Wednesday, 29 June 2011

(Unwilling) Oppression

After I'd completed the 'can you pick cactus apples' challenge, the cook baked me a pie from my spoils of... well, not war.  Fruit picking.  The spoils of my fruit picking?  Oh dear.  What will I tell my father?  He'll misunderstand me and think that I spoiled fruit.  Doubtless with my axe. "See how brave my daughter is?  She triumphed over fruit! With the axe I gave her! (Wait.  Did you really say fruit, daughter?  Did I not mishear you?  Perhaps you meant to say... foes?)"  I think I may wait longer before I put quill to parchment and advise them of my progress...

I was asked to report to Foreman Thazz'ril who was allegedly in urgent need of my assistance. So I ran through the dust, eager to offer him my services.  He explained to me that his team of workers were not up to scratch and they needed to be deal with.  He then handed me a wicked looking blackjack and instructed me to savagely beat the peons I happened across who were napping. Beat them!  With this horrible looking thing!  I took it gingerly - what else could I do?  My parents raised me well - I'm respectful of my elders, but I wasn't sure quite what to do with it.  When I looked questioningly at the Foreman he raised his hand in the air, and brought it down in a swift, striking motion. "Look under the trees, Steka - that's their favourite spot for snoozing.  Lazy good-for-nothings..."

I walked away, hoping that all the peons I happened across would be hard at work, and sure enough, the first few I saw were chopping wood diligently.  Maybe I could report back to the Foreman now?  "They all seem to be hard at work Mr Foreman.  No dozing, no slacking off..." but then, as I watched one, he dropped his axe and curled up by the pile of logs.  Within moments he was asleep, mouth agape, snores rattling round the Valley and echoing off the rocks.  Oh great.  Half the problem seemed to be the noise.  If only they could sleep quietly!  It would be a lot less noticeable.  I shuffled towards him slowly and put my hand on his shoulder.  I shook him hard, but he brushed my hand off, muttered something intelligible and went back to snoring. 

I looked at the blackjack in my hand.  Unwillingly, I poked him gently in the ribs.  No response.  Oh for goodness sake!  I'm trying to make this easy for you, Mister...  I poked him  a bit harder.  He muttered something I couldn't catch (it sounded like "Me not that sort of orc" but I suspect I misheard!) and turned over. I straightened up, sighing.  In all honesty, he didn't look like he had much gumption.  He was an orc - he should be wielding his axe (which looked a LOT sharper than The Axe of My Father) with pride!  Even if he only was using it to chop wood.  I tapped his shoulder gently with the blackjack.  A cloud of red dust flew up from his leather jerkin but he remained motionless (but not silent - alas!)  Giving up, I raised the blackjack in the air and struck him with it.  As he stood up I grabbed for The Axe of My Father - expecting to have to defend myself, but he squinted at me and picked up his axe, "Ok, ok Steka.  I go back to tree-hitting now."  He appeared to hold no grudge against me for the abuse I had visited upon him.  Heartened by my success I found others and when I had awoken a good number I returned to the Foreman. He gave me a handful of small coins and instructed me to go to the cave to the east and retrieve his mining pick. 

I am unwilling to do this.  I fear that whilst the blackjack was a horrid, weighty thing, at least it's blunt!  What will happen the next time the peons nap?  Is he planning to attack them with his mining pick?  Whilst I'm certain this would ensure he had their attention, I fear that he would soon have a much reduced workforce.  Perhaps I need to ask him (tactfully) if he felt able to resolve the issues he has with his employees in a less... violent way?  Or would this be dis-respectful?  Oh dear, I rather thought being a warrior would involve less moral dilemmas than it has done thus far...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Does not play well with others

Manalicious recently wrote about how playing alts might be harming your game play, and as a confirmed altoholic I went over and gave it a read.  Unsurprisingly, it's an insightful and balanced post, and as I was planning to write something about alts and player capability I thought I'd use this as an intro point.  Usual disclaimer:  all points about raiding are now historical, and filtered through the (rusty) sieve that is my memory. I don't raid anymore, blah, blah, blah, y'all know this already...

I love mah alts.  You may have noticed.  I love them enough that one of the things that has pulled me back to Azeroth (again) is making myself a new Project 10, on a server that I have no heirlooms, gold or bags on.  I'm starting 100% from scratch (so I'm even more n00b-like than usual) for a real challenge.  But I have always had alts.  Mainly very low level ones.  I only ever raided on my priest.  As I begin to play classes I've not played before (very much) I find myself going through the 4 stages of competence that most people are probably familiar with.  For those of you who aren't (and who CBA to clickly the linkie) the basic premise is this:

Stage 1 - Unconscious Incompetence
Translation:  you know fuck all but don't realise this.  (You shouldn't be raiding. Or doing anything with others until you've gotten to Stage 2.  Play on your own, learn your own shit, m'kay?)

Stage 2 - Conscious Incompetence
Translation: you realise you know fuck all.  (You should be running instances/grouping with others, reading blogs or forums or whatever, and taking advice.)

Stage 3 - Conscious Competence
Translation: you know stuff, but damn if it isn't really hard work keeping on top of it. (Raid.  Work.  Learn more. Practice.)

Stage 4 - Unconscious Competence
Translation: you've known stuff for so long that it's all now automatic, i.e. you don't need to be told to get outta teh bad! (Your raid leader loves you.)

I usually sit somewhere between Stages 2 & 3.  I rarely hit Stage 4 and I'm my own harshest critic so I don't spend much time (I hope) in Stage 1.  In raiding you need to ideally be at Stage 4 but Stage 3 is ok for a bit.  I would think that if you raided with more than two characters, you'd be hard pushed to remain in Stage 4. 

The people I raided with who were deep, deep within Stage 4, were those who just raided with one character.  They'd raided with that character for some time (not that they'd never raided with anything else, but they'd done a lot with the current one) and you knew that they'd know the fights and their role inside out.  In my experience, these players tended to just be awesomely dependable folks.  They signed up for raids, turned up (on time, flasked, repaired and with reagents etc) without fail, didn't grumble about wipes etc etc.  The backbone of your raid team, in other words. 

Having raiders who had numerous max level characters can be helpful.  If you're a healer down, and someone has an alt, better that than no raid?  Probably.  I've raided with a few, very few, players who are just good.  They can tank, they can heal, they can dps.  But they're a rarity.  I've raided with a lot of people who think this applies to them.  And that, as a raid leader, is headache inducing.  Syl recently wrote an excellent and painfully honest post about raiding. If you haven't read it, you should, but the one point that really resonated with me was her point that, if you're a raider, you have a 'contract' with your guild.  If you applied as a dps, tank or healer, that's what you were taken on as.  Along with multiple other things like attendance etc.  I used to hate seeing someone's alt signed up on the raid calender.  Why??  Why are you suddenly signing on your rogue not your priest?  Why is our top dps warlock suddenly signing on his tank?  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???

And when I logged in, I'd say, hey - whats with the change in 'toon? and they'd say, oh, I wanna swap my main - that's cool isn't it? and I'd *headdesk* and then try to explain that well, whilst no-one wants to tell you who to raid with, you need to, y'know, discuss this sort of thing with an officer or someone, rather than just assume it's ok to suddenly change.  'Cos, you know, you've been gearing up as 'role x' and we kinda need you in that role, and how well geared is this other character?  Oh, right.  In blues and stuff.  Well, that's going to be  a bit difficult as we're currently x/y bosses through [insert raid here].  And if you switch then others are going to want to... and *headdesk*.  And some people were fine about that and some weren't.  But if people start to switch then lots of others want to and all of a sudden you're progression is... stalled. And your main character players (the Stage 4-ers) are frustrated and then drama happens. And we all hate raid drama, amirite?

I'm fine about bouncing between my warrior and my mage and my hunter, getting confused about the buttons, what class of armour I should be wearing what what (and where) my 'oh shit' button is.  But I'm levelling, on my own, so  Stage 1 & 2 is fine for this.  I'm resigned to my anti-socialness.  But if I was to ever raid again (which I will, when hell freezes over) I'd be pretty determined to raid on one character, and be at least comfortably ensconced in Stage 3.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Axe of My Father

I am confused.

In fact, I am irked.  Irked and vexed. 

For years and years my parents had regaled me with tales of the brave orc warriors, my kin, who had fought vicious wars and covered themselves, the Horde and the Warchief in glory (and presumably a fair quantity of blood).  I had relinquished my dream of following a more peaceful, shamanic path some time ago.  They had not been granted sons, I heard (almost nightly), and therefore I should go out into the world, when I was of age, and make them as proud as any sons would have made them.  And ok, you have to respect your parents wishes, don't you?  So I agreed that yes, when I was old enough, I'd take the battered, chipped old axe that my father had killed many... things... with and I'd present myself at The Valley of Trials for conditioning and training.  And hope that they didn't take one look at The Axe of My Father and fall over laughing.  They might even, I supposed, provide me with a decent whetstone to sharpen it with. 

Obviously, I was expecting some warning.  Some conversation nearer the time.  I knew that they'd tell me that it was time I went, rather than ask me, but I didn't expect to be frog-marched into the Orgrimmar barbers and have some greasy goblin clamber onto my shoulders and hack away at my hair.  This, apparently, was their way of telling me that it was time for me to go.  I'm not vain, I'd like to add, it's just that I'd thought maybe if I kept my hair long, they'd look at me one day and reconsider, "yes, clearly Steka looks much more of a... wise woman than a warrior.  Perhaps we should think again about what SHE wants...I'll see if that shaman wants an apprentice..." that type of thing.  But no such luck.  What I got was a giggling goblin shaving the sides of my head and slapping something probably made of crushed beetles over the remains (to darken the colour, it turned out - not just for his amusement) and then taking the remaining hair and gluing it (with I don't want to think what) into three long spikes.  Then he poked me until I bared my teeth at him and then my parents were proud. They took me to the tavern, gave me some quite disgusting mead to drink and my father proudly presented me with his axe.  It looked even more battered than I remembered, frankly, but I held it reverentially and promised him that I'd make it look like a true warriors axe (i.e. cover it in blood and gore) as soon as I had the opportunity to.

My father made some gruff speech about the world changing and allegiance now being shown to Garrosh and how I'd need to prove myself even more under his rule (oh joy!) and then they whistled up an incredibly hairy wolf, strapped me on and waved as this thing charged out of the city, it's tongue lolling out of its mouth, its tail wagging madly.  What a perfect send off (did you note the sarcasm in that sentence?)  It deposited me unceremoniously in the Valley and after brushing off the worst of the dirt and strapping my axe to my back, I presented myself to Gornek.  He couldn't have cared less about The Axe of My Father - all he wanted me to do was to go and kill boars.  Not wild, roaming boars with huge tusks mind you.  Just small, grey boars in a wooden pen.  I'm still not sure why - they were hardly a threat to the locals, but it doesn't do to ask questions, so off I went. 

I'd like to tell you that this was a truly epic challenge - that The Axe of my Father served me well and that despite it's battered and chipped appearance it was a weapon of keen sharpness, but I can't.  And for the record, the boars were so docile that I could probably have beaten them (slowly) to death with a soggy piece of parchment.  Their sole method of defence was to snort. So I returned to Gornek, not especially blood coated, to be sent off to see a cook who required me to collect some apples.  Apples!  Ok, they were from moderately prickly cacti but I'm an orc!  We have quite tough skin...

I'm not sure that this warrior lark is quite the same as it was in my father's day.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Azerothian utopia, dystopia, whatever...

First off:  I have impetigo on my faceLess than a week before I get married.  For those of you that are lucky enough to not know what it looks like you can see it in all its glory here.  That isn't my chin and mine isn't that bad (and thanks to the wonders of health care on a Sunday and mega doses of antibiotics it hopefully won't get that bad), but  I do expect sympathetic comments by the dozen.  Yes, /sympathy does count.  Beggars can't be choosers. 

In the spirit of trying to cheer me up (or something), Himself decided to tell me what he plans to say when the Registrar rings this week to do the final 'marriage chat-ette' thing they do now. Himself's view is he'll say something along the lines of "Pilf.... who?  Ohhhhhhhh, Pilf!  Yes. The one I marry soon.  Hopefully this English girl will stay married to me, so I can stay in England, yes..?" (Because that's the sort of thing Himself finds amusing when I'm having 'wedding fret'...) And I told him he had the dodgiest pseudo-Eastern Europe/Russian/whatever accent imaginable (he did.  It was terribad...) Which (somehow) led on to us discussing Turkmenistan.  There is a reason that this is a Warcraft post.  You just need patience.

For those of you who don't know, Turkmenistan was, until December 2006, ruled by a... fairly eccentric dictator (this isn't a political blog, nor is it a political post, this is for teh lols, ok); the self -styled Türkmenbaşy who had a habit (it seems) of being a trifle... capricious.  Amongst the things he banned were: ballet, opera, circuses, long hair (on men) and beards (presumably on both sexes), dogs (from the capital city), libraries (outside the capital city because the only books people needed to read were the Koran and the book he had written), the use of lip-synching at concerts, gold teeth, and most epically, in my opinion, smoking, after heart surgery meant he could no longer smoke.  It's the last one that pleases me the most.  That 'if I have to suffer then dammit, everyone in my country will suffer with me!' view of the world.

In Azeroth therefore, I would introduce mandatory sparkle-form for warlocks.  Or maybe not mandatory... just a 75% damage reduction debuff when you aren't in sparkleform.  All warlock headpieces would look like this:

(And the 'hide helmet' option would be grayed out in the Interface Options)

There would be added Tinkerbell stylee sparkle sound effects when casting a spell.  And pink minions, a la Saga.  And spell effects that are no longer threatening balls of dark matter but stars, kinda like this:

Soooooooooooo. If you could outlaw/enforce anything in Azeroth - what would you choose? Serious, insane, funny, downright bizzare and bonkers. All donations are welcome, and will be donated to the good cause of Making Pilf Laugh Even Though She's Pissed Off.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Making your own challenge?

Forgive me for writing another 'Rift' post on my main blog, but I'm using Rift as an example - not the be all and end all.  And I'm not saying, in any way, than game x is better than game y. Just to be clear about that...

My (admittedly) limited MMO experience is based around the so called 'holy trinity' of roles - tank, healer and damage dealers. But Rift added a new string to that (for me - probably not a new mechanic, I'm sure!) - the buff/debuff role.  Now I can imagine that that type of role can cause difficulty with balancing - ok, I get that in a raid group (and I think that raids are 20 players in Rift) you can tune the fights around having at least one 'support' role, but how does it play out in 5-mans?  If you require a support role to manage boss fights, that leaves another 'necessary' role, along with the inexorable tank-healer combo so only two DD slots.  Hmm. However, that was a tangent.

I'm a cussed sort sometimes.  I levelled my priest in WoW from 1 - 70 as holy (before the days of dual spec) and I didn't find it that much of a big deal.  (Until I levelled a warlock and things just fell over.)  I know tanks had, to a degree, the same thing.  You took the 'pain' levelling for the 'rewards' of end game.  Period.  Then dual specs made it much easier to have a DD 'off spec' or vice versa and all of a sudden, the need to take the levelling 'pain' was removed.  And levelling got easier.

In Rift I'm playing mages and clerics.  For the unitiated (or those who have been hiding under a rock...) clerics can tank, heal or DD depending on soul choice.  Mages can heal, DD or fulfill a support role.  So clearly there are specs that are 'easier' in terms of levelling progression than others.  Himself is playing a shaman as his 'main' spec and is sliding through packs of mobs 2+ levels higher than he is like a hot knife through butter.  I think he gets a bit bored sometimes...

I love my necro but it's not exactly challenging when you've got a pet tank.  Same with an elementalist who has a rocky minion as a (sort of) tank.  Various warrior/rogue builds get pets etc etc.  You get my drift.  Now having been levelling my cleric as a total healer I did start to get a bit... frustrated by how long it took me to level, but boy I had fun in groups.  My latest addition is a support mage (an archon, to be precise) because I wanted to see how viable it is to level in a 'support' role. 

So the point of this post really, is to seek opinion on whether we can make our own challenges in-game.  If it feels to easy levelling as a DD, should we try making levelling harder for ourselves, rather than wanting the game designers to increase the diffiuclty levels?  Or is that just bonkers...?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

RL quests are epic!

Map showing quest objectives/quest givers.

Quest overview.

Transport choices.

Arrival completion!


Woo-hoo!  First reward...

[To be continued as I remain determined to hang on to my sanity via the medium of self-mockery...]