Friday, January 29, 2010

Confessions About My Crap Saronite Slave

Friday evening. It’s time to snuggle up in an armchair in front if the fireplace, sipping a steaming, spicy and slightly intoxicating brew, time to stare into the flames, pondering upon the week that was. Time to relax. Time to think about the game we’re playing.

Thinking about the recent adventures of Larísa actually makes me smile. We oneshotted Festergut and Rotface last night and had a few promising attempts at Putricide. ICC rocks. It’s got that perfect balance of sweet and salt – challenging and yet doable, as long as we’re on our toes, bringing our very best gameplay. It’s so fun and exciting to once again work against a goal, gearing her up by every mean I can, aiming for perfection. Sure, I too have sensed the trembling from the earthquakes, I too know that we’ve got an expansion reset right around the corner. So what? When WotLK ends I want to have brought my mage as far as I’m capable of.

My rogue sucks
But then my thoughts wander a bit further, touching on a not-so-pleasing topic: my second-in-rank character – Arisal, the rogue. And suddenly there’s an entirely, uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I feel awkward, even a bit ashamed and I realize that I’d rather not talk about it. Which is a good sign that this is exactly what I should do.

To put it blunt: my rogue sucks. Or rather: I suck so bad at playing her that I can’t even make myself throw a glance at Recount. Watching the scrolling combat text is enough to know that I’m way down on the list – probably below the tank – possibly even below the healer. It wouldn’t surprise me to be honest. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like her. She’s the cutest little badass looking gnome rogue girl you’ve ever seen (apart from the horrible Kirin Tor tabard that makes her look like a clown, but it's only temporary). But playing a melee class requires all those things that I lack most of all: swiftness, environmental awareness, quick reactions and some pretty advanced decisionmaking in what order to push the buttons.

I fail constantly at the most basic things, such as being close enough to the mob and to always remain behind them (whoaaa, they’re moving, how dare they!) Mind you, I don't go afk, I don't watch tv, go to msn or stuff like that. It's just that I'm not good at doing what I'm supposed to do.

My lack of deeper understanding of the rogue class wouldn’t be a problem if I stayed to questing. No one but me would be affected, no one but me would have to suffer from slow progression or even corpse runs. But the thing is that Arisal doesn’t quest. Arisal does random dungeons. You see: Arisal is a Saronite Slave, who wouldn’t be played at all if it wasn’t for her duty to farm frost emblems to get my main the saronite she needs for crafted gear.

Every time I use the Dungeon tool I cringe a little. And then I keep my thumbs crossed that the destination will be one of the easier, such UK, VH or Oculus (yes, Oculus!), where my lack of rogue expertise won’t be as crucial to the outcome. Sometimes I’m lucky. Sometimes I’m not.

Forge of Souls

A few days ago the spinning wheel stopped at Forge of Souls, which almost made me leave the group. I hadn’t done it as a melee, and I felt less than confident in my gear (yeah, I know it’s doable in blues, but that’s for people who know how to play their class. I don’t.)

I gave a quick glance at my party members. They were far better geared and there was no doubt about it. If I was to finish this run, they would be the ones carrying me. I knew it. They knew it. So I decided to be honest about it. I spoke up and told them apologizing that this was my crap alt, and that I would completely understand if they decided to kick me if it turned out that we just couldn’t finish the instance with me to drag along.

“Np. I know what you mean. My rogue alt is EXACTLY the same, said one of my comrades”. And off we went, and we finished the instance without any problem. I suppose we would have saved a minute or two if I had played my main instead. But we got down the bosses and I even won a shiny new dagger.

I thanked them all for carrying me, explaining that I was doing this for the saronite needs of my main. “Oh yeah, aren’t we all?” they said and gave me a nod before we split up and went home to our respectively home server. No hard words were thrown at me. I guess my humble attitude helped a little.

Being lazy
Of course the right thing would be to make a real effort about my rogue. I could run Rawr and see how I could do the best out of the gear I have. I could visit EJ to get a decent, up-to-date spec and a basic understanding for the rotations that come with it.

But I just can’t make myself do it. I don’t have the same urge to try to be my best as I have on my main. I find it hard to motivate myself to spend time out of game doing research for a character whose only purpose is to pug frost emblems and occasionally do disenchants. I guess you could call me a little bit lazy. The price I pay for it is the bad conscience. Leeching normally isn't my style. And the risk to be mocked, named and shamed by some EU based blogger as the worst rogue they ever saw, the M&S of the week. You never know who you’re playing with in those pugs, do you?

Looking for comfort
I’m fumbling for some way to excuse my crappiness and laziness when I’m alting. I found a one-line comment that Brian Inman wrote to a post at Blessing of Kings, which actually made me feel a little better:

Brian wrote: “Pugs are like Marriages: you have to give, and take.”

I think that’s quite true. Mostly we’re doing one thing or the other. When I’m playing my mage, I’m normally a giver. I help to speed up the runs and make a decent job, and I tend to be – how shall I put it – stabilizing factor in the group, who helps it to complete an instance and keep up the moral and spirit, even if someone for instance bails out.

On the other hand, when I’m rogueing, I’m definitely a taker. And I suppose that this evens out things in the long run.

Who knows, maybe some of the people that I help to carry when I’m on my main, in fact are the crappy Saronite Slaves belonging to the same players who carried my rogue in Forge of Souls with their mains? At least I hope so. Even though I must say that I’d rather be the giver than the taker. Every time.

For a little while more Arisal will be pestering the LFG system of the EU servers. Once she’s completed her job I assure I’ll let her return to the shadows where she used to dwell. The Saronite Slave will vanish and order will be restored.

The thought of this brings me a bit of comfort. The drink and the fire will definitely do the rest. Relax, Larisa. It’s just a game. (Omg, I never thought I would utter that sentence!) People don’t hate you half as much as you think. As a matter of fact they probably hardly notice how badly that rogue sucks.

And now the weekend is here with all it brings to us. Enjoy. Cheers all!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tobold's disturbing question

Tobold wrote a short but yet thoughtful post a few days that sparked an interesting discussion. I just wanted to highlight it in case anyone missed it.

He asked the seemingly innocent - but at the same time sharp and provocative question: Could you play WoW without addons? And I couldn't help loving the conclusion of the post:
"Isn't it somewhat embarrassing if you are loudly shouting how easy it is to ride a bike, and then somebody points out that you still have the training wheels on?"

Pros and cons
The comments are pointing in different directions. Some readers take the opportunity to express their dislike for the huge assortment of addons and a few give testimonies about how they manage perfectly well to play without addons. As Gellor says:

"Addons really take alot of the learning and thinking portions of games like WOW out of the equation"
Others argue that since the addons are around it would be silly not to use them. After all they're there, and for many players competition is a huge part of the enjoyment of the game. If you're fighting to a nice, impressing achievement record, a nice position on the progression charts or a skyrocketing gearscore, you're probably prepared to do anything it takes to get there. Why gimp yourself when the only incentive for it is your own vanity?

One advocator of this view is Crucifer:
"If you were in a bike competition where everyone could use training wheels in their attempt to win first place, would it still be embarrassing? No, because it' s a clearly posted advantage that you can gain. You could remove advantages and make the competition harder by competing on a unicycle but you would probably get bigger laughs."
Or as Callan S puts it:

" If those raid add ons weren't allowed/weren't part of the challenge as presented by bliz, yes, it'd solve it. When it's valid, it's as stupid as ignoring your knights or rooks in chess."

Different sorts of addons
So what's my view on this? Well, I think you need to distinguish a bit between addon and addon.

There are addons that basically just automates non-thinking-required actions, as Carra expresses it. The dressing room addons (nowadays partly built into the default UI) is a typical example of this. It saves you time and some boring clicking, but it doesn't give you any clear advantage in beating the content. No harm in this and I haven't much to say about it. The less stupid mindless mass clicking we can get the better. Buffing 40 people with a single-target-buff like you did in the old days doesn't make anyone happy or show any particular sort of skill, so let's make it more convenient.

On the other hand there are the bossmod addons, such as DBM, BigWigs and Deus Vox. And those addons definitely change the level of difficulty radically. And I can't but agree with Tobold on this: it really doesn't make sense that the same players who complain about dumbing down the game are using this kind of addons. They don't only cover your screen with warnings and orders about which button to push next - in some cases they even go as far as to add a little arrow instructing pointing you in what direction you should run to be safe.

Being old, a slow learner with a dodgy situational awareness and reaction times that are getting longer and longer as the year passes, I have every reason in the world to use those addons for my own bart. Just like Tobold does. When he revealed his personal addon list, his comment on DBM was spot on:

" The "You Idiot, you are standing in the fire, get a move on!" addon, which replaces whatever situational awareness skill I would otherwise have needed to play in dungeons and raids. ;)"
That's exactly how it is for me. And I'm old enough not to be perticularly ahamed of it! (Although I honestly still have to struggle a little to act quick enough on the addon instructions.)

The way I see it, the bossmods are the equivalence of the handicap system in the golf sport. Thanks to those addons, even an average Joe player like me can get along decently well in higher raid instances. We can play in company with more skilled players. and everyone will obtain success, challenges and happiness in their own manner. We can use the addons and perform a little bit better than we would otherwise.

I've been raiding without bossmod addons in our blind raids recently, and believe me - the difference in level of difficulty when you raid without addons or access prewritten strategies whatsoever is HUGE. And the imba players on the other hand can just leave the addons alone, getting the challenge they're looking for, while they still can rest assure that their not-so-situation-aware fellow players will get the message that they're standing in fire and act accordingly. Each one to his own.

It's all about the e-peen
So if so many players want a more difficult game (at least if you judge from the forums and the debate in the blogosphere), how come that there are so few that actually take action and toss away the training wheels?

I think it has to do with competition. Even if not so many will admit it, it's a huge part of the game. And even though I'm sure there are exceptions, most of us can't be motivated to make things harder for ourselves then they need to be, if it doesn't come with an opportunity to show off a bit.

The only thing that could motivate players to drop the boss mods (apart from banning them) is that there was some extra incentive in it, apart from the personal feeling of overcoming a challenge. If you somehow could display in Armory that you've downed the boss using only the default UI, or if the use of addons would be punished on the progression charts of your guild, I bet it would be an entirely different issue.

You see: The e-peen still rules Azeroth.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It came from the bar: World of Raidcraft.

This is a guest post written by Holly from Feathermoon (US). Her goal in the game is to “try a little bit of everything”. Consequently she has characters in different classes, both on the horde side and alliance side, dealing with everything from serious raiding to roleplaying. This is her first appearance at the PPI.


“In all honesty I'll admit I'm not nearly the hardcore raider I was once, or that I'm even knowledgeable of all the encounters (princes? I thought you said princesses, I was waiting for them to turn into Goomba's and tell me to check another citadel) But what I have noticed is how the mentality in raiding is shifting, and wondering what is to come.

Shall we take a moment to let an old bitty's mind travel waaay back to the days of molten core? I remember running back if you wiped 5 at a time through BRD, trying to get 40 people to show up at the same bloody time, beating our head against the wall because enough people couldn't get it through their head that if you are the bomb, you had to run away or you killed everyone. Some very bad memories, rolling off between eleventy million other players of the same class for that stupid benediction quest item, those were good.....mediocre...playable days.

Some major things back then was how clearly the roles were, and how squishy -everyone- was. CC was a must, banishes, polymorphs, traps, etc... . there was no digging into a mob right away so that gave people time to do their CC's, sit a second, wait for the second thunderclap, and then dig in, but watch a threat meter, be prepped to go to wand, or sit down for a bit, no hurry.

If too many things were left unCC'd the tank went squish, the tank was not neigh invulnerable, it didn't take a boss hitting for 80% of their hp to make them cringe in fear, no, every mob was dangerous, they were just a little better suited for taking damage, see: dps plate wearers these days.

In those days it was less about reactionary playing, and more about planning. Assigning which mage to the general's healers, who was on back-up if one should die, which of the 18 tanks would tank the boss, etc. . . . It was more about cunning, and less about power.

We fast-forward to BC in Kara, CC was much less important, with blizzards ideas that pallies should no longer be glorified buffbots, but contribute much more, they could tank, dps, and heal now! threat generation was way up, even from warriors, and it was much easier to dig in, and to skip some cc on trash, the tank would hurt, the healer would cry, but save for some really tough mobs, cc wasn't required on every pull, and your wand became a stat stick, mmm, stat stick.

These days though, I'm noticing a trend of less planning or more reacting, there's no deciding which needs to die first unless there's a healler, crowd control isn't even on most people's bars, and success or fail of the encounter is less on strategy, and more on gear and making sure to get out of the fire.

Now please don't think that I'm one of those that thinks this is a bad change, it's a change, what I do think is bad is how people have been reacting to it, I'm noticing the most desired dps isn't a good player, but the flavor of the month that can shave a couple more hundred dps. Tanks are even getting benched or pulled out because their class can outdps other tank classes and they just need the dps. In the end it makes for a much faster, more adrenaline based system. You are getting fewer people coordinated, fights are less unique and more 'it's like XT only with fire’ or "It's like the guy in UP only with fire and bone thingies” And everything is much more gear dependant.

There was a time when you had to have fire, frost, and arcane mages, and despite the fact that fire mages did ridicu-dps, you had to have all 3 because about half the mobs are fire immune or resistant, frost immune or resistant, and arcane mages well, they go boom boom dead.

These days if fire mages do the most dps, it's almost expected of you to be fire, even if you love arcane. Don't put out the 'dps you should?' Then screw you, get out of my raid, dps are a dime a dozen.

In the end I wonder where this could lead to, maybe trispec with each fight tuned so one of them will do more damage. Will Blizzard work to make it so dps are a little more appreciated? Make it so tanks do less damage so none will be benched for it?
I have to admit when Icecrown citadel launched and we could one or two shot every boss in there I was very....disappointed almost, it’s the peak raid of wrath, and the start makes it look like anybody with half a brain can make it to the lich king?

Then we get to plague wing quarter thing, and suddenly there's a fight that reminds me very much of Illidan, and it's tuned so hard that only 100 something raids across the 18 million realms Blizzard had could down him in the ten attempts? I had such a flashback that my brain spun, is this what we should expect from Blizzard in the future? Are they going back to making fights much more than just 'don't stand in the fire'? If so, will the community react positively or negatively? It's food for thought.”

New Voices – It Came From The Bar

I got the sweetest letter from one of my readers a few days ago. It was titled “Very sorry if I’m bothering you”, which made me shake my head a little bit.

“Bothering”? Do I seem like someone who is easily bothered? Do you think I’m drenched in mails from people, to busy to care or notice? How do you really picture the life of a blogger? I’ll tell you the truth. We’re not bothered at all by this kind of letters. At least not any blogger I know of. Any reader contact totally makes my day. “Someone is reading my thoughts and reacting to it. Yay, I exist!”. Listen to the logic of a blogging mind.

Anyway: back to the letter. It was written by Holly, who had noticed that my bartender had left his position and wondered if I’d be interested in getting some guest posts. She wanted to try out blogging, but couldn’t post often enough to keep up a blog of her own.

I told her the truth: that I’m currently not looking for a new regular co-writer for the inn. On the other hand I wouldn’t mind if a guest occasionally would hit their glass, calling for attention. On the contrary, it would be nice if people wanted to share what’s on their mind with the other ladies and gentlemen hanging by the bar disk. My only requirement is that the content and tone in the post should be somewhat in line with the ordinary posting, and it must also be interesting enough to grab the attention of the innkeeper herself.

So I’m hereby introducing a new label at the inn: “It came from the bar”. This will be like a Speakers Corner, where wanna-be-bloggers-maybe-one day can get a chance to clear their throat and let out their blogging voices. Some of them might find it enchanting and interesting and rewarding as I do and move on to start their own blogs one day. And for some of them it might be a one-time-only experience.

We’ll see what will come out of it. It is an experiment. Maybe it will end up in a one-time-only event. Maybe Holly – and other inn visitors – will speak up again. No matter what I promise it won’t take over the blog in any way. The PPI is and will remain Larísa’s domain.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Rant on Why We Want to Read About Guild Drama and Bad Stuff

WoW bloggers have always ranted about Pug experiences. Especially bad ones. However, the introduction of the random dungeon system has changed the frequency of it. We’ve gone from one amusing or upsetting story every month or so to one or several Fail-Pug stories a day.

Often those stories include calling out names, which seems to have a sort of cleansing effect on my fellow bloggers. They may have felt powerless against the stupidity and evilness of the player in the instance, but now they can apply this damaging little blog dot afterwards, and who knows, it might spread so the players on that realm will get to know about it and put him on their ignore list. The revenge is sweet! (At least I guess it is - I've actually never become angry enough to write a name-and-shame-post myself. And to be honest I don't think actually printing the name out is necessary - you can blow your steam off just as well without it.)

Good hearted approach
However, some bloggers think that this habit has gone too far. Gnomeaggeddon is challenging us to make a 180 degree flip, and stop writing about our bad experiences. Instead we should call out the best pugging people we meet in game.

Of course it's a good hearted and sweet idea. And it connects nicely into the declared policy of the new gossip column The Classifieds at, which is to replace the previous Guildwatch. They've decided to weed out all the Guild drama news. From now on you can expect more of progression reports and recruitment ads from guilds on servers you’ve never heard of, and occasionally also some shoutouts to nice players people have met in pugs.
Yeah, it’s a nice approach and I can't really question it in any way. It's a sign of superior moral ideals and after all I if anyone approve of trying to make the world into a better place by encouraging people who do good things.

And yet – from an ex media employee perspective I have my doubts that this really will work as intended, at least not n the case of the column. (Gnomeaggedon is another story - if anyone could make this pay-it-forwardish concept work, it's Gnome. Best of luck!).

What I’ve seen from The Classifieds, most of the stories shared so far aren’t any good stories – in fact they’re probably mostly interesting to the people involved, who can be happy to see their own names mentioned at a highly trafficked news site. But from the perspective of an outsider something is lacking.

News dramaturgy
I know this probably sounds weird, especially coming from a pink pigtailed gnome, the essence of cuteness and a positive attitude. In fact I sound like a complete dick, which is rather unusual, since I believe I have a reputation as being a "nice" blogger. But if you don’t rage quit right away and can cope with a rather long rant, I’ll try to explain what I mean.

The thing is that it’s far from easy to write in an interesting and entertaining way about things that work the way you expect them to work. In fact it’s extremely hard. I don’t say it’s impossible. Gnomeaggedon and Big Bear Butt are examples of bloggers who are capable of writing such posts, enchanting everyone with pure cosiness and goodwill, sharing stories about pugs that worked fine and wonderful players they've encoutered. But they are exceptions.

You see - the basic dramaturgy of storytelling isn't about being nice.

When I talk to people about my job I often get to hear “Oh, the media are just crap. They only focus on the negative news. They should talk more about positive things”. And my answer will inevitably be that this is how the news mechanism looks. This is the basic dramaturgy, the thumb rule of what we regard as a piece of news.

Think about it. You don’t hear on the news that “Today every single airplane landed safely and on time”. The reason why plane crashes are reported is that those events are rare and unexpected. (And I wouldn’t want it otherwise of course. Imagine living in a world where a day without plane crashes was something so unusual that the media find it worth reporting about…)

The lacking conflict
Hands on heart – even if there are a lot of fail pug stories these days, the majority of the pug runs we do work out pretty much ok. At least in my world they do. We wait our 10 minutes (if we’re dps), using the time to make errands at AH, questing, fishing, whatever. And then we breeze through the instance in 20 minutes, add or leave 5 minutes depending on instance. And people generally know their stuff well enough to get the job done.

This is nice and convenient, but normally it isn’t material for telling a good story!

Why? Well, for one thing it's happening way too often, there's nothing unusual about it. And secondly there’s nothing in it for the reader to identify with and react to. Nothing to make them amazed, surprised, entertained, annoyed or tickled.

You see, the nice-run stories lack an essential ingredient: there isn't any built-in conflict that needs to be resolved, there isn't any tension of opposing interests and wills. Good stories are somewhat bipolar. Black and white. Good and evil. Darkness and light. The little guy against the big guy. Them and us. If we’re all just a nice happy family, there’s no story to tell. It's just: "meh".

Sunshine and shades
Now, don’t take me wrong. I'm not completely cathagoric about it. In real life news you sometimes get those kind of sweet little stories towards the end of the show – something about a pet miraculously saving their owner or a letter coming through after 20 years. And of course there’s an equivalence of this in WoW – good, inspiring things going on that deserve a mentioning. At and on different blogs we have for instance sometimes been told about how people have met and married thanks to wow or how a guild guild has taken an initiative to help out a member in trouble.

However, I think it’s a little bit naïve to say that from now on we’ll ONLY write about the good and ignore the bad things, as if this somehow would make the asshats, the morons and the drama and trouble they cause miraculously disappear. Because they won’t. Planes will crash even if we stop reporting about it. And the ones involved in the plane crash certainly won’t feel better about it just because people turn their eyes away and pretend it didn’t happen. has got quite a lot of negative reactions to the change of the Guildwatch column. Matticus suggested that someone would take over and start a blog picking up where Guildwatch left. Now Mike Schramm seems to be pondering upon actually doing it. I bet he'll get quite a few readers it becomes reality. Because regardless of the morality - it's entertainment. And maybe we can even learn something from reading it - about difficult situations that may appear and different ways to handle it.

TLDR version: Readers want good stories. About good stuff, about bad stuff, about the Azeroth we all know. To only write about the sunshine, deliberately omitting negative news, is a bit dishonest. And boring. There are shades i Azeroth too, just like in the real world. And we should be allowed to talk about them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Bubble

When I was a child I loved to dry my hair with a hairdryer after having a bath or a shower. Not that I bothered much about how my hair looked. It was all about bubbling.

Somehow the combination of the hot air and the soft, consistent humming provided me with a temporary protective shelter. For a few minutes I was brought to a place out of the normal world, excused and untouchable. No one could address me with anything through that noise – I wouldn’t hear a thing anyway. It was just me and the warm breeze and if I closed my eyes I could imagine that I was somewhere else, in a far distant world out of time and space, void of burdens, obligations or disappointments.

As a matter of fact I still like to bubble. I bubble into the hair-dryer (although I try not to do it every time – after all it’s as bad for my hair as for the environment). But I have another protective bubble too. It’s called Azeroth.

The protective bubble
I came to think of it as I read Tamarind's stunningly honest and beautiful post about the relation between his real life and his WoW playing, where WoW during a period became his shelter that helped him to cope with an unbearable life situation. A bubble where he could find something to catch his attention so his mind could get a necessary break from the pain.

And I ask myself how many of us players who in fact are bubbling in the moment when we log on. Judging from words slipping from people I’ve met, fragments of real life information I’ve read on blogs, I think I’m not alone.

So many people I’ve met online seemed to be running away from something. We’re running away from jobs that are wearing us down, from dysfunctional relationships, running away from financial worries, from loneliness, illness or from the plain existential question that we all will face at some point in our lives: “How am I going to live the rest of my life”?

Somehow this bubble function of WoW is a bit frowned upon. The anti-gaming movement love to preach about the dangers of using games as an escape from real life.

I don’t judge anyone. It’s not my business to tell anyone else how to live their lives. There are all sorts of bubbling – and WoW is definitely quite harmless if you compare to other shelters. People run into drugs, violence, gambling or dangerous eating habits. In WoW I don’t hurt anyone but digital monsters. And besides I’m a bubbler too, so how could I possibly have anything against it?

Dealing with the demons
Still I would be lying if I said that I don't worry a little bit about it. Never before have I had a hobby that takes so much of my time and energy as playing World of Warcraft. Never before have I had access to such an effective, powerful bubble. If I watch a movie, my thoughts can drift away. But when I’m handling the beast adds at Saurfang, there isn’t room for anything else. There is nothing but “here and now” and it works effectively as a kind of meditation. My mind is suddenly cleared, free from all the crap that normally fills it. I’m safe, happy in the moment.

To have such an effective escape and hideout available only a loginscreen away can be a very good thing, especially if it helps you to survive in a difficult real life situation.

But on the other hand I’m painfully aware of the demons won’t go away if I constantly bubble out of their attacks. At some point we all need to get out of the shelter – fighting, nuking, negotiating, taking decisions – do the things we have to do, because it’s a part of being a adult human being.

I love my bubble to death. But I also try to keep an eye on it, not letting it grow permanent. I can dry my hair until it’s warm and crispy – however at some point I must turn of the hairdryer. Even if it makes me freeze.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Please, Let Me Say "Cheese"!

I've never been the kind of player who cares a lot about her looks. Most of my online time utility is all what matters, and when I'm raiding I'm so focused on the encounter that my own char could as well have the shape of a blue cube - I wouldn't notice.

The exception is of course the pink pigtails, the sources of my spirit, stamina and power. I wouldn't even let Larísa get close to the in-game hairdresser. Who knows, she might become victim of an outburst of accidental scissor activity

As a matter of fact - apart from the hair - I never knew quite how my character looked. Or to be more correct: I know her back very well, but not her face. Normally I only flip the camera for certain encounters such as XT, to keep an eye on the adds from behind. And then I've been to occupied doing this to pay any attention to my appearance.

For those reasons it was a bit of a shock for me to check out the new Armory feature where you can decide what your toon should look like. The basic idle pose was familiar, since I meet it on the logon screen. But the rest of it not very much.

Take the pose "yes" for instance. Or "no". How often do you make that in game? I didn't even know those emotes existed! And what bothers me is that they are far from flattering, especially the yes-saying one. It's something with the eyes that bothers me. They are crazy, not to say outspoken evil. I just don't recognize the cute little doll I always thought I was playing. And the same goes with the laughter. This is a huge crying-out-loud laugh, not at all resembling to the cute little gnome giggle I'm used to hear.

Actually I had to look quite closely before I could find a pose that I thought carried some sort of resemblance to the picture of Larísa I have in my head. After some playing around I finally settled for the "flex" pose in a close-up version. The twisting body makes her somehow come alive compared to the default portrait.

I must admit though that there are some poses I miss in Armory. For instance, where is the one for "shy" or "flirt"? I've always loved it - I always want to hug whoever makes it - even the boldest warrior. I would definitely rather be able to expose a shy Larísa than the current versions of "chicken" or "train", which are plain ugly and annoying.

However there's one emote that I'd like to see more than anything else. It's an emote which currently doesn't even exist in game - don't ask me why. Can it really be that complicated to program it? Are there too many muscles involved?

All I want to see is a simple "smile". Larísa smiles quite a lot in the game but it never shows anywhere but in the chat window and my imagination.

Now that Armory looks like a photo album, I don't think it's to ask too much that our characters should be able to say: "Cheese"!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What actually happens during maintenance?

A thread at the official EU forums caught my attention. It started with a straightforward question from a player about what actually happens when the servers are shut down for maintenance, apart from applying patches.

In the replies there are a few efforts to give a serious answer to the question. There are suggestions that the Blizzard people do things such as restarting the servers, checking their performance using diagnostic tools, defragmenting etc. And I guess that’s the pretty close to the truth.

However, what makes this discussion entertaining is that most of the ideas are much more imaginative than truthful. I’ll quote some of them for you:

"I believe that Blizzard send a fleet of mechano hogs throughout World of Warcraft paying each mob and critter their weekly wages."

"They take turns to log into my account and farm battered hilt only to delete it afterwards. They do this to make battered hilt feel animosity towards me and never show up when it's me playing."

"It's so the blizzard employees can raid lag free."

"…And they keep trying to take back Gnomeregan but they run out of time cause servers got to go back up and they got lost because there is no map for the old dungeons."

"Maintenance days are the only time the hamster that power the servers gets time off. You wouldn’t take that away from him would you WOULD YOU!?"
A lot players want to believe that this is the weekly rest for the Blizzard staff:

"That one single poor GM ingame needs a break once in a while".

Quite a few imagine them shutting down the servers, going to a pub. Or maybe it’s just the opposite:

"*sigh* silly people.. nah the one and only true explanation is this:

All your suggestions about GM's and service team going out to the pub gettin drunk each wednesday are so wrong... thats the time they do things, theyre at the bar drinkin for the rest of the week, thats why most of the help requests you make at 20 are replied at 3-4AM - cuz thats when they manage to crawl back ;)"
And I couldn’t help loving the idea that they are sending out a squad of GMs of different classes all over Azeroth to put things right again and make them ready for another week:
  • "Priest and Paladin GMs travel all over WoW universe, resurrecting bosses, using memory wipes on them so that they forget which players have killed them before so they don't know the tactics those players will use on them next time.
  • Any engineer GMs go and repair the keep in Wintergrasp, as it takes a LOT of damage during the rest of the week.
  • Druid GMs go round the world planting more herbs for herbalism.
  • Shaman GMs go round the world manipulating the molten layer under the land's crust and bringing new metals and gems to the surface in the form of mining nodes.
  • Mage GMs go around with the Priests and Paladins, summoning their water elementals to wash all the blood splatters off the walls and floors of the dungeons.
  • Hunter GMs summon their special sheepdog pets and go and round up all the animals that have run off scared from all the rampaging adventurers running through their homes.
  • Rogue GMs sneak round all player accounts stealing tiny amounts like a few copper coins, dust, potions and gems from those that will notice the loss the least and distribute them amongst various loot boxes and chests around the world.
  • Warlock and Warrior GMs also travel with the other GMs that go round the dungeons, teaching the bosses how to be evil again and how to fight following the memory wipes.
  • Death Knight GMs with blacksmithing again join the dungeon crew, so that they re-forge weapons and inscribe all the cool-looking runes on them"
Go and enjoy the thread! Add your own suggestions! What do you think actually happens during maintenance?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Joy of Making Legendaries

This weekend I finished my first legendary weapon – Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. Playing a mage I couldn’t equip it of course – and even less use it. Strictly speaking it wasn’t even my property, but that didn’t make any difference. I was just as happy about this weapon as our priest Ostaker, who actually held it in his hands.

A long term project
Adrenaline has been working on this mace since Ulduar came during the spring 2009. Lately our Ulduar runs have been few and far between, and before that we we used to extend our saved instances in order to work on hard modes, rather than farming the place for fragments. That’s why it took us so long to get the 30th fragment and finally forge it together in the gap of Yogg-Saron.

Nevertheless it was clear from the beginning that this project would go on until the mace was complete. More than once has our guild leader reassured the chosen mace owner that he would get his Precious eventually. Leaving it unfinished was out of the question – even though more than one in the guild felt that we were over and done with Ulduar – especially with the arrival of ICC.

This Sunday time had come to make the final push to put it all together. We had a saved clearance up to general Vezax, and killing him was a quickie, even though I must admit that I ate far more shadow crashes than I should have. I suppose I can blame my lack of recent practice on that encounter, which is even more true about the following Yogg-Saron encounter.

I wasn’t alone in being ring rusty, I dare say. And the thing about this fight is that it’s so very much about control, precision and technique, and so little about gear. Even though we’re currently raiding two tiers above the encounter and have an average gearscore number far beyond what’s requested in Ulduar, it doesn’t help much if you accidently spawn adds in phase 1 or if you fail to keep track on your sanity in phase 2. Turning down the help from one of the watchers (Hodir I believe we picked), which is required for the making of the mace, definitely didn’t make it any easier.

We had to re-conquer this fight once again, getting reminded of all the things to keep in mind (and they are quite a few) until we finally got the hang of it, two hours into the raid.

Farewell to Ulduar
Words can’t describe the relief we felt as we saw Yogg go down. Ulduar had been awesome in every way – and for a good reason picked as the best raid instance in the PPI list of 2009. But now we were done and over with it, and you could hardly think of any more worthy end of it.

It was in this very moment that Ostaker started to say on vent that he couldn’t see any item on the corpse. During the fight he assured us that he had thrown the thing into the mouth of Yogg, not only once but several times to make sure it worked. But had it been enough? What if he didn’t complete the quest after all? It would have been the most epic fail you could think of. I started to make feverish calculations on the chances we had to convince a GM that our priest was entitled to get the quest done.

We all held our breath for a few nervous seconds. But finally, when all other items were removed from the corpse for disenchanting, he could loot it (and receive a well deserved temporary demotion from raider to “muppet”). However this wasn’t quite the end of it. It turned out that we had to go and make one finally Iron council kill to get it all done, and so we did, and Adrenaline had acquired our first legendary item.

I don’t care if there already might be better healing weapons available in ICC. I don’t care if killing Yogg+3 isn’t the most impressive of achievements these days. Because the true feat of strength in this is not the kill in itself, but that we have kept the guild together for such a long time, through progress and through difficulties, never giving up, never forgetting about our promise.

Shadowmourne next
Someone nominated Val’Anyr for the title “guild drama of the year”, and it’s possible that it’s been the case in some other guilds, but definitely not in ours. It has never been a source of envy and split – rather it’s the opposite. It’s something that unites us and glues us together – the very symbol of our common efforts.

Now the mace is done and we’re rapidly progressing on our next legendary weapon – Shadowmourne. A few days ago our chosen axe wearer (picked through normal dkp bidding, in case anyone’s wondering) had come to the step where he needed 25 primordial saronites to complete the quest and move forward.

If we just would have waited for them to drop in ICC, this would indeed have been a painfully slow long term project. But lo and behold, what happened? People in the guild started to donate saronites to speed up the process. And the willingness to donate was so big that you actually had to be very quick if you wanted to have a part in that weapon.

Legendaries in Cataclysm
One legendary weapon done and the next one on its way. It won’t be completed tomorrow, but it will one day. I know it and everyone in my guild knows it.

And it gives me such a fuzzy feeling in my stomach.

I hope they’ll create another legendary in Cataclysm. If it would be something a mage could find useful – the better. And if not – I can live with it.

The greatness in legendary weapons doesn’t lie in the stats or the ownership. No, it’s all about the process of making it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears will be shed over this axe. This is what forges a guild together, this is what distinguishes Adrenaline from pugs and "want-to-raid-one-day" guilds.

With Shadowmourne in our hands we will be stronger than ever.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The activity feed in Armory should be optional

13 hours and 28 minutes ago Larísa killed Eregos, the end boss in Oculus. It was the 23th time I did it in her lifetime. Saturday she had another go with Loken. Friday night was more intense with six boss kills in ICC, of which two first kills. This run provided her with two upgrades - a trinket and a pair of trousers (or to be more precise, a kilt), of which she equipped both. She ended up doing the weekly raiding quest in Naxx and ran the dungeon daily as well, which turned out to be Drak'Tharon Keep. This was by the way the only 5-man Larísa did this day.

It's all there in the new Armory activity feed for anyone to read. To be honest I don't think many will. Who cares about how Larísa spends her time online? Not many. I't's not as if I'm Kungen. (He on the other hand can expect some stalkers.) But still. There's something in this new armory feature that bugs me. I feel naked. I used to slip into Azeroth to have time for myself, seen and known by no one. Now I feel as if someone is watching over me, every step I take.

Personal integrity
Probably I'm just a bit old fashioned, not belonging to the twittering, facebooking and bigbrothering generation, who is used to expose everything in their life including webcams all the way into the bathroom and bedroom. Probably I'm just not keeping up with the modern way of living. But I fail to see how complete transparency in every action I take in game will make anyone more happy or entertained.

I never understood the point of the profile tracker that introduced last spring. And honestly I don't think many other players did either - you haven't heard much about it lately, so I reckon it didn't become any big success However what was good about this feature is that it was absolutely optional. Displaying your activities at Wow Armory isn't. And that bugs me.

Oh well. Admittedly I'm a grumpy old gnome. The personal integrity topic isn't exactly new at the PPI. Over a year ago, when they started to show achievements in armory, I protested against it, and they didn't bother at that point, so why would they now?

However I think this change is worse, taking it one step further. I'm just waiting for them to link together your different characters, displaying the recent account activities. They've already crossed every border you can think of, so why stop now?

Make it optional
And yet a solution would be so very simple. All it takes is a tiny little check box. I can choose whether to display my cloak and helm or not. Give me the same opportunity for the activity feed and I promise I'll stop bitching about it. OK?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tickled Pink: Music from the Hearts of Warcraft

This is the final Tickled Pink post. Under this label the staff at the PPI used to give different perspectives on a topic that had tickled our minds. Since Elnia has quit there won't be anymore posts in this series. However, before leaving, Elnia sent me a last idea for a Tickled post. He never finished his part, but since I’ve done mine I could as well publish it. So here we go, tickled one last time!

Tickled Pink
The music is an integral part of Warcraft. From the choral chants of “Lamb of God” while in ghost form, to the swelling chords of Stormwind City, to the soulful punk of the new Icecrown Citadel music transforms the playing experience. In fact, the Blizzard developers have stated that half the size of recent patches is taken up by sound files alone. So what music leaves you Tickled Pink?

Larísa: To be honest I’ve missed out a lot of the music in WoW, if not most of it. There are several reasons for this. One is my former wreck of a computer, with its horrendous lagging. I had to take every possible measure to decrease the strain on the system as I was playing WoW. Apart from putting the graphic settings on a minimum, minimum, this also meant that I had to turn off the music or even the entire game sound, at least as long as I was raiding. It didn’t help much, but it helped a little and every counted.

This problem is gone, and nowadays I can turn on the music as much as I want. But I still miss a lot of it.

Partly I blame my non WoW-playing family members for this. One of the things that annoy them most is when I’m playing with my headset on, since it shields me from taking part in any conversation or noticing when they’re calling on me. When I’m raiding I have to use them, and they accept it since it’s something we’ve agreed on. But at any other time, I try not to use my headset as long as there are people around me. Since the computer is situated in the living room, this is often the case. The more discrete I can be in my playing, the better. So letting the sound come out of the loudspeaker is of definitely out of the question.

But what about the raids then? I surely could listen to the music then, since I have my headset on? Well, I could. But on those occasions I have so many other things to listen to – the instructions and discussions in the vent channel, but also alert sounds coming from a bunch of addons. Even if I do keep the music turned on nowadays, I tend to have it on a very low volume, not to distract me from more important sounds. This means that I don’t notice the music all that much, which probably is a shame.

However, if I was to choose the one piece of music from the game that meant most to me, it wouldn’t be the majestic music from a raid instance. No, it would be the most basic, childish, simple one you could think of: the default music in Elwynn Forest. To me this represents the heart of WoW. It reminds me of my first, innocent, struggling steps in WoW three years ago and it makes me feel cheerful, happy and positive for some reason.

No matter if you’ve had one of those nights when nothing worked the way that you hoped for and you just feel worn out, empty and disappointed. Enter Elwynn Forest, hug a cow, smell a flower, say hello to one of the guards, grab a beer at the inn, listen to the music and remember once again that Azeroth is a wonderful magic fantasy world where anything can happens.

This little melody speaks to me, telling me that there may be heroic deeds to be performed in far distance countries, but in the end every adventurer wants to return one day to the merry, sunny pastures we call “home”.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Here I am – alone again

So, here I am – back to where I was when I began this blogging adventure almost two years ago. A pigtailed innkeeper, managing her own little corner of the WoW blogosphere. Alone.

I woke up one morning to find that Elnia, our highly appreciated bartender, has decided to quit blogging. To be honest it didn’t come as a complete surprise; it was evident that the game had lost its magic to him and he was planning to take an extended break from it. However I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. He didn’t even write a farewell note to inform our guests. So that’s what I’m doing in this post.

The work of the bartender
Elnia started to write for the PPI in May last year. He was actually one of the regular readers, who one day approached me, offering me some posts. And so he was hired.

Even if I didn’t always agree on Elnia’s views (we had very different interests in the game, me a dedicated raider, he a much more casual player), I liked his creative style, energy and ideas.

I think I can say that I’m not the only one who will miss Elnia. During his stay here he wrote 36 posts on his own and contributed to a bunch of Tickled Pink Posts that we made in cooperation.

More than once has the bartender's posts stirred up some controversy in the blogosphere or made its way into He has even managed to get readers to rage-quit, unsubscribing, as a reaction to his sometimes rather adult language and approach. However the post that will stay longest in my memory isn’t one of the controversial ones, but Landscapes of Heart, one of the most beautiful and poetic posts about WoW I’ve ever read.

The future
So what will happen now? Not very much. There’s one voice less to listen to here at the inn, but apart from that it’s business as usual.

Will there be any new bartender? Well I'm not going to advertise, but who knows - maybe one day someone will walk in through the door starting to hand out pints to the guests as if that was what he always had been doing. And if this won't happen - no big deal. In the end, running a blog is a lonely business for most of us, with a few exceptions.
The frequency in posting will probably decrease slightly from now on, partly as a result of the decreased staff, partly because my own lack of time. I don’t expect to post more than maybe two or three times a week on average. And if this will mean fewer visitors – so be it. It was never about the numbers anyway. Blogging is my guilty pleasure, something I’m doing for enjoyment and as a let-out for some of the thoughts and emotions that are swirling in my mind. Not for money. Not performing a duty. Just having fun.

So here’s a final toast for Elnia. Even though he’s absent now – I don’t know if he’s even reading this – I just wanted to express my gratitude for all you did for the inn.

Good luck on whatever will be your next creative project.

Cheers from your former landlady!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Love rather than loot will turn me into a healer

There’s a discussion going on in the blogosphere about if you should hand out some extra rewards to tanks and healers. It sparked from a guest post at World of Matticus by Gordon from We Fly Spitfire. Blessing of Kings, Big Bear Butt , Spinksville and Forbearance among others have commented on it.

A lot has been said about how much or how little the dpsers are contributing to the success of the group. Some argue that we’re quite disposable, more or less dead meat nowadays (as opposed to when there at least was a need for good, reliable cc), while others point out that enrage timers are hard to beat without sufficient dps and that GOOD dpsers are just as rare as good tanks and healers.

The enjoyable stress
Gordon talks a lot about the stress and pressure that comes with the tanking and healer roles. He seems to regard this task as a burden. The poor tanks and healers have to work harder than anyone else in the group and this justifies an extra reward.

Frankly I just can’t see it that way. When did running an instance become a burden or a job? I thought we did this for relaxation and entertainment (with possible exception for a few gold farmers, if there still are any around these days).

Admittedly my experiences as a tank or a healer are restricted to my druid alt who is currently lvl 73, so I don’t claim to be any expert. But as far as I’m concerned, the pressure put on me as a healer is a reward in itself. It’s the very reason for me to want to turn into a tree!

I enjoy the feeling that I’m really making a difference. An instance can be four-manned or three-manned, but only as long as there’s a healer and a tank in the group. As a healer I’m running the show as a team with the tank. I enjoy the adrenaline rushes, not only during the bosses, but during almost every single pack. I enjoy sweating and swearing and responding to the challenge! I enjoy not being able to follow the guild chat since’ I’m totally focused on what I’m doing.

There isn’t such a thing as a facerolling easy instance as long as I’m on my little druid. The stress kick I get from a normal five-man instance would require a major new boss fight if I was on my mage. I find it highly enjoyable and it definitely isn’t something I expect extra rewards for doing.

Encouraging healing and tanking
Still – I admit there is an issue concerning the incentives for choosing a role as a tank or healer. Apparently something is keeping people away from it - otherwise we wouldn’t face the unbalances in the Dungeonfinder system, where a healer or tank will get a group within a second, while a dps can expect to queue for at least 10 minutes, if not more.

The question is: can we get more willing tankers or healers simply bribing them with extra emblems, gold or even special drops, only-for-them? I sincerely doubt it.

The best thing that Blizzard possibly could to do encourage players to try out a healing or tanking role is already done. It was when they introduced the dual spec, so that all players always could have an easily available dps spec to bring out for questing – either for levelling purposes or for knocking off dailies. Gone are the days when healers had to either waste tons of gold on respeccing or put up with painfully slow killing as they were questing.

However it’s evident that the removal of this obstacle wasn’t enough. There still aren’t enough people who are willing to bring up as many new tanks and healers as we need to make balanced groups to beat the content.

The lack of patience
I think the major problem is player attitude – how we treat our healers and tanks. There is absolutely no forbearance, no patience, no understanding for the fact that everyone is new at some point and has to start somewhere – gearing up and learning to play their class in this specific roll.

Although you can gear up a bit outside of instances, it’s rather hard not to say impossible to learn how to heal a party by questing. You have to make your errors and climb the learning curve in a real instance environment. Even players who realize this need seem to think: “fine, you need to learn, but please don’t do it in my party. I don’t have time for this.”

Calli at Pew Pew Lazers put it well in a recent rant, which has epic proportions but is well worth reading.

He points out the rather ridiculous expectations players of today have on the time and easiness of an instance run and the gear level of the tanks. Some players even prefer a deserter debuff and making the queue once again to giving a tank with less than 4 pieces of T9 a shot.

I can’t but agree. It’s absolutely astonishing how spoiled players are, how we expect literally every encounter in the game to be on farm mode from the very beginning and any instance to be cleared without any causalities within 20 minutes.

If a new tank takes his time to actually mark things and ponder a bit upon on how to make a pull or wait for the healer to gain mana, you can bet that someone will yell: “Gogogo”, followed by a “Gtg soon, hurry!”

And I honestly don’t think ANY kind of extra loot can be enough to compensate for some of the douchebaggery fresh tanks had healers have to put up with.

What I want as a healer
My druid has recently taken her first stumbling steps waving her branches in the Northrend instances. What will it take to make her continue to offer her healing services through the Dungeon finder system, rather than questing, hiding in the shadows as a kitty or just giving up the whole project, sticking to one of my dps characters?

Well, it takes two things. The first, and definitely the most crucial one, is cooperative tanks. Tanks who don’t dismiss me when I admit that I’m new to healing, but rather adjust their pace and the size of packs they’re pulling to what I’m capable of healing through. Tanks who give me time, if not to loot and skin (oh what a mistake to pick skinning as a profession for a healer!), at least enough for me to have a drink every now and then.

The second thing it takes is a little bit of encouragement from the fellow players in the party. You can’t overestimate how much the feedback you get from your first healing or tanking experiences ever in the game mean - how it can inspire you to pick a challenging, stressful path– or how it can scare you away from ever trying such a thing again.

A few days ago I ran my first Nexus and UK in a random group consisting of only players at the right level. And I was lucky enough to get one of those insightful and patient tanks. Of course I overhealed a lot, nervously staring at the health bars, resulting in rather long drinking pauses when the party had to wait patiently for me. Of course I got tunnel vision, resulting in rather stupid standing-in-fire actions from my side. But somehow we managed to make our way through it and the party was up for another instance with me as a healer. Words can’t describe what a boost this was to my self confidence!

As we separated after UK, as I had to leave for real life stuff, the leader said: “I’m sure you’ll make a fine healer at lvl 80”. It may not sound as anything special, but I tell you, for the terrified newbie healer, it meant more than any drop Gordon could have brought me. I was exhausted from the tension and strain, but my healing heart was glowing with pride.

My simple conclusion is: All you need is love.

Give me a cheer and a hug and I’ll heal my arse off for you in any instance you like. Regardless of what awards it offers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kitty Cat Survival Tactics

I don’t normally follow Blog Azeroth but I happened to pop over there looking for a link to something else and I found that a topic up for this week was how to survive as a melee DPS. I actually believe that surviving as a melee DPS is very simple.


No. I’m serious. I leveled as a Boomkin. When one is playing caster DPS one basically stands around tossing spells at the boss. Occasionally one has to pick up an addie or chase after the boss if the tank kites him somewhere. But as caster DPS you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to the nitty gritty of the fight. You toss up Hurricane or Blizzard and let it channel on the trash.

As a consequence when I switched my spec to feral at level 80 to play cat I had a difficult time in instances. I would die. Often. My instincts were to just hang in there, mangling and shredding everything. Although I didn’t know it at the time I actually had the perfect attitude for a tank. Only I wasn’t geared as a tank. The results were predictable.

What I had to learn through harsh experience is the cardinal rule of feral. A dead cat does no damage. You lay there on the ground pushing up the daisies, pining for the fjords, and your dps is exactly zero. You are a deceased cat.

My first reaction to this mystifying problem of dying was to wonder where the hell the healer was because wasn’t it the healers job to heal me through all the damage. But even I had to concede that the healers main reasonability was to the tank, not me. So the next thing I started to do was to use various tools at my disposal such as Lifeblood from my herbalism profession and Barkskin whenever it was off CD. This helped.

But I still was dying more than I liked. Then a funny thing happened while I was in the forum. I was playing with a bad tank who couldn’t hold arrgo. The result was that I was chasing the mobs and the bosses every which way. But I noticed something odd. I wasn’t dying. I wasn’t doing as much damage because I couldn’t land my power moves but I wasn’t dying. And when I considered the issue in a break between bosses I realized that yes, there was a reason why I was living
on the run

I wasn’t standing in the colored goop.

And this dear readers is when I learned the secret to melee dps survival:

run the instance with a bad tank.

Here is the long and the short of it. As melee dps you should only be taking killing damage in two situations. (1) You got arrgo from the boss or the tank failed to pick up adds. (2) You stood in the goop/got caught in the aoe. I have yet to be in an encounter where the melee dps took damage—damage that a proper healer can’t heal through—unless one of these two conditions are true.

In situation number one the best solution is to run…with your toon right out of the instance. Because either your tank doesn’t know what the heck he or she is doing or you significantly out gear them.

In situation number two running is your best option as well. Almost all aoe can be ran away from if you know it’s coming and it’s your responsibility as melee to know it’s coming. Second, running away from the fight is a very obvious signal to the healer that you are hurt. Healers can get tunnel vision too and forget about the dps. More times than I can count I have fled the fight with less than 10% health and within seconds got zapped by a heal. The healer may have even had me on their radar and those precious seconds were the difference between a failed heal on their part and me living.

I understand that in some people’s minds running is a cowardly thing to do. Let’s be honest here. What the worst that could happen if you run away? You don’t do any more damage. Well, if you are dead you are not going to do any damage either. So if you run away you are no worse off than you would have been if you had hung in there a second or two and died.

Like all rules this has an exception. If you are at 1% on the boss hang in there and sacrifice you body. One or two seconds more of damage might prevent a wipe. If not, you gave it your best show and can hold you head up.

There is an old saying that “discretion is the better part of valor”. That’s the code of the melee dps. You first priority is to live. Dead cats do no damage. Although, based upon experience in party chat, they tend to tell a lot of tales.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What´s Your Cheerscore?

“LFM ICC 10. No achievement required, min 5k Cheerscore. PST for invite.”
Is this something we’ll see in the LFG channel in the future? Maybe. I don’t know if there will ever be a Cheerscore. But we need something more than just gear evaluations to make grouping with unknown players a bit smoother.

Different expectations
Recently there have been a lot of blogposts about the use of Gearscore and about the sometimes rather unrealistic demands that l33t players are making on their fellow PUGers. Once again we’re reminded about how the community consists of millions of players with wildly shifting expectations on the game, more or less successfully trying to coexist side by side in peace.

The problem isn’t new, but the new random dungeon system is bringing matters to a head. Some players are in this only for the badges, measuring the success of an instance run in the ratio of minutes/emblem.

Others are Looking for More, wanting to see some sort of group chemistry or even intimacy to not feel empty and unfulfilled.

Just like any other online dating service, Blizzard is trying to match players who they think would fit nicely together. However the matching so far seems to be based mostly on gear level, just like it already is.

The Gearscore addon has been popular for quite a while now as an instrument to quickly evaluate potential party members to try to make the best possible match. Spinksville wrote a very thoughtful and intelligent post about the reasons for using it. It isn’t necessarily the root of all evil, but actually quite handy.

But the majority of the recent voices in the blogosphere have expressed their utter contempt for not only this specific addon, but the mentality that it represents.

Matching mindsets
I believe that we partly can blame the rather clumsy matching and grouping system in WoW for those clashing worlds, the lack of group chemistry and the differing goals and expectations that create unnecessary conflicts. Gear’s fine, but it definitely doesn’t say everything about a player. Being social or not hasn’t got anything to do with purples.

There are extremely achievement-oriented, rather impatient players who don’t put up with less than perfection from their party, but are totally uninterested in a friendly banter, imba players who have blue gear, since they’re currently speedlevelling the new tanking character that their guild desperately needed. Or perhaps since they just admire Gevlon’s Ulduar adventures, considering overgearing a waste of time.

And there are players decked-out in purples, who are more social and chatty than they are hungry for boss kills, who happily would like to spend two hours whipping in a Hall of Reflections-pug as long as they had a good laugh doing so.

The challenge is to make sure that those different sorts of players aren’t grouped up together, but matched with other players with similar mindset. The question is: how do you make it happen?

The Cheerscore solution
Dw Redux is sick and tired of the silent runs where the only answer you’ll get if you write something in the party chat is “gogogogo”. He suggested an extra tick box: “looking for friends” or “willing to chat”. Maybe that’s the easiest thing to do. Let the talkative people play with each other and let the emblems/hour people have their fun.

But I’m also playing with the idea if it would be possible to make an addon to help you evaluate the social side of other players as easy and quickly as you can get a rough picture of their gear through Gearscore.

Everything we do in the game, every little piece of action we take, is recorded and kept in the seemingly endless Blizzard data base. Just look at the statistic page of your own character and you’ll get the picture! Would it be possible to make a rough picture of the play style of another person from some of those numbers? Maybe.

Let’s have a look at the social page for instance. Admittedly there isn't much information on it for the time being, but at least there is some. Until now Lar'isa has given out 175 hugs but she has never ever done a facepalm and only lol’d 11 times. It probably says something - and I'm afraid my own Gearscore would be far higher than my Cheerscore. Probably there are more social statistics available than the ones currently displayed. Probably they know very well not only how many hugs we've given out, but also how many we have recived. Those reciprocal hugs, shouldn’t they increase my Cheerscore? What else could be measured? The numbers of friends list you’re appearing on? The numbers of times you’ve sticked around after a wipe feast? You can probably come up with better ideas than I.

The question is of course: would it really matter in the end? The Gearscore mentality is widespread to say the least. Are there still enough Cheerscore people around to form a pug raid based on it? If you could choose between a highly rated Gearscore raid respectively a Cheerscore raid, which one would you pick?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why I enjoy Vote Kicking

After almost three years of WoW playing I thought that I knew Larísa pretty well. I was aware of her strengths and weaknesses, I had a good picture of what in the game that makes her happy, excited, annoyed or bored and I was aware of how she would fit into a group.

Little did I know! It took the new random dungeon finder system to make me realize it. All this time there I had missed that there was a full-fledged Jerk living inside this seemingly merry little gnome, just waiting to be let out.

The transformation
Larísa the Patient. Even before the title appeared this used to be a good way to describe me in the game. I’ve always tried to look over the shortcomings of other people, focusing on whatever good side I could see in them, well aware of I too have less flattering sides. Until this very day Larísa has been the proud owner of a completely empty Ignore List. I guess I’ve just never encountered anyone who could put me in a truly aggressive mode. And of course I never dreamed of booting anyone from a group, either I was the leader or not.

The X-realm pugs changed it all. Suddenly I’m happily pushing this button that magically makes a trapdoor open in the floor, just as they did in old comics. And to my surprise I don’t feel bad or guilty about it for a second! All I sense is relief, a pleasure almost on par with some boss kills, making me happily exclaim in our guild chat: “Yay, I just vote kicked someone!”

So far it has happened twice. On both occasions the players who were kicked had key roles, as a tank respective as a healer. This probably added to the enjoyment.

You see, as a dps you’re taught from the very first day in game that you are easily replaceable, while tanks and healers should be worshiped and cuddled since they’re rare, easily offended and hard to swap out. The dps guy is a Nobody, as opposed to those Somebody healing and tanking people. If you have a Somebody in your group, you should just be grateful, compensating for whatever stupidity they show, since it might be hard to find someone to take their place.

But apparently there is a limit even to how much crap a dps Nobody is prepared to put up with. And when that line is crossed, it’s time to take action!

My vote kicks
The first Larísa initiated vote kick event took place in Culling of Stratholme. We had a sub-par tank who had given us a rather bumpy ride through the instance, constantly failing to pick up the adds, forcing us to use all our oh-shit-abilities as soon as they were up just to stay alive.

However, as we were heading down the stairs, this dk suddenly rushed away far ahead the party, aggroing a huge amount of mobs, without thinking for a second about where the healer was (far behind, out of sight of course). And as we ran in after the inevitable wipe, he did the same thing over again, not giving a thought about that the party was at half health, unbuffed and still out of sight. In my world, one error like this is acceptable, but two is not, especially not when the one who’s caused it apparently thought it was funny, judging from his lols in the party chat. I smiled as I initiated the vote kick. And it didn’t take us 15 seconds before we had a new tank. A proper one.

The second vote kick incident involved a healer in Oculus of all places. As we started the run, this guy began to ask for all sorts of achievements he wanted to do. Or “ask” is the wrong expression, he rather demanded it. The party was somewhat reluctant to obey, especially since some of the exclude-one-type-of-dragon achievements are a bit tricky and not so easily combined with the speed-run achievement. Realizing that he might not get every achievement on his wish list, the healer promptly stopped healing the tank, leaving him to die on the trash mobs. I was furious, if you can imagine such a thing as a furious pink pigtailed gnome. The vote-kick came up instantly and I didn’t hesitate for a second as I pushed the yes-button.

The benefits of vote kicking
Basically vote kicking should be something sad and regrettable, being a last resort, a measure used only in cases of emergency. Still I can’t help enjoying it, for several reasons. One is obviously that it solves an immediate problem. You have a player works in the opposite direction of the group. Remove him and you’ll reach your goals more easily without wasting your time and gold. Period. But apart from this, I think it gives us all the opportunity to let out some steam and aggression we’re carrying, either we know about it or not. It’s a bit like hitting a punching bag. And finally it knits the remaining group together. Vote kicking is a team building activity.

So now the secret is out. Larísa can be a Jerk when she has to. She even enjoys it!
The ignore list remains empty however, for some reason.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Porn Star and the PUG

The following post contains mature themes and language that may be offensive.

Even now I feel slightly awkward publicly admitting that a porn star changed my life. It was one of those boring evenings surfing the web where one news article led to another news article that caused me to eventually land on the web site of AIM, the adult industry medical health foundation. The web site of Sharon Mitchell. Five years ago I did not know anything about Sharon Mitchell, the porn industry, or an important truth about myself.

The Woman of a Thousand Fucks

In the porn industry Sharon Mitchell is legendary. She appeared in more than 2000 sex movies and has won every major adult industry award that exists. What makes her interesting compared to other adult entertainers is that after a twenty year career in the business she left to advocate for the health and well being of the performers. What makes her interesting to me is the reason why she left.

Stumbling around on the site I discovered an interview that she gave shortly after she left the business. An interview no longer available on-line but which I still have saved to my disk drive. Reminiscing about her career she said, “Looking back I think I fell for attention. I was performing acts of intimacy without the intimacy and that kept me from love for a long time.”

Having a Zen moment is no trite phrase. Those words crashed upon my consciousness; a tidal wave of truth exposing the foundation of my existence; laid bare the bedrock of my love life. In a flash my whole life cleared and I realized that what was true in the deepest heart of a whore was true for me too. That I too had been guilty of falling for attention and confusing it with intimacy. In my case that attention wasn’t sexual; it was about intelligence, competency, success in my career. A different brand of poison. Attention is not attraction which is not intimacy which is not love.

The Pornography Business

In what is coming to be a pattern Spinks is arriving at insights one step ahead of me. In regards to the new Looking for Group tool she writes, “Unshackling the social side of guilds from the group game may be one of the most long sighted advances any MMO of this generation has accomplished.” A statement that is about as close as one can get to a feisty defense of the pornography business.

Because unshackling sex from intimacy is the core of the porn industry. That’s it’s purpose, that’s it goal, that it’s aim. Some will argue that this has always been true for the consumers of porn; Sharon’s key insight is that this divorce is equally true for the performers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she named her organization AIM as a subtle reminder to all adult entertainers to question what their aims are for being in the business.

Because the entire thrust of Sharon’s insight and her subsequent work is that it’s the lack of love, not the sex, that is the underlying problem in the porn industry. The problem with the porn industry isn’t that people are fucking; it’s not even that they are fucking for dollars; the problem is that they are fucking strangers. They are performing acts of physical intimacy without psychological intimacy.

The Ugly Side of the New LFG Tool

The ugly side of the new Looking for Group tool is exactly as Spinks describes it: it allows us to grind groups in the same way we grind mobs. The efficiency of the new tool removes the need for any knowledge about one’s fellow players. Since most cross server groups don’t know each other and will never play with each other again, what Larisa has called the “quick silent run” becomes if not the norm the ideal. Get in, get it done, move on. With strangers.

The easy defense of the new tool is that no one has to use it. That the new LFG tool along with the new guild system arriving with Cataclysm presents the best of both worlds. For those who only want a quick silent run during their lunch break to get some loot the new tool makes that easy. As easy as a sites like Redtube or Pornhub makes it easy to have a quick silent handjob during the lunch break for a thrill. Meanwhile, those who are seeking deeper relationships can find those bonds in the new guild system.

But what is the best of both worlds for some is the worst of all worlds for others; people like Sharon and I. People who are gullible and easily confused. People who are after the attention the loot gives them and want the quick and easy way to get there. People like the teens to whom this game is marketed and rated. For teens the distinction between intimacy and attention that is clearer to adults is not so obvious to them.

The easy defense of the porn industry is that no one has to look at it. But the reality is that people do look at it, are influenced by it, and it has consequences for everyone concerned. The critical question is why is there a tool that emphases the unshackling of sociability from grouping when, as I pointed out last summer, the teen age years are the most social times of one’s life. Do we really want our children to learn that the ideal group is a group without intimacy? For the precise real world analogue to the new grouping tool is the website Adult Friend Finder, where people go to create PUGs for sex. With strangers.

A Thousand Fucking PUGs

The new LFG tool is the gaming instantiation of the pornography mindset. A quick easy thrill with no string attached. So it’s no surprise that it’s popular; pornography is popular. As Tobold correctly notes popularity normally means profits.

Because of profit I don’t have any illusions that either the new LFG tool or pornography is going away. What is mystifying to me is that despite the inroads pornography has made in Western society there still is a cultural sense that being a sexual whore is bad yet being a social whore— having casual and temporary emotional and psychological relationships with others—is harmless. It’s just a game, dude.

I have a deep respect for Sharon Mitchell because after her epiphany it would have been easy to walk out the door feeling betrayed and disgusted with herself and with the world. Instead, every day she gets to look those young men and women in the eyes and subtly ask them what their AIM is. Do they really think the risk for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is worth it for a few thousand dollars and the chance to see oneself in a movie. Do you think fellow Warcraft players that having a silent run, without communication, without intimacy—your little noontime quickie—is really worth it for a shot at some loot? Is grinding out one superficial relationship after another—networking—really worth it for success in the business world? It’s not my place to tell you yes or no; many of Sharon’s charges will get treated for their sexual diseases and go back on the movie set. Yet she and I are alike in another way: we have come to the place in our lives where must ask the questions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The real Occulus

There's a lot of talking about Occulus these days. I wonder what he thinks about it.

He used to be one of those poor, forgotten creatures that no one notices, since we're all so occupied chasing for the next epic item, the next frost emblem, the next glorious achievement that we get a tunnel vision, thus missing out 90 percent of the game. And now he's getting whole blogposts dedicated to him, arguing why Occulus is a failure.

The real Occulus
You don't recall him? He's one of the dragons standing outside of Caverns of Time for some obscure reason (I bet it's lore related). Remember him now? He was one of those creatures you used to kill just for the heck of it, while waiting for a party to assemble for BM or Durnhold. The biggest one wasn't killable as far as I remember. At a certain health level he disappears. There are a bunch of smaller named elite bronze dragons though, and Occulus is one of those. He doesn't offer anything of interest though, unless you have some kinky fascination for objects such as Ripped Wing Webbing.

The other day I went to see Occulus and managed to accidently kill him, as shown in the screenshot. Just approaching him with my molten armor active was apparently enough to kill him. I didn't touch him, I swear! He killed himself. Actually I tried desperately to find some way to save his life without dying myself, but I lost him before I thought of going invisible.

How bad didn't I feel! This dragon didn't wish me any harm. He was a comparatively powerless creature - in fact quite sad for being a dragon. (Aren't they supposed to be huge and dangerous?) And as if this wasn't enough the poor guy didn't drop more than 14 silver and 24 copper. That's cheap for a life, even in Azeroth.

The O instance
You may wonder what brought me to see Occulus in the first place? Where did this sudden dragon love come from?

Well, the whole community has been buzzing about a certain instance ever since the new Random Dungeon system was launched. Some of us - and I'm one of them - have been blessed or cursed - depending on how you see it - ending up in O. more or less every single time we've rolled the dice. It's been so many times by now that I've actually given up on seeing any other instance using the PUG tool. Halls of Reflection, Pit of Saron, Gundrak, HoS - those are instances where other players dwell. So not Larísa. Larísa has gotten an O. assignment for eternity.

And so the other day the great piece of news arrived about O. Blizzard has obviously realized that the constant bailing out of it is threatening to give the system a bad reputation. So now they're hotting up the loot and suddenly my habit to roll O seemed to be quite a good one, provided at it will last. Giving it a second thought - isn't this instance actually quite nice? After all those nerfs and all this practice in the art of dragon flying, it's just as quick and easy as any other instance, only more beautiful.

Anyway - back to the point. It was when I read those news at that I realized a small but important detail. The instance in question is actually called Oculus. With one "c". Not "Occulus". I've been spelling it wrong for a whole year! I looked it up at Wowwiki to make sure. And even if I found an Occulus there, it wasn't the name of an instance, but a dragon standing outside of CoT. I felt stupid.

I'm not alone in my misconception of this name. I think I've got half of the players with me, at least judging from the blogs I read. So Miss Medicina, who I teasingly linked to above - and Hatch, who did the same thing: I don't blame you for the mistake. I've done it myself over and over again. I'll probably keep doing it. There is something with that name that makes me instinctively want to put to c:s in it.

The new Oculus
I have no doubt that Oculus - with one c - will go from being one of the most hated instances to be one of the more popular ones to roll. The days of O-quitting are over. The question is what instance that will come in its place. Which are the best candidates to become the least loved in random running?

Culling of Stratholme might be one, with the seemingly endless road, the messing around with the crates and the long speeches that serves no other purpose these days but to annoy people. I used to love the place for its pacing, but in those silent pugs it's just slow and boring.

Come to think of it, if we just start bailing out of it we might get a new treat with some extra goodies in the cache. Want to give it a try?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009 - The Blogosphere

Fanfare! Time has come for the fourth and concluding part in the series of The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009.

Before announcing the winners I'd just like to vent a little bit about sitting in the jury. It's been hard work to put together the previous list posts, thanks to all those excellent suggestions I've got from the community. And this post, where I'm putting the spotlights on the WoW blogosphere is no exception. As a matter of fact it's been worse this time. There are hundreds, or I should probably rather say thousands of excellent WoW blogs out there. I only manage to follow a minority of them, and even within my little sample, there are just too many posts, too much talent over the place to pick one in front of the other. No matter what I pick, I'll make the wrong decision according to someone.

But I'm no coward and I promised you a list, so you will get one.

In the last minute I decided to add a couple of new categories. I know, you haven't been able to nominate to the new classes, but you've inspired me there too and you'll get the opportunity next year, right?

Ready? Here we go!

1. Biggest blog facelift

Nominated: WeFlySpitfires, The Rawrcast blog, The Hunting Lodge, Paladin Schmaladin .

" I believe Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery did a some tweaking and layout changes this year, which look fabulous. I love her blogroll buttons!"

"Tree Bark Jacket had a major face lift earlier in the year and the new site looks fantastic. While there wasn’t anything wrong with the old look, the overhaul has categories and additional pages which makes finding information simple. The header is also very beautiful."

"Daniel Howell, BRK to Brain Needed Space. Still follow him as often as he posts. He can write."

Miss Medicina is cheating a bit by nominating two. But she does it in such a good way that I have to quote a long passage:

"I'm going to give this a somewhat liberal translation, and assume it means something beyond just a new "look". In that case, Forbearance and Righteous Orbs are a tie for me. Forbearance for combining the forces of the illestretpally Jong with the random rapping of OOMegan. Righteous Orbs for throwing together Sissy Robe donning Tamarind with math geek Ideathtard Chas. Both are perfect examples of combined forces in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Since he wasn't nominated by anyone else I also would like to mention Krizzlybear at Frost is the new black. He moved from a standard blogspot platform in january to his current wordpress and while at it he threw out the white-text-on-black-background, which I'm really no friend of at all, changing it into a bright, easy-to-read layout. It's a facelift indeed.

The winner is: Righteous Orbs!

Motivation: I'm all with Medicina. The marriage of the blogs I deathtard and Standing in the back in my Sissy robe, was the happiest we ever saw in the blogosphere. We spotted their talent before, but when this new blog was launched, it sparked something more. Righteous Orbs is also very close to my ideal picture of a WoW blog. It's very simple, it's bright, it's easy to read, it doesn't make my eyes hurt and it draws my attention to the very posts and not to anything else, such as ads and banners

2. Most memorable blog post

MMO champion's predictions on Cataclysm,
Gevlon's clearing Ulduar in Blues,
The good bye post from Resto4Life - "I was very sad to see her take her leave, but extremely happy to know that she was embarking on a new and exciting quest in her life!",
BRK's goodbye
"I'm Coming Out" at Arkslaw - "I have never seen such a mixture of true confessions meets wow insight."
Rawrcast called the reworking of old world before it was announced.
Scourge chat log #1,
Miss Medicina’s Healing Survey,
Tamarind's first time in Ulduar: Flame Leviathan v. Golf Caddy,
Ixo's trip to Blizzard,
Mortigan the Lock’s Single Set of Raid Rules
Greedy Goblin calling out Markco - Miss Medicina's motivation: "Perhaps this is only because it is somewhat recent, but the Gevlon v Marko post (in which I learned that *popcorn* is, in fact, a valid emote), which elicited commentary from multiple wow blogs was immensely entertaining."

All the nominated posts were really brilliant, for very different reasons. How could you possibly chose between Gevlon's already classic post about raiding in blue gear or Ixobelle's fearless recounts from his equally fearless attacks towards the Blizzard headquarters?

However I decided to go for a different post, nominated only by myself.

The winner is: Archetypes of the Female Gamer, revisited by Sydera at World of Matticus

Motivation: This post wasn't only thoroughly researched and thought out and very well written. It also sparked a following debate. The 200 or so comments are just as readworthy as the post itself, and Sydera did what I wish more bloggers would do - throwing herself into an engaging discussion with her readers, making us THINK. I love personal, opinion style blogging, and Sydera did it just splendidly - and actually made me rethink my own position about feminism and stereotypes a bit. And besides - it must have taken quite a bit of courage and integrity to do challenge her fellow blogger at World of Matticus.

3. Most noticed blogger breakthrough

Nominated: Life in Group 5, Hots and Dots, The Hunting Lodge, Restokin - " Lissanna posts regularly and has a fantastic balance of both fun entertaining entries alongside informative and engaging pieces", Sideshow and Syrana, Killing'em Slowly, Dungeons and Daenei, Outdps - "He’s filled the void for me from BRK leaving. He’s not as serious and certainly not quite the writer Daniel is, but his blog is really well organized and full of useful information. And he posts often and with enthusiasm.".

"Miss Medicina certainly got the spotlight’s attention with her fabulous Circle of Healers questionnaire! I thought it was innovative, and she did a super job of keeping track of everyone’s answers!"

Tamarind and Chastity at Righteous Orbs. Rarely do you find a blog where every post is going to be insightful, or screamingly funny, or both. They deliver.

"A toss up between Righeous Orbs, Spinksville, and Ms. Medicina. I think this might be the single most difficult category. Ro has the best writing, Spikns has the best coverage, MM has the most useful information. An extremely close contest. I'm forcing myself to chose here but I am going to go with Righteous Orbs. I do think that they had the most noticed *breakthrough* even if they don't get the hits that MM does. In other words, when they came on the scene they came with a splash as opposed to MM or Spinks which have grown slowly."

There were also a number of nominations for Gevlon at Greedy Goblin.

The winner is: Greedy Goblin!

Motivation: Greedy Goblin started to blog in 2008, but it was in 2009 that he had his big breakthrough, so I think he's eligible for the award this year.

I know everyone in the blogosphere doesn't love Gevlon's writings, and especially not his political views. But no matter where you're standing you can't deny that he has made quite an impact at the community. Just have a look at the nominations for this list for instance. Which other blogger has provided so many posts which will come up spontaneously when you ask people about what blog posts they remember?

Or as two readers put it:
"He might turn your screws a bit, but he does keep bringing in readers for the politics, the challenges, and the gold making skills."

"Undoubtedly Gevlon takes this prize, if for no other reason than that he has made some of the most memorable posts, inspired some of the most rampant drama, and gone to great lengths to provide evidence for his stances."

4. Most solid content provider
Nominated: Wowinsider, World of Matticus, Tobold, Greedy Goblin, Honor's Code, OutDPS and Warcraft Hunters Union,, Gnomeaggedon - " He posts regularly and often has epic length posts that are full of information and humor.", Restokin, Tree Bark Jacket, World of Matticus, Bio Break, Critical QQ - "Euripides has some downtime, but when he's writing he's writing GOOD STUFF.", Tanking Tips, Tank Like a Girl, No Stock UI blog,

Killing'Em Slowly: "My favorite thing about Killing 'Em Slowly is that I know there will be a post every weekday. I may not know the exact timing, but I can rely on the fact that there will be something, and it won't just be a "sorry no time to write today!" post."

Welcome to Spinksville - "Frequent posting, multigaming interests, lots of thoughtful posts too.", "Lots of updates and always interesting".

Tamarind wrote: "as a healer I am naturally biased but I don't know what I'd do without Miss Medicina. But if I was more 'serious' about raiding, I'd have to pick Beru from Falling Leaves and Wings. And for a wider perspective on gaming as a whole then it would have to be Spinks!"

Elnia pointed out that the category is a bit unfair and should be broken down into commentary vs useful information."I think that the most solid commentary is a toss up between Spinksville and Tobold. If you are asking for useful information then I would say either or MMO champion."

I agree that the category probably needs a clearer definition. Even though I too use and appreciate resources such as and MMO-champion, I regard them as news providers rather an as blogs. And it was blogs that I had in mind for this category. However I might add another category next year, focusing on general news resources.

The winner is: Welcome to Spinksville!

Motivation: Spinks combines interesting ideas and a wide assortment of topics with depth, wits and overall high standard writing, covering not only WoW but also MMOs in general in a way that it makes them interesting even for a WoW-only-player. When the next patch is months away and there's nothing more to say about the current one, you can bet that Spinksville still has some new perspective to add. She is simply amazing and I didn't hesitate for a second about who I would give this title, especially not since Tobold was out of the game because he had the title last year.

5. Most hugged blogger
Jong, Gnomeaggedon, Pike of Aspect of the Hare, Gevlon, Tamarind.

"The bloggers that I most feel like hugging and in one case, drinking a Peach Bellini with, are Beru from Falling Leaves & Wings and Tamarind from Righteous Orbs."

"Should be me. But nobody ever hugs a panzercow".

"Sorry, I can’t pick just one! Keredria always makes me laugh, even if she is a “chick” , I absolutely adore Tamarind and can’t get enough of his humor and keen insight into the WoW universe, Lath and Cass are just fantastic…and love peachbellinis! And…last but not least, I don’t know how I can’t hug Lash: He’s a troll with a dog named Lunchbox irl."

Fitz at Healer Trek wrote:
"Well it's certainly not Gevlon. I'm going to go with Phaelia over at Resto4Life. While she stepped out of blogging near the beginning of 2009, she went out on a high note and had lots of virtual hugs on her way to becoming a mom. She also got a hug from blizzard in naming a piece of gear after her"

The winners are: Phaelia and BRK!

Let's face it: bloggers come and bloggers go. There are equally many new popping up replacing the ones that are leaving. And very few of us leave any long lasting footprints. But there are exceptions. When Phealia and BRK left the blogging scenes, we saw the most touching farewell scenes ever. BRK:s farewell post had over 1 000 thankful, hugging comments, and the community even put together a special video as a gift to him. Phaelia was celebrated in a beautiful farewell photo album and a wonderful interview at the Twisted Nether Podcast. They even got recognition from Blizzard in form of in-game items named to their honour. That's what I would call a well hugged blogger!

6. Blog drama of the year
The blogosphere wouldn't be the same if there wasn't any interaction going on. A little bit of popcorn-drama if you put it that way. Obviously I'm not the only one to find it rather entertaining, since several of the nominations about the best posts were for ones relating to some sort of drama. So I decided to make up a new category this year.

First a couple of my own nominations:

Tobold's revelations that he in fact was Gevlon was hilarious to read. Gevlon never took the bite, so in the end it didn't turn out quite as dramatic as it sounded from the beginning. It was hugely entertaining though and also a bit thought provoking, as a statement about the trustworthiness of our online characters. Are we really what we claim that we are? We never know, do we?

A dramatic incident indeed was the little war fought between Gevlon and Markco during the autumn. It was fascinating to watch it from the side - especially since also Tobold engaged himself in it. The whole thing reminded me of the fights between the capitalist ducks in Carl Bark's comics: Uncle Scrooge and his equally rich and cheap opponent.

But the winner is a different piece of drama: The Ferraro debacle.
While the other suggested dramas were isolated to the concerned blogs, this really shook up the community. The whole story about identity theft and a blog identity that was inherited, going from person to person, was intriguing. Amazingly enough Paladin Schmaladin survived all this turbulence and is still going strong. And I wonder if anyone will ever know the full truth about it.

7. Best Writer
This is also a new category, invented by me on the fly. For me the writing skill of the author is essential when I evaluate a blog.

I don't care about if the blog provides news - I still get it quicker from MMO-champion anyway, so why bother to compete? I don't care if a blog gives useful advice since I get my need for strategies and theorycrafting covered by other resources such as Tankspot and Elitist Jerks. I don't care if the blog has a lot of fancy screenshots - most of the time they're just annoying and distracting.

But I care a LOT about writing - about the style and beauty in it, about how the author manages not only to make himself understood, but also to really touch me, making me laugh or cry, using no other means than letters and words. We have a few magicians out there, the ones that can make me interested and enthusiastic about things that I normally don't care about , let's say for instance PvP, just because they're such brilliant writers.

For outstanding writing skill I would like to nominate three mage bloggers: Gnomeaggedon, Krizzlybear and Euripedes. They've all impressed on me: Gnome with his humour, which is impossible to resist, Krizzlybear with his special talent for personal writing and Euripedes who is like a firework, never entirely predictable, always full of energy and temperament.

But the winner will a non-mage, who also won another category in this list and was nominated for several others: Tamarind of Righteous Orbs.

Motivation: Tamarind doesn't give a crap about the general advice not to write long blog posts. He writes walls of text which never feels like walls of text, because they're so hilarious, touching or thought provoking, and always, always formulated very elegantly, in a consistent and interesting style-of-the-day. If I wasn't so old and hopefully mature, I would actually feel a bit jealous seeing his abundance of wits and intelligence.

The End
This fourth and final part in the series of the Pink Pigtail Inn Awards 2009 was probably the longest in the history of this blog. If you're still reading this, thank you for staying to the end!

Now it's time to close the door to 2009 and look forward. Who do you think we'll see in the PPI list of 2010? Actually I have already an idea from Miss Medicina. She suggested a new category: "Blogger Most Likely to Succeed in 2010", defining it as a "new WoW blog that shows an extraordinary amount of promise". Her vote vent to Life in Group 5, a new healing shaman blog "which doesn't make overly frequent posts, but the posts he does make are extensive, thorough, and very informative."

Falling leaves and wings suggested another new category for the list: Worst Dressed. "My vote is TOTALLY going with Druid T10 - wtf is UP with that helm?"

Well, if it's any comfort, I don't think it can be any worse than the mage equivalence. Why would a spell caster try to frighten the enemies dressing up in animal teeth? I didn't include this category in the list of 2009 but let's keep our eyes open for ugly clothes for the year to come and save it for the list of 2010.

Because now it's time to call it. Thank you all for participating! It has been a pleasure. And for the records - here is the final, short version of The Pink Pigtail Inn List of 2009:

1. Best raid instance: Ulduar
2. Least successful raid instance: Eye of Eternity
3. Most longed for instance: Ulduar
4. Silliest gold sink: The Dun Niffelem Mammoths
5. Biggest addition to the game: Dual spec
6. Best quest: The Quel'delar chain
7. Ugliest tabard: Wyrmrest Accord
8. Favorite non combat pet: Onyxia Whelpling
9. Most juicy guild drama: The Martin Fury incident
10. Most charming Blizzard employee: Patric Beja
11. Best podcast: Blue Plz!
12. Biggest blog facelift: Righteous Orbs
13. Most memorable blog post: Archetypes of the Female Gamer, revisited
14. Most noticed blogger breakthrough: Greedy Goblin
15.Most solid content provider: Welcome to Spinksville
16. Most hugged blogger: Phaelia and BRK
17. Blog drama of the year: The Ferraro debacle
18. Best writer: Tamarind at Righteous Orbs