Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Quick 'n' Dirty - III

What can I say, it seems during the last few days I suffered from writer's-block. Or blogger's-block, I am hardly a writer :p. That, along with quite a bit of work really, made me crazed, like an Orc with Manoroth's blood flowing in my veins. Less green though, but equally angry. It was one of my least creative weeks.

My DK is slowly getting leveled up, my finances both real and virtual revolve around saving up as much as I can and me and my guildmates await Patch 3.1. Doing some of the old quests though is fun. I just need to get the Scarlet Crusade tabard and my DK will look like Alexandros Morgraine. Or so I think...

I am still missing a nice pair of gauntlets for my retribution set on Lance, but I'll hold on to my badges till Patch 3.1 is close, instead of spending them for the tier token. But most importantly...

As I have probably hinted in one of my old posts, I am getting married towards the end of the year. So in preparations for the wedding and due to the parallel lives of Lance and Erlune (guess whose toon...) I think I need to get myself one of those 'family' mounts. Cruising with your loved one around Azeroth, sight-seeing, slaying demons and looking at sunsets, with dragons flying above your head is... really romantic.

Now I need to decide, will I get a hummer-mammoth or I'll rig up a nice Lancey-Davidson chopper?


Friday, 20 March 2009

Dreaming the Wow universe...

The recent weeks I have felt that the game has stopped being played in the servers and has shifted in the `informational' plane; that of the websites, the blogs and the forums. Many players claim they have reached various states - represented by feelings of discomfort, such as burnout, boredom etc - due to the apparent low difficulty level of the current content. Instead, people log much less their toons, spent increased amount of time in the various `informative' and speculative websites in anticipation of the new patch. Which interestingly seems one of the most - if not the most - groundbreaking ones.

So we have two attitudes here. One is a direct or implied dismissal of the current content. A re-used entry level instance and a couple of single-boss encounters seemed not enough to keep people in the edge. Hardcore players of course seek the achievements for those extra novelty items and titles, where as ultra-casuals raid once-so-often at best. The mainstream of the players had cleared all instances on a non-achievement incurring mode and many have stepped up and did all but the hardest (Immortal, Undying, Sarth3D, Poke and Eternity). This in my humble opinion represents the current state in-game.

On the other hand, outside of the game, people drool over the incoming Ulduar instance, new rewards, some the next Arena season, new achievements but most importantly the new dual-spec scheme. The latter 'drags along' some nice UI modifications that encapsulate the dual-spec functionality or assist in changing gear schemes - and possibly replace current add-ons like Outfitter if only basic functionality is required.

Bringing these two together we have an intermediate period where people try to finish off achievements that are being altered (in terms of rewards) in 3.1, prepare their secondary spec, gather up items possibly to benefit financially from new crafts or finish up any loose ends like reputations, profession skill-ups and the like.

Overall, the game seems it has partially lost the drive of `oomph' of the previous years due to the anticipation of what is to come. I will attempt a dangerous speculation here based on one of my favourite WoW aspects. The lore. Up to now we have witnessed only an establishment of the `new order' of things and a closure of an old chapter. Kel' Thusad is down, Naxxramas has fallen, the alliance moves one bit closer to Icecrown and establishes a perimeter. The Ebon Blade is aiding this (or not...) and Tirion is the martial commander. Back home Varian, Thrall do an inconclusive bras-de-fer with Jana as a referee, Bolvar is dead (or not...) and the retribution order is stronger than ever. The dragons have established their presence and confronted the blue lunatic Malygos, Deathwind is nor here nor there, but always present and Krasus and Alexstrasza are scheming on the backs of the mortal races. Now, its time to see what the Titans and the Old Gods got in store for us. And towards the end (or not...) the ultimate Deathknight, a corrupted youth paladin and a blond boy...

Its time for the light to emerge from the ashes...

I dare say that Blizzard's 'ace up their sleeve' - on top for further streamlining the mechanics of the game and allowing us to do more 'for our buck', through new quests, new factions, a new dimension in playing with dual-specs and new raiding content - will be the lore. I feel that Wotlk is now about to start and immerse us to the next chapter of the Warcraft universe where the old order is about to crumble and the new 'players' are about to take their places in the checkered floor of Azeroth. Or... any place, plane etc...

Of course, I may be miserably wrong and we will fall in another wormhole, of mediocre difficulty caves and castles filled with non-purposeful mobs...

P.S. Excuse the `poetic' nature of my posts. Working in the Telecom industry is somewhat stressful and one of my favourite escapes is to mentaly travel, through the stories I participate in and allow my imagination run wild. And hope there is still a lot to dream for...

P.S.2 Picture is from one of my favourite digital artists involved with Wow themes, pulyx.You can see his (or herr, I am not certain...) gallery in Deviantart here

Friday, 13 March 2009

Enter the Twilight Zone

It is amazing how sometimes things fall together and make a mere game encounter an epic moment. In the recent week my guild saw a couple of its `hardcore' members move to another guild, arguing they wanted a tighter raiding schedule, realm first etc. Many attributed a large portion of their decision on our inability to tackle Sart3D. The latter mostly because a spell of flaky attendance and some other coincidences.

Yet the guild was patient, did some clever recruiting, had the usual discussions that take place in such occurrences and remained faithful that even with our 3-day raiding schedule we can tackle the challenges ahead. Maybe a couple of weeks later than top guilds. But after all we are together in this guild cause we want balance and... moderation

Yesterday the guild was scheduled to raid Naxx for the weekly clear out. But the number 0f raiders present and the overall composition seemed quite promising for a few good tries on Sart3D. After a quick VoA, we moved to Sartharion's lair. A few slacky early tries showed once more that this would not be a walk in the park. But then again, we were not there to take a stroll either...

After a few good tries, a bio/drinks break and a couple of jokes that kept spirits high we were ready for one more try. A try that went smoothly up to the point our MT healers - yours truly and the iconic priest of the guild - went down like 'doofs' (guild term for silly I think :-p ) from a Tsunami, trying to keep the MT topped when the third Drake landed. Yet the rest of the raid performed remarkably. Healers stepped into to hold the MT up, people tackled the adds properly... Being there lying dead I was thinking how wonderful teamwork is. Granted, things can often go bad for various reasons - I miscalculated my Divine Guardian-specced bubble by a margin and thought I could endure the Tsunami while bubbled - but our guildmates stepped in with a top game. Teamwork often makes people cover each other and keep the group going.

All in all, the raid was extremely successful, nailing the Twilight Zone achievement and one of us got to show off in his brand new drake in Dalaran.

So, a few weeks later, a couple members less and a great deal of desire to prove we can do almost everything presented to us, we finally got the damn lizard. Now it is time to get those drakes and `normalize' those DKP pools for Ulduar :)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Metron Ariston

The ancient Greeks had a recipe for long, happy life: "Metron Ariston" roughly translated: good things in moderation. The emphasis of this quote is in the word moderation. Why on earth he talks about this, you might wonder. Well, even Blizzard uses a paraphrase of this quote in its loading screens with 'Take all things in moderation, even world of Warcraft'.

Many people flamed this quote as the epitome of 'mediocre' in warcraft. Reminded me of the time people flamed Richard Bartle, saying who the hell he is to be talking about Warcraft. Being a researcher myself I am alway suspicious. What is said, by whom, why, how and where. I listen, I think, I accept, I defy.

So, that old quote came to haunt me the last few days. You see we had a few people leaving the guild in order to seek even more competitive guilds that would allow them to do realm first, or a higher number of raids, or possibly what in their eyes is a higher level of player ability - which alone in my eyes is a subject of great debate and analysis. Now, I am not knocking their decision, everyone is entitled to play the game however they want. I wish them good luck in their search. But in the same time I am going to defend my decision - which was taken a loooong time ago - to take WoW in moderation. And the fact I am done searching.

I am in a relationship that leading to marriage, and like all my close friends I decided to take that step by the end of the year. I am blessed to have a beautiful, considerate and extremely fun person next to me that puts up with my nerdiness and love for virtual dwarfs, swords, spells and dragons. I am working in the Telecoms industry and I get to socialise with my friends in coffee-shops (not the ones in Amsterdam, the ones in Athens where we only drink coffee in various flavours and gossip about politics, football and celebrities - so much for the ancient Hellenic civilization), bars, cinemas and our ultra-comfortable couches watching Champions League (soccer to my friends from the US), NBA and Euroleague basketball games, the national tournaments and quite a few HD movies. But more than anything else spend time with my GF and wife to be.

At the same time I am keen on seeing the content through, in Warcraft, gearing up my paladin with whatever I get my hands on, eager to experience fully another spec (being Holy for a loooong time), but most important feel that sense of accomplishment when my team hammers that dragon boss down. I consider my guild as a very capable bunch that has gone very far, albeit with a moderate 3-day raiding schedule.

But I will do all of the above in moderation. I will not loose my head over some achievement that I can not have now, but I will do my best to obtain it. In the mean time I will explore the content as much as possible, but I will be patient and take it one step at a time.

Why? Because I want all of the above. I do not want to sacrifice anything, I want everything to be part of my life, my leisure time. It keeps me sane, reduces my stress and allows me to keep a brave face when something awkward crops up.

Moderation ladies and gents is what keeps our lives full. I am not a sports champion, I am not a politician (OK that's a bad example), I am not someone who has to sacrifice a great deal to achieve something. I am the average punter, a bloke in his 30ies that likes what he does, how he does it and when.

Excuse the tone of the post, but there is one point on has to stand up to all the 'opposition' that claims its seeking more and more, whether that's justifiable or not.

No, I will stick to my decision. Wow is and will be one of my hobbies for as long as my relationship and future family allows me. It will be my Escape from my real life. I will try to go as far as possible, for as long as possible, doing as much as possible. But I will not replace my real life with that of my toons.

My opinion is simple. Sacrificing something should be done only for life-changing, life-defining actions and decisions. Otherwise, as Frankie said... Relax.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

On Lore progression

In the past I mentioned briefly my love for the Warcraft lore and how I am totally hooked on certain stories. TBC was relatively shallow when it comes to lore as we got to kill certain important figures without truly exploring their past. Those figures were mainly from the most popular Warcraft period for many - that of WC3. They eventually got to be end-bosses where we 'killed' them (and one case re-'killed' them :p) without some justification in regard to their past actions. Or at least not enough. We never get to see the past of the Illidan brothers and their relation to Tyrande, the relationship of Jana, Kael and Arthas, the importance of Lady Vashj in the elf lore (and possibly a future expansion with Azshara). But we did get to see Kil'Jaeden and that is quite big :p

Wotlk changes this to a large extent with visions of Arthas' past, the active involvement of the Dragons (which in the books/lore are all over the place affecting our future - and sometimes our past), the Bronzebeard brothers, King Varian and his return, a very interesting development in Wrath gate, the return of the Ashbringer and Tirion, the tension between Alliance and Horde etc. Lore is all over the place and things crop up as we go deep in Northrend. Even some `loose ends' like Matthias Lehner, or Bolvar Fordragon are quite prominent and make lore-aficionados work their minds overtime with assumptions and predictions.

And now Ulduar comes...

For those that have seen the relative information on Yogg-Saron, recently published, we get to see various important points of the lore with some interesting mechanics. We get to see `hidden' messages, we get to wonder why, what, how and when and possibly we get to see what happened to some of those 'loose ends'.

I wont spoil the fun with details etc, you can always go look if you are interested. What I know is we are much more involved in the story now. One story that slowly comes to its conclusion (or not), closing some of the remaining chapters of WC3. And quite possibly a few new threads, generated, that in will return spin-off to new paths.

All I know is that now is the time to enjoy the story; more than ever in World of Warcraft.

P.S. Picture source

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