Friday, March 29, 2024

Video Game Art: World of Warcraft

I was perusing's launcher the other day because the launcher is heavily promoting the somewhat controversial Plunderstorm event in Retail* when I was struck by the artwork:

The presence of a Draenei in pirate regalia makes
this event seem flirty and fun. Screencap from

While I have no real opinion on Plunderstorm itself, as it's a Retail only thing and I don't play Retail, I had to admit that Blizzard's art team does a fantastic job of selling the event. 

That was when I got the idea for this series of posts, which is intended to be an occasional event meant to highlight the artwork in and about video games. 

My sister-in-law's husband received a coffee table book as a present some years back of the artwork for the games for the original Atari 2600, such as this box cover for Atari's Haunted House:

We have this in a box somewhere, but
this graphic from Giant Bomb is much better
than I'd ever be able to scan.

Whether or not the game matched the artwork is kind of irrelevant, since the artwork is meant to evoke a specific emotion and intice you to purchase the game. Beyond that, it's really damn good all by itself.

So, I thought, why not highlight a slice of some video game art that I've found that I really do enjoy? I'm not an art museum or gallery, but it's something I want to present here to demonstrate that, well, video game art is just as much art as that found in any physical gallery.

This first installment of artwork comes from screencaps I made from of's launcher --which is why there's the 'X' and the 'Back' buttons visible on them-- and show that the Blizzard art team is still at the top of their game. Alas that these aren't the full artwork, because the news entries only show part of the full piece, and if there's an attribution other than 'Blizzard' I can't find it on's launcher. I realize that Blizzard likely did that on purpose so that their art team wouldn't be poached by other game developers or graphic art teams, but the artists who worked on these pieces deserve the recognition.

When the sky is shattered and looks like it's on fire,
that's not a good thing. Yes, this is from Shadowlands,
which is to show that no matter what you thought
of the expansion itself, the art does a great job
of showing a shattered world.

Yes, I used a cropped version of these two clowns
as a header for this blog for a while. I still have
mixed emotions about this graphic, because the art
is great but the memory of my progression raiding
ending without ever finishing Tempest Keep
still hurts over two years later.

Yeah, don't remind me that I only set foot in
Ulduar once. The artwork is still great,
because I can appreciate the Lovecraftian nature
of the Old Gods.

I'm still of the opinion that dragons --even in
WoW-- are not to be trifled with. They have
their own agendas, and woe to that person
who crosses them. That said, if you've got
one in your corner, you can sleep well at night.

Yeah, the fight at the Gates of Ahn'Qiraq was
kind of like this. Cardwyn took a bit of a beating
there in the fight --I seem to recall her getting
stomped and kicked into the next county--
but I'm glad I was there for the battle.

I believe this is inside the Icecrown Citadel
raid itself, because it doesn't look like
the entrance to the 5-person instances plus
the raid. Unlike Ulduar and the TBC raids,
I'm actually okay that I never made it here.

Sunrise over Thousand Needles.

Remember what I said about not quite
trusting dragons? How about dragons disguised
as gnomes? That's about as close as you can get
to someone holding up a sign that says
"Danger, Will Robinson!"

As much as I ended up disliking the Cataclysm
expansion, I can't deny the power of the artwork.

It's that "We are not amused" look that gets me.

Oh, look; the demon found himself a new
pet. While seeing the artwork for Serpentshrine
Cavern and Tempest keep hurts for me,
this likely would hurt my questing buddy, as
our raid team in TBC Classic fell apart
when they pushed to Sunwell Plateau right
before the guild transferred servers.

And finally, this stirs a lot of emotions in me.
Not bad ones, to be certain, but old memories
of my first Paladin in AD&D in the early 80s
taking on evil in all its forms. There's also more
than a bit of Arthur vs. Mordred at the Battle
of Camlann here as well.

*I know that Blizz wants to call it Modern WoW, but I prefer Retail since it also implies that you have to have bought the current expansion to be current with the present version of WoW. Modern WoW sounds like it covers everything from Legion onward, and at the rate Classic WoW is being released it'll reach Legion in a few years.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

It All Comes Back to Balance

With a few notable exceptions, tabletop RPGs are a cottage industry of sorts.

Sure, there's the 500 lb. gorillas known as Wizards of the Coast and Paizo*, but beyond that there's a lot of small operations out there. About the only "large" gaming operation not under Hasbro is the Embracer Group, which owns Asmodee, the French company that had been using Embracer's money to gobble up a lot of other gaming companies, such as Fantasy Flight, Z-Man, Catan Studio, and Exploding Kittens. Still, in tabletop RPGs Embracer really only owns the Star Wars RPG license (courtesy of buying Fantasy Flight) and hasn't exactly done a lot with it other than moving the property to Edge Studio.

Yes, the same (hated) holding company owns both Catan...

and Tomb Raider...


This never gets old...

However, like I said, you're not going to find many rich tabletop RPG developers around**, so these companies are very often a passion project.

I was thinking about that when I noted that the latest Kickstarter for a Savage Worlds addition, the Science Fiction Companion, just ended.


Savage Worlds is one of those universal roleplaying products that I ought to do an RPG From the Past on, but I was considering this Kickstarter as just one way that a small company can fund product releases that they're assured of people buying. If you set up your Kickstarter right --and also make sure you have your budget properly figured out-- you know you ought to at least break even on your product. 

GMT Games with their P500 program, which predates Kickstarter by at least a decade, is another game company that uses the crowdfunding model to create games that they know will have an audience and will break even when they release the game to the public.


For me, however, all of these small companies creating fantastic games and gaming products have one major drawback: I can't afford to buy all of them.

I'd love to, but I can't. I'm not made of money.

Additionally, I want to make sure that not only do the game companies get my money, but that I support the local game stores as well. 

This 20+' length silver dragon, named
Strategios Yottazar, takes up a good portion
of the wall at my FLGS.

Local game stores are kind of the forgotten person in this era of instant delivery. Sure, you may not technically need a Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) to obtain games or even find out about them, but they are a watering hole for the community. Some stores have places for organized play, and others --such as mine-- help to organize game nights at outside locations.

So how can I reconcile all of these conflicting desires? 

Pick and choose, I guess. 

I can't be there for everybody, and I can't afford to give everything to everybody either. Control what I can, and accept what I can't. 


Basically, that's what I've been doing when I've been playing video games lately. 

If I subscribed to all of the MMOs that I like and play, I'd have no money left. Therefore, I limit my subscriptions to two at maximum, keeping my subs within my budget. For the longest time, those two were World of Warcraft (the MMO that got me into the genre) and Star Wars: The Old Republic. When I stopped subscribing to WoW after Mists of Pandaria, I didn't pick up another MMO to replace it. I was seriously considering adding The Elder Scrolls Online in 2018, but Blizzard announced WoW Classic and I resubbed in 2019. 

While I'd love to give other MMOs such as LOTRO some love, I simply can't without giving up something else. And given that I spend most of my MMO time in WoW and SWTOR, it makes sense that I'd keep a subscription for each.

So when I see blog posts in multiple locations that subscription numbers for World of Warcraft that show volumes that just feel higher than I expect from game traffic I observe, I have to remember that people will hang onto subscriptions even when they're not actively playing because that's where their social network is. 

One thing that I do wonder about is whether Blizzard counts people purchasing Game Time*** as subscriptions. If they go based on the strict understanding that only recurring subs count in their numbers, I do not count as a subscriber and haven't since, oh, 2011 or so. My guess is that they do count me as a subscriber, even though I would argue otherwise. 

In an automatically recurring subscription such as that found in a wireless or streaming service, it's actually harder to unsubscribe as you have to be the initiator, whereas if you purchase Game Time on a month-to-month basis it's actually harder to remain subscribed since you have to initiate the purchase each time. Obviously Blizzard would prefer me to set up a recurring service since they know this, but I've resisted over the years since it has forced me to ask every couple of months "Am I having fun?" and "Is it worth it to keep playing?" 

At any rate, the conjectures about subscriber numbers are believable, although I am surprised they are not lower. I would have figured that Blizzard would have been happy to maintain these subscriber numbers and announce them at quarterly intervals, but perhaps the reason why they don't post sub numbers has less to do with saying just how many people play WoW but rather they don't want people to know just how much money they're getting from the Cash Shop.  

I guess we'll never know now, since Activision-Blizzard is but a small line item on the overall Microsoft balance sheet.

*Yes, WotC is by far the larger of the two, but Paizo wields a LOT of outsized influence in the gaming world because Pathfinder is still incredibly popular among people who prefer the D&D 3.x style of play. They've also led the way in moving away from the Wizards' led Open Gaming License that Wizards and Hasbro attempted to modify last year to make it much harder for anybody third party in D&D space to make any profit at all. You'd think that Corporate America would understand and learn from previous mistakes, but apparently institutional memory is very very short.

**I presume the truism about wine, that if you want to make a small fortune in wine begin with a large fortune, holds for game companies as well.

***I'm keeping this capitalized in the post as Blizzard does, not for any other reason.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Meme Monday: Tired of Movie Memes

I suppose it comes as no surprise that I'm kind of tired of the steady stream of genre movies. By that, I don't mean Science Fiction or Fantasy or Rom Com in general, but rather Marvel movies. Star Wars movies. DC movies. A steady stream of sequels upon sequels.

It has nothing to do with quality, per se, but everything to do with quantity. As I remarked to one of my kids a couple of months ago, I jumped off the Star Wars bandwagon a while ago because there was simply too much stuff being pumped out for me to really care all that much about it. 

Remember this joke from Airplane 2?
If they changed it from Rocky to a Marvel movie, it
might actually be accurate.

I've not been one of those toxic haters out there for all these movies and streaming series, because obviously people are watching and enjoying them, but given that I've not really had an enjoyable time watching movies in the theater at all for a couple of decades now* I guess it comes as no surprise that I'm just not that into sequels upon sequels.

Definitely Empire Strikes Back.

Still, there's no shortage of memes for those who are tired of Star Wars or superhero movies. (Or if you remember Disney and their direct-to-video avalanche back in the 90s and 00s, all the Princess stuff they were pumping out.) Alas that I don't agree with a lot of those memes very much, but if life gives you lemons you have to cherry pick the best ones to make some lemonade.

Need I point out that the first two
Christopher Reeve Superman movies were
in 1978 and 1980, and the Keaton Batman movie
was 1989? Or the first Tobey Maguire Spider-man
movie was in 2002? Three decades indeed.
From Imgflip.

Sheesh. Missing the point, Mr. Redditor
who created this on Imgflip. You don't have to
be a film connoisseur to be tired of superhero films.

Die Hard wasn't available?

Yeah, it's not an empty declaration to me
either. And I'm not being contrarian about it,
because I saw the big Marvel schedule back
in the late 2000s and thought "that's way too much".
From Max Weiss on Elon Musk's plaything.

*Mainly due to the other people in the audience being assholes. Kind of hard to enjoy a movie when the person next to you is on their phone, having a loud conversation with the person next to them, or letting their kids run amok in the theater. I kind of miss the days when the worst thing you had to deal with in a theater is the people near you making out or otherwise fooling around.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

We've Been Through Death and Life Together

Oh, we won't give in
Let's go living in the past
--Living in the Past, Jethro Tull

The longer I've delved into the past, the more I've come to the conclusion that the present day is the best place for me. 

That's not how I expected a medieval
prostate exam to look like.
From Memebase.

That's not to say that I don't find the study of history and archaeology fascinating, but rather an acknowledgement that if I were born at most other periods in the past I would have likely not lived to adulthood.

That doesn't take into account all the times that I developed bronchitis or strep throat, but the earliest major illness I had was scarlet fever when I was about 4 or so. Were it not for antibiotics, I would have likely died from it. That's just the most obvious instance of an illness that required a dosage of antibiotics to survive, and really, any of the dozens of illnesses requiring amoxicillin or an actual shot of penicillin* could have killed me, but Scarlet Fever was the earliest (and likely worst) illness of the lot.

I was also a curious kid, and I broke my collarbone when I was 2 when I fell down the stairs. I was one of those kids who was able to unlock multiple locks --driving my parents crazy-- and I did so on that fateful day when I slipped and rolled down the steps, landing on the concrete basement floor. If you took those antics and transported them into, oh, 16th century English farmland, I would have been the sort to provoke a horse and get kicked in the head.** Or fall in a pond and drown.

Even if I didn't actually die from doing anything stupid, if I had merely broken my collarbone it would have potentially maimed me for life. After all, a physician would have had to set it properly and restrain it so that it would heal, and without an x-ray people might not even believe that I had a broken bone, since it wasn't something obvious such as an arm or a leg. And being two years old, it's not like I was able to sufficiently articulate what was wrong with me aside from "it hurts".

Myself aside, my wife would have likely died during the birth of our first child due to a medical condition that was easily solvable today, but would have likely proven fatal only 140 years ago. And that's not even counting issues with infection and disease that accompanied childbirth because doctors couldn't be bothered to wash their fucking hands.


Why those gloomy thoughts? Well, I was thinking about long term survivability in the past and how it fed into people's religious beliefs. 

"A Furore Normannorum libera nos Domine."
--An 8th Century Prayer***

I think it is difficult to understand just how much terror the Vikings struck in the populace of Europe, because we have no modern equivalent in the US and Western Europe.

In a similar fashion, the recent global pandemic is but a faint echo of the Black Death of the 14th Century. In terms of death, it wasn't even as bad as the 1918-1920 Flu, and we have modern medicine to thank for that. 

But when death is omnipresent, it can affect your view toward the world. 

With so many people dying around you, what do the survivors cling to? Do they adhere to the straight and narrow of their religious practices? Do they change their worship because their god(s) obviously abandoned them? Or does their old societal structure break down due to so few survivors?  


I don't have the answers here, because I don't have enough exposure to psychology to speculate properly. What I do know is that in the past the fear of hunger, especially during the Winter months, was very much in the forefront people's minds. When you're laser focused on one thing, it can be difficult to appreciate the beauty of small things. 

A couple of months ago I was up earlier than usual for some reason or another, so I made some coffee and sat in the kitchen, looking outside as the sunlight kissed the frosty yard. I was struck then at how beautiful the morning was, but if you had other things on your mind you would have missed it. 

And worrying about such things as the amount of grain you have left in your stores or whether that smoke you see in the distance are Viking raiders would probably qualify as "other things on your mind".

'Nuff said.


But let's turn this thought exercise on its head and focus on life instead. What would be the impact on a society where people could be brought back from the dead? 

That core mechanic of RPGs --both pencil-and-paper and video games-- is used primarily to keep a game going forward without having to create new characters on a regular basis. But how would society change if death wasn't something to be truly feared, since you could be brought back? Or maybe more precisely, you could be brought back if you had enough money?

Think about the implications of that little chestnut, where the rich and powerful could pay to be resurrected on an ongoing basis. Does that mean they could live forever? And what does that mean to the mass of people who couldn't afford to be raised from the dead? 

How does religion respond to that? Religions today have enough trouble explaining why some good people are "saved" when others who are just as good aren't, so it's not a big leap imagining priests struggling to explain that while "some" people are worthy of being raised from the dead, the rest of you heathens aren't. Religion as the opiate of the people indeed.

Monty Python poked fun at the unexpected
side effects of being healed in the movie
Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Then again, in most RPGs deities and pantheons are not only present, but actively so in the world. They grant their priests the ability to cure and smite in return for following their teachings. But what do those deities think of the grifting performed by their priests in their name?

Or, in the case of World of Warcraft, why does the Holy Light allow such fanatics as the Scarlet Crusade to wield the power of the Light against obviously good people who merely disagree with them? 

I guess those are questions that can't be answered without going deep down the rabbit hole. And to be fair, trying to retrofit these obvious gaps into an already extant game is the path to madness anyway. 

*And let's be honest here: if you've ever had an actual shot of penicillin in the ass, you know it hurts. My pediatrician said the shot needed to be done where there's "a lot of meat on you", and I guess my ass qualified, but damn I dreaded those shots. The sharp smell of alcohol, the harsh rubbing of soaked cotton on skin, and I knew what was coming. If I could have ran, I would have, but in those times I was too sick to squirm away, but those shots hurt like hell. And when I heard what the cure for rabies was, 20 shots in the stomach or 5 in the arm, that encouraged me to avoid all wild animals as much as possible.

**Assuming my ancestors could even afford a horse, since the peasantry could rarely afford to do so themselves. I'm not so foolish as to think that my ancestors were merchants or nobles; given that there were far fewer of those two groups than there were of the peasantry. I've seen enough census records of my ancestors to know that most of them fell under the broad job description of "laborer", which is not the sort of thing you put down for someone whose family came from a higher social status.

***Translated from Latin, it means "From the wrath of the Northmen, save us, O God."

Monday, March 18, 2024

Meme Monday: Thirsty RPG Memes

No, I don't mean memes designed by the Hydro Homies Subreddit either.

My poking around in Baldur's Gate 3 has made me wonder a bit about just how horny is everybody out there. I mean, I get it that you're young and whatnot, but more than once I've watched a cutscene in an MMO or RPG and thought "Just how much of this is wish fulfillment?"

No, it wasn't a fluke, Kira.
Wait just a minute; you could have
said something, you know...

Thankfully I began playing BG3 after there was a hotfix to get some of the NPCs to, uh, not get so horny for you so quickly, to which I thought "Holy crap, it was even faster earlier??!!!"

I'm going to have to go in the direction of assuming that a lot of these romances and whatnot are primarily wish fulfillment and they just get hornier quicker. And that I wasn't hanging out with an extremely slow moving and prudish crowd in my teenage/college years. 

Still, RPGs and MMOs do now have their share of very thirsty NPCs these days to match the horny PCs. So in honor of all this thirstiness in the genres, here's a selection of memes on the topic...

You know, the Paladin doesn't have to be the
thirsty one... From dndmemes.

Yeah, that escalated quickly.
From animalnouncomics.

Well, if you ever wondered where
dragonkin really came from...
From demotivational (I think).

Well, that certainly explains Elminster's interest
in... things. No, not in BG3 specifically (yet), but
due to reputation, courtesy of Ed Greenwood's
copious novels about the Forgotten Realms.
From imgflip.

And one bonus meme for the perpetually thirsty:

You see, Moss' description was the
perception of what RPGs were to the
people who didn't play. Trying to convince
some DMs to actually not inject tons of sex
into their campaigns is the challenge I've experienced.
From Cheezburger and The IT Crowd.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Point of Reference

If there's one game that I play more than any other, it's Sid Meier's Civilization IV.

What, you expected an MMO? WoW, maybe?

Oh no, not by a long shot. 

A rare cultural victory for me, from 
back in May 2022. I don't save a lot of
screencaps, but since I almost always win
a space race, this was a notable exception.

I bought the game around 2009 or so*, which honestly works as a counterpoint to WoW, and I ended up re-purchasing the game on Steam a couple of years ago when it was down to $4 or so on one of those Winter or Summer sales. My reasoning was that I'd already gotten my money's worth out of the original game, and I knew that in order to install it on this new PC I'd have to go buy a portable DVD drive, so it kind of made sense to save a few dollars and just buy the game off of Steam instead.

Having played the original Civ back in the day, and then Civ III for several years, I knew what I was getting into. Still, even I was surprised at how much I preferred Civ IV to Civ III. I don't think I've even bothered to try to install Civ III on this PC, and even though I dabble a bit in Civ V and Civ VI, I always return to Civ IV.

Just how much?

Uh.... Whoops.

That little graphic is from my 2023 Year in Review from Steam. That's roughly half of the year I played Civ IV, because some of those sessions went kind of long. 

It's the sort of game where I can play for a bit, go away and do something else for a while, and then return to the same session while it's been patiently waiting for me in the background.

Unlike it's brethren and other civ sim games, a match of vanilla Civ IV can be cranked out in about 3 hours or less, depending on how wars develop and my need to micromanage city building and development. It's when you add systems such as found in Civ IV: Warlords or Civ IV: Beyond the Sword do the Civ IV matches really start extending in length. I guess for immersion those later iterations of the game are better, but I prefer vanilla Civ IV for the overall simplicity and balance. I've gotten to the point where I can play for about 5-10 minutes and immediately decide whether it's worth it to continue a game or start over, something I can't really do in the latter two for a bit longer.

And don't tell Sid Meier this, but the AI in Civ IV is kind of predictable and brainless, so I can switch my own brain off for a bit while playing. That is especially useful during lunch, where I can hop on and play for an hour or so and try to forget anything stressful in the morning.

So... If you ever wonder if I spend all my time in WoW or other MMOs, I guess you'll understand that is simply not the case. Hell, I don't even spend the majority of my video game playing in WoW, but rather in a turn-based civ builder game from 2005.

*Just a guess, really. No idea as to the exact year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Behind the Curve

My son informed me the other week that he'd finished Baldur's Gate 3.

Considering that after that first week's worth of excessive playing my time in BG3 had shrunk to practically nothing for a month, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I'm not into rushing into new content when an MMO expansion hits, but that initial week's worth playing BG3 gave me enough dopamine hits that I could understand the urge to keep playing.* When I realized I was eschewing work to play BG3, I had to dial it back for my own sanity. (And to keep my job, but that kind of goes without saying.)

My son didn't have those issues, since he was able to fit in most of BG3 before his current semester of grad school started, and more power to him for that. 

I'm not going to lie and say I was totally fine with all this; I felt a pang of jealousy at how he cruised through the game while I'm plodding along. It's not as if I'm savoring the game, either; at times it feels like when I was speed leveling that Draenei Shaman when TBC Classic came out: I'm constantly plotting my next move and trying to figure out how to progress further through the story.**

Yes, my MMO playing is at exactly the opposite inflection point from where I am playing a single player RPG. You could say that I'm playing Baldur's Gate 3 like other people play World of Warcraft, and you'd not be wrong. 


It's the equivalent of reading a really exciting novel: the pages fly by and you want to get on to the next part just to see what happens. 

I get that, I really do, but I think that I need to be reminded of that from time to time that people who blitz through content aren't doing it "just to get it over with", but genuinely like the content so much that they're constantly turning that next page to find out what happens. 

I guess I get cynical about things when, like in TBC Classic, everybody was supposed to follow a playbook to get themselves raid ready as soon as possible. I thought it was only my guild that did that, because a few people I met out in Outland while leveling had completely different (and better) experiences with their guilds in terms of pacing and prepping for raids. However, on further reflection those better experiences had more to do with helping their own leveling Shamans to get leveled and not abandoning them to their fate when the Dark Portal opened. Those guilds, while more helpful to their Shamanistic (and Blood Knight) brethren, still had goals to achieve and raids to prep for; they were just a tad nicer about it, that's all. There were quite a few guilds raiding Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, and Magtheridon while I was somewhere out in Terokkar Forest***, plodding away. 

A blast from the past, from June 18, 2021. If I were in
the "sweaty" raid, I'd have only a little over
two weeks to get to L70 and through the attunement
gauntlet. Our raid team was the one with the
"casual" reputation that I despised and started
raiding in the last week of July, 2021.

If I were in those guilds, I'd not have been abandoned, true, but I'd have also been pushed into the regimen all of those other guilds were doing. 

So why am I okay with it when I'm playing a video game such as Baldur's Gate 3?


As is typically the case, I believe it has to do with agency.

Typically, the way to get me to do something is to let me figure it out on my own and I'll likely end up doing what needs to be done. If I'm forced into doing something by some external force, then I'm going to drag my feet and refuse. Think of it of how people approach taxes: everybody in the US has to file their income tax by April 15th, and a lot of people will procrastinate until the last possible moment to do their taxes. I know people who do that on principle, complaining about their tax rates and whatnot, but I am one of those who simply don't like being told to do their taxes, especially if I'm given some sanctimonious bullshit like what I got as a kid when being told to eat my dinner "because it's good for you."

From Calvin and Hobbes.

Likewise, at work if I'm told I have to do something, I'm probably going to be one of the last people to actually get it finished. I would not do well in a highly regimented environment, such as the military. 

Hawkeye is my spirit animal.
From Imgflip (and M*A*S*H).

From that perspective, you can see why I clashed with progression raiding in an MMO format. When I joined the progression raid team, I did so willingly and pushed myself to get up to speed both gear wise and add-on wise. There weren't requirements for how exactly I went about getting my toon(s) ready for progression raiding; just that I get myself ready. And yes, I willingly went to SixtyUpgrades, Wowhead, and Icy Veins to see where my gaps were. It wasn't a directly communicated expectation, but rather something I did on my own to become a member of the raid team. 

It was only when TBC Classic came along and raid/guild leadership began making exact demands on the gear and process of getting raid ready did I rebel. The concept of raiding went from only being concerned with the end result ("raid ready") to trying to dictate how it should be done, and those demands weren't limited to my guild. Almost all of the actively raiding guilds on Myzrael-US were guilty of making the same demands on their members starting in TBC Classic, and whether their demands were cloaked in a velvet glove or not, the demands were pretty much the same iron fist: do it or you're not on the raid team. The lone exception that I was aware of was one guild who basically told its members to go do whatever for a month when TBC Classic dropped, and they circled back after that month to see where the guild stood before getting ready to raid. 


Okay, that's just raiding. Still, there's nothing that says you can't do whatever you want in an MMO in general. 

At it's core, that's correct. The design of an MMO is to allow a player to do a variety of activities without saying "you must conform". You could make the argument that modern MMOs have a ton of alternate activities designed with this player choice in mind.

This old chestnut highlights the player choice
the modern MMO has versus good ol' Classic.
Can't even recall who first made this meme.

The thing is, MMOs are not merely the sum of systems: there's a social element to them as well, and that is how the problems creep in. 

In any social endeavor, certain niceties are expected if you want to fit in. Just like proper social etiquette in real life, there's an MMO version of social etiquette when interacting with people. The Wil Wheaton saying "Don't be a dick" is just the bare minimum for social interactions; beyond that MMO interactions are a bit more complex. If you want to do group content in an MMO --especially in today's age-- you're expected to have done the "correct" things to maximize your output. What that entails varies between guilds and groups, but there's a measure of commonality driven by the knowledge that in the "group finder" MMO environment players are interchangeable: if you don't have the right specs/gear/systems settings, you can be painlessly replaced by someone else. And in a pre-group finder MMO, be prepared to submit for inspection if you want in on some group content.

Developers have attempted to circumvent such social restrictions with new ideas --LFR raids being the most notable-- but that's a technical solution for what is inherently a people problem. And when I play any group content in an MMO, I feel the social pressure. I never used to, but once you've crossed the Rubicon and been on the progression side of things, the veil of obscurity has been ripped away and you now see things from the lens of those who are judging whether you're good enough to join their raid team.

The best way to find good candidates for your organization is to create what I call positive encounters. Actions speak louder than words, so you need to ensure that these potential new members have some actions by which they can judge you. When you need a specific class, get your best group runners together and advertise that you need said class in order to do an instance. Once you get them in your group, don't mention recruitment. Just run that instance and do your job well. If they do well, tell them you hope to group again and then part ways. If they aren't in an organization, you may subtly mention that you are looking for their class. Do this enought times with enough people, and word will get around that you're a solid outfit. You can't buy better publicity than that and it creates more opportunities for you to use the soft sell. 
--The Guild Leader's Companion by Adam "Ferrel" Trzonkowski, Page 41.

The irony is that I thought this way before I bought The Guild Leader's Companion, because I'd be on guild runs in an instance and guild chat during the run would have a lot of commentary on any pugger's technique, both good and bad, and what their prospects were as a potential member of the raid team. I never saw it myself until I formally joined the progression guild immediately before TBC Classic, and there were plenty of times I wished I had remained ignorant and just enjoyed a dungeon run or a raid.


I guess that's where the irony creeps in. A single player game, such as an RPG, doesn't have that sort of social pressure. There's nobody looking over your shoulder, judging your gameplay, dropping comments and/or hints about how you could have done better. Nobody is pulling you into a Discord chat about how you could up your DPS a bit more so you could overcome that last fight more quickly. Nobody is telling you what extra gear pieces you should farm for. Nobody is suggesting a link in Wowhead to go check out to improve your gameplay. In a single player game, the only person you have to please is yourself. 

And Garrus. You ought to please
Garrus too. From Tumblr.

Because of that, I can focus as much or little of my time on the metagame without any recriminations.****

I haven't gone and pulled up walkthroughs or YouTube videos or gone to other websites that would cause spoilers in BG3, but the plotting does remain. I know that there's an optimal way of doing things --that's a drawback to any game, really-- but I don't seek it out. Most importantly, I don't have people telling me (or others in a chat I'm not part of) that I'm not playing it right in one form or another.

To a certain extent ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

Now, about that Arcane Tower in BG 3...

*Sort of. I still don't quite get people who took off for a week's worth of vacation when TBC Classic (and other WoW expacs) released, given that at least here in the US paid vacation isn't very copious to begin with, and if I told my wife I was going to burn a week's worth of my vacation time playing video games for upwards of 18 hours a day she'd have a conniption fit. If I were retired that'd be a different story, but I think I'd be expected to travel a lot, and I'm not as big on that these days either.

**For the record, yes, my character has been immersed in the other party members' backstories. Let's just say I was surprised at how easily certain relationships "progressed", which made me wonder if there was something I was missing out on in real life if fictional relationships moved at this sort of speed.

***The Terokkar Forest zone was exactly in the middle of the Outland leveling experience. So, while I was halfway through, I still had a ways to go.

****Unless you're streaming, I suppose, but I don't stream because I don't like having a peanut gallery watching my every move.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Meme Monday: Hunter Memes

Hunters, Rangers, Wardens --whatever you want to call them-- are a mainstay in Fantasy MMOs. They're characterized by an animal companion that attacks (or tanks) enemies while you stay back at distance and rain arrows/bullets on the baddies. 

That style of play has a lot of appeal to it, not the least of which is that a Hunter can solo a lot of enemies that other classes (::cough:: Mage or Paladin ::cough::) would have difficulty with. Of course, that Hunter mentality tends to create... Issues...

While raids may designate Hunters
as the puller, it helps to coordinate
with the Raid Leads. From

So, without further ado, some Hunter memes for this March Monday:

Although there are a ton of pets to choose
from, Hunters in WoW tend to follow the
crowd. I've been told that Petopia is the go-to
for all things Hunter. From Imgflip.

"About those more mobs..."
From @skeletonbooty.

...this is what those extra mobs lead to.
From Pinterest (and likely Demotivational.)

Of course, Hunters do name their pets, and it can
sometimes get awkward. From Quickmeme.

Can't argue with that one. From Imgflip.

And one extra Hunter meme...

Because Hunters do have that reputation of
rolling on everything because "It's a
Hunter Weapon!" From imgflip again.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Random News and Notes for a Thursday

If you post coffee memes, beware: your readership will explode.

Given that there's literally hundreds of coffee memes out there, why on earth I got a sudden explosion in views on PC when I posted a few of my favorites is beyond me. It's not like they're that new, either, but oh well.

I'm not above using one of the ones that missed
the cut for a few extra pageviews. What I find
disturbing is how close the 'After' picture looks like
David Tennant. From Laugh Lore.


Under the header of 'video games getting a board game treatment', there's a beloved Bioware franchise that has a boardgame in the works:

This landed in my Inbox on Monday
from Modiphius.

Yes, Modiphius is going to publish Mass Effect: The Board Game, a cooperative and story-driven boardgame designed by Eric M. Lang and Calvin Wong Tze Loon for 1-4 players. It sounds interesting at first blush, and given how Modiphius tends to have high quality plastic pieces in their games, this ought to look pretty too. Here's the signup page for more info and to receive emails about the release of the game itself. Just make sure you fill out the correct info for US vs UK/Europe so you end up with the correct website.


You know, the Dracthyr race in Retail World of Warcraft has taken some lumps for it's decidedly un-dragonkin-like look.

From Wowpedia.

I was perusing some RPG sites the other day, and I came across some artwork from RuneQuest that made me go "hmmm..."

Look vaguely familiar?
Found on Glorantha Bestiary, Pages 36-37.
Verified with my copy. Also found here at Artstation.

These are Dragonewts, as drawn by Cory Trego-Erdner back in 2016-2017, for the RuneQuest Glorantha Bestiary. 

In RuneQuest, Dragonewts claim to be the oldest sentient species and are one of the races found in the main starting area in RuneQuest, Dragon Pass. Now admittedly there's only so much an artist can do with the basic dragon design, but the reason why I don't mind the look of the Dracthyr is that they do evoke a similar look as that found in RuneQuest. The lore is obviously very distinct, but given that nobody seems to bitch about the lore of Dracthyr so much as that they don't look "cool enough", that's my two cents on the matter.


Finally, I wanted to mention a long departed podcast that really sucked me into RPGs back in the day.

Before "modern times" and the proliferation of podcasts in their current monetized form, Chuck Tinsley and Lonnie Ezell created the Dragons Landing Inn podcast back in 2005. They kept it going for about 126-130 episodes, and then Steve and Rob kind of picked up the mantle for a dozen episodes or so in a relatively unmoderated format until the podcast faded away. When I asked my brother-in-law what good RPG and gaming podcasts were out there, he said without hesitation "Dragons Landing Inn".

I've tried to find a better version
of their graphic to no avail.

With the tagline "Gaming Goodness", Chuck and Lonnie would espouse on RPGs, whatever the news was in RPG space, and eventually would broach RPG specific topics on running a campaign and having a rules set fit the type of campaign you wanted to play. Although the news is quite dated --it began in a time before D&D 4e and Pathfinder existed-- the old podcasts are still available via the Internet Archive at this link. I don't believe they're complete, as the original podcasts start at Episode 27, so you'll have to search the Internet Archive for individual episodes to complete the entire run of DLI.

I still have my old downloads of DLI on my desktop. I've dutifully backed up and transferred them over the almost two decades that they came out, and have no intention of ever deleting them. Given how podcasting has evolved as a format since DLI's heyday, it's refreshing to find a podcast in a raw, unmonetized state (and low bit-rate) still providing entertainment. 

EtA: Corrected grammar.

EtA: Corrected more grammar. Sheesh.