Azeroth and Anathem

Now that Ramadan has ended, I’m taking up my geeky pursuits again. I’ve got a copy of Anathem from the library and added some game time back to my Warcraft account. I have to confess that it’s a hard choice 🙂

Just saw the movie 17 Again starring teen heartthrob Zac Ephron and former teen hearthrob Matthew Perry. I was delighted to note the supporting “best friend” character was a geek otaku of the highest caliber, who also managed to score an otaku dreamgirl. You can always tell when writers are genuine geeks – it shows, unlike gross and absurd representations like Revenge of the Nerds and Urkel and whatnot.

your age vs your level

As my main character’s level approaches my age, I am struck by how the leveling process is both a metaphor for youth and also an escapist fantasy. In life, as you age you get stronger, faster, smarter – up to a point, and then you plateau out, and then gradually decline in most of those attributes (though not all). In Warcraft, you just keep on going up and up. Thus the early levels, say up to about 30-40, its a direct analogue for the aging process, and then above that it’s the fountain of youth. Of course the chronological time it takes for you to level from 40 to 80 is a lot less than from 1 to 40, so in practice most people arent going to be growing measurably older during the lifetime of their game character. But still, its easy to see how the game might appeal to someone older than the target age grouup of mid-20s to mid-30s. Unlike Second Life, which is basically a recreation of modern life’s drudgery, at least Azeroth gives you a story and heroic role to play.

I’m 35, and as of this writing my main toon is lvl 32. I’ll hit equal age-level sometime next week, in all likelihood. Maybe I should throw a party.

the endless summer/winter/fall of Azeroth… in the Myst?

Things are moving along nicely in my part-time Warcraftf addiction. I basically play for about 30min in the afternoon while my youngest is stuck onto me after I get home from work, and since this involves 50% fewer hands on my part, I use this time to do housekeeping like AH, trainers, etc. A lot of fishing, which is pretty surreal if you think about it. In the evenings, I get another 30min or so in, after everyone is asleep, usually as a way to unwind and build up motivation for some productive work time. This is unfortunately time I used to spend blogging or watching anime, so I may need to go alternate days or something. I do get longer bouts of questing in once in a while, an hour or more online maybe on average 2-3 times a week. Thats when I do the plot coupon-type quests.

Having spent enough time now to no longer be a newbie by any reasonable definition of the word (except when it comes to PvP), I feel entitled to gripe about various things. This really counts as thinly-veiled praise, since I am basically complaining that Blizzard hasn’t been awesome enough. Were Blizzard less awesome then they are, I’d probably be satisfied, but they keep such a high standard that I’m left noticing the tiny margins between awesome and perfection. Enemy of the good, and all that, though in this case it’s more like enemy of the super-awesome. There are numerous small things, like the fact that night and day seem to make no difference in terms of the wildlife and the population. While quest-giver NPCs should indeed be available at all hours, wouldn’t it be nice for some variety in terms of different guards on duty at night, or minor npcs being asleep in their beds and requiring rousing to talk to? Or for the flora to vary a little – are pigs really nocturnal? Granted most of the animals are usually part of some farming X of Y quest most of the time but you could make the quests adapt – get 10 pig snouts OR night wolf skins, etc.

Far more bizarre is the fact that seasons seem to be perpetual in every zone – even the ones with ostensibly “normal” histories. Why is Elwynn forest in perpetual spring? Dun Morogh in perpetual winter? Azshara in perpetual fall? ok, some of these zones are twisted by some wierd horrific cataclysm or another, but still, if the world events can follow a seasonal pattern, surely the lighting and texture can follow? It would be amazing to see Teldrassil cloaked in snow in December and to see what Westfall looks like in spring.

While I am on my wish list, wouldn’t it be interesting if Blizzard were to do some cross-promotional stuff? Like sell cheap mini expansions for minor zones that aren’t part of the mainstream Azerothian narrative but rather just for fun? What springs to mind immediately is how awesome it would be to recreate the Myst island and let you basically play that game as an in-game adventure. Myst was tailor-made for the WoW engine – you interact with objects using the mouse, carry around minor things (and blue and red pages would be pretty easy to implement as soulbound quest objects), and the various Ages of Myst are essentially branched instances. The folks at Cyan actually redid Myst in real-time with a rendering engine already, so its not just static screenshots anymore – so they are already 90% of the way there. It would really be an incredible experience, and I’d gladly pay $20 for the experience. I’m sure there are other similar cross-overs possible – for example what about the island on Wii Sports Plus/Wii Fit? Or a few levels in Portal? Or Castle Wolfenstein/Doom? In fact if Blizzard opened up Zone development to indie developers you could see all sorts of potential opportunities arise.

World of Warcraft: The Movie

Sam Raimi – Sam “demoncam” Raimi – will be directing the World of Warcraft movie. In other news, there’s going to be a World of Warcraft movie.

The last major update that we had on AICN on the WORLD OF WARCRAFT came from Moriarty here, back in 2007. The last major bit I heard was a rumor that Uwe Boll was offering Blizzard untold tonnages of gold left crowns of undetermined origin to direct – and that allegedly BLIZZARD laughed his ass out of the place. In Mori’s piece we were supposed to get this movie in 2009 with a $100 million budget. With LEGENDARY’s main man telling BLIZZCON that it’d be over that figure. And there was some concept art.

Well, I don’t have concept art. I don’t have the firm release date, but I do know who is directing the WORLD OF WARCRAFT film and that is Sam Raimi. It will come out in trades later this week or next. But you can take this one to the bank. Sam is going to make a huge budget fantasy bit of unf&^kingimaginable coolness – and it will be yanked from the WORLD OF WARCRAFT.

From that previous AICN story two years ago:

The plot for the film will take place approximately a year before the start of World of Warcraft, including races you have played and lands you have wandered in, where lots of plot arcs are melded into a two and a half hour story. The film itself will revolve around a ‘badass’ new hero, with a theme towards conflict and culture – being a War Movie rather than a quest movie, from an Alliance’s perspective.

OK this has the potential to be all kinds of awesome.To be honest I dont care if they screw it up completekly, anyway – the licensing profit for Blizzard alone will mean more money for the game development, so we fans of WoW win either way 🙂 But just imagine seeing Ironforge on film? Or Booty Bay? In fact, there’s already concept art for Teldrassil: (click to enlarge to insane resolution to see all the detail)


Wow. Just… WoW, literally.

consolidating my alts

Yet another lengthy digression on World of Warcraft. Bear with me 🙂

My main character, Aabde (human warrior, on Staghelm), has finally finished off Redridge, and Loch Modan on the side. This puts him at level 27, a bit ahead of the game for Duskwood. I also finally did the Deadmines run, tagging along (for free) with some lvl 80 paladin who was escorting a bunch of his low-level newbie friends through for loot. They kindly offered me a share of the loot but I declined, I was just interested in ticking Westfall off my todo list for good. I’d made a solo run attempt at level 25 but got overwhelmed by the mobs, I just don’t have enough area-of-effect damage techniques yet. I did ask the paladin for the chance to take on VanCleef solo, which went pretty well, though they had to heal me a couple of times (if I’d been solo, assuming I’d have gotten that far, I’d have used potions and bandages accordingly. I think I could have taken VC myself, but it was nice to have help).

At present Aabde has a pile of Stockade quests and the initial slate of Duskwood quests to start working through. I had a big pile of gnomeregan quests too but I’ll do that later, the quest log is too full again. I’ve decided to table Aabde for a bit and refocus on Zzamba (nelf druid). When I left Zzamba he was lvl 14, and had graduated from Teldrassil to Darkshore. To be honest I was getting a bit tired of Darkshore though – I decided to ship out to Azuremyst and work my way through the Draenei realms instead. This has been a nice change of scenery and provided for some easy questing to get me used to playing a druid again. I am now about halfway done with Bloodmyst isle and it is beginning to get a bit tiresome, but when I am done I’ll have a nice level surplus when I get back to Darkshore so hopefully that will go a bit more quickly, too. I’ve already got Zzamba to lvl 20 there and will probably be at least 23 when I’m finished with it (unfortunately, non-Draenei characters don’t get eth cool parade with teh chickens and all when they finish, though).

I wonder though, whether anything really changes up ahead. As you scale up, so too do the zones, meaning that you still end up with the same sort of grinding quests in your mid-20s as you did in your mid-10s. Since the mobs scale too, it takes about the same amount of time and has the same tedium factor. I don’t think I’m going to stay interested in this past the 30s at this rate. I’ve already abandoned my other alts, GGanda the dwarf rogue and Aelasha the belf paladin, because the cursory attempt I made at logging in with them was yet more tedious leveling all over again. The narrative on bloodmyst is at least more interesting, and I am enjoying the Stormwind storyline as well to a lesser degree, but at some point the relentless leveling is going to wear me down.

If there are fewer of the “go kill X number of such-and-such beastie” or “retrieve N knick-knacks” up ahead, that will really be much appreciated to know. There’s one quest to retrieve Galaen’s amulet on bloodmyst that has a horrific, absolutely horrific drop rate – I am only trying to get a single drop but I’ve killed at least 50 sunhawk belves so far with no results. I’ve given up and am just picking off a belf whenever i happen to run past that area now. This is an extreme case but I’m just not interested in collecting murloc knives or bear flanks or whatever anymore. The better quests are the ones where you need to go discover an area, retrieve a single item, or take on a boss baddy, but these tend to be stingy on the XP (thus far anyway). I suppose I could just harass my guild members to help me level by walking me through some high-level instance somewhere, but once I’m level N, its going to be the same thing. Or will it?

I suppose i could just focus on professions and achievements, especially the world events. I had an absolute blast running Aabde all over Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms after those bonfires. I also leveled pretty well in there too, mainly because the bonfires were so generous with XP. And I have been making a point of fishing whenever I can. I don’t want to repeat all of this though with Zzamba too – improving your skills gets tedious, too. I know a lot of people tend to proliferate alts all over the place, and that was my initial inclination too, but to be honest even two toons are getting to be too much for me. What I ultimately crave is novelty, and it seems that even the World of Warcraft gets to be pretty small after a while.

when addictions combine: Twitter + Warcraft = TweetCraft

I recently passed on the Palm Pre because I realize it would be harder to tweet while driving. Yes, yes, I deserve all teh oppobrium such a statement should bring upon me. Still. it gives you an idea of my addiction to Twitter. In the meantime, I’ve been delving deeper into Warcraft and while my addiction there hasn’t quite reached my twitter levels, it still is enough of a compulsion that I was watching television of some beachfront yesterday evening and thought to myself, “hey that looks like the island I swam to off the coast of Booty Bay in Stranglethorn Vale”.

So, I regard this latest technical innovation with the appropriate mixture of fearful sweat and eager drool – TweetCraft, an in-game twitter client for WoW. Here’s a video on how it works:

Thus far I have been playing WoW without any addons of any kind. Obviously it’s time to break the virgin seal on my addons folder. I’ll be piping my tweets to the @otakusphere account. After I install the new hard drive on the gaming machine, that is.

Aside – does anyone know when the patch comes out that lets you gain riding skill at level 20?

Fire warden of Kalimdor

I’ve been immensely distracted within WoW by the midsummer fire festival quests. My obsession has been to find as many bonfires as possible, and grab all the flight points (FPs) along the way. This has been great for leveling – I started this with my human warrior Aabde around lvl 18 and am up to 23 – but it also has given me an excuse to sneak into practically every corner of Azeroth, especially areas that are way above my level. It’s been immensely entertaining, especially since there’s a real sense of accomplishment from being the lowest level character in the zone, and still managing the extinguish a Horde bonfire.

I actually have found it easier to extinguish Horde bonfires on Kalimdor than in the Eastern Kingdoms. I also have managed to get all but three Alliance bonfires in Kalimdor, though the three remaining are the trickiest (Tanaris, Silithius, and Winterspring). I am honestly amazed at how easy it’s been to extinguish Horde bonfires, though. I have numerous strategies, ranging from just walking along the road (surprising number of bonfires are right outside the gates of Horde settlements, so you can go right up to them without getting aggro by the guards) to the infamous “corpse-hopping” where you systematically advance by getting killed, then ressurecting at max res radius in the direction of desired travel. And I wasn’t too shy to ask Guild members for an escort when I lacked another strategy – that’s how I hit the Horde bonfire in Dustwallow Marsh, thanks to a lvl 42 patron.

My most innovative approach however was to swim. I swam from Ashenvale all the way to Feathermoon Stronghol along the west coast of Kalimdor. This got me in position to run through Feralas, and also hit the Horde bonfire in Desolace. I’m going to try to get into Tanaris next – I cant survive a run through Thousand Needles so this is my only way in. I’ll swim from Theramore and head south, then make my way to Gadgetzan. I’ve heard that if you die in the waters off Tanaris coast, you resurrect in Gadgetzan anyway, so this should be pretty easy.

After Tanaris, I’ll try to get into Winterspring via Moonglade (I’m told that if I drown north of Auberdine, I can res inside the adjacent zone). And then I’ll try to figure out a way into Silithius, probably by asking someone lvl 80 to escort me in.

Unfortunately I have five more bonfires to get in the Eastern Kingdoms, so I’ve given up on realistically achieving Fire Warden status there. But I think Kalimdor is within my reach. Anyone have any suggestions?

The Grand Tour

my 30-day introductory membership to WoW expired today, but I haven’t yet renewed. I am resolving to finish my PC upgrade first. Unfortunately I neglected to order some thermal paste… so should I just build the PC anyway or do I delay it (and WoW, accordingly) to obtain some? I’ll have to order it from Newegg or something, which will take a week. I suppose I could use that week to do other stuff, like blog or watch anime or whatnot. Heh.

In other news, my (human warrior) main is up to level 15. In one session I decided to basically grab as many flight points as I could, so starting from Westfall I 1. flew to Stormwind and 2. ran to Lakeshire, then 3. hearthed back to Westfall, 4. flew to Stormwind again, 5. took the tram to Ironforge, 6. ran to Loch Modon, 7. flew to Lakeshire and 8. ran to Darkshire. Actually I may have mixed the order of operations up a bit in there, it was kind of a blur. At any rate I basically have all the FPs for the Alliance in the southern Eastern continent. I’m mostly done with the pre-Deadmines quests in Westfall, but now I plan to polish off quests in Lakeshire and Loch Modan first. I’ll also pick up whatever easy quests there are in Dun Morogh too for leveling.

Of course, this is all on hold until I upgrade the box…

Guild proposal: Otaku Renmei

I’m starting to understand how to leverage my alts to each other’s benefit, but an hour with a friend I met online who took me on a spree through Westfall (and who mined and crafted some nice new armor for my warrior) convinced me that there are limits to soloing a bunch of new characcters all at once. It really helps to have a whole range of characters, high levels who can make great gear and lower levels who can contribute raw resources. Plus the secondary professions, like cooking and fishing, are almost a waste to have on more than one alt, because you have to tediously train each one up – far better to let one alt be the cook, another be the fisher, and then just mail stuff back and forth. But even so, you end up with far more provisions than you can actually use – and though I tried, there’s not much market for spider kabobs at the auction house.

The Guild system makes more sense now. You can freely reallocate resources like raw materials, finished products, and food between high and low level chars with ease. However, the guilds my two main chars belong to are large faceless orgs whose chat boxes are full of useless chatter. The ideal guild would be one where i know everyone and whose membership is fairly small, tailored for heling people discover the game. I’d love to start one, but am wondering how many of you all would be interested in joining?

Here’s the basic charter of the guild i have in mind:

– invite-only, not public. new members approved by 2/3rds vote after we get the initial roster going. Cap on total membership at 2 dozen.

– all members are automatically highest rank in the guild – no “privates”. That way everyone has access to everything.

– set aside a night for battlefield play, plus have regular dungeon runs. Try to really sample the world and see the coolest stuff rather than focus on just grinding levels, money and equipment.

this would basically be a way for us to easily get new alts going and enrich our experience of the game overall. Most of us are Alliance but id like to create the identical sort of guild for the Horde side too (I have one horde character so far, Aelasha the female blood elf paladin, also on Staghelm).

Anyway, none of this is set in stone – I want your feedback. What do you all think? Whats your idea of the perfect guild? Or are you pretty much happy where you are and don’t see the need?

almost done with Teldrassil

Zzamba is now a level 12 druid. The only quests I have left to do are Ursal and Oakenscowl; I also need to go get Blackmoss The Fetid’s heart. I have been routinely finding random people to group with for these quests, and thats been a lot of fun. Not only in the social sense, but also to see other players’ styles. I tend to be cautious as I enter a zone, carefully picking a target and then dropping spells on them from afar to soften them up as I close in for melee. Clearly I’m the most timid elf in Teldrassil because almost everyone else just runs straight to the nearest foe and starts slugging it out. It’s also humbling to see that most people I team with are lower level than I am, but way better at killing off enemies (in terms of speed and strategy). I suspect almost everyone I meet is playing an alt, though I did meet a couple of players even more noob than I.

I have been using the mail a lot, sending a lot of gear and silver to my other players, especially poor dwarf Gganda who is only level 4 and thus doesn’t have access to a mailbox yet (haven’t found one yet, anyway, in the dwarven starting area playpen). I also started that blood elf paladin, Aelasha, and decided to keep her on Staghelm with the rest of my characters just for convenience.

At any rate, once I am done with Teldrassil then I will be ready for Zzamba to do the druid quest for bear-form and move onwards to Darkshore. I will probably switch over to Gganda for a while once I’ve left Teldrassil though just to keep things balanced. To be honest, though, Gganda hasnt been as interesting to me; I’m more motivated to give Aelasha a run (the blood elf scenery is breathtaking, reminding me of the whole Dragonlance elven city. Its so techno in contrast to the night elves’ leafy burbs).

I like the combinations I’ve done so far: human warrior, night elf druid, blood elf paladin, and dwarven rogue. I will probably do an undead mage for the fun of it, and an orc priest, at some point. I’m considering a repeat druid for the Tauren, too – they have that whole shamnistic, native american vibe going so it seems a natural fit.