Where Is the Line: Brutality in Patch 5.4

Kor'kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.  Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

Kor’kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.
Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

A couple of days ago, I happened to be skimming Twitter (isn ‘t this how most of my blog posts start nowadays) and caught a tweet from Snack about something he saw in Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. It was the screenshot posted above, captioned with, “I’m probably gonna be thinking about this screenshot way too hard the next few days.” It struck me the same way, despite the fact that I had never even been to this part of SoO yet. I hate reporting on things I haven’t personally witnessed, just so I can get my own handle on context and whatnot but this is so far and away one of the worst things I could have possibly heard about in the new raid.

Until a guildmate linked me this: Theramore Citizen.

Some further investigation from Tzufit revealed not only Theramore Citizens (all women, apparently) hung up on poles, but Darkspear Defenders as well, all of them stabbed or stuck with arrows.

A Theramore woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar.

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.

 

A Darkspear troll woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.

All of these screenshots, despite being in a video game about war, are still really unsettling. Not only are all of them women (though the shackled fighters can randomly be men, too) but the level of violence and naked brutality here is way too much. Not only is there a scary level of historical real-world precedent for these things (making shackled slaves fight eachother, hello?!) but it openly feels too real to be immersive in a video game. It makes me wonder where Blizzard thinks the line is in “realistic violence” in order to make the point that, yes, Garrosh is a horrible person.

The game thus far has tried very hard to make us hate Garrosh but in ways that tend to make me feel bad about myself, as a woman. He’s never really been a mustache-twirling villain but just straight up an abusive tyrant. He slaughters his own people in the dead of night and hangs them from the walls on fire (this is also present in the SoO raid). He calls women “bitches” and orders hits on other Horde dignitaries. And now somehow, manages to retcon the plight of the Theramore survivors and leaves their corpses strewn around their holding cages, lashing some of their women to posts with weapons sticking out of their corpses and making them fight for sport. The fact that a Darkspear is included for extra “flavor” is particularly egregious but makes slightly more “sense” than all the refugees from Theramore, who were supposedly safely passed to Gadgetzan. Did some goblins double-cross the Alliance and send a fleet of them to Orgrimmar to be tortured and killed? What is going on here? Seeing these poor people being used for sport, maimed and killed is stomach-turning.

WoW has always had some level of atrocity. I get this. This is a war, but this has gone several shades too far (as it has in the past, even) into senseless, unsettling territory.  The game has done this in a couple places in the past, and it’s always rung really wrongly to me. We’re already storming the gates of Ogrimmar to take down Garrosh, but why did we need to see this? Why did we need to replicate some of the violence that actual real people have suffered in real life, as part of being prisoners of war or slavery?  Why is it only women hanging from the poles? This doesn’t make me feel like a hero, it just makes me feel sick to be playing the game.

 

 

Patch 5.4 Trailer – Burn in the Fires of My Hate

Garrosh stares hatefully.

 

Blizzard dropped the Patch 5.4 trailer for Siege of Orgrimmar on our heads early this morning and what a trailer it was. The overall quality and storytelling of each successive patch trailer has gone up significantly since their inception way back sometime in Vanilla but all of them have never failed to make me utterly hyped to play some more Warcraft. Blizzard’s got a real strength in their animatics/cinematics division and this was no exception – I am itching to log in and do anything in preparation for Patch 5.4.

Let’s review some of the things that were going on in this particular trailer, though, shall we?

Garrosh has gone completely corrupted/power-hungry at this point.

I can’t say for sure which one it is because it seems equally likely – he’s both influenced by the Sha but he’s also incredibly puffed up on his own ego, importance and hatred right now. He’s just as much a warmongering tyrant with something to prove who’s gotten way into his own ideology than just a pawn of the Sha-corruption. And honestly, a powerful male figurehead being lost in his own childish autonomy is far more fascinating than just him being taken over by the Old Gods. His dialogue in the video is similarly fiery, obstinate and hateful.

No one is going to get in his way and he’ll kill and hurt anyone who tries to. Which leads me to…

Taran Zhu got some snaps in before his supposed end, at least. (Edit: Dave Kosak cleared up that Taran Zhu’s is alive.)

I’ve not liked Taran Zhu in a lot of ways; he’s more of the same patronizing nonsense from other male leaders. But given his position as the only line of defense against whatever might ravage Pandaria (mogu, Sha), it’s probably justified in a lot of ways. While I feel that his initial presumption that the Alliance and Horde conflict was entirely to blame for the havoc within Pandaria’s own land, I feel like his assertion has finally come to bear. The fight between Taran Zhu and Garrosh was full of egos, certainly though. While Taran’s line about Grom was not only timely, correct and a sick fucking burn, both of them were taunting each other and it got the better of Taran.

Taran didn’t bring this on himself though, and for that I feel bad.

Vale is irreparably damaged now.

This is one of the biggest changes that really bothers me, even when Garrosh’s mining operation set up. Pandaria is such a beautiful, serene continent and we already saw parts of it that were completely given to destruction and corruption like the Dread Wastes. The idea of the Vale, the zone that the Celestials gave to us in order to help everyone is now being used by Garrosh’s plan to re-ignite an Old God makes a dramatically sad change to both the game and the story. I felt the same way when the Goblins were allowed to terraform and essentially destroy Azshara. There’s something about purposeful destruction of the most beautiful landscapes in WoW that really make me feel awful. Vale is where I spent a lot of time just hovering in the air, watching the sun go down.

There was a relative lack of anyone else that might have any involvement in bringing the fight to Garrosh.

I feel that the cinematic had a missed opportunity to do some strategic cutaways or montages over the dialogue (instead of the badass fight scene we got) to allude to anyone else that might be mad at Garrosh now. Taran Zhu mentioned the other members of the Horde, but absolutely nowhere were the Alliance mentioned or involved. A montage of people fighting while being referenced might have helped assuage my feelings that once again the Alliance get left out of a fight that’s rightfully ours to have. As I told Tzufit on Twitter: “(We’re) late to our own revenge, absent from our own war.”

While I can grasp that Taran Zhu is the ultimate symbol of the Pandarian people at this point, and so the fight was the struggle between the Azeroth factions and Pandaren-kind, the fact that the raid will involve all of  our fates, intertwined, left a bad taste in my mouth. Alliance are probably not going to get any payback for their grief at Theramore, nor any pro-active stance other than allegiances with the trolls. It still feels like we’re on the backburner for a fight that is igniting both factions right now and throwing power relations into the air. If not showing Varian, then at least Jaina?

Also why didn’t Taran Zhu have any sort of backup going on here? Where was Yalia? Where was Taoshi?

Overall, I’m excited. 

It can’t be helped, I’m always overwhelmed with purpose and emotions when I watch any of these trailers. The swell of music, the clang of weapons – it gets me right in the heart (same for Taran, I presume. Too soon?) and I want to just run and conscript myself back in with the Alliance army even though we’ve been relatively shafted in this conflict. The Barrens battles were relatively lukewarm as far as hyping me up for the growing war and subsequent raid instance. This was yet another sustaining breath of fresh air and I know that my guild is going to be lining up that first week, pumped to take down Garrosh and make him pay for his crimes.

 

 

 

Patch 5.4 – Mad about Moon Moon

Moon Moon the wolf falls on his wolf friend.

This is one of the least objectionable Moon Moon meme images.

Trigger warning: ableism discussion and terms.

The first Patch 5.4 notes and PTR came out this week and with it, all the fervor over our first real peek at the content that’s been talked up since Pandaria came out. People have been going gaga over set bonuses, new boss models, but what caught my eye was something way less exciting – a battle pet. Originally when I saw listed that there was a Moon Moon pet dragged out of the datamined content files, I thought it was just something stuck there that wouldn’t have anything meaningful around it.  Contrary to my belief,  Moon Moon is a pet dropping from a new Darkmoon Faire boss and will most definitely be in Patch 5.4. This has me pretty annoyed, if you could guess from the title of my blog post.

Moon Moon is a reference to this meme that got started on Tumblr. It is yet another meme that capitalizes on the mental differences of someone, with a host of veiled ableist insults and terminology. What is ableism? It’s specifically discriminatory actions and language towards someone’s physical or mental disabilities. Ableism usually and casually often occurs to making fun of people with learning disabilities or being on the autism spectrum (“spergin'” “retard/ed”), or for mental illness (“crazy”/”schizo”/”bipolar”/”hysterical”), and physical disabilities (“crip/cripple”, “spaz/spastic”, etc.) or using those terms against others as a negative.

Given that the person who started it all said that Moon Moon would be the “most retarded wolf”, it’s not surprising that everything else has followed suit. Memes, due to nerd culture in general, really like to constantly revolve around this sort of everyperson (or animal) that has speech impediments or some sort of mental “slowness.” It’s gotten so casual to the point that most people don’t realize that it IS insulting, but the reason these jokes proliferate is because denigrating people’s mental capacity has always been a trope for humor, because people consider themselves “better” than others for that reason. It’s hurtful, in short, but very few nerds really care.

Since Blizzard has a really inconsistent policy on including meme fodder in their game (Nom Nom Nom as a druid talent got scrapped, but we have this, plus look at how many Slapchop references there are), the fact that they felt it necessary to make a battle pet (as well as a raid boss, really) dedicated to a fairly recent,  insulting meme is frustrating to me. Meme culture is persistent but often long after it is actually funny, on top of the fact that a lot of them are generally offensive in some way. Did we need this? Not really. I’m sure this is considered by some to be a very petty gripe, but popular culture making its way into World of Warcraft doesn’t always mean it is good.

 

Patch 5.4 – Flexible Raiding Feature Announced

Possible implementation of FLEX raiding with Crabby.

Last night, Blizzard dropped a big unannounced Patch 5.4 feature preview onto their blog – “flex” raiding. This raiding would be a new, fourth difficulty somewhere between LFR and normal-mode that would have it’s own ilvl. It is primarily to help those raiders that wish to do a level of content with pick-up groups as well as friends and family in a more casual, social environment. It would work with both friend groups and cross-realm lists, making it very inclusive for those of us who like to pull in people for raids from every corner of the globe. The premise of this works off the idea of scaling – similar to how rares and elites have been working since Patch 5.1. The minimum a group can have is 10 but will add health (and presumably damage) depending on how many people you have, up to 25 players. What also makes this convenient is that loot works exactly the same as LFR – it is awarded individually, based on loot specialization. This means, as promised, that there is no reason to not bring anyone you so choose, so long as you have a balanced role makeup. The devs seem adamant that they want this feature to be for everyone – no minimum ilvl requirement, and that every player should be able to come, rather than a specific class.

Blizzard making a move towards an inclusive social feature such as this is a big deal, especially to someone like me who only ever does raiding these days in a casual environment. My guild’s raid team is a very bare-bones 10-player raid that very frequently pulls in cross-realm players and cancels raids when we can’t scrape together 10 people for behind-the-curve content. The idea of being able to raid with anyone on current content and bringing a variable number of folks gives us way more freedom in terms of both difficulty of content (like raid meta achievements, which the blog said will be doable on Flex difficulty) and flexibility of raid filling. Giving the WoW audience even more reasons to pick and choose their raid experience as they see fit is always a move in the right direction.

Are there some drawbacks here? Absolutely. There’s the ilvl bloat we’re experiencing right now – we’re two content tiers in and we have many orders of ilvl gear that a potential casual player is looking at. Adding yet another swath of gear in between LFR and normal is only going to muddy this further. Will it give players more choices or is it going to just make attempting to figure out upgrade paths even more of a nightmare? There’s also the concern of this pulling even more skilled or socially-connected players away from the potential LFR pool. While random grouping methods have proliferated, I still feel that the subset of players that this is catering to might make them flee from the LFR queues. Lastly, the fact that all three have separate lockouts means there’s going to be some complaining of feeling like you “need” to do all three in order to obtain the best gear as fast as you can, especially if your guild is stuck behind a gear check.

Overall, though, I can’t help but seeing this as a future positive. My guild is even talking about this replacing LFR nights for us – we go in a big group of guildies and friends from other realms on a set night to help us get LFR gear for normal-mode raiding. If we get our own gear and perhaps tackle slightly harder content with only people we choose, this seems like an obvious choice. It cuts out the drawbacks from LFR and gives us more control over our raid experience, socially. We can invite cross-realm friends, do alt raids easier, and not have to cancel raid nights as much. I don’t think flex raiding is going to replace normal raid content for us, even though we only raid four hours a week. Are there guilds that could use this as a replacement for both LFR and normal modes? Absolutely. The idea that you can make that kind of choice now as a smaller, more casual or social guild is great!

I would even speculate that this tool might give rise to the pick-up raid group again on realms that might have lost out due to smaller, less experienced populations (so any place that wasn’t Mal’ganis, basically) – groups could form via Trade Chat again, and there’d be no loot disputes and would still only need a modicum of skill to participate, as well as the variable size making things a lot easier.  People that have long complained about how LFR/LFG destroyed server communities might see a breath of life to local raiding again. Basically, I’m tentatively optimistic about this as I feel that this is one of the few features that’ve announced in Mists of Pandaria that caters directly to the kinds of things I like to do in-game for precisely the people I want to do it with.

The question that remains in my mind is this – was this the big feature that Ghostcrawler had been teasing at for so long? Is it one of many things that Patch 5.4 promises? I’m excited if this is just the start of a laundry list of things that might improve our quality of (raiding) life in WoW in the future.

As for you guys, are you hyped about this possible addition? Does it affect you at all? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Who is Andrestrasz?

Picture of Andrestrasz, red dragon.

Photo courtesy of Wowpedia.org.

According to some sharp-eyed forum posters (The original thread got deleted. It was brought to my attention by @GontierWoW), as of 5.3, a red dragon by the name of Andrestrasz was quietly added to a small cave no one knows about on the backside of the Ahn’Qiraj outside zone. The cave used to be part of a larger abandoned Tauren-style farm on the coast before the Cataclysm changes, but now is the only thing that remains. So why was a level 5 red dragon, who for all intents and purposes seems to be asleep (with the occasional silent yawn) stuck into a locale in the ass-end of Silithus that no one goes to, let alone knows about? There’s been some early speculation and I’ve been racking my brain to come up with answers. Let’s run down some theories, far-fetched as they may be, for why that dragon might be there.

Andrestrasz is Rhea’s last egg, all grown up.

  • This was my initial thought moreso than any other theory. The world seems to be populated with the other dragon involved in that questline, so why not Rhea’s kid too? What wouldn’t be explained though is why he’s big enough to be a full-grown dragon (even if he’s level 5) and why he’s all the way out here. 

He has to do with future legendary quests.

  • Interesting for the same reason my initial theory, but possibly not the case for the same reasons I outlined. The legendary quest thus far has been restricted to Pandaria content, if not the main continent itself. Going to the back-end of Silithus makes no sense for this theory.

He’s a tribute to a player.

  • All player tributes (usually who are deceased) have usually been in some way public – either as NPCs with flavor text, parts of questlines or with their own marker somewhere. A dragon with no notation or gossip option in a cave no one knows about would be kind of a terrible tribute. 

Andrestrasz might have something to do with Caelen and Ahn’Qiraj lore. 

  • This is another theory I came up with – the last time red dragons had a presence at the ruins was during the time of the Scarab Gate. Caelestrasz was one of the protectors of Ahn’qiraj before the gates were opened but moved onto Cataclysm content, meeting his untimely death at the hands of Sinestra. Could Andre here be a replacement? That doesn’t explain why he’s not at the actual gates or inside the raids, however. 

If he’s not guarding Ahn’Qiraj, what is he guarding?

  • The red dragonflight are historically known as guardians and protectors. What would a red dragon be guarding in an entirely empty cave (save for some skeletons)? There has never been anything in that cave whatsoever. It didn’t even have a name, unlike the weirdness with random Ortell’s Hideouts there’ve been.

All in all, this poses a significant mystery to those of us who have been puzzling and speculating about things for years. Players have also been trying to evoke a reaction out of the dragon or change, perhaps to chase some origin out of him. There’s no change to the dragon whatsoever if you are alive or a ghost. He does not react to the legendary rogue daggers, Dragonwrath (I tried this myself), Runesword of the Red, having a Crimson Whelp out, or Archmage Vargoth.

Perhaps he’s just an Easter Egg dropped there by Blizzard to reward explorers like myself, like another mob in the area. Maybe he’s integral in larger plans in the future, who knows! I just hope we find out before the curiosity eats me alive. The WoW world has felt mostly examined and solved for a while now and this introduces some un-datamined mystery back to the world.

Patch 5.2 – The Problem with Twins, Part 2

Patch 5.2 finally drops next Tuesday and with it, there has been quite a few things of note, particularly regarding the Twin Consort bosses I discussed. The 5.2 trailer, which was posted yesterday, was actually exciting and got me pumped for the raid content. The poetry, the story, feels like some of the patch trailers we’ve gotten before but a lot more cinematic. And while we got a glimpse of a lot of the story behind the Thunder King and his lackeys in the raid, guess who were missing.

That’s right, our wonderful twin ladies, Lu’lin and Suen. Kinda curious, don’t you think? Unfortunately my cynicism that Blizzard left them out of the trailer due to overwhelming shame might have a slightly more logical explanation, courtesy of the developer interview regarding all of the Throne of Thunder bosses earlier this week. This interview, incidentally, is what spurred me to post yet another discussion about these two Mogu sex robots bodyguards.

My thoughts on why the Twin Consorts were left out of the trailer might have been a mid-stream design change to their lore, as per Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas:

An earlier version of the concept for the fight had them actually being spirits of the Sun and Moon, but that didn’t feel quite right (and we all know that the only true spirit of the Moon is Elune, and clearly she was not locked away by the Thunder King).

Now, this exceptionally generous on my part, but I suspect it is the only reason why they’d leave these female bosses out of the trailer video, given how long the machinima take to make. But like so many other things, I wonder if it because they like to leave developing female models for things out or to the last minute because everyone at Blizzard apparently is terrified about designing female models (worgen anyone?) Either way, it’s pretty odd that they are not in the trailer. I can distinctly remember most of them getting at least a second or two of screen time. (The only other female boss is Mar’li and the Council fight she’s a part of wasn’t in the trailer either.)

From people who have tested the bosses on PTR, and in even in just looking at the boss design, it’s pretty clear they kept the Sun/Moon aesthetic in the two of them.

It’s the rest of the interview that left me sputtering yesterday on Twitter:

  • Rumored to be the only known female mogu in existence, Lei Shen keeps his trophies close, and their combined arsenal against interlopers closer.
  • Players may have noticed the complete absence of any female mogu in their exploration of the continent of Pandaria.
  • Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.

Are the developers reading my blog? It seems like they are taking the heavy early criticism of why the hell there’s two female Mogu as raid bosses but not anywhere in Mogu society to heart.  However, there’s so many more questions left open here now that it’s canonically known that they are the only two in existence and only created by Lei Shen. Such as, “Why would an essentially monogender culture have a leader that creates women” or maybe “Why are they sexualized?” Consorts are very specifically a sexualized term, and maybe the developers are mixing real world stuff with Mogu again, but there’s this lingering feeling that these two women weren’t shaped out of stone just to guard Lei Shen. All of this bothers me, little piece by little piece.

Maybe it’s the objectified language in the copy and interview – “treasures” “possessions” “trophies.” Lei Shen created the only two women in existence for their race and they aren’t even granted true humanity in any discussions surrounding them. It’s the fact that they were created to be submissive and servile to him, to protect him. It’s the fact that they are the sexualized equivalent of guard dogs. Giving life out of stone is a pretty terrifying concept as well when you wonder where Lei Shen got the souls (do they have souls) for this purpose.

The only high point in the discussion about these two was the fan-ramblings about what possibly inspired Lei Shen – why not create a bulky Mogu woman, particularly if they are bodyguards? Cynwise suggested that it might be possible fashioning after Burning Crusade eredari, which would explain the model choice. However, I suspect the model choice is less a reflection of Lei Shen’s ideals and more the developers still.

All in all, these two bosses are a serious dig in my excitement for this upcoming patch. We’ve had a lot of trouble with female NPCs in Pandaria thus far and the raid dungeons have not been exempt from this – the last three did not heavily feature any canonically indicated female bosses aside from Lei Shi (the elemental) and Grand Empress Shek’seer (whether or not any of the other Heart of Fear bosses were women is up in the air.) So the fact that the new raid only features three women, two of whom are prized constructs created by Lei Shen and were left out of the official trailer, makes me upset.

Throne has an abundance of bosses and only 3 of them (the Twins, and Mar’li) are actually women. This is in fact a step up from the last raids we have done, but it still feels like a step backwards in terms of Blizzard’s creative development choices.

Patch 5.0.4 – Thoughts So Far

Anne Stickney and I hang out in Dalaran

Tuesday night I get a series of frantic Twitter messages and IMs inbetween my computer having a gigantic hissy fit.

“Oh my gosh, GET ON WOW!” 

So I hop on and get told to come to Dalaran, where I promptly get /hug and /love spammed by a friend of mine who now is on “my” server via cross-realm zoning.

I know y’all have been the recipients of “Navispamming” but I think I might be one of the first people to get “Annespammed.

The Good

So far, Patch 5.0.4 has been more surprises in a good way than in a bad way and I for one am happy about this. Every time a patch comes around, I often feel like the incredible amount of bugs, lag, and complaining outweighs the good, but surprisingly this hasn’t been the case this week. I’ve found that most of my experiences so far have been relatively pleasant, pain-free and actually enjoyable.

Mage mechanics for fire seem to be relatively stable and honestly take the spec from something I already loved despite its flaws straight into nearly flaw-free. I know that I might have more complex feelings once I hit level 90 and have access to Rune of Power (which takes our mobility down some, by design) but for right now, it is a fairly nice experience. Inferno Blast fixed a lot of the problems that I had with streakiness between Hot Streak procs and Impact. Inferno Blast solves the gamble of procs and gives you a concrete choice for your gameplay: do I a) spread my DoTs b) do I make Hot Streak happen or my favorite, c) do I do both at the same time? I’m still learning how to signal myself when Inferno Blast is off cooldown, but that is a UI/add-on solution. On top of IB being amazing, Combustion is also rather fool-proof. Rather than the cooldown that fell into a black hole of optimization and “perfect use” that it was, it is now a fairly simple to use. A lot of this has to do with the fact that it resets the cooldown on Inferno Blast, meaning any time you want to use Combustion and spread it to multiple mobs, you now have a free Inferno Blast to do so. Easy DPS, if I do say so myself. It takes a lot of the intense finesse that fire mages had to work with out of the equation and gives us concrete, solid choices to make over our own DPS. I can’t see this as anything but amazing.

The talent system seem spare, but in the case of my mage, it seems rather useful in giving me utility, mobility and fun elements to my play, regardless of my spec. I like having a slightly different spec than other fire mages. I’m still not used to us having Arcane/Frost talents as baseline (I am still struggling to use Deep Freeze, well, ever) but it is really interesting to Blizzard back on my bars and getting Chilled on mobs. Counterspell having a silence attached is nice as well. Their design to bring all of us closer together as mages rather than divided by our intrinsic natures is awesome.

Shared achievements aren’t perfect, necessarily, but I am still loving them all the same. Having my alts all have access to my efforts on my main has been a lot of fun. Level 22 riding around on an Amani Warbear? Okay, sure. Let’s do that. My druid having “Guardian of Cenarius” title? Totally amazeballs. EVERY ALT HAVING THE INSANE TITLE? EVEN BETTER THAN AMAZEBALLS.

New Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery are beyond amazing. I took a tour of them on my mage (so I wouldn’t die staring at the ceilings) and I’ll be doing a blog tomorrow or next week about my findings. They are just the right mixture of new design, old bosses, streamlining and storytelling. I’m exceptionally pleased with the all-new lighting rigs, textures and music. Oh my gosh, the music. So moody and just…right.

Mages didn’t get as many vanity glyphs as every other class, but I can’t help but love having an extra “transformation item“:

Using Glyph of Illusion to duplicate how Shade looks.

“It’s me, but with a legendary I’ll never have!”

Everyone in my guild has been having a lot of fun with their various class abilities, talents, and glyphs but I think the top winner of “most fun” goes to Glyph of the Stag:

Guildmate rides me as a stag across Westfall.

So far, most of the 5.0.4 changes have been really fun, even without things like pet battles in the game yet.

The Neutral

I figured “neutral” was a better way of illuminating things I have mixed feelings about rather than “bad” which is a less objective way of framing things.

Cross-realm zones have obvious appeal to them: it was really a wonderful bright spot midst bugs and broken add-ons to get to hug someone that I’ve never “met” in-game before. Stuff like cross-realm zones brings the idea of a server community outwards a bit (there’s already been “Hello to/from Cenarion Circle!” threads popping up) but it also does tend to increase the amount of people you will bump into. Prior to this, I was mostly used to running into one set of people fighting me for nodes, or rares. Now it’s a whole other larger set and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sure overall it is good for most people, but I tend to be a fairly solitary person when it comes to questing and doing things out in the wilderness.

Goldshire is also cross-realm. Think about that one a while.

Re-learning every single class that I play in-game is something that’s going to take me a long time, if not most of the time we have left until Pandaria. Most of my experience with a class is leveling them and now everything has changed. I have a hard enough time grasping a class I’ve played for seven years (I looked at my arcane spec and had no actual idea what I should be doing) let alone an alt I don’t play every day. The process of going through every alt I have and learning glyphs, picking talents, updating keybinds and learning rotation is something I’ll have to mete out in doses. I’m too overwhelmed right now. I have six 85s, with a seventh on the way, all of various specs. I’m in the process of levelling another three toons in various places. Some are duplicates of classes I already have but are different specs. It’s just a mess right now.

Have Group, Will Travel being gone is also a pain in the ass for two reasons: it’s harder to get people random, out of the way places (like Blackwing Lair) and harder to throw together cross-realm raids. However, the bigger pain in the ass is that everyone forgot how to go places. Maybe it is just because I’m from vanilla-era WoW and am used to hoofing it everywhere, but the amount of people being unable to get to a raid I’ve seen is staggering. It takes a couple extra minutes, but going from Stormwind to Icecrown Citadel is do-able. So is getting to Dragon Soul (I’ve done it almost every week I’ve raided it on normal). So is going anywhere, really. This might be a good time to learn how to get places on foot (or wing, or mount) as we’re going to have to be running places in Pandaria without it.

Pally auras and shaman totems being changed or gone is weird as fuck, just going to toss this out right now.

The Ugly

I swear to Christ, update MogIt and no one gets hurt.

 

Anyways, hope everyone is finding 5.0.4 as enjoyable as I am.

 

 

 

A Voice From A Warm Place: Dragonwrath Easter Egg in Mists of Pandaria

A blue dragon roars in Jade Forest.

I admit, I haven’t been using my beta access to its fullest since I got it a couple of months ago. The other night, however, a tweet came across my timeline regarding friending options and so I updated my game and hopped in to test it out. Afterwards, the person I was partied with and myself decided to fuss around with pet battles. I was flying around to look for critters to battle with my Spectral Kitten, listening to dance music very LOUDLY, when I heard it.

It was a woman’s voice saying something.

I blinked and looked around. Since I was still in Stormwind limits, I figured it must be an event with buggy zone sound. I asked in party chat if they had heard what I did and they said no. I wondered what it might be but I looked back in my chat log and saw this:

The warm embrace of Tarecgosa’s presence encircles you.

For anyone that doesn’t have a completed legendary staff, this is the text emote that the staff randomly pops up from time to time. I’ve always really loved that little touch; I saved Tarecgosa’s essence and now it is a part of me. It is there to comfort me when I need it. It’s like a little hug when I’m doing stuff in-game. My question then was, “Does this mean there are voice emotes as part of the staff now?”

Due to the addictiveness of pet battles I was in beta for another three hours. My emote popped up again and then I very distinctly heard her voice.

“Your deeds will live on forever in the memory of the blue dragonflight.”

I admit, I started freaking out (in a good way) at that point. I started doing a little digging and it turns out that according to the two MMO-Champion threads that I found (that only got a couple of responses, what gives?) that the staff has a random choice of 5-6 voice emotes when the staff says something to you. It seems like this little easter egg was added in a content patch at the end of July. I am really stoked about this, obviously, as a staff wielder and a dragon fanatic.

But what does it mean? My boyfriend pointed out that they’ve always done little Easter egg stuff with legendaries even after their relevance. (Remember what happened when you brought Atiesh into Shade of Aran’s room?) I want to think that it might be something significant; some additional lore might be down the road or us Dragonwrath holders might be allowed to keep our staves longer into the expansion. I know that this probably isn’t true and it breaks my heart to think that I will have to put down my wonderful staff in a couple weeks; I won’t hear Tarecgosa’s voice again unless I’m AFKing. This is just another regret along with having to weapon-swap just to turn into a blue dragon as well.

Getting a Dragonwrath was such a game-changing experience for me and not just because I had a piece of lore strapped to my back. My experience getting the staff and all the feelings that went along with was so important to me and validated a lot of things I felt about myself – that I was good enough, that I deserved this.  Add to this the fact that Blizzard finally decided to give a little more story to some of the female characters in their world (even if Tarecgosa’s time in this plane was limited) and I was a part of that? Mind-blowing.

So many times in game, hearing voices has meant that something evil was lurking around the corner, undermining our confidence in ourselves, our friends, our sanity. This is a distinct change from that and I am glad for it. I know this won’t mean much to most people, that it is just a collection of pixels, but it warms my heart. There is a wonderful lady dragon’s spirit watching over my gnome, protecting her. Cheering her on from another realm. I know that I will miss having this constant presence gone from my game after it being part of my everyday life for six months now. Still, I have a feeling she won’t be very far from my thoughts.

When I was flying up to the Skyfire to go to Pandaria this morning, I heard her whisper to me.

“Never give up.”

I won’t.

 

 

Thoughts on 4.3 – Transmogging, Casual PVE, Darkmoon Faire and More

Apple Cider pew pews Mannaroth in Well of Eternity.

It’s been a week, WoW fans. A week and we’ve already gotten our teeth deep into 4.3. I have been enjoying myself, especially now that I can enjoy a patch that offers me gear, dungeons and not have to worry about raiding much on top of that. This is my first new content patch where I haven’t been raiding since Burning Crusade started. It is a weird feeling, to be honest. Thanks to the efforts of my social-but-very-enthusiastic guild, we’ve been working on retro raids for transmogging gear, achievements and even stepping foot in Firelands to get me siphoned essences to finish my legendary*.

Overall, I’ve been having fun and have a lot of thoughts to what 4.3 has offered us thus far.

My priest stands in T6 gear at the character screen.

Transmogrification

I have always relished the idea of transmogrification. Even though I never played any MMORPGs prior to WoW, where such things as vanity layers or costume layers existed, I have been deep in my  heart a fashion nerd and roleplayer. I like having appropriate clothes for the occasion, especially since my real life self is a little too self-conscious and destitute for such things. My earliest memories of gear on my mage was that they “all matched” and being chided gently by guildies that I needed gear that was better than what I had on, rather than just all was the same color. (You can’t take my Mistscape Wizard Hat of the Owl AWAY FROM ME!)

However, when given the world of armor to play with, I found myself falling a little short on ideas (No gnome jokes, please.) Everyone else had must-have sets and creative uses of color, style and theme. With the exception of my priest, even my RP character concepts didn’t lend themselves to “iconic” gear for their personality. I had reams of gear in the bank saved because of how it looked and memories it held, but I’m still not sold on most things to wear. It has been fun to play with and to disguise horrible gear in the case of my shaman, who had a lot of trollroic armor. So while transmogging is quite possibly the best thing to happen to WoW in a long time, I feel so disappointed that I’m not taking advantage of it as whole-heartedly as everyone, even if I am the perfect person to do so. I will endeavor a little harder to come up with pretty sets, but I am glad that Blizzard implemented the feature anyways.

5 Man Dungeons – End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight

In a word: exciting (and I get to be TALL!)

While I feel that some of the trio are less exciting than others, when taken all together, they are a very nice mixture of new boss mechanics, immersive storytelling and gameplay. The very obvious standout is Well of Eternity, which I have a feeling was supposed to be part of the rumoured War of the Ancients raid. It feels so complete and filled to the brim with interesting things that it feels almost a little out of place with the other two dungeons, which are still laid out around Wyrmrest on familiar ground. They also aren’t nearly as punishing as heroics have been immediately upon release, unlike in the past. Sure, I’ve seen a few PUG groups wipe on Tyrande, but nothing like the hours of frustration from trying to learn Ozruk.

Most of the dungeons feel fun and invigorating for a couple of reasons, I believe. First – less trash and it is more pragmatic and directed. In End Time, you basically make a big ring to clear out the boss area, or push forward to where the boss is, not long twisty hallways to get to a small room. It feels like a progression, not a crawl. Secondly, there’s a better mixture of mechanics designed to mess with ranged vs. melee, healers versus tanks, and some that just require smart use of mechanics that can be done by most group compositions. Not every fight requires heroism, not every fight requires 3 ranged. Most people have decent interrupts now and while some have been given longer cooldowns, most of the casts that need to be interrupted are on timers that don’t feel impossible to catch. There’s lots of stuff to not stand in, but it isn’t a 360-degree chain cleave, nor tons of puddles out at ranged while the melee gets to whack on the boss. Everyone feels responsible for their own mortality in some ways. Third, newness in both the fight mechanics and scenery. There’s things here we haven’t played with before – such as the hourglass feature on Murozond. It is commonly remarked as the most fun boss fight so far out of the three dungeons just because of it. I have even brought people back to life using it and I find that a little liberating, especially to people who are newer healers and feel pressured to keep everyone alive.

Additionally, there’s lots of nice new gear to be had in the dungeons and gotten with a minimum of fuss. You clear all three dungeons in roughly an hour and a half and due to less trash and less ridiculous bosses, it never feels like a slog. I’ve already managed to VP cap my mage and shaman for the week, which will make quick work of gearing up the other 85s I never play (due to heroics being boring as hell.) My only bone of contention is how limited the loot tables are for each item slot in your armor class. There’s not a lot of leeway for you if you only gear yourself via heroics, but I think that’s because of…

Looking For Raid

Now featuring Yor’sahj the Unpuggable!

Admittedly, my experiences so far with the Looking For Raid feature have been small. Last night, a small group of 8 or so guildies and I dropped ourselves into LFR (one of them as the main tank). We breezed through every boss (including said Yor’sahj) with nary a death or a wipe (until we lost a couple of people to the ice wall on Hagara) and finished in an hour and a half. This stands in stark contrast to some of my boyfriend’s exploits via the finder, which include every group wiping to Yor’sahj, but I digress. LFR seems like a reasonably good idea. It gives people the ability to legitimately see raid fights in a smaller, more forgiving environment, as well as collect gear and valor points. As my friend the main tank put it, “It is like pugging a heroic but with 24 other people.” I think that he had the right of it as well; while there may be more people, the atmosphere is roughly the same. Most people are quiet participants, there are occasionally boisterous and unhelpful ones and overall the experiences can vary. But it seemed to us last night that if you mix in a little bit of your own social group, that it can go quite smoothly and make it very fun to participate. One of us got two very good loot drops and I got to test my hand at raid healing without the stress of trying to learn Firelands fights or freak out that no one was directing assignments. Granted, I think our positive turn at the LFR was mostly due to a lucky bit of competency out of the raid (the other tank, most of the healers, DPS knowing how to target swap), but I think overall, this has the potential to ease people into raiding or give people end-game choices. I know some people who have long maintained that PUGging and casual raiding has ruined WoW, but I think my ability to have fun last night is more important than their opinions on the matter.

The Darkmoon Faire

Finally, after testing it extensively on the PTR, the faire is here. So far it is exactly what it promised to be – fun dailies, lots of vanity items like mounts and pets to acquire, as well as added mysteries and bonuses that you can gain while doing PVP and dungeons. Ticket generation seems a lot slower than I’d like for a week-per-month event, but as Rickiep00h from Something Awful posited:

If it were permanently open, it would be Molten Front 2. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately another annoying grind.

It’s a compelling point, and not just because of the fact that Molten Front fails in all the ways that DMF succeeds – the rewards are not meaningful to progression in quite the same way that MF put them at the time, especially to casual players. However, they are meaningful to people as much as they want to make them. People who enjoy vanity rewards or transmogging sets for gear make them purposeful and have value, those who do not enjoy them do not have to participate. It helps both alts and mains in different ways – one way is via trade skill points (imagine getting 5 points once a month to get you around a tricky spot between 285-300) and one is money and loot. This means you have different goals and reasons to bring more than one toon to the Faire, unlike doing the same dailies for the same thing in the Front. It also lays out the path of tasks very concretely and without much effort – the quests are short, fun, and require very little exertion in terms of killing mobs, even the Grisly Trophies quest. It doesn’t consistently open more and more dailies to keep you occupied, like in a hallway full of infinitely opening doors that lead to nowhere. DMF is a return to a lot of the old fun seen in earlier quest design and development before Titan was a thing – anyone remember Isle of Quel’danas? Sure, not quite the same carrot-on-a-stick there but I can feel a familiar tingle of the fun. The Faire seems to hold fast to the idea that it is a magical, mysterious and slightly sinister fair in the woods. Molten Front gave us an illusion of choice and individuality and left us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouth.

So in short, get out there and fish yourself up a Sea Pony. I got both it and my rare fish achievement in the same hour. Many more are reporting the same thing with the Steelscale Crushfish, so get yourself closer to Salty!

*Art courtesy of Aly Flock.

Discussion Post: Thoughts on Patch 4.3 So Far?

Apple Cider flies on a purple flamebird, with pink goggles on.

Well patch 4.3 finally showed up! I logged on and promptly got to work throwing together transmogrification outfits for all my characters…well once I got my add-ons and UI squared away. Turns out ElvUI decided to redesign most of it’s configure panel, as well as some of the integral parts of the layout. Cue an hour of fussing with how it looks and re-adjusting and resetting my keybinds.

Last night was rather frustrating for a lot of reasons, but it was to be expected. Patch days are always unstable and Blizzard has done a good job making sure they aren’t earth-shatteringly  terrible as of late. However, I didn’t even get to queue for any of the new dungeons since wait times were an hour-and-then-some and our queue kept dropping mysteriously. One group of people in my guild got to do all three of them together so we got the guild achievements for that.

How was your Patch Day? Was it as annoying as mine? Or were you partying with Illidan and the Dragon Soul?