Play nicely, children

or how I got my first epic flyer, a bronze drake (which I still can’t use).

A quick run of the Culling of Stratholme with a tank (until very recently, *the* tank) and another DPS from my guild and two LFG-ed randoms started well. Buffs were handed out, everyone said “hi”, DPS #3 was doing 5-7k bursts on the early pulls, and there seemed little danger of our tank going splat thanks to timely heals from the paladin healer.

Unfortunately Mr. 6k DPS did manage to rip aggro off our tank a couple of times and went splat. I’m not sure exactly how it happened — one of the disadvantages of being a melee DPS is that it’s easy to spend an entire pull with nothing to see other than a giant’s backside — but he was definitely down, and definitely not happy about it.

We were then treated to what felt like a scripted encounter; the point-counterpoint of name calling and recrimination. Whenever our pugsome twosome weren’t bashing mobs, they were bashing each other, starting from:

“Why you no heal” -> “Why didn’t you drop aggro”

“l2p, shithead” -> “I’m not a shithead, you’re a shithead”

…and working downward. But despite the bickering in party chat we were still steamrolling through the instance and made it to the Infinite Corruptor with plenty of time. A short few seconds later and the corruptor was down.

And our two LFG’d groupmates are *still* bickering with each other — and now arguing about the drake, even though the DPS seeming already has it. So I roll, and the healadin rolls, and once again I lose. Cue sympathetic /w messages from my guildies and much crowing in party chat.

Then, a few moments later as we’re approaching Malganis, I get a whisper from the healer. Did I want the drake? Naturally I say “yes”.

“I only rolled need to piss off the druid” says the paladin healer, before opening a trade window and sending me the drake. “Watch this: I bet you 10g I can make him die here”.

So I now have a bronze drake, and need to save another 2k to train epic flight before I can use it.

And the druid? He was cc’d in the first moments of the fight against Malganis, who didn’t look at him from then on.

Veteran players, I salute you …

… but for the love of Alexstrasza, stop going on about how easy everything is.

On my way to work this morning I listened to the Twisted Nether Blogcast, specifically episode 77 with Starman. I’m a newcomer to TN and what I’ve found with the ‘casts so far is that my enjoyment is totally dependent on that week’s guest. That’s not to say that the hosts (Fimlys and Nibuca) are in any way inconsequential, but as the guest appears to stay for the full duration of the show, and is the major portion of the first half, they effectively determine how much I enjoy listening.

And if I’m honest, I’m not enjoying ep77 and that seems primarily down to the conversation with Starman. I’m sure he’s a very nice guy and I’m probably reading too much into certain statements but almost every answer seemed suffused with “it was much better back in the old days — even when it was worse”, and “it’s totally easy-mode now”. And I keep encountering this sort of thing and want to fire off a rant of my own. At the general concept, not at Starman (just to be clear).

Newbie alert

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m still a new player. I installed the battle chest on the day before 3.2 rolled out — a masterpiece of timing which meant that I spent most of the evening installing and patching the battlechest before going to bed, and returned home the following evening to another >1Gb patch download. Which sucked. I have a single, solitary lvl 80, a 56 mage, a 30-ish hunter and a bunch of storage alts. I’m most certainly not an authority on the game.

It’s still pretty new and exciting for me though — there’s *loads* I haven’t done. I’ve never completed a raid — any raid — other than the big outdoor one in Stranglethorn Vale. Which I did as an 80 with a group of 80s . I’ve not done arenas, or battlegrounds. There are loads of pre-Northrend instances that I’ve never seen. And that’s probably why I find the world-weary, “ah, but back in the day…” shit so painful.

I get that there are probably things which you enjoyed which have changed. And I don’t think there’s anything controversial in suggesting that Blizzard have made significant changes to gameplay to ensure more of the playerbase sees more of the content. Hell, I’ve read the original manual for vanilla WoW (and the awfully-produced Brady guides that come with the battlechest — more on that later) and half of the systems and mechanics in there just don’t exist any more. So yes, it’s easier.

About this lawn of yours

Here’s the thing though: if nearly everything you can talk about was better in some mythical time before Blizzard smacked everything with the tardbat (/nod to Tam), perhaps you might reconsider your position as a player? Note that I’m not saying everyone with a grievance should shut up or get out. That’s not how it works. What I am saying is that if your favourite thing in the game is complaining about things in the game then you’re now playing a metagame and you probably don’t need to pay the subscription fee any more — you can just read the patch notes and start venting.

Conclusion: the famous Monty Python “you were lucky” sketch with the old men talking about how much tougher things were in the old days and how much happier they were IS A JOKE. A commentary on nostalgia and the distortions inherent in it. It’s not a role model.

LF Enchanter: hey, that’s me!

So I did my first ever “tradeskill for a random” yesterday. I was cruising through Stormwind on Centrella on the way to the bank when I spotted someone looking for the Fiery Weapon enchant in /1 local. And, as it happens, I picked up that particular enchantment late last week. Mats were exchanged, a weapon was enchanted, nothing-to-see-here-move-along-please.

Except for two things.

It’s like life, but…

Hanging out in WoW’s major hubs is in many ways almost exactly like hanging out in the center of most towns (or at least the ones I know). Loud people yakking it up on street corners, not caring who hears. Throngs of people and cars. Shoppers moving from entrance to entrance, laden with bags. Market traders loudly advertising their wares.  Snatches of other people’s conversations as you pass them (or as they accidentally oops, wc). A fight or two, the obligatory naked person, crazies dancing in the street (iPod users?).

There are, sadly, precious few towns you can walk through without some poor unfortunate asking if you can “spare any change”, and Stormwind (for example) is no different. What I don’t hear on a typical walk through the delightful tree-lined boulevards of Lewisham is “WHERE CAN I BUY SHOES?”. Or “Hey, I’ve got some wool and some buttons. Can anyone make me a cardigan?”. Or “CAN SOMEONE MAKE THESE TROUSERS WARMER plx?”. Which is, I think, a shame.

And now I come to think of it, the market traders have a little more savvy in the real world. I’ve heard plenty of “Get ‘yer oranges, 4-fer-a-paaahnd” and the like, but relatively few stallholders with a pitch of “Bring ‘us some flour and I’ll make you some bread. £10 tip.” [s’not a tip, grumble grumble].

An unhealthy brand relationship

So in the brand-driven culture we live in, almost all of us like to associate with the companies whose products we like — it seems nearly everyone can be drawn into a little fanboi rant if you pick the right subject.  Gucci vs Fendi. Primark vs New Look. AMD vs Intel. Sooner or later, most of us can find some form of brand loyalty which goes beyond the purely rational. But witness this (not verbatim, but true-to-the-spirit) conversation:

Shopper-Who-Shall-Remain-Anonymous: LF Enchanter to do Fiery Enchant on my weapon
Centrella [standing beside SWSRA, conveniently]: I can do that.
SWSRA: Where are you?
Centrella: /waves at SWSRA
SWSRA: /inv Centrella
SWSRA: Oh, there you are. Hello.
Buddy of SWSRA also in group: Hello.

[a trade window appears with mats]

Centrella: Hang on, I need my enchanting rod … thing

[run to bank; return to find SWSRA missing. Look on map to see SWSRA & buddy trailing behind. Cue mild embarrassment]

[trade window with weapon; enchanting ensues]

SWSRA: Thank you.
: No problem ;)
[breathlessly]**: I’m going to make you my preferred enchanter and come back to you for all my enchants and add you to my friends list. Add me to your friends list, ok?
: Er … great. Cheers. Ok … gotta run! [exits stage left, at speed]

Now I don’t know about you, but I found that last part from SWSRA a little … uncomfortable. And whilst that might not be exactly the same words he used (dramatic license, y’all) it was very much how it made me feel. So anyway, I got the hell outta Dodge via a speed teleport and trundled off to continue questing. And was happily doing just that when I received:

SWSRA whispers: Have you added me yet? Make sure you add me?
: Of course
[sotto voce]: …not, you nutter.

I don’t need to. I’ll suspect I’ll have perfect recall of SWSRA’s real handle for a while yet…

** well ok, I don’t know for certain he was breathless. But that’s how I heard it.


>> This is a copy’n’paste job from the “How did you get started in WoW?” thread on the Single Abstract Noun forums as it would make sense to include it on my own site somewhere. Phew, link-fest.

Oh lordy.

Towards the end of July last year (2009) I was at a barbecue at a friend’s house, making food and chatting with with the friend’s sister’s boyfriend. Sis and her boyfriend had just arrived from Australia for a visit and we were having a fairly typical we’ve-just-met conversation: jobs, interests, etc. He was an eLearning specialist at a university in Melbourne and was very interested in using virtual worlds for education, so we ended up talking about Second Life, Habbo Hotel, the failed Google project “Lively” and finally, WoW.

I’d never played, but as a committed gamer I’d read plenty enough about WoW and decided that it wasn’t for me. Although I’m omnivorous in my gaming, I particularly love a good plot, dialogue and a bunch of other things not notably well done in MMOs. I’d tried two or three hours of Everquest (yawn) and Eve Online (pretty, but double yawn) and found them severely lacking. Plus, why would I pay a monthly fee to play a game?

A week later I was poking around in HMV on Oxford Street looking for something new to entertain me that evening and found the Battle Chest on a shelf marked “Sale: £10″ and decided to try it, so that the next time I had a conversation with someone about virtual worlds I could tell them why WoW was a waste of time from first-hand experience.

It took *hours* to install and patch — I foolishly allowed vanilla WoW to patch itself before installing BC, so ended up repatching all over again. I decided enough was enough and went to bed without playing. The following day, a new patch was released (3.2) and so when I arrived home and went to sign in, there was another interminable wait while it downloaded and installed. Not a great start.

Long before the end of my trial period I already knew that a) I was wrong, and b) I’d be subscribing. From the achievements list I know I did my first instance a couple of nights later (Deadmines, inevitably) but only a further five before hitting 80.

I’ve no idea how much time I’ve put in now as I’m too scared to type /played. I’ve an 80 ret Paladin in t9 who can do very little else until I find some way of raiding (my guild keeps teetering on the brink, then running off to do something crazy like creating a copy of itself on the other faction), a late 60s gnome mage I’m levelling almost entirely through LFG, and a serverful of low level bank and storage characters. My Google reader account is jammed full of feeds from your blogs, and I even have an in-development wowblog of my own.

And now I have a fresh healy belf paladin called Anorak on AD.

TL;DR: I’m newish and a converted skeptic. Also, babblemouth, I haz it.