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This week’s Blog Azeroth’s shared topic post comes from Frinka from Warcraft Street:

Have you ever tried to introduce real life friends to WoW? If yes, how did it go? If you never have, why not?

I think I might be the worst WoW ambassador ever. Any time I’ve attempted to get someone to play the game with me, it’s been a complete failure. I’m going to do the honorable thing and not  blame myself. Clearly it was the fault of the terrible starting experience prior to Cataclysm. I’ve tried to recruit my brother, mom, and a couple of friends, none of which made it past level ten. I might give my mom another shot in Mists though because I think she would find pet battles amusing. But the story of my biggest failure comes from the first one I tried to convince to play.

The first person I attempted to recruit was my husband, though at the time he was my fiancé. I thought for sure this would be a fun way for us to spend time together. I pestered him nonstop to download the trial and try out the game and after a few months, he finally decided to give it a shot.

“I’m downloading WoW,” he texted me one Tuesday night before I left work. “It’s taking forever.”

“You don’t have to download the entire thing,” I wrote back. “Just get the trial. And use one of the Recruit a Friend codes that I left sitting on your desk with stars and the server name and horde and sparkles!”

“No, I’d rather have the full game,” he said. He’s stubborn like that.

As I was taking the train home from work, I got updates from him on how the process was going, mostly consisting of “WTF why is this taking so long?” or “How big is this stupid game?” or “What’s an RP server? Can’t we play on a PvP server? That sounds like more fun.” I was still quite excited about the idea of playing with him, so when my train got in, I sped home on my bike and excitedly ran into my apartment and the office where our computers were. I loaded up WoW and was a little confused when I saw a download start to take place.

I did a little looking to discover that apparently that day was something called a “patch day.” I had no idea what that was, having only been playing for a couple of months, but I didn’t really care. My fiancé was going to play WoW with me. It was going to be awesome!

Except…we couldn’t seem to get into the game. And when we finally did, it crashed. And then when we finally got into it again…It crashed. He generally doesn’t have too much  patience for this sort of thing, and he was decidedly frustrated by the time he hit the character selection screen.

“What should I make?” he asked, clicking randomly on races.

“Make a forsaken,” I said. “You’ll like that. They’re creepy zombie people.”

“Sounds like fun,” he agreed. He chose forsaken, looked blankly at the screen. “Okay, so what class do I choose?”

I paused. I’d only really played my druid, paladin, and rogue at that point. Forsaken couldn’t be two of those classes. “Be a rogue,” I said. “They’re sneaky and nefarious, and you’ll probably like playing one.”

“A rogue?”

“Yeah. Like a thief from D&D. Come on, I know you played that when you were a kid.”

“Lies,” my husband replied as he calmly chose a warlock and started flipping through the character customizations. I was busy logging into the orc shaman I had barely played. I’d recently finished reading Lord of the Clans, and the idea of an orc shaman was just too awesome for me. Not that I’d really figured out how to play her yet. And she kind of sounded like a pig getting slaughtered every time an enemy hit her, so I wasn’t sure how much I liked her. But it was better than being one of those forsaken things, so I logged in and started making my way to Tirisfal from Durotar. At level 3 without a mount.

“Wait, did you actually choose the guy who’s missing his jaw?” I asked, glancing over at my husband’s screen. Really? The tongue hanging down out of the face guy?

“Yeah, it’s awesome.”

“Okay……” I replied, running away from a scorpid. After a few minutes, I managed to get to the zeppelin tower and boarded the ship to Eastern Kingdoms. Then the game crashed and I had to log back in.

“What am I doing?” my husband asked over the intro to the forsaken starting zone.

“Just…listen to what the guy is saying, he’s telling you a story.”

“The graphics on this game are terrible,” he observed. “My computer can play Crysis. This is an insult to my video card.”

“Just shut up and listen!” I growled, furiously trying to log back on. Argent Dawn is full, you are the 200th person in queue.

“Okay, now what?” he asked.

“Go talk to the guy with the exclamation point over his head,” I said, climbing down the tower in Tirisfal glades. It was then that I realized I’d never started a forsaken character and didn’t really know where to go. I shrugged and started running in what looked like the right direction.

“I’m supposed to kill 6 skeletons.”

“Okay, so kill them.”

“How?”

“Are you being stupid on purpose?” I asked. “You know how to play video games. Your computer can play Crysis, remember? Are you really telling me that you can’t figure out how to kill something?”

“This game is stupid,” he replied.

“Just hit your spells!” I exclaimed, running away from a plaguehound. I glanced over at him. “No, not with your mouse, with the numbers on your keyboard! No, stop hitting him with the staff, you’re a freaking warlock, cast a spell!” I’d gotten myself all turned around by that point but kept on running as I looked at the screen. “You have to stand still while you’re casting or your cast gets interrupted,” I added, finally just hitting autorun and going over to his computer.

“They’re hitting me though. I’m trying to dodge them.”

“You can’t,” I said helpfully. “Just stand there and let it hit you and hopefully you’ll finish it off first.”

“This game is stupid,” he said.

“No it’s not, it’s awesome,” I replied, going to sit at my desk again. My brows furrowed as I stared at the screen, trying to figure out where I was. Wait, why was there a bear chasing towards me. And what the hell was wrong with that bear?? He looked like a zombie!!!

Once at the spirit healer, I looked at my map and realized somewhere between yelling at my fiancé to cast spells and running from plaguehounds, I’d gotten myself completely turned around and ran into the welcome bears of the Western Plaguelands. I sighed, took the spirit rez, then started running back in the direction of the forsaken starting area.

“What the hell??” exclaimed my fiancé. A few seconds later, I was booted from the game. I tried logging back in, but it appeared the server had crashed. The general cursing I heard coming from my fiancé’s side of the room confirmed that he was experiencing the same thing.

“It’s a patch day,” I said through gritted teeth. “Things are going to be buggy.” I had no idea what that meant, but I’d just read it on WoW Insider, so it seemed like a good explanation.

Eventually we both made it back into the game, and I remembered that he could summon me using the RAF perks. “What’s your character’s name?” I asked.

“Lucifrluvsu,” he answered, hitting a skeleton with his staff.

I stared over at him. “Seriously?” I asked. “This is an RP server! You have to have an RP name!”

“What the hell does that mean?” he asked.

“It means it should sound like a real name!”

“A real name for a zombie. Okay,” he said, rolling his eyes. I glared at him, then invited him to a group. “It says that Kynsaia wants to invite me to a group,” he said.

“Accept. That’s me.” A few moments later, we were in a group together. I gave up on trying to explain what to do, and just went over to his computer and summoned myself. A few seconds later my orc lady appeared next to his hideous zombie guy.

“Is that you?” he asked. “Why are you so ugly? Why do you look like a dude with boobs?”

“Let’s just quest,” I said, picking up the quest he was on. “Wait, look at this,” I said, sending a /kiss his way.

“Look at what?” he asked.

“Look in your text box!” I said, sending him a /flirt.

“Oh,” he said. “How did you do that?”

“You can target me and type /kiss,” I explained. Finally, we were getting somewhere.

A few seconds later I saw “Lucfrluvsu brushes up against you and farts loudly.”

“You’re disgusting,” I muttered, sending a bolt of lightening at a skeleton. A few seconds later, the server crashed again.

“This game is stupid,” my fiancé said, getting up and going out to the living room to watch Law and Order reruns.

Needless to say, he never tried to play again.

Read more stories of getting friends to play!

In pictures

I’ve seen a lot of people doing the July Challenge from Ambermist at Battlechicken, and wanted to get involved. As a new blogger, it seems like a good way to introduce myself, not just my WoWself. Pictures say a lot more about me than anything else though, so I decided to do a gallery instead. Plus I’m sure that no one wants to read 1000+ words about me, since I tend to be a little long winded. 😉

 

This week’s Blog Azeroth’s shared topic post comes from Frinka from Warcraft Street:

If it were possible, would you want Blizzard to put all characters in a single realm/game world by realm type — PvP vs PvE vs RP? Why or why not?

This was an interesting one to answer, especially considering I’ve definitely said on more than one occasion, “I wish there were just one big RP realm for us all to go to!” When I finally had to consider how having only mega realms would actually turn out, I began to realize that I didn’t actually think it would work, and for more reasons than just roleplay. Mega realms would affect everything, from PvE competition to the AH to keeping sane in a PvP world. I’m not convinced that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

All the RPs in one place!

So many times during my WoW career, my guildies and I have discussed how we would love it if there were only one RP realm, a halcyon place where there would be not a single character whose name references a bodily function or any variation on PwnsU. A place where people actually care about the lore! A place where we can RP out in the open, without worrying about someone taking off all their armor then jumping around our RP events naked! IT WOULD BE GLORIOUS!

Maybe.

My main server is one of the original RP servers. Perhaps there was a time when RP was rampant on the server, but that time is long since passed. Nowadays, Argent Dawn feels more like a PvE server with slightly better names. I know more non-RP people than not, and even my guild hasn’t done any serious RP in months. It’s sad. I think that a lot of the older RP servers are in the same boat. People join the server because they have friends there, not because they’re interested in roleplay. Slowly the balance starts to shift. Best case scenario is that RP just isn’t that common anymore. Worst case is that it’s actively griefed to the point where those who are interested in roleplay head to a new realm. And so it continues.

That’s why my friends and I have often said we wish there was just one realm for RP, so all of us who are interested in it are in the same place. But unlike PvP or PvE rules, it’s not really possible to enforce RP, not even with things like name reporting. You can’t exactly force a person who’s not interested in that sort of thing to do it. And eventually I suspect the same thing would happen on that single RP realm. People would come there to play with their friends, and slowly it would just morph into a normal PvE realm.

To be honest, this is why the cross server zones have me concerned as well. I will occasionally go play on other RP servers, just to see what things are like on them. Wyrmrest Accord in particular is one of my favorite places to go level up a random toon because there is just so much RP going on there, especially as compared to AD. I constantly see people sitting around in random taverns out in the world, having awesome in character conversations. Trade chat has a ton of RP guild ads in it. People will randomly start roleplaying with me while I’m out questing. It’s awesome!

Then I think about Mists and how people from that server are going to be forced to be out there with people from mine, and other RP servers where people don’t care about RP. And it makes me sad. There’s something really special going on there, and I would hate to see it lost.

When I spoke to my friend Bim, about this topic, she brought up another good point:

If there was only one place to RP in WoW, one might expect for everyone’s RP to be interconnected or at least have acknowledgment of one-anothers’ storylines.  But in reality, most attempts for realm-wide, centralized RP would be too unwieldy to go anywhere because of the sheer population.  There have been realm-wide RP events before but they were limited to the pop of one realm.
This is an interesting concern, and one that I think has merit. It kind of reminds me of whenever there is some sort of neat free event that happens in NYC that becomes completely unfun because of the sheer amount of people there. You wanted to watch the Halloween parade? Okay, but I hope you got there six hours early because they’re blocking off the roads and sidewalks after that. Oh, you thought it would be cool to go to the free Robot Chicken Rollerskating party? You’ll be waiting three years for skates and you’re only going to get about ten minutes in them. Having an entire mega realm full of people to RP with would be amazing, but I can’t even imagine how going to Stormwind or Silvermoon would be. Just /say chat alone would be chaos. People would be forced to do most of their RP in whispers or party chat just to avoid getting confused. And that would defeat the whole purpose of having a realm where you can RP out in the open.

One single RP (well, and RP-PvP) realm would be amazing if everyone really did want to RP. There would be enough people around that no matter what kind of RP you were looking for, you could probably find it. You could find guilds that wanted to both RP and raid. Or RP and PvP. Or just RP and RP. That part of it would be awesome. But those other parts? I’m just not sure it would work.

More like Lagrimmar.

One of the things I love about WoW is that I can play it on my aging iMac. Sure, I have to have my graphics set to low and my computer tends to freak out if I try to do something crazy like heal an LFR. But I can still play. Even with there being less people on RP realms than other realms, I cannot fathom what it would do to my computer. Actually, I think I have an idea. I’d get 1 frame per 12 seconds and then the entire thing would quit.

I think the technological accessibility of WoW is a big part of its success. I would have never played it if Blizzard didn’t offer the game for both Mac and PC. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to keep playing I’d have to install more RAM and actually update my OS, but since I already bought into the game, those decisions were much easier to make. If I thought I had to have a whole new rig just to get the game running when I first started playing? Forget about it. I would have gone and found myself some other hobby.

I don’t think there would be enough baby spice in the world to shrink all the idiots who would be sitting on mailboxes with their giant mounts. I fear the thought of trying to get a quest specific mob when competing with so many others. I have seen over a million WoW players jammed into one spot. It was called the Pandaren starting zone on the Beta. It was not a pretty thing. I eventually got so fed up with it that I logged off, and haven’t really done much with the beta since (though there are more reasons for that then just the terrible lag).

Even if Blizzard has the technology to make four realms per region work, I doubt that many of the players can do the same. With such a wide audience, it’s just not realistic to expect players to have cutting edge rigs that are capable of showing that many players all at once. Or you know. Letting you heal an LFR without slowing to molasses.

/eyes Newegg cart longingly and contemplates hitting the “order” button.

Where everybody knows your name

There are notorious folks on my realm. The trade chat idiots. The people who are getting the server firsts. That person that always hangs out by the same mailbox as you and keeps throwing a heavy leather ball at you while you’re not looking, leaving you wondering why your bags are full when you go out later to solo some old content. There’s a niceness about familiarity, both in WoW and not. Would it be possible to have a level of familiarity  on a huge mega realm? Well, sure, but it would be more along the lines of celebrity than community.

I think a lot of realms are definitely suffering from the opposite right now, mine included. It used to be whenever anyone went to my server forum and asked how it was, someone would immediately respond with “Argent Dawn is full, go away.” Now? AD is definitely not full. Horde side it’s actually a bit like a ghost town. Do I miss having tons of people around? Absolutely. And I actually think that you could probably get away with having a lot more people playing per realm than is allowed now. I used to live in a pretty well populated part of Brooklyn, but it was still a cozy enough community that the pizza place knew who I was and the guy who ran the bodega I went to knew the name of my dog. I knew a lot of people just by passing them on the streets every day.  But millions of people? At that point, you’re cramming the population of a city into a very small space, and I don’t want my play experience to feel like going to Times Square filled with tons of people I don’t know and who I will likely never see again. And I can’t even imagine the nightmare that it would be on PvP realms. While it would be great for them (I guess) to have more open world PvP, stuffing multiple millions of people into one place just seems like a constant gankfest. Barrens chat would never be clear of “The Crossroads are under attack!”

I think the idea of having four realms per region is an interesting one. It would definitely make the world feel more “real.” But I’m not really sure that’s what the game needs. I’m not sure if I want to deal with real world levels of competition in a game I use as a break from reality. I’m not sure if I want to deal with an auction house with that many people using it.  I’m not sure I want to see only four guilds in a region getting server firsts. I’m not sure I would want to deal with not being able to get away from people who piss me off because the only other choice is to play on a realm type that I don’t enjoy. I wish my realm had more RP and had some more  stuff going on with my faction, but not at the cost of those other things.

Check out some of the other responses to this topic from around the community!

It’s Sunday. I just wrote six pages of the current RP story I’m working on and feeling a little brain dead now. I was scrolling through my folder of screen shots, looking for images that I can use on posts that I have planned for this week, and came across an image that I made for an RP event for my guild. I’ve always really liked it. I thought it would be fun to use Sundays to post weird little memories of this game, since I missed blogging about them as they happened. Going into the vault, if you will.

My guild has a long history of RP. It was one of the original RP guilds on Argent Dawn, with a focus on troll RP specifically. Back in those days, I’m told they would do epic troll marches through Orgrimmar, STV, and to the dancing troll village in Darkshore. During BC, my guild expanded into a five guild family, divided by race. The troll tradition stayed strong, and there was an interesting bit of drama between them and the newly joined Blood Elves. During Wrath, the guild changed again, and all five of the guilds were brought under a single guild tag, both systematically and metaphorically as well. This is when I became a member of the guild. Cataclysm brought a change in leadership and a new guild tag, but the foundation of the guild remained the same.

While we’re an RP guild at heart, we do a lot more than that now, and raiding tends to dominate guild activities. But we still care about lore and we still like doing RP events, though we’ve been woefully bad about such things as of late. I’m  hoping that Mists will bring back a return to interest in RP. I know that I personally found Cataclysm’s story difficult to RP around, and the idea of exploring all new worlds is incredibly appealing to me.

Despite the lack of structured RP, we did do an event last year that was definitely a nod back to the foundation of the guild. All of us got onto our troll toons and met in the troll section of Orgrimmar. After a quick scene, we walked through the city and out into Durotar, eventually ending at the Echo Isles. It was my dear friend Bim’s idea to do this event, and we decided to get people interested in doing troll RP (our guild tends to looooove blood elf stuff and not much else) we would make up a neat graphic for it, almost like a movie release. Since I’m the resident graphic designer for my guild, I got to have a lot of fun making up the invite for this one.

I have to admit that when I get to design stuff for WoW, I really enjoy taking a break from the rules that consitute good design. I get to use weird display fonts and all sorts of layers and filters that I wouldn’t touch in for professional work. It’s a bit like blogging in that way that I can kind of just let my mind do whatever and not worry about what I’m supposed to do. This invite was so much fun because I got to do lots of that sort of thing!

It started with the screen shot, which I thought was really beautiful. I usually play with my graphics set to remedial since I have an aging computer that tends to freak out when I ask it to do anything too complicated. So it’s always fun for me too see how beautiful the landscapes in WoW really are. I tend to forget about that with everything set on low all the time.

Pretty as the image was, it just didn’t feel like it was enough, so I added some decay to it, layering over a decomposed graphic that I use for a lot of things, including the background and header for this blog. That still didn’t feel like quite enough though, so I started researching more textures that I could add in. I started looking for artwork that would fit the trolls islander flare, then looked at Mayan and Aztec designs as well. None of that seemed to fit. After a bit more searching, I found some Maori graphics that I thought would suit my purposes perfectly, and layered them onto the landscape. The result is shown above, and to this day it’s something that I still think is pretty cool.

Here’s hoping that Mists will bring new fun opportunities for RP and good excuses for me to make event invites like this again!

I did something today that I might come to regret.

I’ve never really loved the name of my main toon. I chose it because it seemed like it suited her, and didn’t give much thought to it beyond that. Over the years of playing WoW, her name has become my name. But it doesn’t suit me. I don’t like it when people call me that. And so today, I forked over the $10 for a name change. And now I feel guilty about it.

My main is almost the first toon I ever made. I say almost, because there was one other toon before her, a night elf druid with the name of Faylina. I instantly fell in love with this character. I liked her long purple hair and her athletic looking body. Her name suited her well, and it suited me too. I’ve long used variations of my middle name, Faye, as identities online, and I didn’t see a reason for WoW to be any different there. As I ran through Teldrassil, I felt a wonderful connection with this character, even though I didn’t know much about the lore of Warcraft or anything about MMOs in general. I was just looking for an escape into a pretty fantasy land for a few hours, and I thought I had found it.

A few days later, I told my friend I started playing WoW, and he said something to the effect of “No, don’t do it! Save yourself now! Don’t let yourself get sucked in by that game.  But if you’re going to play, roll up a horde character on Argent Dawn.”

“Horde?” I asked. “But if I want to be a druid in the Horde, don’t I have to be one of those weird cow things?”

“They’re Tauren!” my friend replied, sounding quite put out by my words. “And they’re the greatest race in WoW, totally noble and honorable, and…hang on, I’m going to re up my account.”

Since the prospect of having a friend to play with was far too tempting, the next time I logged in, I switched servers and went to Argent Dawn and then clicked on the tauren for the race selection. I chose druid again for class, of course, and then I stared at the bovine avatar, a little line probably appearing between my brows.

“You are not a Faylina,” I told her. “Faylina means graceful fairy or elf. You are none of those things.”

The name that I was so fond of didn’t suit this new character, and it felt wrong giving it to her. I wanted to RP in WoW. The whole reason I started playing was that I wanted a creative outlet again. I didn’t know much about these tauren things, but I could see from the background on the character selection screen that it looked like they were part of some sort of Native American culture. My then boyfriend (now husband) is of Native American descent, so I really wanted to do the right thing for the culture. This character couldn’t be Faylina. She had to be something else. I went to a wiki about WoW and read about the Tauren and their culture and their language. I read that:

The language of the tauren is often harsh and low sounding, which is reflected in the names of their children. The last name of a tauren is usually a family name, handed down through the generations.

So I sat there typing out names, choosing to start one with a K, since that sounded harsh and I tend to just like names that start with that sound. Another site had suggested that female names have “round” sounds in them, so I thought O’s would be the way to go. And after messing around for awhile, I finally came up with Koloma. It suited the character. Ko seemed like a cute nickname for her. And most importantly, the name was actually available on the server. I hit done and zoned into the world, blinking at the plains of Mulgore and trying to decide if I liked it compared to the pretty night elf forests I had left behind.

Having a friend to play with was a good draw though, and so I stumbled my way through Mulgore and then the Barrens, leveling slower than I’m fairly sure anyone has ever done before. My friend eventually met up with me, playing a cute little blood elf paladin girl, and I felt a little jealous of how…not clumsy his toon looked. But I was getting used to my tauren girl, even if she did look goofy when she ran or emoted.

A few days later, I got a text from my friend.

“Hey,” it said, “Were you being unintentionally hilarious, or did you know that Koloma means ‘snort’ in the Makonde language?”

“Uh….” I replied. “Unitentionally hilarious, but that kind of fits, huh?”

We both laughed about it, and a few days later, I made this picture.

What I didn’t realize when I gave my character this name was that it would eventually become my name as well. WoW is my first MMO, and so I didn’t really understand things like instances or raiding, or that eventually I would be talking to people on Mumble and they would actually be calling me Koloma out loud. For her, the name is perfect. For me, not so much. When people talk about Koloma doing something, there’s always a disconnect there. It doesn’t feel like they’re talking about me. It feels like they’re talking about my awkward but awesome tauren druid whose name means “to snort.”

I came to realize that forcing myself to be Koloma felt just as wrong as forcing her to be Faylina. It’s not fair to make either of us be something that we’re not. And so I went searching for a new name, one that would suit us both. I looked up actual Native American names, ones that I could modify to include a little bit of myself. After searching through, I found two that I thought would work, Aiyana and Ayasha. Fayana, I discovered, is a name for some sort of fanfic shipping couple from some supernatural teen show that I have absolutely no desire to be attached to. Fayasha, on the other hand, seemed safe. I quickly reserved the name on my server, and then sat there for a month, trying to figure out if I really did want to change it. For some reason, changing Koloma’s name made me feel guilty.

Okay, I know she’s just pixels. I know that she doesn’t actually exist and have feelings. But for whatever reason, I feel like I’m betraying her somehow. It’s why I didn’t turn her into a troll, despite generally liking that model better. I can’t even change the color of her fur to get a different cat when I’m in kitty form. How did I think I was actually going to be able to change her name? She and I have been through so much together! We survived Barrens chat and the Scourge invasion before Wrath dropped! We experienced our first pug and discovered the need for a decent guild! We found that a mix of rest, cat, and balance talents do not make for a good leveling experience and then found out about the wonders of dual spec! We killed the Lich King! We killed Deathwing! I’ve written stories about her! How could I go and change her identity like this?

But in the end….I’m not Koloma. I’m me, and I want her to reflect that too. Fayasha seems a good compromise, and it’s not that hard to go back and replace Koloma for Fayasha in her stories so she’s still the same character.  And rather than “to snort,” Ayasha means “little one.” It’s ironic and appropriate, because in our raids, my druid is always the tallest toon, yet in real life, I’m probably much shorter than all of the people I raid with.  So despite the weird guilt I felt, I typed in the name, then loaded up WoW and  stared at my toon for a little while, trying to imagine her in game. “I think we can both be Fayasha,” I told her.

And with that, I hit the “enter world” button, ready for both of us to be ourselves.

This week’s  Blog Azeroth’s shared topic post from  comes from Dragonray of Azerothian Life:

Are you starstruck by anyone? Does someone in the community respond to a post or a tweet and get you all speechless because they actually responded? Is there anyone you are waiting to have respond directly to you? Is there someone that you would like to chat to, but are too chicken? Am I the only one who puts other bloggers on a pedestal?

I’m having a bit of trouble answering this one, mostly because I don’t really blog or tweet enough to be noticed too often. Also, I feel slightly creepy admitting my fangirl moments over bloggers because well…I don’t want them to think I’m going to come and stalk them. I’m not! I swear! I just like your writing a lot.

That said, I actually did have a fangirl moment one day on Twitter. Allison Robert, the druid writer from WoW Insider, tweeted about something. I responded, and low and behold, she actually tweeted back! We then had a little conversation about tanking and how I shouldn’t be afraid of it, and I promised her I would attempt tanking that week (I didn’t).

It was a cool moment. I’ve long admired her writing on WI, and her articles usually cause me to crack up laughing at least a few times while I read them. She was the one who made me aware of the beauty of feral staves and got me attempting to collect them long before transmogrification became a thing. I probably have her to thank for love of druid T6 as well.

It’s interesting to think that getting a tweet from her caused a little fangirl moment for me. I feel like most bloggers are pretty normal people, probably not all that different than me. Okay, some of the awesome class bloggers are definitely better at math than I am, but for the most part we’re all just regular people who like to geek out about WoW enough write about it. I’ve always found the real life/internet life dichotomy to be an interesting one, and I think it’s fascinating to see what people both present with their online persona and what others may take away from it. There are people whose writings I read or podcasts I listen to that I think “I bet we could be friends if we knew each other in real life.” And then I feel creepy. 😉

Bloggers and podcasters tend to be an interesting kind of “celebrity” because through their writing and shows, it’s very easy to feel like you know them on a personal level. But there’s a weird disconnect there because they don’t know you. And I think that’s where this feeling of being a little starstruck can come from, regardless of the fact that these  people are probably for the most part normal with very normal lives.

In the end, people you admire tend to go onto pedestals, regardless of whether you know them or not. One of the guys I work with is an incredible leader and inspires people every day. He’s absolutely on a pedestal for me, and getting good feedback from him can lead to just as much of a starstruck moment as getting a comment from a blogger I admire, even though I know the guy. Maybe being starstruck is more about recognition from people you admire, rather that just being about people who are famous. Maybe it should be called Admirestruck. 😉

Anyway, on the off chance that Allison reads this, seriously.  Not creepy. I just really like your writing. You don’t have to worry about me showing up holding a boombox over my head or anything. 😉

ICC vs DS: Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Icecrown Citadel and how Dragon Soul compares.

It’s the end of the expansion, and my raid team has suffered accordingly. It’s hard to get together enough people to do a raid, and when we do enthusiasm ranges from “blegh, let’s just get through this” to “I would rather walk across the burning sands of Uldum barefoot than run this raid again.” In fact, the most fun raid night we’ve had recently was probably when we blew through Ulduar in search of transmog gear. Ulduar has long been my favorite raid, and I never liked ICC quite as much. Yet now I find myself wishing for the days of slugging through those frozen halls.

I’m trying to figure out if this is just a rose-colored glasses situation, or if there’s actually a good reason for me to be hating on Dragon Soul so much. I know some people like the raid, so I guess I’m missing something about it. Or maybe the raid is missing something for  me, even beyond the obvious things like difficulty and lore. Why is it that I’ve been thinking of convincing my team to go back and run t11 for achievements (when I seem to remember loathing t11 too) rather than go and run the current stuff again? Maybe it’s just that whatever the current tier of raiding is, I hate it.

But that’s not it. I loved Ulduar, remember? Then again, I was only really a sub during Ulduar, so many I enjoyed it so much because I wasn’t often in there, and when I was it felt really special. However, I also enjoyed Naxx, a raid I ran many times, and didn’t feel as much frustration for it as I do DS. Naxx was my first raid though (I started playing shortly before Wrath launched) so perhaps that’s why I have fond memories for it.

That’s why I keep coming back to ICC. By the end of Wrath, I was sick to death of that raid and never wanted to see the inside of it again. But I was also raiding on two raid teams back then, and due to staffing issues, I very rarely was able to bring in an alt while others were. So I was a tad resentful. But still, we kept raiding up until Cata launched. I’m seriously questioning if that’s going to happen in the months waiting for Mists. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down the two raids to figure out what is about them that make them feel so different to me.

So what’s the difference, really?

The scale of epic

ICC felt epic right from the start. You walked into the creepy citadel…which had been there looming for the entire expansion…and it felt like you were about to do something epic. There was Tirion and Garosh waiting for you, and in the distance you could see undead prancing about, ready to chew your face off. Once everyone was ready to go, we started battling our way through trash mobs that actually provided a bit of a challenge and interest. And then you got to Marrowgar, a crazy looking monster pieced together from the bones of a thousand vanquished adventurers by the Lich King himself.

Dragon Soul started out well enough. Running up to break the siege at Wyrmrest Temple seemed like a pretty epic thing. But after battling through the relatively easy trash, you get to Morchok. After walking all over him, Wyrmrest Temple is apparently safe and you run in there and then ride on a series of drakes to different holes in the ground, then you just kind of get moved around to fight a few bosses and eventually Deathwing.

It’s a personal preference, I realize, but I like raids and dungeons that feel like I’m fighting through something to get to my goal. Being carted around by dragons and portals doesn’t feel epic to me. Trash that adds very little personality to the place doesn’t feel epic to me. And man, eight bosses for 7 months does not feel epic to me at all. I really do understand what they were trying to do with the raid. I understand that it’s supposed to be a siege and that we’re chasing down Deathwing. But for me, it just doesn’t work.

I would have much rather the temple already been partially lost so we had to fight through some sort of modified Wyrmrest temple to get to the top, dealing with trash and bosses along the way. And then once we got to the top, we could have fought Ultraxion then gone immediately to Deathwing. No need for a Lootship or random Tauren guy that has absolutely no previous lore. No need to go to nondescript holes in the ground. No need to go to the Eye of Eternity. Just a battle to get to the top, and the actual feeling of a siege. Sieges should be about attrition. Not by killing one elemental dude and then saying “Huzzah! We have secured the fortress! Now let’s go to some holes in the ground!”

The story

One of the things that ICC did very well was wrap up some existing story lines from Wrath. Bringing down Saurfang nicely brought the Wrathgate story to a close. Playing through the Blood Wing gave us another chance to fight the Blood Princes, and if you did the Quel’Delar questline, gave you a shot at the Blood Queen and saw the end of the san’layn story. Bringing down Sindragosa was a huge moment in lore. And then there was the Lich King himself, a figure who presented himself to you over and over throughout the expansion and made you realize just how bad he was and have the urge to kill him. Even if you didn’t play Warcraft 3 (which I didn’t). Throughout ICC there was a good mix of villains we had seen before, and ones who were entirely new to us. It made ICC feel like a place where we were already invested in the story and given more along the way to remind how bad LK really was.

Then there’s DS. We have random elemental guy, random old god tentacle guy twins, random shaman, random dragon creation, random tauren, then Deathwing. Of these, it’s my opinion that Ultraxion is probably the most successful at telling a story. We know that Deathwing has been experimenting with new dragons, and so seeing him there actually does give you a sense of his “greatest creation.” Why his greatest creation is followed up by random tauren guy  is beyond me…

But man, there are some wasted opportunities here. To me, Hagara is the biggest one. Why introduce an evil shaman that has little to no lore and therefore offers little satisfaction to kill, other than the chance at finally upgrading your damn shoulders from the freaking justice point ones that you’ve been using since Cata launched? The dungeon journal says this about her:

Hagara, one of the first students of arcane magic under the Forsaken, showed surprising potential for one who had started learning so late in life. But in her undisciplined attempts to bind elementals into servitude, she was ensnared and twisted by the Windlord, Al’Akir. Now fiercely loyal to the Twilight’s Hammer, Hagara binds others for her elemental masters to torment.

That’s great, and it sounds like an interesting story, but it’s not represented anywhere else in the game. I love the dungeon journal, and I think it’s a great addition to the game, but if Blizzard is going to just use it to shoehorn in bosses without giving them any depth in game, I just can’t get behind it.

I think the reason this kills me so much is because there’s already another female shaman in the game who is completely evil and had a HUGE impact on Cataclysm already. Not to mention the fact that she’s been around since Vanilla as well….

I’m talking about Magatha Grimtotem here. I will fully admit that Blizz could have plans for her that we don’t know about yet. But seriously, it has always felt like we should have been fighting her here instead of random orc lady. She killed a beloved faction leader. She has been obviously evil forever. She leads a group of tauren that enjoys fighting the Horde and had some dealings with the Alliance in Stonetalon. Yeah, she was captured by the Twilight Cult in Thousand Needles, but that just adds for more story. Was the capture a fake? Was she corrupted by them? Had she always been in league with them? Did she figure out that aligning with them was most beneficial to her? Fighting her would have been a chance to finally tie those story lines up.

It would have given a huge sense of accomplishment, something that DS just seems to be lacking in most ways. The final raid of the expansion should finish telling the story of the expansion. Dragon Soul feels so sloppy in that regard that it just makes me sad. They spent all this time redoing 1-60 to tell the story of Cata, and they did a great job with it. Even if the 80-85 questing didn’t feel as good to me, there should have been stories and lore in this raid other than Thrall the Supershaman. And honestly, if more time had been taken to make sure that was being accomplished, I probably would have cared more.

That’s it for this time. Next week I’ll talk about some of the other glaring differences I see between ICC and DS, including difficulty and art assets. I’m trying to keep from getting too ranty, but I might lose it there. 😉

This week’s  Blog Azeroth’s shared topic post from  comes from Frinka of warcraftstreet.com:

What is the nicest thing another player has ever done for you in-game?

Oddly, I can sum up this question with an object from the real world. It’s a replica of the leaves of the Callery pear tree that survived the 9/11 attack in New York. I have this ornament hanging right next to the computer that I game on, and it symbolizes pretty much why I love WoW.

When this topic was posted, I tried to distill which moment in WoW that I’ve experienced was the “nicest.” The one that made my day or just gave me a smile when I needed one. And then I realized…I can’t just boil it down to one moment. The nicest thing that anyone has done for me is bigger than a moment.

I was very lucky to land in the right guild for me on the first try. When I see people talking about bouncing around guilds or having trouble finding the right one, I have trouble relating. I’ve been in only one guild since I joined WoW, and unless something really drastic happens, I can’t imagine leaving. The reason for that is the amazing friends I’ve made there, friends that I consider every bit as “real” as the best friend I’ve had for for 17 years. These are people who see me as a real person, not just a badly pixelated giant cow woman that is healing their face off during a raid.

They’ve done amazing things for me that are game related. They helped fund my epic flight when I was struggling to scrape the gold together to do it. They helped me get the freaking School of Hard Knocks achievement when I suck terribly at PvP and was tearing my hair out over getting that horrible thing done. They’ve mailed me the gold to get a mechano-hog, and come with me on runs through old content in search of that damn piece of transmog gear that won’t drop. They have written epic stories with me and been nice enough to draw me amazing pictures of my toons.  They are, in short, amazing guildies.

But that’s not what makes them so special.

What makes them special is that in addition to being great guildies, they are absolutely true friends as well.  They’ve stayed up late with me at night to talk about issues in my personal life that I haven’t really been able to discuss with “real world” friends. They send me texts to make sure I’m doing okay when they know I’m going through a rough bit. They helped to kickstart my creativity after it had been largely smushed by the stresses of becoming and adult after graduating college. Even after one of them quit the game (and broke my poor goblin’s heart!) he still checks up with me, even signing into Diablo after he heard that I had to put my dog to sleep to make sure I was doing okay. These people aren’t just guildies. They are friends. And that’s the nicest thing anyone has done in game. Being a true friend, when it’s so much easier to pretend that there isn’t a real person behind the computer. I think that’s the most that anyone could ask for from anyone else in WoW.

Koloma, with her “eat your damn food” face, drawn by Torolf

And then there’s that ornament up there. Over the winter, I had the chance to meet one of my fellow officers when she came to visit New York with her husband. We had a fun day of walking around NYC, doing the tourist thing, and finishing out the day with a visit to the 9/11 memorial. At dinner afterwards, she passed something wrapped in tissue paper across the table to me, and I was rather shocked to see that ornament within. She explained that it was a thank you for showing them around, and it meant she noticed as I was looking at it at the gift shop. I might have teared up a little, and whenever I see it, I smile. And it reminds me of just how lucky I am to have met such an amazing group of people through this silly video game.

But that’s just how my WoW friends are. They listen, they notice, and they act any other friend that I would have in the real world. And that honestly is the best thing in the world.

Tweaking my UI is by far one of the things I enjoy most about WoW. I love that the game gives so much flexibility on how the interface can look, and it’s something I very much miss in games that don’t allow for add ons. Actually, I think part of my issue with SWTOR was the fact that I couldn’t change around my UI. I was always happy to log back into WoW and see the  prettiness that was designed only for myself.

My love affair with UI customization began when my friend told me to download Bartender, Xperl, Quartz, and healbot to help out with my play. Over time, my UI has gone from something that I look back on and cringe to see to what it is today. I’ve been using my current UI since the launch of Cata, and I’m still very happy with it.

I’m a graphic designer by trade, with a degree in print design. I’ve never been interested in web or interactive design, so originally I found creating a UI a daunting task. After a lot of tinkering and failed attempts, I finally have a UI I’m happy with, and a process for creating it that I think, if perhaps not unique, is interesting all the same.

One thing we learned in design school was that we should approach all projects as a problem solving exercise. This is something I kept in mind while creating my UI. After seeing tons of beautiful examples on blogs and on the Add On of the Week column on WoW Insider (which this whole thing was originally intended for, but I was lazy about sending it in), a few things that struck me were that many of the very clean UIs felt a bit sterile and almost looked like something from a sci-fi game. What I wanted was a UI that looked clean but still felt like it fits in a fantasy game. I was pretty confident I could do this if I chose the right colors, typefaces, and textures to support my design.

The basic layout of my UI is fairly standard. Chat box on the bottom left, action bars bottom center, raid frames centered for my healers, and lower right for my dps. Once I was happy with the placement of everything, I started tweaking it so that it fit my goal of looking like it belonged in a fantasy game.

STUF unit frames and how it influenced my UI

I downloaded STUF after having used Shadowed unit frames for awhile. I instantly liked how much I could customize the look of it, and started playing around with creative ways to approach the look of my frames while still having the information I wanted. Not everyone will agree with me here, but I like knowing exact amounts of health and mana, along with percentages. I know a lot of people aren’t big on player portraits, but I wanted to see if I could include them in my unit frames in such a way that made them fun, and I’m really happy with what I came up with. And I love that STUF will let me use textures as a background on the portraits.


Those bar textures were what inspired me to add another criteria to my design. Along with looking like my UI could work in a fantasy game, I wanted to see if I could make it look feminine as well, without it looking like Hello Kitty puked all over my screen. The texture of the bars I used (Glamour 7) has some swirly stuff going on with it, and I decided to use that on all of my bars (Vuhdo, dbm, recount, omen, raven, and quartz all have the same treatment). To keep it from looking overly girly, I made the bars grey, and they fade to dark purple as health gets lower, and I echoed this by having the color of my KGpanels be a dark purple that fades to black. I like the purple also because it contrasts well with most of the settings in the game, so that it’s neither too jarring or too faded. It’s also my favorite color, so I enjoy looking at it all the time.  I kept my panels semi transparent as well so that I don’t feel like I’m completely blocking out the game world.

My next challenge was finding a typeface that would work well for my design. I’m a type snob (even wrote a 50 page paper about it for an independent study in college) but I recognize that in a video game, there’s a little more leeway for using a fun font. Still, the thought of using something as ugly as Comic Sans makes me cringe, and most of the fonts included with addons are pretty ugly as well. I looked around until I found a type called Sansation, and decided it looked appropriate for the clean, girly fantasy look I wanted.

What I love about all of this is that just by changing the textures, colors, and font that I used, this UI can go from looking pretty feminine to something that would appeal to a much wider audience. I will occasionally switch things around for different characters, just to reflect their character better.

Flourish with purpose

I like the idea of having fun UI elements, and wanted to include some on my UI but still have them serve a purpose. For my resto druid, I used Power Auras to create a way for me to track cooldowns and add some flavor to my healing frames. The little leaves that you see around the frames help me see when my Wild Growth, Swiftmend, Innervate, and Tranquility are ready to use. I also have an aura set up to help me track Harmony so I know when I need to refresh it.

For my paladin, I use Power Auras to tell me which seal I’m using, and the ring of words near my unit frames changes color depending on which seal I have on. The sun and time that are stacked with the Holy Power sword (one of the few elements from the stock UI that I like) help me track Inquisition to make sure its on and that I’m refreshing it at the right time. I have similar auras set up for all of my toons to help keep track of important cooldowns, procs, and buffs, and I try to match the style of the toon to the art that I use for the aura.

Despite liking the way that combat text addons like Mics look, I found ultimately the numbers didn’t help me during combat, and actually served as a distraction when trying to not stand in stuff, so I deleted them. In their place, I’m using Raven to track short term buffs and debuffs, along with target debuffs as well. Long term buffs still go up in the upper right hand corner, along with the mini map. I’ve moved the mini map to the bottom of the screen before, but I’m happier with it up top.

I changed the default colors on my DMB so that the go from gray to hot pink  and also made it so that the placement of the countdown bars would be in a place that I absolutely could not miss it, so I wouldn’t have an excuse to miss an important event during a fight. For my healer, having that go right about my healing bars was imperetive.

Vuhdo is my add on of choice for healing because of both its ease of set up and versatility. I keep this running on my DPS characters as well, and use it for utility spells that can help save the day.

Check out the gallery to see the UI in action:

No idea why the slideshow is cutting off the bottom of the images. Click to see the full thing!

Add ons used:
ArkInventory Because having super organized bags makes me happy
Bartender
BigBrother Helps me track raid member buffs among many other things
Chinchilla Map
DailyGrind Makes doing dailies less annoying by having auto accept and auto complete
DBM Don’t raid without it!
GTFO Has seriously helped so much. We ask all of our raiders to use this one so they know when they are, in fact, standing in fire.
GupPet I collect pets and mounts, so I love having this addon to help summon random ones.
HearKitty (on appropriate toons) Makes playing my rogue, pally, and kitty druid much easier with audio sounds to match combo points
KgPanels
LovelyLoot Skins the loot window. Purely visual and not needed. But it’s nice!
Masque (with Darion skin) Makes buttons pretty!
MogIt Makes it much easy to know where to look for pretty gear. I mean upgrades.
Omen
OmniCC Countdown timers on abilities. Have no idea how I ever played with this.
Opie Amazing ring ability replacement. I use this to access all of my tradeskills, auras, quest items, and more.
Outfitter I like this better than the default Blizzard gear management system.
PowerAuras
Prat It started with the stupid chant entry box window and not being able to shove it into the corner. Couldn’t handle it, so I had to replace it.
Quartz Cast bar management and more
Rarity Mount and Pet hunting tracker!
Raven Buff management
Recount
SLDataText Super simple data broker
Stuf Unit Frames
TidyPlates
TipTac tooltip replacement
VuhDo Healing!
WIM (with Everlook Skin) Turns tells into a tradition instant message window
WOWScribe This chat logger has been such a huge help to me. I raid a lot, but I also RP, and I love having a record of old RP sessions. As a guild officer, it’s super helpful also to have a record for when their are disputes in /g or /raid.

Therapy

Recently, I got a phone call from my dad.

“Kaiya’s not doing well,” he said. “You should probably come down and spend some time with her.”

Kaiya is my dog. For a list of reasons which I won’t get into here, she hasn’t lived with me in a few years. My dad has been an amazing caretaker to her, and loves her as much as I do. So that call…was not something I wanted to hear.

As it turns out “not doing well” translated to my dog having a quickly devastating decline, and in the space of about three weeks, she went from being able to run around just fine to barely being able to walk. Decisions were made, and it turned out my drive to spend time with her turned into a drive to say goodbye.

I loved this dog with all my heart, and seeing her so weak and knowing that I every second I was spending with her was one closer to sending her on her way was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And weirdly, what got me through it without completely losing my mind was this stupid MMO that so many of us love and are addicted to.

I sat on the ground next to her with my laptop in front of me and Kaiya’s head on my lap, feeling thoroughly depressed. And then without thinking much about it, I fired up WoW, deleted a mage I didn’t care about, and made  a toon of a class I’ve never quite been able to convince myself to play, a hunter.

Sure, I’ve started them now again. They usually stall out around level 20, and I go level another melee class. I’m not much for ranged DPS, and I don’t like pet classes either. Plus I’ve just met too many idiot hunters along the way that I couldn’t stand the idea of playing the class. But looking down at my sweet dog, I decided that the only way I could make it through those next few days without totally losing it was to have something to distract me. So I gave myself a goal. Start a hunter and tame a pet that looked like my Kaiya.

Throughout her life, Kaiya got a lot of attention from people wondering just what the heck kind of dog she was. Jindos aren’t well known in this country, and I spent a lot of time saying “No she’s not a wolf. Nope, not part fox either. That’s not actually biologically possible.” Still, she did actually look both somewhat like a wolf and somewhat like a fox, so I decided that in the hours I had left, I would level that hunter as much as I could, and hopefully get her the Red Worg pet.

Things don’t always go as planned, and nearing that night, I realized what I really wanted to be able to do was play for a few hours with this new pet and my Kaiya, so I could feel like there was some kind of bond there. So instead of the worg, I went and tamed a fox instead, which would look more like Kaiya anyway, if only it had white paws. Still sitting on the ground with my dog, I found a fox in Loch Modan, and as I hit tame, I held onto my dog’s paw. I promptly named the fox Kaiya and then went on my way, spending some more time leveling with WoW Kaiya as I gave real Kaiya belly rubs.

In the days following Kaiya’s passing, I didn’t really feel like doing much of anything. But turning on WoW and running around with fox Kaiya as a blood elf that looks suspiciously like me has, oddly enough, been a huge help. We’ve had fun romping through the Barrens, witnessing the events in Stonetalon, going back to the Barrens again, and now we’re in Feralas, a place I suspect real Kaiya would have loved. And sure, it’s just pixels on a screen, but my dog was there with me when I started this character and tamed the pet that looks so much like her, and it gives me a way to feel like I’m still with her.

I feel like a lot of times, people miss some of the great things this game can do while they’re busy worrying about what Blizzard is doing to their class or arguing about progression in their guild or dealing with jerks in random groups. But I’ve heard so many stories of “WoW really helped me get through this difficult time in my life,” and often times those difficult times seem much harder than my own. So I just wanted to say thanks to Blizzard for giving me this beautiful world to run around in with my dog at my side. It really has helped.

Most of the time, for me to care about a character, they must have a really good backstory. I can’t seem to level them otherwise. Fayliana’s backstory is simple. She was lonely. She found a fox locked in a cage, and it was lonely as well. A little more research told her that poor fox had been locked up for her entire five year life. Fayliana rescued the fox, and they became the best of friends.

…Maybe not the most creative of characters I’ve come up with, but it makes me smile all the same. Thanks again, Blizz.