standing at the back in my sissy robe

August 5, 2009

Tamarind does not see the point of needles cougars

Filed under: D'oh,Sweets for the Sweet,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 9:22 am
Come Pointlesswing, to the skies!

Come Pointlesswing, to the skies!

Meet Pointlesswing and Needlesstail, two loaned wind riders from the dodgy second hand mount dealer in K3.

Pointlesswing goes very well uphill if you get out and push.

The problem is … the problem is … they have names now.

And I’m totally convinced that the dodgy goblin mount dealer is going to take Pointlesswing to the knackers as soon as I hand him back.

Needlesstail is from The Thousand Needles. We know this because there are Needless Cougars all over that place.

(Yes, yes, I know, they’re Needles Cougars, not Needless Cougars, but I’ve been mis-reading their name since I was a small cow and it’s an in-joke that’s stuck).

M’Pocket Tank wants her very own, non totally generic flyer so she’s going to take Needlesstail to The Thousand Needles and destroy the harness, which we think will symbolically represent releasing him, in his dotage, into the wild.

But, well, I can’t bear to part company with Pointlesswing. He may have a list to the right, gout, a dickey heart and only one tooth but, dammit, he has spirit, he has zest, he has verve. We’ve been fighting the Scourge in Icecrown together. He has as much right to take the fight to Arthas (slowly, very very slowly) than any young wippersnapper of a proto-drake.

Ways I have died in the vicinity of Pointlesswing:

1) Forgetting I was on foot
2) Summoning my chicken by accident and then leaping off cliffs
3) Dismounting in mid-air
4) Being shot off his back by a variety of allies, vrykul and scourge siege weaponry
5) Soaring blithely out of his licensed zones
6) Attempting to do funky things with levitate – now it has no reagent cost – and failing. Badly.

More to come, I’m sure.

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July 30, 2009

And gentlemen in Azeroth now-a-bed, shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here

Filed under: Hemo,Sweets for the Sweet,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 4:12 pm

M’Pocket Tank and I finally, finally, finally 2-manned Onyxia. Oh yeah! Down with you, my lady (and, no, I don’t say that to all the girls). She’s handed us our arses crispy friend the last time we tried and, truthfully, it took us another 3 attempts to perfect our technique. But we got there in the end.

It helped that I purchased a shadow wand on the AH before we went in, which increased my average damage from 3 (yes 3) per hit to around 250 per hit. Okay, so I’m never going to top a DPS meter with that but it still represents a significant improvement over stabbing her in the toenail to death with a lollypop stick. 2-manning Onxyia for a tankadin and holy priest is basically a fight of attrition: damage is much less important, (as long as you’re doing slightly more 3 per hit admittedly) than survivability. Phase 2 was always the sticking point for us. We’d get burned, overwhelmed, and usually I’d run out of mana, before we could whittle her health from 64% to 40%, which is what it takes to induce her to land again.

For our first attempt this time round, we thought I should concentrate on DPSing in an effort to get out of phase 2 a quickly as possible. This turned out to be a really stupid strategy because I ran out of mana and then Ony slabbered us mockingly. Once I was re-assigned from primary DPS to keeping everyone alive, we did much better. By now, I was getting really good at dodging fireballs and M’Pocket Tank was whelp collector extraordinaire. We were feeling pretty positive, all things considered. Until I mis-positioned and got Onyxia’s breath attack full in the face. Would you like fries with your chargrilled priest? So much for over-confidence.

On our third attempt we remembered M’Pocket had a fire resistance aura, which meant that the breath attack had a slightly better chance of not one-shotting me instantly if I screwed up. The bottom of my cape got a bit singed but I managed to run in mostly the right direction during the breath attacks this time round. Yay! Between causing damage, avoiding fireballs, keeping health topped up, collecting whelps, and not having our faces melted, we somehow got it all together and we romped into Phase 3. From there, it was easy. Victory, precious 18 slot bags, and a cavalcade of now useless epics were ours. Ours!

I’m so glad we did it, and before 80 as well.

I’m actually significantly less well-equipped than I was the last time we took a shot at Onxyia, due to the idiot-disenchants-all-his-stuff fiasco. The ironic thing is that I’m poorly geared but what I do have is incredibly well augmented. Normally I don’t bother with enchanting or gemming while levelling because you know you’re going to discard Sanguine Robe of the Cold Whale for Upbeat Tunic of the Chilly Dolphin 10 minutes down the line anyway. But in order to compensate for the general shiteness of my equipment, everything that can be enchanted is enchanted, everything that can be gemmed is gemmed – and all the very best my meagre resources can manage. The WoW Gods are laughing at me. I can hear them.

In other news, I’m currently grinding rep for the Guild Killer title, having joined yet another inevitably doomed guild. It was entirely an Act of Whimsy on my part but since I have had equal misfortune with Acts of Whimsy and Acts of Research, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Prettiest Elf was messing around in Hellfire Peninsula a few days ago when a message went over General that made my mustachios stand on end and my monocle jump right out of my eye.

This was the message:

Excuse me, but has anyone seen a fel reaver recently, please?

Astonishing, isn’t it? Full sentence. Punctuation. Deployment of the word ‘please.’. Will wonders never cease?

As it so happened I had seen a fel reaver recently so I whispered back with directions.

“Thanks so much” came the reply.

And I thought that was that, day brightening, assuredly, but fleeting.

An hour or so later, a recruitment message went out over the chat channels. I didn’t really pay much attention, other than to note it was at least moderately coherent, but then I recognised the name. It was the polite person! I whispered for more information which is usually the point at which the recruiter devolves in a blithering moron before your very eyes but we had a perfectly nice and perfectly sensible conversation about the guild and its aspirations, so Tam and M’Pocket Tank signed up. It’s a very small, starting guild and it may crash and burn, in tears and politics and ineptitude, within a week but who knows?

Our interactions thus far have been broadly positive. Also the spread of levels is quite varied. Usually when you join a new guild there are 80s and 20s and nothing in between, so being in your mid-70s is a sad and lonely experience. We boast a handful of 70s, M’Pocket Tank and I at the highest end of them, making us the default heavy hitters, which is a bizarre feeling since normally we are normally useless newbies.

And the other thing that gives me a strange fluttering sensation that may, dangerously, be hope is an already evident culture of willingness to do “group things.” Polite Person confided that she wanted to do “everything” hinting at a WoW temperament to match my own.

Since, M’Pocket Tank and I were headed there anyway, we did a guild run of MagT (non-heroic) last night. Of course, we had no excuse not to succeed, M’Pocket Tank and I being 78 a piece, and the rest of the team ranging between levels 70 and 75. But it’s still an unforgiving instance, and it felt like an accomplishment, in developing a sense of guild unity if nothing else.

I find guild runs rather nervous-making. If you’re with a dreadful PUG you can just spit curses and exit stage left in high dudgeon and, perhaps, a puff of red smoke. But there’s a sense of investment in a guild run. Ideally you want a situation in which nobody thinks anybody else is an arse. And whereas in a PUG I have no compunction whatsoever in saying “You see that act of gross stupidity in which you’re currently engaged? No, I don’t mean your life, I mean having your pet on aggressive in an instance, or using deathgrip to pull off the tank, or using misdirect onto the mage, or whatever else it is you’re doing. Stop it please, and right now, or there’ll be no healz for you.” But if you’re running with your new guild you don’t really want to behave that way. Ideally you want to form good relationships with these people, not piss them off.

Thankfully, everyone was moderately competent, and it was genuinely fun. I’d temporarily forgotten the joy of the 5-man, but now I’m full of enthusiasm again. And I don’t think I was an arse, although I did end up, de-facto, leading the run. If I’d known I’d have prepared better but at the very least I could still remember vaguely how to handle the bosses from the last time I did MagT. I didn’t heal especially well, however, because I was too busy overseeing strategy, spotting issues and angsting. We made a big mess of Priestess Delrissa because the DPS leapt off their leashes too early, and we ended up in a bloody ruck right between the pillars for maximum LOS inconvenience. I managed to heal through it (somehow, although I nearly killed myself a bunch of times) but afterwards I was debating whether or not to say something and, in the end, I did. I was super-fluffy about it (not my usual style at all) but nobody spat in my face and the DPS really did make an effort to contain themselves during future pulls, which made our progress much smoother.

I feel quite strange about leading runs. Unless you’re a group of friends who know each other really well, I think you do need someone to do it. And the problem with thinking that you need someone to do it is that it usually ends up being you. Still I suppose it’s better to be default-guy than the alternative. The few players I’ve encountered who actively want to lead runs, and be recognised as the person who is leading the run, tend to be exceptionally unpleasant people, committed to crushing the fun out of the game at every possible opportunity, and turning the rest of you into soul-less husks whose only function is to support their gameplay.

I think I tend to go too far the other way. We wiped on Kael a couple of times and I swear to God I turned into Henry V.

July 29, 2009

Nostalgia Sceptic

Filed under: Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 12:27 pm

There’s a very charming topic over at Blog Azeroth at the moment, encouraging us all to nostalgia trip about the olden days. It’s a little strange, truthfully, because even as Perpetually Late to the Party Guy I do feel a sense of nostalgia … except it must be for something I never really knew. It’s like missing the days when Rome was a republic. Say what?

The truth is that WoW is an evolving game and a lot of the things we “remember” as being epic and awesome about vanilla are basically impractical and annoying now. Quests that take you from Tanaris to Winterspring to Un’goro to Winterspring to Tanaris to be BRD? Hah, you’d be lucky to get a group together for that these days. I do see the occasional self-styled nostalgia run (inevitably looking for a healer) but that’s about it. But when you have millions of players on the tread wheel at basically the same time, progressing at the same pace, I imagine BRD was tourist central (I aggroed an entire bar full of dorfs and all I got was this lousy T-shirt). Also immense world-spanning quests make more sense at level 40-50 when the level cap is 60, because end-game is just around the corner, and you have both time and inclination to do them. When the level cap is 80, you don’t want necessarily want to be straddling the globe like an uncomfortable Colossus – you want to be collecting monkey bollocks efficiently. Of course, it is human nature to resist change and to resent it, and to always assumes things were worse than they used to be, but I think we need to recognise that the WoW we are playing in 2009 is not the same WoW that was released in 2004.

(All the same, bring back CC, and stop reducing to everything to AoE fests!)

I am, however much I like to indulge it, suspicious of nostalgia. I sometimes think games deceive us. Like pregnancy. Okay, this analogy is more spurious than usual. But people I know who’ve had multiple children (not all at once, obviously) tell me that pregnancy plays terrible tricks on you. While you’re giving birth it’s the worst thing ever and you swear by all the saints and angels that you’re never going to put yourself through this hell again. And then, somehow, you forget… And I suspect that some of the experiences one remembers as being game-definingly great were actually frustrating and gruelling. It’s like when you finally find that piece of fucking aged gorilla sinew – yes, it feels fantastic (having found the sinew, I mean, not the sinew itself, I’m not sitting here with a piece of aged gorilla sinew, rubbing it gently over my body or anything… argh!) but it’s basically just a pleasurable sense of relief. I believe geekademics call this feeling in games aporia, although I think they should make more of the fact it is distinct from, y’know, actual fun.

I had something very similar happen to me between Morrowind and Oblivion. Morrowind was one of Those games for me. You know, the ones that make you misty eyed and lumpy throated, regardless of Actual Merit Of Game. There isn’t that much of a technical leap between Morrowind and Oblivion (although, of course, it is generally shinier) but between Daggerfall and Morrowind there’s, err, literally a world of difference. Morrowind achieves what Daggerfall suggested. There’s a lot the Elder Scrolls games don’t do so well, but in terms of creating an in-game space that feels vast and full of possibilities, they cannot be bettered (except, ironically, by WoW). So, anyway, there I was, rather miserable, and along came Morrowind. And the real world was kicking my arse so I lived in it for a while. I was, incidentally, residing at the time in a dank basement flat so I was, for a brief period, an archetypal gamer stereotype. Things got better, I finished Morrowind, life moved on…

Later, of course, Oblivion came out. I bought it in eagerness, tried to play and HATED it. It was so, err, NERFED. Fast travel? What kind of bullshit was that? Remember those halcyon days when a journey in Vvardenfell was a proper goddamn journey? Remember getting killed by cliff-racers on your way back to Balmora? Remember when exploring meant something? Remember when armour sets came with paldrons? Remember when medium armour was a skill? Those were experiences! That was the real deal.

So, naturally, I fired up Morrowind again. And, err, oh dear. How nostalgia had deceived me. Getting killed by an extremely high level cliff racers on your way to the first proper city in the game? So not fun! Being given quest directions like “the mine is west of the river to the south”? So not fun! Spending literally hours of real time wandering around the wilderness, lost and confused and terrified of cliff racers? So not fun!

This is the trick that nostalgia plays on us. It smoothes over real frustration with remembered satisfaction, blends aporia into pleasure. On the other hand, I think what we genuinely and fairly miss are the things we felt on the journey the first time we made it, regardless of things that frustrated us or were just inherently badly designed (walk across Tanaris, just try it). And I think this what’s worth remembering and worth celebrating.

I was struck by this last night, actually. Cowfriend and I were questing in Outland. We were in the Ruins of Sha’naar, gathering demonic essences, and there’s quite a nice little quest line there about the enslaved Dreghood. Usually what happens is that, once you kill their demonic masters, the Dreghood make joyful noises and escape, except sometimes, of course, they get caught in the cross fire and don’t. In which case they beat you about the head with their enslaved hands until you have no other choice but to, err, euthanise them. I like the Naladu arc so I’ve done this quest quite a few times, and I was pretty blasé about laying into the poor, innocent enslaved Dreghood whenever they got in my way. Cowfriend wasn’t. Really wasn’t. And that was when I realised: there would have been a time when I wouldn’t have been either. I’d like to blame the Prettiest Elf for this (he genuinely wouldn’t care) but it’s the first time I’ve caught myself making no attempt whatsoever to engage imaginatively with the game.

And, truthfully, I was saddened, and slightly ashamed.

But in the spirit of nostalgia here a couple of moments from my WoW journey.

The Perfect Place For a Picnic

Pass the dalaran sharp please!

Pass the dalaran sharp please!

The strange hunterly Cow at my side is not, in fact, Cowfriend, but the person who basically took me under his wing and taught me to play the game. He was my tour guide to Azeroth, when I was just a small, naïve druid far from home. And beside us, is our mighty tanking chicken: the redoubtable Clucksworthy. As you can see, we are having a celebratory picnic having downed our first devilsaur (big moment for me!). One of the things that never fails to amuse me about WoW is the ludicrous places you find yourself sitting down for a quick snack or a drink of spring water. On top of volcanoes. In the desert. Surrounded by hostile trolls. I can’t quite remember, but I do believe Comfrey has his Glowing Brightwood Staff strapped to his back, and I believe he’s sporting a lovingly hand-tailored Robe of Power. Yep, it was a good day for small cows.

I am Become Death, Destroyer of Parties

I’ve written before about the pleasures of blacktie instancing. In the good ol’ days we did, in fact, have a full, impeccably presented 5-man team. And here we are, raring to go, at RFD:

Dressed to kill

Dressed to kill

And here is Tam celebrating his triumph over the partying skeletons therein:

Priest Smites Fun

Priest Smites Fun

I think this was an important moment for Tam. He’s not a big fan of, y’know, fun.

Why I love WoW

Because it makes me feel like this:

Small cow, big world

Small cow, big world

And I guess when it doesn’t, all the nostalgia in the world won’t help.

July 24, 2009

He’s gone from bad to…

Filed under: Sweets for the Sweet,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 11:12 am

So, I’m wondering when putting the word “devilsaur” into the title of smooshy love songs is going to get old, and I’m starting to think … maybe … never.

Three Times a Devilsaur … Waiting for a Devilsaur like you … When you love a Devilsaur … My baby loves devilsaur

Okay, I’m stopping now.

*twitch*

In-keeping with the half-arsed Things I Love About WoW theme I’ve recently imposed upon myself, the part of this post not dedicated to the rest of the blogsphere is dedicated to my favourite NPC in the whole of the game. Because of the sheer quantity of quests and characters populating Azeroth, it’s very easy to see everyone you encounter as little more than a quest dispenser, especially if said quest is “Hello [class], I require 10 monkey toenails because … I do. And I can’t get them myself because … I can’t. I will give you this random hat and 25 copper pieces if you bring me 10 monkey toenails. For the Horde!”

This isn’t a criticism. I have nothing against giving a bunch of monkeys a pedicure. With my axe. As I’ve said before, you tend to know what you’re getting with WoW and too many fiddly quests (why hello Northrend, long time no see, I haven’t complained about you for a while) are exhausting and annoying. You know the type I mean: “Go to the Cave of Songs on the other side of the map and use this Arcane Harmonisation Device on 35 Crystallized Pillars until it is properly attuned. Then use it with the filled Bong of Ysandril to summon Raksaw The Suicidal. Take Raksaw with you to the glen south of the river and, with his aid, kill the creatures you find there and bring me 10 of their toenails as proof of the deed. I will give you this random hat and 25 copper pieces as a reward. If you should happen to lose Raksaw The Suicidal, return to me and I will give a new Bong of Ysandril, which you can refill at the Smoky Chasm.”

ARGH! ARGH! A world of ARGH. Lend me that teaspoon, for I must gouge out my eyes in pure frustration.

Okay, I’ve veered as wildly off track with this blog post as if I had my epic flyer stuck on auto-run. The point I was trying to make is this: because Azeroth is fairly and comfortably generic a lot of the time (and I have no problem with that), characters who are well-written, well-characterised, or just a tad more imaginative than usual really make an impression.

And putting aside epic lore figures like Thrall, my favourite character in WoW is … well … ahem .. I think it behoves the depth of my passion and the nature of his, err, nature to express myself in form worthy of him.

So, my dear readers, brace yourself for a one-time aberration. It is, indeed, VERSE.

My dearest Jeremiah, just a note to say:
You’re my favourite zombie in all of Azeroth.
My adoration for you suffers no decay
Despite the massive fuss about the Lich King’s wrath.
The Jeremiah Blues are such a tragic tale,
Rubbish loot aside, it never fails to move me,
Though fools deride its lack of epic Wrathgate scale.
Hey, you should be the star of the Warcraft movie!
I’ll always buy a cockroach, just to win your smile,
And keep it by my side, and other pets decline,
Even though it really does nothing for my style.
Unlike the fickle masses who flock at Valentine.
On the morning after, you’ve no need to sweat it
Whatever Blizzard claim, I never will regret it.

(Not quite an Alexandrine because I couldn’t be arsed to fiddle with the weird stresses required but in hexamater rather than pentameter because I think poetry to zombies ought to be slow and shambling, err “that like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along” in fact!).

So, who’s your favourite NPC, and why? Do you even have one or am I just crazy? Poetry on the subject entirely optional.

And, finally, because it is Friday. Some of my favourite links of the week.

This was technically last week, but over at Shadow Word: Blog, there’s a great post (and accompanying discussion) on Abi’s Top 5 Most Hated Quests. It should provide some kind of cosmic balance for the peace, love and rainbows flying out of this blog at the moment. Also it’s really funny. My favourite line: “Who knew that not every Hillsbrad Farmer had a skull?” Hehe!

Under no circumstances should you forgo your invitation to sit on Uncle Mis’s lap over at Aggro Junkie. Another one of his splendidly sensible posts on why and how eager young DPSers should curb their DPS Demons.

Earlier in the week, Spinks was thinking about the anti-social consequences of adventuring in pairs and new possible directions for duo-themed content in MMOs, which led to a fascinating post over at Wild Growth about her own experiences of playing WoW with an established group. Both posts have really made me think about how I’ve been playing the game lately, and whether clinging to M’Pocket Tank and Cowfriend is making me harmfully disenganged.

And, finally, not a specific link but I’ve recently discovered Nim (I know, I know, there I was, blogging in a hole in the ground again). Her blog is called A Shaman’s Journey but, in my head, I think of it as Letters to Azeroth. Nim’s WoW exploits are primarily related through letters to, well, everything. The zeppelin, her shield, herself. It’s charming and whimsical and never fails to brighten my day.

And, finally, you’ll have to forgive me but I’m going to go incredibly smooshy for a moment. The sonnet must have gone to my head. I can’t really link here either but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the amazing comments. When I first started this blog (to let off steam after a bad PUG) I didn’t actually give much thought to the idea that people might, y’know, read it, especially given the fact that I don’t exactly write about anything useful or profound, and wouldn’t recognise a strategy if it trounced me at Risk. But I’m so grateful and delighted that, apparently, people do. Thank you so much for your time, and your wonderful, wonderful comments. You make writing this blog an absolute pleasure, and you enrich my game no end.

Okay, that’s enough of that. I have to go now and be rude to a stranger. Kick a murloc. Or something.

July 23, 2009

can you feel the devilsaur tonight

Filed under: Real Men Wear Purple,Sweets for the Sweet,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 11:14 am

So, we’re into the summer slump, apparently. Various blogger are headed off on out-of-game adventures, lots of people are taking a break, raid groups are foundering, and the game itself is that weird, semi-suspended pre-patch state where nothing you do really seems quite worth it because of incoming changes. On the other hand, I find reading about the enthusiasm of others bolsters my own when it flags. It reminds me of the things I love about WoW, and inspires me to try new things or look at certain aspects of the game in a different way. I’m going to spend a little time, probably not in a very organised way because I’m not that kind of blogger, just, y’know, appreciating WoW and generally taking time out to smell the pixels as Lantanna says. I’ll probably degenerate into ranting and whinging pretty soon but for the moment: let’s spread the love around.

But first, some vainglory! The Shadow Labyrinth. Went Down. Oh yeah! Oh yeah, baby! Commence dancing and air punching. Sorry, this is getting embarrassing but it was really satisfying, especially because the first time we attempted it we crashed and burned oh so badly on Grandmaster Vorpil and his voidwalker loveclub. Having very little AoE DPS, what am I saying, very little DPS at all, it was really difficult to eliminate the voidwalkers in time to stop them healing him.

My ideal way to run instances is at level with a tight 3-man team, but 2-manning at higher levels, if you judge it right, can be an interesting challenge too, especially when you’re reliant on a holy priest off-DPSing for your major damage. And you end up evolving some slightly crazy strategies to deal with things like mind control – trying to juggle your threat so that the guy in the sissy robe with only smite to his name gets mind controlled instead of the platemail sporting tank with the big sword, for example. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being cut down in the middle of an instance by your own tank. I have to admit, I’d love to see the chaos caused by Blackheart the Inciter on a five party group though. There wasn’t all that much we could do except blow our cooldowns before he MCed us and then stand as far away from each other as possible before the mind-control, like Smitefight at the OK Corral, since M’Pocket Tank could survive anything I could throw at her but I’m pretty vulnerable to a sword in the face.

Grandmaster V. was a close run thing though. M’Pocket Tank basically north-south kited him while I took out the void walkers in the centre of the room. It was a huge strain on resources because DPSing gives me very little return on my mana and it took 2 casts per voidwalker to take one out. Meanwhile M’Pocket Tank was whittling away at the Grandmaster and simultaneously trying to keep herself alive because I couldn’t take time off from killing voidys to chase her to the other end of the room. I did mange to get a couple of emergency heals off though and there was one heart-stopping moment when the Grandmaster got away from us and ploughed gleefully into a rugby scrum of voidwalkers. I had run completely and totally out of mana, void walkers were converging on the centre of the room and I was about to despair when … somehow .. we did it. He died.

Not so Grand now, eh?

Remarkable. The best part of it is I’m not sure I could do it again. That’s always the sign of a good fight, I think. You triumph but the challenge isn’t lost.

Also the Shadow Labyrinth is brutal, I tell you, brutal. Insane quantities of mobs, mobbing us. We were taken out by the trash at least once. Oh the shame!

Okay, that’s enough vainglory for one day. Let me go back to the subject of this post. Here’s something I love: Terror Run.

That's ... not ... good

That's ... not ... good

I mean, how you could not, with a name like that. I think I might, on previous occasions, maybe, just maybe have expressed – possibly – a slight degree of enthusiasm for dinosaurs. So, naturally, I really like Un’goro, although it might as well be called MetaZone for all the silly references jammed in there. It looks fantastic, it’s brimming with a metric arseload of insanely fun “go forth and kill lots of dinosaurs” quests, it’s got a wonderfully, ironic, pulpy atmosphere and, of course, it has Terror Run. Now, usually, when I rock up at Un’goro I’m punching above my weight so Terror Run is genuinely terrifying, exactly as it should be. I don’t have a hope in hell of taking a single one of those enormous elites, well, maybe, if I managed to corner one, in the dark, while it was unconscious. So if I want to get to the western pylon, which of course I do, I have to run Terror Run. In terror.

I know death doesn’t actually, per se, mean anything in WoW. At worst it’s inconvenient (death isn’t the handicap it used to be in the olden days…) but Terror Run helps me to forget that. When I’m pegging it, mist-blind and panicking, through a forest of smooshed trees and angry elite stegodon, I know I don’t want to die by dino, and I’m afraid, and exhilarated and cackling and having a wonderful time.

I had cause to visit Un’goro fairly recently, when I was levelling the prettiest elf with Cowfriend. The prettiest elf, by the way, is a full-spec fire mage. I know this is underpowered, I know it’s a silly choice of levelling spec but … but … I like the pretty lights. And the burning. Gotta love the burning. Anyway, there we were, Cowfriend on her kodo, me on my big pink chicken, standing on the brink of Terror Run. “Here’s the deal,” I said, “we’re here [map plink] and we need to be here [map plink]. Between us and our goal, is Terror Run. It’s full of a bunch of elite dinos we simply can’t take. So we’re going to have to run it. So, when I say go, peg it, as fast and hard as you can. Don’t look back, don’t stop for anything. If you get knocked off your mount, keep going, if I get knocked off my mount, keep going. Don’t be a hero. It’s every man … cow … elf … for himself. It’s the only way to survive.”

And then I spoiled it by giggling excitedly.

And, y’know, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson about every-man-for-himself strategies but anyway… off we went.

Go, pink chicken, go!

Aaaaand within about 10 seconds, I’d been knocked off. And there I was, a spindly little fire mage with excellent hair, stuck in the middle of Terror Run, with no hope in hell. It was at this moment precisely that I realised when I said “every man for himself” I really meant “if you get knocked off, I’ll run like a bastard but if I get knocked off, you come and help me.” But I’d said to keep going in all circumstances and I couldn’t set a bad example to my cowfriend protégé so, over the shaking, rumbling ground, I started to run.

Dinos to the left of me.

Dinos to the right of me.

Dinos right fucking behind me, taking enormous bites out of my arse.

I hit frost nova.

I hit blink.

I half turned round as I was running to blow dragon’s breath in the face, well toes, of my pursuers.

I blinked again.

And frost nova-ed.

And, again, and again.

The edges of the screen were bleeding to red through the sea-green mist (yes, I can still spare a dig for Arthas).

And, somehow, on something like 5% health I made it. The dinos got bored, decided I wasn’t worth it, lost sight of me, who knows, but they stopped chasing. The prettiest elf reeled against a tree, gasping for breath and suddenly realised I’d be holding my own, and my heart was pounding like I’d been the one fleeing the dinosaurs.

Silly, entirely silly of me, but such fun to lose yourself in a moment like that. But it’s for that kind of thing that I love WoW.

And, of course, I can now say that I literally ran Terror Run.

July 21, 2009

Belgium, man, Belgium

Filed under: D'oh,Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 11:45 am

WoW, of course, has its vocabulary of obscenity, the most expressive and sublimely onomatopoeic of which is this: Swwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwad.

It is, of course, the helpless and heartfelt cry of someone typing obliviously in chat when something goes wrong.

You say it when somebody is carefully explaining the tactics of the next boss and you look up from the chat window to discover you’ve walked whistling right into his mouth: Swwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwad.

It’s the sound you make as you careen, full tilt, over a cliff with the auto-run key depressed. In which case it, naturally, gets softer and softer and softer as you spiral away to your inevitable doom, dashed on the jagged rocks below: Swwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwad.

It’s the curse that flies from your lips when you’re carefully explaining to someone else about the dangers in the current area and to which they must remain alert at all times.

Something, ahem, like this:

Me: Okay, Cowfriend, listen up. Now we’re in Outland, we’re batting with big boys. We’re kind of punching above our weight here so we have to be super-careful, super-focussed and absolutely prepared for whatever comes our way.

Cowfriend: Um… dude…

Me: No, listen, this is important. You need to remember this. Rampaging about Hellfire Peninsula there are a bunch of level 70 elite fel reavers. You can usually tell when they approach because the ground shakes ominously.

Cowfriend: A fel reaver!

Me: Yeah, there’s no way in hell we can take them yet. They’re kind of like a big stompy engine of destruction. So if you see one, it’s every man for himself. Run like a bastard and don’t look back … hey … where are you going? Swwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwad!

[SMOOSH!]

Cowfriend: …

Me: Just don’t say anything, okay.

Most recently it was the sound of my Dwarf hunter uttered, running for the boat from Stormwind. M’Pocket Tank was already aboard, urging me along in the chat window, and waving at me from the deck. The warning bell had already rung and the harbour is bloody long when you’re a level 11 dwarf, barrelling along, hog at heels.

It was kind of like a scene in a 1950s screwball comedy. I was Cary Grant, obviously, and M’Pocket Tank was my feisty ladylove, leaving on a boat for Europe because I’d pretended to her sister’s fiancé in order to investigate a family scandal and, although I’d fallen in love with her For Real, she’d first been traumatised with guilt because I was her sister’s fiancé and then found out the truth, concluding I was only using her to further my career as a playboy-come-journalistic in a stylish hat. Thankfully, my best friend, who had also infiltrated the family, disguised as a replacement housekeeper (the previous housekeeper having run off to Las Vegas to become a show dancer – she’s played by Marilyn Monroe, by the way, in one of those comedy bit parts that suited her so well) happened to fall in love with the sister to whom I supposed to be engaged, although it was complicated by the fact that my best friend has spent most of the film in unconvincing drag as a matronly housekeeper, fending off the disconcerting advances of our heroine’s lascivious, drunken Uncle. Anyway, at this point in the movie, the plot has been untangled, everyone has been paired up appropriately (including the lascivious, drunken Uncle and Marilyn Monroe, separately obviously) and all that stands between us and an irrefutable happy ending is a scene in which I have to persuade the feisty heroine of the sincerity of my love, disembark from the boat to Europe into my waiting arms and kiss me while the credits roll.

Only with more dorfs, obviously.

Okay, I’m thinking about this way to much. Let’s start again:

I was missing the boat.

And there’s an insane sense of helplessness about this. If you’re a druid you can slip into something more comfortable travel form. If you’re a mage you can blink your way to victory. If you’re a shaman you can spirit wolf. But if you’re a level 11 dorf with a gun and no aspect of the cheetah all you can do is say “come on come on come on” to the screen and watch him fail.

There’s some horribly like life in the public transport systems of WoW. They’re never going where you want, and you always miss them by seconds. And you get the same sense of public shame for rushing desperately after them, waving your arms, only to have them pull out of the station just as you arrive. And then you’re forced to stand at the bus stop, purple in the face and perspiring unbecomingly because, of course, you were carrying six tonnes of books and a live zebra about your person when you were circumstantially obliged to break spontaneously into a sprint, pretending that you’d been intending to run wildly down the pavement all along anyway.

Truthfully, although it’s a complete pain to miss the boat or the zep, I quite like the fact, at low levels, going on a long journey in WoW really feels like going on a long journey. I like the planning that goes into it. You know, you think to yourself: “I’ll run south to here, then I’ll take the fp to Org, then I’ll get the zep to Grom and then I’ll go west from there.” Even though the execution is always a little bit painful, it more than makes up for it, for me, by feeling pretty damn epic. I think it provide a real and invaluable sense of scope and size. And ultimately spending 2 minutes dangling your feet over the edge of a viewing platform or fishing off the end of a pier is often a welcome time out. It reminds you that the imaginary worlds, like the real one, need not always be rushed through. And that journeys can be as valuable as destinations.

So, yeah, the long and the short of it was: I didn’t miss my connection.

My little dorf feet bounded from land to boards just as the ship was pulling out of the harbour.

“Holy fuck,” I typed joyously into the chat window, “I fucking made it. I fucking made it!”

Except I was so smack-dash amazed, so utterly unprepared for the even the slim possibility of success, (to say nothing of far too preoccupied gloating into the chat window), that I completely forgot about auto-run and by the time it occurred to me that I should probably turn it off, I was all fingers and thumbs.

“Swwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwad,” I wailed, as I careened straight through central section of the ship and plopped into the ocean on the other side, to the accompanying incredulous laughter of the rest of the passengers.

Swwwwwwwwwad indeed.

July 17, 2009

Friday Roundup

Filed under: Sweets for the Sweet,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 12:59 pm

Round Up of Stuff

1) Most importantly: I have stepped away from Arthas. You can all breathe a sigh of relief. First of all I denied it could really be as bad as it was; then I was angry that it was that bad; then I bargained with the internet and tried to give away my copy; then I felt dirty and depressed with myself for having read it at all … but now I’ve accepted it, in all its awfulness, dealt with the fact I probably gave myself some minor psychological damage through reading it … and I’m movin’ on!

2)The Dwarven Gentlemen’s Club has a mighty four members. Tally ho! Naxx awaits! I’m continually surprised, actually, by how fun it is to the play game this way. Normally my preoccupation is climbing the levelling ladder and, although I do take time out to smell the peacebloom, I’ve never dithered around quite this comprehensively before. The fact we are all in it For The Lulz takes the pressure off in a genuinely liberating way. Also, there’s no two ways about it, being a huntard (and I am, a total, total huntard) is the most fun in the world. Me and my pig BFFs. Also the sound of guns firing (in the game obviously) is unbelievably satisfying. Perhaps it’s merely a childish enthusiasm for big bangs but I don’t think it’s ever going to get old.

The activities of the DGC involve, mainly, huntin’, shootin’ ‘n’ fishin. Or standing next to each other saying “Tally ho!” and “Jolly got shot old man!” or “Spiffing gun!” We have done some quests, but only of the killing animals and delivering beer variety, the former because we are, first and foremost, hunters and the latter because we are thoroughly decent chaps. My trade-skills are way up there as well. Not caring about levelling gives you both inclination and opportunity to fiddle around, collecting copper, making guns and learning to fish. I usually find trade-skills a bit of a grind (Tam hates mining, but I suspect he quite enjoys hating it, he’s that kind of person) and I’ve always suspected life was too short for fishing but my dorf is awesome at both. So the Trophy Cabinet (aka guild bank) is full of guns and fish. As it should be. I look forward to our first ninja. It will be such a disappointment for him, unless he’s a longjawed mud snapper fetishist.

3) Quite a while ago, I wrote about our (unsuccessful) attempt to 3-man Ramps. It has now Gone Down, to much cheering and dancing, and the success was all the sweeter for the previous failure. It felt as though we truly earned our loot … although embarrassingly we were so busy congratulating ourselves we, err, we kind of didn’t open the chest. We’ve moved onto BF, and I have high hopes for our 3-manning future. I’d like to do them all, you know, at level, properly. We didn’t have time to finish BF because life intervened but the run had its moments.

Me-the-tree: okay folks, watch for the proximity bombs
M’Pocket Tank/Lock: BANG
Me-the-tree: Did you just stand on a bomb?
M’Pocket Tank/Lock: I was checking to see if it was a bomb.
Me-the-tree: By standing right on it?
M’Pocket Tank/Lock: Yes.

And my personal highlight.

Brain: Ofuck! The warlock is losing health, the tank is fine … she must be under attack *looks around wildly for mobs* *frantic tree waddle* (the frantic tree waddle is becoming a familiar dance to me these days) What’s going on? *Panicky rejuvenation*
M’Pocket Tank/Lock: Sorry, accidentally hit hellfire.
Everyone else: …
M’Pocket Tank/Lock: MWAHAAHAAHAAAAA!

Actually, putting any teasing M’Pocket Tank/Lock aside for the moment, the weakest link is still me. Sometimes I just totally lose control of my HoTs. I can always tell because it’s feels as jarring as hitting a wrong note when you’re playing Guitar Hero but unfortunately I always seem to do it when the tank receives a faceful of fire. My leaves droop with shame. I am a bad tree. *shuffle*

4) Yes, Tam is still stuck in a tuxedo. I very nearly accidentally healed UK the other night. I’m a bit high level for it anyway but when the desperate, pleading whisper came through of course I said yes. And I was just throwing myself on chickenback when I remembered I only had blacktie and a belt recently acquired from questing, so I had to bow out sheepishly. The group probably thought they’d had a lucky escape.

Round Up of Links

So, I guess any commentary on the blogsphere this week has to start with this simply gorgeous post by Elnia over at The Pink Pigtail Inn. With all the bitching and moaning I do around here, it’s important for me to be reminded that I play WoW because I … y’know … love it. This is a genuinely moving and poetic post. Also he quotes Richard Lovelace which is a win in every conceivable way.

Speaking of love and shared enthusiasm, Pike at Aspect of the Hare wrote an excellent post on the joy of levelling. It made me really happy to read it because there’s so much emphasis on endgame these days and, actually, getting to 80 is a journey worth enjoying. Every time somebody says “the game begins at 80” a baby murloc gurgles its last gurgle. Say it with me now: I do believe in levelling, I do believe in levelling…

It’s been such a great week for blogging. Frost Is the New Black is celebrating a blogversary.. Obviously I’m a blogging noob and only discovered this wonderful blog fairly recently. This is a a really charming, meditative, hopeful post about the past and the future. And to think, darling, if I hadn’t been clicking on random links on other blogs….

There’s a rather melancholy post over at Wow Musings about the influence of friends on playing the game. I, too, have lost WoW friends over the time I’ve been playing and even though you can always find new kindred spirits, in Wow, as in life, the people who leave take just a little bit of colour with them they go. Weeping into our tea aside, I do like the post because it acknowledges the huge importance of people on the pleasure of the game.

And now! Bring on the funnies! SQUEEEEE!Murlocs (sqeelocks?) from Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings.

I am dead on the floor from this devestatingly funny two parter on the T9 druid gear over at Rolling HoTS.

July 8, 2009

there was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy

Filed under: Altaholism,D'oh,Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 12:56 pm

This is a story about love failure.  Topical, huh?  But I think it’s also a story about success.   Here we go.

M’Pocket Tank and I are still Northrend avoidant, especially since I’m now not sure Arthas himself could truly live up to the joy of saving 20 baby murlocs, so we’ve been concentrating mainly on alts.

As well as M’Pocket Tank, I have another victim friend I have generously introduced to the pleasures of WoW and she’s been doggedly levelling a cowtank.  I have run around the world a little bit with her, usually providing DPS backup with the prettiest elf (burn baby burn!), but apart from an RFC run way back when, we haven’t really had much opportunity to instance.  And, instancing, of course is the crucible in which a tank is truly forged.  Being of a pedagogic bent, I have attempted to communicate a fair bit of tanking theory as we’ve been levelling but it truly is the blind leading the blind.  I have tanked a bit but, as I have said before, it’s not my natural role.  On the other hand, I guess I’m better than nothing.  Maybe.  Hrm.

And let’s not forget tanking, especially warrior tanking in vanilla WoW, is bloody hard.  You can’t just pop consecrate and have the world fall down and you’re still in the process of actually accruing the tools that allow you to do the job (Temi wrote a rather cool post awhile back on the surprising difficulties of low-level WoW). But, despite my inadequacies as a teacher, there was a definite mental click somewhere around level 40 in which the theory slid into place.

The practice, however, well, that was still to come.

Between self, M’Pocket Tank and Cowfriend, we now have 3 characters, at 60 or in the low 60s.  My boomdruid, M’Pocket Tank’s lock and our new-found cowtank.

“Let’s do Ramps!” I cried. “We’ll sail through with 3! Ramps is easy!”

Uh right.  Yeah.

Well it was carnage.

Mainly because the lock and the drood played like absolute noobtards.  I was supposed to be healing off-spec but the DPS Demon kept whispering in my ear that Ramps was easy so I might as well do some DPS while I was standing there.  So I’d be doing that and then the tank would die.  I know, I know, I’m an idiot.  I’ll spare the lock’s blushes by not going into details about dodgy pet handling.   And, of course, Cowfriend was actually desperately putting all that theory into practice, baptism of fire style, so sometimes things would Just Go Wrong.

There was a lot of talking and a lot of wiping.  A lot of post-game analysis.  “So what went wrong there.” Sigh.

At about this point, we decided to accord Ramps the respect it deserves.  M’Pocket Tank (or rather M’Pocket Lock) went off to respec destro just because.  Less minion micro-management more BURN, I think, was the reasoning behind that.  Cowfriend completely overhauled her UI.  And I slunk sheepishly off to Moonglade to subdue the DPS demon once and for all.

Yes.  I did it.  I went tree.

We reassembled to take another crack at Ramps.  Literally hours had gone by at this point and we hadn’t even seen the nose of the first boss. You’d have thought we were tweaking for Ulduar, the way we went on.  Progress was still slow but so much better than before.  The DPS demon rode M’Pocket Tank hard but, even though I could hear her cackling like a manic at her DPS, somehow she controlled it.

And doofus here actually pulled his finger out and did his fecking job.  I’ve gotta say, though, those HoTs are hot!  It’s amazing how being a tree focuses the mind.  It’s slightly disconcerting, though, to be so absolutely vulnerable.  I mean, apart from barkskin, what does a poor tree have to protect itself?  Nothing, that’s what.  A sad expression.  And the vain hope that the enemies will feel damn silly wailing on a helpless tree.  Also, I know a tree is smaller than a cow, but I still had real trouble seeing past my own floofy branches when I was trying mark.

Stealth tree I is not.

It was a huge learning experience for everybody.  It wasn’t just a question of a new UIs and new specs, it was learning to work together effectively as a team, which 3-manning absolutely demands.  Playing mainly with M’Pocket Tank makes it easy to overlook the importance of trust and teamwork.  We take each other, and our tank-healer relationship, for granted.  I was surprised by how difficult it was to learn to trust a new tank.

One of our more ignominious wipes occurred because I was so busy trying to draw the tank’s attention to a caster lurking at the back that I, err, forgot to heal her.  Yes, I am covered in shame.  My branches are drooping, my leaves are blushing.

“Sorry, guys,” I said, as we jogged back to our corpses, “I was worrying about the caster at the back.”

“Don’t apologise,” said Cowfriend, “but I should be the one worrying about the caster at the back.”

And that was the moment when I let go.  I realised I absolutely had to.  There was nothing more, as a teacher, I could do.  Trying to backseat tank AND heal is actually impossible. It was time for Cowfriend to stop listening to me and become her own tank.

That was the moment when it all came together, theory and practice. And we were flying.  Down went the first boss.  Down went the large groups of caster mobs.  Down went the room o’doom, despite a mild case of over-pull.  The weakest link was actually me.  It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to manage HoTs.  It’s so much more flexible than holy priest healing but, uh, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

So, we rolled up to Omor the Unscarred, all psyched up to scar him but good.  “This is a straight tank ‘n’ spank,” explains Idiot Of The Week (yes, it’s still me).  “Charge!”

And so we charged.

The thing is, every time I’ve done Ramps previously (and I’ve done it a lot, although from this entry you probably wouldn’t think it) we’ve had so much onboard firepower that he went down so quickly it was like he was made of wet spaghetti.  I actually always used to think he was pointless.  Omor The Pointless I used to call him.

So, I didn’t know he summoned an army of gambolling felpuppies.

I didn’t know he’d take to tossing the tank into the air like a ragdoll.

In fact I was so busy going “omfgwtf” that our DPS spent most of the fight dead on the floor.  I may never hear the end of it.

But, somehow, Cowfriend tanked every single felpuppy and very very very slowly prodded Omor to death while my HoTs rolled and rolled and rolled.  It was a looooong fight.  By rights, we should have given up.  But we didn’t.  And, by God, victory was sweet.

We didn’t, however, take down Nazan.  We had a couple of goes but we were exhausted and it was late.  Perhaps this would be a better story if I could have said we did.  But, actually, although it consists, in many ways, of a long string of failure, what it also includes was recognisable, incremental improvement.  The first time we tried Nazan, he just blatted us because the tank couldn’t convince him to stop munching on the tree (you’re a fucking dragon, try the STEAK!).  The second time it was my fault because I lost my HoT rhythm and, in the split second when none were rolling, Nazran crispy-fried the tank.  I’m pretty damn sure, though, that the next time we try him, he’ll fall.

But I’ll remember this run, and I remember no others.  Ramps has always been little more than routine for me.  It feels genuinely good to have engaged with the content in the way, perhaps, it was intended.  As the first Outland instance, Ramps is forgiving but I can’t imagine the designers sitting around at Blizzard HQ going “hey, y’know Ramps, let’s make it a meaningless cake walk.”

I guess what I’m trying to say was that this run meant something to me.  I think we all learned a lot from it, and from our failures.  I think we fought the good fight, and I think we were honourably beaten.

In short: I’d far rather fail well than succeed badly.

July 7, 2009

Blowin cold in Northrend

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Real Men Wear Purple,Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 11:39 am

M’Pocket Tank and I are losing focus again.  We’re running out of ways to level that don’t involve, err, doing the content in Northrend

I’ve read quite a few blog posts lately about burnout, passion for WoW and maintaining enthusiasm for the game.  My relationship with WoW, well, it’s fucked up.  I don’t mean for it to be, but it is.

I blow hot, I blow cold, I’m crazy about her, I’m bored of her, I love her cute li’ll flaws, her flaws drive me up the wall.  I don’t think she’s interested in pleasing me any more, I think we’re growing apart, I don’t like her new look, I preferred the way she was back in 2007, I think she’s seeing other players behind my back, I suspect she wants to be more hardcore. I want to break up, I want to get back together, I think we should get married, she’s ruining my life.

I’m a damn tyrant.  No wonder her log-in servers are always on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

I also think there’s real love underneath it all, but surely that’s what all abusers tell themselves in order to justify their behaviour.

God, I’m sorry WoW.  I’m really really sorry.  Maybe we should see a relationship counsellor, help us work through some stuff?

But, anyway, Northrend is driving me into one of my enthusiasm troughs.   And I think we’ve reached the limit of instances we can 2-man as well.  They’re either too easy, which is boring, or basically impossible, which is sad.  I should quickly add: by “too easy”, I don’t mean the problem is with the instances themselves, I mean the problem lies with us.  We tried to compensate for there only being 2 of us by being over-level but I think we went too far and, although the mobs aren’t grey yet, instancing has fallen off the delicate knife-edge of challenging in the ballpit of undemanding.  Sorry, that’s a horrendously mixed metaphor.  Why there would a knife balanced on the edge of a ballpit, I have no idea.

As you might expect from healer and tank ruling the universe together, our survivability is incredible but our DPS is piffling.

We attempted The Shadow Labyrinth because, well, err, because Salvànus told us not to (*blush* that was a red flag there, I’m afraid) and we were fine until we hit Grandmaster Vorpil.  First of all it took us a while to notice the voidwalkers were healing him (d’oh) and then we simply didn’t have enough DPS to take out them out.  I have since concluded it would probably be possible for us to kite him since the voidies are so slow, and concentrate on taking them out only when he teleports us back the centre of the room.

But if we really want to rule the world, we need a DPS.  Someone as frivolous as us.  Preferably with onboard sheeping, for the lulz.

*tumbleweed*

I feel a bit of an arse saying I don’t like levelling in Northrend.  I’m not, as such, complaining about it but I find a lot of the quests really rather irritating.  The thing is, WoW quests – well, they have a bad reputation, and it’s semi-deserved.  In the Old World, they’re all of the “go here, do that” variety and if you’re really lucky “go here” is a direction you have some hope of following instead of “go to the cave to the east” (riiiight, to the east you say?).   There is usually an attempt to contexualise the quests and give them at least a façade of meaning.  Kill the terrible plainstriding chickens that are threatening our village.   I would like to make gorilla entrail soup.  Whatever.

Some of them are better done than others.  I think we all have our favourite questlines, perhaps because they have, in spite of the limitations of the medium, a great story attached (Hillsbrad, for example) or because you get to kill things that are particularly satisfying to kill (pirates, the Scarlet Crude, or dinosaurs!).  But the point is you either like, or at least accept, that style of quest or you don’t.  And, if you don’t, you’re probably not playing WoW.  What are you doing reading this blog?

Maybe it’s just Nostalgia Glasses but I’m pretty fond of Outland.  I think they did a good job of mixing it up a bit.  Most of the quests seem really nicely contexualised and I genuinely felt like I’d joined a war effort, in which my involvement was important.  The handful of vehicle-quests, disguise-yourself-as-a-whatever-quests and dig-around-in-some-poo-for-cheap-laughs quests provide just enough variety to keep things novel and interesting.

But in Northrend all the quests seem to be like that and the game is so desperate to involve you in epic content that it feels as though you might as well have stayed at home polishing your glowing brightwood staff.  One of the most egregious example of this that  I can think of at short notice is the bloody Ruby Dragonshrine.  On one level, it’s really exciting, with dying dragons falling out of the sky and everything, but the quests are not so much “Save the Ruby Dragonshrine” (by killing x numbers of y) as “Save the Ruby Dragonshrine” (by watching the NPCs kill x numbers of y).

I know it seems like a silly distinction but I think it falls into the uncanny valley of verisimilitude.  When you’re questing in WoW, you suspend on your disbelief.  You know everything will respawn the second your back is turned and you know that killing x numbers of y won’t really save the Ruby Dragonshrine.  But it’s easy enough to convince yourself it’s All About You because you did, after all, kill x numbers of y.  Go you.  Never mind that 11 million other people are doing exactly the same thing. But if you have to join a random mob of NPCs, it diminishes your impact and it’s harder to pretend you made a difference.

It seems like every other quest in Northrend either involves a vehicle, an annoying NPC, an annoying group of NPCS, or a pointless doohickey.  I appreciate variety, I really do, but it’s getting to the point where the the actual player is getting less and less important.  I want it to be about me and my awesomeness, not the vehicle, or the NPC, or the doohickey.

But, to give its due, Northrend does occasionally pull it out the bag.  All the messed up quests from the Royal Apothecary (extract dorf brains!) are a huge heap of fun.  Killing Vikings never gets old. And because Tam is a filthy cow fetishist I’ve been insisting on helping out the Taunka at every possible opportunity.

Also we’ve just completed the murloc questline which is a little piece of genius.  I’m not mad keen on disguise quests because they’re always basically “replace your cool customised character with a generic dodgy man in a moustache.”   It’s less problematic for M’Pocket Tank because she’s always a hot chick but every male disguise in WoW appears to be constructed from a do-it-yourself 1970s porn star kit.  Thanks Blizzard.

But run around in an obviously hand-sewn murloc costume?  With a zip up the back and button eyes.  And a white flag.  ANY DAY OF THE FUCKING WEEK! Gimme, gimme, gimme.

By the way, did anybody else dance in their murloc suit?  Best thing ever.

And as for rescuing baby murlocs.  Getting twenty of them to follow you around, gurling and hopping.  I squealed like a girl.  I didn’t want to give them back.  Not my baby murlocs ! They are my baby murlocs now.

But, y’know, one can hardly take an army of tadpoles into battle against the Lich king.

Although if anything would recall him to his lost humanity it would be a platoon of gurgling baby murlocs.

SQUEEEEEEE!

Ahem.  Red meat.  Beer.  Black and Decker.

July 3, 2009

I like my caverns like I like my women…

Filed under: Sweets for the Sweet,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 6:10 pm

Wailing?

Confusing and twisted?

No, I had no idea where I was going with that title.

I have returned, if not triumphant at least alive, from Cambridge, despite the best efforts of the X5 which is generally held to be the worst bus in the world.  Seriously, it’s like trying to get across Icecrown without epic flying.  I’m slightly twitchy from Lack of WoW, and I’m still catching up on both myself and the blogsphere.

I did, however, get to thinking about the Wailing Caverns run I was talking about in my last post.  Even though it had its irritation, it did give me another rush of hot sweet love for low level instances.  WC is pretty lengthy especially compared to the anorexic startlet style instances we get nowadays but I kind of like it.  What can I say, I like something to get my teeth into.  Innuendo aside, what I really like about WC is that it feels like you’re exploring a network of underground caves, full of stuff that happens to be living in there.  Rather than a bunch of WoW players running a instance.

I actually managed to get us lost (look, I was holding Cartographer upside down, okay?  No, I’m not stopping and asking that Druid of the Fang for directions… I know where I’m going) and we ended up back-tracking to find one of the Bosses.  I know that probably sounds like it was an annoying inconvenience but it felt weirdly exciting.  I can’t remember the last time there was more than one possible direction through an instance.  We were somewhere big enough to get lost in.  And that was good.

I kind of like the “made up by a 14 year old” year old feel of the place as well.  I mean, come on, the bosses are called Lady Anacondra, Lord Cobrahn, Lord Pythas and, Lord “oh crap I’ve run completely out of snake inspiration, I’ll just go with the first thing I can think of” Serpentis.  It’s nicely pulpy, and I prefer WoW when it’s over-the-top and slightly self-ironic than oh-so dark, man dark.

It’s a little saddening, in a way, that so much love has gone into this random cave complex in the middle of the Barrens when somewhere that ought to be completely awe-inspiring, like Azjol-Nerub, is basically just a pointless hole in the ground.

Anyway, as I say, I’m kind behind on my blogreading but here are a scattering of the posts that me go hmmm this week:

I’m not quite sure why I’m linking to Spinks because if you’re reading here and you’re not reading Welcome to Spinksville, quite frankly, ur doing it wrong.  But everything she’s posted this week has been fascinating; however I was especially intrigued by this typically thoughtful and insightful post on Wowistocracy – the nature of inheritance in MMOs.

There have, of course, been a slew of posts about Faction Changes – but I the most gigglesome of them is definitely this one, over at Mystic Chicanery.

Kahleena at Fel Deeds has been hilariously embittered (and again and again and again) by the T9 Warlock pajamas gear.

On  a less absurd note, there’s a really nice tanking overview over at Aggro Junkie.  I call it an overview rather than a guide because its about the role itself, rather than mechanics or performance, something I think is really necessary considering how little understanding there is what tanking actually means out there in PUGsville.

Finally, in a general rather specific way, I’m rather enjoying Zaphind’s musings on the game.  Like me, he’s kind of a veteran noob, although he’s way more positive than I am (he even occasionally defends PUGs, the crazy crazy man)

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