30 June 2011

Day 14: /flips table

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 13: Aka admires

I hate the argument "it's just a game." Unless you are referring to gameplay mechanics - tree form, loot, a boss fight - you can't excuse bad behavior like that. Saying hateful or hurtful things in game doesn't make them any less so, and only assholes excuse them as such. Unless you are for some reason berating an NPC, the person you are talking to/about is not "just a game" (hint: they are a person). What occurs in virtual mediums is not divorced from our meatspace existence, and I am sick and tired of it being falsely treated as such.

Rant aside, I am also annoyed by the phrase "baby [toon]". If you use this term, I am totally not getting on you about it. I just don't understand it! Your level 13 hunter is not a baby! Babies don't become hunters because they are babies! Low level means inexperienced, not young! Aaahh!! And I know that no one literally means "in diapers" when they refer to their lowbie warrior. It just...irks me to hear "baby lock" /twitch

Go to Day 15: Wallpaper

27 June 2011

Goblin Journal: Out of Azshara

Well, Journal, I finished up my stint in Azshara. It was nice to see my business partners from the escape from Kezan there, even if they were helping to further the destruction of Azshara's environment. I guess they didn't see my piece in The Daily Auctioneer. Come to think of it, maybe it's for the best. I got a lot of nasty letters about it! Seems like goblins don't like being told to change. I did get a few encouraging letters - mostly from taurens and trolls . At least they think I'm right on the money!

At any rate, I ended up helping out some other Horde operatives in Azshara, and even met up with a mage cult! I was excited to see if they had anything valuable to offer, but all I got was a painful burn after a series of tests of questionable worth, followed by an unceremonious visit to the spirit world to talk to an irritable dragon.

You'll like this, though: for a sabotage mission I was temporarily transformed into a night elf! Now I know that should I ever want to make good on my threat to join the Alliance and escape Hellscream's eyes upon me, at least I can get around well enough in my new body. As a bonus, I'd be much younger comparatively. Just think of the profit you could turn if you lived thousands of years!

All tallied, I was in Azshara for several weeks. I traveled to Orgrimmar as time permitted to manage my auctions, but even my article I wrote out under the stars and mailed to the publisher. It's a strange life, living in the less civilized parts of the world. Before Kezan went into the red, I had never lived anywhere but the city. (I'm big enough to admit that it was thanks to my parents' success and higher class standing. On the isles, class was all but destroyed since we were all living in tents!) I figured that roughing it would be temporary, and yet here I am carrying rations and blankets in a patched rucksack! Where do you stand in the pecking order when you sleep on the ground and keep an ear out for wolves?

Well, one flash of my bankroll should remind anyone how I measure up. Which is good, because I've decided to continue into Ashenvale at the request of a senior Horde officer. I admit that I didn't pay the most attention in geography, but from what I recall, Ashenvale is peaceful and forested (what with being a night elf home, right?). Maybe spending some time in a proper forest will soothe me after watching my people raze Azshara.

24 June 2011

Day 13: Aka Admires

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 12: Akaschedule

In blogland, I admire writers who can speak their minds eloquently and respond to comments gracefully. Having a unique and insightful perspective is a must, as is communicating it to the reader. Even if the topic is unpopular or controversial, a writer that maintains said eloquence in responding to commenters rather than dissolving into teeth-gnashing is a person I want to emulate. I would love to cultivate this sort of skill. Such bloggers include: Larisa from PPI, the gentlemen of Righteous Orbs, Pewter at The 'Mental Shaman, and Keeva of Tree Bark Jacket.

In game, I admire my raid leaders. They have a huge job - knowing strats and being able to summarize them, managing rosters and loot, dealing with morale, putting up with my constant requests for /RW permission. It takes a good memory, and confidence in managing people. I've always thought about applying to RL, but I think the responsibility might be too much work for the game I play, which makes me admire my RLs even more.

I also really admire people who have figured out how to best balance their gaming with the rest of their lives. Although there are some days I just don't log in, or log in and get completely distracted doing everything but playing, there are also days where I have to talk myself into logging off and going out, even if it's something I've been looking forward to. Part of that, I suspect, is because I am by nature a homebody, but part of it is also that I can't tell myself no. So I like to read about people who have successfully integrated gaming into their lives without succumbing to the sort of lazy weakness I am plagued by; I like to live vicariously through their success and aspire to it myself :)

Go to Day 14: /flips table

18 June 2011

Day 12: Akaschedule

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 11: Beko's Bad Habits

My workday is an artful attempt to always appear busy whilst having nothing to do. I drink lots of coffee and work on blog posts (and go to the bathroom a lot because of said coffee), or I catch up on my blog or book reading. I also do Japanese homework when I feel a craving for well-meaning but patronizing praise like, "Wow! You can read Japanese without spaces between the words?"

The more bored I am at work, the more obsessive I become over WoW. I feel impatient about playing and annoyed that I am wasting my time twiddling my thumbs at my desk. This is alleviated by reading and writing, as it keeps me from making "plan of attack" lists out of desperation. On my least-busy days my planner is filled with needlessly detailed to-do lists like "heroic! dailies! check auctions! level mage!"

I get home around 5pm. If I have ridden my bike, I take off my sweaty clothes and sit in front of the fan until I stop sweating. Then I check my email and poke around the guild website for any juicy news.

If I have somewhere to go, I don't want to get too entrenched in anything, so I avoid reading blogs, starting podcasts, or logging into a guilded character. If possible I do one or two chores while I have the nerve. After I get home from whatever I went to do, I putter around on Aka, doing a heroic with the late-night guildies or grinding Archaeology. On Tuesdays the servers are usually down when I get home, so I use this time to update facebook photo albums or edit pictures for the blog. It's also a prime time to force myself to do chores. If I haven't taken care of it already, I update my personal blog on Tuesday evenings.

On free nights I raid at 6:30, then check auctions or work on alts afterwards. Raiding sometimes gives me a headache, so I don't hang out on Vent and usually crave the mindless bliss that is playing a level 15 hunter.

Go to Day 13: Aka Admires

15 June 2011

Holidays in Azeroth II

Last time I compared Azerothian holidays to those of some WoW playing nations. Today I'd like to talk about the in game celebrations, specifically the months that are particularly uneventful. I personally love the long holiday events. For me, the perfect holiday has dailies, rewards, plenty of XP or gold, achievements, a boss fight, and cool vanity pets or mounts. Currently, that makes my all-time favorite a tie between Hallow's End and the Midsummer Fire Festival.

However, that sort of holiday is a pretty big commitment, especially if you have multiple alts to take through. That's why it's also important to have downtime, so players can work on their own projects instead of dedicating an evening to Trick or Treating the entirety of Kalimdor. That sort of commitment is typical of long holidays - that's why they last so long. You get, say, 14 opportunities to defeat a daily boss, 14 days of dailies, and 14 days to take all your alts to all of the bonfires. Involved holidays need a long grace period, and enough activities to keep them busy. (That's why I don't really like the Lunar Festival.) Short holidays, on the other hand, don't have enough time for involved quests, but their lack of quests makes them less fun to participate in. Take the Fireworks Extravaganza for instance: without a quest or reward, it's unlikely that I'll travel to Booty Bay just to see in-game fireworks.

Looking at the calendar, there are some big gaps without any holiday fun to speak of: After Love is in the Air ends, there is a two month break for the entire month of March and until the end of April when Noblegarden begins. Then, there is a month and a half break from the beginning of April after Children's Week till the end of June when the Fire Festival starts. At the beginning of July, there is another two month break until Harvest Festival in early September.

A good break between holidays is 2 to 3 weeks, and a good length for a holiday is 1 to 2 weeks. (I'll give Winter Veil a free pass, seeing as that time of year is extremely busy in my culture and the game provides ample time to participate without having too many available activities.) With this guideline for length, the above-mentioned dry periods offer enough time for at least 5 week-long holidays! The current criteria for What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been includes 8 week-long epic holiday achievement sets. It does not include Pilgrim's Bounty or any of the day-long holiday achievements. Filling in the free months with new holidays and achievements could lend itself to another mega meta-achievement (a Longer, Stranger Trip if you will) and drake, made up of at least 6 holidays. Heck, while I'm pipe-dreaming, maybe they could throw in another handful of one-day-only holiday achievements and award a ground mount or pet for that.

Now, I can't very well ask for change without making a few suggestions. So I have some ideas for what we might could add to fill up those listless, unexciting months. The holidays now generally have some sort of connection to one or two races, and I'd like to see that any new holidays can be applied to under-represented races. I have broken it up like so:

Tauren: Winter Veil, Lunar Festival
Trolls: Brewfest (sort of?)
Forsaken: Hallow's End
Orcs: Harvest Festival
Blood elves and goblins have no current holidays. (I am not including the Fireworks Spectacular because it's short)

Humans: Noblegarden, Harvest Festival
Night Elves: Lunar Festival
Dwarves: Winter Veil, Brewfest
Gnomes: Brewfest (again...sort of?)
Draenei and worgen have no current holidays.

I'm not hugely against a race having yet another holiday associated with it, but in particular I'd like to find a way to explore cultural traditions of blood elves, goblins, trolls, draenei, worgen, and gnomes. It's a tall order, but parallels can be drawn in many cross-faction races so I think it would not be too hard to come up with reasons why multiple races or factions might celebrate. In fact, any new holiday should somehow be made accessible to all races. Even Noblegarden, arguably the most insular holiday as a human celebration solely for nobles entertaining children, was fun enough that not only the rest of the Alliance but the Horde as well adopted the practice. With that as precedent, any proposed holiday can theoretically be adapted as a universal event.

For the filler holidays, I want to draw both on any influences we might gain from earthly celebrations and any Azerothian holidays that could be extrapolated from what we know about the different cultures. Despite the prevalence of memorializing veterans and battles on Earth, I am not particularly eager for more of the same in Azeroth. I would like to see more religious or cultural events.

I brainstormed some incomplete lists of things I think each race might celebrate:
Tauren: festivals for the Earthmother, the hunt, and seasonal change; Cairne's death; battling the centaur; joining the Horde
Trolls: loa worship and related festivals; retaking the Echo Isles
Blood elves: any event related to the Sunwell; mana appreciation day
Forsaken: defeating the Lich King; Sylvanas' birthday (?)
Goblins: explosions; commerce and gold-making
Orcs: anything glorifying Thrall; adopted/remembered Mag'hari practices

Humans: planting and harvesting; fertility and marriage; unions made or broken with other nations; Varian's birthday (he would totally do this)
Night Elves: festivals celebrating Elune or nature; honoring and remembering those gone to sleep in the Emerald Dream
Gnomes: new inventions and engineering discoveries; retaking Gnomeragon
Dwarves: anything and everything to do with Brann Bronzebeard; other (lesser) explorers and archaeologists; festivals for forging or training gryphons
Worgen: many holdover human festivals; worgen-specific events like celebrating a pack; Prince Liam's death
Draenei: Naaru worship; the light; reaching Draenor/Azeroth

A while back, the podcast All Things Azeroth held a contest to design an April Fool's Day holiday. Unfortunately, I can't find any text related to the submissions but it certainly fits nicely into one of the holes in our calendar! I would love for the goblins and gnomes to host a holiday together that features their competing engineering endeavors, and this whimsical holiday could be a good opportunity to work in that story. Plus, it would take out 2 of the unrepresented races! If not April Fool's, I could easily see a different joint holiday: an Engineering Extravaganza featuring stock car racing, new engineering patterns, parts & schematics delivery quests, and engineered mounts or pets as rewards. Similar to Brewfest, they could be menaced by a boss - either a member of the opposing faction or a mutual enemy.

The April Fool's Day holiday would of course occur at the beginning of April, but March could do with a week of fun as well. In March we have Mardi Gras, St. Patty's Day, and the Longtaitou Festival on Earth, and the orcish gathering at Oshu'gun known as the Kosh'harg Festival. I'm going to bench St. Patty's for the simple fact that we already have a drinking festival and it is called Brewfest. Mardi Gras and the Longtaitou Festival are far enough apart that we could squeeze in both with ambition and a little elbow grease!

Mardi Gras seems to me to be a great activity for blood elves to participate in, and it probably wouldn't take too much explanation (or retconning) to come up with a reason for everyone to wear fabulous costumes and get trashed. What was I saying about not having another drinking festival? But more importantly, this holiday can feature costumes, fanciful masks, gaudy necklaces, parades, and as much Canal Street culture as you can handle. I'm not sure if it needs a boss or other conflict, but I'll leave that to the writers. The one thing I can't see is it being a precursor to any period of...austerity. Maybe it can refer to how the blood elves were having a great time getting high at the Sunwell (mega partying) and then suddenly were cut off (forced austerity?).

The Kosh'harg Festival is unfortunately an orc-specific holiday, but never underestimate the power of retconning! Draenei probably have some sort of related holiday around the spring equinox, and they need something to celebrate! This holiday would have to be mostly centered in Outland, I'm thinking Oshu'gun in Nagrand and Auchindoun in Terokkar Forest. That might present too many obstacles for lowbies or people who don't own BC, but maybe there could be some sort of phasing for lowbies. For orcs, the event was a way to get together for discussion, but it mostly turned into a big party. For draenei, seeing as they love the Naaru and stuff, they might have a week-long bash to get their worship on. The holiday could begin in Azuremyst/Durotar, and port players to their respective faction locations to visit with ancestors, feast, quest to put spirits to rest, or show their devotion to the light. Aside from the reference to seasonal change, neither of these can relate to the Longtaitou Festival [Dragon Raising its Head], but ideas for food, dress, or other decorations could take inspiration from that.

May and the first half of June are pretty empty in WoW, with the "Double Fifth" (5/5 on a traditional calendar) occurring in China and Korea. The Chinese Duanwu [Dragon Boat Festival] has origins referring to everything from famous people's deaths to celebrating dragons, associated with masculinity and the height of summer. It is celebrated by eating special food and racing dragon boats, and many traditions like wearing medicine bags or writing spells are to prevent disease or sickness. The Korean Dano marks the end of sowing season and the end of hibernation in northern regions. Popular events include eating rice cakes and wrestling. I feel like this might be a good event for worgen to participate in, both for agriculture and health as a holdover of their human roots, and also for worgen waking from their feral madness. Of course, my Gilnean/worgen history is not so good so this probably needs to be tweaked. To extend this to the Horde, it could be a "druid thing" that carries it across factions. We could quest in Moonglade, battle some still-feral druids, collect/make medicine bags and give them as gifts, and cook up some special food. Then we can race our dragon boats in the Lake of Elune'ara!

Last is the depressing month of August, which has no holidays! In China, the Qixi Festival (7/7 on the traditional calendar) is celebrated in August and influences the Korean Chilseok and the Japanese Tanabata, which I am personally very fond of. The story of the Weaver (the star Vega) and the Cowherd (the stair Altair) can be summarized as a weaver (sometimes a princess) meets a cowherd. They fall so deeply in love that they neglect their duties, and as punishment are separated by the Milky Way. Once a year (this holiday) they are allowed to meet. I think this romantic holiday could be adapted for troll use based on constellations visible from Kalimdor. Perhaps a common troll worships a loa so much he falls in love, and as a "reward" he is placed in the sky to keep her company. To extend this to the Alliance, since the night elves also live on Kalimdor they might have a similar story about the constellation. Activities include making wishes and tailoring, and quests for bringing love letters and tokens between smitten NPCs.

That brings us to the last quarter of the year, which is pretty evenly spaced with holidays. I'm really looking forward to that season this year because in addition to providing daily sources of gold and XP for my alts, the festive atmosphere makes me feel like I have something to celebrate too!

What do you think about the frequency and execution of holidays currently in game? Would you like to see more or less of them? I didn't flesh out my proposed holidays as deeply as those proposed on the podcast, but do you think they could work? Would you change them or choose entirely different inspirations for new holidays?

12 June 2011

Day 11: Beko's Bad Habits

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 10: My favorite sites

I am a huge procrastinator! I'm also unforgivably lazy. When it comes to deadlines, at least, I get shit done. I may have pulled a few all nighters in my school days, but I always got my work in on time. Without deadlines to punish my procrastination, laziness often takes over. With things that I don't want to do (mostly cleaning up or washing the dishes) I need the deadline of "this is my last clean spoon" or "friends are coming over tomorrow" to get me motivated. Of course, when it comes to fun things like playing WoW or going to a friend's house, I have no trouble getting motivated.

I can be incredibly moody, to the extent that I'll know I'm heading into a slump and still have trouble shaking myself out of it. Combined with my increasingly short temper (my tolerance for bullshit gets lower every year), it's probably my biggest flaw and causes problems a lot of the time, so I am consciously trying to recognize and combat it when stormclouds start to gather around my head.

Go to Day 12: Akaschedule

09 June 2011

Holidays in Azeroth

Happy Holidays! I love holidays in game and genuinely look forward to participating. Now that Children's Week has ended and we've had a bit of a breather, I've been thinking about celebrations in Azeroth: who has them, when, and why? I made a list (I love lists!!) to compare WoW holidays to the calendars of some countries that play. To explain my methodology: I first recorded national holidays that are typical work holidays. Then I did some searching for recognized cultural holidays that don't merit a day off (although I'm afraid I'm missing some I don't know about). For Azeroth holidays, I recorded all in-game events as well as some mentioned in books or player guides.

Check out the spreadsheet here.

Not included are two holidays mentioned on Wowpedia: Hordefall (the anniversary of the end of the 2nd war - what month was this?) and a Kodo Drum Circle (this celebrates all animals sacrificed for Tauren good during the year; I assume it would be held at the end of the year, but would that be the end of fall or before spring?). I left out the Kodo Run entirely because it appears to be more an event than a holiday.

There are four types of holidays, ignoring Wikipedia's unecessary 5th category "Northern Hemisphere winter holidays." They are religious, national, secular, and unofficial holidays. Looking at the earthly events above, you can probably categorize all of the holidays listed. I have tried to place the WoW holidays into one of the four categories; please comment if you think I have mislabeled one!

Religious: Dance of the Earthmother, Renewal of the Sun, Kodo Drum Circle

National: Engineer's Explosive Extravaganza (now Fireworks Spectacular), Hordefall, Lunar Festival, Harvest Festival, Hallow's End

Secular: Kosh'harg festival, New Year, Love is in the Air, Noblegarden, Children's Week, Pilgrim's Bounty, Midsummer Fire Festival, Winter Veil, Peon Day, Festival of the Lake

Unofficial: Pirates' Day

And now for a general overview of the earth nations' holidays:

USA: 12 national holidays recognizing milestones and influential people in the nation's development, veterans, and memorials for major events.
8 secular holidays for events celebrated internationally
8 religious holidays, mostly from Christianity and Judaism
9 unofficial holidays including everything from appropriated religious or international holidays to major sporting events to unique inventions like Black Friday and Groundhog Day

UK: 8 national holidays, many of them bank holidays rather than commemorating events
4 secular holidays marking year end and honoring parental units
5 religious holidays for Christianity

Australia: 4 national holidays recognizing important the nation's people and dates
8 secular holidays for international events, sports, and sweet reasons like hanging with your family
6 religious holidays focusing mostly on Easter

China: 5 national holidays for historical events and honoring veterans
13 secular holidays, many of which are traditional celebrations based on an old calendar and the seasons
2 religious holidays from Buddhism, focusing on ancestor worship

Korea: 7 national holidays for major national events, including the creation of unique written language
10 secular holidays, like China, many are from traditional celebrations and focus on seasonal change
2 religious holidays, both of them birthdays

Mexico: 17 national holidays, an impressive amount featuring important people, battles, and governmental changes
9 secular holidays, many of which honor specific types of people
6 religious holidays from Christianity, Catholicism in particular

Religious holidays
Of the holidays Blizzard appropriated for Azeroth, they have for the most part removed the religious significance from all of them in favor of finding other reasons to celebrate. For instance, Noblegarden is merely an event where generous human nobles hide eggs and gifts for others, and is not modeled on the resurrection of any Azerothian deity. Winter Veil references Father Winter (Hodir?) and a non-religious explanation for the changing of the seasons, but does not celebrate any deity birthdays. The only true religious events are tauren celebrations in honor of the Earthmother.

Secular and national holidays
There are secular holidays for veterans and war memorials, similar to the earth nations' penchant for honoring the same. These are the Lunar Festival, the Harvest Festival, and in the Forsaken's case, Hallow's End. The first two are particularly interesting, given that their earthly counterparts are for the lunar new year and Halloween, neither of which serve as memorials. The Harvest Festival is just poorly named, especially given that Azeroth already has two actual harvest festivals: Brewfest and Pilgrim's Bounty. Curiously, only the fireworks on July 4th are directly a result of the USian Independence Day, although loosely explained as part of the concurrent Midsummer Fire Festival and a redefining of the original Engineer's Explosive Extravaganza. No other WoW-playing nation has had a national holiday adapted for Azeroth, and no Azeroth nation celebrates an in-game victory or independence day. The Hordefall event is the closest that comes to this, and is only mentioned in a novel.

Other interesting holidays
Love is in the Air is particularly interesting in that it's origins in Azeroth are traced entirely to the Crown Chemical Company scheming with the Venture Co. goblins. This is Azeroth's "Hallmark holiday": there is literally nothing to it but some evil apothecaries fabricating a reason for everyone to smother themselves in harmful chemicals, encouraged by the money-grubbing Venture Co. Still, the gambit has been adopted by all the playable races of Azeroth. Pirate's Day is an interesting unofficial holiday, in that it is only celebrated in Booty Bay, and for a short time at that. This is a blatant reference to the earthly Talk Like a Pirate Day, provides only one achievement, and has no purpose other than extensive pirate jokes. Peon Day is a meta holiday created in celebration of the culmination of the European closed beta testing, and has been given a cute in-game story about peons and peasants finishing their work 4 minutes before the end of the day.

How long are holidays?
In general, Earth holidays tend to be limited to one actual day of celebration, with increasing excitement in the weeks preceding the event. In my experience this is mostly for commercial activity promoting holiday food, decorations, clothing, or gifts, but I've also spent this time attending gatherings in the spirit of the holiday. Some holidays, like the USian Thanksgiving, become an extended set of days, with the main holiday's celebration extended over multiple days. Still, although it is "Thanksgiving weekend," the actual day of Thanksgiving is one day long, and the rest simply bonus days.

Azerothian holidays, by comparison, are mostly clusters of celebration without a single distinguished day. Events like Love is in the Air, Harvest Festival, and Brewfest just exist for a week and then end without a "peak" day or event. Winter Veil does have such a culmination around December 25, but even that lasts for several days so players can find time to log in and collect their presents. This length is mostly for meta time and accessibility reasons, but it also suggests something about how Azerothians approach celebrations. Rather than a gradual buildup of expectations for one official day, they set aside multiple days to gather, feast, and make merry. Life in Azeroth is likely much more slow-paced than on Earth, seeing as they don't have useful inventions like computers or twitter. I could see longer holidays either being a period many are able to take off and relax for, or an opportunity for the hardworking to find a day or two to participate. For players, this means we get multiple chances to participate, and at least in my case, an in-game reflection of the festive buildup to the real life event.

A day off
As far as earthly holidays go, work holidays are given for national holidays. Some nations recognize religious holidays as well, but for the most part cultural holidays like St. Patrick's Day or Halloween are simply observed after work or school. In Azeroth, we typically play as heroes, who may go adventuring as time allows, but probably don't stick to a strict 9-5 schedule. Assuming they have no current "mission" it should be easy for our heroes to make time for celebrating. Then again, since some of the holidays have quest lines that require heroes, our characters may end up working through the celebrations! Holidays that are situated in smaller towns rather than capital cities may be more of a hassle than a blessing for our characters, since it takes them out of central activity hubs. Should they need to manage their trading or make use of convenient portals, they will first need to get back to a major city.

For working NPCs, some feastdays might reward days off. Although the holidays a generally slated to run for a week or more, I imagine that NPCs likely get only a few days off at most. Basically all settlements in WoW reflect holidays, so small-town residents would not have to travel far to join in the merrymaking. They would be more focused on food and fun rather than adventuring, and wouldn't need to travel to other cities in search of quests. However, it's also likely that they wouldn't travel for events happening in faraway cities, so anything exclusive to Booty Bay, Orgimmar, or Ironforge would be out of the question.

Up next
I intend to look more closely at which races are represented in each of Azeroth's holidays, what makes holidays enjoyable in-game, and ways to both include more holidays and celebrate different race's cultures. If you see any mistakes on the list, or have another holiday to add, please comment here or contact me on twitter @redcowrise.

07 June 2011

Day 10: My favorite sites

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 9: The Hunt Begins

I read a ton of different blogs and websites, so I have distilled them into the main ones I look forward to.

wow_ladies: This livejournal community always has the best in WoW news, advice, and general discussion. I owe them a lot, since they first got me started in social justice!
Digital Photography School: My first photography forum! Shortened appropriately to DPS. (Anyone got more suggestions for photo blogs?)
Japan Probe: Mostly news, some of it more humorous than others.
The Hairpin: Although they update a SHITLOAD, it keeps me on top of most of the good internet memes.
Captain Awkard: Wonderful advice from a very funny writer.
Shakesville: A very active social justice blog with incredibly powerful writing.

I also follow a bunch of webcomics. You should too!

Gunnerkrigg Court
Girls With Slingshots
Hark! A Vagrant
Hyperbole and a Half
Girl Genius
Jess Fink (nsfw)
Oglaf (nsfw)

Go to Day 11: Beko's Bad Habits

03 June 2011

[Shared Topic] Premium Services

I've been meaning to write a response to criticisms of the Blizzard digital item store, most recently concerning the Cenarion Hatchling, but this week's Blog Azeroth shared topic about premium services finally got me in motion. It turned out quite long, so I'll start with the premium services discussion and follow with my older musings.

Corath asks: What are your thoughts on not only this new feature, but "premium" features being added into the game?

Premium Services!

I consider these completely separate from other sale items, namely the pets and mounts available in the digital store. They are still subject to my general opinions on spending extra money - namely that how other people spend their money is none of your business, and scoffing at strangers' purchases makes you seem like a nosey asshole. These services are fundamentally different from companion pets and star-shitting unicorns in that they have the potential to genuinely affect gameplay. Well, aside from the mobile guild chat, which just proves what I already knew: WoW is merely a Fancy Chat. The remote auction house, however, can affect the economy of a server if a player is able to manage auctions while at work or on the train.

Dungeoning with friends...I'm still thinking about it. I know that I would love to dungeon with my Horde buddies in the US, so this feature is attractive to me. (Naturally, that means I want it for free...) It's also directly in game, making it more similar to RealID or the Dungeon Finder. Neither of those cost extra, and I think that's right. I realize that people are quick to scream "you aren't entitled to anything" and "in my day we had to level 60 times uphill, knee deep in elite silithids, wearing nothing but quest greens and less than 100g in our backpacks!" To that I say, since then, Blizzard has greatly improved the leveling and general gameplay experience at no extra cost.

I think I am entitled to whatever Blizzard decides is covered under my monthly fee, and up until now that has encompassed things like improved chat functionality and dungeon grouping. In addition to new endgame content, I also expect a continuing effort to improve other aspects of the game, since that is what they have continually provided. I don't deny their right to ask for whatever fee they want for whatever services, but I am apprehensive of what this will mean for new features. The game is wonderful now, but there is always room for improvement. I'm not sure I want to add another dollar to a separate service every time they invent a new way to wear your hair or kill a boss. Then again, due to inflation, I'm not sure I would be completely against a slight hike in monthly subscriptions. Perhaps that is too contradictory. At any rate, I'd like to see this feature accompanied by other no-charge quality of life improvements in game as well.

Digital purchases and the Cenarion Hatchling

There were some interesting comments regarding the Cenarion Hatchling pet, a $10 all-toon vanity pet. It will be sold in the Blizzard pet store from May 2 to July 31 and all proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Japan relief efforts. The first complaint, which is nitpicky yet defensible, is the amount of time it took for Blizzard to release this idea, and the obvious reuse of an old skin, rather than a new one. PR-wise, it would have looked much more charitable and supportive for Blizz to have made this deal within a week of the earthquake, when the whole world was mobilized to send support (or in the case of paranoid folks, chugging radiation pills and flipping out about minuscule amounts of radiation). Such a quick turnaround would also have excused the reused skin. Who knows why Blizz waited so long - since they make no money off the sales, this can't be a fast grab to bolster funds from lost subscriptions. Maybe they had to work out how the donations would translate to the Red Cross. The important thing, in my opinion, is that money is still needed in Japan. They are still working out how to salvage belongings, get meds to those who need them, keep people clothed, keep kids in school, get folks into temporary housing, hell, even search the ocean for the dead. The pet donations won't go to waste.

As for the skin being the same, all I can say is that personally, I've always wanted this pet so I'm glad I won't have to rely on being extremely lucky or extremely wealthy. I wouldn't object to a recolor so that it wouldn't be redundant for owners of the other one. I suppose they could have used another unreleased pet model, but I wouldn't expect them to repurpose a design, or create a whole new one. Maybe they didn't want to waste a model on something they weren't profiting from. I'll talk more about uniqueness and rarity in a few paragraphs.

Let he in a house of money make the first donation

The final criticism is the scorn heaped on folks for "needing a bribe to donate." How much of a jerk do you have to be to say this? I guess everyone who thinks this has already donated a considerable amount without so much as a thank-you in return. After payday, I nipped down to Lawson's to participate in the 万 up for Japan drive. No one knew I was participating, or checked that I really donated that much. The clerks' effusive thanks were enough to make me blush - I was just doing what I thought was necessary. But it still made me feel good to have my contribution acknowledged. When I saw the pet, I thought it was the perfect combination of guilt-free spending and exciting pet acquisition. If you bought the pet because you wanted an item rather than wanted to donate, who cares? You still donated. If you would have bought the pet with all the funds going to Blizzard, and then also not donated, you would have contributed nothing to the Red Cross. I'm okay with individual greed for vanity pets inadvertently resulting in donations, especially if that money wouldn't have been donated otherwise.


Some folks who already had the Hippogryph Hatchling loot card were incensed that their item was no longer super-rare and therefore a point of pride and bragging rights. In general, I must say that I'm a big proponent of availability over rarity. When it comes to items available for money, the only limit on how many people can have it is based on how many can afford it! If you like the item, buy it for yourself. You can't stop other people from having money to also buy it. Frankly, I think the worst thing about pet store items is that if you can't afford it, there's no other way to earn it. TCG cards cost money - whether you get lucky and find a card or buy the one you want. Luck doesn't really make you special, though, and neither does a wagonload of cash. You may have acquired a rare card, but you can't expect other people to just...not have it. It doesn't affect your game in the slightest who has or doesn't have it.

"Rarity" in raids

I think this extends to the 4.2 raid nerfs as well. The idea that outdated content (and it will be, as people buy T11 loot with JP and rush into Firelands) will be more easily conquered is apparently deeply offensive to folks who can already regularly kill the current raid bosses. The very nerve of those...those casuals! marching into BWD over half a year after its release and finally downing Magmaw, or Atramedes, or even Nefarion while you are pushing hard modes in Firelands! It's a slap in the face! While you are idling in Orgrimmar in full H T12 gear you may see someone finally getting their first raid mount. Outrageous! They should probably just delete all raids after your guild completes it, to ensure that you don't have to share any of your achievements. Except they don't belong to you. They aren't exclusive to you or your guild. If you got them all within a week of the content release, you already have your bragging rights, memories, and epic gear. When others start getting those things in 4.2, why would you even care, since you'll already be on to the next best thing? Even visiting old raids for a lark will already be trivial thanks to having current progression loot. I'm not sure who could be actively hurt by this decision, and although I hope to down all the bosses before the nerf, I'll be glad to go back and steamroll them anyway!

01 June 2011

Day 9: The Hunt Begins

This is the next day in Saga of Spellbound's 20 days of...WoW blogging challenge. You can find more participants here.

Catch up on Day 8: Ten things about Beko

My first post was cleverly titled The Hunt Begins, which is a quest in the tauren starting zone. So fresh! So relevant! It was at the time, anyway. I figured that, as a tauren enthusiast, it would be most appropriate to reference my humble beginnings in the title. The quest has been removed with Cataclysm, so I hit up wowhead to see if there were a current quest that I might use as an intro post title. The very first quest is called The First Step, which isn't bad, but it's not quite as evocative as "the hunt".

Anyway, in this first post I described my introduction into WoW, my history of gaming (Pokemon), my sad attempts to level a priest, and my general druid leveling experience. Then, I sort of proposed the content of the blog without being particularly specific, which I guess should have tipped me off to the fact that this is a general blog rather than a druid one. Reading it again, I don't think it's a bad first post. Explanatory, vaguely interesting, sort of meandering...kind of like the rest of the posts!

Go to Day 10: My favorite sites