2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

This Garrison Life

“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.
 
I had to find a passage back to the place I was before.
 
Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive,
 
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
– The Eagles, Hotel California
  
 
My blog is basically my personal opinion and experience in MMO gaming, most notably in WoW. I feel I need to preface this post with such a disclaimer because I want to talk about something in World of Warcraft that seems to be polarizing right now, and that’s the love, or hate, of Garrisons.
 
When I first got started in WoW, I embraced the RPG part of MMORPG a little more fully. I’d log out in the inn, sitting in a chair or laying down on a lounge or bed, just as if my character were real. But that was the extent of my desire for player housing. Over the years, I’ve seen many players advocate for such housing, either personal or for a guild. Personally, I’ve never had a desire for this, but it was obvious that it had some importance to a good portion of the player base
 
So, Blizzard, in its infinite wisdom, has bestowed us with player housing, which, in its actual form, is so much more than housing. We have Garrisons now. Our own little table for one. Our own town hall, and grounds with various buildings of our choice: stables, barracks, crafting cottages, inns, bunkers, barns, etc. We’re provided with a mine and herb garden that we can use to gather mats even if we don’t have mining or herbing as a profession. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
 
Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some people feel overwhelmed by their garrisons. Some people love them because it’s their own little town. Some people love them because they can gather materials they wouldn’t normally be able to, or gather in lieu of farming. Some people feel these extra things to be a chore. Some people find them mandatory, some people say you don’t have to do all the things, some people feel like they’re playing the entire game from within their garrison, and some people lament the lack of social interaction involved in garrison life.
 
Basically, garrisons are an intrinsic part of the new Warlords of Draenor expansion. Once you start the introductory quests into this new land, you’re set on a rigid path that does not end until your garrison is established. Then you’re free to quest as you will. Your basic garrison allows you to set up a few buildings, and as you level, you can add onto the number of buildings you possess. Herb gardens and mines are automatically given and provide crafting materials that can be harvested daily. Crafting buildings allow for the production of materials through “work orders”, where you provide the raw materials and over a set period of time, it becomes a specialized material that can be used in crafting. Lower level craft buildings allow up to 7 work orders, higher levels can command a few dozen. However, each piece is produced at a set rate of time, regardless of number. “Followers” can be recruited to populate your garrisons and go on “missions” to level themselves, get armor upgrades for themselves (and sometimes you), earn garrison resources, and even gold. Garrison resources are another harvestable currency that’s accrued over time, and are used to purchase building upgrades and items.
 
I can see the obvious pros: garrison resources are earned without doing anything, certain building types reward players with items such as mounts, transmog gear, feasts for buff foods, even conquest and honor points toward PvP gear. Yes, you can herb and mine even if you don’t have herbing and mining as a profession. You can gather as many herbs and ore on a level 3 building as you could spending an hour or more out in the world, farming. More so because there is no flight in Draenor. Follower missions can, once the followers are leveled to 100 and geared to iLvl 645, reward you with raid-level gear for yourself.
 
But here’s a con, especially to a player who is forced to be casual due to real life demands: what about the time a garrison takes out of the little play time you have? The time it takes to gather herbs and mine, send followers out on missions, do crafting cooldowns or work order renewals can be quite substantial. More so if you have more than one character in Draenor. If you have only 2 hours of play time per weeknight, if you even get to log on every night, losing 15 minutes or more to “garrison chores” across multiple toons is hard to swallow.
 
Another con is what garrisons have done to many professions, and the worth of materials on the auction house. Most “epic” level Warlords-crafted gear requires special materials that can only be created through daily crafting cooldowns and work orders. The materials are soulbound. There is a vendor in your garrison who will sell them to you for another type of resource, but the cost is exorbitant to buy more than a couple. Despite the fact that your building can handle up to 36 work orders (with all conditions met), you only get one piece of material every 4 hours, not counting what you make yourself with your crafting cooldown. Since most Warlords pieces take at least 100 of whichever material to create, this means 400 hours to make one, if you go by work orders alone. Crafting cooldowns help ameliorate this, but even with those in place, it still takes almost a week or more to create one piece. This is a serious gate to leveling your profession. You can’t just decide you’re going to devote an hour to leveling your professions, it just won’t work that way anymore
 
Additionally, because of the availability of ore and herbs to non-gathering players, those players who try to earn in-game currency through farming raw materials have really been given the shaft. Values for these materials have plummeted since most players can just access those from their own garrisons and not need to purchase any. Conversely, the prices for items made with precious materials have skyrocketed. 5,000 gold for a weapon enchant. Why? Because it took a week to get the materials to create that enchant because of work order gating and crafting cooldowns. Yet, Blizzard has said they will not be continuing garrisons in future expansions. So leaving gathering professions to pick up those that are more lucrative now would probably be a waste of time in the long run
 
And let’s not forget the social aspect, or lack thereof, surrounding garrisons. You’re in there, by yourself, just you and the NPCs. Your garrison isn’t adjacent to any major city where you can just jog on in. You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, in Shadowmoon Valley. You have to go to Ashran to see any sign that other players do, in fact, play this game. From there, you can catch a portal to a few select Capitol Cities. Yes, you can invite someone to come visit, but your garrison still remains the loneliest city. And, I haven’t even touched on the time it takes to gather followers, level them through missions, and gather armor tokens for them to raise their iLvl.
  
In my opinion, Blizzard would have been much better served if the garrison concept had been made a guild perk. This way, it would be something that all in guild could contribute to, eventually opening up all the buildings and professions. It would have allowed social interaction amongst a guild in its own little space. And, preferably, that space would have allowed quick access to a capitol city. 
 
Furthermore, crafting would have been much better off without being tied to our garrisons. This would have allowed players to genuinely treat garrisons as “optional” content. Someone told me that I didn’t have to do “all the things” in my garrison. True enough, I have given up on mining herbs and ore on a daily basis. But where I’m still forced to interact with my garrison is work orders for my crafts. In an attempt to level the playing field for everyone due to a perceived unfairness that people sold materials for too much money, or people leveling professions faster than others because they had the gold to just buy mats, Blizzard has created a barrier to those who earned their in-game currency in these methods. These people used to put time and effort into farming materials that the rest of us were too lazy to get, and we were glad to pay the price. Now, those people have been downsized by the glut of materials. It interferes with how the market for materials and crafted goods work, unnecessarily so.
 
Someone recently said that they thought the most valuable currency in Warlords of Draenor was time. Time to farm garrisons, time to earn apexis crystals, etc. When all indications are that MMORPG players are an aging group, that more of our lives are devoted to real life, and especially when Blizzard has spent enormous amounts of time “simplifying” (or, in my opinion, dumbing down) how we do everything else, garrisons were a complication that just weren’t right for the game. If you enjoy yours, or moreover, if you have the time for it, more power to you. But for many of us, the novelty is gone.
 
 

Save the (Guild) Drama Fo’ Yo’ Mama!

Ah, the happy camaraderie of being in a guild with like-minded people! The joy of gaming and grouping with people you genuinely like to be around! It’s such an amazing feeling, one that makes you want to log on just to be with your friends, even if you don’t feel like actually playing the game very much. But then something happens: drama. It might start with something said in gchat. Maybe it’s an officer who’s being heavy handed. The prima-donna who thinks they’re more “leet” than the guild. The list and variety of guild drama, and what causes it, are endless.

I’ve been in several guilds over the past 8 1/2 years, and I’ve seen some incredible things. One guildie used her friend to help her fake her own death. They knowingly let us be grief-stricken for about a week before she came back. Or not one, but two guilds I was in were run by couples in a committed relationship… until the relationship became not so committed. That was fun after the break-up, waiting in Ventrilo on raid night for “him” to show up, while “she” bad mouthed him and wondered who he was with that was making him late. Talk about awkward! Or the guilds where cliques form and only the “in crowd” talks to each other in gchat or forms groups, leaving others feel ignored or unwanted. Or the guild coup: where a group of people decide they don’t like the leaders anymore and either leave, taking a large number of guildies with them, or argue/pick on the leaders incessantly until the leaders decide they’re moving on. This behavior is destructive to guilds and to the morale of guild members, and despite good friendships, many will leave to avoid the drama.

If you find yourself in a nice, drama-free guild, regardless of size, here are some things to help keep it drama-free.

1. Read the rules on the guild membership forums, if there are any. If there aren’t, ask an officer or the GM what guidelines for behavior are expected within the guild. Don’t assume because you see people acting a certain way in guild chat that you know how things are supposed to go. People might be behaving improperly because they think there’s not an officer on to see what’s happening. You don’t have to contribute to that, because other people might be online who, just because they’re not speaking, are unhappy with what’s being said or done.

2. Don’t take it upon yourself to be the “guild police”. Are you an officer? No? Calling out someone in gchat about language, topic, or behavior could just start more drama. If you are so distressed about what’s happening, whisper to an officer. If no officer is present, you could try to whisper the person who is upsetting you, but be diplomatic, explain what is wrong, state your piece, and be done. Avoid starting an argument. If the person remains difficult, make note and talk to an officer as soon as one is present. Screenshot any behavior that you find particularly offensive.

3. One person’s definition of “guild-mate” is different from another’s. For example, some people feel that they cannot, in good faith, charge guildies for items, enchants, etc. Others don’t feel the need to be that selfless. Unless something is stated in the rules, no one is obligated to provide freebies for guild-mates. Just because that’s a standard you might hold yourself to, doesn’t mean that it’s a standard everyone must uphold. That’s on you, and you alone.

4. If a guild-mate is so out of hand that you cannot stand to read what they say, and you feel you must put them on ignore, then do so without making a public statement about it. If you want to whisper an officer about it, that’s fine. But the broadcast, “Well, I hate putting a guild-mate on ignore, but So-and-so is on my list now,” is unnecessary drama. The whole guild doesn’t need to hear about your ignore list, or your self-important comment. Same goes with a gquit. You might want to whisper a few people to say goodbyes, or let an officer know behind the scenes. But the dramatic exit announcement is unnecessary.

5. Unless you know that it’s ok otherwise, keep guild chat the way you would behave at work. Avoid hot button issues, such as politics and religion. Even sports talk can be fraught with danger unless guildies know how to keep partisanship and temper in check. The best rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it at work, don’t say it in gchat until you are comfortable with the situation and know your audience.

6. Don’t turn your guild into your own personal dating pool or need for attention. You know the types. Guys who hit on all the girls. Or, girls who are experiencing their first taste of the attention they get from all the gamer guys that they say provocative things to keep that attention going. Guilds are meant for friendship, camaraderie, and gameplay. Not Match.com. And if someone, anyone, asks you to stop flirting with or hitting on them, do so immediately, officer or not. No guildie should be made uncomfortable by explicit talk of a sexual nature, or unwanted advances, Again, if you wouldn’t do it at work, don’t do it in guild.

7. Interpersonal relationships within guilds can be cute when things are going well. They’re not so cute when things are going poorly. Please keep your couple-hood drama out of general guild conversation or gchat. It’s nobody’s business but your own, and you can bet that aside from being nosey, no one wants to hear about it.

8. If you are unhappy with guild leadership, please discuss what issues you’re having with officers, up to the GM if necessary. Staging an insurrection in gchat is not the way to handle things, even if you’re trying to garner support. Keep in mind that there may be members who are perfectly content and who might worry that their happy home is fractured. If you find a guild situation unbearable, just leave, quietly, without drama. Get battle tags of friends you want to keep in touch with so you don’t have to worry about losing touch when you join or form a new guild.

9. If you feel the level of gameplay by your guildies in a group or raid setting is not up to par with your own, there is no need to say so in gchat. No need to link meters, or publicly pine that there’s no progressions because “some people” are not playing well and holding the team back. That might be as much of a team that guild has to offer. Help them if you can, and if your desires are for a more “‘leet” gaming experience that they seem incapable of achieving, find a new guild that suits your needs. Again, leave quietly. There’s no need to make others feel bad. They’re probably doing the best they can.

10. Be careful how you characterize your guild on social media such as Facebook or Twitter if many of your guild-mates are connected there. Don’t tweet about how much better you are than the rest of your guild because they called your class OP and you’re always top dps. Don’t comment about what you hate about the rules, or the officers, or the lack of things to do. Don’t assume that your guildies will never see it. They often do. Social media drama turns into guild drama, and vice versa.

11. Officers, don’t be tyrants. Rules are rules, but be even and consistent with how you enforce them. No favoritism for friends. Responses should be in whispers unless it’s something that needs to be broadcast in gchat, which is very rare and should be done in a general nature, not calling anyone out specifically. Humiliating guildies publicly is never cool. Being an officer comes with some responsibility to not just the guild, but the very real people within it.

12. Remember, screenshots are forever. Watch what you say and do under a guild tag. Even if you think no one can see, it can still come back and bite you in the ass. Same goes for social media, forum posts, and emails. If it’s something you don’t want getting back to another person, don’t put it in writing.

Lilu in Azeroth (RP): Introduction

Lilu of Darnassus

Lilu of Darnassus

I’m starting a new addition to my blog: a role playing series with my main character in WoW, Lilu the night elf druid that I’ve played since 2006. I’ve never written role plays before, but it seems like a great creative exercise and provides additional content for my blog besides a timely real life gaming post. I hope you all enjoy my first attempt at fan fiction!

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An arrow whizzed by my ear with a hissing whine. “Well,” I thought grimly to myself, “not how I was expecting to start this day.”

Why I didn’t expect it, I couldn’t begin to tell you. Being in harm’s way had been a commonplace experience since I had left my homeland in virtual exile. Shaming your family and outraging your leaders doesn’t exactly buy an easy path through the rest of your life. A life, which, if I didn’t get moving quickly, might be over in a few seconds.

Shaking the sleep from my head, I heard another arrow hiss and strike home in a nearby tree. I cleared my mind, filling it with only a feline form. My skin rippled and changed, limbs lengthening, fangs and claws extending, a downy gray fur sprouting over my body. And, in an instant, I was a large panther-like cat, crouching low as I stealthed through the bushes, virtually invisible to all but the keenest eyes. I had to discover who was shooting, and, most importantly, if they were they shooting at me.

I crept silently through the undergrowth, my soft cat paws not even cracking a twig. I heard a voice call out, “Did you hit it?” The reply: “No, it disappeared, but I’m sure I saw it.” Was it me they were really after? Who were they? How did they see me, shadow-melded in the crook between two trees, in the gloom of the deep shade? Cursing myself for letting sleep take over so completely that they could even get that near me, I crept closer, trying to get a look at my assailants.

“There it is!” the first voice cries. And I hear the hiss of another arrow, this time heading away from me. What was going on here? I kept creeping along until I reached the edge of a clearing in the trees. Now, I could see who was doing the shooting. There were two human youths, perhaps about 16 to 17 of their years of age. One had a shoddy looking bow with a ragged string. The other had a hatchet of some type, looking more suitable for chopping wood than for fighting an adversary. They were now looking away from me, away from the area where I had been resting.

A flash of light on the other side of the clearing revealed their target. It was a large glow-fly, about four feet in length, but harmless. The first voice, belonging to the “bowman”, cried out in triumph at its appearance. “I told you! See it?” He raised an arrow to his bow for another try, and missed again. His companion laughed at him. Meanwhile, it occurred to me that shape-shifting into my flight form may not be the safest method of escape around these two youngsters. I prowled away from the clearing, past another thicket of trees, then shape-shifted into my speediest land form, that of a giant elk. I raced away, sweeping my eyes from side to side, looking for danger as I ran. I realized that I was far too close to human settlements and decided to keep running until neither sound nor scent of them could be detected. I didn’t stop until I met the bottom of a boulder strewn hillside, and hid myself in an overgrowth of bushes and vines.

Yes, I can shape-shift, for I am a druid. No, I am more than that. My name is Lilu. I am one of the Quel’dorei. A night elf of Darnassus. My mother, a night elf priestess, would have seen me join her with the Sisterhood of Elune in the Temple of the Moon. My father… Well, let’s just say that I took more after him. He had been a druid, as well. Had been. He was killed by the Horde in one of their dreadful cities, or so the word was brought to us by one of his companions who had escaped. Or fled.

I had been a mere elfling at the time. I loved roaming the forests, talking with the beasts and the birds, climbing the tall trees under light of moon and stars. I wanted to be like my father, nomadic and free, roaming all of Azeroth, fighting for the Alliance. My mother thought it wasn’t a fitting life for a pretty elf girl, especially considering my father’s tragic but, as she felt, inevitable end. She envisioned me in white robes, serving Tyrandre in the Temple. My propensity for healing seemed to make this the logical choice. I mended various wounded creatures I found out in the woods, even a bear. That bear. It wasn’t his fault, but in a way, he was my undoing.

You see, I had returned home, bits of leaves in my shiny, silver hair from climbing around through the forest, and excitedly told my mother about the bear, how its leg had appeared crushed from a hunter’s snare, but I freed the bear and healed him so that he could limp home to safety. The bear was all that filled my mind… and then suddenly, it happened. My body shuddered uncontrollably, my back rounding as I dropped to the floor on all fours. My skin rippled, my mouth gaping as I saw talons extending from my fingers. It all happened so fast. My mother screamed, and I saw, in her mirror, the bear standing there. No, it was me. I was the bear in the mirror.

There was no assuaging my mother’s anguish and rage. She was not about to lose her only child the way she lost my father. To be a druid was to be one with nature, to roam abroad in the wilderness. The other priestesses spoke with me, and declared that since I was a druid, there was no longer any hope for me to become a Sister of Elune. From that day forward, my mother and I rarely spoke another word. She could hardly stand to look at me. I started spending most of my time in the Cenarion enclave in Darnassus, trying to learn to control and use my gifts from the druids there, avoiding my mother’s thin-lipped disapproval when I returned home. When I finally got to be old enough, I asked to join the Sentinels of Feathermoon Stronghold, under Shandris Feathermoon. I had to get away from Darnassus, from my mother, and the broken dreams and expectations that lay with both.

My mind snaps back to the present. I am exhausted. I had gotten precious little rest as it was before I had been interrupted by those human oafs. Then to make an extended run at full speed… I needed to find a more secure place to sleep. Shifting again to cat form, I prowled invisibly amongst the scree and boulders at the bottom of the hillside. I finally found what I was looking for: a little “cave” formed between boulders a bit higher up the hill. I sniffed the interior. It seemed like it had been used as a den before, but the scents were old and faint. Hoping that the disappearance of the former occupant was not a bad sign, I curl up to go to sleep, still stealthed. I could think about what happened with the Sentinels, and all the horror that followed, another time.

Some Like ‘Em Bigger Than Others!

This post will discuss mega-guilds vs smaller guilds, a Blizzcon 2014 wrap up, and a quick blurb about the Nexy Show!
 

Big vs Small: Which guild is right for you?

We’ve all seen or heard about mega-guilds. Alea Iacta Est (AIE) on Earthen Ring US, Horde side, and Convert to Raid (CTR) on Aerie Peak US, Alliance side, are two that immediately come to mind. These aren’t just large guilds, these are guilds so large that they quickly surpass the limit cap of 1,000 members so that “co-guilds” must be formed and guild chat connected with an in-game add-on called Greenwall, which was developed for this purpose. 
 
Now that the Warlords of Draenor expansion is upon us, many of the guild perks have been stripped away. There is no XP benefit anymore, as well as many other benefits we enjoyed. So, whether you’ve remained with WoW, you’re returning after a hiatus, or you’re a new player, you may be confused about which type of guild you belong in, or even if you need a guild at all.
 
For me, the mega-guild is a perfect fit. As chatty as I am on social media, I’m the polar opposite when I get in-game. I don’t want to talk (except for my bf or very closest friends), I don’t want to be bothered or noticed. Some people complain that you get lost in a mega-guild, but that’s exactly what I want. Yet, these guilds set up a Looking For Group chat channel which has lots of activity. This allows me to get in on a group if I’m in the mood and have time. It allows me to be social when I feel like it, and anonymous when I feel like it. Plus, forums exist to help people find guild activities and raid groups. There’s always something going on, any time of day or night. For someone with an irregular schedule, this can be extremely useful, especially at end game.
 
Because many people are looking for a more personal feel in a guild, the smaller guilds might be the answer. Do you want to be greeted by name when you log on? Do you want to engage in guild chat with a closer-knit group of people? Are you able to be online when the bulk of your guildies are raiding or running in various groups? Or you just want to be able to socialize? Then perhaps the smaller guild environment is right for you. Keep in mind that many smaller guilds are unable to complete the achievements to make some guild perks available, so if this matters to you, do some research on what perks you need and make sure that the guild can offer that. But being in a guild with friends can offer some unrivaled experiences in game, chances to laugh and have fun with other people through the same activity. I do keep a character in the Bitter and Salty guild on Earthen Ring US because I like those people and I like spending time with them in game. But their guild environment is one that is conducive to my need for space when I want it. You may have to hop around some smaller guilds before you find one that is a right fit for you.
 
If flying solo is your thing, you don’t need to be in a guild. Some people attach a stigma to that, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a personal choice many people exercise. There are methods like Open Raid and O-Queue to help you find a raid group or pick-up group when you feel like it. It’s a no-pressure way to enjoy the solitude if that’s what you need. Let’s face it, as stressful as day to day life can be, many of us turn to these games as a sanctuary, a place to unwind. And intrusive chatting can ruin that for many people. If you’re more comfortable being alone, don’t let the lack of a guild tag dissuade you from what’s comfortable to you.
 

Blizzcon 2014 Wrap-up!

I was among the fortunate to have attended Blizzcon 2014, and it was probably one of the best Blizzcons yet. Perhaps because Blizzard has so many titles now, and another on the way in the form of a first-person shooter (FPS). It’s not just World of Warcraft-con. Starcraft II continues to dominate the eSports scene in real time strategy games, and has a new stand-alone expansion upcoming. Diablo III, a dungeon crawler, recently offered up some new content. Hearthstone, a collectible digital card game, is new to eSports this year, but the competition was riveting, and there’s an expansion, Goblins vs Gnomes, in the works. Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA similar to League of Legends (from Riot Games), while still in technical alpha stage, showed the potential for eSports dominance with some exhibition matches. And now with the inclusion of Overwatch, a team-based FPS, Blizzard once again delves into a new genre with the potential for eSports competition, as well as being a fun casual game. Blizzard seems to have the uncanny knack for taking any genre of game and making it fun and easy for casual players, but offers up the options for hardcore players to take it to the next level.
 

WoW 10th Anniversary Party at Blizzcon 2014

Also exciting at Blizzcon was the additional information and a teaser trailer for the new Warcraft movie, and the premier of the Looking for Group documentary about the development of World of Warcraft, its rise as a global phenomenon, and what it means to so many people, from celebrities to members of the Warcraft community. Plus there were lots of displays, booths, and game demo areas for attendees to enjoy, as well as the WoW 10th Anniversary Party on Friday night, where you, too, could try some Thunderbrew Ale!
 
Next year’s Blizzcon might be the biggest one yet, with as much is going on right now! Will it expand to 3 days? We’ll see next year!
 
 
 

Fem Fem Fem Logic on the Nexy Show!

 I was lucky enough to join Esmeralda Sky (@casuallycasual) on her World of Warcraft podcast, the Nexy Show! Joining me was @Jaygurrl, and the three of us discussed our viewpoints on social issues in gaming from our own unique female-gamer perspective in a segment called Fem Fem Fem Logic. While none of us are self-described feminists, we have a different viewpoint on several of the gaming issues that have upset many in social media. You might find our viewpoint different and refreshing.
 
I recommend you make the Nexy Show (@NexyShow) a part of your permanent WoW podcast rotation. But if you’re looking for the episodes I mentioned, you can find Episodes 17 and 19 here at http://thenexyshow.podbean.com! I look forward to your feedback!
 
 
 
 
 
 

My Beta Vacation: Opting Out to Avoid Burnout

So, several months ago, I received a coveted invitation in my email inbox. No, it wasn’t the invite to play the technical alpha for the new Blizzard MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, but one that many WoW players were dying to get their hot little hands on… the beta for the new WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor (WoD).

At face value, the beta invite was something I had actually been hoping for, and I felt an initial rush of excitement when I saw the email. But I didn’t have time to play the beta when I first got the invite. Work, evening meetings, and a weekend out of town kept me from gaming at all. My jets cooled down a bit. And suddenly, I realized: I didn’t really want to play the beta.

Not to say I’m not excited for the WoD expansion. I very much am looking forward to it. But it occurred to me that WoW burnout has been happening to me more and more over recent years. A beta, for me, would be one more cycle through the new content, and it’s a trip through that doesn’t count for anything.

Now, I understand that there are some beta testers who are genuinely testing new features. They write great, informative blog posts about their discoveries. They are testing the product the way Blizzard would want them to, or so I assume. I applaud those people, and envy their time and perseverance in documenting beta developments and changes.

The luxury of time is one I don’t have. I’m not alone in this boat. Many of us have jobs, family, and personal/professional commitments which limit gaming time. What we decide to play with this limited time is definitely of some importance. For myself, playing the beta is a waste of precious time when I still have characters to finish in Pandaria. 

But, even more than that, burnout and boredom loom on the horizon of every expansion, especially if there are more than one to two toons that you’re trying to get to max level and end game. How many times can you run the same quests without starting to dread them? Doing them on beta first just adds to the repetitive nature, but it doesn’t count toward permanent progress.

Also lost with beta is some of the excitement of the new expansion upon launch. Sights we have yet to see, exploration to do, that sense of wonder and mystery: these can be diminished on launch day, if not wholly ruined, by playing the beta. I’ve waited long enough for this new content, I want to wake up on launch day to face a new adventure. A completely new adventure.

Now, lest you’re tempted to say that my beta invite was wasted on me, fear not. I gave my boyfriend access to my account so he could play it because he really was interested in some aspects. Now, he has his own beta invite, so mine will sit unused. I haven’t even paid attention to the new character models or screenshots from the expansion, nor the class changes, nor the garrisons.

When launch day comes, I’ll read the patch notes, grab some snacks and a drink, and prepare to immerse myself in a totally new world. A world that’s fresh and unspoiled. And, hopefully, fun.

 

The WoW “10 Years::10 Questions” Project: My Answers

Many of you in the World of Warcraft (WoW) community have, by now, seen Alt:ernative Chat’s post for her 10 Years::10 Questions project in preparation for WoW’s 10th Anniversary in November. I’m excited to be able to contribute toward this project, as WoW has been and will continue to be an important part of my life. So, without fanfare, I give you the questions, and my answers.

The Questions:

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?
2. What was the first ever character you rolled?
3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?
4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?
5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?
6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?
7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?
8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?
9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?
10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

The Answers:

1. Why Did You Start Playing World of Warcraft?

I had heard of World of Warcraft for a year or so before I actually started playing. At that point, I was still looking for ways to network for career purposes, and I read an article in a business magazine about people using WoW as a means to network with like-minded people and open doors for possible job opportunities. Plus, I had purchased a new gaming PC and was looking for more titles to play. Sounded great to me! So I started the free trial in July of 2006.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

Once WoW was installed on my computer, I watched the opening cinematic. I saw a beautiful elf-like creature transform into a cat and run through the trees. I knew that’s what I wanted to be! I logged onto the suggested server, and when through character creation. There I saw the race and class of the girl in the cinematic: Night Elf, Druid. But what to name her? My childhood nickname, of course. And thus, Lilu, Night Elf Druid, was born on Anvilmar-US. There have been many server transfers and a name change over the years. She’s now Lilulicious in the <Convert to Raid> guild on Aerie Peak-US.

 

Sergeant Lilu

 

3.  Which factors determined your faction choice in game?


I felt that the Horde races were ugly (this was Vanilla, after all) and that they were the “bad guys” anyway. Plus, in doing a little pre-game research, I noticed that many Horde players somehow felt cooler because they were “outcasts”. I really wasn’t interested in the whole “being bad to be cool” thing. I’d had one brush with the law as a teenager, being “bad” was no longer of interest. So, I chose Alliance.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft, and why?

Without a doubt, it was downing the Lich King in 10 man normal mode. I had raided since the Burning Crusade expansion in a 25 man progression raiding guild: Black Temple, Serpentshrine Caverns, Hyjal. I switched guilds for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion into a 25 man raiding guild that was more my style, not so elitist. Unfortunately, the guild was run by a husband/wife team which split up just as we were getting deep into the Icecrown Citadel raid encounter, and the guild dissolved. Fortunately, myself and 9 others formed a 10 man group and resolved to finish what we started. And on July 20, 2010, the Lich King fell at our hands.

 

Liberated Guild of Hyjal-US kills the Lich King

 

 
5. What is your favourite aspect of the game, and has this always been the case?

I thoroughly enjoy end-game content and raiding. I reached level 60 only a few days before the BC expansion, so any Vanilla raiding was done after the fact. But in BC, I discovered the adrenaline-fueled thrill ride of 25 man raiding. Not 10 man, but 25s. I enjoy the teamwork, the strategies, and the perseverance required to bring down a serious raid boss. As of late, my time commitments don’t allow me to raid much outside of doing LFR on-demand when time allows. But I still find that to be the content I consistently work towards at every expansion now.

6. Do you have an area in-game that you always return to?

Yes! Teldrassil and Ashenvale are my favorite zones to return to when I’m feeling nostalgic. I spent a lot of time there as I leveled my original character, Lilu. Perhaps more than typical because I was such a noob. I didn’t know about Wowhead, or add-ons like Quest Helper. I wandered throughout those zones seemingly forever (it took me moths and months to hit 60). But I was entranced by the beauty of the zones and the music there. It was truly a magical time. So, occasionally, I return to try to recapture those fond memories of when the World of Warcraft was new (to me).

7. How long have you /played, and has that been continuous?

I’ve been playing since July, 2006. I have never let my subscription lapse. I have taken a couple breaks. One was during the Cataclysm expansion, right when Dragonsoul came out. I was burned out from raiding, and my current guild had become a pit of drama thanks to yet another couple leading it that was undergoing a nasty break-up. I would log on from time to time to make sure I hadn’t been hacked, but I probably stayed away from actually playing the game for a good six months. I took another brief break during this current content lull, post-Pandaria, earlier this year for a couple months. I’ve now returned to leveling a few alts to 90 in preparation for the Warlords of Draenor expansion. My total /played time is about a year and a half, roughly, spread between 19 characters over 8 years.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Not. Nor do I pay attention to the lore. To me, fake lore made up to suit a game doesn’t hold up as well as fake lore that was written before and upon which a game is based. If that makes any sense.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Yes, I do have a few regrets. I sometimes lose confidence in myself and abilities that I often won’t try to get into a progression raid team anymore. I regret not finishing Dragonsoul at level. I’m hoping to finish Siege of Orgrimmar on flex or normal (non-LFR) difficulty to get a shot at the mount, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen in time. 

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Playing WoW has had one profound effect on my life: I was able to save enough money to put down on a house, which I did four years ago. I used to spend my money at bars, at the movies, at the mall, because I was bored. When I started WoW, I was locked firmly in the grips of obsession with the game. I stopped wasting money on stupid stuff to keep me occupied, and the money began to pool up in my savings account. Before long, I had enough to make a small down payment on a house, and now I’m a homeowner because of WoW.

Additionally, I have several real life friends (and one real life boyfriend) that I would not have made without WoW. Some are friends I actually visit with from time to time. Others are friends online only, but friends nevertheless. So many WoW players exhibit so much wit and vivacity that they add a lot of joy to my life. And my boyfriend… Well, that goes without saying.

WoW has meant a lot to me over the past several years, and I feel certain I’ll keep playing until the last server shuts down, even if it’s more of a hobby now than a hardcore obsession. I’m grateful for what it’s given me, and what it’s taught me about gaming, people, and relationships. Congratulations to Blizzard for World of Warcraft’s 10th Anniversary, and thank you, Alt:ernative Chat for inviting us to participate in the 10 Years::10 Questions project. I am open to any further questions, podcast participation, whatever you need, dear Mistress.

The Great (Gender) Divide in eSports

The notion of sexism in video gaming, and the video game industry as a whole, is one that keeps returning to the forefront of discussions on forums and social media. And many times, for good reason. While some incidents seem like molehills made into mountains, other incidents really leave you scratching your head and wondering what century you live in.

Recently, an eSports competition was taken to task over having separate divisions for male and female gamers. What’s so wrong with that, you ask? Well, it’s “e” sports. There is no advantage in physical size or strength between men and women working a keyboard, mouse, or controller. Mental acuity and hand-eye coordination are the main abilities used by gamers, and these abilities are not influenced by sex or gender. And to make matters worse, there are fewer games available to “females” in this competition, as opposed to the “male” division.

Several analogies have been made between this competition and the fact that many professional sports have male and female divisions, which may have led these eSports coordinators to feel it’s natural to do the same for their competition. I also received a comment that perhaps it helps to spotlight women in the competition that might not otherwise be noticed. Fair points, but allow me to share some personal anecdotes that might shed light on why this still doesn’t help women who want to compete in eSports.

I’ve always been a horse lover and owner, and I am an avid horse racing fan. In 2004, I discovered an arcade game from Sega called Derby Owners Club, or DOC. It allowed you to breed a “racehorse” from a list of sires and dams, save it to a magnetic card, race the horse, retire it, and use it as breeding stock to create your own bloodlines. The deeper you got in generations, the more powerful the “offspring” were. The DOC machine, which could be found at Dave & Busters, Jillian’s, and similar arcades, had eight consoles for people to compete against each other, for fun, bragging rights, and (as it turned out) ranked competitive tournaments.

Me being me, as soon as I found out I could compete seriously, and that there were tournaments all over the country, I set out to join the ranks. I got resistance immediately. As much as women typically love horses, there were no women competing on the west coast, and very few women competing around the nation as a whole. The first practice I tried to attend, I was turned away. I was told that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I would be behind the “pros” at every step. I won’t lie: I cried on the way home, from anger. I took to the forums of that game, and blasted the folks who had ostracized me. Surprisingly, one of the local racers took pity on me, and invited me out to help me learn the proper methods to train and race my horse for competition. He basically held my hand throughout my first practice, and I was gratified when I actually won a race (out of 19).

I started attending every practice. Never did I see another woman compete. The only women I saw were the other competitors’ wives or girlfriends. But I wasn’t discouraged. I entered my first tournament in Peoria, IL. I was eliminated in the first round. Memphis, TN, I was eliminated in the second round. Alpharetta, GA, I made it to the semi-finals. Ontario, CA, I made it to the final table. By the time I quit racing in 2006, I had won a major tournament (the first and only female to have done so since the major tournaments were implemented), placed 3rd in another, was consistently making the finals, and was twice invited to the Tournament of Champions in Wyomissing, PA. I cracked the top 20 of 350 racers, and yes, by that time, I was the top ranked “female racer” in the rankings. Considering there were maybe six or seven other women out of 350, that in and of itself was not much of an achievement.

I still remember the surprise from some of the racers who were pioneers of this eSport when I beat them. I remember the incredulity when I got my trophy and prize money for winning the West Coast Major. I frequently heard my male counterparts tease each other with the put down, “You just got beat by a girl!” I knew what they were trying to say, and I didn’t get it. It was a video game. I was pushing buttons, not running around the track on my own legs. I didn’t care about being the top female racer, I wanted to be the best racer, period. And I was thrilled to make it into the top 5% of all ranked racers in the country.

This is why I strongly object to gender divisions in eSports. What good is it to be the champion of a limited field in a competition where physical differences (besides those who are physically challenged) don’t exist? Who wants to be the best of 10 competitors when they can be the best of 100? A gender division doesn’t help a female gamer feel empowered, it doesn’t help spotlight her in a positive light. It makes her feel less, like she isn’t capable of competing against males. She deserves the chance to hear “You just got beat by a girl,” so she can pat herself on the back and say “Damn straight, because I’m just as good, if not better, than the competition, male or female.” She’ll feel like an equal. That’s empowerment. And that’s what ANY eSports competitor deserves.

Afterword: I wrote this blog post on July 2nd. Today, July 3rd, the governing body of the eSports organization putting on the gender segregated tournament made a statement saying that it recognized the gaming community’s concerns and was altering the tournament format. There will now be an “open to all” division, with all the previously “male” game categories, and a “female” division with only two games, Starcraft 2 and Tekken (which, curiously, is not offered in the “open to all” division). The word on the street is that Blizzard Entertainment had a hand in bringing about this change as they didn’t want their games to be used in an environment that wasn’t all-inclusive. This is a step in the right direction.

Cheaters (WoW Edition)

World of Warcraft, I’ve been running around on you with that little chippy, WildStar. I know that you and I have been together a long time. I feel like I know your every thought, your every quest, your every hill and vale. We’ve had some great times together, you and I. But now I’m thinking maybe I settled too quickly. There’s a whole wide world out there, full of new experiences. I’m not sure I’ve really seen all there is to see to commit myself to you alone. I don’t want to break up with you, but WoW… I’d like to start seeing some other games. I need to experiment. If what you and I had was really right, then I’ll be back. I know you probably feel betrayed, I know this seems disloyal. But if you love something, you have to set it free.

OK, that was more than a bit corny, but this is basically how I feel at this stage in my gaming life. I love WoW. I’ve invested a lot of years leveling characters, raiding, making friends, gaining achievements. This isn’t something I plan on throwing away. WoW is a major part of my life, and as long as the servers are active and the game is still running, I imagine it will continue to be so, even if on a more casual basis.

So, what leads me to stray? First, you can blame my boyfriend. He started it by getting me to try a new game in a genre I’d never tried before. Sure, I played a few other pc games before WoW, but once I discovered the beauty of the MMO, WoW was my main squeeze. Over the years of playing WoW, I had dabbled in a couple of other MMOs: Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). But none gave me the feeling that WoW did. They weren’t as well done (in my opinion), and the content wasn’t as fun or compelling. It was all WoW, all the time. Even the other Blizzard titles seemed like games to tide me over until a new WoW expansion or content patch hit.

My boyfriend, however, introduced me to League of Legends (LoL), my first MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). I sucked at it at first (I sorta still do), but I loved it. I had never played a game like that before. But he didn’t stop there. He got me to try more MMOs and really give them a chance. Forsaken World, Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe Online, and lately, Rift. Through him, I got a new perspective on gaming. I didn’t have to devote my gameplay to one game and one game only. I could play whatever struck my fancy, depending on my mood from day to day. I know that it seems like a “Duh!” statement, but only recently have I discovered that I’m not the only one who thought like that.

I discovered this fact because of this little game called WildStar. Every MMO that comes along gets people talking about whether or not this will be the so-called “WoW-killer.” WildStar had a lot of hype built up about it. Its beta testing and release dates were right in the middle of one of the longest content lulls WoW has ever seen. People were excited about WildStar; more and more folks started talking about it. I couldn’t resist it. I had to try it. It was new and fun and colorful, and it didn’t take itself too seriously. I was all in, as were many other current and former WoW players.

What brought the issue to a head was, upon its pending release, the backlash from people who considered playing another MMO as “disloyal to WoW,” or to Blizzard Entertainment as a company. While I’m sure that Blizzard doesn’t mind this way of thinking, it doesn’t really make any sense. Playing a game doesn’t call for an oath of fealty. We don’t make vows never to touch another game when we accept Blizzard’s terms of service. We play games to have fun. And fun can be found in more than one title.

Indeed, some of the negativity surrounding the WildStar release has been surprising. I can understand people not wanting to pay another subscription. Times are still tough, everyone is stretching their entertainment dollars. But some of the comments from those in social media circles go beyond a matter of economics. In the face of so many people excited to play this new game, we’ve heard things like, “WildStar looks stupid.” “It’s just WoW in space.” “Give it a couple months and it’ll be free to play anyways.” “I don’t understand people being disloyal to Blizzard.”

I heard something on the podcast Tauren Think Tank (Episode 102) that spoke to how people behaved when they didn’t get an alpha invite for the new Blizzard MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. One of the hosts mentioned something about inclusiveness, and what feelings come forth when people don’t feel included with “the group.” I suspect that’s what’s happening here with WildStar. People who, for whatever reason, have not gotten in on this new game are feeling like they’re not part of the excitement. They feel left out, and sadly, negativity is their only response to these feelings.

Folks, you don’t have to be loyal to one game or one game company. There are a lot of good free to play MMOs, MOBAs, and similar games out there. You are missing out on worlds of different content and play styles. You may think you don’t have time to devote to other games, but no one’s saying you have to be hardcore in whatever you try. Have fun! Experiment! You can still play WoW and enjoy other games, too! See what elements can be found in these games that you never knew existed, which you can use as valuable feedback to Blizzard about what changes you’d like to see in WoW.

But above all, don’t ruin the experiences of others who have decided to take the leap away from WoW to try new games. If you’re disinterested, fine. You don’t have to be negative. Be happy for people who are excited, don’t resent them for it. Let us have our fun. We’re not abandoning you. We aren’t changing as people because we’ve changed games during the WoW pre-expansion lull. Many of us will continue to play WoW, too. Most of us will be back to share the excitement of Warlords of Draenor when it’s released. In the meantime, I challenge you to try an entirely new game, if you haven’t already. You might be surprised how it changes your entire gaming perspective as a whole.

On Developer Worship and the Death of My Inner Fangirl

When I was a teenager, my life revolved around music and the popular bands of the moment. This is going to date me a bit, but my big “crush” band was Duran Duran. I knew everything about them. Their birthdays, their height, where they were born; it was almost as if this information was more important than the music they actually produced. I had posters of them everywhere. I was desperate for every scrap of news or photo I could get of them. I was a total fangirl!

Flash forward to present day. Muse is my one of my favorite bands ever. I know little to nothing about them. I know of Matt Bellamy, I think one of the band member’s names is Dominic. I couldn’t tell you when they were born, where they were born (except the UK), and I probably wouldn’t recognize one of them on the street if I were to pass them. I don’t know their personal opinions on politics (except in song), equal rights, religion, or society as a whole. I only know that I love their music, their lyrics, and their melodies. That music strikes a chord within me that makes these other aspects unimportant.

It therefore puzzles me greatly how we, as a gaming community, have elevated our game developers to celebrity status. We treat them like rock stars, and we’re their adoring fans. Who are these people that so many of us should hang on their every word? Why should anyone be excited if they get a mention from one on Twitter? And why would we expect their words, whether through social media or in an interview, to be anything other than their personal opinion and thus they are entitled to it?

To me, these game developers are not celebrities. They’re employees. They work for a company. They get their paychecks with taxes and Medicare taken out just like everyone else. They get in to work in the morning and have to deal with their email inbox just like you and I. They are people. Just regular ol’ people working a J-O-B. And just like regular ol’ people, they have their own opinions about their job, the games they work on, and life in general.

Should it be a surprise when one of them makes a gaffe that implies that somehow their employer feels the same way as the employee? No. It’s to be expected. They’re not public relations people, they’re game developers. Dealing with the public is not their calling. And their word is not gospel. The owners and shareholders of their company have the final word. And that word will be issued in a carefully prepared press release, like any other company. One developer’s interview or tweet does not equate an entire company’s viewpoint. While it could be argued that it’s indicative of a systemic problem, it does not mean that every employee, manager, executive, owner, or shareholder of that company feels the same way.

We all know the latest controversy surrounding Blizzard, and from whence it came. There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not this employee’s words were taken out of context or twisted to fit an agenda. That’s not what I’m looking to solve here. I just want to remind you all to take one man’s word with a grain of salt. He’s just one person. He wasn’t reading a prepared press release; it was just him, shooting off the cuff. His audience has made him more important than he needs to be, and thus his words held greater weight than they deserved.

What we should all remember is how these games make us feel when we play them. The content and its immersive fantasy world is what compelled us to play to begin with. What do these games touch within us? By and large, we’ve all enjoyed Blizzard games for years. There may be reasons why we decide that these games are no longer for us: lack of content, repetitiveness, other hobbies, real life, or the feeling that the game doesn’t reflect our society as we see it. But don’t let one employee’s remarks change how you view something that once gave you pleasure. He’s just a guy. A regular ol’ guy, like the rest of us.

 

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