30 May 2012

Pokemon Center: Osaka

Previously: Pokemon Center Tokyo

So a few days ago on Twitter Pokemon came up, as it naturally does, and I realized I hadn't yet told you fine folks about my trip to the Pokemon Center in Osaka! It (re)opened in the new City Station department store last year and was ridiculously crowded. As my friend put it, listening to children scream bloody murder is the best kind of contraceptive. Anyway, pictures behind the cut! At the store I had to use my crappy phone camera, so I apologize for the abysmal quality of some of them!

26 May 2012

#MMONBI You don't have to crap up your posts

Previously: Getting started, community building, roundup

One of the recurring bits of advice from seasoned bloggers is the importance of graphics to relieve a wall of text. That's not bad advice, but if you exercise it incorrectly you do a disservice to your post!

On my site, I make an effort to use primarily screenshots - not only that, but screenshots that I personally have taken. I loathe using pictures from other sources in my posts because it makes it feel less like my work. Which doesn't mean I won't do it or that you shouldn't - it just means more work to properly credit the source. There's also the pesky reality that the original picture could be moved or taken down. Sometimes I will save and reupload the picture so it's hosted by my picasa album, but source the page I got it from.

But I'm getting away from my point, which is consistency and relevance. I said I like to use screenshots, which means that using non-game images like photographs and graphics happens only when necessary. It breaks the overall consistency of my blog, but sometimes you really need a picture of yourself in a Spongebob costume! (high five if you recall that) Then there's relevance. I could google the word "relevance" and pick the first clip art picture that comes up, but it would have NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS POST. I would be trying to force an unrelated picture into my post solely for the sake of having one. It would be completely at odds with the other images I keep on my blog. Frankly, in my opinion, doing this looks generic and unsophisticated.

Unless you can make random clip art your schtick, at least try to pick images that have something to do with your overall blog content and theme. If you use images that aren't yours, credit the source. Explain the purpose of the image, either with a caption or by putting it near an appropriate paragraph. Don't just put images willy-nilly in your posts because you feel like you need to have them. And for everyone's sake stay away from clip art unless it's absolutely necessary!

So this is probably more of a rant than actual advice. I'm sorry if you do this in your blog posts and it sounds like I'm complaining at you. I was reading a post earlier today that had some completely random pictures pulled from google and they destroyed the message. At first I thought they were ads! Then I spent way too long trying to figure out what they had to do with the paragraph they were closest to. Way too much work! Don't let your imagery detract from your blog posts!

23 May 2012

Can someone explain pandaren lore to me?

[not-so-spoilers: brief reference to pandaren starting area general plot in brackets; otherwise just speculation based on currently available information]

Lore nerds, I need your help! I have some questions about pandaren. I read WoW Insider's guide to pandaren roleplay recently, which was very helpful, but I have some logistical questions about the Wandering Isle.

We know that all playable pandaren will be from the Wandering Isle. That means they are descendants of the original adventurous pandaren that chose to leave Pandaria to travel the world. Some of that adventurous spirit must still remain, but I wonder if after so long they don't also get some odd birds that like their simple island life and don't feel the need to adventure. Not to mention that exploration would necessitate actually leaving the Wandering Isle. Just standing on the edge and peeking at other islands flowing by doesn't seem very adventurous.

Chen Stormstout, a native of the Wandering Isle, left the island to explore Kalimdor (probably spending most of his time wall-jumping trying to get into hidden areas). How many other pandaren have left the island in order to explore? Do they return - can they return? Have they heard about the changes to Azeroth - things like the orcs invading, draenei crashing, Gilneans emerging, goblins joining the Horde? After all, they've been on the Wandering Isle for centuries. They must have experience the Cataclysm, but do they know who caused it, or his fate? If not ambassadors, have knowledgeable pandaren returned to the island to teach things like Common and Orcish? To teach about the other inhabitants of Azeroth? [[ [[The final events of the Wandering Isle suggest that pandaren can communicate well enough with the Horde and Alliance and aren't too troubled by the sight of a tauren or human, but why is that?]] ]] How much communication is there between Shen-zin Su and the rest of Azeroth? 

Then, upon finally reaching Pandaria (for the sake of story I would likely skip the out-of-timeline leveling between 12 and 85), how would the pandaren react to their ancestral home? For other adventurers, it would merely be a place of rumor, novel but not personal. For pandaren, this is the place they've heard about in legends. Their ancestors were raised here; many of their customs and beliefs come from this place, although time and separation might have changed them. Can you imagine how sayings and beliefs from Pandaria, things like the need to expel negative feelings to avoid creating real enemies, would warp into empty platitudes on the Sha-free island?

Currently, the pandaren of Pandaria react to island pandaren as if they were run of the mill adventurers: you look different, here is some ancient pandaren wisdom you don't know. I think this could be explained away if the pandaren of Pandaria think of island pandaren as immature and uncultured. And considering how long the two types of pandaren have been separated, it's likely that everything from accent to lexicon to fashion has diverged.

But the Pandaria natives are extremely laid-back by necessity - it's more likely that they would simply accept the island pandaren back into their homeland with little trouble. This is probably too nitpicky, but I'd love it if Pandaria NPCs could react to player pandaren differently than other races. Imagine if a draenei questgiver were like "Man you have no idea what it's like to live in a spaceship" and your draenei is like "Um excuse you I think I do." Mayhem!

20 May 2012

#MMONBI Post Roundup and Generalities

Previously: Writing and Community Building
Next time: Using Screenshots

If you aren't periodically checking on the excellent advice being given in the Newbie Blogger Initiative, you're missing out on great information! Even seasoned bloggers can learn something since there is information on a wide range of topics related to blogging. I've rounded up some of my favorite interesting or helpful ones here.

Inspiration: tips on getting started and sticking to it
Why You Should Blog (the pros outweigh the cons)
What should you write and how should you write it? (all around perfect post)
Just D... ("When you write...you gain perspective")
Top 4 Tips (short and sweet)
Hobnobbing (blogging is a social activity)
What's In a Name? (great brainstorming list)
(Drink) Read, Think, Write, Edit
What's in a Name? (personal information online)
Stats (you may look but don't obsess)
Writer's Block (take a break, change the subject)

Technical: bits and bobs to improve your site and its posts
Writing for the Web (people don't read, they scan)
8 Step Checklist: Finishing Your Blog Setup (wordpress-centric)
Protect your Blog! (all about Creative Commons Licenses)
Avoid Barriers to Commenting on Blogger (make it easy for commenters!)
Tags and Categories (get organized, get optimized)
The Google Reader Blogroll (fancy list bundling)
Blog Lists and RSS
Keeping Up (organize news sources)
Screenshots make your blog interesting (great examples!)
Wordpress Plugins
Pros and Cons of Self Hosting
Picture manipulation tools and copyright
Learn How to Podcast

Next is a shoutout for WoW Headlines, a website/iPhone app that seeks to provide a news list from WoW-related blogs. The $0.99 app can be filtered for class-specific news and also comes with a Blue Tracker and Realm Status feature. If you want to get your blog on the list or recommend others, email info@wowheadlines.com. The current list of blogs are at the bottom of each class page.

Last is a picture of the solar eclipse (vocab point: 金環日食) that I took this morning. I woke up a little later than usual, but they were showing a moon-tracker on the morning news and I managed to throw on sandals and grab my camera in time to catch the almost-peak. There were loads of people standing outside the apartment buildings, staring directly at the sun. I kept getting messages about needing special plastic in order to safely view it, but let's be real. I tried squinting, looking at it and away quickly, and peeking through my camera lens. Not the best of ideas, but my eyes seem to still be working. This picture looks quite dark, but it's only in order to capture the arc of the sun!

17 May 2012

The Leatherworkers [Tier 6]

The sun had just passed its midday peak when the skins across the doorway opened, jingling the tiny bells sewed into the bottom and alerting the leatherworkers in the shop to a customer. Akabeko blinked in the sudden shadow, a bundled set of armor tucked under one arm. An orc seated near the doorway set down her tools and approached the druid. The only other leatherworker in the front room, a wide-set tauren, briefly glanced up from his work.

"What can I help you with?" the orc asked, reaching out for the bundle and taking it to a clear work table.

Akabeko followed her. "Just general upkeep," she explained. "I've been waxing and polishing it myself, but the shoulders especially are starting to show their age."

The orc turned one pauldron over in her hands. The enchantment that made the skull's empty eyesockets glow blue was starting to fade, and the feathers were beginning to look dry and wilted. The orc ran calloused fingers across the dome of the skull, stopping when they met and uncharacteristic notch in the bone just above the left eye. She peered at the dent curiously.

Akabeko noticed her scrutiny. "That's been there since I bought the piece. The armorer told me there's no easy way to mend it, and I've come to like it anyway. It gives it character," she finished with a grin.

The orc grinned back. Her fingers continued to gently worry the mark. "There is no good way to mend it, not without interfering with the unique enchantment on the pauldron. It just surprised me to see it, because I'm the one that put it there."

This caused the so-far silent tauren to look up. "Is it one of ours?" he asked his partner.

The orc held up the piece in question to point out the nick. "Do you remember the first time we hunted kaliri?"

"Ahh, yes," the tauren interrupted. "Our plan was to bait one and lasso it." He laughed. "That was such a terrible idea!"

"Come on, it wasn't that bad. How could you have known it would call so many others to help?"

Akabeko looked back and forth between the pair, listening with interest.

The tauren set down his tools. "I didn't know, but my job is to take the hits while you do the hard work, so I should have done my research to be as safe as possible!"

"I have to admit, when the kaliri screeched and those three others burst out of the trees, I went a little berserk. They all went straight for you, with your hands full of feathers and nothing but a shield!"

"Believe it or not, I was still trying to keep the bodies intact. I stunned the one we caught with my shield before I went after the others."

The orc shook her head. "I wasn't being careful. It's only luck that I took the first pair's heads off instead of anything else. That last one..."

The tauren laughed. "When you jumped over me I thought you might sprout wings and fly away yourself!"

"Yes, well," the orc shrugged sheepishly. "It was in your blind spot. So I smashed it in the face."

Akabeko blinked at her armor with newfound appreciation.

"As you can see," the orc continued conversationally, "we're in an off season and having a slow day. I can have this ready for you by sunset tomorrow."

"Thank you, I appreciate it," Akabeko replied, heading to the door. She nodded at the tauren, who waved a pair of scissors at her, already back at work. "Afternoon!"

14 May 2012

#NBIMMO Blog Setup and Community Building

Previously: Why and What to Post

While your first posts are percolating in your head, let's think about a name and hosting. Names are incredibly important to me - I agonize over them for days before I can finally create whatever I was trying to name. Hopefully you don't have this affliction. Names can be simple, descriptive, punny, or random. They don't have to be immediately obvious, but straightforward works too! Your content can help influence the title - guides would want a plain title, fiction would merit something more flowery. See if you can encompass the goal of your blog in the title - something like "The Best DPS Evar" sounds more likely to have DPS theorycrafting than fanfiction about Thrall.

Got your name? Let's go register. If you're new and unsure (or a cheapskate) you probably don't want to plunk down cash on webhosting. Fortunately, there are solid blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger that offer free hosting. I've also read blogs hosted on tumblr, but can't say too much on these. My feedreader is about half WP and Blogger.

Okay, the blog is made and you're ready to customize! With the popularity of feed readers, I often suspect that the only time people see your actual site is their first visit, when they comment, and any time they want more information: a specific post, your profile, or your contact info. Make your blog representative of your personality, but also make it accessible. Choose a premade background or upload your own. Create or commission a header for your title - screenshot, drawn art, or fancy text works!

Remember that different screen resolutions will affect the appearance. For instance, my background doesn't quite reach the edges of my widescreen but is heavily cropped on my work computers. I have it set so it doesn't scroll with the page for a less busy appearance. The max width of the important bits is 900px, because I know some people who still use 640x800 screen resolutions, and width scrolling is a pain.

Blogger helpfully suggested page element colors based on my background's "palette," and I went with dark text on light background for max legibility. I've read that light text on a dark background can cause more eyestrain, but since I get most of my posts in google reader's black and white interface it doesn't much matter. Whatever your color scheme, be sure to test the visibility of your text!

Now it's time to add widgets. Being comprehensive without cluttering up the page is our design goal. You have the option of tabs and sidebars, so see how you like one, the other, or both. (Or even double side bars all the way across the page.) Here are some things to put near the top: your email/twitter contact info, a link to your RSS feed or email subscription, a search bar, an about page, and archives. Other things you might like to include are: a picture roll, armory/achievement widgets, an organized page of your major posts, a Creative Commons license, a tag list or wordcloud, and a blogroll. Blog Azeroth is an incredible resource for this stuff - I added a contact page because of the advice there, and you can find CC and achievement widget howtos as well.

Optional: Feedburner is a neat little service that creates a permanent feed for your blog, meaning you can change your URL and subscribers won't need to update a thing! It also opens a special page where readers can automatically add the feed to their preferred reader, which is convenient. There's also a stats page, although I usually use Blogger's Stats or Google Analytics if I feel like stroking my epeen. Just, for love of the Earthmother, don't truncate your feed. If you do, I may give up on reading your blog on principle, or stick your URL into fulltextrssfeed out of spite. Also a secret desire to keep reading. Follow your own feed to see how posts translate into your reader - everything from colors to formatting can look wonky when taken out of the context of your blog!

If you choose to use advertising on your blog, that's cool, but as a personal favor to me please put it above or below your posts. Ads in the middle of a post are very distracting!

Before seriously networking, I recommend that you publish at least three posts on your blog. A generic introduction is ok, or jump right in with your deepest of thoughts, but give potential readers something to see! There's no way to know what will appeal to different readers, but an example of your aim and style will give them an idea. I always seem to get more comments on throwaway word vomit than well-researched compendiums...hmm...

Now it's time to get out there and make friends! I must emphasize the fact that the WoW blogging community is full of sweethearts. We are a helpful and friendly bunch, and we love to cuddle and coo over newbie bloggers. (Metaphor too creepy? Let Auntie Aka pinch your widdle cheek!!)

Hop on over to Blog Azeroth, register, and post in the New Authors forum! Use the template...or else. Then, fire off an email to the TNB Wiki to get on their lists. Finally, message Beru to be featured on an upcoming Welcome Wagon!  Okay, your name is out there. All that's left is to make some friends! (And keep posting. Never stop posting!)

If you already have some blogger buddies in the community, ask them to promote you on their blogs or blogrolls. I get the impression that it's generally frowned upon to message a stranger blogger and ask them to include you on their blogroll. However, interacting with them may earn you a place! Populating your own blogroll is a good way to start - free advertising for blogs you read is never bad, and if you refer traffic their way they may be more inclined to check out your blog and link back! I've chosen to import my Google Reader feed as my blogroll, and it was so massive I ended up cutting it to the top 10 most recent. Other bloggers show titles only in alphabetical order, sometimes grouped into topics like RP, guide, comics, etc. Pick whichever you like!

Comment on blogs. If there's an option to sign in or include your URL, do so. Linking your blog with no other comment is kind of spammy. If their post inspired you to write a response, by all means link that in your comment. Otherwise, include your link in the designated box (it will usually show up in your nickname or even show your most recent post) and leave a nice comment. Even something as simple as "Great post!" can make a blogger smile.

Write fan mail. If you write into a podcast, your comment and signature info will often be read on the air! Writing to bloggers will make them feel good and hopefully prompt them to read or comment on your blog. I've gotten requests for proofreading and advertising, and it is very flattering to be asked for help!

If you want a less formal way to interact with other bloggers, try out twitter. It's not mandatory - I know at least one well-known blogger who manages just fine without it, but the added element of short, snappy communication is quite useful. Ask questions, offer comments, and see a more personal side of your favorite writers. Promote their stuff by retweeting, and they may do the same! Consider an automated service like twitterfeed to advertise your new posts.

Your posts are out there and people are reading them. You may get comments! They may not always be to your liking. Gird your virtual loins and respond, moderate or close comments to stem the flow, or simply avoid posting about stuff that typically attracts controversy. (This blog caters to casuals and noobs raauugghh!) Some bloggers don't respond to comments at all, or may only respond to a few. Others respond to each and every one, no matter how many (or few, boohoo!). Respond however you like, and remember that since your blog is your space, it is entirely up to you how you deal with comments. Moderating or closing comments is not a bad thing. Maintain your space in whatever way makes you most comfortable.

Keep writing! Keep posting! Legions of adoring fans are just waiting to read it!

Next time: RoundupUsing Screenshots

11 May 2012

#NBIMMO Why and What to Post

Blogging tips and help for new and prospective bloggers! What a great idea! I hesitated to add my own 2 cents, but the nature of blogging is to talk at length whether anyone is listening or not, so...

The point of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, hosted by Syp of Bio Break, is to encourage those thinking about or just starting a blog to do so with style! I think something like this would have helped me to get started, what, a year and a half ago? Dang, it's been a long time. Since I write about WoW, some of this advice will be specific to the game, but hopefully it can be generally useful to anyone interested in blogging!

When I first considered blogging, my thought process was something along the lines of "Man, I have a lot of thoughts about WoW but no one in my immediate circle cares about them! Who will listen to all my feels?" The answer is: the internet will listen! Tell us what you think! What do you care about? Before you pick your site name and register it, you may still struggle with what will become the content of your blog. Fiction? Random thoughts? Artwork like screenshots or drawings? Guides to DPS, transmog, or quests? Anything is okay, even a mix. Especially a mix! Guides take a lot of time and energy to produce, but they don't generate much conversation (unless you make a mistake). I follow guide-style blogs for news and info about my class, but in the end I mostly skim them until I need the information. More personal blogs are what keep me refreshing my reader at work.

Perhaps the most important thing is to write what you want, because you want to, and not because you want internet fame and oodles of money. Sharp writing and savvy networking may bring at least the first, if not the second, but that's not a good reason to start a blog. Write because you have thoughts, stories, opinions, or other creations that you want to publish and point to and say "I made that." Your readership may be small and slow in coming, but if love of creating is what's driving you, you won't care. And one day, young lowbie, you too may be featured on WoW Insider. Or not. But don't get discouraged!!

let's talk about holidays
Content is anything you want it to be. I've read poetry, fiction, and prose, looked at artwork, and listened to original music. If it moves you, write about it! A lot of the motivation to post comes from thoughts that start small but grow into information to be shared. Obscure lore observations, beautiful screenshots, and funny personal experiences all make for good posts. Readers want to learn something new, or find common ground with the writer, or appreciate a good piece of art. What do you want to share?

Find your voice - be it fun and relaxed or polished and formal. How do you feel about emoticons and lolsp34k? Post screenshots, with or without comment. Showcase your personality and style. I was going to say be yourself, but more importantly you should be the you that you want to present to the world. For some that means writing in character, for others a professional detachment, and for others a conversational lightheartedness. Include personal information if you'd like - your readers care about the person behind the URL. Watch your language - or don't. Your choice of slang or expletive contributes to the overall atmosphere of your blog and affects its appeal for different people. Realize that offensive language can, well, offend some readers, and colloquialisms can alienate non-native speakers. (Not that it's stopped me!)

NBI content unedited
Polish your writing. Organize your thoughts with an outline. Add addenda and notes in the margins and arrange everything coherently when you construct the post. Even if you want to publish without editing your ideas, use spell check. Write your post, sit on it for at least a few hours, and reread it for consistency and flow. Consult a dictionary or thesaurus if you need to keep using the same word or can't think of the right one. Get a beta reader to help you look for misspellings, awkward phrasing, or confusing narratives. For fiction, be consistent with verb tense and perspective, and relieve long dialogues with descriptions of each character so the reader doesn't get lost.

Develop a quirk. What makes people remember you? Some bloggers are known for fun quirks like quotations, title themes, or colorful setups. Others are famous for their unique writing style or incredible insight. Still others like myself are just uncontrollably awesome undeniably strange. You can intentionally cultivate something like this or just see where your blogging adventures take you!

yes that's a crying alot
Keep a memo of post ideas that occur to you as you read news or other blogs, play the game, or zone out at work. Take ideas from memes or the Blog Azeroth Shared Topic. Write about current events or deeds from long ago. Write on scraps of paper until you can organize your thoughts at the keyboard. Post tweetable snippets or bearwalls or somewhere in the middle. To me, around 500 words is the perfect amount of post, but that doesn't stop me from reading - or writing - more!

Include screenshots or graphics if you have them and if they're relevant. Crop them to the important bits, and if you have the intestinal fortitude, spruce them up with a (free) image editing software. Graphics can help break up an imposingly long post. You can also keep your paragraphs short and break up sections with headers, or use bold and italics to highlight important points.

If you're inspired by a quest, a news piece, or another post, link to it! The different color of a link creates a unique emphasis, so choose your linked words well! Cite your sources. Those cited may get pingbacks and thus see your commentary, and readers can go to the original content that sparked your brainwave.

scheduling topics
Post regularly to keep your name in people's minds. Pace your posting - even if you churn out multiple posts in one frenzied sitting, polish them and schedule them over a period of days or weeks. Publish hot topic items as close as possible to the issue's debate, holiday information when the holiday is being celebrated, and fill the rest with your less time-sensitive musings. If you are creating a series, post them consecutively and provide links to the rest of your series. Try to keep gaps in an ongoing story short.

Publish or die! Do whatever works to keep you posting - set deadlines or weekly minimums, make a friend pester you to post something, set alarms on your phone or computer to blare horns when it's Friday and you haven't written a thing. Set aside time to write. Give yourself homework. Take the time to arrange those screenshots just so in your post or finally jot down that story that's been wriggling around in your head. Make writing a part of your routine so that it doesn't seem like a chore. A lot of blogs go dark after just a few weeks, so find your motivation and stick to it! We are looking forward to hearing from you :)

Next time: Blog Setup and Community Building, Roundup, Using Screenshots

08 May 2012

Spoiler FREE Mists beta as told by gifs

This post is high in pictures but low in spoilers! Click through the cut to see my animated reactions to the Mists of Pandaria beta so far :)
Did someone say beta?

05 May 2012

Goblin journal: Together Again

Imagine my surprise when I realized that a year had gone by and it was Children's Week once again. I felt kind of bad, realizing that I hadn't visited Logal at all, but that's the point of the holiday, right? Prior to that, I had been mucking around the Swamp of Sorrows; there's a goblin getaway and a few Horde outposts, so there was plenty to do. Most of it involved explosions, so I was right in my element.

If it hadn't been for Myda contacting me, I may never have gotten the postcard from the orphanage asking me to drop by again. Fortunately, she's been holding down the finances like a trade prince and was at home to get the message. I ported back to Orgrimmar right away.

Logal, in the nature of all children, grew up. Literally - he's enormous! I mean, he was already taller than me when we first met, but now he's quite the picture of young orchood. Of course, he wasn't too old to give Auntie  Sprinkie a (bone-crushing) hug. Ahh, to be young and awkward again!

We took a walk through the Drag to catch up on the past year. He looked healthy enough, but I was glad to hear that not only is he still getting regular meals and general education at the orphanage, but he's also been visiting local businesses to learn about the various trades available to him. It seems that throughout the year his heart's desire has been everything from rocket engineer to leatherworker to warrior. I told him about my adventuring, not that there's anything particularly interesting to tell, but he seemed to enjoy it all the same. In a year or two he'll be able to leave the orphanage and apprentice somewhere; he said even now he sometimes gets odd jobs for a little spending money. If he had any interest in banking I'd make him a Sparklefizz, but I suspect he needs something a bit more physical than that.

We were deciding on something for lunch when I received an urgent summon from Stonard. One of the commanders I had worked under was requesting my attention in the Blasted Lands on everything from marauding ogres to a mine dispute to a misplaced forest.

I had to go, Journal. If I want to maintain any credibility with the Horde I need to obey my superiors, even if it means letting a kid down. So I told Logal to go back to the orphanage, and I would be by later in the week to take him around. Then I opened a portal to Stonard. Right as I'm about to close the portal, suddenly Logal comes barreling through, just barely missing being snipped right in half by arcane energy!

To say I was angry would be an understatement. I had a job to do, and such jobs are rarely safe even for those trained to handle them. I didn't want to put Logal in danger; if he wanted to look for danger he could wait until he was the right age and do it after lots of proper training. I explained this all to him, trying not to blow a gasket, and when I was done with my tirade he simply looked at me and said please, I want to do this. You're supposed to go on your first hunt with your parents.

What was I supposed to do? Myda can never know about this. Riches, the orphanage matron can never know about this! I could have ignored him, opened a portal and shoved him back into Orgrimmar and gone about my business.

I let him come with me. Don't give me that look! How can you say no to a request like that?

The commander had a list of tasks for me to take care of, so I went with the least-dangerous sounding one first. A mine dispute - surely that's just some smooth negotiating, right? In this case, it appeared that negotiations and failed and the backup plan was to kill everyone and salt the earth. Or the ore, in this case. We followed the cart rails deep into the mines and found a troll overlooking a camp of terrified Alliance miners. They had discovered something deep in the mines that scared them so much they suspended operations. I was worried about Logal seeing whatever it was, but it's not like there was anyplace to leave him wait.

We snuck past the Alliance with a makeshift disguise made out of a supply crate. Perhaps not my best invention, but they were so rattled they didn't notice it changing positions. Logal didn't quite grasp the danger of sneaking through a swarm of hostiles, but at least he was quiet and obeyed my instructions.

The terror turned out to be a disgusting tentacle demon. Logal couldn't stop staring. I ordered him to hide under the box until I had taken care of it, but when it got a good swipe on me, he threw off the box and started shouting at it. Of course, this attracted its attention, and I managed to kill it just in time. Yes, I know. It was irresponsible and reckless of me to bring him. He was more subdued on the trip back to the entrance of the mines, but once we were on the surface his good humor came back. Maybe I'm just trying to justify it to myself, but I think if he wants to learn about the realities of combat he might as well do it alongside someone with experience who cares about him.

Still, I didn't report to any of the quests that would likely have me killing humanoids. It's a bit harder to stomach killing someone who looks like you than it is to kill an animal or a demon. If the current atmosphere is any indication, Logal will have plenty of opportunity to kill humanoids in the coming years. I don't need to hasten that experience.

So next we went to the Dark Portal. I only vaguely remembered things from my history lessons, but Logal was completely bowled over. After all, it is how his people got into Azeroth in the first place. His parents came through that portal. I let him gape while I picked up orders from the warlord and then it was off to kill some more demons. I wouldn't let Logal help actually attack them, but I told him to keep a good lookout for other enemies so he would have something to do. It was a lucky thing, too, because there were demons everywhere around the portal!

Logal wanted to go through the portal, but I had to put my foot down at that. The other side is still supposedly a constant warzone, and frankly even I'm not prepared for that. Besides, he was looking a little shook up after all those fights. Ugh. The more I think about it the more I regret it. But what's done is done. He would have started seeing that kind of violence sooner or later.

Finally I brought us back to Orgrimmar, and to make up for working during his special week, I called in a few favors and got a guest pass to Gallywix's rooftop pleasure palace from Boss Mida. I let Logal swim around in Gallywix's pool and drank overpriced cocktails all weekend.

02 May 2012

Who will I start a knitting circle with??

I'm going to confidently say that this post is spoiler free. There is no information about the new quests or storylines and no pictures, and if you don't already know the names Aysa or The Wandering Isle by now you probably don't even play WoW.

I got my pandaren out of the starting zone and into the Alliance! It was pretty enjoyable, definitely beautiful, and well-orchestrated. (Yeah, I put my background music on loop.)

But you know what's creepy? The Wandering Isle is a sausagefest. In my RP experience, meaning that I am the only player character who exists on the island populated with NPCs, there are only 4 women out of 55 humanoid characters. There's me, obviously, and Aysa. There's also Lien-Hua, a female blacksmith hanging out near the temple, and one female human called Delora Lionheart. (Great last name because it reminds me of this fantastic song!)

I realize that this is likely a result of the female pandaren model being designed well after the male one, and the island being populated before it was complete. I imagine that's why Lien-Hua is only female in title and still uses the male model as a placeholder. But that means that when someone went back to add some lady pandas to the starting zone, from over 50 potential NPCs they chose...two. I know it's not a malicious choice. There's no evil Blizz overlord twirling his mustache and cackling. It's not actively cruel. It's just telling me that I'm an afterthought, a reminder. Fifty-one out of fifty-four times, a female character doesn't even register.

Back in the day, this did annoy me. Not enough to cancel my sub, but enough to grate. Now it just makes me tired. Same old, same old. In Cata we met the sweet Tolvir cat dudes, who lacked for dudettes but not offspring (I like to think they reproduce by budding those magnificent pecs.) Therazane was a fantastic introduction in Deepholm, but still managed to have all-male servants. The sons of the Stone Father were, well, sons. Unfortunate because their model is spectacular, confusing because where do lady dwarves come from...? Those awesome gnomes in Ulduar have the same problem - great model, complete lack of female equivalent. The Taunka are a sore spot for me, in that they "have" a female counterpart recycling the old tauren model. It's going to happen again with the Yaunka, that have 6 distinct fur colors and no female model. I was hoping for some long-faced relatives for Aka! Gnolls, troggs, kobolds, ogres. (Too gross to be female? Spend two hours with me on chili night and we'll talk.)

The point of this laundry list isn't to accuse developers of hating women or whatever. My point is just that despite comprising half the plant, when it comes to inclusion, women are an afterthought. A character that's sexy, that's a caster, that's a mother recalls the need for a female model. Everything else...why design a female model when you can just make it male? When I was a kid I used to draw a lot, and one of my favorite shows was Sailor Moon so I had a lot of examples of the female form. After a few years I realized that I was total crap at drawing men, so I made a conscious effort to draw more male figures until I had a better idea. If a 15 year old can independently recognize the need for balance, I like to think that pointing out the overwhelmingly sausage-y undercarriage of Azeroth should be enough reason to freshen it up with some diversity. Unless, I suppose, they are really pandering to the overwhelmingly slashy legion of shippers?