Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Impact of Paragon’s World First

Last week Paragon got the world first kill of Lich King in heroic mode. Should we bother about it? Does it matter?

Yes I think it does. It doesn’t turn the world upside down, but it might have some impact on the opinions and perceptions in the community, and that’s’ what I’m going to talk about in this post.

1. Blizzard succeeded in the tuning
The tuning of difficulty of the raid instances is always a target for criticism. No matter where the Blizzard developers put the bar, they can count on that someone will consider it too high or too low. However I’ve heard very few complaints about how long it took before we saw the first kill in heroic mode. It didn’t come the first week it was available; we’ve had to wait for it for a few weeks.

As far as I’ve understood it, the slightest little mistake from any individual in the raid would lead to a wipe. To quote Paragon:

“Quite simply the perfect end-boss to finish the expansion with, couldn’t have hoped for more. My hat is off to Blizzard on this one. I can’t wait to see if this encounter can be outdone in Cataclysm.”
Paragon had over 170 tries before they succeeded. Anything more would have been ridiculous in my opinion, anything less would have been slightly disappointing. I think Blizzard can feel fairly happy and relieved that they did it spot on this time.

2. The World Firsts aren’t given on beforehand
There was a time where the cutting-edge raiding seemed to consist of more or less one guild. And that threatened to ruin any kind of tries to bring some e-sport competition into raiding. Ensidia, Enisida, Ensidia… Nihilum, Nihilum, Nihilum… whatever. This kill shows that it’s far from a one-guild show. The competition is there, and guilds who perform at their very best will always stand a chance.

In an earlier interview, which Kungen made with Tun at Ensidias own website, they took lightly on this:
“Icecrown is coming soon. What guild/guilds do you see as big competitors?

None. It's not been 1-2 consistent guilds threatening us, so if anything happens it will be another obscure random guild from somewhere nobody has ever heard of. Stars, Paragon, Premonition, etc are all overrated.

Do you really think any of those guilds will have a chance against Ensidia in a fair race to Arthas?

Not a chance. Ever.”

Well, it turned out that Tun was quite wrong. And hopefully he’s happy about it.

The Ensidia member Eoy wrote the following in a comment to a blog post at the Ensidia website, “Has Ensidia lost the Edge?” (written by a non-Ensidia member):
“How fun would the game be if there was only one team winning all the time? Ensidia had it's primetime in Ulduar, and now Paragon claimed the throne by killing LK HM. This happens, and is why the endgame is fun to watch! You can't consider it was very entertaining when Ensidia took every single world first in Naxx before anyone else had stepped into the instance, can you?”
True. So true.

3. “Normal” guilds can also be successful
I don’t say it’s fair – as a matter of fact it’s probably a bit unfair, but still I dare say that Ensidia has a problem with their image.

Regardless of if it’s true or just a bunch of lies, rumours and misconception, the brand "Ensidia" is suffering from connotations (to use marketing language) such as sponsor deals, commercialism and strange (or even shady) relations to Saudi Arabia. As far as I know of they DON’T get paid to play Warcraft. They’re just a guild of dedicated and skilled players. But when they do those star appearances at gaming events and sponsor cooperations, they get an aura of being different. This impression is reinforced by their slick, polished and pro-style website, regardless of the fact that it has a ton of good information on it. It smells of money, and people just can’t stand that.

Paragon on the other hand, this all-Finnish guild with the chaotic vent server, has a different image (mind you, I don’t talk about if it’s true or not, just about how it appears). They make me associate to the classic myth about the local football team, starting in the lowest series, and then step by step advancing to the elite, without ever losing their soul and comradeship.

According to their website they were formed in August 2008 from two previous guilds, quite similar to how Ensidia was created. But somehow they manage to convey a different image:

“Our roots go much deeper than those two guilds. Some of our members have been playing together since before World of Warcraft and have raided together in every raid instance there has been.”
When I look at their picture, it strikes me that the average age looks fairly low. But apart from that, they look more like the rest of us out there, appearing in their own shirts and not in some sponsored ones.

And I think this is something that everyone, including Blizzard, applauses. We can keep the dream alive. Any guild – sponsored or not – can succeed if they have the right attitude. Finnish Sisu FTW!

When Eoy in Ensidia got the question about how he would celebrate if he managed to get Arthas HM world first, he answered:

“Definitely NOT by screaming on vent. I never understood that. Maybe I'll log off early and get a good nights sleep or something. Nothing special tho, it's just a game.”
And that’s why I think we can identify ourselves more easily with Paragon. Just listen to the nerdscream at their vent server during the LK kill. Those guys are raiding with their hearts!

4. The issue with mages
Then there was this thing about the mages. Or rather the lack thereof in the setup Paragon used for their first kill. There wasn’t a single mage in the raid, and the question is if this will have an impact on the market value of mages. I'm probably not the only mage to feel a bit put off by this.

From the perspective of a min-maxer the decision was easy, as Paragon explains in a forum thread:

“Yes, we figured that mage would do very slightly less dps than some other classes which we had available. So we took the setup we though optimal as it was a first kill attempt.”

Even if it makes sense, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for my fellow mages in Paragon. Sure, everyone understands that unless you have a ridiculously slimmed roaster, someone will inevitably spend the first-kill on the bench. But at least it’s nice to have a class representative in the raid.

Paragon is very clear on that they don’t think mages are generally bad, and that the dps difference is very, very small. But nevertheless, I think it might reflect badly on mages. The top guilds get many followers and I wouldn’t be surprised if some guilds will let the decisions of Paragon influence their own raid set-ups, making the demand for mages decrease – not only for LK hardmode, but on a more general level.

Trying to see it from the bright side, you can always hope that Blizzard will see it as a reason to consider giving a slight buff to the mages dps output. But so far come into this expansion, I doubt it.

5. The beginning of the End
Finally I think that this first kill is yet another landmark in the expansion. The last one. Many, many guilds have yet to kill Lich King. Some – but far from all – will keep working on it. But somehow this is the beginning of the End.

With the World First settled, we’re all ready to fix our eyes to the upcoming Cataclysm.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tanking scares the hell out of me - that's why I love it

“Why are we going so slowly? What’s keeping the tank? Come on!”

I felt as if I had ants under my pants. Something was itching badly. Normally I dare say I’m a rather polite and patient player – especially when I’m on an alt without any ambitions for glorious end game triumphs. I can take my time, what’s the rush? But this run was far beyond slow, it was plain silly! What was the tank up to? Had we unknowingly joined a secret branch of the Slow movement?

I was arguing with myself. “Maybe I should give the tank a hint that he should pull himself together and start waving his great big ehrm and get the job done?”

Would it be rude to make a subtle hint, like tapping my toes a little?

I didn’t. You see: there was this little detail. The turtle-look-alike tank was no one else but yours truly. I was the tank.

Back to tanking
After ten months of sulking and tending to my hurt feelings and wounded self-image, I’ve finally gotten over my previous shortcoming in the tanking business. Once again I’m taking the role as a furious, raging bear mother, not shy of anything, ready to protect my family of adventurers to the bitter end, no matter of what horrors we'll be facing.

Last time I tried this part of the game, I dropped off pretty quickly, with the tail between my legs. Long time readers might remember. It was in June last year, that I entered DM ever so boldly, only to find out that my impatient PUG party rather wanted someone else to tank, just to get through it ASAP. After a couple of similar experiences I surrendered, put the idea of tanking to rest and went tree instead. My services weren’t wanted, so why bother offering them?

When I recently rolled a tauren druid at Argent Dawn, my first idea was to level it healing in instances and nuking as a moonkin while questing. If it wasn’t for Dwism I would probably have stuck to this plan. But somehow he managed to talk me back into tanking, as a worthy, interesting challenge and Cataclysmic turn in my gameplay. And with such an enthusiastic supporter I just can't give up, can I?

My fresh run as a tank took place in SFK, and to be honest it was a plain disaster. Dwism healed me well enough as he had promised, but there were three pugged hunters with growling pets pulling and tanking mobs all over the place. I stood there as an idiot, frantically looking through my spellbook to see if there were any more spells I could drag over to my action bars and get control over the situation. I never did; I had no idea about what I was doing or where we were going, and the fact that we somehow completed the run was pretty much a miracle. I was present in the party, but I was hardly what you would consider a tank.

The next run, in Deadmines this time, included almost only guildies, and went slightly better. The only moment of Endless Shame was when I took a careless step to the side of the boat, fell down into the water, and then ended up swimming hysterically in circles, chased by pirates, murlocs and god-knows-what. My comrades seemed to be more entertained than annoyed though, and hey, at least we didn't wipe.

Things to work out
To be honest there are quite a few things that need to be fixed before Larísa can call herself a tank without feeling like a hoax:

1. A sense of direction
In every single instance I've cleared since I first started to play WoW, I've been a follower. Even though I haven't literally put my toon on follow, I've done it mentally. There was always a solid tank around, someone I could trust on. All I needed to do was to keep my eyes on that furry bear butt, never letting it get out of sight. Now I'm the one with the butt, but I still haven't got a clue about where to go. Sometimes I've even run back to where we came from, until I've noticed a distinct lack of mobs, which is a good hint that I'm on the wrong track. WTB a sense of direction.

2. The ability to multitask
I know that women are supposed to be experts in giving attention to several things at the same time. Either that stereotype is a complete lie, or I'm just not a typical woman. Whatever the reason is - I fail at it. It's not just all those swarming trashmobs you're supposed to pick up, including patrols randomly strolling by and extras pulled by careless dps:ers. It's also everything that goes on in between. As a dps:er I used to have very little compassion with tanks who forgot to check the mana bars of the healer or failed to mark and give proper assignments. Seen from the other side, with a thousand different things to think of, I can very well understand why you sometimes miss even essentials like this.

3. Confidence
A veteran tank officer in our guild used to develop the tank team by initiating discussions on our forum. I remember how he once put the question which ability the tanks considered most important. And they all started to suggest different core stats and spells that are crucial for tanking. I suggested something different, namely "self confidence", since an insecure tank is quite problematic for a group to handle. And I actually was the one who got closest to what he wanted to convey. He concluded that the most important ability was to make the rest of the raid trust in your tanking. Being self confident often helps. But even if you aren't, even if you're full of self doubts, you should act in such a way that the team will think you know what you're doing and feel comfortable about it.

Scary and fulfilling
Of those three things the last one, confidence, is definitely the hardest one for me to acquire. I may look like a proud, tall, strong Tauren, who won't back off for anyone. But as anyone knows who has tried it: the tank shoulders weight a ton compared to the cloth ones.

I can't think of anything more challenging and absorbing thing to do in the game. As I enter an instance in bear form, the rest of the world ceases to exist. Sure - I feel quite clumsy, and I've got the distinct feeling that I'm horribly, horribly slow. But I'm totally present in my mind and focus, and when it's over, I have absolutely no idea of how long time I've spent in there, or what else has been going on in the guild chat meantime. I've been just as lost in the gameplay as I would have been in any progression raid, and I come out just as fulfilled and excited as I would be after a boss kill. And that's pretty good for a level 20 instance!

To be honest, tanking scares the hell out of me. And that's exactly why I shall stick to it. Rather than giving up this time, I'll work harder.

One day I'll grow into those heavy tank shoulders. One day I'll say it aloud: I am the tank! and sound as if I actually mean it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Musings over boobs and my liberating lack thereof

In case you didn't know (why would you?), I'll tell you right away. I don't have any boobs.

Or rather: I admittedly have two of them, but they're not big and beautiful enough to pull any attention. They're like the breasts of any 42-year old woman who has fed two babies. With the size of dachshund ears they don't live up to the expectation of what real "boobs" should look like. In real life I don't have any pink pigtails (sorry); my hair is indisputably turning greyer with every haircut, and my face is slowly cracking up, wrinkles growing in number and size.

No one at his full senses would ever consider paying a single cent for the pleasure of gaming with me. (Link through Pugnacious Priest) If anything it would be the opposite - they'd try to charge me for toy boy services.

Getting out of the sex trap
This revelation abut the state of my body probably sounds a bit sad for all of you who are in your 20-30's, still looking for The Love of your life, someone to cuddle with a bit or possibly the Mother/Father of your children. I know what you're thinking. I know your ideals. You want to look, if not like top models, at least good enough to attract men or women, whatever you prefer. And you pity Larísa, who has passed the height of her lifetime, and now is going down, down, down towards the inevitable end.

But do you know what?

I don't care. I really don't. Eventually I've reached the point in life where you get over it. An ageing body can actually be somewhat of a blessing. I'm once for all released from that meat market game play, with all that it brings of broken dreams, pressure and self-doubts. I'm free to be me. I'm free to be plain Larísa. More than anything I'm a human being. Not a couple of boobs on two feet. It's very liberating to think about.

Or as the Finland-Swedish Poet Edit Södergran wrote almost a hundred years ago:

I am no woman, I am a neuter/I am a child, a page and a bold decision/I am the laughing strip of a scarlet sun...[...] /I am the leap into freedom and the self.

This is how I see many of my favorite WoW bloggers. Not as women or male, but as minds. They disregard completely of what is expected from their gender. Take Pike, who before she quit WoW blogging openly showed her Linux geekiness, normally not so much associated with girls, while also drawing cute cartoons, talkinb about pets and analyzing damage charts, all over the scale of what's supposed to be male or female things to write about. There's Tamarind, who is much more emotional and vulnerable than any female blogger I can think of. There's Spinksville, who isn't just a tank in game, but who also has a tank-like position in the blogosphere. She's as far from that idea of the "nurturing" healing girl standing in the back in her sissy robe, giggling and flirting as you can come. She's talks with authority about serious stuff.

We are so much more than walking sex machines. We are brains, united in a network. When I read my favorite bloggers, I feel as if I'm taking part in a Vulcan mind meld.

My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts.

And I honestly believe that my apparent lack of interesting boobs (age says everything) helps me to get out of the sex trap. When people can stop thinking of me as a potential partner, they'll start listening to what I have to say.

Gender and gaming
Gender vs gaming is a topic that the WoW blogosphere really never grows tired talking about.

And who can blame us? Like it or not, the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre is more or less entirely built on clichés. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between to say the least.
Most of the time I'm in denial about it. A happy, no-regretting denial. Yes, I know that there wasn't a single woman allowed in the brethren in LOTR, I know that the only female warrior only got happy and sane once she lay down her sword and got married like any decent woman. Nevertheless I re-read the entire series about once every three years and I enjoy it equally every time I do it, not once raging about the lack of equality in it. I like fairytales, even if they don't describe a world where I'd really like to live.

Following the tradition the fantasy games are teaming with stereotypes about men and women, and even though there are more female gamers than ever, we're still a minority.

Of course we want to reflect on those aspects once in a while. Where is the gaming business and the gaming community right now? Is there anything we want to change and how could we do that?

Whenever those questions are brought up, I hesitate a bit. I can't rid myself of the feeling that if we talk about perceived differences between male and female players, in the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" tradition, you'll easily enter the land of stereotypes. The more you talk about them, the stronger they grow. Eventually they'll have such an impact on our mindset that we start to hold them for truth, imprisoning women and men into tiny boxes they can't easily escape. We get boob trapped.

On the other hand - women are still struggling to get fully acknowledged and accepted in the male dominated game industry. Blizzard hadn't got one single female in their epic anniversary interviews with the staff. We're not helping anyone by remaining silent.

Archetypes of female gamers
This post has turned into a little monster plant, ideas growing wildly in all directions. For the few of you who are still following: don't despair! I'll soon land it, but before I do that, I'd like to give credit to what inspired it in the first place. One spark came from Klepsacovic's post about female and male bloggers on his blogroll. Another inspiration was a post written by Holly, who has previously published a few guest posts at the PPI. She has now opened her own place, where one of her first post is about the archetypes of female gamers and whether female gamers are treated differently. It's well written and entertaining, so make sure to read it!

Holly muses over a few types of female gamers. To be honest I don't quite recognize it from my own experiences in WoW. Until this day I have never ever ran into someone who expects to get special loot because of her boobs. Those girls might exist, but if they do they're certainly rare spawns. Mostly I think they're in the mind of young, hormone affected male players (yes, now I'm the one jumping into stereotypes, will I ever free my mind?)

On one thing we agree though: women players don't want to be treated differently. Especially not for boob reasons.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can someone offer LK a lozenge?

No. No. Definitely No.

This was not what I had expected.

Finally I was standing in front of the Frozen Throne, shivering with cold, facing the final boss of the end instance of WotLK.

It was time to fight The Lich King, and I should have been trembling with fear. I had pictured myself as a David in front of a Goliath, a small gnome, looking up at a mighty, powerful, superior giant of a man. The world should quake as he opened his mouth. He would make Jaraxxus sound like a whiny girl.

And this was when it all went wrong. So wrong. I tell you – if it wasn’t for the red yelling letters in the chat window, I wouldn’t have noticed that he was speaking at all. His voice was so weak and distant that it was barely more than a whisper. I wanted to cry out: “Speak up, LK, we can’t hear you!”

Thinking of it, I most feel sorry for the lord. You can’t really blame him for catching a cold and getting a sore throat after spending all that time frozen. Who wouldn’t?

Nevertheless I couldn’t quite rid myself of the feeling of an anticlimax.

The every so curious minded Tessy moved herself a bit closer to the event, hoping that she would catch something of what was going on. However she was quickly called back by our raid leader, who thought that hanging on the shoulder of LK might not be the best position for a healer as the encounter was about to start. And who could argue with that?

But like it or not, the whispering voices are there. The scene takes almost a full minute to play up, and unlike many other bossfights with cut scenes, we’ll have to see it over again after every single wipe recovery. The fast-forward button they’ve given to Stratholme hasn’t reached the LK encounter yet.

The best way to handle it is probably just to ignore the mumbling in the distance, taking the opportunity to grab a quick bio or just contemplate and focus for a minute, preparing for the fight.

Still I can’t refrain from secretly hoping that someone one day will show some mercy.

Give the poor guy a throat lozenge or at least a microphone!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Time to Make Our Own Cataclysm

Cataclysm. The word on everybody’s lips these days.

Kyrilean longs desperately for it. Spinks predicts that it only will be able to hold the endgame player’s attention for a couple of months. An old game is an old game and we can’t take much more of the same.

More and more of the veteran players have called it a day since they’ve lost their edge and hunger for endgame. I’ve lost count on the “See you in Cataclysm!” farewells I’ve taken recently, to bloggers as well as to guildies.

Cataclysm. The one and only answer to all our wishes. Or fears– what if it doesn’t deliver?

However I’ve got some good news for you people! You don’t have to wait for Cataclysm to get your world turned upside down. There’s a Cataclysm available right in front of you.

You can get out of your comfort zone and make something different. Scary, I know! But it makes you good.

Ixobelle wrote one of the most inspiring posts I’ve seen in a long time about his ventures into PvPing. This is a completely new world to him, and initially he lost every single match, pretty clueless about what he was doing. But somehow he managed to disregard of the natural resistance we all have against doing new things, which require us to actually make an effort and learn something. And the reward wasn’t just that he eventually started to win a few games. The main reward was that he about got the spark back:

We're embracing the fact that we have no idea what we're doing, and having fun learning this new system.”

My RP Cataclysm
Ixobelle found his Cataclysm in PvP. Tamarind found his switching to Alliance. I think I've found my Cataclysm in my recent RP adventures at Argent Dawn.

It’s new. It’s a learning process. And it’s scary as hell. Most of the time I’m more or less paralyzed by stage freight. Saying anything aloud in character gives me butterflies in my tummy. I guess it challenges the obsession I have with being good at whatever I do in real life as well as in WoW. Now I have to practice accepting that Larísa sometimes suck at things and that it isn’t such a big deal.

Take this little true story, which took place a late night this weekend. I was out questing in company with another tauren RP noob, when we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of some sort of event in a stronghold. We were facing an entire guild of high levelled players from the Alliance, who seemingly were patrolling the premises in set patterns. It would have been hard to tell them from NPCs, if it wasn’t for that they did “strange gestures” to us now and then.

We were puzzled and didn’t quite know what to do not to mess with their activities. Could we just keep killing the guards, pretending that we were alone on the spot? Would they think badly about us if we did? Maybe we should rather flag ourselves for PvP so they could finish us off? Suddenly the concept of PvP-RP made sense to me. Why would they just stand there, doing nothing, as we defeated the useless guards?

In the end we decided to complete our quest as quickly as possible, and then moved away, still confused, but at the same time excited. It’s a part of a game we’ve never seen before.

The Gnomish Rally
Another memorable recent event was the SAN Campaign for Gnomish Rights. Never ever had I imagined myself spending almost two hours on walking between the gnome starting area and Ironforge at half speed, enjoying every second of it.

Not once did I think about xp/hour, gold/hour or other stupid measures of efficency. The most threatening creature I killed that day was a yellow-flagged level 6 boar (we were hungry, so we no choice). I talked to the king, I had a swim in the public fountain, I got pretty drunk and I disregarded of most of the orders of our beloved captain Maximilian. I was absolutely immersed into it, since RP:ing can require just as much of your attention as any raid encounter.

In short: I had more fun and giggled more than I have done in a very, very long time. Because, as Ixobelle puts it, it's good to rock the boat. (For a more detailed recount, there’s an abundance of posts about this already, as you could expect from a guild of bloggers.)

Finding your Cataclysm
This post wouldn’t be complete without a message. I have a suggestion to all endgame players out there, all of you who are suffering from end-of-expansion apathy, all of you who have completed your full tier sets, never want to see another frost emblem, all of you who think you have seen and done it all.

Don’t waste your time doing the same things you’ve always done, or even worse, making circles in Dalaran!

Go out and make your own Cataclysm happen! You don’t have to wait for the expansion. It’s already available.

PS Regardless of my RP adventures, my main interest in WoW is still raiding and as you can see from this post, my guild Adrenaline has lost a few players recently. Because of this we have a few spots open. If you are an EU player who is enthusiastic about ICC raiding at a challenging level, we might be a good fit. Check it out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peace! Please!

Finally. At last!

It's Friday night and I'm pulling the armchair a bit closer to the fireplace, grabbing something to drink (insert whatever brew that puts you into a good mood).

Off goes the tier armor. Off goes my shoes.

Ouch! You'd better open the door a bit over there. Those boots were delivered to me by mister stinky Festergut himself - you can imagine the smell they had from the beginning. Wearing them day and night for weeks hasn't improved the situation. But I really need to wiggle my toes, so here we go. Thank you for your understanding.

Where were we? Yes, indeed it's Friday night and I'd also like to rid myself of some worries that have been burdening me the last few days.

Of course I'm thinking about the ongoing drama in the WoW blogosphere.

All I can say is: What's up with you people? Normally goodhearted, well-intending, harmless bloggers of all sizes are tearing each other into pieces. And the war going on in the commentary sections of some blogs doesn't exactly help up. Are you out of your minds? Has Putricide come up with some new evil gas that somehow has poisoned you guys, depriving you of common sense?

Until now I haven't uttered one single word about the whole thing. Partly because I've been swamped with work and haven't had time to blog much this week. Partly because I think it's all pretty introspective, mostly interesting to a handful of bloggers. I also was reluctant to interfere, risking to stir up even more dust than there already was. I just wished it all to go away - the lesser said the better. Even if I'm all for openness and communication - that's a part of my job - there are a few situations when the wisest thing is to just remain calm and silent.

But I'm sitting here in my virtual pub with a drink in my hand, and being the blogger I am I can't shut up completely. This is in my mind, so I'll share my thoughts about it, and then we'll just move on. OK?

A piece of advice
So. I won't tire you with the whole story. No linking. No naming. No shaming. Just a short summary: there was a blogger who posted a pretty stupid, thoughtless post, which she probably regretted considering the outcome. A post that shouldn't have been written in the first place. Then there was another blogger calling the first blogger out for the stupidity. The criticized blogger got so upset she chose to not only take down the questioned post, but to quit blogging altogether. And finally a lot of other people have thrown themselves into taking sides, arguing about who is bullying who, in comments and in blog posts.

And all I want to do is to cry out: enough is enough! Cut it! Now!

While I agree with what Tamarind wrote in his take on this, I'd like to add a little piece of advice, coming from someone who has been around for a while, done loads of stupid stuff over the years and hopefully learned a little bit from it.

And this is: you don't have to bring out every single thought you get into your mind in public. Not even if you're a blogger. Secondly: if you're writing something in a state of rage, it's not only OK, but also actually advisable to postpone the publishing a bit, at least overnight, giving you a chance to breathe and give it a second thought.

If you've ever worked at an office, I bet that you have seen an e-mail war at some point. You know when one person has a conflict with another person, but instead of settling this between two eyes, they send angry e-mails with copies not only to their bosses, but to the entire staff. This kind of warfare will quickly escalate to insane proportions, leaking energy and causing a poisoning atmosphere of distrust and animosity. And it bugs me like crazy. If I was Euripides I'd write a nerdrage post about it.

Arguments between blogs can resemble to this. Not always. God knows I've argued with Gevlon over the years, but I think I can talk for both of us when I claim that we in spite of our disagreements never have stopped respecting and even liking each other.

However some of the blog posts and comments I've seen in this week have been exactly like office mail wars. And this public fencing is frankly quite sickening to see.

How to deal with conflicts
"Easy for you to say", someone might say. "Everyone likes Larísa, you're never dragged into any kind of conflict. You don't know how it is".

As a matter of fact I do. But I try to handle it differently, as far as I can. I'll give you an example. A little while ago there was a blogger who wrote a post, where he talked about me in a way that upset me. To be honest I freaked out completely. But did I blog about it? Heck, no! This way I'd only draw more attention to it, and also risk to make a huge conflict out of something that maybe wasn't ill meant, just an act of silliness. So I wrote him a letter. And he got my point and changed the post promptly, so it wasn't about me any longer. He was actually pretty devastated about the whole thing, as he never meant any harm. And of course I forgave him of all my heart, and I dare say that we're now even closer than we were before. There's nothing that can grow you together as sorting out a conflict. We handled all this stuff so discretely that I don't think many in the blogosphere ever saw what happened. It saved us both quite a few headaches, I believe.

I don't say that this is the one and only solution. But it might be worth considering, as a first step.

Enough of wisdom words from this old lady. Time to relax... Can someone handle me another pint, please?

Ensidia harassment
Or wait, there was one more thing, that bothered me this week. Basically it isn't my business, but it needs to be said:

Can all morons out there please leave Ensidia alone now for a while? Just let them play like everyone else, having a fair chance to get the world's first heroic Lich King kill like any other guild? Someone has apparently been griefing the Tarren Mill server with a fishing macro (!) making it unplayable for the last few weeks. There can't be any doubt who they were targeting. Now things have gone so bad that Ensidia for the second time has felt forced to transfer to another server.

That sucks. It really does.

And now: time to drift away, contemplating the dance of the flames, lightening up this little corner of the world. My corner. Our corner.

Peace. Please.

Next week will definitely be better.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Appearance in Blue Plz!

He's angry, bitchy and cynical. Funny and brilliant according to some people, too self assured and just annoying if you ask others. I think everyone could agree on "dedicated".

Yes, I'm talking about TotalBiscuit, the host of the WoW podcast Blue Plz!, which is one of the oldest shows around, with a huge audience and a community of its own. I'm a big fan myself, since it combines passion with good content, and consequently Blue Plz! got the Pink Pigtail Inn award for the best podcast in 2009.

Recently I received a letter from TotalBiscuit where he asked me for an interview. He's going to make a series where he presents people who participate in the community, and I would be one of those.

Do I need to say I was flattered? I mean REALLY flattered. Me? In Blue Plz!? You're kidding me. Squee! It's like watching a rock concert with your favorite band and suddenly they put the spotlight on you of all people in the crowd, asking you to come up on the stage and sing along for a while. It's unreal.

In the last show TotalBiscuit announced the upcoming interview, calling The Pink Pigtail Inn a blog that "doesn't suck horribly", or something in those lines. And that, my friends, is true recognition. He's not easily pleased. Not at all. And that's also something I approve of. I'm not a six year old, showing my drawings for grandmother, expecting standing ovations no matter what. TotalBiscuit is brutally honest, but this also means that he can be trusted. If he says you don't suck, you probably don't.

I might be jinxing this, announcing this appearance in advance. But provided that nothing goes wrong, you can listen to the show this Friday, March 19. The streamed version, which also includes some music, will start at 8 pm GMT, which is 9 pm European server time or 3 PM EST time in US. You can follow the show at http://www.cynicalbrit.com/.

If you want to listen to it, but can't make it for the show, you can also download the mp3 file, which normally is available at the same website as the show the next following day

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whiny Post Day: A post about loneliness

In case you've missed it, March 17 is the Whiny Post Day. Klepsacovic was the one who brought up the idea:
"On this day, bloggers everywhere are allowed to make one whiny post in solidarity with their fellow bloggers who are also making whiny posts."

This is an opportunity I just can't ignore. If you just hate whiny blog posts, move along, come back tomorrow or go back to one of my previous posts. I don't think I normally whine a lot, so you should be pretty safe whatever post you pick. If nothing else, you can take the one from yesterday, which was on the sparkling, never-give-up side.

The biggest taboo
But if you don't mind a bit of melancholy, or even genuine sadness, feel free to stay. Because today I'm going to write about something that I've wanted to write about for a long time, but just haven't been able to vocalize in a manner that it doesn't come out as whiney, self-pitying and generally pathetic. I still hesitate. However, The Whiny Post Day gives me the perfect excuse to write about a topic, which normally would be unthinkable. A word that is far worse to say aloud than "Voldemort". The biggest taboo of our time, the unspeakable word, the crime and shame far worse any bank robbery or careless car driving.

If you dare say this word, if you dare admit that you are THAT, and that this fact sometimes - although not always - bothers you, you'll see people fleeing as if you had the worst of plagues. In their eyes you're carrying a disease, and you probably deserved to get it. You just don't get this without a good reason, so apparently there's something wrong with you.

Take a deep breath. Yep. I'm going to talk about feeling lonely.

Lonely in a multi-player game, where the biggest problems for everyone else seems to be that the limit of the friends list is too low.

Isn't it strange how much you can be on your own, with hundreds, thousands, yes, even millions people around you?

A geek personality
I guess it's partly a matter of personality. I've always been geek, a nerd, an alien, outsider, call it whatever you want to. I always had top grades at school, which definitely wasn't a merit on the schoolyard. I was never one of the sparkling girls with a blond ponytail and a neat shirt, always giggling, always the center of the attention at the schoolyard, moving around as a group. I saw it from the sideline. Most of the time I was actually quite happy with this. After all they were superficial, not to say stupid. I chose not to participate. At least that was what I told myself. But to be truthful I don't think I was entirely pleased with it all the time. Deep inside I wanted to be loved, seen, appreciated, befriended. Like anyone else. Geek or not.

You could think that when you come online in Azeroth it should be different. You're not surrounded by the kings and queens of the schoolyard. There are tons of other nerds around, people like myself. And getting to know people online, without the barriers of prejudices and quick judgement due to looks, age and social status, should be way easier. And still somehow it isn't. At least not for me.

As I look around me I see groups of players who either are real life friends or have been playing with each other since vanilla. My common sense tells me that it's natural that it happens, that some people sort of gravitate to each other and enjoy playing together and that you can't expect them to let in a newcomer into their well functioning little family which is fine just as it is. You can apply to a guild but not to a group of friends. I know they don't owe me anything and that they deserve to have fun on their own. Most of the time I succeed pretty well. I'm mature and I let go and I don't care. But sometimes I just sort of go backwards in my psychological progression, ending up at the mental age of 12. And in those moments I don't just feel sad and lonely, but also ashamed because I have those feelings. At my age you should know better.

Getting friends in WoW
How do you develop friendships in WoW? That's something I've been asking myself many times. The friends I've had over the years have been few and far between, and they tend to quit the game, cut down or drift away for one reason or another. How do you get new ones? I may be wrong, but I have a theory that it was way easier to get friends when the game was young, everyone was levelling, all was new and the online resources weren't as available so you had to help each other the best you could. And besides there were group quests with real elites, that actually required cooperation. You had a reason to talk to people, and those conversations could turn into something more. Today - not so very much.

But doesn't Larísa belong to a guild? you may wonder. And sure I do, and I love and respect it deeply! Don't think anything else! But a raid guild is in the end quite much run like a business - it's in the nature of it, and as many players either don't play much between raids, or already have their friendships very well settled, it isn't the most fertile ground for getting to know new people. It would be to expect too much to think that you'll become close friends with people just because you're raiding together. Especially if you never were a sparkling girl but a geek who were standing by the sideline.

I don't know what there is about me that keeps me at a distance. Admittedly I've always been crap at getting and maintaining close friends in real life, so I guess it's somehow in my personality. And then there is the age difference. I don't say that there aren't players like me - WoW.com even wrote about a 76 year old player the other day - but I guess I AM a little bit of a strange bird. Many of the players I meet could be my children. It's no wonder if they hesitate to get closer. I'm a grown-up and, and even if I'm childish and playful, that will shine through sometimes.

A little bit of hope after all
This is a whiny post. And now I have whined for a bit, feeling sorry for myself. Enough of this. I will cheat now (sorry Klep!) and add a little bit of hope and light towards the end. There are other perspectives that makes the darkness crack up a bit:

  1. Being lonely isn't necessarily a bad and scary thing. Forget about the taboo crap. Forget about the expectations that you SHOULD have friends. Let's use the word "solitude" instead. I'm not the worst person to be with. I should take the opportunity to get to know myself a bit better. Maybe I'll even learn to like myself!. Maybe I should rather enjoy the freedom and the peacefulness that solo playing actually offers. If you don't have any obligations and duties towards your "friends", you're free to do whatever you want to for however long you want to, without considering anything but your own interests. That's quite relaxing, a change to the group dynamics at work and in your family. It's actually an asset as much as it possibly could be a burden.
  2. I may spend a lot of non-raiding time on my own in-game, but when I'm offline I've got the entire WoW blogosphere to correspond with and relate to. Some of the bloggers are more than just providers of entertainment or information. They're actually friends. Take Gnomeaggedon for instance. We may not play on the same server, but he knows my writings so well that he can spot even the slightest signs of disharmony appearing in my blogposts, and you can be sure that he'll send me a concerned e-mail, asking me what's up. like any real friend would do.
  3. And finally there's SAN at Argent Dawn, a reservoir of openness, friendliness and chattiness, where there aren't any set patterns and already set social circles. It's fantastic to slip in there and not only get greetings from everyone online, but also get whispers from people, asking me to join a five-man run or just wanting to talk about something. It brings me a new dimension to the game that I had more or less given up on.
This post is most of all dedicated to everyone else who sometimes feel alone in the game. You're not alone in being alone. I'm in the same club, if that makes you feel a bit less lonely.

Your cheerful, sunny innkeeper, bringing energy and optimism to Azeroth will soon be back again.

End of Epic Whiny Rant.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lincoln Attitude To Raiding

It was a rather gloomy raid for being a first-time-visit to a new raid boss. Sindragosa landed and she was huge and three-phased and offered all sorts of tricks to keep us entertained and on our toes.

It should have been the most fun and exciting night we'd had for weeks. Finally some challenging, un-farmed content, forcing us to be on our toes, bringing out our very best game!

Yes, It should have been a party. The raid chat and the vent channel should have been sparkling with little bubbles of enthusiasm. But they weren't. They were as gloomy as if we'd been standing freezing in a rainy DWP.

The missing spark
Certainly we had our reasons not to be too happy. The lack of sign-ups lately was worrying, delaying our raid start and making our composition far from ideal. And the server lag seemed to be back, after staying away for a couple of weeks.

But we also missed something else: we missed the spark, we missed focused hunger for more and we missed a smile on our lips.

Normally I'm blessed with having a guild with quite a dedicated kick-ass attitude, which so far has helped us progress quite far despite our modest raid schedule with three nights a week. I hope - or rather I believe - that this night was just a temporary setback, and problems fixed, we'll be ready to go again, knocking down walls, taking the sky.

However, I can't rid myself of the thought that we're seeing some effects of the late-into-expansion apathy that started a little while ago and now rapidly is spreading through the community. It's in the blogs, it's in the podcasts, it's everywhere.

Fighting apathy
The question is: can you do something to fight it? Yes, you can.

If you're a really bad case of WoW apathy illness, you should of course take the consequences and stop raiding. No one is forcing you to be in a raid, you know. Just telling you. Rather than having players who hate what they're doing, I think any sensible guild would rather see that you left so they can recruit players who still have the spark.

One of our mages just did this. He's a long term member, a bit of a raid clown, and he'll be missed. But if you don't enjoy raiding anymore, it's the only decent thing you can do - for your own sake and for the guild's sake. Hopefully he'll be back for Cataclysm.

Now, suppose that you're not so unhappy that you want to stop raiding. Let's say that you're just a bit whiny, cranky, in a bad mood. Is there something you can do about it?

Yes, yes and yes! You can't change your fellow players. You can't change the server lag (the report button is just a placebo thing to keep us occupied.) But you can change your own attitude!

The Lincoln quote
The American president Abraham Lincoln obviously never played WoW, but I still think he has something relevant to say about it:

I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I don't know if he ever said those words in reality - as always with those one-liners from supposedly wise guys, there's a distinct lack of sources and verification. Authors of "How-to-fix-your-life-and-become-successful-and-get-tons-of-friends-and-a-beautiful-wife-and become-rich-and-famous-and-get-laid-all-in-one-month" books don't care the slightest. Authentic or not, the quote fits perfectly into any handbook.

I like it, but just to some extent. I don't think you can apply it in any situation and I'll explain why. (Please forgive me for diving into stereotypes on the border to prejudices. )I believe my hesitation has to do with cultural differences.

On one side you find the Americans with their never-give-up-attitude that seems to be something they get with their mother's milk. It's like a natural life compass, encouraging them to always keep smiling, no matter what happens to them.

On the other side we have the Europeans, me included. We look suspiciously at all those constantly smiling people. It seems a bit artificial or even false. According to our view on life happiness isn't something you choose anymore than you choose what weather it will be today; it's rather the result of an equation- the effect of a certain combination of circumstances. There is something in the quote that shows a lack of compassion with other people, suffering from conditions such as depression, which isn't cured as easily as by just "pulling yourself together". And this bugs us.

Why Lincoln was right
However: when it comes to WoW I think Lincoln is quite right. If you want to be successful in raiding and happy with your time online, getting value for your subscription fees, you have to review your attitude and expectations. Things that you don't like may happen to you in game. You may lose that roll on a piece of gear, you may lose a battleground or wipe on a boss that you think should be a farm. But how you react to it is entirely your own choice.

With the mindset of the Lincoln quote, you'll notice: "Oh, the sign-ups weren't brilliant tonight and we've got a lag issue". But you won't let it drag you down and govern your state of mind.

Your next train of thought will be: "This means that I'll have to push my game skill even a little bit further than normal. We can SO do it. And we're going to have fun! Raiding is what I enjoy doing in my free time, and I like to hang around with those people. We're a fantastic team. Raiding makes me happy. Let's go and do this!"

I've used this technique myself in other situations, and it's amazing how it works. Try smiling (at least in your mind, even if your face doesn't show anything), and as by a miracle you'll find that the artificial smile will turn into a real one after a while. I don't know how many times I've pushed myself to go training, regardless of not feeling inclined to do it. I force myself to smile, pretending that I'm SO looking forward to do this. And half-way through the class, I always find myself completely energaized again, and I can't understand why I hesitated to go there in the first place.

I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I'm going to be a happy raider in every raid I attend as long as I'm playing WoW. I'm going to sparkle. And if I don't sparkle I'm not going to be a raider anymore. Then it's time to move on and do something else. I have made up my mind. How about you?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Perfect Raid Snack

” Nougat and tea”
”Meh. Lucky you!”

This is a typical conversation between me and Tessy of Reflections From The Pond. It always takes place around 10 pm, when we're having our ten-minute break half-way through the 3.5 hour long raid night.

Player rebuffing
It’s not only our toons that need rebuffing along the raid. The players need it as well. Stamina, spirit, power, all our stats have gone down in the drain after a couple of hours, especially if it’s been one of those progression nights, requiring our constant attention and focus.

Replenishment. Tessy and I both know that we need it – especially since we’ve got long experience from raising children. If you don’t keep the blood sugar curve on the kids at a decent, even level they’ll get cranky. And so will their mothers. That is why we’ll always use a couple of those ten free minutes to go for a snack hunt in the kitchen.

When we’re back we’ll report to each other, comparing our findings. The one who has found a hidden treasure – that chocolate box from Christmas that somehow was put on the wrong shelf and then fell into oblivion - will be the unchallenged winner of the food contest of the night.

To be honest, Tessy wins most of the time. She’s got a WoW-playing and very supportive family. I’ll never forget her wall-of-text application to Adrenaline, by far the most wordy and entertaining application I’ve ever seen. What stood out most was wen she described how her husband sometimes served her as she was playing, offering her pizza and a glass of wine to go with her game. How could I ever beat that?

What constitutes a good raid snack
Last raid we had a brief chat on what would constitutes a perfect raid snack. “We should make a Top-10-list”, suggested Tessy.

The question was what criteria we should use building the list.

We agreed that you needed to be able to eat it with one hand. And it must be rather clean. Sticky stuff won’t do it; you don’t want goo on your mouse. The ideal raid snack shouldn’t break into pieces too easily. You don’t want crumbs in your keyboard – they don’t only look disgusting, they also can make the keys get stuck. So crisps won’t make it into the Top-10- list.

Besides there’s more into crisps making them questionable as raid snacks. They don’t only spread a dirty look all over your gaming area, to put it blunt they’re poison for your body. I’m not a health prophet myself in any way. I believe I’m pretty average. Sometimes I train regularly and think twice before putting junk into my body. Other times I shrug at it, putting up a “Who-cares-and-I-deserve-a-treat-I’ll-think-about-my-health-tomorrow”-approach. I love crisps. But if I would have crisps with every single raid, I realize it would have a substantial impact on my life length. One crisps-and-a-glass-of-wine raid a week is fine and a part of leading a good life. Three or four of those raids are not.

Size and bio effects
Another aspect to consider is the size. The perfect raid snack is on the small side. I’m probably not the only one with a pretty cramped and messy desk. There just isn’t space enough to squeeze in a huge plate between my mouse, keyboard, screen and all those stacks of miscellaneous papers, including everything from important bills to printed how-to-spec-your-levelling-druid-guides.

You also have to pay a thought to the immediate physiological effects of the snack. It might have an impact on your performance as a player – in a good way or bad. Ideally you should eat something that keeps you feel energized, constantly providing you with fluid and fuel, holding your stamina and mood at a pleasant and even level, without huge spikes or dips.

A perfect snack doesn’t make you feel sleepy and lethargic and you also must make sure it doesn’t mess up your digestion too badly. The mid-raid break is our one and only bio break, so it’s wise to stay away from stuff that are likely to cause extra emergency visits to the ladies room.

Miniature carrots
It appears to me that that with all those requirements, there aren’t many alternatives left. Miniature carrots. That’s all I can come up with, and actually it has been on my raid menu more and more often lately. They’re juicy, a little bit on the sweet side, they don’t take much place and come ready-to-eat in a little plastic bag. They’re neat and clean and they satisfy my factual or imagined need to constantly munch on something as I’m playing, and they don’t harm me, on the contrary.

There’s only one problem. You can’t by any mean say that carrots will raise your spirits.

“Fresh homemade chocolate cake and a glass of port wine. My husband came with it.”
“Miniature carrots in a plastic bag. I took it from the refrigerator”

No one will envy you for having carrots. You can talk for hours about how good they are for you, but they’re useless in a food duel with Tessy. You’ll be owned.

The chase for the perfect raid snack will continue. One day I’ll come up with something better. It will be neat, easy-to-eat and healthy as miniature carrots, but much more glamorous. Something that will make my fellow players envious.

A good snackscore will always top any achievement, damage chart or gearscore you can provide. Period.

Yes, this post is an exception from my general rule not to leave out and publish names of guildies on my blog. Tessy is a fellow blogger, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mind. I even hope that she might get inspired to pick up the topic and ponder a bit further on it. See it as a starting post for our upcoming Top-10-list of raid snacks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kologarn's little prank and other musings over surprises

I'll never forget the first time I saw Kologarn, appearing out of nowhere, saying "Boo!" Or rather I don't know if he actually said it, but it was the sense of it. He scared the shit out of me. And I loved it. Like most players I love to be surprised, and that's the topic I'd like to rant a bit about today.

I don't know if you noticed it, but a couple of weeks ago Ciderhelm at Tankspot wrote a huge wall of text, far worse than anything you've ever seen at The Pink Pigtail Inn. In case you missed it, go back and check it out. It's just too good to be passed on.

Ciderhelm has already gotten quite a bit of attention from the community, judging from the comments. There are 175 of them now, many equally well thought out as the post itself, and there are still more incoming. As a fellow blogger I'm stunned with pure admiration.

Ciderhelm's concerns
So what's the deal in this post? Well, basically this Tankspot guru expresses his concerns about the current state of World of Warcraft and the future of the community. What makes it so interesting and worth listening to is that he doesn't fall into the normal traps. He doesn't go on and on about how the epic raids in vanilla WoW were better and he doesn't threaten to quit the game anytime soon. He doesn't fall into the general “the game is dying” whine serenade, which we couldn't care less about since we've heard it before and it doesn't take the discussion one step further.

No, on the contrary: Ciderhelm talks in a soft, reasoning, intelligent, every so polite voice, which is a pleasure to listen to. His introduction of the article sets the tone:

"I am concerned about World of Warcraft raiding and the future of the Warcraft gaming community. I believe that there are fundamental issues that can be handled better."
After this Ciderhelm talks into some depth about the fundaments of what we want from a game, according to the current knowledge in game theory, and he also reasons about how WoW caters to those needs: Surprise, Risk, Reward, Challenge and Discovery. He discusses the raid encounter mechanics from the early days until today and the tension between the best 1% players and the 99 % not-quite-so-awesome players. What could the developers do to make everyone decently happy and entertained? The levels of skill vary drastically between players. Is there any way you can design encounters so that the top players can play together with their not-quite-so-awesome friends, and get a challenge and a kick out of it, rather than frustration or boredom?

Thoughts on surprises
When I've been thinking about how to comment on Ciderhelm's ponderings, I found it quite hard to make up my mind which perspective to pick. There are so many threads, so many things to elaborate on, which each one could qualify for a blog post of their own. It feels plain wrong just to take idea and disregard of the rest. But I guess I can always come back to it – the post is a treasure chest for any blogger who wants something to write about.

So let's stick to one of the perspectives, the one about the element of surprise. In my opinion surprises and randomness are major sources of enjoyment in the game. It certainly also is a source of frustration of course, when THAT drop just never ever will come, but without it, the game would be about as predictable exciting as a child’s pounding bench. (In case you don't know what it is, it's a toy where you knock down little wooden pegs in a row with a hammer. Once you're done you turn it upside down and do it over again.)

This is why it doesn't matter if a badge gear item has imba stats and even is best-in-slot - it still can't compete in any way with loot drops, since it's completely predictable. You can calculate to the very day, hour and second when you've grinded enough emblems to get it. This makes it boring, soulless and not so easy to love as that rare and magic drop.

However, apart from gear, surprises are quite far and between these days, at least in a raiding context, if you’re not into the bleeding cutting edge and down all the bosses before there is any guide available. It’s ironic, to say the least, that Ciderhelm, who is responsible for providing with all those detailed instruction how-to-do-movies, is the one to bring up this as a problem.

Same old mechanics
The fact that the players know “too much” about the encounters on beforehand isn’t the only reason why we’re rarely surprised. There’s also the issue that most mechanics used in the encounters have been used before. Unless you’re completely new into raiding you will see the pattern soon enough. Even a fairly new and inexperienced gamer like me will notice.

It’s the same ingredients that are used over and over again, just put together in a slightly different order. You deal with the bone spikes in ICC just like you dealt with the spikes in BT, you take cover behind avatars frozen into iceblocks in ICC, almost identically to how you did in Naxx. We move out of crap - be it green, blue or orange, we sheep the mc:d players, we interrupt nasty spells they cast. It’s mostly the graphical design of the bosses and their environment that vary – not so much the encounters as such.

Actually there's a paradox in this. While most players probably would say that they love surprises and variation in their gameplay, in reality, there are only very few who mind - or even notice - that the mechanics in ICC have been around since vanilla.

As a matter of fact I'd dare say that they’re quite happy if they can grasp the basic idea about a fight quick and easy since they recognize the pattern. Whenever Blizzard has tried to introduce elements that go outside of the normal patterns, such as 3d fights, vehicles or the Faction Champions, randomly running about, the reaction from the community has been quite thoroughly negative.

The Opera Event
So. We want to be a little bit surprised, but not entirely lost. What's the solution? Personally I'm a fan of randomization of the encounters. You don't know exactly which boss you'll get, only that it will be one of several possible. Like Opera in Karazhan. Dear old Opera. I suppose I'm not the only one who get a nostalgic glimpse in my eyes thinking about it.

There were only so many possible scenarios - three to be more exact, but this little stroke of randomness and variation was enough to add something extra. Some players preferred one or the other of them - either based on the fights themselves or because they wanted certain drops. There was no way you could go through the strategies in detail and assign people for all three encounters on beforehand "just in case" they'd turn up. The normal procedure was improvise it every so quickly behind the curtain, as soon we could see from the dialogue what play would be set up this night.

I always cringed when it was Big Bad Wolf since I inevitably would get the Little Red Riding Hood, and most likely die. Yet: I loved the surprise element in it, just as I love the variation in Violet Hold and ToC 5-man. Hey, I even approve of the different setups week after week with Faction Champions. Even though I'm torn about the PvP aspect of it, I like the fact that it varies and that you have to adjust to the situation, thinking: how do we make it THIS week, not just repeating exactly what you did the week before.

Wishing freely
But in the end: a certain amount of variation and randomness can only surprise me every so much. Nothing can compare to the fresh meeting with new content. Nothing. For all the instruction videos I had seen, Kologarn still made me jump high with his little prank, because the movies never included that part.

If I could wish freely without considering that development resources is a limited resource, I'd love to see many, many more surprises in game. Not just the big, new things, such as entire raid instances to explore, but also unexpected little features added to the current content.

You don't have to give Marrowgar completely new abilities and a generally unpredictable behaviour. That would sadly enough probably only render complaints. But why not let him switch skin and suddenly appear turned into a murloc one day, without any previous warning? Not in every raid, but maybe sometimes. You never knew what he would look like.

Shock us. Shake us up. Say: "Boo!" You know we want it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Findings on The Other Side of The WoW Galaxy


The Final Frontier.

These are the continuing voyages of Larísa. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where... ahem, actually quite a few players have gone before. But not Larísa.

Welcome to the second chapter in the story about my recent expedition to Argent Dawn. The last few days my world has been turned upside down:

1. I’ve gone horde
Ever since I rolled at AD, I’ve been more or less constantly lost, involuntarily exploring every corner of Thunder Bluff without really finding what I was looking for. The NPC directions don’t cut it in a multi-level city. Basically I guess it’s a defense mechanism to keep allies from stealing our fires. I just wonder if I’ll ever learn. Since I still fail to find my way out of Exodar, I’m quite pessimistic.

2. I've found that I'm a tauren at heart
I’m a cow! Or maybe I should rather say: tauren. Cow sounds a tad pejorative, and that’s the least I want to be. It’s odd how quick your perspective can change; I used to consider tauren just huge and ugly, something I’d never consider to roll myself. But then I put the blood elf I first rolled at AD on rest and got myself a mighty tauren druid, and now I’m on the other side of the fence. Tauren are at the same level of awesomeness as gnomes. Whatever they lack in sexiness, they make up for in soulfulness and personality. Without knowing it, I’ve always had a tauren inside me, just waiting to be let out in full freedom. This is a homecoming.

3. I’ve been confronted with RP
I knew it was an RP server I rolled to, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to me that people actually are roleplaying around me. Yet I’m fascinated but also quite intimidated by it. It isn't going on constantly in every corner (players are complaining about the lack of it in /general, longing back for the good old days), but sometimes I see players talking in character, using /say right in front of me.

I've never experienced anything like it before and it makes me nervous. What if they expect me to do something in character? What if I fail? What if I offend someone by saying something that doesn’t match with the general agreement on lore, or that doesn’t follow the role playing guidelines? I don’t feel confident enough to start acting like me. Is it OK to silently watch what other players are doing? I’m the butterfly on the wall, invisible, observing, thinking. Does that make me a leech and a slacker in the eyes of the true RP:ers? I enjoy the efforts of other players, not adding anything to it myself. I might do it one day though. Just give a beginner some time, OK?

4. I've realized that a bit of slacking makes me good
I know this probably sounds a bit weird, but every since I started to raid, some 2.5 years ago, my playing has always been extremely goal oriented. Everything has always been about the next goal to reach, the next challenge to beat, how to improve myself and my character.

And I still love it! My gaming heart will always beat for high-end raiding. I’ve got a competitive mindset and I’m addicted to the thrills, to feel the adrenaline flowing in my veins, to see the team come together and make it happen. I love to bang my head against a wall, then pull myself together and just do it. It’s not the loot that is the reward; it’s the sense of accomplishment and reaching your goals.

But for all my love of this side of Warcraft, there’s also another side of the game that I’ve been neglecting ever since I started raiding, namely slacking. The hanging-around, talking to interesting, witty and geeky people, just because they're there and for some reason seem to not mind your presence - chances are that they even like you a bit. The activity of doing nothing particular, exploring or trying out silly stuff for giggles.

I never realized how much I’ve missed this until I set my foot on Argent Dawn. As the insight dawned upon me (no pun intended), it was so strong and sudden that my eyes flooded. Here’s the story:

Larísa's tears
The Larísa-starts-crying incident took place a late Saturday night, my normal out-of-scheduled-raids gaming time, when the rest of the family either are going to sleep or doing things on their own. The night is free, at my own disposal.

Any ordinary Saturday you would probably have found Larísa hanging around in Ironforge, eagerly following the /trade chat to see if there was any 10-man raid going on that she could tag along. She would see the time pass, adding up to hours, and slowly she would become more and more frustrated and disappointed. Eventually she would give up and run a couple of 5-man pugs, just to comfort herself. She would get yet another few frost emblems she didn’t need anymore. And that would be it. She wouldn’t giggle once.

This Saturday however, I logged in at my home realm just for a couple of minutes, saying “hi” and “good luck” to a group of guildies who were currently working on downing Algalon. But instead of hanging around, waiting for something to happen, a brilliant pug miraculously appearing out of nowhere, I decided to switch to my tauren alter ego at Argent Dawn.

I took her up where I had left her, in some smallish village and I set out to do some questing, as I tried to keep up with the guild chat (which indeed is busy, to say the least, bloggers and blog readers are a rather talkative sort of people, just so you know.)

Suddenly I got a whisper from nowhere. It turned out to be huge tauren druid, wondering if I wanted a ride on his mammoth to Thunder Bluff, an offer I declined, sinde my plan was to keep questing.

This guy didn’t take a “no” for an answer though, so he ended up as my private driver. This ride didn’t only go to every spot I needed for completing my quests, but he also took me on a sightseeing, showing me all of his favorite spots in the zone, places where you could just sit down, relax, enjoying the landscape. Every now and then he stopped to let out a warcry. “Sometimes there are others around who will answer it”, he explained to me.

The mighty tauren (dressed too look cool rather than to kill stuff efficiently), became the first of the non-SAN guilded inhabitants of Argent Dawn to enter my friends list. And as I added him, I cried silently, as I realized that it had been about 2.5 years since the last time I made friends with a player I randomly had run into. I suppose there were opportunities on the way, I just didn’t have time to notice them, blindly rushing to grind the next tier piece.

Taking the day as it comes
I’ve walked this road for so long now. I've killed so many creatures - 163 499 to be exact, since they added the statistics feature. I've downed so many raid bosses (566, only counting WotLK.) I've seen so many players come and go.

Somewhere on the way I lost the curious glimpse in my eyes. I lost the ability to just let things happen to me, taking the day as it comes, rather than optimizing it, using every available gaming minute to improve my character.

Don’t read me wrong: I still love the themepark. But no matter how cool and exciting the roller coaster is - sometimes you need to get out of the wagon. Azeroth isn't just a bunch of set scripts, reacting to your key pressings. It's also a stage where anything can happen.

My exploration of those strange new worlds has only begun.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Encounter at Argent Dawn

”Hi sexy”

It came out of nowhere, in pink letters, which indicated it was a whisper. Clearly this was intended for me.

For a moment I was confused. How came that someone called me sexy? My gnome appearance is no doubt cute, but I don’t think anyone ever heard the epithet “sexy”.

Then I realized that this version of Larisa, actually wasn’t a pink pigtailed gnome, but a blood elf chick. And yeah, I suppose they look kind of sexy, at least that’s what they’re designed to be.

The new blogosphere guild
I think I could be excused for my rather slow pace in grasping the situation. After all it took place only a few seconds after I had spawned at Argent Dawn (EU). In this very moment I had only one single thought in my head: to execute my plan to look up Tam’s alt, joining the brand new blogosphere guild Single Abstract Noun.

I was still a bit upset and annoyed after finding out at the creation screen that Larisa with a normal “i, as well as Larísa, with an the emergency accent, were occupied, just as Larissa. I guess it’s the effect of having a highly populated server. Lots of players need lots of names.

Finally I had come up with the bizarre spelling Larïsa, which I knew would be annoying for anyone wanting to put me on their friends list. But I didn’t see any alternative but to insert those stupid dots. I couldn’t possibly let go of my online alter ego in a guild that was so connected to my life as a blogger.

There was other stuff going on contributing to my confusion. A yellow question mark was calling for my attention right in front of me. And Blizzard’s crash course, introducing the interface to new players messed up with some addons that randomly had spawned all over the screen.

So maybe it wasn’t so strange that it took me a while to find myself and localize the the guy who had approached me, a rather handsome looking blood elf.

How to react?
Suddenly I recalled where I was. Squee! Argent Dawn is an RP realm. Finally, after all this hesitating and the mumblings about wanna-try-one-day from the closet, I had taken the scary step. This was the real thing. Maybe this was the normal state of things here? Maybe there’s a lot more interaction going on between players here than there is on my normal PvE home realm? At least I liked to think there was. And I asked myself if there was some sort of social conventions that I was supposed to follow.

I fell into deep contemplation. How should your character react when someone calls you sexy? Maybe I should blush a little, or even flirt a bit? Or… probably not. After all I didn’t know this guy at all. Certainly a rude gesture and a slap on the chin would be more natural?

But before I had come anywhere near taking a decision, the caller had vanished, and I found myself smiling into the air.

Cosy and chatty
I shrugged, did a /who Single and found what I was looking for. Shortly after I was let into the cosiest little guild I’ve ever encountered. Bloggers are a special kind. They may appear shy, preferring thinking and writing to socializing. But put them in the right company and they’ll suddenly turn out chatty. They just can’t shut up.

When I saw a character in the guild list – currently offline, but nevertheless - named “Tobold” in the guild, I all but fainted. Tobold – a guildie of mine? Wow. Is this for real? Is this THE Tobold? “We think so”, came the answer.

Since Wednesdays basically are gaming free nights for me, I only stayed online five minutes. Still it was some damned good minutes, filled with giggles, happy greetings and a general cosiness that is hard to describe. It was a homecoming, an in-game version of The Pink Pigtail Inn is the best description I can give. (As a matter of fact the guild tabard is designed to make you associate to a virtual pub.)

Like for everyone else, this is just a side project. My home and the bulk of my gaming time will remain at Stormrage. But there also are times in the game, outside of the scheduled raids, when I find myself pretty lonely. I guess I’m just not very good at making friends. I can always pug away a few instances with an alt, but it leaves me with an empty feeling. And when this happens, I hope that I might find some likeminded people from the blogosphere to hang out with at Argent Dawn.

And who knows, next time I’m online as Larisa the Bloodelf or maybe Larisa the Tauren or Larisa the Troll – I haven’t yet made up my mind about what class and race to play (please feel free to come with suggestions) – I even might dare to put on my role playing glasses. I’m not ready to force the story-of-my-life upon any stranger I meet – I’m not ready to be in character at all. But maybe I can start out by just listening a little to conversations I may stumble upon, getting an idea of what it’s all about.

Or maybe I’ve got too high expectations on what an RP realm is like?

The future will tell. All I know now is that I’m kind of happy that things messed up for Tamarind so he came around to take this initiative. The worst things that happen to us often turn out to be blessings, leading us to try new paths we never would have thought of else.

Anyway: I've had my first encounter withe Argent Dawn and I'm looking forward to grab the next opportunity to drop by and spend some time with my fellow bloggers and readers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It came from the Bar: Buff me up bro and the curse of choice

Today we have a new poster who wants to share some thoughts with the other frequent guests hanging by the barside at The Pink Pigtail Inn. His name is Reptile, and he describes himself as a "geek with attitude". Reptile plays a DK in a raiding guild on a EU server in the lower tiers of the aristocracy, to follow the classification made by Rohan of Blessing of Kings. Since our innkeeper actually was planning to rant a bit a bit on this topic herself, we'll get a comment from her as well after our guest has spoken up.


Last night we managed to kill Sindragosa. On normal. It took us 3 hours and 12 wipes total from the moment we first saw her. It was epic and the RL on vent saying perfect while people were standing on their proper positions while being frozen was becoming trivial. So – she is dead now, and I am very pleased that we were able to pull it off before the buff. I think that the buff is in the “nice idea, horrible implementation” category. Why? Well here is my opinion on it:

It affects hard modes. Now – nerfing content so all can see it is good idea. But heroic difficulty was supposed to be the elite guilds’ sandbox where they are the only players. So – if my guild kills heroic Saurfang with no buff – it will be the same encounter which Paragon did 3 weeks ago. The community already saw first heroic LK 10 man with the buff. Congrats to Paragon for doing that. And admitting they used the buff. But here comes speculation – was the kill really in their grasp, would they have been able to down it if the buff was not implemented and so on.

There is no way to prove that your kill was pure – no achievements, no nothing. So every hard mode from now on will be discriminated by its date – you are guilty till proven innocent. Everyone will assume you have used the buff.

It is a guild breaker – what happens when half of the guild wants the buff and half of the guild doesn’t? Drama – that’s what. This is curse of choice – if blizzard just shoved the buff down our throats and said deal with it – it would have been better. Right now every new lockdown will be a source of friction between people that want challenge and people that want progression. Decoupling progression from challenge is another bad side effect. Which guild is more progressed the 8/12 with no buff or the 9/12 with it? And it requires immense amount of will not to use it.

It is way too powerful – 5% is huge – it decreases the encounter difficulty by almost 20%. 30% = insane. It will make even some of the hard modes easier for pugs and trivial for guilds.

It is pointless – it will not make the content more accessible – one person in pug is enough to chain freeze the whole raid while fighting Sindragosa. One person in melee with afk brain will wipe all of melee when fighting the Blood Queen and he gets the blood link. And the bite order will still be problematic. The raid will still wipe on the Professor if tanks don’t kite and rotate properly in third phase. Assuming they get past Rotface – which is the pug grinder currently. These big oozes will still one shot people. No matter what. And healers will still have to harvest buff stacks on Dreamwalker.

Who is this buff aimed at? It doesn’t help the elite – they prefer level playing field, it doesn’t help pugs much – not all encounters become brute force tank and spank. It decreases the firepower requirement but not the skill one. So it only help casual guilds that can stay out of the fire, but lack the DPS to make the enrage timer – are there really so much of them ?

A better solution?
How would I have done it – well simple – keep the buff away from hard modes for 2 or 3 more months – this way more of the really good guilds would have had a fair shot at them. After that create some kind of pure achievements for normal and heroic – if you down the boss with no buff – you get one of them. If you down the boss with the gear level encounter was designed for – you get the second achievement and the mount of überness.

P.S. Lich king – beware – I am coming after you. Hopefully without buff.


I can see where you're coming from. This is yet another version of the nerf countdown we've been fighting so many times before. I remember the pride we felt as we downed Mother Shiraz pre-nerf in Black Temple. And the disappointment that we didn't get another few weeks before the final mega-patch, which made all our shadow resist gear we so painfully had gathered suddenly become unnecessary over night. We knew we could have made it to Illidan without the nerf. We just never got the chance to prove it.

Agreeable, this way of putting up the nerfs is way better than how it used to be. At least you have a choice now. You CAN get rid of the buff, although I doubt that more than a handful of guilds really will come around and do it. The temptation to get the bosses down a bit easier is just too big, since there's absolutely no incentive at all not to use it. If we only could have gotten some way to distinguish a guild that didn't use the buff from a guild that took advantage of it, for instance by an achievement, like you suggest, or by some particular sort of gear drop, it would have been an entirely different question. But as it is now, no one will ever know. And since most guilds that are fairly serious about raiding also have a competitive side, comparing themselves to other guilds on their server, it's quite unlikely that they'll cripple themselves in the hunt for their first kills, without any reward for it whatsoever.

However, I'm not totally against the concept of making the instances a bit more accessible after a couple of months. The ranking site Guildprogress, which keeps track of 125 000 guilds worldwide suggests that somewhere between 3 and 4 percent of the guilds have killed Putricide in 25 man. 85 percent of the guilds haven't gotten as far as downing Saurfang. Mind you, there are several sources of error in this. I have no idea about how relevant their database over guilds is; many of those guilds might have ceased to exist and hence aren't progressing anymore. Then there are other guilds which might have killed a couple of bosses back in time, guilds that are still ranked, but in reality have lost their interest for raiding.

Still I think the tendency is correct, judging from what I see in recruitment ads on the forums and in the general chat; very few guilds have progressed at all further than the first four bosses in ICC, two months after it was released. It's no wonder that Blizzard wants to push the general progression a bit further. Doing the same four bosses over and over and over again certainly give you some badges and a shiny reputation ring, but it's kind of boring in the long run. So I think that we just have to live with nerfs in one form or the other.

Two things could have been made to make the ICC buff work as intended without being forced down the throat of every single raiding guild, either they needed it or not. One thing has already been mentioned: to somehow recognize the non-using of the buff. This would have given us three available difficulty levels of the encounters: buffed mode, normal mode and hard mode. It's just like taco sauce: some like it mild, others want it spicy and then there are all those boring medium types, like me. Something for everyone.

The other thing I'd like to change is to switch around, so that you don't get the buff by default. You shouldn't have to talk to an NPC to get rid of the buff. You should have to talk to him to GET it. I believe that this would make guilds think twice before using it; do we really need this or can we do without?

It's just like with children. You can't hand out candy and then tell them to think over if they really want to keep it. It's easier to say no when you don't feel the chocolate smell in your nostrils.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Will the theorycrafters get out of work?

So Blizzard is trying to weed out some stats to make the gear choices a bit simpler for Average Joe in Cataclysm.

Is it a big deal? Well, it seems, so looking at the 600+ comments at MMO Champion on the topic. There’s some kind of argument going on whether it’s about time that they clean up the mess, or if it’s one more nail in the coffin, dumbing down the game to a new level. I suppose it’s yet another version of the dear old casual vs hardcore discussion (also known as the “My-e-peen-is-bigger-than-yours” argument).

Personally I can see the big deal with it. Being a mage, I had never any huge problem to comprehend the idea of spellpower. The more I gather of it, the more it hurts. It even says so in the tooltip: additional damage. Not overly complicated. Actually the description of the future, where intellect somehow transforms into damage, while it at the same time – I guess – is connected to your mana pool, is a bit harder for me to grasp. But there’s still plenty of time to fully understand the new concept so it doesn’t worry me overly.

Theorycrafters out of work?
It seems to me that Blizzard somehow hopes that players in Cataclysm will be able to optimize their toons to a good level, just by following their intuition. You’re not supposed to have to spend hours bent over spreadsheets, wrestling the numbers to pin out your gear progression plan. You should do fine anyway.

The question is: will it work as intended? Will the theorycrafters get out of job in Cataclysm? Will we finally spend more time online actually playing the game, than offline looking up information about how to play it?

To be honest, I don’t think so. The very casual players who don’t care about optimizing their performance might do slightly better with an easier system for stats, provided that it actually is easier. Good for them. Good for us when we’re pugging. The likeliness to run into players who have failed in gemming and enchanting their gear properly will be smaller.

But for all of us who raid on a regular basis,it will be business as usual. As long as there is any choice left, as long as there’s more than one gem available to put into your slots, there will be choices that are better or worse for the things you want to do in game. With the mindset of a raider you want to reach your full potential, being the best you can be.

There will always be cookie-cutter specs and there will always be willing experts around, ready to do the calculations for us, pointing out how we can squeeze a little bit more dps out of our toons making the right choices in gear, spec and spell rotations. Don’t ask me why they do it, those geniuses, who put so much effort into helping out, without anything but our thanks in return. I guess they get some sort of satisfaction in being right about stuff, showing off for the community that they know the game better than anyone else, including the developers. Regardless of their motives, I’m happy they do it, because I could never do it myself. I lack the interest as well as the knowledge.

The lazy approach
So, to answer my questions: no, the changes to the stats are not a big deal. And the theorycrafters won’t get out of work. As those dedicated players will spend hours and hours of their time, arguing over the calculations for THE best choices in the expansion, I’ll bide my time, comfortably sipping my pint in front of the fireplace. They’re doing the job for me. All I have to do is listen; I don’t need to understand every detail in what they’re talking about.

It's quite comfortable, when you think about it. In some aspects I'm a very lazy little gnome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blogging about your guild may put you in trouble

Tamarind, one of the brightest shining stars on the blogging sky, has gotten himself into trouble. Or rather his passion for blogging has. His honest, frustrated rants about some guild drama has lead to even worse drama once his guildies found out what he had written.

Finally he saw no other alternative than to g-quit, name change and server transfer, to be able to get a fresh start and regain his blogging anonymity. It seems a bit rash and very drastic - an overreaction according to some commenters, or even unfair and plain wrong.

In one way I can understand him completely. Tam is just as passionate about blogging as I am - it's equally important to him for his WoW experience as the time he actually spends in the game. He had to find a way to be able to keep blogging the way that suits him best - the very personal, not to say intimate kind of writing, where you get so close to him that you can literally see his beard grow, smell his sweat, listen to every heartbeat. If you write in such a way, everyone in your immediate neighborhood in the game will also be drawn into the spotlight, something they never asked for. So of course it makes sense to try to keep it anonymous to protect them.

But even if I can sympathize with Tam, I still personally would advice against the secrecy. Certainly - there are many million players, hundreds of realms, thousands and thousands of guilds, which could make you think that it would be easy to remain unnoticed. Nevertheless - somehow the truth tends to come out sooner or later - with hurt feelings, distrust and guild drama as possible consequences.

Drawing the line
Every WoW blogger has make his own decision about where to draw the line for how much they leave out themselves and others. There are several established bloggers, like for instance Matticus, who are totally open and not only publish their real life name, but also their CV and a picture. Others want to keep their blogging and gaming apart, like Tam, wanting to write about anything that comes to mind without having to explain it to people who get their feelings hurt.

I've chosen a third way: I'm open with who I'm playing online, but I don't leave out my real name. (Yeah, I'm fully aware of that I've probably left out a bit more details about my real life than would be advisable. If someone really made up their mind to stalk me, they would probably succeed. But why should they? If anyone wants to reach me you're always free to e-mail me. I get WAY too few e-mails through my blogging!)

I've even taken the openness a bit further than just displaying my armory link on the blog. Every since I took my first stumbling steps as a blogger, I've always informed the guild I've been in about this project. It came naturally to me, since my blog from the start mostly was a way to save the guild forum from some of my text wall rants about stuff that didn't matter much to anyone else. I wanted to direct the few who might be interested to the blog - and of course my guildies also served as some sort of audience. They gave me a handful of hits every day - which is all a newborn blogger asks for.

Hundreds and hundreds of blogposts later I would be honestly surprised if there was more than a couple of my guildies who actually keep up with all my writings. I don't think my shameless advertising of my blog address in my forum signature helps. Like most players with any common sense, they are more interested in catching up on news about incoming patches and the latest strategies and theorycrafting, than to listen to what's going on in the mind of that pink haired gnome in their raid. I really don't blame them.

However I do count on that there's a chance that they'll end up reading any post I've written, and I always have this in mind as I'm writing. It's not as if I'm deliberately censoring the blog, but I never write anything that I couldn't tell my guildies upfront. The closest I've been to badmouthing my guild is probably to rant a little about some less-than perfect nights we - like every other raiding guild - sometimes have. But the bashing always is mostly directed at myself, not towards my fellow raiders.

The team perspective
You may ask why I'm so careful. What does it matter if I rant a bit in a diary? It's my thoughts, my blog, I can write whatever I want to, right?

No, I don't quite think so. At least if you're into raiding. Raiding is more than anything else a team sport. This means that you have to work on building trust with your fellow players. You do that best by communicating with your team mates - giving them feedback, positive as negative, sharing your thoughts and emotions, discussing, getting annoyed, sorting things out - but always within the team. What's brought up in the team should basically stay in the team in my opinion. Or at least the team should get it directly from you first, before you even consider sharing it publicly, preferably with their permission.

If you don't get what I mean, try to see it from a different angle. Suppose that you didn't blog yourself, but had a vocal, well known blogger with a high profile and a lot of readers in your guild. How would you react to see your person discussed publicly in somewhat negative terms, and you didn't have any means of defending yourself?

There's always two sides to a story, how could you give your version? "Start your own blog" is easier said than done. Everyone hasn't got the writing skills, the passion and the time it takes to get a blog established and read. Is it morally OK to share whatever you want to behind their backs, when they're practically defenseless?

As an established you have to take responsibility for what you write, trying to foresee the consequences and ask yourself if you're ready to deal with it. If your guild is crap, maybe you should rather talk to your officers to try to change it, and if that didn't give any result, leave it before you start writing blog posts about your frustrations?

Considering the impact
The more successful a blog becomes, the more do those issues matter. I recently found my blog being number 1 on some sort of ranking list over WoW blogs. Don't ask me how it happened or what it's really worth; I haven't got a clue. Something is really broken with that list - I can't understand how PPI possibly could have any bigger impact than WoW.com, MMO-champion and EJ. And probably it's just a temporary thing anyway. Nevertheless it makes me think a bit extra about the effects of my writings.

The Swedish author Astrid Lindgren wrote in her book about the red haired super power girl Pippi Longstocking, that if you're very strong you also need to be very kind.

We who are into this blogging business need to consider this from time to time. You may feel fragile and powerless as you're ranting your heart out, sharing your burdens, but the posts can have much further impact to our guildies and closest game friends, than you ever intended. We who master the language have a certain advantage over others,which is easy to forget. Remember, we're dealing with real people, not avatars. And this is the case even if you choose the path of anonymity.

And to Tamarind I send my hugs and get-well-wishes in your witness-protection program, as one commenter called it. Whatever you do, please don't quit blogging. Things got a bit messy. You learned a lesson. We all did.