Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Things That Make You Go 'Hmmm...'

I was commenting on Shintar's latest WoW Classic Season of Discovery post when her reply gave me some food for thought:

She's right; I haven't been talking very much about what I'm up to, game-wise. Especially compared to the first four or five years' worth of this blog --or even the first three years' worth of WoW Classic-- I've gone mostly silent on my actual video game activity.

Well, I can answer the question "What have I been up to?" pretty succinctly: not much.


This is my spot.

Ever since WoW Classic's Season of Discovery dropped, a lot of people have abandoned WoW Classic Era and jumped on the SoD bandwagon. The resulting emptiness in Classic Era, while not nearly as bad as it was when Burning Crusade Classic came out, is very noticeable. And it suits me just fine. 

I suppose I could level an alt or try to get into a raid or something, but I've found myself not really interested in doing that. Over the past few months one of my Classic Era friend group pulled me into a Molten Core raid, but that experience was soured by that raid's leadership giving a piece of tank gear my friend could have used to a spellcaster alt of one of the raid team's guildies, in explicit violation of the gear distribution rules.

Main Spec over Off-Spec my ass.

Several people in the friend group have joined other raids and raid teams, and some even go into AQ40 and Naxxramas (the last two raids of Classic Era), but I've just not been that interested in doing so. My Questing Buddy does want to join some raids, but her raiding requirement is in the evening on Pacific Time (US West Coast), which most raids in the server cluster don't do. There is one guild that does, however, and she briefly joined that guild only to discover she was unceremoniously benched to make way for another guildie to attend. No apologies or anything, just a "you're benched" from that guild's raid team right before the raid was to start. It'd be one thing if they said that she was being benched for another Hunter, but they instead brought an 8th (or something) Warrior instead to Zul'Gurub, a 20 person raid, where you want Hunters to do certain pulls or be damage soakers or whatnot.

So yeah, I'm not interested in any of that petty bullshit. 

With the dearth of people in Classic Era, it's also been difficult to get into any Alterac Valley Battlegrounds, as most of the Horde players are (you guessed it) in Season of Discovery.

I do help out my friends by running their low level alts through instances or questing, or if they need a body for a dungeon run, so there is that, I guess.

However, for the most part I just stand around in Darnassus, doing random buffs to people who run by, and providing portals to people who need it. 


What about Season of Discovery?

Well, I was happy to move at my own pace, and explore just for exploring, and I'd even created a Horde Mage just to play with my Questing Buddy who'd never played Horde before. I honestly had a good time watching Barrens Chat* and figuring out where all the quests were out there.** Hell, I even got into a Ragefire Chasm group or two, which I hadn't done on the Horde side since... 2010?

I got said Mage up to L22 or so before Season of Discovery's Phase 2 dropped, but my interest in SoD evaporated when Blizzard decided to provide all sorts of information about the upcoming Phase and then stuck Phase 2 in the Public Test Realm before release, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of, you know, discovering things. Some websites have at least paid lip service to the concept of letting people discover things on their own, but once Phase 2 dropped my YouTube Main Page was overwhelmed with "Here's Everything You Need to Do in SoD Phase 2" videos. 

When I did login after Phase 2 dropped, I found that Blizz had added a 50% XP buff to push people into the new content more quickly. I figured that in order to delete it I'd have to do what I did with that Joyous Journeys buff and talk to an innkeeper, but since Blizz couldn't stay with the actual theme of Season of Discovery and instead turned Phase 2 into a "normal" mini-expansion, I abandoned Season of Discovery.***


I've logged into other MMOs, such as Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but...

Let me put it this way: I've logged in, started a character (or logged into an existing one) and... I just kind of hung around, doing nothing. Just watching people run here and there. 

And then I log off.

Yes, I've played a bit of the original Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 3, but... I've reached a certain point in both games where I'm fine with where I'm at. I don't feel like pushing very hard, and I don't feel like starting over. In BG3 I know what I need to do to keep moving forward, but... that requires me bashing my head against a virtual wall for a while until I figure out how a clever way of solving a few quests. Despite a lot of temptation out there in the form of guides and whatnot, I want to figure the game out for myself, without any help. 

I'm not saying I don't believe you, but
I've played my share of CRPGs over the years,
and I've learned to never trust people who say that.
(No spoilers, thankyouverymuch...)


What have I been doing?

Work, I guess.

I'm up to my eyeballs in work, and even though my hours are still roughly 40-ish hours per week, the timing of that work is impacting my down time. For example, I've had a meeting scheduled for very very early morning, and that same meeting has been delayed several times. The problem is not only that I have to go to bed very early to make this early morning call, the delays usually come in when I'm asleep, so I wake up for the meeting only to discover the meeting had been delayed. Again and again and again. So I've not been on much in the evenings because I've got to get to bed. 

While I wrote this post, I set up the
timer on my coffee machine because I don't
want to follow that 10th voice and sleep in.
From Grab Your Coffee Facebook group.

When I'm not doing work, I'm running to and fro for various family obligations and whatnot. I haven't had this many family obligations to go to since more than one of the kids were back in high school, and I can't really explain why. 

I would say that I need a vacation, but every time I think of taking a couple of days off from work, more stuff comes in --both personal and work-- that kind of have to get done. If I took time off from work, the extra work would still be there (and I'd already be behind in getting it done) and the personal stuff would have had to be finished while I was "on vacation".

While I'd like to say that I'm overworked, I'm not. My Questing Buddy's husband is really slammed at his job right now, which is why I don't complain about my work. I guess there's nothing really exciting me right now, and that is reflected in my lack of video game activity.


Okay, I do have to set one thing straight: even if I were busily playing video games, I'm not so sure I'd even bother to post about it anyway.

Remember how I've said (numerous times) that I'm a private person and don't open up much? Well, I've been in one of those moods over the past several months where I'm just not interested in opening up, period. Sure, there's the blog and all, but beyond that I'm just not into talking about my activities. I push myself to posting about such things because it feels like I ought to be at least a bit social, but I also know that posting about what I'm playing doesn't generate much interest compared to other topics.**** It's kind of funny how a blog is social media, but when I post about social things, those posts are very often the least read on the blog. 

So... If I'm not enjoying writing those posts, and people aren't reading them, why should I force myself to do it?

Good ol' Arsenio Hall. This was probably
what, 1987 or so? My freshman year roommate
and I used to watch his show and then turn
on Late Night With David Letterman. From imgflip.com.

I'll probably post about my goings on from time to time, but not nearly as much as I used to. I'd rather talk about other things than making the blog about me, honestly. 

*Except for one evening where some people decided to talk politics and the Middle East, and let's say it did not end well.

**In case you're wondering, by the time a Blood Elf character is finished with the two Blood Elf specific starting areas --Eversong Woods and The Ghostlands-- said character is about L20-L22 already and can pretty much skip The Barrens entirely. So the WoW Classic version of Neve never quested in The Barrens at all, but instead went straight to the next zones after them.

***I will give Blizz some kudos for banning GDKP raids/groups on Season of Discovery servers, which for the uninitiated are raids in which people bid for gear that drop off of bosses with in-game gold. And yes, the GDKP raids are the big reason why gold farmers and (technically illegal) gold selling goes on in WoW Classic servers. But if you ask me, I doubt Blizz will stick to their guns for very long. I mean, just look at how quickly they abandoned the "discovery" portion of Season of Discovery.

****My first post about my hospital stay notwithstanding.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Meme Monday: Min-Maxer Memes

I'd been considering a few other subjects for Meme Monday, but for some reason I kept running into memes concerning min-maxers. Of course, min-maxing isn't a recent phenomenon --just look at the strategy discussion surrounding chess, for example-- and even in real life people will use what is "best" to get a leg up on the competition. 

My decision to make this Meme Monday about min-maxing was solidified when an acquaintance asked in chat the other day what 'parsing' is. Yeah, about that...

This is why players will do all the things
in an MMO, even when they were put in the
game to provide something to do for everyone.
From ifunny.co.

Video games aren't the sole domain of
min-maxers. There's a ton of memes in
pencil-and-paper RPG about min-maxers too.
From Reddit's dndmemes.

Sometimes, you have to admire how some
min-maxers think outside the box.
From Reddit's dndmemes and Ghastfighter392.

And then there's me.
From imgflip.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Sometimes, It Doesn't Mean Anything

In the years that I've been blogging here, I've watched this medium's popularity peak and decline.

To be fair, in 2009 blogging had likely already peaked, but in MMO space we were still riding the high point of the MMO wave with WoW's Wrath of the Lich King and the impending release of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Parallel Context was just one of many MMO (and WoW specifically) oriented blogs out there; if you went to any of the big MMO sites back then, it certainly seemed like there were a lot of people starting up or maintaining blogs. I guess it feels kind of weird when I sit back in 2024 and realize that PC is a survivor.

Blogging is, at it's heart, a solitary kind of experience. When you write, you don't get much in the way of feedback until you actually post.* After a while, that can get kind of old. Here we are, blogging about a genre that is at its heart a social endeavor, and yet we operate in solitude while writing.

It takes a certain type of person to keep blogging, year in and year out.

From wpbeginner.com. Yes, there's a site for
purchasing tutorials on how to blog using Wordpress.
Not sure how I feel about that one, given the
complaints I read about WP from my friends.

This isn't a lead-in to me saying how wonderful I am at blogging, because most days I'm just happy if I can get something off my chest and posted here. And really, if people actually knew how to write something that was guaranteed to go viral, they would go and do just that. Human psychology being what it is, you can't operate with certainty about anything. You can establish trends and have a really good feel on tendencies, but prediction is an inexact science.

And people's tastes can be fickle and change on a dime. (Just ask Billy Squier and his sudden plummet from popularity after Rock Me Tonite.**)

For me, the head scratcher is that while I've been doing Meme Monday for close to 1.5 years now, the Meme Monday about Playing a Female Toon is the one that by far got the most eyeballs to Parallel Context.

The memes themselves were kind of tame, because I didn't want to retread the same old female armor memes or the sexy fun times memes that are all over the place on social media, but for some reason that post got people to the blog. 

Go figure.


I will admit that blogging in the age of streaming and Tik-Tok does feel kind of weird. I thought of this while I've been reading Pride and Prejudice, because I can see the forms that modern novels take in the story, but the novel is most definitely a product of a bygone era. But if an author writes what is important to them, so do bloggers today. 

That's not always the case, given the metric ton of "how to write for profit" books/websites/etc. that are out there, but when you get to the heart of it all we do tend to write what we like and what we want to say. 

And what do I want to say? I'm not sure, really. I just write about things that pop into my head. Are they interesting? To me, yes. 

For example, reading Jane Austen has given me a bit of a window into what she found interesting over 200 years ago, and in turn I wondered what someone would think of my own output if they were to read this blog in 2224. How much could that reader glean from my posts?

It's a question that I can't really answer, because I think I'm too close to the blog to be able to stand back and take a more critical approach without coloring my opinions. But I do wonder what authors thought their work might appear to people in the future, or whether they were more concerned with simply providing a living for themselves and their family to worry much about what future generations thought.

I certainly hope that they won't think that the high point of my output is a Meme Monday on playing a video game as a Female avatar.

*Unless you bring other people into the writing process, or have multiple bloggers for one blog, such as what PC originally had. 

**Whether or not the video played a part in Billy's fall from grace is debatable, but what isn't is that Rock Me Tonite was Billy's last charting single in the US, and he suddenly vanished from the pop charts after that single.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Different Kind of Fun

On more than one occasion I've had ex-military personnel explain to me what it's like coming down from being on active duty. I'm not talking about whether you've seen combat, which is a whole other matter, but just the routine of military life. By far the biggest difference between military and civilian life, they've said, is dealing with the freedom to do whatever they want.* They're so used to having their lives planned out in detail that the concept of "eh, do whatever" becomes foreign to them. 

This isn't exactly a new phenomenon, given how monks' lives were planned out in meticulous detail back in the Middle Ages ("Hellooo, St. Benedict!"), but I was thinking about this tendency toward specific goals and rules as the crux of the difference between Classic and Retail World of Warcraft. 

Or, in an MMO versus an RPG, such as Baldur's Gate.

It's... not too far off, if I had about 30 fewer
pounds on me. Alas that this is about as "aged"
as I can make a toon without turning them gray.
And yes, Lucius is the name of my Cleric from
that now ended D&D 3e campaign, although this
fellow is a "I hit it with my sword" Fighter.

When I finally broke down and bought BG3 as part of the Winter Steam Sale --likely the last sale on that game for a while-- I started playing the first Baldur's Gate again and got as far as reaching Baldur's Gate itself. The siren's song of temptation finally proved to be too much for me, and so I created ol' Lucius above and started poking around. 

In the case of both games, there are obviously some differences --the different D&D rulesets notwithstanding**-- but in general there are timers involved in-game that keep you pushing forward. In the original Baldur's Gate they are more overt and party driven, such as having to get certain quests done or else party members will either leave or attack you. In other RPGs, such as The Witcher, if you try to collect quests and try to get everything good and ready before you "continue" a quest (such as what you'd do in an MMO), you might discover that the timer for that quest has already expired and you've got some NPC mad at you for dithering when they needed help.

The concept of just wandering around and doing whatever is pretty much lost on the player, as the story is paramount.

By comparison, Retail WoW is very forgiving. You can do quests (or not); you can do dailies, run dungeons, raid, etc., but there is very little that's actually required of a player when you play the game. And unlike an RPG, where once you kill enemies others don't respawn after a set timer, you can pretty much go ahead and deal with whatever whenever you want to.

The irony is that all of those items in-game in Retail WoW become "required" by the player base, who enforce a "correct" way of playing based on whatever the min-max numbers say, so it ends up that we, the players, turn a self-directed environment into a regimented game all by ourselves.


And, of course, that mentality has trickled down to WoW Classic, where I am resisting it's pull with all my might. 

I think it needs to be said, however, that after some sessions with Baldur's Gate 1 and 3, I've discovered that it is very freeing to login to WoW Classic Era and just, well, hang around without needing to actually do anything at all. Once you tell the collective min-max crowd to go piss off, playing an MMO such as Classic Era is, well, fun in a way that story driven MMOs and RPGs aren't. 

That's not to say I suddenly don't like RPGs, but it's a different kind of fun than that found in WoW Classic Era. Sure, Era can feel kind of empty in terms of "things to do", but sometimes that's exactly what you want out of a game. And sometimes you want to do some things here and there that you can't do in Classic/Classic Era but you find in Retail. Or another MMO. And then, you want a story that keeps you moving, and there's one of several RPGs to choose from.

It's all different, and that's okay. And I think I need to be reminded of that on a regular basis.

*A very distant second was dealing with all the rules. And the bureaucracy. If you thought academia or government had a ton of arcane rules and regulations and absurd bureaucracy, wait'll you meet the military. Of course, being in the private sector my whole life, I often say the same thing to people who bitch about "waste in government", and they're offended for some reason that capitalism hasn't wiped that waste out. I'm personally of the opinion that it's just a reflection on human nature, and you just have to live with it.

**I'm still having issues dealing with Short Rests that exist in the modern game. I'm so used to hoarding supplies such as healing potions that the concept of a Short Rest --where you can get a bunch of your hit points back twice in a day-- before you need what I'd term a "regular" or Long rest is confusing me. I try to figure out how to win an encounter without needing as many healing potions or spells as possible, but the encounters are designed for people to expect those "mini mass heals". 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Meme Monday: Post Valentine's Winter Doldrums

I kind of blinked and Valentine's Day had come and gone.

Even in MMOs, the pseudo Valentine's Day celebrations ended a day or two after the day itself, and in a flash everything was gone.

A lot of the Valentine's Day MMO activities had me in kind of a bit of doldrums myself, as my brain kept saying "if real life romance were as easy as MMOs' presentations of Valentine's Day were, I'd be doing fantastic in the romance department."

Part of that is also being married mumblety-mumble years, and I've discovered that familiarity is the biggest killer of romance.

Still, it could also be that we had a rather 'fun' week of weather, which culminated in the temperatures dropping from highs of 60F (15.5C) to lows of 11F (-12C) within the span of 48 hours. Oh, and we finally got some accumulating snow that stuck around for longer than 24 hours, too. (And ice! Don't forget the ice!)

But everybody goes through these doldrums after Valentine's Day and before March heralds the arrival of Spring.

Last week was like this.
From Onlyinyourstate.

Yeah, the gray sucks the life right out
of you after a while. Makes Moria in LOTRO
look cheery by comparison.
From Fowllanguagecomics.

Yep. From Imgflip.

My wife and my oldest had to deal with this
on Saturday, with all the ice hidden under
a couple inches of snow. Yay us.
From Cheezburger.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Meme Monday: Playing a Female Toon

While I might be more identified with playing Cardwyn since WoW Classic debuted in 2019, I originally played --and had as my main toon-- men. Throughout a variety of MMOs, such as WoW, LOTRO, SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, and Age of Conan-- my first or primary characters were all male. Go with what you know, I suppose, even though that doesn't really matter all that much in MMOs from a story standpoint. 

Even in single player RPGs the characters I created were male, and in all types of games the mini-Reds have rather unhelpfully pointed out to me how much those characters actually looked like me.

Okay, he's in the ballpark, if I were
abput 30 years younger and my hair
were a bit more bleached.

It was only when I created Nevelanthana back in 2010 that I decided to consciously create a female toon. It's kind of surprising that a lot of my toons these days are female --especially given that I do have pretty much an equal mix between the sexes-- and I really don't play them differently either.

I discovered pretty quickly that people did treat female toons differently as opposed to male toons. Even though I know I don't say anything in raid or group chat anything other than I as a person would, you'd be surprised the number of times I've spoken up in voice chat only to have someone whisper me "OMG you're a GUY!" There must be something about me and how I act toward people that triggers that response, but hell if I know exactly what it is.

Still, yes, I've been on the receiving end of some interesting commentary regarding my female toons, and so in the (dubious) honor of that, here's a few memes of what it's like to play a female toon:

As the old saying goes,
GIRL = Guy In Real Life.
From PvPBoost.com.

This is... a thing, unfortunately.
From Amanda Webb.

Okay, it's one of those you'll have to
open up to see the whole thing. But yeah,
I've received some "special favors" because...
I guess people think I'm a woman or something.
From pinterest. 

Indeed. I've been propositioned just because
I happen to be parked by my usual spot in
Stormwind or Thunder Bluff, or in Isle of
Conquest or Alterac Valley, or... Well, you get
the idea. From Pinterest.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

There's the Offiicial Reason, and then there's....

Nothing like stirring the pot, I suppose.

One of my side comments in the discussion surrounding my last post alluded to me not playing SWTOR very much was because of the broken companion pathing whenever I play it.  I've switched PCs, replaced CPUs and graphics cards (and manufacturers), and I even have the game installed on an NVMe SSD drive --a far cry from the slowpoke 5400 rpm mechanical drive it was once on-- but all to no avail.

My old Sith Inquisitor is still somewhere in
Chapter 10 of the KotFE expansion.

Here, I started at this entrance area in Nar Shadda, right after you disembark from your ship, and I ran toward the taxi. Literally all I did; no attacking, no shenanigans, no nothing:

Okay, so Senya is now just out of view...

If you look closely at the map, you can see that
she moved about half speed from the screenshot
just above this one.

And now, having arrived at the taxi, I can swing the camera
around and watch her go "Oh shit! I'm coming!"

Imagine if I were in a fight and she were dilly dallying around far behind me. In the original implementation of SWTOR, where some of the story fights were really hard (I'm looking at you, original difficulty of the final boss of the Jedi Consular story), I'd have been dead by the time my companion would have decided to show up. As it is, I haven't died due to these sort of problems, but I can only stand to have to play nursemaid to my companion for as long as it typically takes me to reach the end of Chapter One of the SWTOR Vanilla areas.

There's other changes over the years that irk me, such as replacing the original in game map with that map reminiscent of the map in TERA --and believe me, combat aside, you don't want your MMO to ever be thought of as similar to TERA*-- but that can be remediated by customization. But the companion issue? Despite years' worth of efforts, I can't fix it. I even have a second account that the mini-Reds used to play SWTOR with, and that account has the same damn problem.


Why bring this up?

Because I wanted to highlight some reasons why I no longer --or hardly ever-- play some MMOs that really don't end up on people's reviews or blog posts about the games.

Petty? Maybe. They're definitely not in the realm of "I just don't like the direction the story is going" or "the combat is clunky".

Accurate? For me, absolutely. 

Since I've already mentioned SWTOR, let's delve into a few others...


Age of Conan's issue is simple: lack of responsiveness when pressing a button.

For all of the issues that Age of Conan has, and believe me, the grindy nature and the bugs do factor into anybody's ability to play the game, the main reason why I don't play Age of Conan anymore has to do with the game's lack of responsiveness when you go to select an action.

Maybe it's because my first MMO was World of Warcraft, which is famous for its smooth user interaction, but there's more to it than just that. Almost every other MMO has no delay between pushing a button and performing the action on screen, but Age of Conan somehow manages to have a noticeable delay between when you select a combat action and your toon actually performing said action. Combat itself is straightforward: you select a certain combo of buttons and then your toon performs the action, but there's just enough of a delay between the selection and the action that makes you think that there's lag in the system. This happened when I first tried the game out back in 2010 or so, and it persisted through the years even though all other MMOs I've played have overcome any lag issues with respect to combat. It's not even a matter of the couple of servers left in AoC being located far away, as they appear to be located in Newark, New Jersey, and the latency I was seeing was around 100 ms. I've played other MMOs with a 100 ms latency without any issues at all, so I don't believe it's the latency either. I think it has to do with the lack of optimization in AoC's code, and for me that's a deal breaker when you're expected to perform more and more complex maneuvers quickly.


Lord of the Rings Online's UI is a nightmare for visibility.

As much as some people want modern screen sizes to be supported by LOTRO, I want something a bit more basic: more easily readable UI icons.

If there's one thing that MMOs such as WoW and SWTOR have figured out, it's that making unique enough and easily visible buttons in the UI make for a better playing experience. This is something that Standing Stone has yet to figure out, apparently, as every time I boot up LOTRO and login with the intention to do something more than just wander around Bree and listen to the Friday evening band play on the Gladden server, I'm presented with the blasted icons that tell me absolutely nothing at first glance.

Or second or third glance for that matter.

From my foray last Spring as a High Elf.

It's bad enough that they're various shades of red in my example above, but this is what you get if you've been playing for a while:

This was my old main on LOTRO.
It's been a while since I last played him, and
as you can see some commands have been
removed and I need to correct things.

The washed out coloring matches the rest of the LOTRO color scheme, but given that I have to pay close attention to the details of the icons to distinguish between the various red ones and green ones, that does me no favors when performing actions. 

And can you imagine the nightmare if you were red-green colorblind? (I'm not, for clarity's sake.)

Then we have to talk about the in game maps.

The maps are kinda sorta faithful to the old Pauline Baynes map of Middle-earth (my own copy was passed down to me from my mom, and I gave it to my son):

I was surprised to find that
museoteca has an interactive map
on their site. This was the map that
inspired my exploration into SF&F.

The thing is, there's a difference between being faithful to the original map and making an in-game map actually usable:

This is light years better than what it used
to be, but even when I had a smaller monitor
nothing was sharp.

The original map design was much worse, where everything was washed out brownish colors, and trying to distinguish details was... poor at best. And the quest markers? They were all various colors of rings (for The One Ring) but they were too hazy and poorly placed to make any details out either.

I know that I was looking forward to an overhaul of the UI (as was Wilhelm Arcturus), but more for overall improvements of the clarity of the design. Until then, why bash my head against a wall (metaphorically speaking) when I try to play the game? In as much the same way as I love SWTOR's story, LOTRO's story is extremely well done, and I miss being able to progress in it, but for me it's not worth it to keep playing in earnest when I have these visual issues.


Doom and other FPS games have a "simple" problem: I get nauseous when I play them.

From Memecrunch and Step Brothers.

I know I'm not the only one out there that gets motion sick when playing some types of video games, and there's articles out there with advice on how to deal with the problem (such as this one). Still, the only way I've been able to successfully combat this motion sickness is to use Dramamine in the same fashion that I'd take Dramamine before riding on a train or a plane.

Still, I made the decision a long time ago that if I was going to have to be medicated in order to play a video game, I probably shouldn't be playing said video game. It does save me money in the long run, as I don't purchase FPS games, but it does make me sad that I can't play a specific class of video games.

I recently discovered --much to my horror-- that the NASA Moonbase Alpha video game gave me the same motion sickness as FPS shooters did, so what looks like a rather good lunar base simulation is sadly unplayable for me. Thankfully it's free to play, so I didn't lose any money buying it only to discover I can't play it, but still it's a tough pill to swallow.

*I'm pulling this out of my archives just so you know why you shouldn't want to have your game compared to TERA:

Uh, yeah. Interesting enemies you got there.

And no, I'm not posting a pic of the Elin.
I have standards.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

How Can This Still Be Broken?

When I started the research for this post, it wasn't the kind of post I expected to make.

You see, I happened to note that the Mage Class Lead for my progression guild in Classic and TBC Classic was back on the Myzrael-US server, leveling a new toon.* The few times I'd been on Myz after the server opened up for free transfers to Old Blanchy were disheartening to say the least; I wandered Stormwind and other places without anybody in sight. 

So, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to create a new Cardwyn and hop on. I figured that if nothing else, anybody who was still on that server --and who knew me-- would take note.

Well, Northshire Valley went as well as I kind of expected:

At least it's not zero...

Still, I did kind of expect it would be about "one" (me).

I did take notice of the server population in Wrath Classic's server listings: 

It seems that even what were "large" servers when I stopped raiding and eventually abandoned Wrath Classic back in January 2023 are no longer that: Atiesh, Grobbulus, and Whitemane were all "High" or "Full" back then, but are now on par with the one destination server for Myzrael and the other abandoned servers: Old Blanchy. 

The few times my Questing Buddy had gone onto Atiesh after her raiding career there ended --roughly November 2023-- she'd reported back that there were a lot fewer people logging in than there used to be. I hopped onto Atiesh myself and found Dalaran still fairly full with 50+ people in the /who listings, but it definitely felt not as crowded as before.

I kind of chalked it up to the end of the expansion, as very few people would ever confuse Ruby Sanctum (the current raid Wrath Classic is on) as a filler raid between ICC and the drop of the Cataclysm pre-patch. 

Still, I wondered. Both Wrath Classic and Retail are in the end of the expac blues right now, but what does that mean for, well, the new player experience?

So I did what I usually do: create a new character and go look around and see who's there.


Oh, you can stop with the fake shock now.

Yes, I did create a few toons on Retail.

No, none of them were named Cardwyn.**

Nice mutton chops, dude. You'll give
Mungo Jerry a run for his money.

I figured I'd go to Area 52, my Horde toons' old stomping ground, and see what popped up when I started a new toon.


Okay, that wasn't good. There's nobody in Eversong in the /who...

Wait. Do you see it?

There are at least two other toons right by me here, so why aren't they showing up in /who? 

They're not on the same server as me --I checked-- so is it a scenario that only people on the same server as you show up in /who? If that's the case, then that means that nobody from Area 52 has a toon in Eversong Woods. 

Okay, I'll freely admit --and I told my Questing Buddy as much-- that Area 52 might be a mature enough server that just about everybody is a max level toon. I mean, it is "Full" after all. So maybe I need to start poking around on a server marked for "New Players". A brand new player won't know any better, and with the server clusters in place in Retail (and Classic Era) this shouldn't be a big deal.

So I chose the first server on the list, Aegwynn, and rolled up a few toons.

Since when were Tauren allowed to become Mages?

A server specifically marked for New Players,
and Azshandra was already taken? Oh COME ON...

A couple of the toons I started on the "new" new player experience of Exile's Reach, but I discovered that the "ship" I was on had almost nobody aboard:

There is the lone toon I discovered on either
faction on the boat. "We're on the Good Ship
Lifestyle! I elect me the captain!

Well, at least I got a chuckle out of the Alliance captain saying "The Alliance leaves no one behind!" in a weird echo of something I once wrote in one of the stories concerning Card and the Defias.*** But still, there was nobody around.

Except for this:

As you can see, there's three toons there --there were more if I rotated the screen around-- but none of them were the ones who showed up in /who.

I mean, something as basic as /who for a zone couldn't be this busted, could it?

Could it?

I got onto my Banking toon in WoW Classic Era, the only WoW instance in Classic that has server clusters, and got this for a listing in Elwynn Forest:

As you can see, there's other people in the cluster present on the /who listing.

So what the hell is going on?


Yes, it's a bug. Apparently it's been around in Retail for several years now, judging by some of the comments in the WoW forums.

This makes the date of the bug introduction to around
January 2020 or so, as 8.3 dropped on January 14th.
Screencap from "/who function still not working?"

How has this been allowed to persist for this long? Obviously it works fine in WoW Classic Era, so this ought to be a no brainer to actually get corrected. It is also something very basic to the game, being able to find other people nearby, and if you can't even do that, why should people think you've got a quality product that people use?

Before someone hops on and says "yeah, but Blizz has bigger problems than fixing /who", I can unequivocally state that being able to find people in a game where playing with other people is the desired goal is a high priority. And if you can't trust the results of a simple /who command, then how can we trust the rest of what the game is providing to us? 

This is a horrible look for Blizzard to provide to new players. WoW already has major problems with bringing in new people, and making populations look even worse than they really are does them no favors. I was originally going to mention about how nobody was starting new players in Retail, but I can't say that. There is absolutely no way of knowing without me taking a higher level toon and coming back to a starter zone to manually look around and see for myself. 

For all of the problems that Blizzard has with story and retention and systems, it's the small stuff that annoys me the most. The small annoyances that say "this is not a polished product" before you even run into the story or other issues make me wonder why I'm paying $15/month. If the game can't even have the basics work right --or if they only care about getting combat tuned to the point where nothing else is reliable-- why should I play the game? Why should a new player play it? 

Or maybe Blizzard thinks that the only people who play Retail now are those who already had been playing it, and they have an excessively high tolerance for poor product quality?

Either way, this is a bad look for Retail.

*Yes, we're still Battle.net friends. We haven't spoken in quite a while, but we're still friends.

**My Questing Buddy did ask me if I had. I told her no, because I would spend a lot of time trying to customize her to get her "just right", and I was more interested in taking a look around.

***Here's the excerpt: 

"Is our mutual friend still here?" I asked. 

"She's likely in the park where the Cenarions are, sleeping it off." With a mischievous grin, Sloan patted her hair. "It's a wig, Card. That's why I keep my hair short."
"Oh." For a moment I thought she had a spell cast on her.
"Don't sound so disappointed; not everything is Arcane related. It fooled you, didn't it?" Sloan turned toward Mom and inclined her head. "We protect our own, Ma'am. It's an honor to finally meet you," she added.

"Oh?" Mom arched an eyebrow.

"Yes, Ms. Gray." Sloan's normal equanimity vanished. "I've read so much about you. The Vintner made sure you were restored to your proper place within the organization. And..."
"And?" I'd never heard Mom slip into a voice quite like this before. Whenever she had us kids do something around the house, her tone was a completely different. This sounded like a Sergeant whipping some green trainees into shape.

"We..." Sloan paused, then her reply came in a rush. "We study you, Ma'am. What you did, and how you did it. And because of you, we are taught to never leave anyone behind. If that makes us weaker than our enemies, then so be it. But it makes us better than them."

Mom nodded. "Thank you...."

"...Sloan. Sloan McCoy, Ma'am." Sloan swallowed hard.

"Thank you, Sloan. That means more to me than you'll ever know." Mom reached across me and clasped a surprised Sloan by the shoulder. "Let's not keep the Vintner waiting."

Ponderable That Makes You Go "Hmmm..."

If there's one truism in World of Warcraft, if it can be corrupted it eventually will be corrupted.

After all, the lore states that even Humans are descended from Vrykul, who are corrupted Iron Vrykul who received the Curse of Flesh, as did Dwarves and Gnomes.*

There's also another truism that WoW follows that is Lord Acton's quote that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If you give an NPC enough power, they'll likely become corrupted over time.

Unless, of course, plot armor dictates otherwise. (See: Jaina, Thrall, etc.)

From memegenerator.

There's also another exception to these general truisms. Us.

Given everything that our toons supposedly have done in Retail, we're pretty much at peak power right now. (No matter what happened in Dragonflight, you won the Afterlife an expansion ago, which kind of supersedes that.) So why haven't we become corrupted?

Yeah yeah yeah... Blah blah blah... We're the player characters. We're the protagonists in the game.

Then why are we playing second --or third or fourth-- fiddle to the faction leads? Or the guardians of Azeroth? Or of the Afterlife? If they couldn't do any of this without us, why do we need them?


History is full of examples where the Leader's Champion becomes more powerful or popular than the Leader, and that leads to... Issues.

Sometimes the Leader tries to have the Champion killed (See: King Saul and David).

Sometimes, the Champion revolts against the Leader (See: Sulla vs. the Roman Senate).

And sometimes the Champion gains political enemies that bring them to ruin (See: plenty of plots, but also popularly done in literature, such as in Othello.)

From memegenerator. They're doing well today.

So, while I often make fun of the Mary Sue/Marty Stu nature of Jaina and Thrall, we could also apply the same term to our toons. 


It's the nature of MMOs to eventually run into these problems, because the longer an MMO is alive and receiving updates/expansions, the greater the power creep and the challenges overcome. This is also a problem with ongoing book series, such as with Kim Harrison's Hollows series and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.*** Still, you'd think that after a while the WoW team would realize that they've been boxed into a corner and need to figure a way out of it. 

If the story team put half as much effort into addressing the elephant in the room as the dev team did with raid design, they would likely have come up with a solution by now. Then again, maybe not; it certainly seems that the fallback solution is to just assume that we're good little henchmen champions who have no desires whatsoever for something grander. History has shown us that for every Cincinnatus or Washington who voluntarily gives up power, there's 99 other people who are more than happy to seize it.

I personally don't think it's weird, but
then again I live in Cincinnati.
From weird-facts.org.

And if you've ever been in a battleground, you know that there's a ton of MMO players who'd be more than happy to follow the latter path.

*Yes, I still remember my Wrath of the Lich King lore.

**whether or not you played those Expacs, the assumption is that your toon did All The Things.

***The inspiration for this post originally came from an acquaintance's comment about Rachel Morgan, the protagonist of The Hollows. She told me that she liked the series at first, but Rachel very quickly moved into Mary Sue territory, which gave her problems while reading the books.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Meme Monday: Life of the Party Memes

If you play RPGs, you might be familiar with Travis Hanson's webcomic "Life of the Party: Realities of an RPGer". 

From Travis' Weebly site, which last had
an update in 2017.

Travis has had various outlets for his webcomic over the years, from GeekDad to his own website. He's also posted on that social media website that is basically Elon Musk's plaything*, but he now most regularly posts on DeviantArt. (He also has several books out!)

Still, to anybody who plays RPGs or MMOs, Travis' work can touch a nerve and make you laugh at the same time. In honor of Travis, here's a short selection of some of his single page comics:

Gotta watch out for that rabbit.
Just sayin'.

Heh. Nothing more needs saying.

Sometimes tech makes things worse.

Playing Clerics as I do in pencil and paper RPGs,
this tickled my funny bone. A lot.

This is what happens when you roll a one, kids.

And finally, one bonus meme, just for the Mages:

Oops. This is SO me.

*As much as people complain about that, it doesn't matter. It is owned by Elon, and all users of it are pretty much his plaything in the same vein as Earth was to Ming the Mongo from Flash Gordon.

EtA: Added the very first pic. Can't believe I missed that.