Friday, July 30, 2010


I know you all come here for thoughtful, insightful, intelligent blogging about relevant issues, but unfortunately Larisa went on holiday and left Ixo and me pulling the pints. I really tried, I promise I did, I read, like, srs blogs ‘n’ shit … but then I gave up and decided to roll up a Tribute Gnome instead, because the pink pigtail inn doesn’t feel like itself without a gnome in it.

I was even going to have pink pigtails of my very own. I got as far as pink (check) but I didn’t get as far pigtails because I found something even better.

Is that not the most awesome hair you’ve ever seen? I mean that is some serious hair; that hair means business. You wouldn’t want to meet it down a dark alley late at night. And naturally my gnome needed a serious name to match her serious hair: and thus Anklebane, the proud gnome warrior was born.

I even made her a FlagRSP description and everything:

I’ve never played a gnome before, except as part of the SAN gnome rally, so it was genuinely a new experience and a complete change perspective. I feel rather like Larisa did, when she wrote about her experiences Horde-side. I don’t, truthfully, think I’m a gnome at heart (I couldn’t be a healer, after all, well, not until Cataclysm…) and I don’t normally have much patience for the self-consciously cutsey but my first thoughts on finding myself in Dun Morogh, armed only with my srs hair, my courage and a hilariously over-sized sword were:

1. omg I’m tiny
2. omg I’m adorable

Larisa has often written of the sheer joy of being a gnome, and there is a contagious merriment in the way they move, and their excitable voices. I am not a massively physical player. I mean obviously I can get myself out of the bad stuff speedily enough but some people really do seem to inhabit their avatars, running and leaping about, and expressing themselves. Perhaps it’s because, in my deepest heart I’m a Tauren, and therefore I’m always afraid of banging my mighty cow head on the ceiling or standing on somebody’s toe or elbowing a fragile zombie in the face or something. Given that Blizzard have a really bad habit of designing their landscapes slightly too small for the average Tauren, it’s no wonder we’re physically self-conscious.

But not gnomes: I could bounce, and run around in circles, forever.

I’ve also discovered the most happy-making button in the entirety of WoW. It’s this one.

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of pressing it, and watching my gnome zoom fiercely into the knees of an oncoming foe. I might even have macro-ed “RAAWRRRRR” to it.

But it soon became apparent that Anklebane needed a sidekick, err, I mean equal partner, to stand behind her in a sissy robe since her recklessness kept leading her into trouble (I might have have at one point joyously jumped her off a mountain into a bear). So, without further ado, let me introduce Azeroth's Most Disproportionate Duo: Together They Fight Crime, I Mean Kill Level 5 Boars:

His hairstyle was specifically chosen for being too large for Chas's widescreen monitor. We are srs about hair, Alliance-side. And, of course, there had to be a matching flagRSP description:

I know it shouldn’t surprise me after nearly two years of WoW but I am always amazed at just how much the game changes when you wear a different skin. It’s not just a matter of perspective, but it’s how you react to the different aspects of the game world. Even the most banal of starting-area quests can seem unimaginably heroic to a gnome with the right attitude.

Click here for a full sized version of my valiant gnome delivering the mail! I don’t know what it is about being so small but you can just feel the energy and enthusiasm radiating off her as she scampers towards the quest giver.

And I’ve never had any particular affinity for those ridiculous mechanical chicken things – they always looked rickety and absurd to me, and not in a quirky, interesting way either. Anklebane, however, took one look a green mechanostrider and was instantly in love – which suggests that the most likely profession for her is should be engineering, even if only for the rocket boots. Of course, Twinklehoof just didn’t get it but thankfully the NPCs were more than willing to contribute to the debate:

How right you are, Pilot Bellowfiz!

It’s moments like these that remind me how rich WoW can be. I think caught between one expansion, anticipating another, it’s very easy for the world to feel stale and to spiral down into familiar struggles against the same raid content. I’m looking forward to Cataclysm, because I’m hoping in taking us back to world we’ve forgotten – the world we all first fell in love with – it’ll help us re-discover the joy in it. And the simple pleasures of being new and discovering things – like the pleasure of an ability you’ve never used before, the discovery of an NPC who says exactly what you want to say at exactly the right time, or the profound importance of having The Most Awesome Hair In The Whole Game.

The male Draenei dance, however, is another matter entirely. Despite having raided with a spacegoat or two in my time, this was actually the first time I've ever had in unleashed on my unprepared person. Ye Gods. That was a side of Azeroth I could have lived in blissful harmony never having witnessed.

I could go on endlessly about the sheer delight of levelling a pink-haired gnome warrior to level 7 but I think I will simply conclude this post with some words of Draenish wisdom (brace yourselves):

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

I haven't actually blogged a blogging blog in a while, so let me crack the ol knuckles and let's get this rolling.



31 point talent trees.

Where do we go from here?

Does anyone get the distinct impression that we're starting all over again, and that this feels way more "WoW 2.0: The Re-imagining" than "WoW 4.0: Expansion Pack Number Three"? Can you honestly believe that in order to start a new toon, and reach the endgame, you need to buy 4 boxes off the shelf, and the fourth box completely replaces the first box? Doesn't that seem a little silly? What happens to the guy that only owns vanilla WoW on the launch day of Cata? Is he phased into the ghetto of Ogrimmar? Do we phase him into a separate Trade channel, too, so we can't hear his pathetic whining and asking about where Thrall's throneroom is? Doesn't that friggin noob know Thrall died when Jaina put the Matrix in his chest and he was no longer Rodimus Prime, but reawoke as...


I mean, really. The most obnoxious part about all of this is not that we're going back to training-wheel talent trees, but that after we crap our pants with ZOMGCATA we pass back through the Dark Portal and are faced with the grim remembrance that Hellfire Peninsula is just the grind that leads to Zangarmarsh. And then (!), after you slug through the 'old again' content of BC and WotLK, you go 'back' to Cata to experience the endgame? Really?

Seriously, where do we go from here?

WoW 5.0: The Really Really Dark Portal that Leads to the Hecka Burning Crusade (this time it's personal, and this time you REALLY aren't prepared)?

WoW 6.0: Northrend 2.0?

Why not have a real Cataclysm, and just wipe servers? Or... not wipe servers, but just release a new client? You can continue to side grade and do ICC/LK hard modes, or start over, buy one box, start a new subscription (this time with all that RealID crap starting from the beginning, and not tacked onto the back of a 6 year old playerbase) and 'reimagine' WoW?

Would that be so bad?

...Where do we go from here?

Monday, July 26, 2010

An announcement

Dear guests!

I have an announcement to make. I will leave you.

No, no, no, not permanently. Not as far as I know of at least. There’s no guarantee about anything in this world and who knows what dangers I’ll face once I leave my little protected corner? But for the time being my plan is to keep blogging. In the way I've always done - one day at a time. Nothing has changed on that. Yet.

However I AM planning to leave you for a few weeks of vacation, meaning that you'll have a break from my funny little gnome voice.

If you feel a bit starved after a while, I'm afraid I can't help you. There aren't any pre-written posts in pipeline. But you can always help yourself. For instance you can explore the vaults of PPI. There are more than 500 blog posts in the archive. How many of those have you read? Or if you miss the discussion - keep up the banter in the comment section.

My absence will approximately last for three weeks. I might be back for a day or so between my journeys, but don’t count on it.

The inn won’t be completely deserted though. Two gentlemen have agreed on helping out to keep an eye on it, chasing away any spammer or troll that may appear: Ixobelle and Tamarind. Treat them well!

If you spot something that looks suspicious you can send an email to either of them and they’ll deal with it. The address to Tam is: Morewitthanhonesty at gmail dot com, and you can reach Ixo at ixobelle at gmail dot com.

Both of my helpers have been granted full bartender privileges. This means that if you think that the inn is just too quiet, and you’d like to contribute with a guest post, you can send it to them. If they find the post good enough, they’re free to publish it. They’re both excellent writers and I trust on their judgement. And you never know, they might surprise you with a little treat. It's not a promise. But a possibility.

I heard someone asking a question. Speak up! Oh, what I’m up to? Well, as I’ve mentioned previously, the Medieval week on Gotland is one of my destinations (oh, you should have seen the medieval dress I just bought for the occasion. It's gorgeous! I never knew there was a little princess hidden inside me who longed to get out). I’ll also spend a few days trekking in Yorkshire, checking out if the inns over there are as good as my own.

So… It's time, I believe.

Hey, Tam and Ixo! Here are the keys! Catch!

I’m putting on the backpack, wrapping my cloak around me, taking up a little song, ready to embrace whatever comes in my way.

Take care all of you! Take care of each other and of yourselves. Because it matters.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

A power demonstration of a GM

I've never ever had a problem with any Blizzard GM. On the contrary: I've always found them helpful, sometimes more than that - cheerful, friendly, humorous in a way that goes beyond what you could expect.

Nowadays I have very little to do with them. There are two reasons for this: 1. They've made changes to the game so we have less reason to contact them, for instance the two hour span to trade soulbound loot. 2. They seem to talk to us less and less in chat form, preferring the in-game mail system as their main channel for communication. At least that's my impression. I suspect they have good reasons to do so. It probably is quicker and more efficient than to contact us in game. And you can just do your job without risking to take a lot of crap from dicks who seem to have their default setting on aggressive. I don't blame them at all for this, although I miss our silly little confersations.

Bear this in mind when I'm writing this post. I don't complain about GM:s in general - I love them - and I think that players have no right at all to be offensive and rude in their communication with them. However the other night something happened to a guild mate of mine that made me quite upset. An exception to my previous good experiences. My guildie wasn't free from guilt - far from that. He certainly deserved some kind of consequences. But what he got was more than that. It was nothing but a demonstration of who was in charge and I think it was childish.

I can't help seeing the irony in it all. First I write a post about how we recently got our Shadowmourne completed. Then I write a post about criticism. And now those two topics knit together into this one.

Because the victim - and originally offender - in this is no one less than our grumpy paladin who got the legendary axe. He's now risking to quit the game without using the axe in a single raid, unless Blizzard changes their decision and gives him an apology. Which I'm far from convinced that they'll do. It's a tragedy - not just to him, but to our guild, losing one of our absolute core players.

Here it begins
But I'll tell you the story from the beginning. Here we go:

Earlier this week there came a plea for help from Eräjorma in our forums. It turned out that when he logged into the game, he found that all of his macros - and he had loads of them after many years of playing, macros that had cost him a lot of time and effort to create and collect - suddenly were gone. Gone without any trace, just like that. It shouldn't happen since they're saved on the server side these days - and yet it did. The only connection he could make was that he had had a game crash with an error, just as he logged out of the game for the night.

For all the good advice we usually can give to guild members with technical problems we were unable to help out this time and Eräjorma wrote a GM-ticket. Three days went without any answer. And when he finally got one, it was an in-game-mail, which according to Eräjorma (I haven't seen it myself) was unsatisfactory, not answering his questions or helping out, just telling him to check out the support forums. Not useful at all. So he wrote a new ticket, was contacted by a GM and a heated conversation took place.

I'm afraid the resolution is to crappy for you to read it here, but I hope that this link might work if you want to follow it line by line.

Behaving like a dick
As you can see from it if you bother to read it, Eräjorma behaved like a dick as the conversation started. He was very angry, to say the least, and I can absolutely understand why the GM got pissed. I definitely would have too and I feel genuinely sorry for the Blizzard representative about this part.

Eräjorma is, as I said earlier, a bit grumpy in his nature. Sometimes he says more than he should and speaks before he thinks, which actually rendered him a guild kick once in our guild. He was let in again though, and he had learned his lesson after that and has a way better behavior nowadays. He bore his punishment with dignity, he learned his lesson. He's definitely not one of my closest friends, he barely would say hi to me, but all in all he is an OK person, a person I can live with, even if he'll never be good at sugarcoating anything. If he's pissed about something after a raid he'll let you know. He's the salt in our flesh and I think guilds need a bit of that too, although in very small dosis.

But how was the GM supposed to know that? All he saw was an overly angry customer, threatening him to call his superiors and being generally rude. Of course he got mad at him. However I don't think this justifies the measures he took against Eräjorma. He could have given him a warning (which he also did). And if he did want to do something more he could have given him a temporary ban for a few days as a marker, giving him time to cool down and think over his attitudes. Or maybe they could put Eräjorma in some sort of special category, heavily limiting his future GM service. Anything. But he did something else, and that's what upsets me.

Banning the name
From the middle part of the conversation and forward you can follow how Eräjorma's name suddenly, out of the blue, after 5,5 years of playing, is considered inappropriate and he's forbidden to use it anymore. The GM claims that according to another Finnish speaking GM, "Eräjorma" a body organ that shouldn't be mentioned. It doesn't matter how Eräjorma pleads that it really doesn't, that it means "Jorma (a Finnish name) from the wilderness" and nothing else. The GM won't listen and with a robot like manner he enforces his decision, wiping away Eräjorma's name forever, suggesting that he should call himself "Pirath" instead.

To Eräjorma this would mean the end of the game. He has called himself Eräjorma not only in this game but in others. Eräjorma is who he is. I can understand why he got so upset about it. So would I if someone suddenly banned Larísa.

Before deciding to write this post I asked Eräjorma: are you sure there isn't anything offensive about your name? Because it seemed strange if this idea came right out of the blue.

And Eräjorma replied:

"From wikipedia (Sorry in finnish, just stating it's a person's name)

Translated small section in middle:

"In some slang, jorma can mean also penis. Other place you can find 'jorma' other than as finnish male birth name is the word 'eräjorma' which refers to camping, wilderness, hunting, fishing."

Or like I've said it myself a few times "man of the woods" . In a sense a ranger.

The only way it can be remotely offensive would be that Jorma is also childish nickname for cock. Just like in America they say "johnsson". You know? That man had one huge 'johnsson'. But do we go banning everyone with the name johnsson? 99.999% of any decent adult will first and foremost think always it's a first name.

And my name isn't even Jorma, its Eräjorma, other is first name, other is a CONCEPT! As you said, basicly a man of the wilderness, hence why many Eräjormas in armory are either druids or hunters.

Should we start breaking up everyone's name, looking if there in somewhere middle of the word is another word and then ban them because of that. F.ex. micunten, innocent name, but hey lets ban it, there's CUNT, it's offensive! .."
Renaming 49 Eräjormas?
It will be interesting to see what happens. Eräjorma isn't the only one who wears this name on the EU servers. There are 49 of them, and even though I think that a few of them might be alts to our paladin, he's not the father of everyone of them. There are more Eräjormas out there. Will they too be asked to rename their "in-the-wilderness-name" to something less offensive?

It's not an easy case, I know that. Eräjorma was aggressive, behaving like a dick, and really asked for some sort of harsh response from Blizzard. But in my opinion this reaction was not appropriate. It wasn't related to the issue at all. It was nothing but a demonstration of power and that's why I think it was wrong.

We've advised Eräjorma to write to the e-mail address where you can complaint about GMs. I hope it won't be in vane, but I'm afraid that the night when we saw Shadowmourne forged in front of our eyes was the last time we saw the weapon as well as its wearer.

I just checked in the armory. Eräjorma as we know him doesn't exist anymore. He's already appearing as "Pirath". At the whims of an angry GM.

The whole story makes me very sad.

Edit: The story didn't end there. Finally a senior GM stepped in, admitted that the angry GM had been wrong in changing Eräjorma's name and acted against Blizzard's policy. Eräjorma got his name back and an apology. Here's a post about how it ended.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blogger disagreements – when does it begin to hurt?

There was a heated discussion this week, mainly involving Moar HPS and Righteous Orbs, on the topic on whether healing without using addons can be better in some aspects, and if it’s snotty to say that it is, thus implying that addon-using healers are worse. I refuse to dive into the question as such. It is several days old, has been beaten to death, resurrected, and died again. I’ll let it lie.

However, the discussion became so hot that I somehow felt a bit uncomfortable following it. I know for sure that I would have felt a bit overwhelmed if there had been some 100 comments on some other blog, which all agreed on that Larísa at the Pink Pigtail Inn is completely wrong.

We’ve seen this kind of animated discussions a couple of times before in the WoW blogosphere – sometimes even causing blogs to shut down.

Cynical or senitive
And I can see this from two sides. One part of me is very straight forward, boarding to cynical about this.

As a blogger I think you need to develop some sort of skin. Not everyone will have barkskin, but if you take the slightest disagreement as the end of the world and a personal attack, blogging is probably not for you. If you speak up publicly there will be people who listen and not everyone will love you. That’s how it is. Live with it or leave.

But another part of me can understand why bloggers get emotional. Many of us are blogging in a quite personal style, leaving out, if not our names, at least our thoughts, our personalities, our emotions and our creativity on a level that is more intimate than I think many readers understand. We blog soul naked. We invest ourselves quite heavily – probably more than what is sensible – in our blogs and our internet personas. And when we’re under attack, it can easily feel as if it’s your person that is attacked – not necessarily the idea you might have tossed out a bit randomly, without getting every single word perfectly right.

I’ve been writing professionally for some 20 years by now. Receiving feedback – including negative criticism – is a natural part of my job. And it has never ever affected me, probably because I’m so confident in what I’m doing. I know my job and I’ve had superiors and colleges to give me support if needed.

As a blogger on the other hand, you only have a vague idea about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how good you are at it. You’re questioning yourself and the results of your work constantly. And if the readers turn against you, you stand alone. There’s no one around who will cheer you up and help you look forward, no shoulder to cry on, no friend to lend you a ear if you need to just whine a little bit.

Why discussions are good
Does this mean that most bloggers don’t like discussions? Heck no! At least I love it. If there would never ever be anyone who disagreed with me, I’d be seriously worried about my blog, because it would imply that the content was pale, blend, completely uninteresting or too mainstream to catch the interest of anyone. I'd rather see people think for themselves and disagree with me, than fall asleep from pure boredom.

It’s in the good discussions a blog will sparkle and come alive. If you avoid everything that could be touchy and create a friction, your blog will most likely fade away into oblivion eventually. And above all –it will be way less fun to write. There’s nothing as fun as to put out a well formulated angry rant!

Showing a little bit of temperament once in a while isn’t bad; it’s one of the essential ingredients of most blogs.

I had a bit of a discussion here at the inn this week, when I posted about why I think accountwide achievements is a bad idea. A lot of readers disagreed with me. And for instance Lume wrote a couple of very long and elaborated comments where he argued for his sake. Did I get upset with Lume for that? Did he hurt my feelings? Absolutely not!

There were a couple of reasons for this. One is that we discussed this in a civilized way where we could listen to each others arguments, agreeing on that we could see this from two angles.

I could absolutely agree with much of what he said, as I often do in an argument. There isn’t any black and white, just gray nuances. Lume and I had ended up in different conclusions, where I would weight the pros and cons like 60-40 and he would put it the opposite way, 40-60. However I’m really glad and grateful when someone shares their point of view, even if they don’t agree with me. A good discussion in the comment section will give the readers a better and more balanced article, way better than it would have been if Lume hadn’t bothered to comment.

When it gets personal
The other reason why I didn’t mind arguing with Lume is that he kept his comments to the topic. He didn’t go personal about it. You see – trolls I can deal with without any problem. But if there’s anything I find it hard to handle calmly and detached, it’s when readers start to talk about me as a person and their expectations on me. “I’m disappointed with you…” “I used to like you and I’ve read you for such a long time, and now you’re doing this to me, I can’t believe it…” That kind of comments sometimes hurt me more than they should, especially when they’re not coming from our Mr “Anonymous”, but from someone whose nickname I recognize.

I have several issues with this kind of comments. One is that reading my blog is for free. I can understand if you write open letters to your travel agency, your government or your car salesman if they’ve somehow deceived you with their promises, where you express your “disappointment” with them. But to an amateur blogger? Exactly how could that kind of comments help to improve anything?

If you don’t like a blogger you previously used to enjoy, you can quietly stop reading without making a huge public affair about it. If you really want to tell the blogger about your disappointment – by all means, send him or her an e-mail and maybe you can sort it out. Eye to eye – that’s how I think you should take that kind of conversations. Not shouting it out over the rooftops in front of thousands of readers. Because I think that’s a rather ungrateful way to reward someone that you’ve enjoyed reading for free for such a long time.

Gevlon and Totalbiscuit
Then there’s of course an entirely different approach this. If there’s anyone who is used to get a lot of harsh comments, it’s Gevlon. And he just shrugs it off, saying that those anonymous punks can’t hurt you. They don’t know you, they can’t touch you. Letting them get to you is just a waste of energy.

A more extreme standpoint is the one of Totalbiscuit. He’s probably one of the most hated members of the WoW community, who gets entire threads dedicated to discuss his person in the WoW forums. A lot of hatered there going on, I’d say! Does he mind? Not the slightest. The more people talk about him, the better. It will give more clicks on his website, more viewers to his videos and in the end more incomes to him, because he gets money from ads.

How I handle criticism
We all have to find our own approach on how to handle criticism.

What I do is that I try to keep the discussion as civilized as possible in the comment section. If a comment has a tone of “personal attack” in it, I try to get too agitated about it, but answer as calmly as I can, not letting myself get dragged down on a sewer level. The only comments I delete is /unsubscribe, because it doesn’t add anything substantial. I think this works pretty well. There isn’t much drama going on here at the inn. I suppose our superb ale helps also, calming down our guests.

But if drama ever would appear and the bar guests would start to become violent, waving and calling their innkeeper names, I’d try to get some inspiration from Gevlon’s and Totalbiscuit's approach, not taking it too seriously.

In the end, as I’ve said many times before, we’re building sandcastles. It’s just pixels, opinions flying around in this twisted nether and within a few years all of this will be gone and forgotten. WoW as well as our blogs. Life will go on. It’s easy to forget that in the heat of the discussion.

Also, bear in mind that the shit storms we see around here is nothing to what other WoW bloggers have seen in the past. I tell you - nothing. Do you remember when I whined a little bit at that hunter podcast where they talked about the lack of good mage blogs? There were so many bad reactions, so much hatered towards BRK expressed after that, that I wrote him an e-mail and apologized for what I had caused. And you know what he replied?

"Never apologize for the reactions of The Mob. Listen, I've been through more flame-wars than all other WoW-bloggers put together,times two, and add 50. You're fine, I'm fine, everybody including the readers and commenters are fine. Well, Paladins aren't fine. But we have a plan for THEM. "

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Shadowmourne: a welfare legendary or a feat of strength?

It’s the twilight of Wrath, and many players are gone fishing or at least playing other games. But there are still a few stubborn players around who refuse to give up. They call themselves Adrenaline.

We haven’t been able to fill a 25 man raid for ages. But whenever we've managed to assemble a group of decent size - about 20 people - sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on how many out-of-guild-game friends we've persuaded to join us for the night - we've headed back for ICC 25 man. We had some unfinished business there.

The final grind
It wasn't about loot - most of the stuff that drops there these days is sharded anyway. It wasn't about doing achievements or hardmodes – with a few exceptions they're out of reach with a severely decimated group.

No, this was grind and nothing else. A collective one. For weeks we have been grinding the missing shards for our first - and most likely only – Shadowmourne. And finally, this very night, our grumpy ret paladin could complete the weapon of his dreams, an axe to match his temper perfectly. When he reached the end of the questline that takes you to the weapon, I think the guild was just as happy as he was.

Grinding can has a certain charm, as Tamarind described in a beautiful post a little while ago. But eventually it starts to get at you. As we watched the little scene before the weapon finally was handed over, we let out a sigh of relief. Done. At last. The weapon was ours as much as our paladin's. Theoretically he could of course leave the guild, taking it with him. But in reality - it just won't happen, with less than that Adrenaline will stop raiding. Which I don't think we will anytime soon. As long as Adrenaline is around there will be a Shadowmourne in it.

I tried to find some statistics on exactly how common itis, but I failed. However I stumbled upon some forum threads, and from those you sould see that some players think that this weapon isn’t quite as shiny as other legendaries.

“The most welfare legendary ever”, wrote someone, arguing that it only takes gold to get the 25 saronites you need as a starter, and that the hardest part is to convince your guild to give the shards to you.

Well, he may say so and I suppose it depends on from where you’re coming. If you’re in a huge guild with multiple raid groups, which never fails to clear ICC every week, it's probably rather trivial than challenging. And if you're a dedicated pugger maybe you can get it fairly easy these days too, especially with the ICC buff at 30 percent. But to complete it within a small guild such as ours - that's huge.

It symbolizes endurance and resilience, the ability to survive and continue, even in rough times. It symbolizes that we stick to promises and commitments. We are in this for the longterm.

A legendary achievement
I don’t know how much this weapon actually will be used before it will be replaced for something else in Cataclysm. And I don’t care, because that's not the point.

This is actually one of the very few moments when I could wish for a guild hall where we could hang up this axe as a trophy on display, once it has served out as a weapon. (No, this doesn’t mean that I’ve changed my mind about player and guild houses. I can see that some players wish for it but I don’t think it’s important enough for Blizzard to drop everything else they’re doing, putting all their resources into that. It’s just a temporary wish, OK?)

We don’t yet know exactly what the guild achievements will look like in Cataclysm. At Blizzcon last year they showed a few examples, of which one was “We are legendary”. But for that achievement you were supposed to create not just one legendary, but TEN.

Ugh. That sounds like a long term project, to say the least. I thought we were pretty outstanding, just finishing our second one (we did the Ulduar mace previously). But again: we’re all coming from different places, facing different challenges.

For some players Shadowmourne was a welfare legendary, too easily acquired to deserve the label. Maybe they're right in their universe. But honestly - I don't care.

Because for Adrenaline it was nothing less than a feat of strength.

Cheers for Eräjorma! And cheers for us!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WTB a Good Looking Cloak

I always hide the helm on my WoW characters – for two reasons.

1. 99 percent of those that are available to me are plain ugly or laughable.
2. They cover my pigtails. Not cool.

There was one exception: the Mana-etched crown, which I displayed with pride back in TBC. It was awesome, adding a mystical and yet powerful look to my mage, without hiding the hair. But normally my heads remain invisible.

The issue of cloaks is a different matter. Regardless of how they look, I will always display them on my mage. Not on my rogue, since I believe that a rogue should be very agile and that a cloak might be a hindrance to her swift movements and high kicks. Cloaked rogues doesn’t make sense to me.

But show me the wizard that doesn’t wear a cloak! It doesn’t exist. So it must be there to be seen.

This doesn’t stop me from frowning a bit at it from time to time. I really don’t like the looks of most of them. The cloaks aren’t really cloaks in the way I think of them. They’re rather some sort of capes, which is a different thing.

In fact, our toons often look as if they have got a towel knit around their neck in order to look like some sort of flying superhero. “Look ma’, I’m Superman!”

Some of the cloaks are even striped, like Syrannis’ Mystic Sheen, which I for some odd reason had as a part of my equipment for a while in TBC. (+ 12 resistance of everything? On a mage? What was I thinking? Don't ask me. I'm clueless.) Dressed like that you’d rather believe I was going to the beach than to the dragon’s den.

The cloak of my dream
So how would I like the cloak to look then? Well, it doesn’t have to be exclusive and decorated (even though Spink's LOTRO cloak that she posted about recently was impressive). It can be single coloured as far as I’m concerned. It’s more about how it’s draped around the body. I’d love to have one with a hood, something that I could wrap up Larísa in, as the night falls and she warms herself by a campfire under a starry sky, waiting for the upcoming adventure.

I’m currently preparing myself and one of my daughters to go the yearly Medieval week on Gotland. We won’t be there acting in some sort of character; we’re not dedicated members of SCA or anything on those lines. We’re very casual about the whole thing. But we do dress up in reasonably medieval looking clothes, because it makes the whole arrangement so much more fun. And the most essential part of this is the cloak, so when my girl had grown out of her old one, I had to make her a new. The Medieval week without a cloak is unthinkable.

I can’t praise the usefulness of this garment enough. It protects you against rain and wind, but also – strangely enough against heat and sunshine. And whenever you want to sit down on the ground to watch some fools, jousters or musicians, you already have a blanket ready at hands to fold out. Not happy about your dress? No problem, the cloak can cover it all. Everyone - thin or fat, young as old - looks beautiful in a nice cloak.

It’s just a pity that you can’t get it in WoW.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is a Twitter chat really the best way to communicate?

Maybe it’s just me, but I've found it quite hard to follow and decode the recent Twitter chats with the developers. I seem to be inable to find the juicy parts in it. It's just a bunch of paragraphs and words.

I have the feeling that there might be some interesting information hiding in there. However the chat notes are so fragmentized and spoiled by irrelevant questions and old information that I fail to spot it. MMO Champion has made an effort to sort the questions in different categories, but I still can’t get through it, finding a context. The noise ratio is too high, so in the end I give up with a shrug, judging it’s not worth the effort even to try.

Not the best way to go
I hate to say this, because it seems a bit ungrateful after all the effort Blizzard has put into this, and after all the crying I've had on this blog about how they need to improve their communications.

They're doing exactly what I've asked them to do - reaching out to the community, in a way that I've understood is rare in the gaming industry. They're already much better at this than anyone else, I've been told. So I feel as if I should reward them for their good behavior, singing their praise in order to keep them motivated to do this kind of things. I shouldn't punish them with yet another whiny blog post addressing their PR/community staff with new demands.

However: there are only so many hours in the precious working day of a game developer that they can put into this kind of activities, so they'd better use that time as wise and efficient as possible. And I’m not that sure that the Twitter chat is the best way to go.

Bad questions
One of the issues I have with this format is actually the players who put the questions. I know it’s unfair to expect something spectacular – they’re not professional journalists and they’re perfectly entitled to ask whatever they want to. But still. Many of the questions are if not stupid, at least rather uninteresting.

For instance - exactly what do you expect them to answer to a question like this?

“Can we expect more fun talents and maybe even shiny new abilities in further iterations of the new talent trees?”
Would they answer:

“Absolutely not. We want to make the game as stale and boring as possible”?
Probably not. I suppose it doesn't help for my enthusiasm that the mage class has gotten so little attention so far. In the last one there were two, I tell you two questions about mages, of which lead:

"Q. Will mages get pets for Arcane and Fire specializations at any time?"

The answer? “No”.

Surprise, surprise. If they ever planned to do such a change, did anyone expect them to announce it answering a question in the Twitter chat?

Reasons to use it
So, what's the point about this form for communication? Well, it helps to tie the community closer to the developers, creating a true or imaginary bond, a sense of belonging together.

Anyone with a Twitter account can chime in (well, apart from the EU players then, considering that the chat was scheduled at 2 am in the morning). You get the opportunity to communicate with them directly. Every voice matters, yay!

The feeling of participating in something is bound to make the audience more involved and enthusiastic. They want to believe that they can contribute and not just standing there watching from the sideline. And that's one of the reasons why it's so popular to run those things in media shows. (Another reason is that it's a cheap filler and very easy to make compared to editorial material that requires paid journalists to produce.)

But for all those benefits: what comes out of it isn't optimal if you look at the information value.

One of the things I can't understand is why they choose Twitter as the channel for this in the first place, rather than running some chat client that you can access through a web reader.

I’m not into twittering myself, but I always thought that the idea about it was something different than this. I would have expected to see Blizzard give us a steady stream of little pieces of information, comments, thoughts, what-we're-up-to-right-now sort of tweets. Not the marketing messages they send once in a while between those chat sessions.

What I'd like to see
Let's play with the thought that Blizzard would ditch the Twitter chats. What could they do in it's place?

Well, what I'd like to see is some sort of regular feature, preferably on at least a weekly basis, where Ghostcrawler, the community managers and others with a talent for writing would participate with well thought out posts. This could actually also replace some of the random blue responses to miscellaneous forum threads, so even if it would be more time consuming than just one Twitter chat session, I think it could be arranged.

They could pick a topic of their choice and discuss it at length in the form of a personal commenting column or some kind of current-state wrap-up. The posts could - and should - of course take inspiration from the issues that are up for discussion in the community. The input could come from questions they've gotten by Twitter, but also forum posts, maybe even blogs out-of-Blizzard's own website (ooooh! daring thought!). Hopefully the community managers could be of help in identifying suitable topics.

I think this would make a far more enjoyable read than those fragmented questions and answers. Answering eleven random questions about warriors doesn't make anyone happy, apart from those eleven guys who provided those questions. They could put the same effort and time into writing one longer post where they describe the current intentions for the warrior class, address the concerns and ideas they've seen from the community and maybe ask for player feedback regarding a certain question.

This would in my opinion be way more useful than to publish a bunch of short statements as a reply to whatever happened to drop in the incoming Twitter box.

Pick the cherries! Make your own agenda! Share your thoughts! That's what I'd suggest if they asked me for advice.

New community site incoming?
It's not impossible that Blizzard is thinking along those lines as well.

Recently they released the beta version of the new Battle-net website, giving us access to the new community site for Starcraft II. From what I've seen so far, it looks way better than the current WoW website.

One thing I noticed is that they are posting news articles in a new form, that reminds a little bit about blog posts. One example of this is Zarhym's post "What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been" where he summarizes their experiences from the beta testing in a humorous way that is more open and personal than you might have expected. Until now this post has 104 comments. And the audience seems just so thrilled and enthusiastic. No trolling as far as I can see - despite of the fact that they're allowed to post using their avatars.

Will we see this kind of posting on the WoW site in the future, featuring blog posts rather than a Twitter chat? Maybe. I wouldn't rule it out. After all, they said during the Real ID debate that they were planning for changes to the WoW community site for Cataclysm, and that Starcraft II was a ground for learning.

Zarhym's post might give a glimpse of how Blizzard plans to communicate with the WoW community in the future.

I'm hopeful.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Account-wide Achievements? No Thanks!

There’s an idea that has been floating around in the community for quite a while now and that pops up to the surface every now and then, most recently in the chat with the developers.

Players are asking for account-wide achievements.

If you did something astonishing – like Herald of the Titans – or something very trivial as Emblematic – they want this achievement to show up on not only your main character, but on whatever alt you have in your stable.

A terrible idea
So far I haven’t said anything about it. There are so many suggestions and requests coming in from everywhere, and you don’t need to react to everything. I’ve just watched it and shrugged. As time has passed however, I’ve become more and more annoyed and astonished that no one seems to have any objections about it.

But now I’ve finally reached the point where my inner pressure is too big for me to remain silent about it. It’s time to speak up. Prepare yourself for an incoming rant of unusual proportions even for being Larísa!

To put it short: I think this idea is just terrible and doesn’t make any sense whatsoever in a game that is supposed to still have some sort of RP flavour.

At it’s core I think that achievements should be see as some sort of public record or even diary, where you can read about what Larísa the mage, Arisal the rogue or Arasil the druid has been up to, what experiences she’s had during her lifetime.

It is a little bit related to the stories you can put into the flag addons that roleplayers use, where they write down a little bit of information about their characters. Of course it’s not the same – the achievement log is auto-generated, you can’t take away anything or add as much as a comment. But it’s similar in the way that it adds depth and gives a better understanding for a character.

Get over it
I honestly can’t find any good reason whatsoever why I’d like to walk around with a baby alt, fragile, inexperienced and terribly geared, pretending that she’s an Astralwalker.

“But what if you want to change your main? I worked for months for my Insane in the Membrane title and now no-one will know because I want to re-roll a worgen in Cataclysm!”

My answer to this is short and sweet: Get over it! If you’ve got a main which you have a ton of achievements on, but don’t enjoy playing anymore – you should give her a long and well deserved retirement.

We’re not into this game to build monuments over what leet players we are. At least I’m not. We’re building sandcastles. And then we break them. And then we build new ones, in different shapes and sizes.

But if you just can’t let go of your character with all the achievements on it, by all means: take some nice screenshots, put together a movie, a photo gallery, a website as a homage to your soon-to-be ex main. Do whatever you want to, but leave it there.

Your new baby hasn’t got all that fancy achievements on her? And so? She’ll get new ones! This is how it works when you switch to an alt. The phoenix is born anew from the ashes. But it’s a baby phoenix to begin with. You can't expect it to be aged and decorated with medals and achievements right from the start. That wouldn't make sense.

Achievements for PUG uses?
I think those who ask for account-wide achievements are quite deeply into playing the e-peen game. They’re afraid to lose their bragging rights. When they’re playing their alt, they’re frustrated that they can’t show off that they’re in fact Kingslayers under a temporary disguise – not just some random scrub newbie player. They want to distinguish themselves, for whatever reason. Sometimes they claim that it's for practical reasons – to have easier access into pug raids.

And do you know what? I don’t buy this for a second. Just because you know a fight inside out from the perspective of one class, it doesn’t mean that you know it from a different role.

For my own part I’ve almost only raided on my main mage, but the very few Naxx visits I did on my rogue, clearly showed me how different this was in what you were supposed to do, how you should position yourself, various things to think about. And then I only shifted from ranged to melee dps. I was completely utterly useless! A newbie, almost as inexperienced as someone levelling their first character!

But as it now is, my lack of experience with this character is at least viewable for anyone who screens her. The achievement log doesn’t lie. Yet.

I don’t say that the achievement you have on your main is completely irrelevant. Of course you could and should mention it when you’re trying to get into a pug raid. Your overall-knowledge about the encounter can be an asset to the raid; if the raid leader is inexperienced he might want to take advice from you.

However – there’s nothing that prevents you to do this in the current system. You can mention your main character to the pug leader, he or she can look that up in Armory and you’ll be fine. If they want to check if you’re telling the truth or if you’re a liar, a few simple questions should be enough to settle it. You don’t need hoax achievements to back your story. I think that in the end it's all about vanity, the urge to be able to show off - at any time, on any character.

Developing your account
Now the question is: will the developers listen to the people who feel entitled to free achievements on their alts or do they share my objections? I’m not entirely sure. We have definitely seen a strong movement in the design philosophy from the idea that a player is working on improvement on one character towards rather developing an account.

An example of this is the introduction of the Bind-on-account items. As opposed to account-wide achievements I don’t mind this feature. I’m fine with the fact that you can buy enchants for your alts if you’ve once become exalted with Sons of Hodir on your main. Or that you can buy nice shoulders or weapons for your emblems and give them away to whichever character you want to, to speed up your alt levelling a little.

It’s still possible to explain within the game story: your grown-up, wealthy main character is like a filthy rich uncle, who can send gifts to the less fortunate relatives. Whatever. There’s one big difference in the approach: Just because you get those items, it doesn’t mean that your character suddenly is exalted with a faction you’ve never done a single service for or even seen at all.

Blizzard’s official comments
Blizzard has responded to questions about account-wide achievements a couple of time recently.

Nethaera commented in a thread in the official forums:
“It's a possibility for the future. I can't give you much more than that at this point in time, but we do agree that getting a great Achievement on one character and then having to earn it again on another character may not be the most fun for some people. If and when we do make this possible, we'll let you know.

Many things that go with this idea are still undetermined and there are a lot of additional questions that need to be answered such as yours. We'll need to figure out if it's all Achievements, Feats of Strength, only Meta-Achievements, and much much more. We don't have answers on this as of yet either and again, we're still talking about something that is a possibility and not assured at this time. We have a lot in the works right now that we hope you'll enjoy.”
The answer in the Twitter chat showed that account-wide achievements isn’t on the top of the to-do-list for the developers. They may not even like the idea at all. I’m not sure. This is what they said:
“Q. Will there be account-wide Achievements? If so, can we expect to see things
like vanity gifts for having multiple characters?

A. It’s an idea we definitely want to do, but it’s pretty challenging technically, so it’s not on the immediate horizon. We can’t promise anything obviously, but I wouldn’t feel the need to get difficult Achievements on more than one character on the same
My reaction to this was confusion. What exactly is it that they would want to do? Hand out gifts for having multiple characters? Or having account-wide achievements, as long as they’re not referring to difficult things? Emblematic is OK, Herald of Titans is not?

Whatever it is – obviously it’s technically complicated and I hope it remains this way for a long time to go.

In the end I think the danger of account-wide achievements doesn’t lie in the fraud that it actually is; the problem is that they would detach us from our characters. In combination with the increased use of our real life names as opposed to character names (brought to us by Real ID), it will bring us even further away from the RPG origins than we already are.

We’re not longer playing our characters; we’re John Smith, who has done this, this and this feature in WoW.

It’s not a path I’d like to walk.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The importance of jumping revealed

Considering how often I jump in WoW you would believe that I had become rather good at it by now. I never used the jump-count-addon, and probably that’s just as well.

99 percent of those jumps are completely uncalled for. (The final 1 percent is when it's needed, such as jumping over the Thaddius gap. Unfortunately I fail unless I buff myself with slowfall. Many facepalm moments there, I assure you!)

I can’t come up with any reason for this excessive jumping that makes sense. For someone looking at it from the outside it probably looks like a nervous twitch of some sort. It’s a tic, like tapping your feet, picking your nose or clicking a pencil. I suppose it can even become a little annoying.

But somehow jumping fills me with joy and energy. If Larísa is bouncing around, looking happy and excited, a little bit of her merriness spills over to me as a player. It’s contagious. Having a few good jumps before a raid begins is almost as essential as buffing up and having a flask drink.

The only thing that bugs me a little is that the droprate on gnome flipping is so low. I keep trying and trying and trying, refusing to accept that they just can’t. For heavens sake, I’m a merrymaker! The entire purpose of gnomes is to spread happiness and smiles around them. As opposed to night elves, which in my world are way too grown-up to engage in such pointless things. The vulcans of Azeroth.

Anyway: I haven’t given up entirely. The flip thing for nightelves comes randomly and it’s the same for gnomes. It’s just that the droprate is much lower. The bigger reason to keep jumping!

Blizzard’s view on jumping
Blizzard themselves obviously thinks jumping is a big deal too. Cory Stockton talks about it in a recent interview in the British newspaper The Guardian, where he appears along with Greg Street and Tom Chilton. (Part 1, Part 2).

Cory says that the reason why we like to jump so much is that they “tuned the living crap out of it”:

“When we do something in WoW, it's got to feel instantly reactive, it can't feel laggy, it can't feel confusing. Something as simple as the jump – you see people jumping about in WoW all the time and the reason they do that is because we tuned the living crap out of it. The animations are tuned exactly right, the way we send those commands over the server, we have prioritisation on stuff, so certain animations will play smoothly. And we have randomness built into that, in the way the night elf does an occasional front flip. A jump animation isn't just that, it has multiple alternatives. And no one would think that a jump animation matters that much, but we put in so much effort because we knew players would be doing it all the time.”
I think it’s interesting because it highlights how important the details are. For how much we love to experience cool, advanced, multiphased endbosses as Yogg and LK, it’s all for nothing if the basics doesn’t work.

Don’t put all your resources into working on the perfect endboss before you’ve gotten the jump right.

WoW as an ecosystem
Back to the interview in The Guardian. It’s one of the better I’ve seen – finally someone is asking about the stuff that I’m interested in hearing, and the developers are giving interesting answers. I really recommend you to read it all. I’ll give you a few more highlights here though.

Greg Street shows his background as a marine biologist, talking about WoW as an ecosystem.

“A slight perturbation in one slot can have unintended consequences. And then things evolve over time and you have players trying out things you never would have thought of, or thought they could do, and suddenly they make it work. It's fun, you learn a lot and it surprises sometimes. WoW is very hard to control, it's often running off on its own. We try to influence it, but I don't pretend for a moment that we have it captured!”
One example of when the player takes the game in a different direction than the developers had planned is Wintergrasp. Cory Stockton talks about the group mentality, which turned out to be very different when it went live, compared to how it was in the beta testing.

“We had a system where you had to get a certain amount of honourable kills to get vehicles, but the players ended up doing something completely different to get vehicles so we modified the whole system. The way that they were attacking the bases was way different to how we had planned. The problem with something like that is, with the beta it’s hard to get critical mass of people to play it, but when it goes on the server and you have a thousand people going on there at one time, a group mentality works very differently to a small number of players. Definitely, with things like that, we just make updates with every patch.”
Player personalities and sandbox games
I think we hear the biologist speaking again when Greg Street categorizes player types. It’s incredibly stereotyped, but I couldn’t help giggling at it.

“There are definitely certain types of players who gravitate toward certain types of character. The guy who wants to be the hero, to come in and save the day, that's often a paladin; the guy who wants to cause grief to other players, they'll be a rogue, they'll hide and get someone as they go pass; the mage wants to be a loner, but still very useful. Also, when presenting bad news you need to do it in different ways – for a rogue you can present it very mathematically, because they like to number crunch a lot. Paladins have often felt oppressed, very defensive, so they want you to take their feelings into consideration. You go through a lot of, well, I feel your pain, I know what it's like to get nerfed!”
Hey, Ghostcrawler, have you been spying on me and my guild?

The last part I’d like to mention from this article is where they’re taking a look at the next generation of MMOs. Tom Chilton calls sandbox games “interesting from a study standpoint”, but is worried about the quality that becomes unpredictable when players are creating the content and the fun by themselves, doing “random stuff you can’t control”.
This said though, he says they’re looking closely at it.

“It's too early to make any announcement about that, but sandbox gaming is something we look at and explore and think about a lot. There are good elements of these styles of games that we'd like to integrate.”
That sounds hopeful to me. Maybe this interest will have an impact on Blizzard’s Secret Next MMO-project. How much I love the amusement park and the rollercoster rides, I think the sandbox elements in a game can keep you entertained for a longer time. My ideal MMO doesn’t contain one thing or another, but both.

On the other hand there’s the statement by Core Stockton that points in another direction, towards the console platform.

“When I look at WoW, that's what I think of, the action adventure genre. You've got to get the MMO part of it out of your head. For a player, when they're doing a dungeon or a quest, there's no reason that you can't do things you can do in a console game. It's the idea of erasing those barriers.”
Hm. I don’t’ quite get this thing about “getting the MMO out of your head.” Is that so wise if you’re actually working on an MMO? Wouldn’t it be more natural to look in the opposite direction: “What does an MMO bring to the table that a solo-player console game doesn’t, what’s our unique selling point, what is the core idea that we should develop and refine to perfection?”

But what do I know? I’m just a simple innkeeper in a far distant corner of Azeroth, an average player thinking aloud.

After all: Blizzard still knows how to make a good jump. And that’s what matters most. Now if they only could tune up the drop rate for gnome flips a little…

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Loot on sale

This post comes with an image, for a change. In case you use a reader and can’t see it, I can tell you that it shows a chart with a drastically falling curve.

It’s not the latest subscriptions statistics from Blizzard (although I’m eagerly waiting for Gronthe’s analysis of Blizzard’s upcoming Q2 report).

No. This curve shows how the DKP price for the best-in-slot trinket Dislodged Foreign Object has developed over time in our guild.

The top score was 161 DKP in March. Tuesday night, time had finally come to me to lay my hands on it, after consequently bidding my max DKP for it every time it has dropped the last six months. I was the only bidder this time and got it for 15 DKP, which is our minimum.

I suppose you could call it a bargain. It was also the last major upgrade I can get from ICC normal modes (which is what we’re doing with only 20 people in the raid), so it felt like coming to a closure.

To be a realist, my character progression has more or less come to an end in Wrath. This was how good Larísa became in this expansion and I’m quite pleased to be honest, at least as far as it concerns gear.

When it comes to experiences, I’m still a little sad that I most likely never will come around to even try Mimron on hardmode or Algalon. But I’ll get over it. The gear though is fine. I bet the start in Cataclysm will be smooth and hopefully it will take a couple of levels before I offer this trinket to an NPC for a couple of gold coins after getting a better one as a quest reward.

The twilight phase of WotLK
It feels as if WotLK definitely is closing down now. The DKP prices are falling rapidly since most loot is sharded or goes to off-specs. And the same goes for AH of course, where you can follow the rapidly decreasing interest for saronites. Once we’ll get a set date for the launch of Cataclysm, the drop rate will increase.

Christina wrote in a very thoughtful comment on a post earlier this week about the overall feeling that WoW is in its twilight phase.

“Summer camp has ended. Or four years of college have come and gone and staying a few extra semesters can't extend the good times from freshmen or sophomore.”

She was referring to the game in a bigger sense of course, and it’s possible that she’s right. I’ll wait until Cataclysm though before I’ll come to a verdict. I’m still hopeful about becoming super-excited over WoW again.

But one thing is for sure – dusk has fallen over WotLK. The shadows are tall on the ground; the light is old and weakened. And there are sales going on in every corner, in the few shops that still are open – I have a feeling that many guilds have closed down for this expansion already.

It’s all about emotions
I was happy about my Dislodged Foreign Object. It’s a lovely trinket – I love the name of it as much as the stats. It’s been an object for my desire for a long time and now it’s mine.

But at the same time I can’t deny that the joy of getting it was a little bit cheapened. Getting it for 161 DKP in March after some crazy competitive bidding would have made my pulse go up. Getting it in July for 15 DKP because no one else wanted it doesn’t.

It's not about rationality. It's about emotions. I know someone who frowns at this kind of stuff. But to me the emotions constitute an essential part of the gaming experience - positive as well as negative. Happiness, disappointment, despair, excitement, love and hate. Take it away and the game loses a bit of its luster.

At this point in the expansion you can't really expect to get any huge emotional kick from loot that you basically don't need for your progress (looking at You, ICC buff) and which will be upgraded within a few months.

The loot is on sale. For a good reason.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where to find the best writing on the WoW forums

During the Big-Conflict-we'd-rather-not-mention-by-name I read a player comment quoted by BBC that left me a little bit puzzled.

Quoting BBC:

"One player who goes by the moniker Zwip, Ragnaros was more prosaic in their assessment of the publisher's move and wrote "elitism is the fall of man, To proclaim that you are a scrub is the realisation of true skill, for forever you are improving".
Even if I could approve with the sentiment it felt just a little bit far-fetched as a comment on this topic. Had BBC really got this right?

After a little research it turned out that they hadn't. I don't think they fully understand the design of postings on the WoW forums. The quote was in fact a signature tag, belonging to one of the thousands of players who had commented on this. And he wasn't even named Zwip. He was just quoting what - if I understood it correctly - seems to have been a particularly wise player at the Ragnaros server.

Research on signatures
This little incident made me start noticing the signatures in a new way. Previously I barely saw them. Now the signatures have taken overhand, turning out to be way more interesting and entertaining than the actual content of the forum posts. My eyes jump from signature to signature. What's written in the topic is irrelevant. The signature is the message.

They come in many different shapes and genres. Some are funny, often very self ironic, some are insightful, a few are intentional cocky or even annoying and yet others are incomprehensible, probably built on an inside joke that I don't grasp. Often they include a quote from a someone, either famous or fictive person.

Seeing all this I got a bit curios. Where did this tradition come from originally? Unfortunately Wikipedia couldn't tell. But they say that it could be regarded as a "mark of recognition or individualism", which sounds plausible to me. Even if we're posting under avatars, it seems as if we still want to show some of our individuality, stand out in the crowd and make a statement about who we are - even though we for known reasons hesitate to introduce ourselves with our real life names.

Wikipedia also told the story about a guy from the early days of Internet, who went under the nickname Kibo. Apparently he became something of a legend, thanks to the monster sized signature he used in Usenet. For a modern forum poster it looks rather bizarre, and I must say that I prefer the slimmer versions we see today.

In this post I'll give you a few of the signatures I've run into during my explorations. I don't claim they're The Best WoW forum signatures ever created. I just happened to notice them. But maybe they can serve as some sort of inspiration to come up with one of your own.

Life advice signatures
Some of the signatures are about giving general good advice or setting a motto on how to best lead your life:

"Never argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience !"

"It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice."

"Life is not measured in the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away."
WoW related signatures
The majority though seem to be game or WoW related though:

"You can just hang outside in the sun all day tossing a ball around... but you can sit at your computer and do something that matters!" -Eric Cartman

"Disconnected from server! I'd complain but the forums are down..."

"Almost 6 years and a total /played around 600 hours and I'm still not the craziest person you'd meet in the skinner box that is WoW. All I wanted was the mouse pads from the collectors editions. "

"We actually talked today about adding an item level 300 shirt that did absolutely nothing but mess with mods that attempt to boil down players to gear scores. :) "

"It's not how fast one flies through content, but how much one enjoys the game."

"I am good at healing. When i'm not stunned , or counterspelled, or feared, or blinded, or sapped, or cycloned, earth shocked, or mind-numbed, or tongued, or polymorphed, or hexed, or dead."

"I'm not geared properly, my gems are wrong, my spec is not perfect, my GS stinks and my enchants are questionable. But, I'm still having fun!"

"I'm a Gnome, short but proud. I fire up my 'nades to whipe the Goblins out!"
A short story
Sometimes those few lines resemble to a poem or even a short story. Like this bittersweet one:

"I have printed off your photo and have it sitting on the sofa next to me while we watch a DVD together. Occasionally, I throw an M&M at you and pretend you giggle and tell me to stop it."
And if you can't come up with something witty you can always cheat:

"Insert funny remark here".
(No, please don't copy that - it's so old that it isn't even funny anymore.)

Blue signatures
It isn't just the players who come up with signature quotes - many of the blue posters have it as well, and they change them every now and then - especially Nethaera, who changes hers every now and then. Here's an example of her style:

"They say dreams are the windows of the soul--take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts.
~Henry Bromel"
Vaneras is more consistent, always linking to the picture of The Epic Mug of Vaneras- The Alebringer, something that appears to be drawn especially for him. An inside joke maybe?

Zarhym goes for poetry, or rather lyrics, because it comes from a song by Tool:

"Thought the sun would come deliver me, / But the truth has come to punish me instead./The ground is breaking down right under me./Cleanse and purge me in the water."
A blogger quote
One of my guildies deserves a special mentioning for picking a quote from a WoW blogger in his guild forum signature (a sign of good taste if you ask me!).

The quote comes from Big Bear Butt:

"Perhaps true Bear Tanking Attitude comes from the simple fact that, of all the classes in the game that can tank, we are the only ones that “go commando” into battle, waving our mighty wang in the enemies’ face and screaming “I’ve got a great big tonker and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it!”
I think you can figure what class he's playing.

Another of my ex guildies, who was probably the most cocky and competitive players I've ever met, chose this quote from the hitchhiker character Zaphod - which showed that he at least had some self insight about his appearance:

"If there's anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now!"
My signature
So what signature has Larísa got? To be honest: nothing worth talking about. I link to my blog on the guild forums; I figured that would be an easy way to be open about my blogging and direct anyone who's interested that way. On the official forums I don't have any signature at all. This doesn't prevent me from enjoying the creativity of other players though.

Many players shy away from reading the WoW forums, since there's just too much trash compared to goodness there. But I suggest you don't give up on them entirely. Lower your eyes and check out what hides under the signature line. Because that's where you probably find the best writing on the WoW forums.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Time for some cuddling and making up

The process of cuddling and making up again after this week's debacle has started.

There's a lovely thread at the US forum named "I need a hug" that steadily is growing. It's not as big as the Epic Protest Thread, but it's measuring + 1000 posts and more hugs are still incoming.

Netahaera is has joined the hugging party a couple of times and intends to come back:
"For the record, I am pro-hug and will hug again. Be warned."

And I just want to chime in and add to the hugging too in an effort to make up for whatever happened and get back things as they used to be.

Trusting Blizzard?
Over the weekend I've pondered a bit more over what was written and said the past week. I've re-read my posts and asked myself if I've been too harsh. Was it unfair of me to say that I've lost a bit of the trust for Blizzard? What part have I in the fact that the community seems to be split in half? One long-time reader said in a comment he'd never set is foot in this inn again due to my childish writing about this. Maybe he was right?

After thinking it over, I've come to the conclusion that my trust in Blizzard as a part of Blizzard-Activision company is damaged and that I stand for the posts I've written. Maybe my words were little bit too strong sometimes, but it reflects the deep concerns I've had over this.

This forum-identity incident has made me wonder if some of the people in charge of this colossus are so keen on looking into business opportunities connected to social networking, such as Facebook, that it might take overhand over the ambitions from others within the company to create gorgeous games and fantasy worlds. I know others have said this for a long time, but it wasn't until now that I fully understood what they meant. And there's your trust issue.

There are other players - not the least of the more open minded Facebook generations, who welcome this development. I have the fullest respect for you and you have every right to express this opinion. I think those who support the idea will get their way eventually. This is where it's heading and resistance is probably futile. And yet we who don't like it speak up. Because if we didn't say anything, how would they know that we cared at all?

Trusting the employees?
I've also reached the conclusion that I haven't lost my trust and my love for many of the Blizzard employees. I think they're making a fantastic job, trying to keep a steady course in the chaos of expectations and wishes from players, shareholders and others, trying to think about what's best for the game in the long run and make as good decisions as they can. Sometimes they need to compromise with their gaming ideals to make sure that the business has a sound economy. Hence sparkling ponies. I can understand and accept this and I hold nothing against them for it.

I trust the game developers. I trust the blue posters, like Nethaera and Bashiok. I'm skeptical to Bob Kotick, especially after reading so many statements about his - to me - rather appalling and strange view on how to handle his human resources - the employees. I'm skeptical to those other nameless people, not necessarily in the Blizzard building, who have an agenda which I think has very little to do with the interests of the gaming community.

In this storm that was, I believe - and I know this is speculation, but that's what I think - that many of those we trust at Blizzard secretly agreed that this was a stupid idea, but they were naturally prevented from saying anything about it.

Reading the happy, relieved posts now from the blues, I can't help thinking that they were with us all the time. They assure us over and over again that they really were listening all the time this was going on, making sure that all the feedback was sent forward into the organization to the decision makers. And now they hug us.

Views among the staff
Cruising the net I found a post that supports this view. Originally it was posted in the US thread on the Real ID issue, as post number 35 821. Since then it's been removed, I found it at a forum, thanks to a link from some blog, unfortunately I can't remember which one. Anyway. Take it for what it is: second hand information that I definitely wouldn't post if I wrote this in the role of a journalist. But I'm not. I'm a blogger and I think it sounds believable enough to refer it.

Nachtjäger, Suramar, 59 Night Elf Death Knight post 35821 wrote:

"Got in touch with my ex-flatmate, whose sister works as a GM for Blizzard, to see what the internal buzz on this was. Apparently, at the moment the employees are largely as pissed as the players, and she stated that despite attempts to keep it hushed, it has become known that the big creative players within Blizzard are pretty much as unhappy about this as we are. Everybody has been told they are not free to comment on this situation outside of specially prepared statements.

It's still going ahead, however (and here's where in-house rumours and hearsay really start coming into play): from what they've picked up, the Blizzard leads have been told in no uncertain terms that the non-gameplay-related direction of the game is working to a different blueprint now. GC and company are free to play with shiny new talent trees all they like, for example, but for the first time the decisions regarding implementation, Real ID, and plans for the general acquisition of new players for the business are no longer in Blizzard's own hands, and that's not going down too well."
If this is true, I must say that I feel truly sorry for the employees. I know they're professionals, this is what they're paid for, but it's never fun to stand up and take the shit consequences for a decision that you never supported in the first place. If you're a manager, you've probably got a salary that compensates for it. But I doubt that the blue posters have it.

About internet bullying
I feel especially sorry for those who were plain bullied by Internet jerks.

It was without doubt an act of reckless bravery and misdirected loyalty from Bashiok to publish his real name. But we didn't need to take advantage of it. It would have been easy to use it as a deterring example, stating that "I now have this, this and this information about you Bashiok, is that really OK?", without actually publishing the information or start calling for pizza.

No one - regardless of position in the company - not even Kotick - deserves that kind of Internet stalking.

US players, feel free to give Bashiok a hug from me. I can't since EU players aren't allowed there. Don't ask me why, and I won't start to argue about it either. I've had enough of arguing about the forums for a little while.

But when we're done with the cuddling I hope we remember what we've realized about the direction the MMOs are taking.

If we don't like the way they're going we shouldn't hesitate to raise our voices There are definitely people who work for Blizzard who we trust. We must keep giving them good arguments so they can come out strong in their internal discussions. What appears to be harsh criticism can in fact be a supporting hug.

Finally: if you haven't read it already, head over to Psychochild and read his take on the Real ID/forum topic from an introvert/extrovert perspective. It brings some new light to why we felt as strong about this as we did.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Can the wounds be healed?

I don't know what to say. But they listened to us. The Real-Names-On-Offical-Forums-Thing has been cancelled!

My immediate reaction is of course that I'm relieved. And I suppose we should celebrate. Big time!

With a huge community effort we made them listen and change their minds. When it really matters we can influence the giant, and that is a comforting thought. We who have spoken up against this idea have all a part in this turn. Be proud!

But at the same time I'm not as excited as I'd like to be. I still feel a bit at a loss. The ting is that I lost a great deal of my trust in Blizzard during those events and I'm not sure if it ever can be restored or how long it will take.

Hatch recent post shows clearly how advertisers, not gamers, are Blizzard's real customer base today. Dechion talks in an equally heartbreaking post about how we, the players are sheep and have been for a long time. Anna has cancelled her account and I don't know if this will make her change her mind.

The wounds are deep. Even if they'll heal eventually, there are scares I think never quite will disappear.

I think a little bit of the magic with WoW is gone for me. Forever.

Nevertheless: let's celebrate tonight! We have deserved it!

Good news: They’re disarming the noob traps!

OK, it’s Friday night and God knows it’s been an awful, absolutely awful week in the WoW community. They’ve placed an elephant in the living room and it’s almost impossible not to look in its way. But let’s pretend it’s not there, just for a little while. At least I need a break from it.

Some bloggers have suggested that it’s just a cunning manoeuvre of misdirection when they release the news about the new design of the talent trees in Cataclysm. I don’t care. I’m gong to talk about it anyway. It’s a brave move since I’m not a theorycrafter at all, but hey, I suppose an average player is allowed to have an opinion as well.

In short my overall impression is that they’re on the right track with this. I think it sounds like a good idea to cut down on the amount of talent points, get rid of some uninteresting talents and make players focus on one of the three trees right from the start. Of course I might change my mind about it once I’ve seen how the mage tree will turn out. But the basic concept is great.

Taking away the noob traps
The best thing about the change is that they finally, after all those years, have decided to disarm some of the worst noob traps there are in the game.

In Cataclysm it will probably be harder to distinguish a new, clueless player from a veteran and maybe we’ll see a little fewer of those “Did you buy that character on e-bay” remarks.

I remember when I first hit 10 with a character. I didn’t have any idea about what to do. I think I figured out as much as the fact that I had a talent point to put somewhere (which isn’t evident for everyone). I might even have figured out that there were three trees available and not just the one on the top. But I’m pretty certain that I picked my talents randomly during my first months of WoW playing, until I eventually stumbled upon some mage guides – actually in the official forums of all places (sic!) It wasn’t until I found that guide that I understood that I would have an easier time in game if I picked the talents systematically and not just whatever that “sounded” good.

I happen to have a talent for browsing huge amounts of information, picking out the relevant pieces in a very short time with little effort But I’m also aware of that I’m quite extreme in this, and that it’s unfair to expect it from every player that comes new to the game.

In my opinion you should be able to get yourself a decent, usable talent spec, based entirely on the information you get as you’re playing the game.

It might not be a min-maxed spec; it might not be the choice of the experts at EJ. But regardless of how you use your talent points, you should be able to get a spec that is good enough for basic questing and instance running. Raiding is another issue; I believe it’s reasonable to expect that a player is ready to do some research using out-of-game resources when you’ve come that far into endgame.

Picking a shampoo
Until now there have been plenty of ways for new players to make fools out of themselves with their talent choices. And I don’t blame them! The descriptions of the talents all sound equally tempting and unless you already know the class pretty well, there’s no way you easily can figure out which talents that matter and which ones that only are there for decoration.

It’s about the same as when I’m standing in front of the row of shampoo bottles in the store, and everyone is announcing that they’re good for one thing and another and finally I just think “screw it” and pick the one that happens to be standing closest to me. And when I get home I get scorned by my children, because of course it was a useless shampoo. But how was I supposed to know?

And that’s why you’ll run into levelling mages, running around in instances with talents such as prismatic cloak or improved blink. They just don’t have a clue.

In Cataclysm we’ll be presented, or rather steered into picking one tree or the other as early as level 10. In reality that’s how more experienced players have played it all the time (with exception for the more experimental minded ones like Tesh, who enjoy tailoring special specs combining several trees, but I believe he’s in a minority).

It’s a certain sign that you’re new to the game if you happily have picked a little bit of everything for your spec. I don’t blame those new players. They’re following common sense. Of course it sounds like a good idea to train your character to be “allround”, knowing a little bit of everything! A little bit of healing, a little bit of tanking, a little bit of dps… Why not? If you’re a mage and have got a frostbolt and a fireball on your action bar, it makes sense to improve both of them. How could you know that you’re inefficient and laughed at behind your back?

The New Deal will put an end to this.

Good for alt levelling
And the completely new players aren’t the only ones to benefit from this. It will make my life easier as well, even if I’ve been around for a while now.

I have a confession to make. Whenever I start a new alt, I’m filled with enthusiasm. There’s something about the quick levelling and the innocent, worry-free joy of discovering a brand new starter zone (I haven’t seen them all yet, after 3.5 years of playing), that makes me excited. But as soon as I ding 10 the worries start.

“Crap!” “I just got my first talent point. And where am I supposed to put that, so I use it well (and don’t make a fool out of myself)?”

It's almost more of a burden than an asset. I know very well that there’s a ton of available guides on internet, I just need to alt-tab out and go and read them. But sometimes – quite often to be honest – I don’t want to! I know there are players who get a kick out of putting together excel sheet and making lists over what gear they’re going to get where. I’m not one of those. I just want to enjoy the content and learn the basics about my class in a fairly intuitive way, as much as possible by what the game teaches me.

I’m pretty sure some of you consider this lazy, and maybe it is. However I’d absolutely go and look up a lot of stuff once I was approaching end-game. But at level 27? No thanks. I’d love to be able to pick some talents knowing that they’ll probably serve me well enough.

Getting an identity
I’m also happy about that the specialization will come much earlier. Exclusive talents will be handed out as early as at level 10, which means that we in reality will get a game with 30 subclasses rather than 10 classes, as Green Armadillo points out in a great analysis of the changes. Blizzard mentions as an example that frost mages will get their water elemental as early as at level 10. In my opinion this will not only make the game more fun – it will also foster the players so they’re more likely to know how-to-play their class once they reach end-game. They’ve been specialized into it for such a long time and become used to use all sorts of abilities that previously were tossed at them towards the very end of their levelling.

Finally I’m delighted at the idea that they want to pace the development of our characters better. Something fun and interesting will happen for every level we gain. When we’re not training new abilities, we’ll get talent points to spend. And since they’re getting rid of boring filler talents, those points will mean something, giving us access to fun abilities rather than just being a stepping stone on the way to a talent we’ll get in the far distant future.

Everything that makes levelling more fun is a good thing!

I bet we’ll hear a few complaints over this. Some players might argue that the game is dumbed down again. But I’m pretty sure that the min-maxing theorycrafters still will have plenty of calculations to do – maybe more now than before, since there won’t be as many apparently crappy talent points that you can skip altogether.

When Cataclysm hits, the first toon I’ll level will be my mage. (Provided I’m still playing the game because… you know…) But I really look forward to level an alt as well – not only because of the new classes and the rewamp of the zones, but thanks to the changes in the talent trees. No more noob traps. More fun talents. Yay! Go Blizzard!

Friday conclusion
See what I just did? I managed to write an entire post about Something Else. And it felt good!

About the elephant thing: I saw a blue comment in the EU thread by Wryxian that somehow made me feel a little bit hopeful.

Here’s a couple of quotes:

We want to acknowledge that within this thread there remains a lot of unanswered but important questions and some very valid concerns that we have not yet been able to address. We want you to know that we are still listening and still gathering your feedback and taking it into consideration. We are not, in any way, ignoring your concerns, your questions and your feedback; in fact it is quite the opposite. Your feedback has been delivered to the people who need to see it, and it continues to be delivered. […] We're listening, we're working through the feedback, and we're discussing it internally. When we do have more answers, updates or information to give about this announcement and about our internal discussions, we will be certain to update you here in the forums. In the meantime, please continue to provide your feedback as it is not in vain and we are taking it into account.

Thanks very much for being patient with us while we work through the process of gathering, delivering and discussing the feedback, questions and concerns you've been posting in this thread. We greatly appreciate that you have been, and continue to be, engaging with us here and expressing yourself with patience and admirable candour.
I don’t know why, but it sounds as if he means it. Maybe they’re taking some impression after all? Let’s say so and enter this weekend with peace in our minds.

For my own part, I’m more likely to slip into LOTRO than into Azeroth. Yeah, my 14 day free trial has passed, but I bought another month to have a closer look at it. It’s beautiful. You should see how cool my Lore-Master looks when she swings her staff, painting runes in the air, summoning her raven!

And no one asks for my name.

Here’s to a good weekend.

Edit: The elephant is gone! So let's focus on the talent tree changes!