Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009 - Things we saw in-game

We're back for the continuation of The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009. Yesterday we announced the instance awards. Now it's time to ponder upon some other stuff we encountered as we were playing the game. For those of you who are wondering about the community related categories - don't worry, I'll come to those in the next post in this series.

The fanfare is played once again, let's get started with the awards!

1. Silliest gold sink

Mammoths, mounts, Dalaran rings ("since you can find better nearly everywhere else"), monocle, expensive pets.

Healer Trek argues well for Haris Pilton's Gigantique bag: "For 1200 gold, I can get a 22 slot bag. Oh wait, I can buy glacial bags (22-slots) off the auction house from tailors for 400-500 gold. But since Haris Pilton won this category 2008 I've decided that she's out of the competition this year."

Falling leaves and wings had a candidate of her own:

"When I really thought about the silliest thing I spent gold on it was buying frostweave so I could get the 500 bandage achievement. I *never* use them on Beru, being a healer. I think I’ve got the same stack of 20 that I had when I was leveling! So, I’d definitely say that buying over priced cloth for a silly achievement is, well, silly!"

Silly indeed, I'm all with you.

The vast majority seems to be going for the choppers. However I don't find the motivations entirely convincing. Several of the ones calling it silly will at the same time declare their love for it:

"I bought one just to have it, use it for boosting my bf's alts and when we're heading to ZG or something and he wants to slack". Well, isn't that a good reason to have them, for enjoyment with a good friend?"

"The Mechano-hog for sure – I think these still sell on Barthilas for approximately 15k gold. Though who wouldn’t want a cool in-game motor bike? What better way to impress the ladies? Boys and their toys. After all there’s no cooler way to get around Ironforge."

I can't but agree with Spinksville there:

"But people have so much fun with the expensive motorbike and mammoth mount (where fun may or may not involve accidental boss pulls) that I struggle to see those as being sillier than anything else in the game."

The winner is: The Dun Niffelem Mammoths!

Motivation: I've never understood the idea about expensive mammoths that don't carry vendors. The ones you can get for shards in Wintergrasp is one thing. They're ugly and useless, but you can't really claim they are a gold sink. But the ones you buy for gold, getting nothing but an achievement.... They're plain silly.

Miss Medicina put it best: "The Dun Niffelem mammoths. They don't do anything interesting except keep you from getting into the bank in Stormwind, and block the flight masters so that others will report you."

2. Biggest addition to the game

Nominated: This category was a battle between two giants. Surely there were some nominations for turkey pets, BoA items and Ulduar, and a couple for achievements, but since achievements won this category last year, it's out of the picture.

The community split their votes between dual spec and the new Dungeon Finder system.

Here are a couple of few voices:

Pro Dungeon finder:

"no longer will you have to wait very long to run a random instance, and that's how this system should work. The interface is smooth, has great rewards, and works just like battlegrounds, the most successful PvP aspect of the game. LFG affects every level too, while dual spec is not really useful until Outland level. So LFG gets it by a hair over dual spec."

"The new dungeon tool is probably the most far reaching addition to the game. It has been a game changer, and finally many more people can experience the levelling game as it was originally designed. I’m sure the core team intended everyone to intersperse instances with questing — and now they can. And we are all reminded that it’s actually a pretty good game. I am fascinated to see where this is all going to lead. What effect will it really have on players to keep being thrown in with uber-geared raid bods who are in a desperate hurry? What happens when newer players ‘learn’ from more experienced ones that pulling everything in sight is what the pros do?"

Pro Dual Spec:

"It provided huge flexibility at all levels of the game, and was an extremely valuable asset."

"It might not have been as exciting for the full DPS classes, but for the healers and tanks, it allowed us to do a little more solo content!"

The winner is: Dual spec!

Motivation: While I agree that the new LFG system is fascinating - and possibly game changing - it was launched very late in the year. It's too early to see how the long term effects will be. When the initial enthusiasm is gone and the min-maxers have gotten all the frost emblems they need and we've run even the new instances ad nausea, what will there be left - apart from possibly a increasing ignore list and decreasing friend list? I don't say it's bad. I just don't quite know yet. If it turns out well, it will be one of the candidates for the title 2010, right?

Because of this, the winner this year will be dual spec. This has indeed changed the game. Even if hybrid classes benefit most directly, I think the increased flexibility is useful for everyone. We all know how painful it is to try to find groups and constantly run into the wall of lack of healers and tanks. Dualspec makes the life of healers and tanks a bit easier, and hopefully they'll be willing to keep tanking and healing rather than rolling another dps toon.

3. Best quest

Nominated: Oh, you should rather say: which quest isn't nominated? The abundance of suggestions mirrors the abundance of high quality quests in WoW of today (the kill-ten-rats-model is starting to become something mostly historical), and that players are looking for very different things in the game. Many of the nominations have been for questlines rather than for single quests, and that's OK too.

Here's a few of the suggestions: Oh Noes the Tadpoles, the Icecrown Citadel series "These were really engaging and interesting", the Quel'Delar series, "the questline to discover Bronzebeard is not as dead as we thought", Battle of Citadel/Threat from above, the jousting quest to defeat the Black Knight, Escaping the Mist in Borean Tundra and The Betrayal quest line in Zul' Drak.

There are several votes for the Wrathgate questline and The Battle for Undercity. However it won 2008. Someone suggested the Might of Kalimdor, but that isn't even TBC, it comes from vanilla WoW.

Syrana advocates the quest line starting with A Tale of Valor, where you search for Crusader Bridenbrad and eventually his spirit is saved by the naaru rather than him turning into a scourge. "It's very touching, especially since it was written to commemorate a Blizzard employee's brother who played WoW and died from cancer."

Spinksville and quite a few other commenters went for the Sons of Hodir questline "because the Drakkensryd is just that cool. It doesn’t get any more cinematic than flying in a crazy race on protodrakes, and jumping through the air from drake to drake so that you can unseat their riders. For me it marks why WoW questing is so fun at its best in the new expansion, and it’s because you can experience the crazy dragon rides, cut scenes, and phasing rather than being faced with walls of text."

The winner is... The Quel'delar chain.

Motivation: This was really a tough call. Not only were there many very good candidates - I also didn't quite know how to regard the quests that many players completed already in November-December 2008. I rewarded Wrathgate last year, would it make sense to reward the Sons of Hodir chain this year then? Finally I made my decision I wanted the quests to have become available in 2009. Suddenly the candidates were much fewer. But it still wasn't easy. For one thing: I haven't done the Quel'delar chain myself. It requires a Battered Hilt, and we all know the drop rate for that one. I've seen it drop once in a pug, but that's as close as I have gotten. Can I possibly reward a quest I haven't done myself?

However, I trust the judgment of my readers in this case. "Being able to enter the restored Sunwell raid instance and stand in front of the actual Sunwell itself is amazing.", as someone wrote.

Everything I've heard and read about it make it seem absolutely awesome. And what I find especially attractive is that it offers exclusive and epic experiences also to non-raiding players. I hope we'll see more of that in the future!

4. Ugliest tabard

Nominated: There are many ugly tabards out there, obviously. Quite a few readers want to nominate ALL tabards. Or they nominate their own guild tabard (understandable, I have yet to see a goodlooking guild tabard. I never wear my own. Ever. /blush).

Tamarind suggests the UC tabard: "it has a weeping goth on the front, for heaven's sake." Other nominated are Exodar and the Explorer."

The Competitor's tabard, carrying the Olympic circles, is definitely the ugliest tabard ever made in WoW. However it won the category last year, and doesn't belong to 2009.

But apart from those few voices, the vast majority express their hatred towards two tabards in WotLK. The first one is Wyrmrest Accord. "That tabard is just plain ugly. The colours are gross, the pattern is icky. Need I say more?"

The second one is Kirin Tor: "Seriously, you want my gigantic plate-clad studly Tauren to wear purple? What?"

The winner is...The Wyrmrest Accord tabard!

Motivation: I agree that the Kirin Tor tabard makes my eyes hurt. But I think the pattern on it, with the eye, somehow makes sense and fits well to the mysticism surrounding this faction.
The Wyrmrest tabard on the other hand looks like a tasteless souvenir bought at some sort of tourist trap, not like something you'd expect to find in the outfit of a hero and adventurer. Besides - the colors. Yellow and red - it just doesn't go at all with the Northrend setting. What were they thinking of?

5. Favorite non combat pet

Nominated: Every player seems to have his own favourite non combat pet. I guess that's the point of the wide assortment Blizzard provides us. Among the nominated are: The Pandaren Monk, Sleepy Willy, the Sen'jin Fetish, Wolvar Orphan, Core hound pup, Mr Chilly, Demon Penguin, Teldrassil Sproutling, Wolpertinger, Strand Crawler, Calico cat, Blizzard Bear, Enchanted broom, Pint-Sized Pink Pachyderm, Silver Tabby Cat, Mechanical Yeti and possibly a couple of others that I've missed.

Some of those nominated have been in the game for a long time, so they won't qualify for the 2009 prize, even though they're adorable. I've always loved Stinker, just like Miss Medicina says:

" who provided countless hours of amusement to Fuubaar and I in Naxx, while we tried to fill out our 25 man groups. I don't know why the sight of her pet Stinker chasing after my black cat and repeatedly getting his heart broken was so entertaining, come to think of it. Why are we so mean? Poor Stinker."

Now Stinker has been around since 2008, so I'm afraid he won't be on the list this year. There certainly wasn't any lack of brand new pets to choose between. I could personally think of a number of potential winners, not the least among the wonderful new Argent Tournament Pets.

I also know that many players loved the miniature KT, the pandaren monk and the new core hound dog. And I agree that they are really well crafted and awesome to look at. But since they require you to pay real money to get them, I've decided not to include them, since I'm not a fan of that phenomena. I may be conservative, but I think you should get your pets by actually playing the game.

The winner is...Onyxia whelpling!

Motivation: It's really cute and well crafted, knitting nicely to the community and the history of WoW. It also has the little "extra" I want from a pet - some emote or little prank that can to entertain me. Currently I must admit that the "takes a deep breath" sentence is rather annoying than fun - it triggers my reflexes, making me freak out, throwing myself at the nearest wall. But as time goes by and we once again turn our backs to Onyxia, I think our love for it will only increase. This one will become a classic and forever a reminder of 2009, the year of the return of Onyxia.

The End
That's all for today! We'll soon be back with the continuation of the PPI list of 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009 - The instances

Ta-daaaa! Did you hear the fanfare? You didn't? Well, I admit that we're kind of short on impressive instruments here at the inn. All I have is a tin whistle and a non-electric guitar, and they require a pretty noise free environment to make themselves heard. And that is exactly the opposite to what the inn is like right now.

Ever since I mentioned that I wanted your nominations for The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009, the discussion has been going on at the inn as well as in other places in the blogosphere. I never imagined that this little playful attempt to set up an equivalence of the Academy awards in a WoW context would attract that kind of interest.

The thanks
The fact is that I've been so overwhelmed by the response that I've been hesitating a bit on how to decide and how to present the results. There are so many good suggestions - and good motivations as well - that I can't possibly mention and quote all contributors, no matter how much I want to. I can't even link to all the blogs that have posted their own lists, since I've basically lost track on them, apart from those who posted a link to their blog posts in a comment.

All I can say is a humble: thank you. Thank you all who commented, no one mentioned, no one forgotten. Thank you Rejuvo, The Wow Perspective from an Altoholic, Spinksville, Hots & Dots , Falling leaves and wings , Miss Medicina , Christine's Blog, Healer Trek and all others who blogged about the list - I'm afraid the list is far from complete. Thank you all who wrote me e-mails. And thank you all who helped spreading the word about the list -, Sideshow and Syrana and The Rawrcast show among others.

The rules
Before announcing the result, I'd like to mention a couple of rules or guidelines that I've followed:

  1. Winners from the previous year are very unlikely to win the same class again. I don't say are "disqualified" - you'll never know if I want to make an exception at some point in the future. But I just don't think it would be fun to see Ghostcrawler winning the Blizzard employee category over and over again or Tobold being the most solid content provider among the bloggers a second time in row - no matter how much he rocks. I want to share the love a bit.
  2. You can't nominate The Pink Pigtail Inn including the staff. Or rather: you can nominate us but we won't give ourselves any awards. The jury is biased and therefore we're disqualified for the list. Period. However - of course we're really humbled by the nominations and all those hugs. Thank you!
  3. The list should somehow mirror the year of 2009. This may include some content that existed before Jan 1 2009, such as Naxx in the WotLK version. After all many players hadn't leveled high enough to see that content before this year. But for instance the hideous Olympic tabard of 2008 wouldn't compete even if it wasn't already disqualified by winning the tabard category last year. Some content will be on the verge of rather belonging to 2010. This includes The Icecrown Citadel and The Random Dugeon Tool. You'll see my verdict in those cases later on.
  4. The final decision on how the Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009 will look is taken by a one-man jury consisting of Larísa. This has not been an election where I'm counting votes and following the will of the majority. I've taken some inspiration, I've listened and often - but - but not always - agreed with what has been suggested. So if you disagree with this list it's working as intended. It's opinion and not rocket-science.

And now: the fanfare - even if it was tiny - has been played once again and it's time to announce. winners. Since I'd like not just to present my own list with my reasons for the choices, but also some of the other suggestions I've gotten, this list will be too long for one single blog post - even by PPI standard. So I'll make this into a little series, presenting a few winners at a time, starting today.

So, after this initial rambling (they ramble a LOT more at the Real Oscar Event, so I'm excused!) we're finally ready for our first few announcements:

1. Best raid instance

Nominated: Ulduar, Ulduar and Ulduar. There's no doubt that the blogging community as a whole loved Ulduar most of all. But we also had nominations for ToC, Onyxia, OS, and Eye of Eternity.

Spinksville gave her vote a bit unexpectedly to Naxxramas:

"Why? I know some people felt it was too easy but the smooth learning curve into raiding helped a LOT of new raiders in my guild to get the raiding bug. And it also eased my transition into running 10 mans. [...] Also Ulduar has a strange difficulty jump in the middle, and we’ve found it just a bit too long to comfortably complete in one evening even when it is on farm. I enjoy the difficulty, but it has been a barrier to more people seeing it."

Rhii suggested the Icecrown 5 mans: "We've decided they're not heroics, they're five man raids."

Nice try, but... no. This category was meant for raid instances. Karazhan has also been suggested, and even though I'm a huge fan of it I can't really see how it would belong to 2009. The same goes with ICC. I'm as enthusiastic as anyone else by the first wing, but I really think it will have to compete with the raid instances for 2010.

The winner is... Ulduar!

Motivation: I'll quote Falling leaves and Wings, who expressed exactly what I think:

"It was beautifully designed, highly detailed, chalk full of lore and offered a good number of innovative encounters. It was the first instance to truly embraced “hard modes” [...] the actual instance itself was just gorgeous."

2. Least successful raid instance

Nominated: VoA (" I could agree with TOC, but I really feel the most sorry for those loreless, pvpgeargathering fools in VOA." ), Sartharion ("dull", according to Spinksville), Naxxramas: "I know that they wanted everyone to see what was their crowning jewel of Vanilla WoW, but the content offered very little…challenge. The gear was almost too good, and the content undertuned.".

But to be honest, almost everyone else wants to see either EoE or ToC as winner of this category.

Shintar said: "I might not like TotC much, but I still found myself running it five times a week sometimes, so that's success, right? On the other hand nobody ever seems to want to go back to EoE once they've beat Malygos from what I've seen; it's harder to get a group for it than for any other raid."

Or as Linedan puts it: "It's the Oculus of raids, and not just because it's the same color. People really seem to dislike the flying vehicle fights, I know I do."

Miss Medicina on the other hand goes for ToC:
"Part of me thinks it was a bit of a joke on Blizzard's part - "oh you want less trash? Faster raids? Well here you are, how do you like 'dem apples?"

Hatch agrees:
"ToC will win this by a landslide. It was a one-room, trashless, boring stalling tactic so they could spend more time making ICC."

The winner is... Eye of Eternity!

This instance shares the lack of trash mobs with ToC. It takes an eternity to get there with the fp on the other side of the world and no fancy instant-travel tabard available. The fight as such isn't terribad - it has some interesting effects, like falling-in-the sky (even though there were more than one player who got nauseous by the psychedelic patterns in the last phase). But all in all - no one runs it and very few did run it even when it was new. ToC at least had the heroic modes where you could get a challenge, some really fancy loot or just enjoying banging your head against a wall if that's what you like. All EoE could offer was achievements for the addicts. Content that isn't used because the players hate it so much can't be called anything but a fail.

3. Most longed for instance:

Nominated: There were some different interpretations of this category. As opposed to the previous one, you could nominate 5-mans as well as raid instances. Last year's winner was Magisters Terrace because we had been starving for a new small instance for so long when it finally arrived.

Some of the readers have started to long for things that might come in the future, such as Heroic Shadowfang Keep. I even got someone longing for Uldum! (yes, I know, that locked place is sort of intriguing).

Pangoria Fallstar has a quite surprising suggestion:

"I want to do Occulus. People who don't like it were just in bad groups. I was in a beautiful group the first time I did it, and I never got to do it again."

Well, looking at how many times I've gotten Occulus as the daily random heroic, I think you've got everything you can wish for right now!

Most of the nominations however are for the Icecrown Citadel instances of any size. Some are just tired of Trial of the Crusader, others are referring to the lore they have been waiting for since pre-WoW. As Fitz puts it: "One of the absolute primary storylines in the Warcraft universe is the rise and fall of Arthas, and this will be the presumable end of that epic storyline that spawned the entire expansion."

There are a few though who are suggesting something else and the jury has decided to go with the minority:

The winner is... Ulduar!

Motivation: One year is a long time in the life of a game. I know this autumn has been repetitive to say the least to many raiders. ToC and ToC and then some more ToC, up to four times a week. But if you think about it, this constant running of ToC has been optional and is clearly related to people's obsession with epics. If we wanted a change we had always the Ulduar hardmodes to give a try. Why didn't we?

So I ask you: try to remember what it was like last spring. For a very long time there wasn't anything more for raid enthusiasts to do but to steamroll through the undertuned Naxxramas, possibly go for the stand-alone bosses in EoE, OS and VoA and then call the rest of the raids for the week. There weren't any hardmodes available. Just Naxx, which actually was a repetition of previous available content. No wonder people were pissed. Before Ulduar finally came we were on the verge of taking a sledgehammer, breaking into the Blizzard Headquarters, urging them to make some more content for us. Ulduar it is.

End of the show
And that's it for today! We have a lot of more awards to give out, The PPI List of 2009 is far from complete, so come back for the continuation! Which tabard was the ugliest, which pet did we like best, which blog post will we never forget? It will all be revealed in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Million Little Doorways

In America there is a minor tradition of making “New Year's Resolutions.” These resolutions seem mostly to involve losing weight by not eating chocolate. I don’t participate in this tradition because to be honest anything anti-chocolate is anti-me. Sometime the resolutions involve improving one's love life or financial condition but whereas I think being alone and poor is a noble endeavor that doesn’t apply to me either. So I resolved one year to give up making resolutions; have keep at it with tenacity.

A New Life

That doesn’t mean that the turning of an arbitrary date doesn’t give rise to reflection. January is named for Janus the Roman god of doorways, of entrances and exits. He’s a two-faced god in that regard because he’s always looking to the past or the future but never one for the present. And that reminds me of our own sort of Janus god, the spirit healer. Because death in Warcraft is a Janus moment. We look back and think about where we goofed that caused us to die and we look forward to raising our corpse so we can get on with playing the game. Death isn’t a state of permanence but a simply doorway.

Which gives rise to my thought for the new year: how would you live your life differently if what we call death in real life were exactly like it was in Warcraft. Not heaven nor hell, no oblivion, no reincarnation as a cow. Just a few minutes delay and there you are. Not quite as good as new but back among the living. How would that reality shape your decision making process? Would you be more adventurous or daring or would you be more conservative, more relaxed.

Different Deaths

I’m one of these people that has fun randomly inspecting characters. I’m curious about how other people are playing the game. One thing that has always fascinated me is the number of times a character in the game has died.

The lowest number of deaths I have seen on a level 80 toon is the lowest possible: zero. I remember sending an astounded whisper to the person asking how in Azeroth they managed that feat. He claimed that he’d leveled with four other members of his guild doing nothing but instances. When I asked why he said that dying was a waste of time.

Then there was the woman raider who had died more than 3000 times. I still shudder at the thought of that. Even if the time spent being dead was only one minute (a lowball figure) that means at least 50 hours or two full days of one’s life spent being dead in a game.

What these extremes tell me is that not all people respond to death in the same way. Even though the penalty for death isn’t large in each individual case the time spent as a ghost can add up; enough so that some people will go to lengths to avoid it. On the other hand, there seems to be some people who don’t mind dying. It’s just a doorway to them.

My Reaction

When I first started thinking about the question my initial reaction was that I would be more adventurous. What would it feel like to jump off a 1000 foot cliff, just for a rush, knowing I could pick up and move on again. Then I switched gears and thought it would make me more relaxed. If I could die an unlimited amount of times then death would cease to be a cause of worry. I wouldn’t worry about making it home ahead of the bad blizzard or drifting off to sleep while driving. Hakuna Matata.

The more I thought about it the more I came to the conclusion that in the long run it would make me more conservative. There would be the initial rush of daring as I explored the world but I would quickly get bored with that. I found myself thinking more along the lines of the player with zero deaths at level 80. Why waste the time; it’s not any fun being a ghost.

Don’t misunderstand. I think it would be cool to live in a world where there are biological second chances. Yet I kind of like the idea of a death penalty. It sharpens the sense; it focuses the mind. It helps you to figure out what you value, what you care about.

Or maybe it’s just that I don’t care too much for the idea of January. I’ve never been a person that has much love for transitions. I love to visit other countries but I hate the actual traveling part, getting from point A to Point B. Planes, trains, automobiles; I dislike them all. Get me though the doorway as quickly as possible. “Can someone Rez me, please.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Feast of Winter’s Veil

In the northern hemisphere Christmas is our counterpunctual holiday. It is an isle of birth amidst a sea of dead tundra. The long night compacts the darkness into an ooze of gloom seeping under the doorway where it is greeted by a festival of lights. It is a holiday of gift giving during a time when fecund nature bestows no gifts. In the rhythm of our culture Christmas is syncopation.


I breathe to stop time. Not death, but the endless compress of decay. Each breath a surge of air pushing against the inevitable. Delaying, denying, demoting, yet never destroying. A diastolic rhythm taking in oxygen and pushing away time. Almost always unnoticed unless exercising, or in the moment of flight, or battle, or when the rain beats a lonesome tattoo on the grotto and there is no one to hear you except you; only the sound of your breathing lets you know you’re alive, fending time.

Not dung, or death, but decay leaves a field in winter barren, snow covered, without crops. The increasing prominence of gray in the hair, the bifocals sliding down the nose, the fading libido; all this and more leads to a failing sense of exemption from the panting cold breath on the nape that prickles the hair. A time, a time older than that of watches or scratches on the cave wall. A rhythm, a rhythm beyond that of one life only, beyond one species only; a rhythm born of lightening in a fetid pool or in a manger in some backwater village; a rhythm of birth and youth and maturity and age and decay.

There is a course a time for the children to leave home. A time to remember with the photograph album, or the home movie, or the newspaper clippings about the award in the spelling contest or taking first place in the foot race. A time to remember the toothaches, the fevers, and a broken bone while leaning towards the dim lamp on a dingy sofa. Then an owl hoots and the widow draws her sweater tight for warmth; an expulsion of breath sweeping through the decades kicking up dust and rattling tin cans in a deserted lot.


In plastic hutches incandescence flickers green blue white. There is music and the sound of childish laughter hidden behind the furniture. The angel nestled in the top of the plastic tree twitters “go go go” while adults seek to unweave, unwind, unravel the future; imagining a voyage without wreckage.

My eyes are strong brown gods. At first a commanding presence, then a sexual attractor, and finally a problem for the ophthalmologist. “Quick” said the children, “find him, find him.” Quickening footsteps, quickening voices cut to the quick. “Find him, find him” whisper the unseen voices, excitedly. Jolly old Saint Nick. The sharp grind of ripping wrapping paper. Mankind cannot bear much reality.

Not particle, wave. Two brown gods sailing on an ocean of light. Dust in the air suspended marks the place where voyage ended. Dust in the air suspended marks the attic where the children pretended. Dust inbreathed was the cross, a crown of thorns, the epic boss. “Quick,” said the children, “find him, find him.” Down the damp road to the junction, past halls of living stone, past the formation grounds and the aerie, into the scrapyard. “Quick,” said the children, “find him.” Pushing through the spark of imagination, breezing through the conservatory of life, with a clash of thunder into the halls of winter. “Quick,” said the children, “find him!” Jolly old Saint Nick. Mankind cannot bear much reality.

In that moment between the intake of breath and its expulsion the agony abides. In the moment between the entering and the passing the agony abides. In the moment between the taking and the giving, the agony abides. There is of course a time for the children to leave home. We call it death.


I recall once hiking on a mountain. At an overlook I paused and seemed to me as if reality ripped, like a movie caught in the machine. Behind that, behind the curtain in the theater, no angels ascending or descending the narrow steps to the stage, but a blank screen, an empty room filled with the faint scent of mascara and rouge.

What then is the cause of this drama, this agony of life. Love. What force is veiling this vale between two eternities. Love. What is this pulse still quickening the pulse, growing closer and stronger. Love. Between a dry September and a windy May, when the boat is in dockage and the seams need caulking. When the rigging is worn and there is too much slack in the tiller. Love.

What fills our halls of reflection. Love. What is the forge of souls. Love. A rose encased in a crown of ice. Love. When lady death whispers in your ear as you sit at the foot of the frozen throne, when what you know is what you do not know and you do not know if it is citadel or cathedral. “Quick,” said the children, “find him!”

Love is the intolerable womb of pain which human flesh can not endure. Of course there is a time for the children to come home. We call this cataclysm birth.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Viking Christmas in the Real Stormpeaks

Today it's December 24, Christmas Eve. You who have been following the PPI for a year or more know what Larísa will be up to, not in Azeroth, but in real life. This is THE day for Christmas celebrations in Sweden. Christmas Day is... well, if not a day of hangover, at least quite dampened. The most fun part is already over.

Last Christmas I described some rather geeky Swedish traditions. The short version is that everyone and his uncle on a set time, 3 pm, will assemble in front of the TV to watch a one hour show consisting of selected Walt Disney cartoons. (True!)

The ritual also consists of drinking huge amounts of "glögg", a spicy wine drink, which is served hot. If you haven't fell into coma, you're there after invited to open the Christmas gifts. A couple of hours later it's time for Christmas dinner. Or maybe I should rather call it "blot". (If you have no idea of what a blot is, check here).

You can't exactly say that our eating habits are sophisticated (a French girl I know insists that the natural dinner at Christmas should be oysters and champagne, that's what I would call classy!). No, Swedish Christmas dinners consists of meat in all forms you can think of, mostly pork, some salmon dishes. And - unless you're a dedicated vegetarian - hardly a single vegetable on the table.

This year we'll feel more like our Viking ancestors than ever, thanks to the cold and snowfall we've experienced the last couple of weeks. I live in Uppsala, which is the fourth largest city in Sweden, but I assure you, when I look out of my window it looks more like Stormpeaks than anything else. Before writing this I just came back from a one hour cross-country skiing tour, starting right outside of my door, going over fields and through a forest which looked exactly like the one appearing in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Blizzard's gifts
Being a mother of two I have a lot of family obligations these days - which of course aren't just obligations, but something I thoroughly enjoy. If you have teenagers you know how it is. You see each other at dinner - at the most. And it won't be many years before they've moved on somewhere else, so I'd better spend some time with them while they're still around.

And as if this wasn't enough, there is this magic winter landscape calling on me, and no matter how much I appreciate Winterspring, I have to admit it's nowhere close to the real stuff.

Does this mean that Larísa will shut down the inn and pull the plug to the PC, having a seasonal break from WoW?

Nope. Not quite so. You see, Blizzard gave us some really sweet gifts right before the holidays this year. The new Random Dungeon feature is one. Even though I'll rarely be able to squeeze in gaming sessions lasting for hours these days, it's quite possible to find a 30 minute slot between different RL arrangements, where I can quickly slip into Azeroth and run one of those fast, silent pug runs. I know I will appreciate it more now than normall, as it will give a brief break from the sometimes rather intense socializing that comes with the season.

I don't expect my realm to be anything but very quiet, but since they pool the available players from a number of realms, I'm pretty certain I'll be able to find people to play with, no matter what time of the day it is. This tool is awesome - especially for holidays. Thank you Blizzard!

The other sweet gift was of course the new content that came with 3.3. I'm SO looking forward to run the new five man instances again - so far I've only been able to run them once. I've seen the basics - the secound time around I hope I can look more into the details. I definitely think those instances will hold for several runs before they start to feel too familiar and predictible.

All in all, we've never had a Christmas before with so much fun, interesting and - above all - flexible content in WoW to enjoy. There's something for everyone - low level, endgamer, topgeared or ungeared, casual or hardcore....

Or... oh well, maybe not so much the hardcore. The bleeding-edge guys have run head-first into the gate and will have to wait another couple of months for the hardmodes. Poor guys. Perhaps another mug of glögg will cheer you up?

Merry... something
So how do I end a rambling post like this? I'd rather like to wish you a Merry Christmas, but to my surprise this apparently is a bit controversial in some countries, at least if I read Ysharrros at Stylish Corpse. She called her Christmas post "Merry Kwanmasanukkah", just to be safe.

Rathernotsay has another expression: "bah-fucking-hum-bah", as a reaction to the goblin side of the Christmas. "People do not appreciate the season for a time being with the ones you have warm fuzzy feelings for".

It's easy to agree and get disgusted at the yearly overconsumption of what is actually 90 percent stupid crap and gold sinks. However, I beg to differ.

In spite of the wicked commercialism, in spite of the family bonds that sometimes are more of a pain than enjoyment, there will also be brief moments during those holidays which will make my eyes sparkle. Looking at the clear, starry sky, reflected in the snow field surrounded by crystallized trees. Listening to O Holy Night, sung in the mighty Cathedral of my city, thousands and thousands of candles burning in the middle night binding peple from different times and places together. Peace in my mind, if so just for the fragment of a second. Beauty. Light. Hope.

Call it whatever you want to - blot, Christmas or simply Winter Veil. I wish you all the best. I wish you delicious meals, I wish you love and friendship, I wish you tranquility. And last but not the least - I wish you some REALLY epic fat imba loot in Icecrown Citadel or elsewhere.

Cheers from your innkeeper!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Larísa's annual report of 2009

2009 is about to end and it’s time to make a personal annual report. What characterized this year? Was it any good?

One year ago I did the same thing. This time around I’ve also been tagged by Tessy and Typhoonandrew to participate in a meme originating from Bible of Dreams, with some questions about the past year. I've decided not to strictly follow the given questionnaire, but you'll recognize parts of it.

A year of steady progress
I will remember 2009 as a year of steady progress, as opposed to 2008. The previous year was much messier and contained some drama, including a guild split, server transfer and two guild switches. I progressed all the way from making my first stumbling steps in a 25 man raid at Gruul to eventually clearing Black Temple in one of the top-10 guilds on my server. Indeed some journey!

2009 on the other hand has been a year of stability and constant progression. The home I found in Adrenaline has become permanent. Looking at the guild roster the other day I realized that I belong to the half of the guild or even third of the guild that has been around longest.

Surely, we’ve had our ups and downs over the year, a couple of incidents, but really not anything that I would call any major guild drama. Sometimes we’ve been a bit short on people, but on the whole, we’re as reliable as a Swiss watch, keeping our schedule at three nights a week, steadily progressing through the content as it’s launched. We haven’t downed Algalon or cleared all of ToCGC 25 man, but on the whole we’re doing fine. Looking at the turnover of guilds at my server, I think a guild such as mine is a rare spawn. I consider myself very, very lucky.

Achievements and failures
Candy asks us about our biggest achievement of the year. To me it’s without any doubt Sartharion +3d, which we did before we were totally overgeared for it. It was one of those classic efforts, where we endured several wipe nights before we finally got it right. I don’t normally display my Twilight Vanquisher title, but I’m definitely proud to have gotten it the original way and not in a zerg mode. Staying alive in the end at the first kill definitely added to the enjoyment of it.

What about failures then? Well, I've got a couple of candidates there. For instance I failed quite a bit on Hodir. I STILL do most of the times. There’s something about that fight that just doesn’t click for me. Malygos is another personal failure, so long back in time that I've almost forgotten it. That third phase. How many times didn't I try to get a glimpse of it from a far distance in space, since I had died and fallen an hundred thousand light years down? I did survive few times, but I've definitely died more often than I've survived. Me and vehicles just don't seem to match very well. After all the practice I've had at dragon flying in Occulus lately (is it only for me that it comes up as the first random dungeon every single day?), I probably would do it better now, but that's something I'll never know. I doubt there's anyone still visiting EoE, unless they'll make it into a weekly raiding quest.

I also failed to keep some of the promises I made last year. I kept two of them: I finally learned the Heigan dance and couldn't understand what was so hard about it in the first place. And I also managed to keep having fun in the game, never turning it into the job. But I failed to charge strangers for portals, I failed to keep my banks and bags in better order and I failed to quit my habit of playing after midnight. Shame on me.

What made me excited
Back to the meme. They're asking what made me really, really excited. Well, that would be my new computer. Playing with a decent fps, seeing is as a movie rather than a slide show, being able to turn up some of the graphic settings, has almost given me a new game. I feel sorry for all of you who are struggling with bad lag. I know how you suffer. Looking at it in retrospective I find it strange how I could endure it for so long.

2009 has also been a good year for blogging. The Pink Pigtail Inn has flourished, not the least thanks to the addition of our bartender Elnia. The place wouldn't be the same without her, so thank you for joining! Apart from that, one of the most exciting moments was when I was interviewed by the Twisted Nether Podcast in february. In game I’m not the most talkative person on vent, but in the show there was no way the poor hostess Bre could stop my rambling. I really had a blast!

What to expect of 2010
Time to look ahead. What do I expect of the upcoming year? Do I have any new resolutions?

Well, I know one thing: I'm so going to defeat Arthas!

Something that makes me even more excited about seeing Icecrown getting unfolded patch by patch is how my guild has decided to approach it. We cleared the first wing without using any third party strategies or boss mods. We raided blindly and figured out things for ourselves and it was so awesome that we will keep this approach as the rest of the bosses in Icecrown are released.

This also answers another meme question: what valuable WoW lessons we learned in 2009. I definitely learned that we're capable of much more than we think on our own, that we don't need as many safety belts in the form of premade strategies and helping tools as we imagine. Trust yourself! That's an attitude I'll try to bring with me into 2010, the glorious year of the Cataclysm.

And this is the end of Larísa's very personal outlook on the past year. But we're not quite done with the year in review yet. In the next few days I will reveal the winners of The Pink Pigtail Inn year list of 2009.

I've had so many good suggestions from the community that I think I have to turn it into a series of posts. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Near the Wild Heart

During thanksgiving killing turkeys learned the meaning of player vs. player. Mistaken, I. Mistook the meaning of achievement as achievement. Misunderstood the meaning of process as the struggle to triumph. Kill 40 turkeys. Misfelt victory as triumph over pain.

Standing on the road in Elwynn Forest I came to understand. Feeling sadness in my heart, frustration, disappointment; a frown upon the face. Reflected in my monitor a frown upon the face. 12 turkeys and I lose, 21 turkeys and I lose, 30 turkeys, 39 turkeys, 39 turkeys and I lose lose lose; I realize and it dawns and I see that this sadness and disappointment is how I’m supposed to feel; this sad frustrated look upon my face is your victory.

Turkey Domination

Victory is you feel bad. Yes, you and you, and you mr. human mage and you ms. gnome warrior. Why do you think I’m following you. Why. Yes, you know why. It’s to kill the turkeys. Kill the turkeys. Kill. Kill. Kill. I no longer have any desire to win. Rather, my winning means you losing. The more you lose the more I win. Waiting and counting. Stalking and prowling. Running ahead and wiping out all the turkeys. Killing. Killing turkeys. I want that sad frustrated look upon your face. That’s the real achievement.

Pain is food. Your pain; my food. Your grief and sorrow flow though me like an electric shock. Hungry. Starving. Greedily I race around the woods killing turkeys. Kill the turkeys before you. Before you.

I look up at the mini map. My Tracker Snacks shows friendly life as little yellow blobs. How quaint. Yellow. Happy. Like a smiley face… a smile that I trash smartly off your face. I switch to my healing spec and put on my mana regen gear and I smile because I understand now that mana causes pain and pain is the source of life; source of my life.

And now it’s time to kill. To wipe off the map every little blob of happy yellow smiley face. It’s time for you to suffer and for me to live. That time. That time.

Turkey Slaughter

I run and leap and ride and the moonfire rains from the sky and the moonfire rains from the sky and I am killing every living thing moonfire raining from the sky. I kill the turkeys and the lambs and the cows and pigs; everything that is a little yellow smiley blob on the map that I can target, I kill. To make you sad.

I am rushing down the road between Goldshire and the logging camp to make you sad. I am running down along the river past one farm and another farm and another farm and killing everything with that yellow circle of joy around it to make you sad. You stand there night elf looking around for all the turkeys and there are no turkeys and I know behind your monitor you have a sad frustrated look upon you face. Victory.

I feel good. I feel alive. I suck upon your pain and it feeds me. And it dawns on me that there is no end to these turkeys and there is no end to pain and there is no end to life because so long as I feed upon your pain I live. Immortal.

Turkey Triumph

The text scrolling across the screen tells me Wintergrasp in five minutes and my cheeks turn red and I grin. The grin gets bigger and bigger and threatens to eat my face. All turkeys; all on two legs. Two legs good, so good. Battlegrounds filled with turkeys. An all-you-can eat buffet of pain, a smorgasbord of sorrow. Pixel death but human suffering. Because you care.

I think of myself wallowing in your sorrow, bathing in it, washing myself with tears from your eyes. So good.

Misunderstood, I. Not pixel vs. pixel nor toon vs. toon; player vs. player. Human against human, human mind against human mind seeking one goal: that look upon the face. That sad frustrated angry bitter defeated look upon the face.

My palms sweat; my heart thumps in my chest. No, not thumping….jumping. Jumping for joy! The joy of prowling, the puma jumping from limb to limb inside of me, inside of me this jungle, this wilderness. So near to me this wild heart. Kill the turkeys; feed on suffering; dine on pain.

My fingers are claws on the keyboard.

I feel so alive.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Farewell and thank you, Mike Schramm!

This is a very much unplanned for extra post at the Pink Pigtail Inn, written at 02.15 am Saturday morning, when I should rather be asleep if I was any sensible at all. But something came up that needed to be commented on, and as I've never quite gotten rid of my journalistic instinct it had to be done asap. So that's why you'll get a PPI post at this unusual hour.

What happened was that out of the blue, Mike Schramm at has suddenly informed us that he's going to quit his job.

Embracing the community
I don't know if you have any idea of who Mike Schramm is. Maybe you do like most of us, browsing the headlines at in order to stay updated, occasionally plowing into a post that somehow grabs your attention - making you upset, curious or entertained. You don't spend too much time thinking about the author behind it.

However, Mike Schramm has certainly put his personal mark on over the years. As a blogger I especially appreciate how he has embraced the blogging community - not by taking advantage of it, using ideas without giving credit for it. Instead he has put a spotlight on posts hat have interested him, no matter if the blogger in question has been an established one or completely unknown to the audience.

I believe that there are more than one blogger around who have Mike Schramm to thank for their breakthrough. I'm one of those - Mike is by far the writer at who has quoted PPI most. To be honest I'm not sure if anyone else in the staff reads PPI. But Mike surely did - and not only that, he has even commented at the PPI on a couple of occasions. And that's what I like so much about him. He's not a stranger - he's clearly one of us.

In his farewell post, Mike tells the story once again how he started at, at that point called Wow-Insider, as a forum troll. When an opportunity opened up to join the staff he grabbed it, and until now he has written no less than 3 300 posts. That is just amazing, especially since I believe many of them are pretty well written. Somehow Mike manages to give his posts a personal touch. Without looking at the author name I can tell which posts that are his.

A guest of honour
We can only speculate on the reason why Mike Schramm is leaving his position now - the post doesn't tell. Maybe it's just a natural development. I've done it myself a few times in my career. One day you wake up and realize that you've learned what you can learn from your current job, that you need to move on to keep learning and growing in your profession.

I hope the motive for leaving is along those lines and that Mike Schramm has some really exciting projects awaiting now. I hope his heading somewhere, rather than escaping from something.

Mike - if you're reading this, I just want to let you know that the PPI always will receive you as a dear and honored guest.

Considering this, I refuse to say "farewell". I will rather say "see you later", hoping that you'll keep stopping by here, not for professional reasons, but just because you feel at home.

Thank you for all that you gave the community. You will be missed.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Tickled pink: Will you participate in the Winter Veil?

He's back! Greatfather Winter has cloned himself and established a Winter Veil camp in Ironforge and Orgrimmar respectively. Goblin vendors are selling rather useless, but probably tasty seasonal brews and we're all asked to go looking for that reindeer, who seems to get lost almost as easily as Corkie. It's the same procedure as last year. Are you tickled at the thought of participating in the Winter Veil event 2009?


I actually never paid much of attention to any world event until Winter Veil hit last year. I didn't bother, since the little rational goblin voice in my head judged them to be rather unnecessary, not offering any upgrades, taking tons of time, giving nothing but bags filled with junk.

When Blizzard introduced the title Merrymaker as an award for completing the Winter Veil quests and a bunch of added achievements, I changed my mindset was changed. In an instant I got turned into one of those sad social casual players; I just KNEW that I had to become Merrymaker Larísa, whatever it would take, no matter of if it was useful or not.

Since the Christmas period generally is rather slow in the game, most guilds putting raiding at a halt due to lack of players online, it turned out not to be as bad as I had imagined; on the contrary I found it to be a pretty fun, lighthearted and entertaining way to spend my hours online. I would definitely rather bribe Greatfather Winter with cookies and milk and look up monks all over the world to toss snowflakes over them than going on a grind. Most of the things I was supposed to do put a smile on my face.

Above all - it was the first time I did everything, so Winter Veil offered the sweet added taste of novelty, which comes with all new content - be it a new kind of quest or a new raid instance. The freshness is the same.

Quick jump forward to this year. Do I get equally excited and happy about Winter Veil, now that I've already done it once before?

Well, I thought I should make an effort to follow the tradition, so I bravely set out on the mission to rescue Metzen and kill that Abominable Greench over again, even though I already had the achievement. And to be honest I wasn't very tickled.

A bit of the charm with those quests last year was to find the creatures - now they're highlighted on the new map interface with built-in questhelper addon. The rewards aren't impressive, the quest design and animations are old-style, not anything of the fancy things introduced in WotLK, and this year I don't even you don't get any achievement flash my screen.

So basically: No, I'm not excited at the quests and achievements.

On the other hand I AM rather delighted at the Winter Veil period as such. I love the decorations everywhere, the atmosphere, the snow balls flying through the air, the Christmas dresses (although Larísa admittedly is freezing in her bikini), the unlimited feeling of childishness and playfulness which don't see that much of for the rest of the year.

I'm also wondering what gifts Greatfather Winter will bring us this year. There have been speculations that it will be something needed to complete the only new achievement, BB King. But I can't stop hoping there's something else. If Ghostcrawler can't give us a pony, what about a new cute vanity pet? I'm tickled at the thought.


I am tickled at in seeing Grandfather Winter again. Growing up, Christmas was always my favorite holiday, not so much because of the food (I liked Halloween candy better) or because of the presents (I can’t remember a single one) but because it seemed to be the only holiday when people were happy.

In Warcraft terms, The Feast of Winter’s Veil is a special time for me because during this feast last year I dinged 60 for the first time. It was also the first Warcraft holiday I participated in because I was not playing the game in September and October of last year. I remember being mildly frustrated because I couldn’t complete the Achievement because I wasn’t high enough level.

For reasons I can’t explain now, I had decided that I wasn’t going to upgrade to the expansion but just cap out at 60. So I actually spent most of the Feast working on the Ambassador title instead, which I achieved on Christmas Eve. My Christmas present to myself was to be one of the first Night Elves on my server to have the Mechanostrider, which has been my land mount ever since. I still remember getting whispers about how I must have hacked the game.

The result is that I am tickled pink to finally, after an entire year, have the Merrymaker title. The first day I rushed out to drop the bombs, kiss the revelers, and defeat the Horde with a little helper from my friends. It took me about three hours total to get it all done but I am pleased indeed. I do not have a violet drake yet but in my own way I can talk about what a long strange trip it’s been.

Last year at this time I wasn’t even planning on playing to 80, and I never would have dreamed it would take me six months to go another 20 levels. I never would have dreamed that I’d meet Larisa and that I’d start writing for a blog. Never would have imagined I’d get involved in the gold game and now have so much gold I don’t know what to do with it.

A long strange trip indeed. One that has left me feeling tickled pink.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Rounds on Me!

I've been a patron of the Pink Pigtail Inn for a long time now.

I have:
  • Stoked the fires
  • Started the odd barroom brawl
  • Drunk the inn dry on many an occasion and found myself having to go back through all those empty glasses looking for that last drop to savor.
The Innkeeper has been a shoulder to cry on (luckily we are both Gnomes, so that's not so hard).

I have spent so much time in this place that I can tell when the innkeeper is having a hard day.

On those occasions I like to pick up the empties and refill them myself.

The barkeeper has been a welcome addition, new perspectives new tales.

The shouted debates across the barroom between the Innkeeper and the barkeeper are a sight to behold, even when my glass is empty.

There are few places in Azeroth as welcoming or thought provoking.

Long before Dalaran's sanctuary zones, this Inn was a place for people of all classes, specs, races
and factions to gather around a brew and share their exploits.

You may have noticed that is no player housing in WoW, only public houses.

It's the Inns of Azeroth that provide respite, the welcoming glow of a warm hearth and the steady flow of ale and stories alike, and of course the hot Gnome chicks...

As the season to be jolly /silly approaches, I'd like to ask you to join me in raising your glass to the
fine keepers of this Inn...

Ohhh wait on, my glass is empty again...
Oi, You, Waddeveryanameisagain, gis another brew...
Ok, ready folks?

Glasses charged?

Here's to the fine keepers of the Pink Pigtail Inn, and the wonderful patrons (of whom I would have to be the most wonderfulest of course)!

Three cheers for the Gnome!

Hic Hic Hooray!

Hic Hic Hooray!

Hic Hic Hooray!

Gnomer and Out!

No, no, don't throw me out... I thought you loved it when I danced on the tables... You are Larisa
the Merrymaker aren't you.... don't you like me in my Xmas outfit, whoa there, put that Arcane Blast away...

This has been a Gnomely Xmas post by Gnomeaggedon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reply to Adam

Adam Holisky’s editorial at regarding what he sees as an out of control negativity about Warcraft reminds me of this post from Broken Toys last February. Both Adam and Scott share the attitude that when someone says something you don’t want to hear, the proper response is to tell them to shut up. Adam’s confident post is the living illustration of the definition of positive: mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

The Benefit of a Vocal Minority

Adam starts his piece with a claim that a loud and obnoxious minority is harming the game. In particular, that it’s drowning out the sober voices of reason. Adam specifically states that even he agrees with some of the underlying complaints. It’s that he thinks the way those concerns are expressed is counterproductive.

Attacking means and not ends is almost always error. Lets consider some realities that we take as ordinary that once started out as the complaints by a vocal minority.

  • The American Revolution
  • The Abolition of Slavery in America
  • Women’s Right to Vote
  • Civil Rights

The list could go on and on. Almost every major change in American society occurred because someone complained loud, long, and frequently in an obnoxious tone of voice. In writing that I am not comparing the substance of the forum posters complaints to those noble causes. I'm saying that the best question is not whether the people on the forums are being jackasses. The best question is: are they right?

If the complaints are correct then they deserve a vigorous airing. In fact, I’d go one step further. I’d say that only where there is a free trade in ideas, only when there is an opportunity for all voices to be heard, can we possibly know if the answer is correct. Every human being is fallible. No single human being has all the correct answers all the time. It takes input from the entire group. The trolls of today are often the heroes of tomorrow.

Silence is the Wrong Answer

If Blizzard were to take Ghostcrawler off the forums or even shut them down entirely the real loser would be Blizzard itself. First, Blizzard would be a loser because it would lose an essential tool of positive feedback. Ghostcrawler himself has mentioned on several occasions the valuable feedback the developers have gained from the forums. Even if there are only 10,000 regular users of the forum, that doesn’t mean that having that resource isn’t important to irregular users like me. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If the vocal minority is wrong, shutting down the forums only makes Blizzard look weak and hurts the silent majority. If the vocal minority is right, then silencing those voices only makes Blizzard look arrogant and unable to admit its mistakes.

The second problem is that people won’t be silenced whatever Blizzard does anyway. If people have legitimate complaints (and Adam concedes they do) then telling them to shut up only results in them taking those complaints to other forums. 10,000 angry people with a genuine beef can do real damage to Blizzard’s brand name. It’s just not a smart strategy to have them wandering around the internet crying to potential customers. Better to have the vocal minority vent at the developers who know nonsense when they see it than have the vocal minority vent at the gullible public who get easily scared of anything new. As the old saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.

So I would implore Blizzard not to press the self-destruct button on the forums. The results are not likely to be what they want.

Where Adam is Correct

I think that Adam’s attacks on Warcraft’s vocal minority are inapposite. Yet I also think there is one aspect on which he is correct. A few months ago I stated that I thought the biggest problem with the forums as a means of public relations was that Blizzard had allowed it to become too much about a single personality at the expense of the brand. Because of Ghostcrawler’s significant presence on the forums the trolls often flock to his threads because they treat his comments as a form of PvP. So I am pleased to see that Adam also recognizes this as a real problem which Blizzard has failed to address.

In fact, I think that this is the real heart of the problem on the forums. Often people with something useful or important to say get drowned out by those who have come online to play “let’s outwit the developer” making the helpful people shout even louder in an attempt to be heard above the din. Adam’s post reminded me of the school teacher shouting at a rambunctious group of eight year olds to behave themselves. Of course that strategy is going to fail because as far as eight year olds are concerned being rambunctious is behaving themselves. If the teacher wants to get control he has to direct their energy into positive and constructive channels. The vocal minority, as far as I can see, don’t have any real interest in “running the game” anymore than students want to be the teacher. What they do want is to be engaged in constructive manner which has proven beyond the capabilities of one man, even a man as capable as Ghostcrawler.

Blizzard is the Vocal Minority

Sometimes in life in order to take two steps forward you need to take a step back. Adam's follow up post claims that players' freedom of speech ends where Blizzard's property rights begin. That's true as far as it goes but it doesn't go very far. Game developers don’t live in a vacuum; they are part of larger social and economic groups in which they participate and in which they are the vocal minority. All the recent trials of Blizzard in China are concrete proof. The recent issue with alcohol during Brewfest in the European Union indicates that this reality is not just for communist countries. There are no scared cows.There is no constitutional right to property in America. In fact, all the Fifth Amendment guarantees is that you will receive "just compensation" should the government decide to take your property. Anger enough of your customers and they won’t simply cancel their game subscription; they will complain to their electoral representative. Engaging your customers, all of them, even the trolls and the crybabies, creates an enormous reservoir of good will that may save the game development community someday.

In 1850 only a fool would have predicted a civil war that would lead to freeing the slaves. A vocal minority made it happen. In 1910 only a fool would have predicted that women’s suffrage would be universal in America within twenty years. A vocal minority made it happen. In a democratic society Blizzard has the power to run their business as they see fit by the leave of the community. Don’t trifle with it. One day that vocal minority that’s driving you nuts and wasting your time might be the same vocal minority that picks up the phone and tells their representative to keep their hands off MMOs. Maybe not. But there are no guarantees that the game of life will turn out the way the game development community wants. There are vocal minorities that exist right now that claim that video games should be banned because they are too violent or because they promote irresponsible behavior. When Congress comes along and shuts down the cash cow because of the agitation of the vocal minority that is anti-video game, game developers can’t wonder why no one spoke up on their behalf. They were the ones who told their own customers to shut up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How do I take the command over the random PUG?

I rarely try to take the leadership when I’m doing group activities in WoW. It isn’t because I’m afraid of leading other people; I think it’s rather because of my lack of deep knowledge in other classes and game mechanics. I’ve always thought I would make a poor instructor to tanks and healers what to do, whom to heal or which mob to charge, taunt, whatever, so I’ve happily left those decisions to others, more experienced players.

This first week with the new LFG tool has made me change my mind completely. I see no other alternative but to step up and take the command, or my sanity level will go down in the drain, the same way it has for Tamarind at Righteous Orbs

Every time I start looking for a random dungeon, I also tick the box for “willing to lead”.

One reason for this sudden interest in taking the lead is of course that I nourish a little hope that this somehow will shorten my waiting time; being a pure dps:er it tends to be longer than for tank- and healing-willing hybrids.

But the major motive is another one; I’m desperately trying to make the run a bit smoother and save myself some repair bills.

Ready checks removed?
Even though I’m generally pleased with the new feature – which facilitates group play even at the most odd hours – there is one nerve-wracking aspect I’ve encountered every single run I’ve been into so far. It’s the crazy rush at the beginning of every instance.

What is it with those tanks who feel compelled to charge whatever they see without even looking at their fellow players once?

I don’t expect the group to be a social club, especially not since we’re not likely to ever meet each other again, but this hasn’t got to do with socializing, it’s a matter of efficiency. You don’t really save any time by not letting people buff up and fill their mana bars before the first pull!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Once we’ve started I’m the first one to enjoy keeping a good speed, chain pulling trash mobs, only stopping to drink before boss fights. I was always a big fan of gauntlets and timed runs, such as the one in Shattred Halls once upon a time, Black Morass, Violet Hold or Zul Aman. And I just love the new gauntlet and the final chase in Halls of Reflection. Speed = fun.

But it’s fun only if everyone is prepared for it and you’re on the track from the beginning. It’s not fun if you’re running after the tank, desperately trying to catch up, while you’re trying to get in range of the others long enough to inspect their specs and figure who would make best use of a focus magic.

As far as I know of Blizzard hasn’t removed the Ready Check function in 3.3. But some people seem to think they have. And that’s the reason why I tick the box. Always.

How to take the lead
The only problem is that getting the formal leadership of the group isn’t the same thing as being the one who actually leads it. While I in real life without any problem whatsoever can grab the attention and silence of a big audience if needed, it’s not the same in a PUG. It doesn’t matter how much I clear my throat or step up on the imaginative soapbox so they can see the smallish gnome. They just don’t listen.

I don’t know why. Maybe the tanks are so used to taking the lead that they won’t notice when someone else has it? The new colour in the party chat obviously isn’t enough to pull their attention.

And now I’m asking out of curiosity: has anyone else found a miracle cure that works, some way to gain control over the group? A healer can just refuse to heal. But a dps? What can you really do? How can I frost nova or at least snare them so they’ll spend one minute on the buffing and ready-check procedure?

Tamarind shared a macro he has made to clarify his healing philosophy to his party:

/p Hello, I will be healing your PUG today. Please note these three simple rules for your comfort and convenience:/p If we wipe, we all run, including the tank. If you pull aggro I won’t heal you. If you stand in bad stuff I won’t heal you either. Enjoy!

Perhaps I should make my own version of it:

/p Hello, I will be leading your PUG today. For your own convenience don’t start this run before we’ve buffed up and everyone’s ready. Tanks who insist on not checking the mana bars before a boss fight will be vote kicked. Dps who pull aggro from the tank will be vote kicked too. Don’t stand in bad stuff. Greed on Frozen orbs. Enjoy!

Would it work? Am I too harsh pulling the "vote kick card" too easily? I'm not a natural born jerk, I just get the impression that in the world of PUGs a bit of jerk jargong sometimes is necessary if you want to claim some kind of authority. Or does anyone else have a better suggestion for how to make you listened to and make the tank at least do a ready check before charging in?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tickled Pink: Pop Culture References

Warcraft certainly has it deeper side but one thing that makes the game enchanting is that it has moments that make one laugh out loud. There are lots of “in-jokes” in the game and sly pop culture references. Which one has left you feeling Tickled Pink?


Oh! It’s so hard to chose! Certainly the most recent example of this happened just last week. I was working on the Wrathgate quest line minding my own business when I arrive at the quest to kill Thel'zan the Duskbringer. I almost failed the quest I was laughing so hard after reading the lich was none other than “Father Inigo Montoy”. The Princess Bride happens to be one of my favorite movies and I have in fact quoted Inigo Montoya in a post here at PPI. Discongruency is an aspect of humor and this irrelevancy in the middle of what is a sober quest chain was priceless.

Another one that I liked was Lord Serpentis who proclaims that he is the serpent king and he can do anything. I’m dating myself here but I have actually visited the grave of Jim Morrison. Can you imagine that Elnia was once huge fan of The Doors. That should make you laugh. “If you give this man a ride/sweet family will die/killer on the road.” I sing that sometimes when I am grinding mobs.

Sometimes I do wonder though if all the humor in the game is intentional. There is a quest that rogues get to start lockpicking at level ten. There is a paragraph in the text that reads, “The Hidden Circle has values. We value valuables. Can ye understand?” Even now typing that brings tears to me eyes. I’m not sure I do understand, actually. Isn’t valuing valuables what makes values valuable? Or is it that valuable values cause rogues to have valuable values? I don’t know. But in homage to that line I have come to define an ethicist as one who values values.

Yes, I do think the sense of humor in Warcraft is under appreciated. It’s easy to take the game too seriously and get caught up in the search for epics and gold and forget to laugh when the laughing is good. Laugh, and the world laughs with you; cry and you will cry with all the other raiders complaining about Blizzard making the game too easy.


My favourite pop culture references are definitely the ones I find on my own, stumbling upon them by accident.

For instance I remember how I smiled when I noticed that The Ocular, a thing you are supposed to destroy in the quest “It’s All fun and Games”, looked very similar to the eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings movie.

But unfortunately I don’t see much of those things without anyone pointing them out to me, since I seem to be playing WoW wearing an eye bindle, as I pointed out in a post from October 2008. At that point I had finally recognized Jhordy Lapforge and Scooty, and was quite enthusiastic about it, being a hopeless Star Trek fan. And I still love them.

It was the finding of the excellent Wowwiki list that opened my eyes to other references, such as Scooby Doo’s collar appearing in the form of Alterac Valley Marks and the Pink Floyd quotations in The Triage quest at Theramore. And in the post I pointed out how stupid I felt for not noticing it by myself.

The only explanation I have is that I often suffer from tunnel vision, being too focused on my game play to pay much attention to the details. Probably I’m also rushing the content a little too quickly, often trying to get things done efficiently rather than enjoying the ride. Which is isn’t a good thing, but that’s how I play the game.

I thought I could as well go back to the list and check out what jokes and references I’ve missed in WotLK. And I didn’t get disappointed. Of course there was a ton of new ones, including some more Star Trek love.

There’s Sailor Picardo and Sailor Philips, deckhands of the Kraken, likely to be references to actors Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips, who played the characters of The Doctor and Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.

In Borean Tundra, there are some evil gnomes, acting like the Borg: "We are Mechagnome...resistance is futile" "You will be assimilated or eliminated."

And in Grizzly Hills, Datalore Smallsphere associates to Data and his twin android Lore.

While I’m still on the topic of TV series, I can’t but approve of the presence of Agent Skully and Deathguard Molder, from X-files, an old favourite of mine.

In Blizzcast 12, the interviewed developers briefly touched upon the topic of the pop culture references and the humour in the game. Tom said that that they have a whole bunch of class clowns working at Blizzard, so that it “inevitably finds its way through”.

Those class clowns however, aren’t only up-to-date with popular games, rock music and movies. They also occasionally show that they have a broader education. For instance there is the quest Horn of the Ancient Mariner , referring to the 18th century poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge. Of course you COULD argue that the Blizzard staff rather have listened to the Iron Maiden version of it, but I prefer to think they didn’t.

And then you have Drottinn Hrothgar, with the same name as character in the epic poem Beowulf. The Old Gnome and the Sea achievement refers to a short story by Ernest Hemingway and Parts for the Job contains a Fresh Pound of Flesh, associating to The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare.

Whenever I see one of those notches to players who don’t only consume pop culture, but also read classical works, I feel Tickled Pink. It clearly shows that WoW is aiming for a very broad and diverse audience.

The Naked Raid and a strange LFG experience

I raided naked last night. Well, not literally - I did have my pants and shirt on, and so did Larísa. But it was a raid done without the normal tools we're normally relying on.

I hadn't expected this to happen in my guild - on the contrary, I was prepared to do what I normally do when there are new bosses incoming - checking up the basics about them, seeing the Tankspot video once or twice, looking up what I would be supposed to do. But this time our leaders surprised us when they told us about how they wanted to approach this new content. We would do it blindly.

So my first adventure in Icecrown Citadel 25 was done without any knowledge about any strategy whatsoever. We had also agreed to shut down every bossmod we normally use. Instead we observed and figured out on our own how to deal with the fights.

It was a very special experience. Sure, we wiped a lot more than we would have else. I felt sort of naked - in a positive way. It gave me a sense of freedom, the same sensation as you get if you've ever tried riding a horse without any saddle. The game and the fights will get closer to you.

Apart from wiping a lot, we actually managed to down a boss - Marrowgar, and lo and behold, I won the bidding on the Frozen Bonespike, which added some sweetness to the night.

Sooner or later we'll probably look at what other guilds have done in those fights, but for now I'm perfectly happy with this way of raiding and I hope that we'll stick to it a couple of raids. There will be plenty of time to get bored and tired with ICC before Cataclysm gets out, so there's really no hurry to get everything done at once.

The silent PUG
After the raid I did my first random LFG random dungeon run, just to see what it would be like. And which dungeon turned up, if not Occulus? However, due to the lack of love from the community, I presume, it had been nerfed to the ground. The result was that we breezed through it like you do with any other heroic instance these days, at least at my gear level. It was quick and efficient, but also a weird experience. No one said a single word. No strategies were discussed, no chit-chatting about what we thought about the new patch. Nothing. Just silence and a quick run-through, and I'm not sure anyone even said good-bye. I could have been playing with NPCs - I wouldn't have noticed any difference. Was it a pleasure? I'm not entirely sure.

It was only one dungeon and of course it's way too early to tell the long term effects that the new dungeon system will have on the game. The developers themselves aren't too sure about it. Ghostcrawler himself speculated in a reply at a forum post:

"I joke, but it's definitely interesting to see the outcome. I said long ago that we knew features like this (and dual spec for that matter) were going to change the game in ways that would be difficult to predict. Some of us were talking about how the ease for forming groups now might actually throw up a barrier to socialization. Why be nice to someone when you won't ever have to group with them again? Why form a guild when you don't need one to run dungeons?"

Well, I know that I'm more convinced than ever that a guild is needed if you want to experience the game the way I want to. "Naked" runs aren't likely to happen in a Random Dungeon group. Suggest them to run without mods, finding up strategies on your own, and you'll get a vote kick before you know it.

And that was the end of my first night in 3.3. On the whole my reaction is like the one I've seen at most blogs - I'm more than delighted. The only thing that made me frown a little bit was the new cat pet sold in Dalaran. Freaking 40 g for a cat that doesn't look a bit better than the ones that have been sold in Elwynn Forest since forever. The pet shop owner must be a goblin in disguise.