Friday, February 29, 2008


The first thing I met when I started playing WoW was a huge yellow exclamation mark. I scratched my head, did what they said in that little instruction book - talked to the man. And by doing that I had started out the first quest out of the hundreds, not to say thousands, that would follow.

In the beginning of my WoW career I was just as enthusiastic at any kind of quest I had, no matter what they were about. Killing 15 of the x-sort and 15 of the y-sort or standing grinding monsters type A until 20 objects B had dropped - was just as fun as to disguise myself, look for lost things, escort or whatever I could do. Quest as quest I thought, with true newbie enthusiasm.

As time has passed I've become a bit harder to charm and I'm not quite as delighted when I feel thats it's just another repeat, a quest model following the Blizzard standard formula 1A. That counts especially for quests, that in fact only consist of pure grinding with a little extra carrot in the xp reward at the turning in. Or rather: that kind of quest won't make my eyes sparkle, won't make me giggle happily at the cleverness of the game developers, it just makes me shrug my sholders and sigh a bit, it's just something that has to be done. Sometimes I challenge myself trying to do it twice as fast, trying new spell sequences, trying a new pattern of moment or something like that, everything to give it a new flavour, some kind of variation.

But I'm not only reluctant. I also know how deadly efficient the grinding quests can be if you want to level fast and with discipline. They don't take any research, no afterthought, now time consuming complications. You only have to go to the right spot, kill, kill, kill and se how the xb bar rushes to the top. Sometimes that's all that you want. Just because of that the racing arena in Shimmering flats is such a brilliant place to quest at if you're just above level 30. Everything in one spot, all you have to do is to grind scorpions, turtles, basilisks, birds and all sorts of creatures, until you suddenly have jumped up one or two levels.

But the quests that stay in your mind are totally different kind of quests, those that you only do once and then never more. Quests that you, provided you got the opportunity, would like to do over again, just because they gave you such a laugh.

I remember one quest like that, that made me literary laugh out loud. It was Fragmented Magic, a quest that all mages that want to extend their polymorf repertoire to pigs have to do. This quest is picked up in a rather far away place of the world, Aszshara, that I've got the feeling isn't very populated these days - the naga inhibited ruin settlement is mostly void of players. In this remote corner the old Archmage Xylem dwells in a tower, only possible to visit by teleportation. He's the starting point for a little quest chain, where the first part is nothing special - simply a thing that you get down in the ruins behind a fat old naga. But the next step is fun! You're supposed to aoe small sheep, as many as 50 of them. The small sheep appears when you sheep a naga, use the thing you fetched and suddenly see the sheep clone into a bunch of tiny miniatures. Just the very sight of the little sheep running around in all directions was hilarious. And the feeling to let hem explode in the air and fall down into pathetic little heaps was too. There's something irresistible in killing so many innocent little lamb at the same time. Bloodthirsty or not - I just regretted it ended to fast.

I've also got a weak spot for quests that includes flying. I remember very well Mission of the Abyssal Shelf, the quest in Hellfire where you for the first time get up into the air, trying out bombing. I was a disaster as a bomber and had to make a number of flights before all the targets were down. But what did I care about that, I was sitting there with a big smile on my face, just enjoying the flying in itself. At last something new, a model I hadn't tried out before.
Absolutely unique you have to call Are we there,Yeti, where you're having fun with some friends of Umi, frightening them with a mechanic yeti (you get one for yourself as a reward).

Another quest that charmed me in all it's simplicity, was Deeprun Roundup. You didn't have to be heroic at all, just running around, blowing a flute, peacefully enchanting the little rats, just as in the fairytale. I was enchanted myself.

Escort quests are often quite charming, especially when they include long dialogues and a lot of lore. I guess that's why I never grow tired of the Durnhold instance. The best escort I've made so far is In Dreams i Eastern Plaguelands. You actually don't have to do anything special at all, just following the main char in stealth, seeing the hero make his dutys and enjoy a number of dialogues and fights. It's the end quest in a long quest chain that tells you the story of Tirion Fordring and that among other things include a visit in Stratholme. The chain includes some ten steps and takes quite a lot of work. The rewards are hardly astounding these days, with the coming of TBC you can easily get much better things in Outlands at that level. I guess that's why few players do it. But if you like me want to experience unique quests, I really want to recommend it.

So far I've mainly been talking about positive quest memories, but of course there are nightmare quests that you'd prefer to forget. One I remember is from Searing Gorge, Stolen: Smithing Tuyere and Lookout's Spyglass. The Smithing Tuyere dropped from a small group of mining and smithing guys, that I spent hours and hours killing over and over again. The drop rate seemed to be in class of The Suneater, which I wrote about the other day. Eventually it turned up, after several nights of hard work. A few days later a guildie was doing the same quest. I informed him about what to expect. But of course it only took him one or two mob kills before it dropped...

Now we're counting down for the expansion. And the question is: will there be some completely new kinds of quests, offering challenges we hadn't thought about before? I hope so. I don't have any illusions, I'm convinced that Northend will offer grinding as well, probably some kind of pigs that we must slaughter one way or another, to deliver snouts, livers or hooves. Probably they'll have a bit thicker fur than the pigs in Westfall in order to survive in the winter climate. But still. There will be pigs, trust me. Just pick out your fork and your knife and start eat them out, piece by piece.

But surely we'll also have some surprises, quests with that funny touch or touching dialogue that at least makes me surrender. After running a couple of thousand quests, it's still not only a necessary evil to make it possible for me to level. Sometimes it's really, really entertaining.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

To go outside of the box

"Come and have a look! It's the biggest tonk war ever on the bridge, just outside Stormwind!"
The call was heard in the trade channel in Stormwind the other night. Apparently we had got ourselves an enthusiastic audience.

What was the big fuzz about? Well it isn't usual to se about 15 high levelled players decked out in Kara gear, turning their backs to raiding and instead go playing with toy cars. I guess we weren't systematic about it, as a matter of fact most of us had never ever handled a tonk. We shot in all sorts of directions, bombing and putting out so many mines that it was almost impossible not to blow up in the air. Rules? No. It was rather some kind of everyone-to-everyone-game, kill or get killed, the last one to have the tonk left was a winner. Not surprisingly the most competitive member of the guild won - a candy bar of his own!

We tried out another few of those games, after which we split into two teams, standing on different sides of the bridge. The team that had any toy up and running longest was the winner. Myself I managed to test out if tonks can swim, after involuntarily doing a great jump into the moat. (No, mechanical toy cars DON'T like water.)

The most faithful one of our spectators was a little gnome that slipped into my side, asking in whispers if I was Swedish, seeing the Swedish sounding guild tag. Yes, I admitted, I was. "How old are you?" 40, I said, since I've once far all decided to be honest about that. He was stunned. Then it came: "I'm 11". I couldn't help smiling at the absurdity in the whole situation. Most of us that were running around shooting each other into pieces were between 25 and 40, with a few exceptions up and down. But maybe it actually takes some maturity to be able to forget about dignity and just enjoy childish playing. To put the script and the conventions aside, to not bother about marching into Karazhan to get the weekly quota of badges, gold and epic loot, where maiden has exactly the same harsh looks as she had last week, and where Netherspite goes down every so easily if you just handle the beams. To skip the daily quest or the levelling supposed to be done. To not stroll on the same paths as 90 percent of the other players.

Often it's very convenient to use the ready toys that Blizzard offer to us, to keep to the map, to keep to the assigned tracks. It's so easy to forget that the game offer a lot more - an arena, a world where we can create our own games and conditions. It takes a bit more of us. You have to think and be a bit creative, find new versions and concepts, find others who are willing to try it - and above all - to let go of the mind set that the there's one "right" way to play, that is productive and progressive.

If you think about it - actually there's nothing in the game that will be of any value in the future. Outside of the protecting walls of Azeroth it's completely irrelevant if your char is wearing a grey worn wool mantle or a shining purple one. Still we all fall for the eternal "improving-my-character-chase", since it's the obvious driving force in the game. I'm no exception myself, being an incorrigible competitive person.

Well, this night for once I put the script aside. But next week, you just wait - then I know a few bosses in Kara that will get their asses kicked. And it will be fun! It takes a trip to the terrain from time to time in order to really appreciate the main track.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


In the normal blogs it's quite common to tell who you are. There's no reason to hide it. "Hello, I'm Sara Svensson, I live in Hultsfred and this is my blog!". But when it comes to World of Warcraft it's different. Just have a look at Larísas corner. The writer is a little avatar with pink pigtails. Age, gender and family situation, that's as far as the information goes. Apart from that Larísa is anonymous. Just like many other WoW bloggers.

It's the same thing in the game. The normal behaviour in Azeroth is to introduce yourself to others under the same name as your main char (or maybe an abbreviation of the main name, a sort of nick name). Your real name you only tell a few others, and then just your first name. It isn't even always that you inform about your real name to your own guild. You keep in touch by the in game mail or a forum. Very few players will give away their e-mail addresses or telephone numbers. If you leave the game you also leave your whole network, nobody knows who you are or how to get in touch with you. The relation only exists here and now in the game, and then we can as well socialize under our character's names.

Somehow I think we want to keep the worlds apart. We live one life in the game and another one outside of it. I believe there are several explanations to the phenomena. One reason is that we're afraid to lose the hideout function, the escape from reality that the game offers. We don't want it to bee to mixed up. It's nice not to be found by colleagues, family members, neighbours and others, that have a set idea of who you are from the beginning. In the game you're reborn as an empty paper, you can let other make themselves an opinion of you without prejudices, far beyond looks, job and other things that normally are sorting people out. All of us that normally are a bit tired of the roles we play daily get a new, honest opportunity to be someone else.

Another reason is the opposite - that you don't want the game to invade your real life. Of course there are some freaks out there, among those millions of players. Just like in every kind of chat forum there's a reason for you to be a bit careful. Suddenly that nice guy from the net is standing at your door, turning out to be a stalker, rapist or psychopath.

I also think that the secrecy about the gaming comes from us being a little ashamed. Or if we're not ashamed, at least we realize that most people around us never will understand the attraction of the game, how grown-ups can dedicate this vast amounts of time, energy and enthusiasm, running around killing monsters. Instead of strolling at IKEA, ironing curtains or pulling up weeds in the garden like any decent citizen.

The WoW players form a community that is clearly related to the ones of role players, trekkies, tolkienists, medieval enthusiasts and such alike. At the best we're looked upon as harmless, childish nerds. At the worst, they think we're brainwashed and dangerous to society. If there's a teenage murderer and it turns out that someone of the involved at some point of their lives has come in touch with a game, in the eyes of the public opinion it's evident what has caused it.

For some reason it's accepted to put 20-30 hours a week into following the lives of other people by watching documentary soap shows, to put your heart into knitting (have a look at all those knitting blogs out there, speaking of fanatism!) or to put every single minute of your spare time into torturing your body with exercise or dieting. For some reason gaming makes a lot of people that are over 30 years old to get aggressive. If you don't want to have to debate anything from gaming addiction to overweight problems with teenagers, you'd better stay discrete.

But of course, it is a special moment if you sometime stumble upon someone else in RL, that is a WoW player just like yourself. You exchange a few words, like a secret code that opens up new worlds. The glimpse of recognition in your eye - player to player. We who are sharing the same secret.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A look in the mirror

Are you vain? If someone would ask me that I'd immediately state: No! Definitely not! And I've got evidence:

  • I have absolutely no idea of how the parts of my current dungeon set look, except for the head and the gloves that I already have. Thinking about gear I only look at the function, everything else lacks interest to me. I'd never ever pick a better looking garment over one with better stats. If I have to put on an ugly batik dress with indian tails I'll do it with a smile, as long as it's useful.
  • I still don't know how to use the cloth-testing function of the game. Sometimes other players tells me: "look at this good-looking chest" and encourage me to try it on, and every time I have to ask them how I do it since I do it so seldom that I don't remember what keys to use.
  • I hardly ever think about how Larisa looks face to face - I mostly see a couple of pink tails and a back. At the most. My focus is in the mobs - or rather at health and mana bars, threat meters and so on.
No, I'm certainly not vain. Or am I? Slowly I've started to realize that there is a stroke of vanity in me, as well as there is in most players. It's about time that I admit it. Because it is a bit vain to wear a lavender purple shirt, a shirt that I've had since I was level 10 or so. When it's viewable it goes so well with Larisa's tails. If I wasn't vain, that slot would have been empty.

Another sign that you care about you're looks is how you handle your head. If you deliberately change the settings in order for the head not to show - well, then you can't say anything but that you're a bit vain. Larisa has for most of her life ran around without a hat, simply because most heads on female gnomes look awful - either they resemble to over dimensioned sombreros, pulled downed to the eyes so you won't see anything of the face - or they look like ugly scarves that make you think about old ladies. It's undignified, just mockery. I've done a few exceptions though. One was Mana-Etched Crown, that I wore with pride. The glory was so beautiful, and it sort of shined in the darkness. And my present Collar of Aldor I have after some hesitation decided to show. After all it's just a collar and it leaves the head free.

The back you can also hide if you want to, but most of the time I've chosen to show it, I think it's mandatory for a mage to wear a mantle. But sometimes I feel a bit reluctant. My present back, Ruby Drape of the Mysticant, is clear read and doesn't fit at all with the rest of my gear that goes towards purple and pink. It looks like an old 1st of may flag. Then I'm not comforted by my red slippers from Oz, Ruby slippers, (mostly covered by the dress, thank's god) and the red edges of the shoulders. I'd prefer to take away the read colour in my outfit altogether. Still uglier was Syrannis' Mystic Sheen, that I had once upon a time. It looked like if you had tied a bath towel around your neck. Thinking about it I think there were more reasons for me not to wear it so much than the stats.

Now to the worst confession of them all. For the time being I don't wear my guild tabard, it's all wrapped in one of my bags. Reason? Being a Swedish guild we have a tabard with the same colour as the Swedish flag, with three golden crowns. It definitely doesn't harmonize with my purple-pink appearance, especially not with the awful red pieces. The result is a multicoloured patch work, with a colour scales going in all sorts of direction, something I don't want Larisa to experience. But if I'll ever get bluish gear one day, I'll be the first one to put on my tabard again, I promise!

I like my weapons pretty much, happy to wear a neat little dagger, not having to run around with something that looks like an oversized saw. But it's a bit careless that they let Fetish of the Primal Gods be dragged around on the ground for all the poor gnomes. Don't we have muscles enough to hold it up?

To summarize I have to admit that when you look closer to it even I have some vanity in me. But I'm far from alone. I can't help smiling sometimes when I hear pretty hardcore stats- and progress-crazy players start talking about their gear purely from the aspect of how they look. Suddenly they sound just like an little doll-playing girl - and they seem to know much clearer than I do what is good looking and what isn't. Without any hesitation they violate all the traditional gender roles.

And now the time has come for me to come out of the closet. Or rather to step into it . The next short commando I'll learn will be that try-out-clothes-function.

Vain as I am.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In love with my alt

I've fallen in love again. That's the only way I can describe my feelings for my new alt, the little rogue Arisal, who now once for all is about to grow up.

After a long time of thinking I've finally deserted my put-everything-on-one-card-strategy and started to develop another character that I actually plan to play, if not as serious as I play Larisa, it will be for real. She'll have her own life, she'll sneak around in instances, she'll make a fool out of herself ever so often, she'll learn the art of being a rogue the hard way until she actually can start being useful whenever Larisa isn't needed.

It's been wise to keep to my main so far. If I had left that path I would never have come as far in the game as I have. I also imagine that I by studying one class more to the depth also learn more about the game generally. If you like I have limited playing times it will be quite superficial if you split the hours between several characters.

Overall its been good to keep to a narrow road road. But now thinking about the time that remains until the expansion I can't help questioning if I really use it best by grinding gold for a flying epic mount? Or is it the wrong way to put the question? To use the time "best", don't you do that by doing what's most fun in the game? If you think collecting gold is most fun - do it. If you love to level up an alt - do it. But it just isn't that simple. There's always a "most fun" in the short perspective and another "most fun" if you're looking further. Sometimes you have to do something less attractive for a while, in order to enjoy a greater reward later.

In this case I think "best" is quite a lot the same as "most fun". You can't overlook that it IS quite inflexible just having one single level 70 character, especially since it's a pure casting-dps class that I have and not a hybrid that you can respect. And to see the mobs close, train myself in melee, realizing the importance of how they're turned and put in place, I think will give me a better understanding when I'm playing my main. If I on the other hand collect gold by farming whatever - I won't learn much about the game, more than the noble art of patience.

So now I'm throwing myself into the exciting world of Arisal. She's spending her teenage period in Westfall, fooling around among hay and soft meadows, with pigs, smugglers and gnolls. I'm sitting there with a big smile on my lips, seeing her stealthing, sapping, sneaking up from behind, preparing for a quick backstab, a few strikes, a kick or two - not that it's necessary, but just because it looks so fun when she's doing a backward loop. And then a final extra hard stroke that ends it all. It's so fast and physical if you compare it to what I'm used to. The blood is everywhere, it's quick and intense. It's so different from throwing slooow fire and ice balls. If needed I sprint away with a swishing cloud behind me, and I don't have to be sorry for missing blink. The downtime between the fights is minimal. Of course I eat a little bread from time to time, but it's far from the constant manadrinking of Larisa. I don't have to care about buffing. I just go for the enemy.

I'm bewitched, totally in love with my little black haired, bitchy assassin. And the adventure has only started. "Just you wait until you reach level 20, then you get poison and all the fun starts", my more rogue experienced guild friends tell me.

Pulling up an alt is to be newborn in the game. I get a reason to once again visit places I haven't been to for a whole year. And I get almost the same magical glimpse of happiness in my eyes that I had the last time I saw it. Finally I get a good reason to run through all of the tunnels to Wetlands again, since I haven't got any fp yet. And even though I've got quite a clear picture of what is awaiting, it's different since I see it through the eyes of Arisal. It's a little familiar, but brand new at the same time.

Every time I'm training it's - just like when I levelled Larisa - a little christmas day to me. What toys has the kind Santa Claus brought for me this time? What strange new ability will I draw to my action bar, starting to think about, trying out, understanding how I should use it best? I've just started the learning curve, so far mostly by trial and error, but I've also started to look up some basic rogue guides on the net, soaking up all the knowledge I can find.

It remains to be seen if this initial enthusiasm will transform into longlasting love, as was the case with Larisa, if the charm of rogue playing with stick around all the way up to 70. Just now I'm absolutely convinced it will. As you are when you've fallen in love.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shared joy

Isn't it a bit strange how happy you can get when other players get loot? As happy as you would be if it was your own. At least it's like that to me. I came to think about it the last night, when the thing I had stopped believing ever would happen actually happened. The Sun Eater, one of the best tanking swords of the game, dropped in Mechanar to one of my best game friends. And I was lucky enough to be around when it happened.

I don't even dare to think about how many runs he hade made in Mechanar before this happened. I just know that I participated in the hunt myself, half a year ago, and that w eran there so many times that we started to doubt that the sword existed at all. IT seemed to some kind of mirage, the holy graal or a bizarre joke from Blizzard.

Eventually he had had enough and gave it up for a while. But now he had started the project again with foolish stubbornness. I didn't object running for it again, being nostalgic over all those nights that we had spent in there, and quite relaxed since I had done it so many times. It was the same procedure as always.

Normally it's more fun to do unknown and challanging instances than to do those that you know by heart. But this time, routine wasn't a disadvantage. At two o clock in the night between Saturday and Sunday, you're not in top shape. We were quite silly, fooling around, walking through the corridors. Sometimes half asleep since it was too easy, sometimes wiping without any good reason when we'd just been too casual about it. We were so distracted that we even missed to loot half of the key for the chest, and thus missed one badge and a drop. We rolled about whose fault it was, shrugging at it.

Maybe that's the kind of mood you need for hazard to strike. It's in those nights that things happen, when you don't believe or expect anything at all, when you merely just exist. Or maybe it was the spirits of the game that wanted to point out a lesson to us: Never give up. And don't ever stop to play. Sooner or later it will turn up. The drop you're dreaming of.

The Sun Eater. I stared at it like bewitched where it was in the loot list, stuck between a Primal nether and Mana Wrath, that I had carried myself once upon a time and that had served me so well. Here it was, the graal. It existed for real! I was like tha sun myself, shining as much as the sword and its rightful owner. Because I knew that I had had another kind of drop now myself, an epic memory that I can take out and play with myself whenever I want to. It's all purple, almost orange. Noone else will see my epic memory when I'm running around in Stormwind, doing errands. But I know. And that's enough for me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Worries about namegiving

Oh dear. That's what I felt the other day, after deciding to seriously start levelling an alt. Not that I didn't look forward to it, on the contrary, I was enthusiastic about my new char and to the perspective of seeing the game from another point of view. But between me and my new hero there was that awful mountain that had to be climbed: The Namegiving.

Starting a char just for the fun of it, not seriously thinking about levelling to 70 is a completely different thing. Bank characters. Ratrace ladies. Joke characters like that could be named anything, like "Hellohello", nobody will care much about it. But naming an char that you actually intend to play is totally different - you've got to feel that it's right. A name that you aren't comfortable with will turn into something like an itching bite from a mosquito - in worst case you'll end up deserting your char, though it actually had deserved better. When I decide names for real characters, which I almost will play with the same enthusiasm as my main, I'm always pretty serious about it.

Things won't be easier when the imagination seems to have faded away just like it does on many grown-ups. In nine out of ten cases it turns out someone else has already thought about it before. When you after seconds, minutes or in worst case hours will be writing that well considered, carefully modelled name, you'll be met by the response that the name is occupied. Bam boom you're dead. Just start it all over again.

In the game I've met all sorts of principles when it comes to naming. There are of course all of those more or less recognizable names taken from heroes, often from fantasy, SF or comics. Nice names that often fits pretty well into the environment, though I find it pretty odd to see the Star Trek hero Tuvok, disguised as a bowhunting nightelf. While they both have pointed ears, it still feels a bit far fetched.

Another strategy is to call yourself the same as your class, with some kind of more or less cleaver addition. Evilmage. Imbapriest. Darkwarrior. It may work, but you don't really stick out in the crowd. It's pretty dull in my eyes.

Then there are all those people who more or less randomly seem to go over the keyboard, maybe in frustration after failing to find some name that isn't already taken. This strategy is used by gold sellers, but actually also by normal players. It's always short names, that resemble to some kind of unknown abbreviation. Trkt. Xst. Prtat. I've always wondered how they manage to call for each other on Teamspeak. My tongue slips a knot on itself.

How about Larisa then? What was the idea behind that name? Well I shouldn't pretend that it was very well thought, brilliant or imaginative. I had just started playing the game and I didn't know much about how names were supposed to be made. But I was pretty clear over that I wanted a name that felt like a... name - even though I'm playing at a normal PvE server, not going for role playing. So I excluded pure words with names like: Cucumber, Goodlooking, Indifferent. I thought that a name shouldn't be in opposition with a feeling that my char actually was some kind of hero, just trying to save the world.

It also was important that the name should work internationally. I thought I would mostly play in an English speaking environment, and I didn't want to make things unnecessary hard.
Normal, modern names you use for persons, I wanted to avoid. Swedish names like Barbro, Elin and Matilda didn't give me the right feeling. I would rather have something timeless or maybe a bit historic. As many other do I started to glance at the Greek, Egyptian and old Nordic mythology, but everything I came to think of turned out to be occupied.

After that I don't know how it happened, but from Greek mythology it seemed that the step to geography wasn't too big. I pulled out an atlas and started to look. Pure touristic sites like Kos and Rhodos I passed quickly. I didn't want anything that well known. My eyes passed over the atlas and suddenly they had stuck on the town Larisa. It was simple, easy to pronounciate, both in English and in Swedish. It didn't give me any special association, it was more like a blank paper. Why not give it a try? Suddenly the computer started working on it, the movie was showing and Larisa was borne.

One year later I'm still happy with Larisa. She is the one she is and I haven't once considered the name-changing- service that Blizzard offers nowadays.
If I had known what I know today I would have thought twice before picking a name out of an atlas. The Greek server population goes crazy seeing me in Stormwind and always have to ask me - in Greek - if I'm from the same country. (At least that's what I believe they ask). I could live without that.

The other day I had to go through it all over again. Larisa was about to get a younger sister. A gnome, though this time with black hair, a bit tougher and with a sulky look, ring on the top of her ear and a knife in her hand, ready to backstab anyone around her. What should she be could I find a name that after a while would feel as natural as Larisa, something I could live with for a long time?

I walked around like a hen waiting to lay eggs, thinking about it. Playing with letters and syllables, putting together, taking away. I started to look in the atlas once again, in spite of that I knew better. Could I find a name of some unknown island in Indonesia, wow shouldn't have reached that area yet, or at least they weren't playing on the European servers. But - no. The names of the Indonesien Archipelago just didn't fit with my rogue.

Suddenly I started to play with the letters in the name Larisa. I pulled them in all directions, threw in one or another letter. And suddenly I found it. Arisal. It was love at first sight. Even before I knew it would pass, I felt instinctivly that I was first - this name was meant for me. The movie started and I could start breathing again. Once more I had conquered the Namegiving Mountain and I could let Arisal roll out in the snow, ready to start attacking wild boar and wolves, equipped with a blunt knife, but with a name that will last up to level 70 and far beyond

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pros and cons of Teamspeak

I'll never forget my first encounter with Teamspeak. It was about level 60 when I took the jump over to my second guild ever in the game, a huge, wild growing social guild with a core of a bunch of real-life friends in Scotland. As a member you were supposed to download and starting using Teamspeak, so I obeyed, being a nice girl, and started the procedure once I had gotten myself a headset.

On the website our GM had put educating screenshots that step by step described how to download the software and what settings to make. Eventually I thought I was done and, a bit scared, tried to connect. Total silence. Then a long session followed when my guild friends with the patience of angels helped be come further. It turned out that not only TS had to be set up, but also a lot of settings for the sound card and lines in and out for the headset. I tabbed in and out between the guild chat and the desktop, where teamspeak and sound settings were open. For a while the struggle seemed hopeless and I was about to give up. But scots are stubborn. Of course they were curious about that strange Swedish girl that suddenly had come to the guild out of nowhere. And suddenly I was in! I heard them and they heard me. I didn't have a clue about what they said, their accent was too heavy. But there was no doubt that we all were happy to eventually connect. We united in a big cheer.

One reason that TS was so central in this guild was the fact that one of the members was dyslectic. Thanks to that most things were said in TS he could have a clue of what was going on and be a team member, if we hadn't used it it would have been quite impossible to him. That was evidence of an almost touching caring attitude I thought, while it at the same time made it more difficult to me. It wasn't only that the accent was odd, many of them also had so bad microphones that I couldn't hear much except for scratches. If it had been up to me to decide I would have preferred to communicate in the guild chat.

In my present Swedish guild we also use TS. But without any Scottish accent, now it's at most a bit of Smaalandish, Stockholmish or the whining accept from Eskilstuna that we have to translate. It's a lot easier. And we really benefit from TS, although no one as far as I know is dyslectic. The most obvious benefit is of course when we're doing instances or radiing.

You don't realize how much it helps until you pug and suddenly remember what it's like to write a lot of stuff when you want to coordinate the party before complicated pulls or boss fights. Or when the TS server suddenly goes down and we're standing there, muted, separated from each other.

We're often using TS when there's no special need for it as well. It's simply nicer to make lonely tasks such as daily quests and farming if you can combine it with talking some crap with people you like.

Most of all I think Teamspeak is for the good. The written word is after all pretty blunt. Even if you use emotes it's easy to misunderstand each other. It's so much quicker to say what you want this way (and then I'm a quick at typing with a correct finger setting, thanks to my old grumpy typing teacher at high school - I had never imagined that your lessons were them I had most use of in real life).

Another problem with written guild communication is that it's so hard to write while you're fighting. Something will always suffer from it, either I'll become a louse speaking partner or I'll die unnecessary, taking down half as many mobs as I've really got capacity for.

Bad things about Teamspeak then? Yes, there are disadvantages. For myself I can't quite handle pus-to-talk. That means that I have to remember to manually shut down the mic in order not to torture my guildies with coughs, munching of hard bread or the shouting of the kids in the background. I don't always remember to do it and I just don't want to think about how much noise I've involuntarily tormented my guildies with.

Another bad thing is that nothing in TS stays, it just passes away. Every once in a while you have to leave the PC for some urgent RL action like helping children to sneeze, taking some coffee or taking out the wash. When you're back you have no idea what has been said. In the guild chat you can easily update yourself by scrolling back.

Teamspeak can also make you lose a bit of the feeling for the game. Instead of letting music and game sounds pull you into the landscape, enhancing the sense of being here and now, you can be sucked into discussions that will give you a completely different mood than you really want. The demons luring in the darkness won't be very frightening if they're accompanied by hysterical laughter.

A maybe bigger problem is that TS risks cut off the ones that don't use it. Today I think most players can install the program and at least have headphones so they can listen, but not everyone has - or dare to use - microphones. It's natural that you'll get to know the people you actually talk to much better than the ones whose voices you've never heard.

You can't overlook tha fact that when discussions mostly are performed orally, it's likely that the guild chat more or less will die. At least myself I've got quite limited capacity of doing two things at the same time - I can barely write while talking. It's quite likely that it will be one thing or the other, and the guild chat will suffer. Players that for some reason aren't on the teamspeak will probably become a bit lonely, not truly belonging to the community.

So what should you do then? Well, both I think. I'm too used to Teamspeak to consider playing without it. It really helps up communications. When you hear a living voice it will become so much more evident that you're dealing with a real person and not with a game NPC.
That doesn't mean I want to sit there every single second I play. Sometimes it's really nice just to stroll around in a universe of your own, listening to the game sounds or to some favourite music. To shut out the world and just sink into the game, like into meditation.

But I also want a guild chat that every now and then lightens up the screen with a little green comment, in between the babbling in general and trade. Even though it's just a little "hi" when logging in and "good night" when logging out.

Teamspeak is for god and for bad, but mostly for good I think, as long as you care a bit about your guild chat.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Lately I've been exploring another side of World of Warcraft - the one that is about relationships. Our guild has been split apart - breeding by cloning if you want to see it from the bright side - and about half of the most active players have left. In spite of what's been going on I haven't been able to write a single word about it on the blog - it has simply been too close and I guess it still is. An open bleeding wound, which rather should be treated by leaving it in peace to let it heal, rather than starting to mess around with it.

But... I've made up my mind. This too is a part of the world of Larisa and I shouldn't avoid writing about the darker corners of the game. After all it's because you've seen the darkness of Shadowmoon valley that the lovely bright pastures of Nagrand is so heartwarming. The Un'Goro Carter is so full of life and colour just because the deserts of Tanaris and Silithus are the neighbours.

Come on, now she's putting to much into it maybe one or another of the readers think. Guilds come and guilds go. There's nothing wrong in fooling around a bit. Take the day as it comes, go your own way, jump into a guild that seems to fit you and if you se it getting a bit insecure, well take your stuff and go somewhere else. Big deal. Why make such a drama out of it?

And of course you may think so, especially if you have your focus in the game to 99 percent into progress, where getting top rated heads in raid instances, developing and gearing up your char to perfection, is more important than what company you have doing this, who are your friends.
I've got a different view. I regard the guild as a sort of extra family. It gives me a breathing area in the everyday life, a place where I can just be myself. Of course under a certain anonymity. Only a few of my guild friends know my real name or have met me in reallife. But in spite of this you get quite intimate with each other after a while - quite naturally since we spend so much time together. Some days I realize that I spend more time speaking to my guildies than to my children (which of course is a bit frightening to think about).

Many are the nights that we've spent wiping side by side like forever, helping each others to keep up the spirit. Sometimes we have been playing and fooling around together, sometimes we've been so focused that you could believe it was a question of life and death. The voices in the night have become a part of my everyday life, so wellknown that I can hear the shades of colour. You can't hide if you've had a bad day at work or had a row with your wife. We don't have to say much about it, but the knowledge is there and some kind of comfort and silent caring.

Of course you don't always agree about everything in such a family. It's only if you've got a deep security, if you know that you after all are and will remain guildies, sharing the same values, that you can oppose things, contradict and argue. After all even brothers and sisters do fight from time to time.

Still sometimes families do split up from time to time, the divorce becomes a fact. And that is what has happened now. To simplify it a bit, what happened is that the players with more focus on raiding have left the guild. Myself I chose to, after giving it a deep thought, to stay - in spite of a huge interest in raiding. A decision that makes my heart and my soul ache. We had just taken the first steps toward doing 25 man raids. Now we'll be quite exactly as many as we need to run Karazhan or, after a while when more players have geared up, Zul Aman. In reality there'll probably not be any 25 man raiding for me for a very very long time, if ever. But on the other hand - I get so much else from my guild, thing's I can't live without in the game. A social community, a special, relaxed guild atmosphere where we don't take the game dead seriously, even though we like it a lot. We can always give it a laugh.

Any gold in the world can't buy you those things. My decision comes with my standing on four legs in the game, that I've written about in an earlier blog posting. For me raiding and progress is great fun, but it's not the only thing the game can offer. It's one ingredient, not the whole dish.

I couldn't help feeling sad seeing so many of my old friends leaving the guild one after each other. Some of them after saying "thanks and goodbye" in the guild chat, others leaving without saying a word. It was the great exodus. I was left at the station, waving my handkerchief, wiping my tears away. While watching the leavings I filled my friend list with names, names that until now didn't have to be there, since they had belonged to the guild. At the same time I silently wondered how many of these people I'll actually stay in touch with in the future.

After all, it's mostly your guildies that you play with, run instances with, rant with on Teamspeak and in the chat. It's all natural. The future will show how it'll all turn out. Maybe we'll keep in touch, maybe not and they'll just become friends on a list, names that will be forgotten and eventually deleted. And the wound will be healed and become a scar, a reminiscence of all the fun we've had together the last six months.

Tonight we ran Karazhan with the remaining players for the first time. We weren't as well geared and experienced as the ones that left. Because of that we only made it to Maiden in stead of Curator, as we've been used to do. But who cared? The atmosphere was perfect, we had more fun than I've had for a very long time in Kara. There's actually not a straight connection between how many bosses you down and how entertained you are from the game. That is obvious.

Deep in my heart I believe that the divorce was inevitable. Life goes on, and even though it felt like a catastrophe when it happened, I think we'll come back, maybe even stronger than before from the experiences we share. After a big fire the forest is born again, new flowers appear, the animal life is thriving. Out of the ashes the Phoenix bird is born. Even though it may be difficult to recognize it just when it's happening.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Measuring yourself

There's an idea about that creatures of the opposite sex secretly are into intimate measuring. They're using the ruler in order to see how many centimetres their external appendix is. I leave it untold how much truth there's in this. But I can tell that in Azeroth this behaviour is somewhat of a rules. "oh oh oh, my new sward has THIS much of spelldamage, that's cool! Bah, you've got a tiny one like that. Haha"

I remember clearly when it first dawned upon me that it was quite a common thing for players that just had got a sought-after thing to go to a well populated place, such as Stormwind, in order to walk around showing up, assured that other players would com and inspect them. I was surprised - and sceptical. This was before I fully realized the width of the measure-body-parts-culture.

It's easy to joke about this behaviour. At the same time you must realize that gear collecting, the work of self improvement of the character is one of the strongest forces in the game. It's just like any kind of sport or hobby. You always want to develop yourself, no matter if it's about moving your golf handicap (that I've understood is some kind of ranking) or to gain a higher belt in a budo sport. Or for that sake if it's about to take your painstakingly bred Ginny pig to an exhibition, get a judgement and a nice trophy telling you've got the champion Ginny pig of the year.

The need to measure yourself, to get a confirmation of what you have achieved, in numbers and ranking, is found within all of us. No matter of the appendixes of the body. There are also other ways of taking measures than to walk around in a major town, hoping someone will think: "ooohhh".

On the web I've found a few tools that actually give some knowledge and individual hints about how to proceed in the game. It's a little like getting a knowledgeable declaration at a dog exhibition I guess. "Rufus has got perfect body shape, but you should consider improving the condition of his fur. Do you really give him the right kind of pet food?"

One of the tools is Be Imba, a service that has taken as a task to give individual advice to lvl 70 characters. Write your name and realm and you'll get an opinion about you soon enough. Do you need to improve a stat? Could your gear be better enchanted or gemmed? They catch it all. You also get recommendations about what instances which are suitable for you. And a number, else it wouldn't be any real measuring, would it? Myself, I've got the grade 166,4 on my gear, whatever that tells me. But I guess that next time I'll get an upgrade it may jump up to 168 and then I'll celebrate... or maybe not. More fun is that they suggest me to run the raid instances in Tempest Keep and SSC. That is clearly out of my reach right now but it's nice to think the thought that I could fit in there in this gear.

Another playground where you can evaluate and ponder upon your gear and how to balance your character is Warcrafter. Here I get another number, 1040, which I of course can compare to me and my friends, if I think that's fun. More important is the sandbox, where I can try out new gear, other specs, gems and such things and see the resault. Often even upgrades have a price. The effect of the shiny new back may be that you get better spellhit rating at the cost of lesser spelldamage. And what will be the outcome of how much damage your spells will cause on an average? People that have a stronger sence for mathematics entertain themselves by making huge spreadheets for those tasks, but here is a conveniant version for players who are lazy, like me.

But the most obvious way to measure your self is the levelling. There is a certain attraction in seeing the xp-bar slowly heading forward, ending up in a triumphant DING. An attraction that when it's time for end game has to be replaced by chasing reputation with numerous fractions. It's just another bar to watch, another number to hold up and consider when you don't have anything else to do.

Sooo, now I'm famous for 8 685 with Aldor, after the last grinding session for Fel Armaments. Just another 12 000 to go before the Aldorans are exalted over this little gnome. Then it's time to blow the horns! Probably there's no one else that will notice or care. But I can stand there myself, a ruler in my little hand, and for a brief moment feel like I'm the best in the world.

Then I sneak away again, hiding it and forgetting about it quickly, going to do something more fun and useful. There are times when you should measure yourself, but it should be done in small doses.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Exploring the WoW blogosphere

My experiment continues. My WoW blog has now been going on for a couple of weeks and still I just have this flood of reflections in my mind, just wanting to get out. I really don't lack ideas of what to write about. The question is: does it have any value at all to others than me? The visitors are few - just a couple every day. The comments as well - you can count them on the fingers of one hand. I can't tell if it's because the things I blog about are uninteresting or if it's just that the blog is completely unknown to anyone except for my closes WoW-friends.

As one step out of my isolation I've joined the blog community Blog Azeroth, writing an introduction to my blog. This is a huge and very much alive blog network, where people give each other feedback and share ideas on topics to blog about, discuss things that are NOT suitable to have in your blog and give each other ideas about technical issues, such as how to avoid gold seller ads. Over all the members try to help each other keeping the enthusiasm and the creative flow going, when it sometimes feels like if you're just throwing out your thoughts into a big black void.

Still the community forum is in English, and in my introduction to my own blog I had to admit it was Swedish. Quick I got a respons from someone who thought I should connect the blog to an automatic translation service, such as Babelfish. Unfortunately I've so far only found one tool that could translate from Swedish to English, worldlingo, and the little test I did by running the blog through it was quite depressing. I don't know if it was because of the words I use when I write or if it really lacks knowledge in English. However, it wasn't any pleasure to read it.

Another alternative is to go over to blogging in English from the beginning, in order to get the chance of a slightly bigger audience and exchange of ideas with others. But even though my English is decent, it takes quite a deal of extra work after all. I tried to translate a few of my first postings and I soon saw that I used way to many words for my own best. It will simply cause me too much work. And I can't help it, but I think that something goes lost once you're deserting your native tongue.

So for now being I'm keeping to the Swedish. I've started to look a bit for other Swedish WoW blogs that I could cooperate with. And if nothing else, we could after all start commenting on each other. That's a well tried out trix you can do, according to the blogging gurus of Blog Azeroth, it won't just give you more traffic, it can also create a nice interactivity with the readers, give you new things to blog about.

Unfortunately my random looking for Swedish blogging colleagues has been rather unsuccessful. There are a few WoW blogs, but the quality of them.. sigh" One screenshot on your char, in best case a few words about what you've been up to. The updates are sporadic or the blogs are deserted altogether. A brilliant exception so far is Consentire, who in a nice pedagogic way inspire to raiding, give hints about addons, the art of gold grinding and other useful stuff. But except for him, there isn't much worth reading.

It's so different in the English speaking blogosphere. I was surprised once I had a look at it. Here are blogs of all sorts. Everything from role playing stylish diaries from the characters point of view, to educated lectures on different classes. Some are full of screenshots, looking just like cheerful cartoons. Others are more simple, like this one (well I WILL try to throw in a screenshot from time to time, it's a promise!)

Personally I prefer blogs with a personal tone. It's hard to describe, but I want there to be a colour or flavour which keeps the blog together, and makes it feel not just like any other news services or informative website. And it also should be clear that the writer actually likes to blog, that it's a passion rather than something he or she does out of duty, just something that has to be done.

Readers or no readers, I'll keep pouring out my thoughts into the unknown. Mostly no one's arguing against me. If you see it from the bright side it's always nice to get the last word.

Monday, February 18, 2008

In defense of the altoholists

They jump from tussock to tussock, impatiently, never satisfied with what they already have. I'm speaking about the altoholists, who time after time start new alts, desert them (at least for a while), and start it all over again, rather than spending all their game time on one character.

The concept of "altoholist" has something prerogative in it. It suggests that those people can't control themselves. They let themselves be led by their alt lusts, they don't torture themselves in a Lutherian way, but rather they play out of mood and what's fun for the time being, how awful!

No, let's instead look at those people who with blood, sweat and tears, concentrated grinding and an endless amount of wipe feasts slowly build up their main character! Those kind of players always get the admiration of the audience, when you when thinking closly about it should wonder if they shouldn't rather be pitied. Dedicated - or completely insane? That's the question.
We all know how much of work there's behind every well geared toon. Especially if the figure has some crafted pieces, maybe a spellfire set, where the very thought about the amounts of mats that are required make any normal person turn pale. What is really motivating you to stand like frozen at Elemental Plateau, throwing ice bolts on fire elements popping up on the same place, over and over again, hour after hour, only disrupted now and then by a little crash into another player, doing the same thing?

The urge of perfection evidently is strong. But also the longing to see new content, to find out what kind of imaginative monsters Blizzard have invented in the next undone instance, instances you can't enter unless you have that insanity-related gear. The fact that the monster to 95 percent resembles to a monster in another instance doesn't matter. After all it's a new monster! And if it will cost you days, evenings, nights of grinding or for that matter running in BG to collect honour points for a missed gear slot - well then you're perfectly willing to pay the prize.
Of course the altoholists seem a bit irresponsible in comparison. But thinking about it closer - is it really fair? Aren't things just the opposite.

I'm thinking about my own behaviour. I've never been able to pull up any alt. You have to consider me a main hugger. It's Larisa all the way, and there's always another project around the corner to develop her further. It sounds good in one way, but you could easily turn it around and see this as examples of laziness and comfort.

During the year I've played her, I've after all - though I'm far from capped when it comes to knowledge - learned a few things about mages. By reading forums, asking other players and trying things for myself, I've found out what kind of talent build that suits me, what stat's I should be looking for. I know pretty well which gems I want in my slots. I've found the addons to support my playing and macros which make my daily living in the game a bit easier. I've got control of my spell rotations and know (at least in theory, sometimes I tend to be too optimistic I must admit) how to stay close under the aggro limit, to make maximal damage without stealing the mob from the tank. To put it short: I've got the picture pretty clear.

To pull up a character form another class would be a huge step. Of course I know a bit about the abilities of other classes, whatever I need to know for us to be able to cooperate in a group. But to take the step from standing in a distance throwing spells to like a tank stand close to the mobs, deliberately building aggro... that step is gigantic. Not to speak of complicated classes like paladins and shamans. I shiver at the bare thought of understanding and keeping track of all the strange buffs and totems. It would be like starting the whole game over again, to start out the huge curve of learning.

And how on earth could I motivate myself to kill first ten ordinary tigers and then ten a little tougher tigers and then ten weak panthers, followed by ten mean panthers in STV? I hesitate to do it a second time, but just think about the altoholists, doing it for the seventh or eighth time! Speaking of endurance!

The altoholists I've met are just the opposite of lazy. They've got a much broader knowledge of the game than main huggers like me have. Maybe they haven't reached so far when it comes to end game if they've levelled up several chars at the same time. But when they actually come there, they know everything about the different classes and are absolutely amazing to have in a group.

For guild purposes they're a big asset, being som flexible. Oh, we needed a healer today, but we've got a surplus of dps? No probs, I'll switch char, problem solved.

To all of you altoholists out there I just want to say: you're doing a brilliant job! Without any fear you throw yourselves into the game, exploring all the different perspectives whithout getting trapped into one single class. That takes true dedication and is worth at least as much of admiration as any main char decked out in epics.

You deserve our respect!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The art of going to bed

Have you got any habit when you're logging out from the game for the night? Where is you're character going to bed? The question was put from one of the blogging colleagues at WOW Insider and it made me start thinking. How am I doing myself?

I think it's varied during the year that I've been playing. While levelling up, of course I was careful always logging out in an inn. Sometimes it could be in a major town, being a mage I've got the privilege being able to teleport, but mostly I stayed in the faraway corner of the world where I was for the time being. If you've once dragged yourself the whole way to Tanaris you're not very keen on doing the journey again if you don't need to. In those days I also used to give Larisa a nice bed to sleep in. If sleeping is what you're going to do, well do it. She went up to the second floor, putting her body into the oversized bed like a little Goldie lock on visit to the bears. Close your eyes, start snoring - log out.

It took me quite a while before I could accept that Larisa actually wasn't visible to any other player when I wasn't online. Suddenly a huge muscle package, a dwarf or - oh horrible thought - a human warrior - could come and just throw himself out on the bed, half and half suffocating my little gnome, sleeping every so innocently, though invisible. Sometimes I happened to log in exactly in the same time as another player and had a terrible wakeup, squeezed under a big heap of meat. Yak.

As time has passed, after dinging 70, another pattern has developped, which I probably share with many other players. I usually log out in Stormwind. For a long time I kept the habit of logging out in an Inn, so I always went to the closest one, by the fountain, sitting down on a chair. Nowadays I care less and less and usually desert Larisa somewhere in the street, strategically placed between the places I usually visit - the bank, AH, the reagents shop and the repair place. She's standing up, she doesn't get any sleep emote, I even don't let her sit down, the poor little creature.

Why Stormwind and not in the middle of the terrain? Now as rested XP doesn't matter anymore, I could as well leave Azeroth standing on a stone in Netherstorm, as being in the capital. It's a relevant question to ask. And I have to admit that Stormwind is the worst place to be in when it comes to beggars, spammers and people who are crazy and disturbing in general, but nevertheless, I like keeping everything necessary in such a close distance. And I happen to find my way there pretty well, in contrast to Ironforge and Darnassus, where I on this very day have to ask guardians for the way to different places. Standing in Stormwind I can easily make the errands I need to do next time I log in. Maybe I have to bring some special thing from AH to the adventures of the day, maybe I need something in the bank. Everything is there, in the distance of an arm length.

Another habit of mine is to always, always get Larisa back to shape after the adventures of the night. You just can't go asleep without being 100 percent repaired imo. It's just like brushing your teeth. It will disturb your night sleep unless you do something about it. Reagents have to be replaced as well. It doesn't matter how many hours the raid is overdue or how fast the time is ticking down before it's time to go to work. I simply have to keep ten runes of each sort for teleport and portals and 40 arcane powder for int buff and food. If possible I want to replace what I've used by healing and mana potions as well, so they're safe in the bag next time I'll log on.

If I know I'm about to raid Karazhan the very next day I'll let go of the Stormwind concept and head for Dead Wing Pass. Just to be sure in case I'll be late.

Be ready. Always. That's my motto when it comes to logging out. I never know what pleasures will be waiting for me next time Larisa logs on. Maybe there'll come a whisper from someone who's up for some fun. And then I prefer if I don't have to say: "OK, I only need to....". I want to call out: Yes, of course! OMW!".

The hardest thing about going to bed is of course to tear yourself away from the game, realizing it's really time to leave it. To let go of that funny conversation in the guild chat, to stop window shopping at AH, to understand that midnight and the hours after hardly is the right time of the day to arrange your bags in a new way or to move around the spells on the action bars.

Maybe the best way to let go is to see the logging out as the first step on the road to the adventures that are lying ahead. When I log out I don't only end the game night - I'm also building the ground, appointing the starting point for my visit in Azeroth.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ode to the trinket

It took quite a while before I figured out what a trinket is. A kind of fun gadget you could put on yourself with the most varying effects.

Exactly how it looked it was hard to know - as known it doesn't show on your char. Else I wouldn't have minded to have my Icon of the Silver Crescent (equip: + 43 dmg, use +155 dmg i 20 sek) around my neck. It would look good - on Larisa in the game as well as in real life.
(This fact, that not even the ordinary necks will show anywhere else but in Armory is one of the things that annoy me. They can't show necklaces, but shoulders turn up at any size, which most of the time just look ridiculous on my little gnome girl. I can understand that huge shoulders are quite right for some other classes, like a human warrior. But on a gnome... come on! Considering the intelligence it's just a waste. We don't need to look like that, knowing we're superior in any other aspect)

End of distraction and back to my ode to the trinket. According to the dictionary it means "cheap thing for decoration, cheap bijouterie". Generally it seems to be something you hang upon yourself. Tingeltangel. And that's what make them so charming, isn't it. You could get just about anything with your trinket.

Of course there are those that have pretty predictable Like one of my present trinkets, Xi'ri's gift , which simply gives some extra spell crits and spelldamage. It's convenient, but hardly imaginative. But exept for them, there are loads of models that are more fun. I probably only know about a few of them.

My personal favourite trinket throughout the whole game I got somewhere right above level 40, and I carried it for a long time in the game, probably even in Outlands. What kind of thing will last that long? Naturally, my Nifty Stopwatch (use: increases speed run with 40 percent for 10 sec), which I got in Badlands by completing a questchain starting here. Oh, how many awkward situations that watch has saved me from! As a mage you can blink away, but sometimes blink is on cooldown or you simply have to deal with a bunch of fast mobs, joining as you run, and you have to stretch out your steps a bit further. One click on the trinket - and suddenly you have that little lead you needed. Simply a perfect thing to wear for a little levelling cloth dressed gnome - in PvE as well as in PvP.

It takes some thinking to come to the conclusion what trinkets to wear for the moment and what you should carry around in your bags just to stay on the safe side, to swap in if needed. Like Violet Badge, which gives a decent stamina boost and 45 arcane resistance. It's perfect to put on, fighting Aran, but rather useless when normally grinding or questing. On an average I remember to put it on every second time it would have been useful to me.

Trinkets come and go. I'll never forget how I by dying and releasing at the wrong time missed to loot Shade of Eranikus in Sunken Temple, thereby missing the trinket Chained Essance of Eranikus, which makes you spread some kind of poisonous cloud around you (50 nature dmg every 5th sec for 45 sec). Oh, how annoying, especially since I saw the other party members completing the quest, getting their trinkets! I just couldn't get it out of my head until I had returned to the place of the crime, killed the dragon once again, this time surviving, so I could put my hands on it. Unfortunately I was a few levels to high by then, or at least I had gotten another better trinket, so that trophy went straight away to the bank, where I kept it for a long time as some kind of souvenir, until it was destroyed in a clearing.

For a long time I wanted Power Infused Mushroom (gives 200 mana when you kill a target which gives xp or honor), which is a quest reward for doing the end boss in Underbog. Which I'm sad to say I've never had the opportunity to do. Maybe it will end up like the poison thing from Eranikus - make it's way into the bank slot when I eventually will get it. I still have the quest in my log.

We all make wish lists in the game from time to time. The wishings should have the right amount of challenge - be within reach but only if you stretch yourself and are a bit lucky. Of course I could dream of the T6 set, but what's the point when I've only got two pieces of T4. It seems pointless.

That's why my wish list right now is topped by nothing lesser than... a trinket! To be more specific a little - or rather quite large, after all it's a huge monster we're dealing with - eye, Quagmirrans eye. I certainly could use a bit more of spellhaste rating.

Another goodie is the Hex shrunken head (with the same stats as my Silver Icon, just a bit more of it), but since it comes from one of the harder bosses in Zul Aman, my current chances to get it seem pretty small.

And so I keep dreaming, losing myself into the land of the trinkets in the enourmous database of Wowhead. Sometimes I laugh when I think the game developers have been cleaver. There's something in the trinket concept which I think inspire to mischief. They can let go of their imagination. To the joy for all of us who are trinket fans.

Long live the trinket!

PS 17 feb 2008: Horray, another trinket is put to my collection! Tonight The Black Stalker fell (in heroic mode) and the mushroom is mine! Probably I won't use it, but still. It will stay in the bank slot, reminding me that sometimes you need patience. Suddenly the quest that seemed to have a permanent spot in your quest log will be completed. Never give up!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Meetings to remember

In my everyday life I'm a person with a constant bad memory. I often find it hard to keep track of when, where and how I met people for the first time. Happenings a few years back in time will fade away quickly - and I notice that my ability to remember things is strongly connected to how well documented they are. To put it short: if it's caught in a picture I'll remember it, but mainly what's in the photo. If it's not it's gone.

Because of that it's unexpected and a bit fascinating how well I can remember happenings and meetings in the game which have resulted in friendships I hadn't thought about. And I don't have to take a single screenshot - the picture is there anyway, very clear.

Like when I ran into Wolfpally as I was following James levelling guide, having a lonely and hopeless fight against the harpyas in Thousand needles. One damned level should be grinded this way, until they had dropped 50 brilliant feathers, which would be traded for a 14 slot bag at Darkmoon fair. What a pain it was! Woulfie was following the same guide and we whispered a little. Suddenly we had became friends, and we still are, though our paths normally never cross in the game (he being an altoholic, myself being more into raiding.)

Another meeting I'll never forget was when I met Natherme, a friendship that was initiated by her standing shouting at me, mad and annoyed with me, since I after completing Arcatraz in a PUG rolled and won Lamp of peaceful radiance, an offhand she had been chasing for long herself. I was wearing a two hand staff and she thought I should have passed. That's the first and only time I've been called ninja in an instance and I took it hard. But - after some mail conversation in game - we had sorted it out, and also developed a friendship bond, which we probably never would have done unless that lamp had dropped. Things happen.

A third and last memory - which makes me a bit sad - is from Hinterlands. Imagine that altar you need to get up on if you want the mallot for ZF. I was standing beneath it, hiding for the trolls behind a bush. They seemed to aggro at the slightest little movement. I had managed to sneak up there, but now I couldn't move back or forward. To put it shortly: I was a very anxious little gnome, not knowing what to do, so I called for help in general to see if there was someone else around. And behold! Suddenly I got an answer on my SOS from a hunter - Derisal. Together we managed to make a bulls run up to the altar and thus managing at least one part of the quest chain. But the mallot we finally agreed that we could live without. Unfortunately we couldn't keep questing since his little baby had woken up. Pretty typical for him, as it would turn out. We shared each others company from level 60 and for a while, he playing on a paladin at the same level as me. Pala and mage - you can hardly imagine a better combo. He tanked - I spanked - and if needed he could throw a heal on me. We were surprised of how good we performed together and we soon started to call ourselves "The Unbeatable Duo". Our conditions were a bit special - suddenly in the middle of a difficult "take down an elite"-quest he would have to rush off, to change diapers, assist his girlfriend when breast feeding or something else. But unlike many other players I was understanding, I was happy about the short periods we could get together, since we cooperated so well. We were an unlikely couple - he being a rock musician, a few years above 20, me being more of a ... well ... mature lady. But it worked.

The story has a sad ending, I'm sorry to say. One day I had got a letter in the game. Bad News was the title of it and I became worried. Yes, he had left the game, switching to Lord of the Ring, in order to play with his RL friends. He sent me the gold he had, at least 1 500, which later became my flying mount and a few other things. But I didn't care about that. I cried, knowing I had lost a good friend. Even this day the letter is still in my bank, as a souvenir to remember all the fun we had.

Memories from magic meetings. So much more valuable and long lasting than the best epic drop you could ever think of. Gear comes and goes, it will soon be switched, after all it's just pixels and files on a server. But the fun moments I've had with my game friends - they'll always be there somewhere in my own memory bank, long after WoW has been replaced by some other game.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A trip into a lost world

There's something sad about old, forgotten raid instances. They lay there desolated, but still all undamaged under the layer of dust. It's a little like in the movies when you return to an old castle that has been put into a moth bag. Furniture and crystal lamps have been covered in white sheets to protect them. A flash of light brakes through when the curtains are withdrawn, dust is everywhere in the air and suddenly the main character remembers the magic summer when life was put at its edge 30 years ago... It could have been yesterday...

I had exactly that feeling when I for the first time entered the raid instance Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj. I certainly had never ever put my foot there before, so the parallel isn't perfect, I must admit. But we had persons in our company who had spent many evenings in there, sighing at the memories of the former fights, with nostalgic voices. Once upon a time this was really really HARD. Deeds of heroism had been performed in there, even though it was a bit hard to really understand it for a bunch of level 70s, dressed up to their teeth in Kara gear.

Personally I didn't have that bittersweet taste in my mouth, memories from wipe feasts which had turned into triumphs, the longing for old raiding friends who had chosen another path. For me I most of all enjoyed getting a little new content - to see bosses I hadn't seen, to experience pulls, which definitely were a bit different from the ones in Karazhan, which I start to remember in the middle of my night sleep. And it was wonderful to be able to ride outdoors, a difference from the corridors of Karazhan or Gruul, which feel kind of narrow. Here there was plenty of fresh air!

I entered a whole new little world, which carefully had been sculptured by the developers at Blizzard. Bosses giving us some surprises... an impressive air trip from the dwindling heights of a huge bridge, a giant creature which should be pulled around, carefully positioned above a giant egg, which then should be broken in the right moment. Suddenly I became aware of a buzzing sound, where did it come from? "Just look up", the others told me, and there, against a burning red night sky, I saw giant bees hovering in the air, frightening alike real life bees in their movement pattern. What kind of giant wall was it over there - a water fall? No, of course not, a sand fall since we were in the middle of the desert ruins, surrounded by a mix of giant insects and bosses which looked as if they had stepped right out of the wall paintings in an Egyptian pyramid.

There was plenty of loot, blue and purple. Things which once upon a time would have made you wild, but now was distributed by greed rolls, without any further thought. Useless. And meanwhile you could see your reputation grow, with obscure little groups I've never heard of and never will have anything to do with in the future, but who once upon a time had been very important.

I can't help it, but I feel a bit sad, watching all this wasted creativity, all those fantasies, laying there unused, unplayed, forgotten. Even if they of course still live in the memories of those of you who once experienced those instances for real.

The thought strikes me: is this how things will turn out with the raid instances which I now experience at the right level? The day the expansion hits we'll all put our last foot in Karazhan, Zul Aman, Gruul, SSC and whatever it is for a long time. Yes, probably. There will come new players, focusing on levelling from 1-80, without ever putting a foot into the raid instances in Outlands, players who will stare at me like an old fossil, not understanding what I'm talking about when I mumble about how fun it was to dance in a ring around Aran or the feeling of taking down the Prince for the first time. The dust layer will be several decimetres thick.

Myself, I'll definitely one day want to make an outing to the passed, to Black Temple, even after I've started the ride up to 80. I'll come back to Shadowmoon Valley, pull off the sheets, pull away the curtains and see all those things I missed. It doesn't matter if it gives honor or loot by then.

The fantasies are still there, as magnificent as they were when they were once created.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time for romance

Valentines day is getting closer. I remember last year, when I recently had started playing. To begin with I didn't understand anything from it. Why on earth had the poor little woman, standing freezing in that layer - the most ascetic inn in Azeroth - in Westfall suddenly a huge intensively pink heart above her head? Soon enough I got the hang of it and began to appreciate those little packages with buffing chocolate that you could get if you were lucky when showing love to the NPC:s. But I was way to lonely and shy to dare to exchange rings with any other player.

It was at Valentine that it dawned upon me that things happened in the game throughout the year. That time didn't stand still even here, that days came and passed. I was completely fascinated, a fascination which remains this very day.

I was equally amazed another day, when suddenly tent were raised on a meadow outside of Stormwind. They were building and fixing, it took some time to do it, and my curiosity grew - I went there every now and then to see what would become of it and - suddenly there it was, ready to open, The Darkmoon Fair. I went around, speaking to all kinds of strange sellers and artists and didn't understand much of it. The items they asked for I had no idea of how to get.

But I was enchanted!

Being a curious little gnome I couldn't refrain from looking and touching everything. I remember clicking some strange object, something which was immediately punished when I suddenly was stuck in some kind of trap. Oh, I was so frustrated, being completely unable to get loose! I tried in vain my escape artist spell until it eventually wore off by itself. Still this very day I haven't understood what happened.

The special arrangements really add an extra flavour to the game, especially since they from what I've seen change a bit from year to year. Honestly I must admit that I don't do every quest that is offered. I still haven't completed the moon festival. And I've only got one of the cute little pets you can get at the be-kind-to-parentless-kids-event. Often there are other things that catch my attention - instances or, simply the urge to collect gold.

But the very knowledge that those special arrangements exist - a possibility to be a bit childish when I get some time over - makes me happy. And I'm evenly happy about the colourful, silly decorations, which make me feel like I'm invited to a party.

Valentines Day is awaiting us. Of course I'll get some nice chocolate, perfume bottles and romantic picnic baskets, giving myself a break in the monster killing. After all it's only one time every year we get the chance.

Monday, February 11, 2008

To open the Christmas gift on beforehand

Well, now they have set loose the 2.4 patch at PTR and all of the forums and news pages I read, like Wowinsider, are filled with informations and discussions about what to expect. If I've understood it right you only need to download a client to your PC, make a copy of your char and then go there, starting to look around. To explore the Sunwell island today.

And I must admit I'm a bit curious. I read the blue threads in the WoW forums, written by Blizzard employees, telling us a bit about what's to come. Good nes are for instance some kind of portal to Caverns of Time, saving us the seemingly endless trip to Tanaris every time we want to run Black Morass or Durnhold. Another happy piece of news is that there will be new stuff available to buy for Badges of Justice, something which is very welcome after running Karazhan ever so many times.

Less necessary, from my point of view, is that you no longer can bring more than four stacks of mana bisquits. I think the reason for this is that you want to avoid ninja situations at BG. The problem is that you sometimes want to take some cookies for someone coming late for a raid. And they you would rather have six or seven stacks than letting the table be wasted.
This kind of information is as much as I need to satisfy my curiosity. It helps me to plan my playing in the future, I now know for instance that I can keep collecting badges, rather than buying an item which isn't such a big upgrade, just to spend them on anything.

But that is as much as I need. My before hand looking doesn't go any further. And to be honest I can't quite understand what makes others to enter the test realms and play their way through all of the new content.

Well, there is one thing I can understand. If you're an ambitious raiding guild, fighting with other guilds to be number one on the server. In that case it could obviously be smart to try out strategies on the PTR, so you're ready when the patch arrives for real, and seriously can be a competitor when it comes to be server first on the new boss kills.

Another reason could be if you're really crazy about theorycrafting and want to tune your spec and favourit spells, make tests and compare, which you can do at PTR without having to pay a fortune to change your talents.

But for us ordinary people, who don't see the game as a race, but as entertainment and relaxing.... Who aren't obsessed by getting the very last percent of dps out of our chars.. What's the point?

I can't help thinking about children waiting for Christmas Day, finally opening their gifts. They keep begging, asking thinking, doing anything they can to know what's in the boxes in advance. But deep in their hearts they don't want to know. Because it is kind of disappointing when the wrap is so thin that you can see through it what's inside. When the last Donald Duck movie (a Swedish tradition - about 80 percent of all Swedish families watch Disney Cartoons on Christmas Eve) is ended and you can throw yourself to the gifts, the whole moment of thrill and excitement is gone. In best case you get a "yes" or maybe a "well...". If you compare it to the YES!!! which you feel about a package that contained something you didn't expect.

When it comes to me I'll try to keep away from the candy that is coming soon. We'll be able to taste it long enough once it comes. Because no one knows for sure how long we then will have to wait for the expansion.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recruiting according to the spread-the-word-method

As you all know there are many kinds of guilds. Everything from a bunch of RL friends who most of all see the game as a kind of MSN with colour and sound effects - to guilds which with military discipline and the uttermost precision go into the game as into a war battle. Resistance is futile, as the Borg always say in Star Trek. Feelings are irrelevant, it's the result that counts.

But no matter if the guild is small or big, social or achievement oriented, no matter if it's playing in the bottom league or in the national team, I think most guilds have one thing in common: they need to have some kind of recruiting. No matter how fascinating this game is, how wonderful guild you create, there will always be a certain amount of leakage from a guild. Careers, child births and other things can make the most enthusiastic player put their character to rest. Or you're suddenly grabbed by an irresistible urge to play with your best friend on another server, or to finally have a look at that mysterious horde side. To put it short: there is an outflow and if you don't replace it it will become like an hour glass. Eventually the sand will run out. Not over a night, but little by little.

If there´s something that really makes the differences between all sorts of guilds clear, it's in the recruitment process. Here are a few of the methods I've encountered along my way in Azeroth:

"We ninja-invite-everyone-we-see-recruitment"
A method mainly performed by 12 year olds, fooling around in Goldshire and other starting zones. Without even a whisper they send invites to innocent newbies, who're just taking their first confused steps in the game. The odds are 50 to 50 that they'll happen to click "yes" without understanding what they've done. And to get out of that guild isn't so easy if you don't know how to do it. As you probably understand I'm speaking out of my own experience. When I was like level 3 or something I happened to say yes to such an invite. But as many others I hadn't got a clue about how to leave the guild. To right-click on my name in the guildlist isn't exactly the first thing you come to think of. I begged and begged that little 12 year old monster GM to kick me out of the guild. It took me a week of whispers and letters until he agreed and let me go. I've never quite understood the purpose of that kind of recruiting and those guilds. The only motive I can see is that they've made some kind of bet between friends, who can lure most newbies into a guild in the shortest time.

We've all seen the guilds filling the general chat marketing their often newly started "nice" guild which "accepts all players" and "soon will start raiding" (believe it or not...) Their main reason why you should joint hem seems to be that they have a "cool tabard". It's beyond my understanding how this has become a selling point. Maybe it's a bit like pizza recipies. When you start a pizza restaurant you look what names and ingredients the your competitors have. Why change a winning concept? If the other guild say "we have a cool tabard" we should do it as well, those guilds seem to think. The we-have-a-tabard-guilds are clearly connected to the Ninja-recruiters. Probably you'll find the 15 year old big brother to the 12 year old GM of the Ninjas here.

Then there are guilds which recruit actively but focus on having a form on their website, marketing it in some web forums, rather than spamming the general chat. Those guilds may be social, but many are quite raid oriented, more or less hard to please, depending on how far they've come in progression. The recruitment department of the websites of those guilds is often filled with long wishing lists and questionnaires where the applicants are asked thoroughly about their gear, experience, attunments and how much they intend to play. Often there are a few attitude questions too, where the answers they expect are quite obvious - you must show your willingness to wipe with a smile on your lips and to always come to the raid fully prepared, your bag teaming with pots and buff food. The idea about putting those questions probably isn't to get to know the player better, but rather to state an example, to show what you expect from your raiders and try to scare those who probably wouldn't live up to the standards.

"The spread-the-word-method" or "We-live-on our reputation-recruitment"
Now I want to introduce and advocate another form of recruitment, which we perform in the guild I belong to. Actually I don't know if the proper word is recruiting, since it's quite a passive thing, making you think about how they run Rotary and other half secret society, which flourish and slowly renew without having to run huge marketing campaigns.

Our guild hasn't got a single ad, not in chats, nor in forums. We're rather a bit hard to find. Not so that we're secret, but we believe in growing slowly. New members come, but those are people who have found us out of their own interest. Sometimes they are relatives or RL friends, sometimes it's people we've met in the game and got to know when doing instances or questing.

We don't have any form and we're completely uninterested in armory links or CV of downed bosses. But that doesn't mean we don't have any demands. We just watch the person behind the character. Everyone have to pass at least a week as a trial member, a period when we ask ourselves: is this really a person who fits into this guild? Is this someone we want to spend a lot of time with, whether in instances or just in the guild chat or on the TS server, where we're hanging around bantering. You may hav full epic gear, but if you're an unpleasant person you just don't get a spot in our guild, it's as simple as that.

And what's the point in this kind of almost anti- recruiting? Don't we risk to miss out players who could have helped the guild to progress further and faster? Well, maybe. But by growing slowly and being a bit picky we also create stability. In spite of forms and demands on new members, how often don't you hear about huge raiding guilds that break down overnight, start over again like a Phoenix out of the ashes, in order to break down another time a short while later, now just shattering into small pieces, lost and gone for ever? Guilds are born and die faster than a pig can blink, as they say in a Swedish children book.

By just accepting a single new player at a time we get the opportunity to adjust to each other - the guild and the newly recruited. The new blood is incorporated, but we can still keep the soul and spirit of the guild.

Spread-the-word-recruitment. A method I think works in the long run.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Venturing the World of Macros

Macro. It sounds really as something special when you're a newbie. When I heard about it for the first time, after a few months of playing, I realized it probably was a good thing, but I didn't see it as something that was within my reach, that really concerned me. I had all trouble in the world putting my ordinary spells on the action bars, using them wisely. To make macros - that had to be just for the pros. Another world than the one where I lived. Oh, you just had to have a look at it to get scared off. There were slashes, parentheses, semicolons, if here, if there... This was plain programming! Were you really supposed to write the code of the game, not just play it?

Time passed and I realized more and more that I did miss out something essential. I just had to read the macro discussion threads in the mage forums I usually visit. Just a simple thing like being able to eat and drink at the same time with a single keystroke or click... That would save me one slot on my bars, which were more and more crowded. Not to speak of how it would minimize the clicking. Still I felt a resistance, which I still have. When I log into the game I do it in order to play. Not to sit around for hours, fixing all kinds of settings.

Finally it was the Curator in Karazhan who actually forced me to take the step and start making macros. For those of you who never have met him, I can tell you he's got a specialty: he throws out little nasty flares which hurt. Hurt a lot. And the key to win is to get them down instantly. Without using a macro which helps you targeting them as soon as they appear, it will be quite hard. At least for me, being crappy at catching targets that are moving. Of course you can use the tab key, but it will still take longer than if you have a macro. So my very first macro was:

/target astral flare

To create it was quite self instructing, you do it by pressing Esc, then chosing Macro and finally New. Give the macro a name, chose a symbol for it, and then write it down. Pull the symbol to your action bar. Done! If you don't want to mouse click it you can do as I do: bind the symbol to a certain key. You do that by Keybindings, which you also reach by Esc. In my case it was the Swedish letter "ö", which happened to be free. So every time I go visiting the Curator, I spam "ö" and by that I win several seconds for each flare that is coming flying towards me. I don't have to mess around with my mouse anymore; I can go straight for the flares.

Soon after that the flare macro was followed up with a similar "target chain"-macro. At Illhoof, another of the inhabitants of Karazhan, who I pay regular visits to, you need to quickly get rid of some chains, which now and then catch someone in the raid and cause a lot of trouble. A similar macro, but a different target.

The success of the target macro made me more confident. Now I've got a little macro collection, which is still growing. For instance I've got one macro which enables me to throw the new, nice quicker-casting-spell Icy Veins as well as using my trinkets as soon as the cooldown is down. And I don't even have to think about it, since I've tied them to my main spell fireball, which I cast 90 percent of the time in a boss fight (Thanks to my blog friend Consentire who put me on the track!).

I've got another macro which stops the spell I'm about to throw and immediately casts counterspell. It's a huge improvement, since you're often in a situation where you want to cast it instantly.

A favourite macro of mine is my sheep macro. It enables me to sheep a mob, then attack another one, and whenever needed I can resheep the first monster with one key stroke, without having to shift target. I simply sheep it nice and easy by pressing the 8 key, which has been my sheep bottom ever since the start, and then keep nuking the monster I was nuking. It looks like this:

/clearfocus [target=focus,dead] /clearfocus [target=focus,noexists] /focus [target=focus,noexists] target /clearfocus [button:2] /clearfocus [target=focus, noharm] /cast [target=focus,exists] polymorph

Macros can also be very simple, small things that make your everyday life in Azeroth a bit easier. My latest addition was a small macro, which opens the cooking book at a left click and make a fire at a right click (I like to sit by a cosy fire warming myself sometimes when there's waiting time). Now I'm thinking about adding another line so that a click on the middle bottom will make me cook blackened basilisk, which is what I cook in nine cases out of ten. And all of this will then just take one single slot on my actionbar.

I still find the macro language quite hard to understand. There are some commandos I don't quite understand. But I don't have to! It's a bit like if you're collecting stickers. You don't have to invent all of them by yourself - you can just as well trade them with others. If I get your favourite macro, you'll get mine! There are plenty of websites and collections that you can copy from to your own macro collection. (Just one warning: don't try to write it down manually, one single space too much or a dot in the wrong place will destroy the whole macro.) Then you don't have to think so much about how it comes that this text combination will have certain effects - what's important is that it works!

As time has passed I've realized that I was all wrong in my view about macros. They're not just something for the pros to bother about. On the contrary, newcomers probably are the one who would benefit most from getting a few macros. They're just perfect for us who are fumbling with the bottoms and the mouse, us who are a bit slow, find it hard to find and shift targets, who want to have everything easily available on the screen and therefore are short of space. The professional players - they'll manage anyway, with or without macros.

So if you're standing there hesitating like I did - stop doing that! Be brave enough to take the step into the macro world. You won't regret it.