Lessons to be Learned

I’ve always prided myself on being observant and so it came as a surprise this afternoon to spot this when bouncing through the Mage Quarter looking for stink bombs to clear up :

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On closer inspection I discovered that Archmage Nakada was looking for volunteers for his class and given that the mini Mages looked so cute in their hats, saying no was impossible. That said I wasn’t expecting to be turned into a Crawling Claw for five minutes with a half an hour buff preventing me from becoming another “test subject” straight away.

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My UI is still a work in progress

Have I learnt my lesson? Definitely not, I suspect this will give me yet another reason to haunt the Mage Quarter when I’m in Stormwind but once I’d stopped making happy crawling claw noises and spamming Holy Nova, I got to wondering who is the Archmage and what exactly is he doing there. One trip to WoWhead later and my feelings of fuzziness towards Blizzard (already on a semi high from this patch) increased considerably. I’ve always loved the memorials to people now  sadly missed in-game and as memorials go, this has to be right up there with the pyramids and the Arc de Triomphe. What better way to say goodbye and thanks to someone loved and respected by those responsible for the game that we all love and spend so much time playing.

My Grandmother who despite being not dead or even ill is obsessed with funeral preparations and has asked me to read Christina Rossetti’s “Remember” over her open grave.

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

Now I’ve always loved her poems but that ending annoys me on some intrinsic level, what’s wrong with remembering and being happy for all the good times and I think that’s why this memorial sings to me so much. It’s not a stone in some out of the way place or a grave garlanded with flowers, it’s something guaranteed to make you smile even if knowing what it represents, that smile is tinged with sadness and I think that’s a lesson we could all benefit from.

For those of you who don’t recognize the area, they are by the clearing by the Mage Tower, next to the Essential Components shop and apparently you can be turned into a variety of creatures including the Crawling Claw and Sprite Darter Hatchling.

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Undercover in Warlords: A Few of my Favourite Things

Some spoilers included so look away now if you’re trying to avoid!

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently pottering around Draenor looking for bugs, exploring and generally getting a feel for the expansion. I had been feeling jaded with the game and had actually contemplated not purchasing Warlords at all. There is a lot going on in my personal life at the moment which has left me feeling extremely ill 90 percent of the time, plus I finish work in 4 days to start another University degree with the prospect of juggling that as well as personal stuff going forward into the autumn however it hasn’t taken me long to realise that this expansion hits my buttons like WoW hasn’t since Wrath.

I know a lot of people have been critical of various aspects of the game but I’m struggling to find negatives. Is Garrison player housing? No but it’s still nice to have your own slice of Draenor. Do I mind Ashran being my capital? No, it’s across between Dalaran and Theramore at least for the Alliance with a side order of PvP and personally I like that.

My new favourite toy has to be this:

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The Ancient’s Bloom is a drop from a rather nasty rare spawn in Shadowmoon Valley called Yggdrel which turns you into a miniature version of said tree for 5 minutes. Naturally you are rooted in place whilst transformed and so far at least, nothing happens when you /sleep, /cower or /dance but every so often you do a sort of roar animation to express your general grumpiness.

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Needless to say this will be one of the first rare spawns I attempt to slaughter on release but given that it was a rather messy kill with level 100s, it might prove tricky. It also goes into your Toybox meaning that acquire it once and you should have it on every character without having to lose a bag space.

My first new Draenor Pet:

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is a Teroclaw hatchling stolen from a random nest just north of Auchindoun. There is definitely a dinosaur feel to this little chap.

Finding Old Friends in the strangest of places:

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One of the aspects of WoW I like the most is the linking of content. We move from one expansion to another in search of adventure and having the NPCs do the same is a wonderful touch that makes the virtual world feel more concrete.

The Wanderer’s Festival – IntPiPoMo

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

With so many of the WoW festivals revolving around killing and death, the Wanderer’s festival is a real breathe of fresh air. There is no big bad to slaughter, no towns to save, just a leisurely Sunday beach party focusing on celebrating exploration and dreams coming true.

The party starts with the celebrants emerging from the jungle, some carrying lanterns which they take to the water’s edge.

Once released these glowing beacons float out to sea, drifting out to explore.

I find myself returning week after week just so I can sit on the beach watching the world go by.

I love the idea of a regular festival and/or event that happens all year around and really hope it’s something that Blizzard develop further at some point. So far we have the Wanderer’s Festival with it’s hatchling and of course the Darkmoon Faire but perhaps the market at Halfhill could expand into a proper market on a Saturday with twice as many stalls, some selling unique items and recipes. Maybe those enterprising Goblins in Booty Bay could set up a Fish market to help fund the rebuilding project or the Vrykul could host a little gathering once a fortnight to help draw people back to Northrend, obviously we’d have to dress up to avoid being on the receiving end of a pointy spear but the opportunities could be endless.

A few of my favourite things: The MoP Edition

The sheer quantity of “fun” items released with Mists has me both amazed and struggling for bag space.  Do I really need a golden banana, probably not but who knows what the future holds. Throwing away a cask of beer could be risky, for all I know I might end up stuck half away up a mountain with nothing to drink at some point soon. Therefore I thought I’d talk you through my favourite silly stuff so far.

So in no particular order, here are my favourites to date:

1. Tuft of Yak Hair

This lets you summon a rather large yak and ride him around the Dread Wastes for a minute or so. You can’t control his speed, only direction.

2. Oddly Shaped Horn

This is basically a Mushan version of the Yak Hair, you get three charges which summons a very large Mushan and get to ride around on it’s back for a little while. Totally pointless but rather fun.

3. Ruther’s Harness

This is the reward  from a  Goldilocks type quest and he’s become my good look charm in battlegrounds, although recently given the sheer number of premades featuring warriors and holy paladins, he’s not been that lucky.

4. Shushen’s Spittoon

It might be rather naughty of me but the second I saw this, my mind immediately jumped to possible pvp implications. If there comes a time when the /spit emote just isn’t enough, deploy this one their unreleased corpse and spit away to your hearts content (of course I’d never do something so …. bad).

5. Silversage Incense

Even angry little gnomes need to find serenity somewhere along the line.

6. Autumn Blossom Tree

You grow these on your farm once you’re honoured or above with the Tillers. Each tree only lasts 3 minutes but I think they’re rather pretty.

Right now our policy is basically if it moves (and even if it doesn’t) kill it and see if it gives shinies. What items are you currently hoarding away and why?

The Walrus and the Carpenter

When I was a little girl, my Mother would read me a story every night. I’d curl up on the sofa with a glass of milk and a bar of  turkish delight and listen. We read David Copperfield, The Children of the New Forest and a whole library of similar novels. A fair few of which probably weren’t all that suitable for a child. Out of all of them, Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass had a huge impact on my impressionable mind. I wanted to play croquet with flamingos, paint rosebushes and acquire a cat with a giant smile. Unfortunately none of those things ever came to pass, I’ve had to content myself with painting pictures of roses and playing croquet with the next best thing, mallets designed to look like flamingos. Thus when exploring the Pandarian coastline I came upon this idyllic slice of seaside life:

I found myself humming away,

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle — will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

Inside the house we have the Walrus,

who when you speak to him replies with:

A warcraft parody of Lewis Carroll’s lines from the book in which the Walrus tells Alice that “The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things / Of shoes and ships and sealing wax”. Outside hammering away at boat we find the carpenter, working hard.

It’s these little scenes which make exploring Azeroth and now Pandaria all the more wonderful. When an expansion breaks, you never know what you’ll find around every corner and this time around, Blizzard have really outdone themselves.

If you want to visit them, you’ll find their island getaway on the north coast of Kun’Lai Summit.

A second set of first impressions

Coming back to WoW after a six month absence, I feel a bit like I did when I returned home from my year abroad. Everything is the same but different. I’m constantly comparing things to the way they used to be, in the “good old days” or perhaps that should be the “bad old days”.

I mean when did DARKshore get so bright?

So far there have been positives and negatives. Finally being able to sort your characters on the log in screen is a definite plus. Having to swap mains half away through an expansion and then having your new main lurking at the bottom of the screen below a bunch of low level pink haired gnomes always annoyed me.

Other mostly positives include mailboxes in starting zones, getting a bunch of flight points straight away so you don’t have to run around getting lost/mauled by bears/falling off boats/ending up on the wrong continent.  However, whilst it’s convenient to existing players levelling alts and perhaps reduces frustration to new players, it does make the world feel a lot smaller. (Yes, I realise that this has been in longer than six months but my brief foray into Cataclysm was spent blindly levelling and gearing my priest so I missed all the fun stuff).

The biggest negative so far, (yes it’s subjective) is that fact that druids can’t shift out of “roots” any more unless they are Resto.  I imagine it was changed due to Capture the Flag rated battlegrounds but it certainly makes fighting Frost Mages painful everywhere else, especially at low levels.

The new placements of graveyards in WSG also came as a bit of a shock. So many games I’ve won in the past with the weaker team just because we kept our flag at the graveyard, relying on the cannon fodder ressing to help us hold it.

Did three low level battlegrounds yesterday though as a low level Resto druid (yes I respecced just so I could shift away from hateful frost mages) and in two of them people said thank you for the healing. More interestingly, no one was yelling, typing in caps or insulting the intelligence of their team members. Although that was probably luck more than a sign that people can now PvP without bursting blood vessels.

My other issue is the linear questing. I realise it’s necessary for phasing but I miss the old feel of being a mercenary type who picked up 15 different random jobs from a quest hub and then wandered around doing bits as and when I came across them or felt like it. That said, some of the quest chains are amazing and still have the capability to make me feel genuinely sad.

So far so good though. I was a bit negative about the whole endeavour when we started out but I’m slowly getting back into the WoW feeling.

Grand Theft Kezan!

I finally got around to playing through the Goblin start zone and whilst there were some amazing moments, I found myself wondering exactly which game I was playing. Kezan itself reminded me too much of Grand Theft Auto, as I beat people up for protection money, robbed a bank (albeit for my own gold) and ran people over, although the latter might have more to do with my truly appalling driving than design intent.

Then of course there was Chip Endale, my slimy ex-boyfriend. I have to say I wasn’t impressed. My Goblin just wouldn’t have ever dated that particular loser and nor would she have ripped his heart out. Now sure, I can imagine my Warlock doing that and then feeding said organ to her felpuppy before licking his blood from her fingers but my little resto shaman… it’s just not in her character. I realise that the whole scenario fits in with the Grand Theft Auto/Sopranos attitude and atmosphere that the Goblins have but it was a rather uncomfortable quest for me and I normally take wholesale slaughter, murder and torture quest lines in my stride.

Whilst I didn’t particularly like the quest chains, I did love the slummy, dirty and downright nasty look of the zone. From the paint flaking off the nodding flamingos in the yard to the pineapple wallpaper, the level of detail is amazing. Even though it’s basically Paradise in meltdown, I kept finding things to stare at. It look me a good five minutes to complete the quest to burn down my headquarters, just because I was fascinated by the furniture.

Whilst I found going from level 1 to 12 in the Goblin zones novel, I wasn’t left with a great desire to do it again. Racing around Kezan in a car with it’s radio blaring was fun for a while. As was exploring the dingy streets, simply because it’s pretty far removed from anything else in-game but by level six or so I found myself longing for the haunting paleness of Tirisfal or the red rocks of Durotar.

The Lost Isles too was a visual treat but the quests for the most part left me cold. Along with the heart ripping out episode, I really didn’t like Thrall of all people telling me to kill a bunch of terrified sailors huddling in their lifeboats or already drowning out at sea. I rather expected better of him, but it seems being captured by a bunch of level sevens put him in a rather bad mood.

The luring of baby naga with an inflatable sea horse also seemed to demonstrate questionable taste. Although I’d love one of these as a mount, would be far better than the sea turtle or that sea horse you get from questing in Vashj’ir.

The options for customising your Goblin on the other hand are fantastic. Mine is modelled slightly on Abby from NCIS, with a skull headband and plenty of attitude.

In a sense I feel disappointed with myself. I normally love questing yet I’ve been lukewarm about virtually all the Cataclysm zones so far. The storylines are a strange mix of being too personal and yet manage to be impersonal at the same time. It feels as if rather than creating your own reality within the game, you’re just being carried along through other people’s imaginations. Now sure, in most games there is nothing wrong with that but in Warcraft it feels uncomfortable. Whilst I’m not particularly into RP, I’ve always imagined semi back stories for my characters and having partners and crimes of passion foisted  on them is unpleasant and I believe unnecessary. Yes, obviously the zones and the creatures that inhabit them have always been someone else’s creations but this expansion has taken it to extremes.

I still have Vashj’ir, all the revamped Kalimdor quests and the Worgen start zones to finish, so hopefully they will fix some of my cynicism and general hatefilledness towards Cataclysm questing. Otherwise it’s going to be a slow and painful route to 85 for my baby Shaman.

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