I know, kind of obvious in retrospect.)

Understanding the historical aesthetics behind armor is also important, and here's a relatively long video expounding on that from That Works:

Considering the sex appeal inherent in historical armor that we never see because we see the pieces through modern eyes, it is entirely feasible that in a Fantasy world where women fight and have power, they too would wear armor that demonstrates such power via sexuality. 

That's not to say that Fantasy armor as seen in art is, uh, realistic at all. And we're not talking codpiece level of snickering, but a whole other level of "you gotta be kidding me". Like so...

Yep, someone we'll be seeing a lot
of, starting next month. And don't
even think about calling her a barbarian.
But Neve certainly recognizes those Wanderer
Stitched Trousers. From Wowhead.

By comparison, some of my own toons are just fine the way they are. I've no problem seeing Shereleth like this:

Standing next to an honor guard at
Vivec City. The armor is actually
the Frostedge Bandit Disguise,
you get for a quest in the Dunmer
faction's starting area. I just liked it so
well that I've kept it all this time.

Or Briganaa:

The accents to the armor are designed
to draw the eye to the chest, which
is fine. It's a thing, and actually
more understated than a codpiece.

Or Linnawyn:

Even though it's more boob plate,
it's understatedly so. Don't
mess with the Knight of the Silver Hand.

But.... No...

Josh Strife Hayes described TERA as
feeling "like you've invaded a Victoria's Secret
Fashion Show and given everyone a giant
medieval weapon and one girl you've
given a massive SciFi laser cannon."

But I think this is the real reason why people bitch so much about boob plate:

Yep. From dailydot.

And they're not wrong. Give female toons the option of ridiculous boob plate/chainmail bikinis or boob plate on "normal" armor, and there's nary a complaint. It's the lack of options between the two that's the problem.


*That "why I should take it seriously" is a topic for another time.

**This reminds me of big innovations that Cincinnati Children's Hospital and other children's hospitals around the country are making toward medical equipment that fit children's sizes. For the longest time, people simply thought they could make adult sized equipment small and that would fit children, but it turned out not to be the case. Hence, the ongoing research on the matter is hugely important. In fact, this research came in handy when the Cincinnati Zoo reached out to Cincinnati Children's to help in saving the life of Fiona, the hippo born six weeks premature, back in 2017. Be warned, you can spend a ton of time on YouTube watching Fiona's story. (I know from experience.)

***And yes, the male gaze. I'm not a dummy, you know.

****Okay, Rule #0 is that men forget that women's breasts don't behave like someone attached rubber balls to their chest. If nothing else, this is where having sisters --or mothers who aren't so freaking uptight that they don't even want to fart while being in the vicinity of their sons-- is a godsend. And yes, my mom was that uptight: the biggest laugh my (now) wife ever had was when one time we were some place and she happened to rip one, and I had a look of disbelief on my face. 

"What?" she asked.

"I didn't know women could fart," I replied.


"My mom never farted."

My wife practically collapsed on the floor laughing. "I can tell you that yes, women do fart, and yes, your mom did too," she replied while gasping for air. "She was just so anal retentive that she hid it all the time!"

EtA: Really? A "they're/there/their" error? Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

That's my secret: I'm always motivated

(Apologies to Bruce Banner for that modified quip.)

Something that nobody --and I do mean nobody-- has ever asked me in my years of writing is how I stay motivated.

Probably that has something to do with the size of the reader base of this blog, which I'm pretty sure is around 30-ish regular readers, when you filter out the web crawlers, spambots, and the individual spikes due to someone linking a post back to PC. Sure, a lot of the articles may eventually reach about 100 hits, but that's a long, slow drip-drip-drip over the course of months.

We used to have more regular readers, back when the major WoW/MMO watering holes were active*, but you could tell almost instantly when a site went dark because we'd see a corresponding drop in traffic. In my experience, people didn't migrate from a central watering hole to a Feed Reader, they simply stopped reading. People didn't come here for WoW (or MMO) news, for that they'd go to Wowhead or WoW Insider/Blizzard Watch or Massively/Massively Overpowered.

I've said numerous times over the years that if you're looking for validation by having people read your blog, you're going to be disappointed. Once you make peace with the reality that blogging is a niche format and very few people break through into the greater consciousness by blogging in this day and age, you'll be fine.


So that does beg the question: why keep blogging? Why stay motivated?

Well, I'd be lying if I said that I don't get any gratification at all from PC. When I see the page views go up after I posted something, I get that good ol' dopamine rush of "Hey, somebody wants to read this!" It's similar to that initial high you get when you discover that someone you've developed feelings for actually reciprocates. It's somewhere between "YESSS!" and "How did I get so lucky?", but before those doubts of "Okay, this can't really be happening, can it?" creep into your head.

That first time that Tam from Righteous Orbs commented here on the blog, I was about over the moon with excitement. Or when WoW Insider linked to a series of posts I made, I had to be walking on air for an entire week.

Personal gratification notwithstanding, I have a confession to make: I've always wanted to be a writer, and blogging gives me that outlet.

I can turn my head from where I'm sitting right now and see this up on a bookshelf:

This wasn't the first book on Science Fiction and Fantasy that I'd read --Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara had that beat by a few years-- but this was the first collection of short stories that I owned. I devoured the stories within and began hunting for more. When I realized that there were actual magazines that published F&SF short stories**, 

Some publications lasted only as long
as the driving force was alive, such as
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.
Given how well MZB's reputation aged over
the years, it's probably for the best.

and that publishing three short stories would qualify someone membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America, I made it a goal to try to get published. 

I should add, this is despite my mother's obvious distaste for my dad's mother being a regular reader of Reader's Digest and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, as if both were inferior products. My mom loved the cozy type of Mystery novels***, and I guess between the two major mystery magazines her tastes would have run more toward Ellery Queen than Alfred Hichcock's, but I interpreted her dislike as a putdown of the short story format itself, which motivated me all the more to try to write better. 


Here I am, over 40 years later, and I'm still not a published author.

There was a time when I used to get
a copy of this from the library
on a regular basis, so I knew what
the submission requirements were
for all of the F&SF magazines.

Writing fiction, especially short fiction, is harder than it looks. 

Okay, I should qualify this a bit. 

Writing fiction is easy; writing good fiction is hard; writing good fiction that is publishable is harder still.

If you want to find out how easy it is to write fiction, go check out the fanfic websites. (I'll wait.) A lot of SF&F fiction put out on the web isn't very good, and that has nothing to do with the nature of fanfic itself. I've wondered about why the writing isn't that good, but having gone back and read some of the novels and short stories I read as a kid, I think I can understand why: the quality of stories back in the "golden age" of SF&F overall wasn't really good.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I loved those stories, but the writing itself needed work. 

A lot of SF&F writing back then had, well, a ton of info dumps. The concepts of world building were such that in order to set the scene, authors basically spent pages setting up the world rather than simply letting the story fill in the gaps along the way. There was also such an emphasis on getting the science right that the quality of the writing suffered as a result. 

And the Mary Sue/Marty Stu protagonists. Hoo boy, there were a ton of them.

That's not to say that I don't like a heroic character, because I do, but some of the protagonists in the stories back then were so perfect that I have a hard time going back and rereading them.**** I like characters who do heroic things, not heroic characters doing, well, their thing.

Because I internalized a lot of these stories in my youth, when I started trying to write my own fiction, it just didn't sound right. The flow wasn't there, and the info dumps didn't mesh well with how I wanted stories to proceed. The characters were either too good and perfect, or I'd swing too hard the other way and torture the characters for no good reason other than "the characters have to suffer or have angst" for it to be legitimately good fiction. And I'll be honest in that I hate that. As I've said many a time, if I want that out of a story, I'll watch the news.

"What about catharsis?" someone once asked me.

Thanks for saying so, Mr. Crews.
(From Brooklyn Nine Nine, meme from GetYarn)

"Catharsis is fine, so long as tragedies and black comedies aren't the only things you're consuming," I replied. "After a while, reading all that will merely get you depressed."

And when life is going shitty for you, or even just kind of shitty, reading tragedies --or their close cousins, the stories where tons of main and secondary characters die-- isn't exactly a big pick-me-up.


My writing foibles aside, when Souldat asked if I wanted to blog about WoW, I felt that at least here was my chance to actually write something and get it out there without any internal pressure to get published. I could just write, and by writing, improve my craft.

I'm grateful that over the decade plus I've been writing PC I haven't had people tell me that my writing sucks, or been critical of the overall quality of my work. And I'm doubly grateful for that because I've read some of my old stuff, and boy does it stink.


I have no idea what made me think I was "writing gooder" back then, because I wasn't. And I realize that a few years from now I'll look at these posts and groan to myself about how terrible they are. I mean, I do that already with One Final Lesson, and that's the only story of that length I've ever finished and released into the wild. 

But that's the thing that keeps me motivated: the knowledge that I'm improving with every post I write. It may not be obvious to me now, but it will show up some years later. 

It's something that keeps me posting, because even if I never get published I'll at least have a body of work I can look back on.

"Well yes, but not in the traditional sense...
Wait, are you in Eversong?"

"Oh. Well, it's nice of you to keep up
with your Instructor's relatives."


*Blogs such as Righteous Orbs, MMO Melting Pot, The Pink Pigtail Inn, Orcish Army Knife, and when WoW Insider (now known as Blizzard Watch) used to have a weekly update of activity in the WoW Blogosphere. All of these are either defunct (Righteous Orbs and MMO Melting Pot), have bloggers fall away from blogging (PPI), pass away (Orcish Army Knife), or just shut down their regular articles highlighting bloggers (WoW Insider).

**And still publish, despite the decline in circulation among paper magazines. Venerable names such as Analog (launched as Astounding Science Fiction in 1930) and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1949), and more recent fare (in a relative sense) of Asimov's Science Fiction (1977) still are kicking around. There are others out there as well, but I can always count on these three to be on the shelves at my local independent bookstore, right next to the two long running Mystery magazines Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (1941) and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (1956). 

***I remember one time my mom's mother, my wife, and I had a conversation about books. Grandma told me about a book she was reading, and that my mom was interested in what it was like. "Oh, you wouldn't like it," Grandma had told her, "because there's sex in it." The fact that my grandmother knew her own daughter was too much of a prude to enjoy a novel she obviously liked tickled me to no end. That was when I realized that my grandmother was far more comfortable with sex and modern society than her own daughters were.

****This is a problem even with current fiction. There was a novella in one of the magazines I have from the mid-2000s --I think it might have been Analog-- who had a protagonist that was smart, scientifically trained, witty, and athletic. I struggled to find any flaws in him at all. Ironically enough, I found a novelette in a 1986 Analog magazine, The Barbarian Princess by Vernor Vinge, that turned the Mary Sue concept on its head. 

I think I still have my copy
around somewhere, but this came

Even though Tatja Grimm was definitely the Mary Sue type, that didn't mean she was perfect. And seen from another character's point of view, which is how the novelette is told, their own internal biases against the "barbarians" played heavily into making that an enjoyable story.

EtA: Corrected some grammar. As usual.

Monday, August 22, 2022

"I'll Take 'Not What I Was Expecting' for $200, Mayim..."

I was busy working away with my headset on, listening to music, when I heard a "bing" come across.

Being not the standard alert that I get for email or a meeting, I looked up to see a fading visual alert on my desktop PC screen. Something about a "gift".

"What on earth..." I began, and hunted for the window.

Quickly locating the little gift box icon on the screen, this is what was inside:

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...

Um, yeah, this is awkward. I mean, do they even know that I'm a blogger, and that I've not done diddly on Retail in ages? Sure, I've hopped on and tooled around Stormwind --or Dalaran 1.0 (I think that's 1.0) or whatever the base of operations in Mists is-- but I've not done a single quest, much less anything more interesting than a few screenshots. They have to know that Classic and TBC Classic are my jam these days.

Since I'm overly cautious, and my line of work is in security, I went ahead and opened a support request to verify that these were legit. I'm pretty sure I'll get a "Yes, they're legitimate, don't worry so much!" as a reply, but this just seemed too much of a coincidence that a few days after I'd done some poking around in Retail I suddenly get this dropped in my lap. Surely there's an automatically generated "gift" that appears like this when certain conditions are triggered.

Now, if only Blizz read my blog and would actually provide me with the info I'd really like to see, about how many accounts actually do various activities in-game....


Sunday, August 21, 2022

"Is that a hairstyle, or did a womp rat die on your head?"

While I was hunting around YouTube for something else, I stumbled on some fan made SWTOR Story Trailers. Of course, once I found them I started hunting for more, because I couldn't just leave it alone.

The best story trailers don't give away the story, but leave you with just enough to get you intrigued and want to play that Class for the story.

Oh, and usage of the in-game voice acting is just a cherry on top.

Here's a pair of the better ones, for the Imperial Agent and the Smuggler, from Welzeit SWTOR:


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Listening for the Whale Song

Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
--"The Emperor of Ice-Cream", by Wallace Stevens

One of the things that irks me about the "do your dailies" crowd is that a certain subset revels in the amount of gold they're making while doing said dailies. 

Before they moved en masse to Atiesh, one guildie knew of my aversion to doing dailies and used to tweak it from time to time, using the promise of gold as a lure.

"Think of all the gold you're missing out on," I was told more than once.

"If I wanted gold fast," I retorted, "I'd spend a few bucks and simply buy it."

"And risk getting banned? No thanks."

That particular exchange stuck with me, because I happened to know people back in the heyday of Naxx who actually did buy gold just so they could keep up with the potion and flask demands. And I also remembered a conversation with a guildie from what was then the #2 raiding guild on Myzrael, who informed me about the insane gold requirements to keep up with the equally demanding raid schedule.

Given that I could put two and two together, I realized that there were likely a lot more people who were like those friends who bought gold. After all, somebody has to be buying the gold the bots were all farming.


So, I grew curious, and when that happens, ol' Red tends to get himself in trouble.

Yes, these sites do exist and
are easily found.

I guess there's no real surprise that these sites are right out in the open, easily found with a simple search. Back in the day, when I was once whispered at for seeing if I needed gold when I was passing through Ratchet, I presumed that these sites were on the Dark Web or something. Maybe they were back then, but they certainly aren't now. Blizz must have given up policing these sites at about the same time they decided they wanted a cut of the action and brought forth the WoW Token.

For what it's worth, I checked a site or two. No, I didn't click on any of the options. My Spidey Sense kicked in and I thankfully didn't click any of the links, AV tool or not.

So.... It looks like between $30-$40 US dollars for 3000 in-game gold.

My boast about just buying gold for immediate gratification isn't too far off the mark. And with these sites operating out in the open like this, it's very likely there's no repercussions in game either.

This all boils down to a player leveling to max level on a megaserver such as Atiesh or Pagle, going out and buying 6000 gold for $60-$70, and jumping right into GDKPs to get geared. No grinding needed. Hell, that second site even sells boosting, so you could use the L58 boost before it vanishes, buy a boosting service, and probably pull all of this off for less than $100.*

Sure, this all defeats the purpose of the game, but when an MMO is basically saying "the game begins at endgame", you're letting basic economics (and the black market) dictate how you get to endgame. And what you do once you get there.


To be perfectly honest, all this makes me want to puke.

Subverting the intent of the game like this is disheartening, but not surprising. After all, the entire intent of GDKP runs is to be a raid for "high rollers", who have a lot of gold available to bid on gear. But even then, the intent is subverted by the ability to buy gold so easily and without repercussions. And Blizz can't ban GDKP raids either, because bidding gold for gear is allowed in game. Even it was explicitly banned, Blizz can't stop the transfer of gold between players without wrecking the in-game economy. And let's face it, Blizz wants the money from subscriptions, else they'd be more aggressive in their enforcement of bans.

But I can't decide what's worse: that players feel that the only way to get geared up is to enter into GDKP runs (buying gold to do it), or that the game's timeline is accelerated enough so that players feel the pressure to get geared to catch up with everyone else. The entry to GDKP is the new GearScore, but one that's easily rectified by opening up your wallet and pulling out your credit card.   

Yes, you can say --and I definitely would-- that you cheated the system if you took part in buying gold for these purposes, but my opinions don't matter here. In game morality and ethics are only present in a game when the players create it and enforce it. And when they don't --or won't-- it evaporates under the weight of money.


*Hell, you could probably find people to run the raids for you, just so you can stand around in Dalaran and look cool with your Tier gear.