standing at the back in my sissy robe

August 4, 2009

glyphs and why they suck

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Soapbox,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 10:32 am

In news unconnected to WoW. I think I might I have swine flu. I have a special number given to me by the special pandemic hotline (we have a pandemic hotline? Holy fuck!) in order that I may receive anti-swine flu medication from the government. I feel kind of bad, but not bad enough not to be bored. Also I wish it wasn’t called swine-flu. Firstly it sounds way over-dramatic (pigsniffles, if you please?) and secondly it sounds basically unhygienic. As if Fair Tamarind in pigsty lay… (poetry NSFW, and I assure you I’ve been doing absolutely NOTHING with pigs, or in pigsties). So you’ll have to forgive me if my comments sound like I’m stoned on anti-pigsniffle meds and my posts are a bit more unfocused than usual.

I’ve recently been on a glyphing spree and I’ve realised something.

So, glyphs right? I hates them, precious.

I am not, however, debating their utility. They are extremely useful. That’s kind of part of the problem. They are so unarguably, indisputably useful that you’re pretty much obliged to have them in order to play your class effectively. While you’re levelling, enchanting or gemming or any of that other stuff is a bonus. It’s nice if you can get it but since you go through gear so quickly anyway it’s not a necessity. But that’s not the case with glyphing. Not having the right glyph in place is the equivalent of not having spent a couple of talents points or having forgotten to visit a trainer (not that I ever do that, oh no, not at all, ahem). Whereas having a decent enchant or a gem is a fortuitous improvement, not having a glyph is actually a hindrance.

Glyphing is basically an arms race.

Every other holy priest with half a brain at my level has the glyph of Guardian Spirit. Thus they are a better a healer. And no matter how inspired, quick-moused or intelligent my healing may be, they still have a basic, mechanical advantage that I’d be a fool not to take for myself. So I have to have the glyph of Guardian Spirit.

What’s ostensibly in the game to give you a greater degree of choice and customisation, is, in practice, extremely restrictive. Basically all glyphs fall into one of the following categories:

Glyphs That Are So Useful You Can’t Not Have Them

For a holy priest, these would be the Glyph of Flash Heal, the Glyph of Renew, the Glyph of Prayer of Healing and the Glyph of Guardian Spirit. Ultimately which selection of them you have (oooh, mighty choice, 3 out of a possible 4, wow, I’m so glad for this increased customisation) is basically dependent on your playstyle, how you use renew, whether you’re single-target healing more, or AoE healing more, or if you’re neurotic about Guardian Spirit.

Glyphs That Would Be Nice But You Will Never Use Them Because of The Glyphs That Are So Useful You Can’t Not Have Them

So, for a holy priest, these might be something like the Glyph of Power Word: Shield (although this probably goes in category 1 if you’re a disc priest), or the Glyph of Inner Fire, or perhaps the Glyph of Circle of Healing. Again, it would be really nice if you could tweak your skills to suit your style but ultimately there’s no point giving yourself the Glyph of Inner Fire to make yourself more durable if you could instead give yourself a 10% mana reduction in your most used healing spell.

Glyphs That Remove a Regent Cost

I genuinely don’t see the point of these. I’ve got a couple because they tend to be minor glyphs and there’s rarely anything better to do with minor glyph slots. I’ve got the Glyph of Levitate for Tam which basically means I spend an inordinate amount of time standing on one leg in the air … because … well … why not? And I’ve got the Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth for my druid. But the availability of glyphs to remove the reagent cost of spells, especially when the reagent is readily available from vendors, seems to merely render said reagent cost pointless. If the fact the spell costs a reagent isn’t actually balancing anything (because if it was you wouldn’t let us remove it) why is there in the first place? Huh?

Special Occasion Glyphs

So that glyph of Fear Ward. Yes, it actually makes fear-ward semi-viable but how often, seriously, do you use fear ward? Enough to deny yourself a 10% mana reduction in your most used healing spell. Didn’t think so. I suppose these glyphs would be worth it if you were going into a fight, a raid maybe, in which your primary function was keeping a nasty de-buff from settling over the group. In which case possibly you’d temporarily replace a Useful Glyph with an Occasional Glyph, but you’ve still got the problem of what you’re going to replace.

Glyphs That Actually Make Your Class Less Interesting to Play

Hello Glyph of Swiftmend. Fancy seeing you here. This is the most egregious example I can think of. I love the way druid healing works. I love the fact it’s different to pally healing and different to priest healing. I love the carefully balanced ticking HoTs. What the Glyph of Swiftmend does is remove an interesting tactical decision and replace it with a bog standard, instant cast healing spell. Thanks Blizzard. But, again, you can’t not have it because a boring instant cast healing spell that doesn’t consume a heal over time effect is better than an interesting one that does. M’Pocket Tank’s lock informs me that the Glyph of Conflagrate is similar.

Glyphs That Are Completely Useless

Of which they are too many. Glyph of Fade anybody? I’m sorry but if the tank didn’t get what was attacking off you the first time round, being able to cast fade again more quickly won’t help. You’ll need the Glyph of Not Having A Tank That Sucks. Or there’s the Glyph of Drain Soul which gives you something like a 1% chance of getting an extra soul shard sometimes. Woot! Or what about the Glyph of Consecrate – the glyph that makes one of your primary abilities fit less well into your rotation.

Minor Glyphs that are Disproportionately Useful

So you have our friend the Glyph of Fade which reduces the cool down on something that you shouldn’t have to use more than once per fight anyway. Compare that to its precocious little brother the Glyph of Fading, which reduces the mana cost of fade that one time you use it. Not only is this actually better than the major glyph but it’s better than quite a lot of other minor glyphs. Given the choice of being able to stand on one leg for no apparent reason whenever the whim takes me and my 1-off emergency button costing me less mana, I know which wins my vote.

Ultimately I think glyphs just don’t fit comfortably with the way we play WoW, and the way WoW is designed to be played. Essentially each class has a relatively narrow core of primarily abilities on which they rely, surrounded by a much wider selection they use on specific occasions. Naturally glyphs which buff the former are fundamentally better than glyphs which buff the latter. It doesn’t help that Blizzard doesn’t seem as though its been able to settle on the function of minor glyphs. Currently they range from the absurdly pointless (yes, please, improve my Eye of Kilrog!) to the pleasing but cosmetic (I love you penguin!) to the actually genuinely useful (ah, my old friend, glyph of fading). Either they have to be purely cosmetic or purely functional. You can’t balance one against the other because although players love customisation and will go to great lengths to attain what you might call luxury glyphs ultimately the nature of the game means utility will always trump aesthetics.

As for major glyphs. I think we’re just fucked.

I will say this though. There is one major glyph I like. It’s the Glyph of Fireball. This removes the DoT effect of your fireball spell but ups the crit chance by 5%. I think this offers you a genuinely interesting tactical proposition, but not such an overwhelming advantage that you cannot be a fire mage without it. The glyphed fireball does less damage overall but if you’re reliant on crits for procs then it’s a sound investment. It just depends how you’ve specced your fire mage.

Isn’t it this kind of thing that glyphs were meant to do?

July 18, 2009

You can’t take my tree from me

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Soapbox — Tamarind @ 2:49 pm

There’s been quite a lot of talk recently about potential changes to druid shifting. Having only recently embraced my inner-tree I’m surprised at how emotionally invested I feel in, well, being a tree. Normally, I’m not that into druid-shifting, to tell the truth, which is a stupid thing to say when somewhere along the line I chose to play a fucking druid.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I’m really into the kind of shifting that the developers seem to want to move more comprehensively towards. I’m into … I don’t know quite what to call it … utility-shifting I suppose. Less for the utility, though, than the aesthetic. It makes me genuinely feel like a druid. You know, when you’re running for the boat to Booty Bay and the bell is ringing and a bunch of level 80s Allies are sneering at you from the deck and you know you’re going to miss it and they’re all going to laugh at you and you’re wondering, shit, should I get on my mount or will that just waste time … and then you remember, and you hit travel form and suddenly you’re a speeding leopard and, dammit, you’re on that boot. Oh yeah! And ya boo sucks to you, Alliance. Or when you’re somewhere really pretty like Ashzara or Stranglethorn Vale and you stumble across some moonlit pool in some forgotten glade. And then you can turn into a walrus and splash about happily in it, with the silver moonlight gleaming on your silver tusks (sorry, that’s a Dragonlance injoke). My cow loves being a walrus. No idea why, it’s just one of his little hobbies.

It’s that sort of stuff makes me feel like a druid, in the way being a cat, or a bear, or a fucking moonthing doesn’t. But I don’t actually think it’s connected to the way the shifting mechanic works, I think it’s just sheer flavouring. But then I also think that maybe it’s the flavouring that tends to make the different overall. What, after all, is meat without salt. So, ultimately, I’m not certain that trying to make the major forms work in a less “I’ll just spend my entire time in this dungeon being a bear” way is the answer but, hey, getting wound up about impending changes that may or may not happen is a mug’s game. And I have Arthas: Rise of the Lich King to shred… or I would, if I hadn’t let go and moved on.

Mind you, it’s also about what you turn into. I’m glad they’re customising the forms a bit (and, hurrah, not making cow-cat form look like arse, thank you Blizzard!) because that, for me, has always been one of the major irritations of druid shifting. I suppose the fact that once you get into progression raiding and everyone looks the same anyway, it dents the impact a bit but while you’re levelling you often look different to other people and that’s great. You are a unique and special snowflake. Cowflake. Whatever. But having to spend a large portion of your time as a bear that looks exactly the same as every other bear is, well, just a bit disappointing. Especially if the blue Trousers Of Not Looking Like They Shrunk In The Wash have just dropped.

The exception to this, for me, is tree of life. I just love being a tree. I think it’s utterly absurd but perhaps that’s why I love it. I’m often a tree when I don’t have to be a tree, just for the sheer delight of being a tree. I don’t think I’m ever going to lose my appreciation for the sheer incongruity of it. Tree, checking its mail. Tree, in the AH. Tree, just chillin in Org. Tree! They always give me the impression of being quite stressy. I think it’s the waving branches and the anxious way they waddle around. Oh noes, someone is taking damage! Action tree!

Okay, this post, which was meant to be a quickie, devolved very rapidly into random thoughts on druid shifting. But the point of it was: having recently, err, gone tree (how on earth do you express that? Got wood? Maybe not), it has crystallised for me, once and for all, how much I fucking hated moonthing form and how glad I am never to have to be a stupid, shambling slightly overweight, moon-bear-owl-thing again. Ever.

In my neck of the woods we call it Brian Blessed Form. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brian Blessed. I think he’s a great man, and a fine actor, and I wish him well. But I don’t want to be him. No matter what he does to my critical strike chance. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here, I shall prove it by means of a simple pictorial demonstration:

While in this form the armor contribution from items is increased by 370% and all party and raid members within 45 yards have their spell critical chance increased by 5%. Single target spell critical strikes in this form have a chance to instantly regenerate 2% of your total mana.

While in this form the armor contribution from items is increased by 370% and all party and raid members within 45 yards have their spell critical chance increased by 5%. Single target spell critical strikes in this form have a chance to instantly regenerate 2% of your total mana.

IS THERE ANY MAN IN ROME WHO HAS NOT SLEPT WITH MY DAUGHTER???

IS THERE ANY MAN IN ROME WHO HAS NOT SLEPT WITH MY DAUGHTER???

I rest my case.

July 6, 2009

We may not have to atone for evil doing until the next world but we pay for stupidity in this one

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now about ignorance in WoW.  Gosh, that sounds like a portentous introduction to what is actually a rather simple topic.  I guess I shouldn’t have weighed in so heavy with the Schopenhauer.

Anyway.

When it comes to instance bosses (and raiding, from what I’ve read, looks even worse), the way WoW works a lot of the time is that if you don’t know how the fight works in advance you’ll probably fail.  I think the notion behind it was originally that you’d learn by doing.  Shamus Young characterises this sort of gameplay as Do It Again Stupid and, although it’s the kind of gameplay that drives me mad in single player games, there’s a degree to which it works moderately well for WoW.  I mean, sometimes, you get what’s going on and you muddle through by sheer luck and a bloody minded refusal to lie down and die.  And if it’s been a smooth run I often quite enjoy the first post-boss corpse run in which you’re all typing at about hundred miles a hour: “okay, we take out the healer first,” “yeah, yeah, and when he mind controls, if you use entangling roots, then we should be able to moderate the damage,” “I’ll off-tank the adds” etc. etc. It feels genuinely exciting.  There’s nothing duller than a fight you know you’re going to win.

But, sometimes, going in cold and hoping for the best is not what you need.  Maybe it’s been slightly tense, maybe it’s past your bedtime, maybe your shield is flashing yellow, maybe your tea is getting cold, who knows.  In which case you can alt-tab and look it up, or somebody can talk you through the fight.  But the point is, in order to make a decent go of things, you really need the knowledge.  Not only knowledge of the forthcoming fight, but knowledge of who amongst you knows what.

The amount of times, I’ve stood there at the top of the steps of ZF watching the tank who said he knew exactly what he was going go charging straight down to the bottom and get torn apart by the gazillion trolls.

Now I realise that there’s no obligation present in the game to act as an educator to all and sundry, but equally I’ve noticed a widespread contempt for ignorance which makes it genuinely difficult to admit it if you haven’t done something before. Just on principle I usually do – I don’t want to be the guy who fucked everything up by not coming clean.  And if I had a gold piece for each time someone has sneered at me for it … well … I’d have some gold pieces.  Similarly, if I had a gold piece for every PUG that crashed and burned because somebody didn’t have a clue what they were doing and wouldn’t admit it …  well … I’d have some more gold pieces.

Ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity, or even being a bad player.  It’s just a natural part of the learning curve, and it becomes a hugely problematic one if other players sneer and bitch at you for it. It’s like PUGing in an Orwellian dystopia, where nobody dares say anything lest they another player turn them in to have rats stuck to their face.  I suspect it comes down, like everything else, to WoWcockism – but quite frankly I think you’re trying to add inches to it by deriding other players,  it’s beyond the help of science or religion.

I remember when were running AN, the warlock who was leading the group, took about 2 minutes before each boss fight to outline it for li’ll ignorant me.  And I really really appreciated it.  Not only was I a super effective healer of a fabulousness but I feel pretty confident about running the thing again.  The first time I do an instance, I consider it pretty much my duty to learn it and that’s a whole lot easier if it doesn’t go past in a blur of bewildered panic.

Anyway, before the final boss, the lock was running us through the strategy and the local deathtard, who was bouncing all over the place in what was either an orgy of impatience or desperation to go to the toilet, suddenly interrupted.  “Strategy,” he said, “1) Pew Pew 2) ??? 3) Loot.”

“Is 2) a wipe” asked M’Pocket, dryly.

Which, I think, says it all really.

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 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 15, 2009

casual hardcore

There are been a slew of interesting posts over at Spinksville about the dumbing down of WoW and the problem with supposedly hardcore players PUGging like a bunch of tards. The problem, I think, lies less with the social, the casual and the hardcore (all of which are relatively arbitrary distinctions anyway) but with the vast vile realm of the group of players M’pocket tank and I call Wannabe-Hardcores.

I will address this claim more directly in a moment, but let me take a minute for a more personal perspective.  My WoW history is a strange and twisted one.  Let me show you it.

I started playing initially because a group of my friends were and I’m the sort of person whose mother was always saying “if they jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff as well?” (well, is it a cool cliff,  huh, huh?)  I blundered into a few people in my early days WoW, all of whom were tremendously cool and, given their long history of serious raiding and guild-leading, utterly hardcore – although I was, at the time, far too naive to recognise what that actually meant.  I still rather think it was the equivalent of the Pope wandering across The Village Idiot and talking to him a little bit about God.  This was my introduction to the strata of burned out hardcores who were kind and generous enough to gently teach a wide-eyed young cow how to play the game (to this day, I kind of wonder what they got out of it – I can only hope I was fun to teach). So between people I already knew and these wonderful people, my early days of WoW were blessed and golden, and we shall not know their like again, my friends.

/mourn

With my first character, I was boosted through a couple of instances so I could see stuff and lay my paws on a few blues.  Yes, it’s a trifle mindblowing the first time you see a level 70 warrior, decked out in top tier raiding gear, tanking the entirety of the steps of ZF but, basically, I didn’t get it.  I didn’t think I was interested in instancing.  But, somehow, on Tam, I was persuaded to give it another go.  I can’t actually remember the instance we ran, but we ran it at level, in a group of friends and new-found friends, M’pocket tank tanking and me healing.  And oh my God, it was a revelation to me. I’d never had so much fun in WoW.

Needless to say, it took a long time.  There was a fair amount of frivolity anyway, just general chat, mocking each other’s comical-looking gear, commenting on the bosses, the enemies, the scenery.  And we dissected strategy on pretty much every single pull.  But we had a tank who’d never tanked, a healer who’d never healed.  On the other hand, the leader of this valiant team was regularly leading 40 man raids so I guess he couldn’t have found it too much of a challenge.

In this fashion, we ran most of the Old World instances.  Sometimes we ran them in black tie but that’s a boast for another time.

However, as is the nature of things, time and life moved on.  The group faded, sputtered and finally died.  And now there’s just me and M’pocket tank left.  And a while ago I had to make a choice: either stop playing WoW or get used to a different kind of WoW.  I went for the latter.  There are advantages and disadvantages.  I have, I suppose, flown the nest.  In some respects I’m a better player now that I’ve faced the world unprotected.  I was so damn proud when I bought my first epic mount with money I had myself earned.  And I am, at least, playing the same WoW that everyone else is playing, instead of some summer dream tinted wonderland in which everybody is articulate, witty and knows what they’re doing.  But I miss that group.  And I miss the friends.  And I miss the days when trying to run an instance wasn’t like dangling your naked feet in a piranha-infested pool hoping against hope to have them caressed by a dolphin instead of devoured in a blood-fest frenzy.

What I’m trying to establish here is that I’m a casual player.  There.  I said it.  Spit on me, if you dare.  I always have been, and I always will be.  What it doesn’t mean, however, is that I can’t play WoW, or that I won’t be an asset to an instance.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t, or that I don’t, take the game “seriously”.  That’s a loaded word, isn’t it?  What does it actually mean, to take WoW seriously?  It is a game, after all, and the idea of taking a game seriously seems almost oxymoronic.

Does taking it seriously mean power-levelling to 80 in two days?  Does it mean raiding every night?  Does it mean always having the best gear for your level?  Does it mean, in essence, not having any fun? (not that I’m saying for a moment that those are not  legitimate ways to play the game).  Or does taking it seriously mean being too hardcore to admit any pleasure in it?  Does taking it seriously mean hurrying through every instance, refusing to use crowd control or marking?

Ultimately, I think taking WoW “seriously” is not gear or time commitment or number crunching, it’s attitude.  It’s about why you play the game and what you expect to get out of it.  It’s remembering that having fun in WoW must necessarily be moderated through what may be fun for others as well.  So pulling an enormous crowd of mobs onto the group in an instance may get you an an adrenaline kick but, as Confucious says, one man’s adrenaline kick may be another man’s repair bill.

The problem then, to return to the first paragraph with the cunning of a weasel, is neither the casual nor the hardcore players because they know why they’re playing and what they want out of it.  Casual players want to have easy-access fun, although as I hope I have indicated above this is not the same as not being able to play the game effectively or being afraid of things that are difficult or complicated.  And hardcore players, of course, want progression and new challenges to overcome, and the shiny stuff that comes with.

Wannabe-hardcore players, however, merely want to look like they’re hardcore players.  They want the loot, they want what they perceive of as respect from other players, and they want to be able to face-roll everything because this makes them feel that they might be hardcore when, of course, they know they’re not.  How could you be, when you’ve been boosted through every instance (because all you care about is loot anyway) and you actually have no clear idea of how to play the game?

Everything a wannabe hardcore does and says is driven almost entirely by this burning need to be acknowledged as hardcore, often by making other people feel stupid or inadequate. They’ll whine about supposed nerfs and mount changes, because they see these relatively arbitrary attainments as markers of distinction that prove they are neither casuals nor noobs.  Casual players don’t care when they get their mounts: they’ll just be glad to get one, whenever.  Hardcore players don’t care either: they’ve already got theirs and it’ll make levelling alts less tedious.  Casual players don’t care about nerfs: they’re not going to get there for a while and maybe they’d rather work on their fishing achievement anyway.  Hardcores don’t care either: they’ve already done the thing about six times anyway and are ready for something new.

Nerfage is entirely for the benefit of the wankers who are whinging about it, the same people who the people who behave in PUGs the way Spinks articulates. The guys who want to be able to walk into Mordor, and then only because they’ve heard the Ring of Power is apparently totally imba.

The important thing is that these sort of players are not casual players.  They’re dicks.  And they’re giving us casuals a bad name.

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