standing at the back in my sissy robe

June 30, 2009

The Dangers of Cheap Laffs

Filed under: D'oh,Diversions — Tamarind @ 11:15 am

So this, post was going to be based on a “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” theme.  It was going to consist of precisely one joke, which I shall make now to get it out of the way because the deluge of trouble caused by the joke is actually far more amusing than the joke itself.

Here is the joke.

My WoWcock: let me show you it:

WoWcock

Yeah, I warned you it was cheap.  But it was going to have more of a build up, which would have made all the difference, I promise.  I was going to be all “admire the sleek and mighty beast that is my WoWcock.  Ta-daaaa!”

But, anyway, in order to facilitate this cheap joke, I took a lot of WoW screenshots last night.  My laptop was bought on the assumption of travel and libraries and Great Works of Genius, rather than obsessive MMORPG playing (yeah, who was I fooling) , so my screenshots always look like shite anyway.    But if you’re going to do a job – even if that job is taking pictures of a chicken in WoW – you should do it right.  I emailed the best of them from myself to myself, from the gmail account I use for the majority of my blogging to my actual grown up, I am a real person affiliated to an organisation email address.  So that, this morning, instead of doing any of the things I ought to be doing, I could instead wax eloquent about my WoWcock and post pictures of it on the Internet.

I don’t know in what world, at what late hour of the night, this seemed like even a remotely good plan.

Seriously, what is wrong with me?!

To partially account for my own rampant idiocy, I should emphasise that I’m not connected to the Ministry of Peace from 1984, or anything, so internet traffic and email is not what you’d called stringently monitored.

However.

If you email yourself about 20 large-ish JPEGs, all of which are called some variation on “wowcock”, (wowcock 1, wockcock2, wockcockagain, yetmorewowcock) it is liable to hit a few switches and cause even if the most lax and open minded of computer officers to raise a concerned brow.

I had a slightly awkward meeting this morning in which I found myself trying to explain firstly that I hadn’t been either virused or hacked and secondly why I was apparently trying to filter vast amounts of porn through the email system a world-leading university.

Or rather, that I was not.

“Oh no,” quoth I, “most assuredly, it’s not porn.  I wouldn’t do that.  I’m not that stupid.  I mean, err, I’m not into that.”

“Oh yes?” returned they, with a ‘pull the other one, it’s got bells on’ kind of look.  “What is it then?”

“It’s, um, it’s  … lots of pictures of a chicken. From World of Warcraft, which is often abbreviated to WoW.  It’s not like I was trying to say “oh, wow, chicken!”  Or err, “oh wow, cock!”  I should probably have named them chicken, really, shouldn’t I?  And maybe sent myself them to in lesser quantities.  Or maybe not at all.  Can I go now?”

So they looked at my WoWcock and, lo, did it look small and inadequate under the harsh glare of the Mean Computer Officer Who Hates Me And Now Thinks I’m A Total Idiot.

Credibility rating = 0.

Maybe even into negative figures.

But, on the plus side, I am flush in pictures of what I am now thinking of as my oh wow cock.

Nerfed

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June 29, 2009

Just lie back and think of Azeroth

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Soapbox — Tamarind @ 5:06 pm

I spent this weekend engaged in what I am secretly thinking of as grinding guild rep.  After all, I’m a firm believer in the notion that you can only get out of things what you put in (why does that sound like an innuendo when it comes out of my mouth?).  So I sewed bags, helped out with quests, was relatively talkative although in the fluffiest way imaginable (shudder) over Guildchat and (dis)organised a SFK run.  I was kind of hoping some of the people actually levelling would embrace SFK (assuming you could get your eager arms around it) but, as it was, it was me, M’Pocket Tank, and the twinked-up alts of 2 officers – which makes me suspect it might have been an Indulge This Crazy Person Who Wants To Spanner About Doing Old World Content I suppose We’d Better Because He’s A Guildie run.

Yep, yep, I might have just got a pity fuck from my Guild.  Sweet but I am all about reciprocal experience.

It was competent and not entirely soul-less; at least the druid-healer was giggly, and, my God, it was about a hundred and eighty times better than your average PUG.  The weakest link was probably, err,  me.  I was tanking and I’m not a natural tank by any means.  I think I have an Arnold Rimmer perspective on WoW – my role involves being in the nice white tent on the hill, sipping pungent seal whey (eeeew) and watching the battle.  Tanking is a bit too much like getting your hands dirty.  Nothing too awful happened on my watch – the healer got munched by a wolf from behind, while I was concentrating ferociously on what was happening in front of me (rookie mistake!).  But, to be fair, she didn’t come running towards me, shrieking “Get it off, get it off” which is the sort of dignified conduct that behoves a healer under attack, even if it’s only attack by midgies.

One of my first proper tanking experiences, her first time healing.  We both need to familiarise ourselves with our roles I think.  I need to maintain battlefield awareness at all times, she needs to take on like a hysterical hypochondriac more.

That worg, it’s looking at me funny! Heeeeeelp meeeee!

I stubbed my toe, I’m going to die!

Like I do when I’m healing.

Also, the first words out of the other guy’s mouth were (well, okay, I exaggerate, I think he might have said ‘hello’ initially) “this has been nerfed to hell anyway.”  To give him his due, he was a perfectly decent player and not in the least bit obnoxious, except for the unlucky triggering of my personal bête noir straight out of the pen.  We all know SFK has been nerfed.  We all know WoW isn’t what it used to be (but was it ever what it used to be, eh eh?) but, by all the Gods and little fishies, I am so sick of people sneering about nerfed content just when you’re about to embark on it.  I’m sorry to keep banging on about this and it’s possible I’m just over-sensitive to it these days but it really does drive me batshit.

I’m starting to think that maybe it’s just something people blurt out instinctively the way English people ask about the weather.  There you are, standing by the summoning stone, the silence is getting a little awkward so somebody says “this is totally nerfed man” and then you’ve got something to talk about for the rest of the instance.

Was it PG Wodehouse or Oscar Wilde who said that’s why men propose to women?  Because they’ve run out of conversation I mean, not because they’re standing around a summoning stone waiting to run SFK.  I don’t think Oscar Wilde played much WoW.  Although you never can tell.  He’d probably be a Tauren.  Bosie, of course, is a blood elf.  Talk about the love that dare not speak its name.  Mooooo.

The thing about whinging about nerfed content in the Old World is that, well, firstly it’s entirely pointless because, these days, the Old World is completely static anyway.  Blizzard doesn’t care about it any more.  It’s only looking to the future.  It might as well be called the Zombie World.  Or the World that Time Forgot.  But this means that it’s infinitely flexible.  Finding it too easy?  Why don’t you take off those heirloom shoulders, eh?  Leave the epic in the bank.  Still barely worth your time?  4-man it then.  3 man it.  Run it a couple of levels earlier.  Have your pet tank it, have the whole group run it naked, do it while your character is so hammered he can’t see straight, do it while you’re so hammered you can’t see straight, tie one hand behind your back.  Do whatever it takes to make it interesting again.  Because the content is still worth doing.

Just … don’t … whinge … about … it.

I don’t mind people lamenting.  I, too, miss the days when cc was a necessity not a hobby.  But the thing about lamenting is that it’s something you share.  You sit round the metaphorical campfire and sing sad songs about the death of instances.  It brings you closer together.  Talking about nerfs, on the other hand, is a way of emphasising distance and, of course, superiority.  It’s WoWcockery, plain and simple.  You turn up, you meet a new group of players and the first thing you do is whap out the WoWcock and slam it down on the table.  After that, how can a less experienced player turn round and say, perhaps, they haven’t done this instance?  How can you admit you wiped and gave up last time you tried it?  How can you say Arugal always mullers you.  He usually mullers me.  Even though I know exactly what he does, and exactly what to do about it, there’s still that wonderful (I’m using wonderful in its alternative sense of fucking terrifying) moment when you’re screaming “I’M WORGLED RUN AWAAAAAAAY!” over party chat, and watching in helpless horror as you start wailing on the fragile DPS standing next to you while Arugal points and laughs, and the healer on the other side of the room has eight different kinds of apoplexy.  Even though he’s a pitiful shadow his former self yadda yadda blah blah, I still consider Arugal one of the most interesting and challenging fights of the low level game.  Killing him always feels like a job well done.

Ultimately, there’s only one way to respond to the whapping of the WoWcock.  You have to get your own out: “yeah, totally, mate, I soloed this place with my 1st level rogue, armed only with a small knife for cutting fruit.  I remember when WoW used to be challenging. Pffft.”  And then two of you butt your WoWcocks together, like mighty shoveltusks locking antlers in the forests of Grizzly Hills.  Because that’s fun.  And never makes you look like a pair of pillocks.  Sigh.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, your instance run is now completely dominated by WoWcock (ouch).  Instead of actually enjoying himself – which I always thought a major aspect of playing a game (the clue, I reckon, is in ‘play’) – the Wowcock Whapper has to focus all his energy on keeping it up.  He can’t actually say anything, in case there’s a shadow of a possibility he might be wrong.  And he can’t do much in case there’s a shadow of a possibility he’ll not be awesome.  I wouldn’t care so much about the presentation of the WoWcock – if anything, it tends to remind me of a puppy off the lead for the first time, haring off into the long grass to return in huge puppy triumph with a stick it found or an abandoned crisp packet or a zombie foot or something – except it then just lies around, taking up space.  It doesn’t do anything.  You never get a WoWcock and then a blisteringly insightful analysis of the best possible strategy for taking Arugal with this particular group of players.  You don’t get a WoWcock and a discussion of the current levelling spec for druids.  You don’t get a WoWcock and good conversation.

You just get stuck with this player who expects to cruise tediously through the game on his own WoWcock, like a German tourist astride one of those inflatable banana rafts.gets

June 28, 2009

the demon on my shoulder

Filed under: Altaholism,D'oh — Tamarind @ 3:55 pm

Now the delights of the fuck off enormous dinosaur have worn of, Northrend is back to feeling like a bit of a slog so M’Pocket Tank and I have been playing it fast and loose with alts.  I’ve been trying to help my Girlcow with her self-esteem issues but I’ve also been running around a bit with my fire mage. And I’ve had to face up to something: I’m bad DPS.  I don’t mean I’m bad at DPS.  On the contrary, I’m great at it.  You want things chargrilled?  Flame-seared?  Reduced to pile of ash.  As quickly as possible?  Great.  Put them in front of me and watch the fiery death carnage.

But you know all those things you’re not meant to do when you’re DPS?  I do them.  I do all of them.   I know not to do them, and I know why you shouldn’t do them, and I know how annoying it is when people do them … but I do them anyway.  And I can’t stop myself.

But it’s okay, it’s not me.

It’s the DPS Demon.

It sits on my shoulder and it whispers to me while I play.

It say things like:

But you’re on a crit streak…

Your DPS is so awesome, the rules don’t apply to you.

It doesn’t matter if you pull aggro, you can handle yourself.

Just … one … more … firebolt.

I think I’m especially susceptible to the DPS Demon because if I’m not healing, I’m tanking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love healing (in a sick, twisted, Sid & Nancy, Zelda & Fitzgerald kind way), but it’s not what you’d call a thrilling role.  It’s an interesting, occasionally extremely stressful, quietly satisfying role.  Your tank may give you a “good healing, mate” as she emerges, battered, blood-sodden, grinning and miraculously alive from a battle but only another healer can really tell when you’ve been on top healing form.

It’s a lonely business, healing.

DPS, on the other hand, everybody understands.

If healing is a fine old tawny, aged to perfection over long years, DPS is a fluffy pink cocktail, bristling with cherries on sticks, umbrellas and twizzly straws.

Healing doesn’t really have a feedback loop.  It just has a sigh of relief when you look round and discover nobody has died.  DPS, though – it’s like the game itself is cheering you on by emblazoning your screen with a great big number.  Your great big number.  Your great big number of pure distilled awesome.  I have occasionally, when the DPS demon has been riding me hard, caught myself in the act of yelling “oh yeah, 4k crit!” at my computer.  When the buzz fades, of course, I feel like an almighty doofus.  But we all do it.

At least I think we do…

We do, right?  Right?

Okay.  Moving on.  Quickly.  Nothing to see here.

I think tanking and healing have been described have “the spine” of a group – which is fitting because, although they’re important, their role is primarily supportive.  Supporting the crazy Hawaiian shirt of DPS.

So when I’m neither tanking nor healing, and I’m iberated from having to worry about other people, I think I must go a little crazy.  But it’s the demon, I tell you, the demon.

It’s like when my free pyroblast procs.  Sensible thing to do?  Content myself with the fact it’ll proc again soon anyway and continue to act like a person with a fully functioning brain.  What I actually do?  Run helter-skelter round the world, waving my arms and cackling hysterically, until I find an enemy – any enemy mind you, or not even an enemy, or a tree, the back of a barn, or a small orcish orphan, anything – to throw my free pyroblast at.  Because if I don’t get it off within 7 seconds, that’s it gone.

I have to you see.  I absolutely have to.

Because it’s free, dammit, free.  Free!

And it’ll probably be a crit anyway…

And if it crits, then my next fireblast will crit as well.

And then…

Sorry, I think that was the demon talking again.

June 27, 2009

saturday frivolity

Filed under: Altaholism,Diversions — Tamarind @ 6:59 pm

Now that I’ve come out the girlcow lovin closet (it’s a platonic closet, okay) … I’m kind of worried about my shaman.  Look at the poor thing:

girlcow

You know what it reminds me of?  I’m no expert on the species (thank God) but it reminds me of when you see a group of teenage girls walking down the street together.  For reasons known best to themselves, they’re always wearing some kind of identical teenage girl uniform.  The girls themselves run the gamut of human difference but one of them is always, basically, a blood elf (and doesn’t she know it).  And the chosen teenage girl uniform seems to have been put together specifically because it looks stunning on her.  On the rest of them, however … not so much.  Really not so much.  It’s not that the other girls aren’t pleasantly proportioned or pleasing to behold – far from it, in fact, they’re all unique and special snowflakes if only they’d give themselves a chance – but because they’re ineptly jammed into the bloodelf teenage girl uniform, all that comes across is their awkwardness about not fitting what they perceive as the appropriate pattern.

I think this has happened to my poor girlcow shaman.  That getup is clearly designed for a blood elf – the skimpy trousers, the dodgy, midriff revealing top.  She looks like either she’s squeezed herself into the wrong dress size because she’s too embarrassed to buy the size that actually fits her (or, more generously, all her clothes have all shrunk in the wash).

My poor girlcow is the victim of body fascism.

Look how dumpy she looks.  I’m genuinely worried she’s going to burst out of those trousers.  And, to think, she’s a beautiful, sleek, perfectly honed specimen of girlcowness.  She’s just not a fucking size 6 blood elf.

I’m not sure she’s going to make it to level 20.  I think she’s going to spiral into self-hatred and bulimia.

Damn you Blizzard, oppressing my girlcow.  I should never have let her read that issue of Cowsmopolitan back at Bloodhoof Village.

June 26, 2009

Guild Woes & posts that made me go hmmmm

Filed under: Hemo,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 11:38 am

This post comes in 2 parts: the first is me wailing and asking for help, the second is cool things from the blosphere.  Take yer pick.

Guild Woes

Firstly, I have killed yet another guild just by joining it.  Gah!  Okay, that’s not a piece of fairy cake, the universe does not revolve around me, but I have such a tortured guild history that I’m starting to think I might be carrying some kind of relapsing-remitting case of Guilditus and spreading it unwittingly around Emerald Dream.  I suppose I have only myself to blame.  Irresponsibly joining lots of guilds without proper protection…  Off to Leather Lane for a dip in mercury for me.

I’m actually a co-dependent player in that I never play by myself.  I think I’d go mad with loneliness, mining nodes alone in Desolace as the sun sets, weeping softly about how nobody loves me.  So I don’t per se need a guild, but I’d like one.  WoW is, after all, a social space.  And it would be nice if I could PUG less.  Of course, I’m frivolous and not level 80 so that rules out most of the more structured and serious guilds from the get go.

So I joined my first guild at around level 40 just to see what it was like – I basically took a punt on a random recruitment.  But the recruiter seemed nice and, as it turned out, she was nice (she still whispers me occasionally).  Unfortunately she turned out to be the only nice person in a guild that was otherwise comprised of wankers and idiots.  I went through a stage of trying to be quite active, arranging instance runs, helping people out when they needed it, and so and so on forth.  But then I discovered that, in some ways, running instances with guildies is far more dangerous than PUGing.  If you meet a bad player in a PUG, you can easily and happily never see them again, unless by sheer chance you happen to walk past them one day when they have the misfortune to be on fire and then you can ostentatiously neglect to piss on them.  But if people in your guild are objectionable in some way, you’re stuck with them. Forever.  In guild chat.  Until /gquit do you part.

So, feeling increasingly dissatisfied, my eye took to wandering, my head to turning.   And all it took was a chance PUG with a really rather lovely guy (a hunter who was not a huntard – our ancestors be praised!) to induce me to try a new guild.  And for a while, the future looked bright.  I had friends again, guild chat was lively and entertaining.  Although, gradually it got quieter … and quieter … and quieter … and then, for reasons still not entirely clear to me, there was a schism.  Dum dum duuhhhh!  The guild split asunder: into one guild for characters below level 60 and one for characters above level 60. I was recruited to the latter and it was really fucking boring.  We were all having exactly the same experience of the game, the level 80s were running heroics and grinding tradeskills, we were all spread out between 60, with the majority clustered at 80, so there was no point trying to organise any instances.  And I was under a lot of pressure to get to 80 because I was, at that point, their only healer.  It was crap, crap and crap.

So I left.

Third (or is it fourth?) time lucky, I thought to myself.  I shall do research.  On the internet.   So I found a guild that seemed nice, reasonably literate and had a quite explicit anti-boosting policy (yay).  I applied, joined … and less than a week after, for reasons I still don’t fully understand on account of being guild clueless, the guild combusted.  I think it was partially due to tension between the inner circle, all of whom had reached 80 at about the same time and succumbed to endgame ambition, and the rest of the guild who felt excluded and bored by all the endgame talk.   Lots of people left, the guild leadership changed, there was angst, woe and politics and, presumably, sex, lies and videotape by the bucketload.  And the dust is still settling. Ho hum.

I haven’t left yet, more out of apathy than loyalty.

Oh blogsphere, I can has advice, please?  I know the Be In A Guild Theory (be nice, do things for your guild, be active) but the actual practice of it seems well nigh impossible.

I don’t intend to leave as I’m sure finding another guild would be just as traumatic and tedious, and I’d rather be, err, part of the solution than part of the problem.  So, how can I, as a guild member, help this guild become functional again – how do I actually engage with it at all?

I’ve never felt particularly involved, to be honest, but I’ve only been in it a month, and all relationships take time.  When I first arrived, guild chat was dominated by the inner circle and they were very much preoccupied with end game content; I thought perhaps I’d have more to offer when I hit 80 (which again, kind of defeated the point of joining the guild in the first place). Also everyone has a lot of alts, and the assumption is that everyone knows everyone anyway, so it’s relatively hard for me to keep track.  I’m not quite sure how to deal with his, other than making a spreadsheet and pinning it my wall.  This is a step too far.

I’m polite when I arrive and I’m polite when I leave, and people are polite back, but that’s about as far as it goes.  I have a generic impression of a few people being “nice”.  I contribute to conversations when I feel I have something to say which, to be honest, isn’t very often – I don’t think I’m quite ready to traumatise these people with, y’know, me.  I’m not a naturally sweet or bubbly person.  As this blog attests, I’m sardonic, mean and slightly pretentious, although I try not to let it come across.

If people ask for help, I give it.  I’ve some engineering for low level guildies, I’ve healed one of the people I conceive of as being “nice” through a couple of quests.  “Nice” is so damning.  It’s a word you use fo rsomeone when you can’t think of any other way to describe them, but don’t have ny reason to dislike them.  I’ve tried to offer help (Tam is actually a pretty decent enchanter these days) but nobody particularly needs or wants it.   Oh, and I sent somebody some arcane dust.  Go me.

There aren’t any events I could attend. Well, there’s a retro Kara run this weekend which would be awesome but I’ve never been in a raid in my life so I’d probably be a liability.  And, of course, it’s a bunch of 80s, and we know how I feel about polishing my nails behind level 80 characters.  I very nearly made it to an RFC run (on an alt, obviously) the other night but between me offering the services of m’self and M’Pocket Tank, and them saying yes to both, and us unpacking out our alts, they’d gone and filled up one of the spaces so there was only room for me.  I could have told M’Pocket Tank to bog off again – and I suspect, being a friend, she would have obliged – but that would have involved being rude to someone I actually care about for the sake of people I might potentially care about in the future.

I suppose I should get off my arse and actually try to do something on my own account – organise an instance run, perhaps.  But I can’t quite shake the feeling something is going wrong somewhere.  Help?

Posts that made me go hmmmm

Anyway, I’ve talked about myself for long enough.  Here is some coolness from the blogsphere this week:

Awesome on toast from Frost is the New Black in this post on  shedding labels. It’s one of those “what they said” posts, where you point at it and nod a lot.

From a while ago now, the Hardcore Scale from Artisan Level.  Like everyone else, I’m getting a little tired of the endlessly raging hardcore/casual debate now but I like the idea that hardcore is not just a thing you either get or don’t have, but a continuum of of play.

Another wonderfully sensible post from Falling Leaves and Wings (I link her so often, I think I’m officially some kind of treedruid fanboy) on Learning to Say No.  Not actually being active in a guild (see above – alas!) means that I have far fewer problems with this kind of thing than others but I am still, to an extent, The Healer Who Can’t Say No.  All it takes a personal whisper from a passing random and I’ll be there, sissy robe at the ready, often when I don’t want to be and there is on the other side of the world.  It’s something I find especially difficult to deal with it when I’m playing a healer.  I suppose it’s partly because healers are reasonably difficult to find so you’re aware that saying no might just kill the run wholesale and partly because the act of healing is, arguably, a kind of “giving” anyway but I do find it almost impossible to turn down a request for healing.  You’d think I’d taken the bloody Hypocratic Oath or something.

I found this post on The Well-Bred PUG over at Wild Growth a very interesting read, I think because it’s very balanced and also, astonishingly generous.  The standard reaction to a PUG is, of course, zomg!disaster and, although her experience was obviously far inferior to the guild runs to which she was accustomed, she does a really good job of analysing the differences and the problems without condemning them.

Finally,  your Friday dose of sheer nepotism.  Here is Temi on why she’s not impressed by the Argent Tournament.

Enjoy!

June 25, 2009

Glory to the Sin’dorei or ‘Some of the gayest people I know are straight’

Filed under: Real Men Wear Purple,Soapbox — Tamarind @ 3:33 pm

I don’t know quite how it arose but there was a conversation on Guild a week or so ago about, yes, that ancient fossilised chestnut: belves and their place in the Horde.  There were some fairly interesting comments, alongside the usual scintillating insights of: “blood elves are so gay!”  I remember there was a massive hoo-hah when The Burning Crusade was in development because they “de-gayified” the belves by making them go the gym more.  Strange.   But I always find the bloodelves = gay thing slightly peculiar (I’m going with “slightly peculiar” as opposed to “fucking offensive” which is the alternative).  And I know “gay” is essentially WoWspeak for “something I am too stupid to understand in its full complexity” (or, rather, “something I personally don’t like”) but I still think it underscores the implicit toxicity that pervades both the perception and communication of gender and sexuality in WoW.  So, we think blood elves are gay because they are feminine.  And we think they are feminine because they are vain?  That says dreadful things about our attitude to homosexuality AND women.  Way to go!

Seriously though (okay, this isn’t serious at all, damn).  Here is a picture of a male blood elf (in, I think Tier 5 gear):

belf

Now here is a picture of a famously gay person:

Ian McKellen

And, finally, (brace yourselves) here is an iconic figure of female fantasy embarrassment fantasy embarrassing fantasy from the 70s:

rogue

ARGH! MY EYES.  HOLY FUCK MY EYES.  And, oh my God, he’s even wearing a white swashbuckler’s shirt. PLEASE STOP THE PAIN.

But the point I’m trying to make is that there’s an extent to which, I believe, male belves were an attempt to tap into female fantasy, much more than they are to male.  (There’s been a slight logic leap but I think I’m presuming that if people think blood elves are gay, they must therefore appeal to gay men).  And I’m not just saying this because I don’t especially fancy belves.  But thinking about it in terms of pure logistics: you have 11 million people playing WoW.  10% of those are gay, 16% are female.  Assuming the 10% comprises some lesbians as well, you’re probably better off shooting for the 16%.  The fact that this leads you to create FABIO suggests a FAIL of different magnitude but still.

Most of the guildies who ‘fessed up to having belf characters did so sheepishly as if it represented a breach of WoW taste, which I thought was a shame.  The arguments arraigned against them – not connected to gayitude – were connected to the notion that blood elves did not fit in with the feel of the rest of the Horde.  Truthfully I find “the feel” of the Horde a little difficult to gauge.  I’m about to pin my geek colours to the mast here, but it reminds me rather of the presentation of the Klingons in Star Trek – half the time the writers can’t decide whether they’re violent psychopaths we should condemn or a members of a proud and noble warrior race we should admire for having bigger balls than us.  There’s certainly a fair quantity of moral ambiguity sloshing about in Azeroth, but there’s also a degree to which it’s ambiguity arising from inconsistency of presentation.  As  Hordie, you’re often yo-yoing between undertaking spiritual journeys, poisoning dogs, saving small cow villages from invasion, torturing people for information and, of course, rootling around in the interior of slain animals for their very important organs.   It’s hard to get any sort of fix on your own moral position at all – usually you’re someone who will do anything for XP and cold hard cash.  It’s that simple.

So ultimately, I don’t think it’s moral stance or campness of voice emote that unifies the Horde – it’s basically brokenness.  Thrall gathers up shattered people and gives them back their identity and their pride, and something to fight for and something to fight against (I love Thrall!).  Although, before the restoration of the Sunwell, the belves were half-mad magic-crack addicts with a being of pure light chained up in their basement (tsk tsk), they were also completely wrecked.  And it’s that which makes them, in some ways, more understandable as members of the Horde than, say the cows.

We’re told the Taurens feel a spiritual connection to the orcs, and to Thrall especially, but, of all the races of the Horde, despite the horrible things that have happened to them, they strike me as basically sorted in ways the others aren’t.  They are all stoic and forgiving after all.  Hmmm… maybe that’s why they weren’t at the Battle for the Undercity.  They were off on a team-building weekend with Cairne, singing Kumbayahs around the camp fire and trying to build bridges that could support a golf ball out of spaghetti and marshmallows.

Where was I going in this post, except Museville Central Spaghetti Junction.  Oh yes.  Races.  It’s interesting, isn’t it, what appeals and what doesn’t, and why.  Having spent 75 levels following M’Pocket Tank’s twitching derrière through Azeroth and byeond I can state for dammit certain I wouldn’t play a female belf if you paid my subscription to do it.  It’s like being stuck in a war with Alicia Silverstone.  Gah!  But I have none of the rather violent aversion to male blood elves that others in my guild seem to evince.  I rather like Tam, and at least I can see past his arse which was one of the prevailing problems with my cow druid.  On the other hand, find the Alliance races both aesthetically and imaginatively unappealing as a general rule… instinctively rather than for some well-articulated reason.  On the other hand, I’m crazy about girl cows.  I don’t know if this is some over-identification holdover because my first character was a male Tauren, who was presumably into them himself, but I do think they’re rather pretty.  I’m not saying – for the record – that I’m hunched over my keyboard, dreaming of a sweet female Tauren mooing in ecstasy beneath me or anything.  I just like their pigtails.

Okay.  I have to get off this post before it goes over a cliff.

June 24, 2009

the tell-tale head

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin — Tamarind @ 1:59 pm

True –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine (fail friend, actually) developed a whim to go take down Onxyia for old time’s sake.   I was well up for this, being just a glint in Blizzard’s eye when regular expeditions were being undertaken to Dustwallow.  However, it soon transpired that “take down Onyxia” meant strolling in there with his level 80 uber raiding resto druid and a level 80 uber raiding deathknight tank, while I stood behind them in my sissy robe and … what?  Polished my fingernails?  Watched them be awesome?  Tried not stand in fire?

The thing is, I could very much see why it might be fun to be either the druid or the DK – if anybody deserves a good bitchslapping it’s Onxyia, and there is a low and dirty pleasure in just steamrollering stuff because you can.  But the role of admiring observer is devoid of anything even remotely approximating fun.  I can understand why boosting happens – if you’re grinding for a particular item, or it’s absolutely the only way you can get to do the instance, or maybe if you’ve run the thing eighty thousand times and you’d rather impale  yourself in the eye with a rusty teaspoon than do it again – but I don’t understand its popularity.  I mean, I’m a lazy person, I support other lazy people in their laziness but being boosted, or for that matter giving boosts, is so unspeakably, toe-curlingly boring.   To be a good boostee, you have to do absolutely nothing and you have to maintain this state of doing absolutely nothing very very carefully indeed.  Because if you do anything you’ll upset the delicate balance, pull aggro and get chomped.  And the only thing more tedious than boosting someone is waiting for your boostee to corpse-run so you can press on with the tedium.

Kahleena over at Feldeeds wrote a rather nice post on this exact subject a while back, and I remember slash-cheering in my head because I didn’t feel so alone in my boost-hating universe any more.

There seems to be this weird conflation in the average WoW player’s head (and to be fair, the developers seem to subscribe to a similar perspective as well, as evinced by their nerfing strategies) between seeing content and experiencing content.  I’m not saying WoW isn’t a beautiful and exciting game, and I’m not saying the sun setting over Thunderbluff doesn’t warm the cockles of my bitter little heart, but it’s not a fucking Rembrandt.  You can’t just stare at it, you have to be a part of it.

To give my friend due credit, I think he genuinely thought he was doing me a kindness in taking me to see other people kill Onxyia and, for the sentiment, at least, I’m touched and grateful.  I didn’t want to spit on what I perceived as benevolence so I let myself be persuaded and, nail polish in hand, off we went.  I think if I’d actually been a participant, it would have been quite something. I’m always childishly delighted by huge, awe-inspiring monsters and dragons are quite difficult to do successfully.  It’s not so much a graphical thing, or even a scale thing, but a dragon should make you feel, just a moment, as though the sheer mythological weight of thousands of years is pressing directly on your heart.  Tolkien, who was also crazy into dragons, said rather famously that the dragon in Beowulf wasn’t quite up to scratch (not dragon enough for him, apparently – I’m not kidding) but the way he articulated it, in his slightly pretentious, 1920s Oxford academic way, was this: “the conception approaches draconitas rather than draco.”  What I think he’s getting at (maybe) is that dragon-ness (draconitas) is an abstraction of the truth of draco (dragon).   I think you can pretty much evaluate any dragon you encounter, in literature, in art, in computer games, in Duswallow Marsh, by that first moment when you see it and all you can think is: dragon.  Or possibly “ohshitdragon” if you can spare the breath. For me, at least, Onyxia passes the Draco Test.

This being so, it was kind of tragic to see a level 80 DK hammer her into the floor without breaking a sweat.

There was, of course, a bumper load of out-dated loot and epics, some of which, I’m sure, would have been floggable regardless.  And, of course, Onyxia’s head.  Which my friend insisted I take.

As, what?  A trophy?  A glowing testimonial of my ability to stand around?  Go me!

I didn’t really want it, but I couldn’t refuse without being grossly impolite to two people who just thought they were being nice to me.  The least I could do, under the circumstances, was bring myself to be grateful.

“Thanks,” I said, shoving an enormous decapitated dragon’s head into my back pocket.

The worst of it is, I’m still lugging the fucking thing around with me, more than three weeks later.  I know there’s a quest attached to it but I genuinely don’t feel like I deserve to do it.  Maybe I’m just being over-sensitive (I tell you, I am not mad!) but  I get a blaze of guilt and shame every time I open my bags and I see that accursed head staring accusingly up at me with its dead, probably decomposing eyes.

I don’t know what to do with it.  And I have no floorboards beneath which to bury it.

I don’t want to do the quest because, well, I only like to take rewards I’ve earned.  I don’t want to delete it because that seems disrespectful to the people who gave it to me.  I don’t want to put it in the bank because that just seems absurd somehow, although banking in WoW is inherently absurd anyway.  “Good morning Sir, I’d like to deposit 20 bolts of linen, a blunderbuss, some silver bullion and a baby polar bear.”

But even in terms of WoW banking, I think an enormous (soulbound) gore-covered dragon’s head that’s been draggedn the length and breadth of Northrend takes the biscuit.

Sigh.

You know … I think it’s looking at me.

Stop looking at meeeeeeeee!

June 23, 2009

Saving my faith in PUGs one zombie at a time

Filed under: D'oh,Sweets for the Sweet,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 11:32 am

Since yesterday was basically not-especially condensed whinging, I shall try to be positive today.  Putting aside disastrous friend-runs, I’ve actually been quite lucky with my PUGs lately.  There was, of course, the neophyte pally and her undead mentor who whisper me fairly regularly these days, usually to heal UK, although I have now run UK so many times I’m actually bored of the damn thing.  I can spam CoH with the best of them.  To be honest, it’s partially vanity on my part because they make me feel loved and appreciated.  It does have an air of “ahaha! A healer!  We shall keep him!” but, of course, I’m already seeing a tank, so it’s slightly awkward.

Wouldn’t want to make M’Pocket Tank jealous.

I’m thinking back on an old(ish) Misneach post about tank/healer chemistry and it’s kind of amusing to see it  filtered through PUGs.  I mean, if you take guilds to be established social networks, into which newcomers are carefully introduced, LFG must be a sleazy bar for desperate singles.  In LFG, the drinks are cheap and plentiful, it’s always after midnight and there you are, always the detritus of the evening; it’s either take what you can get or spend the empty, grey hours till dawn loving angels instead.  So you gyrate up to the least-troglodytic of your fellow discards:

“LF Healer?” you bellow over the terrible music, squinting in the unflattering pink wash of the disco lighting

“Naw, DPS,” he/she replies, disinterestedly

“I could off-DPS,” you offer, with a winning, eager smile.

“Pffft.”

Rejected.  Scorned.  Not quite spat upon.  There’s nothing for it but to approach the second least-troglodytic of the rapidly dwindling crowd and repeat until your soul dies (or you manage to put a run together).

And some of the tanks you hook up with are clearly only in it for the healz, and they don’t care how they get them, or from whom. But some of them, I think, aspire to a better life.  They still have romance in their hearts.  They want to meet not just a healer but the healer.  They don’t just want to a run an instance with you, they want something a bit more stable, a bit more meaningful, maybe something regular.

It’s a little bit tragic really.  There should be some alternative meeting system for lonely tanks looking for that perfect healer, and bitter, burned out healers searching for someone in platemail to save them from themselves.

Sounds like the premise of a WoW romcom actually…

“Darling,” he said tenderly, “from the first moment I saw you blundering through the Scarlet Monastery in quest greens I knew there was something special about you but it wasn’t until you healed me through the steps of ZF that I realised you were bind on pick up.”

Sorry.  This is an absurd flight of fancy.  How did I get here?  What was I talking about?  Who am I?  What am I doing?

Oh yes.

Several successful PUGs.  I am very happy.  M’Pocket Tank and I have fallen in a with a warlock from one of Emerald Dream’s more (supposedly) hardcore raiding guilds.  We ran AN and the weekend and DTK yesterday.  AN is a pointless hole in the ground but nobody told me there was a fuck off enormous dinosaur in DTK.  I am completely converted to Northrend instances.  Yes, I am that shallow.

I don’t know what was wrong with us but we ran DTK like a bunch of spanners.  There was self, M’Pocket Tank, a deathtard, a hunter and the warlock.  The hunter was shockingly, amazingly competent.  And the Deathtard turned out to be 14 but was very sweet and, actually, by no means the worst DK I’ve played with.  I think that says damning things about the class as a whole.  But basically we were all off our game.  M’Pocket kept accidentally body pulling.  At one point, I blinked and when I’d opened my eyes again I was a big glowing blue angel and everybody else was dead.  Did I fall asleep on the job?  The warlock committed suicide while opening a can of beer and spamming Rain of Fire on a large group of mobs (there’s a moral in there somewhere, kids).

We got through it through and the whole experience was actually, bizarrely, gigglesomely fun.  There was a lot of banter and a lot of apologising and lot of not really playing any less like spanners.  But it does go to show that whatever magic spark makes an instance a genuinely pleasant experience isn’t necessarily quantifiable. If someone had told me at the outset “you’re going to run an instance, and you’re going to play like a spanner all the way through” I’d have surely gone “errr, sorry, I think I’ll pass.”

The spannering zenith (or do I mean nadir) came when I was squealing happily at the fuck off enormous dinosaur and it somehow seemed like a good idea to suggest that the hunter try to make a pet of it.  I will generous take 25% of the blame for what followed but I think the hunter deserves at least 50% for agreeing to it and the other 25% of blame can be apportioned to the rest of the party for egging us on.

I’ve never seen a hunter in action but the plan, as I understood it, involved the hunter making sweet sweet love to the fuck off enormous dinosaur while I kept her alive. Fuck off enormous dinosaurs apparently like it rough.   But, anyway, the flaw in this otherwise sound and watertight plan was this (I suppose you’ve already spotted it – and I like to think I’d have spotted it myself if I hadn’t been in the grip of Spanneritus):  healing, of course, generates threat.

So was happened was this:

Hunter: So … what’s a nice fuck off enormous dinosaur like you doing in an instance like this?

King Dread:  ROAAAAAR!

Me: Renew, flash heal, flash heal, greater heal SQUISH.

Hunter: So … do you maybe, y’know, wanna come back to my place and catch a Doug McClure movie… SQUISH.

I guess King Dread just isn’t that kind of fuck off enormous dinosaur.

June 22, 2009

the fallacy of WoW machismo

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 3:44 pm

I dithered for a while about writing about this because the blog was certainly never meant to be a space for the airing of personal grievances.  But then I thought ‘what the fuck.’

The background:

M’Pocket Tank and I have a couple of alts in the early-to-mid sixties, a boomdruid and a warlock, a combination that makes getting any instance just about impossible.  Tank + Healer looking for DPS will usually shake a couple of guys out the woodwork but 2 DPS Looking for Tank, Healer and Maybe Another DPS – well, you might as well give up and retire to Hillsbrad. I can, of course, off-heal a bit but he’s a boomdruid to the depths of his little cow heart. He doesn’t want to be healing.  He wants to be blowing shit up for nature.  I did try to respec him but he was a small, sad cowtree and didn’t like it much.

The sensible thing, I imagine, would be to give up and simply levl to 80, noob, but M’Pocket Tank and I are really into instancing.  It’s our favoured way of playing. We have a long and not entirely glorious history of attempting instances in a fashion other than the generally prescribed one so we looked at the problem from all possible angles and decided to embark on an experiment to see whether it was actually possible to DPS our way through an instance, with a mixture of heavy firepower, off-healing and, of course, pretty major crowd control.

(For the record, the conclusion is very definitely with the right team, a modicum of intelligence and enough care – and it’s an experiment I’d like to try again someday)

Two of us definitely weren’t enough and, rather than trying to a recruit a random who would likely find the whole premise as mad as box of hair, I convinced a friend of mine to bring the frost mage he’s currently levelling along for the ride. The same friend who poo-pooed my Magister’s HELP I HAVE NO ACRONYM Terrace run.  Not, perhaps, my brightest ever idea.  But, “we’ll have all the cc and all the DPS in the world, the voidy can tank, it’ll be fine,” I promised, glibly, “it’ll be fun.”

We settled on BF as not likely to be impossible and, after one humiliating wipe, found our rhythm. But what really killed the run stone dead, put a stake through its heart and then spat on its corpse was the fact my friend kept banging on and on and on about how BF had been horribly nerfed and this was way too easy.

“We’re 3-manning a 5-man instance,” he kept sneering, as if the fact we could rendered the whole experience beneath contempt.  “I remember when this was challenging.”

Well, gosh, is there any more fun you’d like kill to while you’re at it?  Here’s a balloon animal, why don’t you pop it?  (M’Pocket Tank did some research afterwards and it turns out that BF has been mildly nerfed but ultimately it’s always going to be quantitatively easier than it used to be simply because players now have access to additional tiers of talents.)

The thing is, M’Pocket Tank and I weren’t attempting to 3-man BF at level with 3DPS classes because we wanted to add length to our WoWcocks.  It was never going to be the kind of thing you take a video of yourself doing, and send along to the Website Formerly Known As WoW Insider.  We were doing it for the interest, to see if we could and because it struck us as being fun way to spend a couple of hours in Azeroth.  Having a member of the party constantly undermining the value of what we were doing, well, put a bit of a damper on things to say the least.  Eventually all pleasure had been ruthlessly sucked from the experience so we gave up.

I suspect a part of the reason we took against his whinging as badly as we did was connected to the fact the run fell right in the middle of the great divide between PUGs and friends.  Usually I go into a PUG with no expectations whatsoever.  I’m anticipating moronity.  Any advance on that is a blessed bonus.  But you expect to be able to relax with a group of friends.  In short, you acquire standards.  Confident of not being pissed on, you put down your umbrella.

I genuinely don’t know what he was trying to achieve by constantly wanking about how doing BF Meant Something In His Day, other than making us feel rubbish I mean.  It wasn’t like we were going to immediately fall to our knees in worship of his mighty WoWcock. All it did was reinforce the idea that he wasn’t in any way interested in playing the game with us, preferring instead to use it as opportunity to insist upon  his superiority.

Also, I can’t help but think he’s rather missed the point of instancing.  It’s always been easy.  It’s designed that way.  It’s not raiding.  The point of an instance, surely, is that any sensible five dudes should be able to walk in there at level, wearing what they’re wearing, and do it.  The hardest thing about instancing is assembling the five sensible dudes.  Instances fail because people can’t play their class or work as a team, not because of the challenges within the instance itself.  The other thing, I think, that speaks well for the design of instances across the Old World (I am less impressed with Northrend, as we know) is that they’re flexible enough that you can essentially substitute 3 guys who know what they’re doing for 5 guys who don’t.  We 3-manned our way through most of the Old World – and in some ways I actually prefer it.

The other thing I think this mess illuminates is the fallacy of WoW machismo.  The things for which one tends to rack up WoWcock points are often the things least earned.  For example, being 80 is an automatic extension to the WoWcock but any doofus can do that just by walking across Azeroth, whacking pigs on the head.  Similarly, face-rolling instances because you’re either over-level or over-geared: sign of WoW potence.  Using CC in instances that might otherwise be challenging for you: sign of wussiness.

Where BF was easy for it, it was easy because we were using heavy cc.  On our first attempted pull, I didn’t spot an imp and we got mullered in less than twenty seconds.  In fact, the whole tragic wipe could be encapsulated in: “mind that imp, what imp, splat.”  Essentially BF was either  impossible or  simple depending on whether or not we applied very basis strategy to it.  But to my (ex?) friend being able to suceed through care, attention and liberal deployment of cc was somehow less skillful, less worthy than whatever he’d done the first time round to make it feel difficult.

June 21, 2009

Goth of the lichking

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Diversions,Real Men Wear Purple,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 9:55 pm

I do have some irritated, semi-serious things to write about but I like to reserve weekends for fluff and frivolity.

So let’s talk about the gear in Northrend.  No, no, I don’t mean the stats, I mean the important stuff.  I mean, how it looks.  Last weekend I posted a picture of Tam sporting his most deadly off-hand weapon yet.  I think part of the reason the pretty bouquet looks more absurd than usual is because the rest of his get-up is so Very Dark and Serious.  He looks like Valentine’s Day at the Inquisition.

Say it with flowers (and pilliwinks).

Since then I’ve actually been playing quite a lot, meandering rather than slouching towards 80, the upshot of which is that my entire outfit has pretty much turned over.  Unfortunately, this also includes the pretty flowers, which have been replaced by … well … some kind of dildo?  Anyway, horror of the off-hand item aside, Tam now looks like this:

tam again

Spot the difference?

No.  Neither can I.

I’m not seriously pining for the days of the Outland clown suit and I know there are different design principles underlying Northrend gear (everything goes with everything, I think?) but I’m sick of looking like I bought all my clothes from Alchemy Gothic.

Once you hit endgame, you obviously want to look as cool as possible, especially in the shoulder department, the bigger the better, oh yeah, if they don’t look like a psycho’s bonsai collection something has gone horribly wrong. I swear to God those Aged Pauldrons of the Five Thunders look like they come with cup holders.  But I actually believe one of the diversions of levelling is the regular turn-over of utterly ludicrous outfits.  You know, the gimpy helmet, the blue trousers that look like they’ve shrunk in the wash, the nerdy sandals, the bright orange arse-length cloak, combined with a midriff revealing shirt in alternating purple and green stripes.

And very, very occasionally it would all come together and, for a brief shinning moment between level 42 and 45, by pure luck, you’d somehow contrive to look like you hadn’t got dressed in the dark without your thumbs.

Aaah.  Those were the days.

I remember fondly the sweet moment mid-instance when some awesomely powerful piece of blue loot would drop (awesomely powerful for level 35 at least) and you’d click need with trembling, excited fingers.  And then, yes, joy of joys, it would be yours.  Yours!  And gleefully you’d equip it, ready to take on all the world … only to have the rest of your party fall about laughing at the ridiculous figure you cut.

I’m not in the habit of taking WoW-screenshots (it feels rather like taking photographs of yourself, i.e. a bit vain and weird) but here are a couple of Tam from his “glory” days of sartorial desperation.

This was a particular disaster – damned if I can remember what it was, I’ve probably erased it from my mind for self-protection.  Weirdly immodest and impractical, to say nothing of the dungaree-style Noddy buttons.  No wonder Tam looks so pissed off.

Naked Robe...dear boy!

And this is the famous sissy robe.  And there is a Tam, resplendent and really very very purple, a man entirely comfortable with his masculinity.

WoWScrnShot_112408_235909

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