Friday, November 12, 2010

In places where one sleeps but once

Where's your home in Azeroth? This was asked in a shared topic at Blog Azeroth a little while ago.

I didn't participate in it, mostly since I don't have any particular home. Sure, there are some places that I like more than others. As a matter of fact there are quite a few, such as the twilight zones of Zangar and Duskwood, the happy greenery in Elwynn or the hill just behind the inn in Westfall, which happens to be a wonderful hideout for nightly meditations under the starry sky. But I couldn't point out one certain spot, claiming it to be my home, and as a matter of fact it doesn't bother me. My home is in Azeroth and that's enough to me.

I'm not playing WoW to furniture a house. If I did, I could as well play Sims or build myself a real life doll house. I play WoW to kill dragons, explore strange new worlds and hang around with other geeks. Besides, if I ever feel that I need a steady point in the WoW universe, I beleave that I already have it. It's called The Pink Pigtail Inn.

Player housing
Wolfshead takes a different position in a recent post, where he once again argues strongly for player housing. He talks at length about the importance of player ownership, putting up Farmville and similar social network based games as an example to follow for the MMO industry if they want to remain successful.

He points at the benefits of allowing player ownership, claiming that it helps the players to bond with the virtual world, which will give a deeper more meaningful game experience for the players and more loyal subscribers for the game company. He also claims that it will contribute to create a better community, since players who don't own anything are mere guests and tourists and behave as such.

This isn't exactly news: Wolfshead has talked about player on many occasions before, like in the spring 2009. My conclusion after pondering upon this issue for a while and asking other players with experience from games with player housing, was that it certainly sounded like something that could be "nice to have" but not necessary, which I wrote in a reply post.

Now that Wolfshead brings up the topic once again, I looked back at my post to see if I had changed my mind, and I found that I really hadn't. So with the risk for repeating myself, I'll follow Wolfshead's example and talk about it one more time.

What to do
My major objection with the house idea is that I don't see what you would do in there. I'm afraid it would grow old fairly quickly, unless you put features into it, such as storage services, vendors, mail and AH. But on the other hand: if you did this, you would risk draining the cities from the players who make them come alive.

Is it really all that fun to be a house owner that you want to do it when you're gaming as well? You know what? I don't even own the real life house I'm living in - I rent it. Yes, I know it might sounds shocking - at my age you're expected to have paid your mortgages for years. But our family has decided to live a fairly modest life style, free from such things as a second car, fancy furniture or a summer house. We haven't invested in property. At all. We eat simple; we live simple, but we invest in experiences. My daughters may not have big and beautiful rooms like their friends have, but on the other hand, they've been on safari in Tanzania, they've done an unforgettble road trip in California and soon they're about to make a journey to India. And actually they don't complain. Not a bit.

I probably should blame Thoreau for this. I read Walden as I was young and even if I can't sign on all of his ideas today, he has had an infuence on my perspective on life.

Among other things, he made me realize that you won't automatically become happy just because you own a big property. All the work that comes with it, all the obligations and the need to maintain it, can become such a burden that it enslaves you.

It's not about you owning the house anymore. It's the house that owns you. I've seen it happening in real life a number of times, to friends at the same age as I who have prioritized the creation of their home to other activities in life. Even if they're not even remotely interested in crafting and building, they end up spending all their leisure time on different sorts of house renovation projects. There isn't any end to it.

Let the players decide
My thoughts are wandering too far away from the topic, as they tend to do on Friday nights. Let's go back to the issue on player houses. I don't look for them for my own part, because I think I'll have more fun exploring the world. However, I'm not the only player in WoW, and if Blizzard decided to go through with this idea I wouldn't rage against it.

If Wolfshead speaks the truth and there's a big enough interest for this among the players, I can't see any reason not to go ahead with it. It's definitely more interesting to me than projects such as remote AH access or Battle Net communications over game boundaries.

All I ask for is that they find a way to deal with the logistical issues, making sure that neither the houses, nor the public space areas in the cities, will end up as deserted ghost towns.

For my own part I'm not sure if I'll ever bother to settle in one of those virtual houses. I'll end this post, quoting a couple of lines from poem "In motion" by the Swedish poet Karin Boye.

The best goal is a night-long rest,
fire lit, and bread broken in haste.
In places where one sleeps but once,
sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.

Friday night toast
My Friday night toast this week goes to all of you wanderers stopping by at this inn on your journey through life. Please make yourself comfortable by the fire. There's room for everyone. May your sleep be secure and your dreams full of songs!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

When bloggers go PvP

Some players like to PvP in the battlegrounds. Others do it in their blogs, like Tobold and Wolfshead in a recent exchange. Here’s a sample from it.

Wolfshead about Tobold

“when you become a drooling fanboy you risk losing all sense of perspective and objectivity and you become a cheerleader for the status quo.

He doesn’t like me because I don’t like WoW and I can accept that. Truth be told, I don’t particularly like him either. We’ve had a long running feud for many years. I stopped reading Tobold a few years ago, although he does send this blog a lot of traffic when he runs out of original ideas to blog about."

Tobold about Wolfshead:
"The man has to decide whether he loves or hates World of Warcraft. On the one side he is writing a constant stream of invectives against WoW and its players, on the other side he complains that he didn't get invited to the Cataclysm beta, or about some minor missing feature.”
Tobold and Wolfshead are both well established bloggers, each one with a following, who now are cheering from the sidelines. Not everyone approve of the tone of conversation though. Nils for instance says that while Tobold is in the perfect right to write whatever he wants, a less social drama approach to issues would be a lot more enjoyable to read. He thinks it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fight fire with fire. Hugh on the other hand worries over culture of zero criticism that he sees developing in parts of the blogosphere.

Need more rage
I have called for peace in the blogosphere on one occasion. That particular conflict smelled a bit like an office e-mail war spreading all over the blogosphere, taking such proportions that I thought it had gone too far.

But this doesn’t mean that I think all conflicts in the blogosphere are of evil. Actually a little bit of rage adds energy, life and eloquence to our writing.

A blog that never ever infuriates anyone, where you never get anything but facts that as well could have been written by an emotionless AI or harmless la-di-da tales about the blogger’s latest companion pet acquisition, would become incredibly boring to read after a while. It’s nice and cosy, but finally I get to the point where I agree with Ratshag: Need more rage!

I think it’s in the nature of fans to argue or even to feud. We’re opinionated – that’s why we blog in the first place. Because we just can’t shut up. To put a restraint on ourselves, to avoid threading on anyone’s toes at any price, goes against what made us start in the first place. Some of the best, most enjoyable rants I’ve ever seen on a blog have been written in a state of righteous fury.

I’ve seen – and participated – in many fanfeuds long before I became a blogger, back in my days as a fanzine editor in SF fandom. Some of the “wars” were entirely fictional, something we did in agreement for our own amusement, in the same way as I, Gnomeaggedon and Krizzlybear ran a fake mage battle a couple of years ago, arguing for which mage spec was the best one.

On other occasions, there was a real disagreement, different views colliding, but most of the time kept the “feud” on a level where we did it as an exercise of thought and a way to flex our writing muscles. The strongest weapon we would get was to boycott each other’s fanzine, in the sense that we wouldn’t send it to each other for free, which was the normal practice. (I guess it was the equivalence of removal from your blogroll, although the effect actual was the opposite: “You’re views are so stupid that you don’t even deserve to read what I write”.)

However, when we met at the conventions and fan gatherings, we didn’t hold the previous hard words against each other. We fell into each others arms and had a pint together, chatting as the friends we were, because in the end we knew that we were the same kind: geeks with a passion for reading, thinking and writing.

Knowing the boundaries
The key to good blog PvPing is to know the boundaries. Don’t hesitate to call out an opinion as stupid, but try to avoid calling out the person behind it for being an idiot. Be as sharp, poignant and poisonous as you like, but stay civilized and try to not make it too personal.

Among all the bloggers out there, there might be a couple who are complete fuggheads (another useful fanslang term, in case you’re wondering.) And those can be dealt with mercilessly. But neither Tobold, nor Wolfshead are fuggheads. They’re just PvP:ers who like to go a match once in a while. And I actually kind of enjoy looking at it, because they’re both damned good writers.

If anything, I’d like to see more, not less PvP:ing between bloggers.

Who do you want to be today?

Imagine that you could turn your appearance temporarily into any living creature in WoW - a beast, an NPC or a player. Who would you like to be?

I came to think about it as I threw a glance at MMO-Champion's overview of the changes to the alchemy profession in Cataclysm. Apparently we're going to get not only a beautiful mount (more or less a flight form available for non-druids, as far as I can see it). We'll also get a for-fun brew called "Potion of Illusion".

According to the description this potion can "transform the imbiber to look like someone else". This made my imagination go wild.

What if I did a retro raid in Black Temple? Could I put on an Illidan disguise, take a quick teleport to Stormwind and then roam about in the green pastures of Elwynn for a while, scaring the children and paying a visit to the lady with the cats? (I think he secretly admires her.)

Or what about Millhouse Manastorm? Such a handsome gnome, the world would be merrier if there were more of him in the streets!

But then on the other side, why not aim bigger when I'm given the option? Way bigger. Like Onyxia?

I got pretty much carried away by my imagination until I search a little for some further information. As far as I can see from the forum comments of Beta testers, you can only look like players and player pets that you have targeted. Not mobs or other NPCs. Damn.

Still - even with this restriction you can probably get yourself some entertainment drinking this potion. Totalbiscuit made a rather amusing video, where a player was turned into a dinosaur. It appears as if the spell was bugged at the moment this was recorded; the guy didn't just change shape; he grew into a crazy big size, looking more like Godzilla than anything else. Deathwing wouldn't be any match to him.

I can imagine that there are some situations where a bit of impersonating of other players can give you a laugh. The entire 25 man raid gives their raid leader a surprise as they all decide to impersonate him at a given signal. You confuse your enemies in the battleground, pretending to be a different class. Or why not flirt a bit with someone you like under influence of this potion? (Just don't pull it too far; it might be perceived as stalking.)

It's easy to dismiss this sort of fluff details. What's the point? They won't improve your performance, that's for sure. In worst case you'll cause damage if you confuse your healers by changing appearance and you'll screw up your raid.

For my own part though, I must admit that I've got a weak spot for things such as trinkets and offhands that summon adds or put a disguise on you as you use it. And actually the illusion potion is better than those items, since you don't have to swap out your real gear for it.

The critter bites
Nevertheless, it smells to me a little bit like the case of the critter bites, if you remember those. You don't? To be honest, I'm not all that surprised. I'll remind you. The critter bites is a form of buff food that allows you to temporarily tame a critter, in order to use it as your companion pet. But there's one drawback, a rather big one: the effect will only last a couple of minutes. This made those snacks fairly expensive to make, since one of the ingredients was northern spices, which you only can get from doing the daily cooking quest. Even for someone who likes fluff, it was too exclusive to use on a daily basis.

We don't know yet what cost will be for the ingredients to the illusion potion. Probably we can expect them to be very expensive at start, just like the rest of the mats you need to level your professions. (I remember frostweave cloth selling at 50 g a stack at my server, which effectively prevented me from levelling first aid for a long time. Those were the days and believe me - we'll see it again.)

But once they'll get within my reach, I'll try out some potions of illusion for myself.

Even if they sadly enough won't let me turn into Onyxia.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WoW is...

Syncaine at Hardcore Casual loves to hate WoW.

He hasn't played the game for quite a while (as far as I understand it), but this doesn't prevent him from showing his disdain for it every once in a while. Most recently he did it in a post where he compared WoW of today to Ultima Online of 1997. It's yet another rant written by a jaded veteran who thinks WoW is too easy, doesn't require any skill, doesn't challenge the players and lacks a proper risk/reward balance. To be honest I think you've read it before.

He calls the game predictable, where almost everything, with just a few minor exceptions, is based on time spent in the game.
"The near-zero challenge of it all is a deal-breaker, as nothing stands out and going in, you already know the outcome. To me it’s similar to ‘playing’ a game like Candyland. When you are young, you still believe you are actually playing it, but at some point you realize that since you have zero control over anything, the ‘game’ is little more than a colorful visual representation of random dice rolls. That to me is what WoW has become; the only ‘skill’ needed to progress or to reach the next ‘ding’ is simply time."
Alice in Wonderland
It's apparent that WoW has lost its magic to Syncaine long time ago, and probably he won't ever be able to be enchanted by it again. I imagine that once the veil has fallen to the floor, you can't think it back. It's like a magician showing his tricks to the audience. Suddenly you see the mechanisms behind, the numbers that are put in a certain pattern, with a little bit of added randomness. It's all numbers, and what's the point, really?

Reading it I came to think of Alice in Wonderland, as she suddenly decides that she's done with the wonderland, unlashing her fury on the queen and her likings:

"‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face."
Syncaine noticed it was just a bunch of cards, and now he has left the Wonderland and the way back to it is closed to him.

But the Wonderland is still available. We have lands to explore, we have stories to be told and we have experiences awaiting us.

WoW is...
Following the form of a recent presentation, I'd like to give a few reminders about what WoW is.

WoW is
Red Shirt Guy standing up for himself and the consistency of the lore.

WoW is
to suddenly find yourself in the middle of an absurde game of pumpkin leeching.

WoW is
a magic night with an unforgettable, non-scripted, non-repeatable guild anniversary.

WoW is
to discover Black Temple, eyes sparkling and legs weak from the pressure and nervousness.

WoW is
to throw yourself into a Gnome Pride Parade under the glorious leadership of General Maxmilian Twinspark.

WoW is
to finally down Moby Dick, and enjoy your well deserved jammy dodger afterwards.

WoW is
to light a fire at the deserted beach at Mist's Edge and eat a Delicious Chocolate cake, looking at the stars, thinking back at absent friends.

WoW is
the unvarnished, unadulterated memoirs of Gerald the Articulate Kobold.

WoW is
to build yourself a sandcastle, with open eyes about how long it will last.

Remembering what it was

WoW is... I could go on doing those snapshots forever, and I'd yet fail in capturing the soul of WoW because it's so different to each one of us and it changes over time. It's like color in water, swirling, emerging, separating, evading our efforts to describe it and define it.

Maybe I too will toss it all around one day, like Syncaine, yelling: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’

But even as I do so, I hope I'll be honest enough to acknowledge that there was a point in my life when WoW was a hell lot more to me than just a simple, predictable time-reward equation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What makes a weapon look awesome?

Some of my guildies have this thing about weapons. Every once in a while they start drooling in the forums when they've spotted a new weapon that is about to be introduced to the game. It’s not necessarily about the stats – even though it might help. Every so often it seems to be purely a matter of esthetics.

It’s hard to understand exactly what they find so attractive in a certain model. I can’t rid myself of the suspicion that it’s mostly about the size. And possibly something else connected to this. Go figure.

Big is beautiful?
The latest object for their affection, which made those guys go “oooh” and “awww” and “me wants” and “I’m so going to use my dkp on this”, was the Reclaimed Ashkkandi Greatsword of the Brotherhood.

To me it looks just like another sword: broad, long, heavy and clumsy, a little bit like The Sun Eater from TBC.

What those weapons have in common is that they really don’t appear to be made for a melee fight the way I think of it. Mind you, I’m not any expert in martial arts, but aren’t they just way too big to make sense?

They certainly don’t make me think of sword dueling or fencing as we see it in the movies: quick and elegant as a dance, just a bit more violent. The swords look more like something you could use for making bread or pizza in an old fashioned stone oven. The best use you probably could make of them in a fight would be to treat them as a piece of wood to hit people hard in the head. Brutal, but not very cool.

I don't sign unconditionally on that “Big is beautiful”. There must be other criteria for what constitutes a good looking weapon. But then, what else are we looking for?

Of course this boils down to personal taste and I don’t claim to be any more enlightened in this area than anyone else. But nevertheless I’ll share a couple of features that I appreciate.

Visual identity
First, I want it to have a distinct visual identity, something that makes it different from all the others. The best looking weapons can be identified at a distance, without using the character inspection.

For instance I love Will of Arlokk, with its distinct snake head. It looks cool and sticks, but is still somehow discrete. Not at all like Nibelung, whose attached flying creatures I find pretty annoying. I don't think it ever will stuck with me that it's pointless to try to kill them.

And while we're into weapons that are easy to recognize I have to mention Cookie's Tenderizer, which is the cutest mace ever with its rolling pin shape, in case you've missed it. It's not what I'd call "good looking", but it makes me smile every time I see it, even if I never could figure out why the icon looks like a thread roll.

Class matching
Secondly, I want the weapon to naturally match to the class I’m playing. My mage for instance, uses her brain as she's fighting the monsters. She doesn't physically stick her dagger into the enemies; she attacks them with her intellect and her spells.

I like any feature in the weapon that associates to wizardry – such as powerful rune inscriptions, mystical light surrounding the weapon, or a hypnotizing moving part, like the good old Staff of Jordan.

In any case, it should go without any doubt that Larísa is neither a warrior, nor a rogue.

Well scaled
Next, I want the weapon to be well scaled adjusted to my chosen race. Daggers and swords cutting a hole in the flying carpet is an abomination, and so are other weapons that keep hitting the ground just because a gnome is wearing them. I think a weapon should look just as appropriate on a gnome as on a tauren.

A holster
Moving ahead, I’d give an extra bonus to any dagger or sword that came with a holster or some other carrying device. When you don't use your weapon you should be able to attach it to your armor, and preferably not using glue, magnetism or "magic". Why can't it hang properly in the belt for a change?

I read an article about this a while ago, where Anjin Anhut discusses the issue of human magnets as an example of details that matters for immersion reasons. Anjin compares how different games have approached it, and sadly enough WoW ends up in the category “The ugly”. (I should add though that in the end, the author decides to give WoW some break “for already being some years around and having a wide arrangement of weapons available.)

Invisible values
Finally I think there are other, invisible values that also will affect the way we perceive a weapon. Even if they belong to the category "silly big" weapons, I can't help thinking that someone who is dressed with a pair of Warglaives of Azzintoh or sports a Thunderfury looks badass.

The question is: do they really look that gorgeous, or could it be that I'm under influence of the circumstances around it - by the lore attached to it, the rarity of it and the effort I know it has taken to get it? Would those weapons look just as pretty if I know that any scrub could get them doing a level 20 quest in Wetlands? Maybe, maybe not. My views are filtered through a layer of knowledge that it's hard to think away. Iconic weapon is iconic.

More weapon talk
Talking about weapons - I hope you remembered to leave any of those you were wearing as you entered the inn in the wardrobe room by the entrance? I try to keep this place as a neutral zone, a sanctuary where we don't make any difference between allies and horde. You're basically a peaceful bunch of people, but we all know that discussions might get a bit heated after a couple of pints, so let's stay on the safe side.

However, just because you can't bring your weapons to the table, it doesn't mean you're not allowed to talk about them. What makes a weapon look good? Which weapons in the game would you put on a top 10 list? Have you ever owned a weapon that looked so well that you couldn't stop admiring your toon? Please go ahead and share with us!

Friday night toast
It's Friday night and I'll end this post accordingly, bringing out a toast.

This week I want to send a special nod to one of our regular visitors, Syrien, who recently sent me a gift in game: an Elwynn Lamb pet. Syrien doesn't even play on my server, but created an alt to make some business and be able to buy it for me as a gift. Apparently Syrien thought it seemed as if I needed a little bit of appreciation and encouragement. Needless to tell, I was surprised, humbled and touched by this kindness and generosity in equal proportions. Thank you! I will keep the ingame letter in one of my precious bank slots for the reminder of my days as a WoW player. That says something about how much it meant to me.

Another nod goes to my guildie Gurraberra, who once upon the time created the header of The Pink Pigtail Inn, you know - the image of the pink pigtailed gnome and the fire. He took the screenshot at one of my favorite spots in the game, the inn in Darkshire. Gurraberra is also one of the major actors at the AH at our server, and he made a fortune selling glyphs in the 4.01 craziness. When he found out that I didn't have any Traveler's Tundra Mammoth, he promptly gave me one. This will no doubt make my levelling in Cataclysm a bit easier, with a vendor and a repair guy never further than a click away. Thanks a ton, Gurraberra!

My third nod for the evening goes to the new website Eat sleep breathe wow, which makes short videos on WoW related topics, such as guides and commentary on the game. Steve, who is a blogger from the beginning, has high ambitions for those video procuctions and the ones we've seen so far look, if not perfect, at least promising. I think he deserves a bit of attention and a free drink in the bar. Keep it up Steve!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to raise our glasses. Here's to a wonderful weekend.


A cataclysm is coming to the official WoW website

It’s still just a preview and all functions aren’t in place. But from what we’ve seen so far, you could summarize my first reaction to Blizzard’s incoming new official community site with one word: Squee!

It’s not one day too early that they make something about it. As a matter of fact Blizzard’s community site has been more or less useless as a source of information for years.

It’s not only that it’s messy, with an incomprehensible logic for navigation, which makes your eyes bleed; it’s also pretty badly maintained. Blizzard has had a hard time to keep up with the changes to the game and there’s quite a bit of information that became incorrect years ago. New players who want to figure out how to find a party will be advised to use the LFG and LFM tools, since the dungeon finder hasn’t been invented yet.

Lore section
A quick glance at the incoming site tells me that this will be something entirely different. It’s not only that it’s less clotted. Apparently they’re also remaking the content. They won’t lazily move over thousands of pages into the new format without looking at it. They’re reworking it from the ground.

One area that has been particularly neglected in the past is the lore. The current information is pitiful, consisting of an encyclopaedia, which they obviously put in the trash bin after TBC but forgot to remove from the website, and handful of random texts, like the one about murlocs. There's nothing wrong with the article as such, but there isn't any context. And as the cream on the top it’s ugly as hell.

Now they’re announcing that there will be an entire section dedicated to warcraft lore, where we among other things will find out whatever happened to Falstad Wildhammer. Did we just see another wink to the Red Shirt Guy? (On a side note, he just got his Invincible thanks to Blacksen's guild Imperative - his fame is still spreading!)

Forum changes
Apart from the website, they're also making changes to the forums, even if the Real ID requirement for posting was ditched (thanks God for that!)

I’m not quite sure yet how the changes will pan out. Maybe it’s for the good. I’m just a little bit sceptical to the vote system where you can up- and down-rank posts from others. I’ve seen it in action at WoWinsider and I haven’t been too impressed. Good comments tend to be downranked until you can’t read them since they’re all black, while horrible comments will be highlighted. Perhaps I’m just a cynic; perhaps I’m underestimating the maturity and intelligence of the forum visitors. But I tell you: the majority isn’t always right.

All in all, I see a lot of potential in the new community site. It's not only that it looks better; I think the new format also will be easier to work with and more inspiring to the community managers. News will be produced in the form of blog posts, which players can comment on. This is an improvement from now, where the news on the website will disappear in the general mess, while the blue announcements drown in the forums.

We're going to see a more communicative Blizzard come Cataclysm. Way to go!

I can't wait to see this come alive!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My days of geek queuing has come to a end

Spinksville asked a few days ago if the availability of a digital download version of Cataclysm will put an end to the pc retail market.

While I don't think the end will be as brutal and dramatic, hanging on the distribution on one single game, I do agree that we're in the middle of a shift. The bulk of the sales of books, music and videos has already moved to the Internet and it's just a matter of time before the remaining game shops will go the same way.

Even if the narrow margins probably keeps WoW from being a huge cash cow for the game stores, it's still important for their own marketing. Blizzard's decision to bypass the retailers won't wipe them out, but it might speed up a process that already has started.

Waiting for a signal
Until now I've been on a fence about what to do, if I would download it from Blizzard or buy a traditional box in the shop.

Yesterday Blizzard made a statement, saying that the online version definitely would include the in-game cinematics, which they previously had been unclear about.

This was the signal I had been waiting for. It was time to buy my Cataclysm upgrade. But for a short moment I hesitated, asking myself: exactly what would I miss by picking the download version of Cataclysm rather than the box from the game store?

One more time I went through the things that were at stake:

1. The collector's edition
The collector's edition is only available in stores, so I couldn’t get that, unless I decided to buy the game twice. This meant that I wouldn't have any art book, behind-the-scenes cd, mouse pad, music record or special pet this time.

I recalled the collector's edition I had bought for Wrath. How many of the items had I ever used? Well, certainly not the mouse pad; I stick to the single coloured one that works best for my mouse. I had watched the behind-the-scenes movie but couldn't recall a thing from it; as far as I could remember it was just the ordinary super-short cut scene style, like any promotion video they make when they release new movies. I had browsed the art book once. I hadn't listened to the music. Ever. And while I had equipped the pet on all my characters, dutifully, I normally preferred other pets to display. The item I had used most in the box was probably the loot card that gave me the 100 pet cookies. I had only a few left now.

Was it worth hours in a queue and an essentially more expensive game? Probably not. I could live without it.

2. The geek gathering
I didn't go to Blizzcon and I don't know any WoW players from real life. As a matter of fact it has only been a couple of times over the years that I've met another player face to face. The release night provides us with a natural opportunity to meet up with other geeks in the midnight queue.

In theory this could be quite an event. I could make some new acquaintances, getting to know other players from where I live, talking about the passion we have in common for hours without anyone frowning at it or not getting what we're all over about. A homecoming. What could possibly be more fun?

But then I thought back at the two hours I spent in a queue waiting to buy WotLK, which I wrote about in a post. I was clearly underwhelmed at the experience.

Sure, there were a lot of geeks around, but most of them were so young that I probably was about the same age as their mothers. I never saw any spontaneous small talk going on in the queue. I overheard some conversations but the festive mood and the sense of belonging to a bunch of enthusiastic geeks just wouldn't appear. It was freezing cold and all the time I just wished that the queuing would be over soon so I could come home and get a cup of hot tea and install the game.

This year, the queuing would even be colder, since it would be one month later into the year. And when I came home with my copy, I would still have the work left to do to install it, while I could have logged in at midnight sharp if I just had bought it digitally.

No, the geek queuing was overrated.

3. My money
Then I looked at the price tag for the download. It certainly wouldn't be any cheaper than the retail box version. Blizzard must have made quite a profit, cutting out the distribution chain, not producing any physical objects that needed to be transported and handled. All of this went into their own pockets. If anything, the download might even be a little bit more expensive than the box, depending on what price my local store eventually would settle for.

On the other side, how much wouldn't it cost in time and effort to head into the city, wasting two hours waiting in the queue?

If you agree on that time is money, the download version is probably a better bargain.

4. The future of the local game shop
Finally there was the issue brought up by Spinks: the effect that my choice will have on the market.

Do I want there to be a shop in the city where I live where I can buy pc games? Would I miss it if it wasn’t there?

In theory: yes, I want it to be there and I’d miss it if it wasn’t. I like the idea of a place where I physically can hold the boxes and look at them, not just read about them on a computer screen. If I one day would get the impulse to try out some other game, it would be wonderful to have somewhere to go where there are knowledgeable people around, who can give me advice on what to buy and answer any questions I have.

But again: this is all in my dreams. In reality I don’t even think about going there. If I’ll grow tired of WoW one day, I already have LOTRO (digital download ftw). The last time I put my foot in the store was at the release of WotLK and once I had gotten inside, I don’t think I spent more than 30 seconds in the room, the time it took for me to get out my wallet and the girl to hand over the box and give me my change.

It isn’t as if my shop is small and independent, run by a handful of enthusiasts, giving it a personal touch or even a soul, if a store can have such a thing.
My shop is just another GameStop, one out of thousands all over the world. I don’t know the people who run it and they don’t know me. And for all I know of they might even be better off working somewhere else, at least judging from the four part series “Confessions of a GameStop Employee”, which I’ve recently been following over at The Escapist.

In case you’ve missed it I recommend you to check it out. It’s quite amusing and revealing, full of observations like this one on the topic of manuals:
“99.999999 percent of our stock of used games no longer had their instruction manuals. Let's take a moment for a brief digression here. What exactly are people doing with these missing game manuals? What happens to them? Where do they go? Why is it so fucking hard for people to hang onto them? Like elephants, is there some kind of mysterious game manual graveyard, a place that none of us knows about, where they all go to die? And is the game manual graveyard the same place where the missing dryer socks go?”

But to get back to the topic, the author at The Escapist concludes that the shops are bound to die and that they won’t be missed:

“Being a gamer, I still have to go into GameStop once in awhile. I hate it. I try to avoid it at all costs. But the end is near for GameStop. Digital distribution is already chipping away at their business model. A day will come when the lights go out on GameStops everywhere. It will happen. It's inevitable. Might be next year. Might be in 10 years. But make no mistake, it's coming.

And, as strange as it is for us to imagine using a Telegram to send a message to someone, a hundred years from now people will recall a quaint time when we used to have to actually get off our couches and go to a place to purchase actual physical copies of our videogames.”
Even if I would care about my game shop, which I don't, it seems to be a lost cause.

Whispering “I’m sorry”, I clicked the “buy” button. Then I launched the game and began the download.

I might find another geek queue to join one day. But it won’t lead to a game shop.