Friday, March 26, 2010

Yesterday's News: Tomorrow's Problem?

Yesterday, after struggling vainly to write a meaningful post, I visited where I found the following video, 'Yesterday's News'. If you have not seen it, take three minutes to watch it. If you've already seen it, do it anyway. I'll still be here.

I found this video quite touching. In fact, I'll admit it -- it brought a tear to my eye, and that tear managed to find it's way down my cheek to, and I alternately laughed at and cursed myself for being such a mush.

The initial emotional reaction on my part was at the sheer sadness embodied in our little dwarf as he saw his life's work trivialized. At the end it was uplifting to see him pull himself out of his own misery and extend a comforting hand to someone who found herself in the same situation. A simple act of kindness, the ability to heal and move on -- these are wonderful traits. But that's not what I want to discuss here. I want to look at what we've lost in WoW with some of the new convenience features like 'Teleport to Dungeon.'

There's no question that teleporting to and from dungeons saves us tremendous time. I didn't run too many instances on my main until I hit level 70; I did more on the way up on my lock and, quite frankly, it was frequently a pain in the butt. There were too many people who'd look at the map upon joining a group and think 'eh, those guys are much closer, I'll wait for a summons.' There were also plenty of times (with my lock) where I'd spend 25 minutes trying to actually find a group, then spend another 15 minutes schlepping from Stranglethorn Vale all the way to Tirisfal Glades only to have the group fall apart before even getting inside the instance (it's always the worst with Scarlet Monastery, by the way, have you noticed that?). It's certainly much more convenient to port directly to the instance, and then to be able to port back out right where you were. No more spending another 20 minutes flying back to STV!

Yet watching the film brought back certain memories -- good ones. The film communicates a certain joy in the summoning process, as characters come together for a common purpose. Running or riding up to the stone, a wave, a 'hearty hello', hugs -- followed by a group effort at getting the rest of the group (even if they are lazy and inconsiderate for not trying to get there) together. The summoning process requires interaction, even if it's as simple as 'type 1 for summon' or 'clicky plz'. Note again how the characters come together and act as one. Compare that with how the characters just disappeared from the streets of Stormwind -- they're all standing apart as individuals. No interaction, no warmth, nothing. One second they're there, the next...gone. Instead of working to bring the group together, of bonding, however tenuous it might be at the summoning stone, we suddenly find ourselves in a dungeon with a group of strangers. And half the time they're already halfway through the first pull when you zone in.

I've only been playing WoW for about three years yet I've seen it become increasingly individualized. The rise of meter watching (which includes World of Logs ranking dps and heals), gear score and achievements are all things that serve to break down the group aspect of play. The new LFG system and it's Teleport to Dungeon feature, while convenient, further erodes the social structure of the game. Less talk, less interaction, less seeing other players as people. Let's just hope that we can continue to reach out and connect with other players, the way the Stonemason did with the Flight Master, as the game continues on this path.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is it in my head?

Yes. Yes it is in my head. And that's exactly what the problem is. It's in my head, and not on my computer screen.

All this week I've been writing and writing and writing, with nothing to show for it. 'half a page of scribbled lines' as Pink Floyd would say. For whatever reason, the things I'm trying to say just keep getting stuck somewhere between my brain and my fingertips.

Perhaps I change my system. Normally I sit down with either a notebook and physically write (shocking, isn't it?) or at the computer on Word and write, and rewrite, and consider. Right now that system isn't working. If I'm at the sink washing dishes, or driving to the store, or doing just about anything else, the ideas flow like water and posts practically write themselves. All in my head. When I sit down and try to put them out on the paper or screen, it just shrivels up and dies. Not fun.

Maybe I should just sit here and type it directly onto the 'compose' pain of my blog page, the way I'm doing now. Maybe it would flow better that way and would make some sense. Isn't that, in many ways, what the spirit of blogging is all about? It's funny that blogs have become such 'serious journalism' in some ways. It seems to me in many ways that a blog should be a place where you kind of 'speak' extemporaneously. Instead we have blogs that are carefully planned, composed, written, edited and revised. This is serious work! Maybe I'll try that, but no time right now.

So, sorry. Hopefully soon I'll be able to get my WoW thoughts out of my head and into this space.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whiny Post Day

Klepsacovic threw down the gauntlet, and I’ve decided to pick it up. The challenge was in finding something to whine about. First I thought I’d whine about losing a roll for the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel to a pug, since I’m still rocking with the Voice of Reason. I’ve got a long, bad history with shield drops going back to Kara, when I ran around with a flashlight on my back for what seemed like forever, and the damn shield from Chess (which was even more of a slam-dunk than the gunship battle) wouldn’t drop – except for the one time when I wasn’t there, of course, and it got sharded. The one stinking time ToC25 dropped the Bastion of Purity I was outrolled by a shammy – the only person that rolled against me. Sure I have the Vigilant Ward, but that was after passing on it three times or so because, quite frankly, it’s not as good as Kel’Thuzads’ shield. Which is mine now and has been for about 11 months, with no end in sight.

Anyway, I’m not going to whine about that.

No, my main problem right now is with Cataclysm Saturation. Sure I’m going to buy it. Sure my world will be rocked when everything I’ve known about Holy Paladins gets turned on its head with the great stat upheaval. Sure I’m interested in how the world will change, what new quests and dungeons and items will be in the game, and if they will actually add anything useful to my crafting profession of alchemy, which has been the red-headed stepchild of professions for quite some time now (apologies to any red-headed stepchildren out there – you are loved!).

I’m interested, but I don’t want to be buried in it.

I’m not playing Cataclysm now – I’m playing Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit is not currently a mana regeneration tool for Holy Paladins. I don’t have Mastery. My guild hasn’t leveled. So, while I’m keeping an eye on the Cataclysm news, in a lot of ways I just don’t care. My focus now is on improving my character – not for Cataclysm, but for Wrath. Not to beat the big-ass baddie at the end of Cataclysm, but to beat Arthas – you know, the current big-ass baddie that has been downed by all of 5 guilds on my server (10 man) and once on 25.

The problem that I see with all this Cataclysm reportage is that it infects the WoW playing population like some kind of insidious, sneaky virus. LarĂ­sa at Pink Pigtail Inn reported a bit of ‘late-into-expansion apathy’ setting into her guild, and further states ‘it’s in the blogs, it’s in the podcasts, it’s everywhere.’ Suddenly nobody wants to run heroics anymore, nobody shows up for raids anymore – why should they? Cataclysm’s coming and everything’s going to change!

The infection comes from, WoWhead, MMO-Champion, and directly from Blizzard. With every forum posting from a top Blizzard flunky about Cataclysm, the infection spreads and works its way deeper into the masses. Every blog post that says ‘Ho hum, I just don’t care anymore, Cataclysm’s just around the corner’ is like an uncovered sneeze on a crowded subway. Cover your nose, for Gods’ sakes! We likely have six months or more to go before Patch 4.0 changes the world and I want to kill Arthas before then. Give the Cataclysm stuff a rest and focus on the game we have now: Wrath of the Lich King.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


That pretty much sums up last night’s raid.

Let’s see, things seemed bad when, during Icecrown trash fights, we twice pulled mobs from the center of the room either due to mistargeting or someone getting too close to a something. Careless.

Prior to our first Marrowgar pull we had an 18 minute break while we waited for our 25th player to log on -- her boyfriend* insisted she was logging on, then she was having trouble, then she was switching computers, then she was replaced. Short of a wipe, nothing kills raid momentum faster than a break like this.

Following this break, we wiped. Twice. The proximal cause was an STD – Sudden Tank Death. As a tank healer, I take a lot of the blame for it. However, on each wipe we also had at least four dps down by the time the tank went down, putting the whole operation in jeopardy anyway.

Following these two wipes, we had a 19 minute break. One of our healers had to leave unexpectedly (not a nerd rage quit). A second one took advantage of that to also drop due to child aggro. Once everyone was replaced we still had to deal with a few straggler afk's, and people who discovered after 15 minutes of doing nothing that they had to go walk the dog or something after all.

We wiped two more times. For real.

At that, we decided to go to Ulduar to kill Ignis for the weekly. Keep in mind that we haven’t set foot in Ulduar since November, and that we typically bypassed Ignis in favor of going after Crybaby and the Keepers. And we haven’t been in Ulduar on 25 man since…August.

Flame Leviathan was easy. Until a few rogue flying machines snuck in and killed us after we defeated FL and got kicked out of our vehicles. I should have been laughing at this point, but as Jules Winfield might have said, I was close to being ‘a mushroom-cloud-layin' motherfucker, ...Superfly T.N.T., ... the Guns of the Navarone!’

We proved how rusty we were on Ignis trash. Though we didn’t wipe, the tanks did not properly position the Molten Colossi, which resulted in some close calls due to silence. We also seemed to have four people tanking at one point, and maybe four healing.

On Ignis himself, while the RL was talking about shattering Golems, someone said ‘why aren’t we just burning down the boss?’ It was decided to ignore the golems and burn down the boss. The problem? This is not a heroic. We got him to about 70%.

Our second attempt on him was a disaster as well. I think we had four healers.

Sum total for the night? An emblem of triumph, a big repair bill and a ton of aggravation.

Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

*She's married, with children. He's married, with children. They're not married to each other. They've never met in real life (AFAIK). Yet they're one of those odd 'couples' that you come across from time to time. He was apparently exchanging texts with her while she was trying to log in. These crazy kids and their internet relationships!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What’s in a name?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

I had been planning to use this quote in a piece about how I feared my guild was about to stumble into a tiger trap that we’ve been in with Kara, Naxx and Ulduar, a trap mentioned last week in Cold Comfort’s ‘The B Team.’ I didn’t get to it yet (if you actually read this blog with any regularity you know that posting with regularity is not one of my strong points), and I’ve since been derailed by something that I came across today while reading the Guild Relations Forum.

The thread, if you choose to look, can be found here. To sum it up, the Original Poster (Bobbow) wonders why his guild name got changed and why Blizzard used the word ‘racist’ in their note of explanation to him. The guild name: For the Reich.

According to Bobbow, his family name is Reich, and he claims complete innocence in the matter. Most of the responses could be summed up as follows: Get a clue. No one calls him a Nazi outright; most seem to think that he should educate himself further on why it’s offensive to many people. There are one or two notes of support for him. Gabrielus tries to claim that ‘Reich’ is not specific to Hitler’s Germany, and that our association of it with Hitler is due to ‘too many people learning history from Hollywood.’

This thing has been bugging me all day. I drafted – and canned – several responses. I don’t know that I will say anything over there at all, but I feel it can’t go without some kind of a response, and what are blogs for? So here’s my take on it:

I’d like to believe that Bobbow is just a clueless kid. His writing style pegs him as someone who’s either young, or a little undereducated. I’m guessing young. Gabrielus comes across as a little older and more mature. He’s got the thread of a good idea in there; unfortunately, he goes in the completely wrong direction. He’s right when he states that the word ‘reich’ in and of itself is non-specific, and is largely defined as referring to the German state or empire. ‘Technically’ he’s right. On the other hand, ‘technically’ I could walk in and call my boss ‘Der Fuehrer’ and have it mean exactly what it means: The Leader. Still, if you call anyone ‘Der Fuehrer’, there’s no doubt who you are referring to. Unless I was so comfortable with my boss, calling him Der Fuehrer might give me a quick trip to the unemployment line, as there's only one person who is known universally by that title. 'For the Reich' is a phrase with similar connotations.

I am an amateur WWII historian. I find the time period fascinating on many levels. One of my non-WoW hobbies is to play ‘histsorical conflict simulations’ (i.e.,, I play wargames). I don’t know if the German soldiers cried ‘For the Reich’ when they fired up the panzers on September 1, 1939 or not. What I do know is that ‘For the Reich’ is so closely associated with Hitler and the Nazis that that question is totally irrelevant. To many people, hearing a phrase like 'For the Reich' is going to call up images of Hitler, Nuremburg rallies, concentration camps -- Blizzard really had no choice but to drop the Ban Hammer on this one.

Finally, I guess what really bugs me about this is not that someone would try to slip a joke past Blizzard, or even that someone might think it’s clever and/or amusing to use a name like this – as Carol Burnett said, ‘Comedy is tragedy plus time’, and John Cleese and many others have proven that you CAN laugh at the Third Reich and Hitler. No, it’s that Bobbow and Gabrielus seem to be so utterly ignorant of the way people can perceive the name. Every day we have another WWII veteran die. My grandfather and two uncles were in the Navy in WWII. Another uncle flew a P-38 in Europe during the war. Two of my friends’ fathers fought at the Battle of the Bulge, and my father-in-law was a Pearl Harbor survivor. They’re all dead now. The memories grow a bit dimmer and, as this happens the voices of the Holocaust deniers get a little louder. I am afraid of what the lack of understanding exhibited by folks like Bobbow and Gabrielus means for us. Laugh at the past where appropriate, but don’t forget it.