Distracted

My leisure time is decidedly lacking at the moment and what few moments I do have are somewhat divided.

Reading

books

My current reading list looks something like this. I’d definitely recommend Heavenly Bodies to anyone else fascinated by the skull beneath the skin, the illustrations alone are worth the price and from what I’ve read so far, it’s the left me with the nagging desire to go wandering across Europe visiting Catacombs.

Gaming

I am still playing WoW albeit with that numbness which comes with the doldrums before an expansion. It’s hard to focus on any one activity when you know that a massive change is en route, so I do a spot of pet battling or play an alt but there is no driving force behind my gaming at the moment. I want to tick more items off my to do list and of course level my little Warlock by wandering around exploring and questing but that’s an hour here and there.

Thanks to Ironyca, perhaps too much of my time is currently being taken by an evil little browser game.

I’m also still playing Candy Crush although my rules are still the same. No cash will be spent on the app and if I run out of lives, then I just have to wait. So far I’m at level 123 and it’s a great way of killing time whilst commuting.

Hearthstone

I got my Hearthsteed but I’m still dabbling.

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Although I have to admit I haven’t gone back to playing actual people since I won the mount, instead I’m having fun taking on the computer. That said though, I didn’t actually mind the “pvp” games either, it’s when people feel the need to emote that I get nervous. I love the art work, the cards themselves and their descriptions are amazing.

Dragon Age

Yep, I’m back playing my 10th Mage through her Harrowing and hopefully beyond. There is something addictive about that Mage Tower! This time the plan is seduce Leliana and make Anora marry Alistair but then that’s been the plan before. Usually one of two things happens, I either get distracted writing fan fiction and before I know it, my Mage has fallen head over heels for Alistair which never ends well or even worse, I get into a rut around Ostager and just make a new Mage. I could actually do the Harrowing in my sleep and I’ve been yelled at by the Knight Commander so many times, I’ve explored all the possible dialogue options without having to go back to previous saves. I’m not a hundred percent sure what this says about me, but I suspect it’s not particularly positive.

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I’d also forgotten just how pretty Dragon Age is, even Ostager looks beautiful.

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Possible Temptation – Games I’m fighting the urge to purchase or play

Wildstar

I haven’t pre-ordered but I’m definitely tempted to try the game. After all it has “tree-huggers”, which sounds close enough to Elves to work for me. I’ve read quite a few reviews and whilst I’m not sure it would hold my attention for long, it’s definitely struck a cord or two.

Windborne

I found this whilst browsing Steam and there is just something about it which draws me in. I’ve always loved sandbox games where you can just wander around building and exploring.

Crafting

At the moment I’m sewing together a cat cushion but have so many ideas of things I wish to try dotted around the house. Matty introduced me to this and I can’t resist to the temptation to turn it into a little lavender pillow or similar.

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I also found a book on salt dough when I visited the library last which brought back a lot of childhood memories so I’d like to give that ago sometime soon. Then of course, there is my Warcraft tarot cards to be finished, with the Worgen Harvest witch as the Hermit and of course Tyrande as the High Priestess.

I also need to assemble and find a place to put my Edward Gorey “Dracula” theatre. I picked this up years ago and it’s been sitting in a box just waiting for a home every since.

Finally I’m in the process of  re-organising my button shelf as I think it’s getting a bit out of control.

Essentially as with everything, there are far more things to do than there are hours in the day. That said, I’m always on the look out for new and shiny distractions, so feel free to make suggestions.

The Leisurely Stroll to 90

This week WoW insider asks if leveling in WoW is too easy? The quick answer would definitely be a resounding yes. However the part of Robin’s post that I found the most interesting was this:

Is the speed and ease of leveling in the eye of the beholder?

Personally I think speed and difficulty or rather the lack of it are two separate issues.

There are a plethora of ways in which we can boost our experience gain per hour, from seasonal buffs to the Darkmoon Faire Carousel ride and the Monk daily. That’s before we even factor in the bonuses questers get from being guilded or from wearing heirlooms. Not that only, the options for the discerning leveler have never been more varied. You can pick herbs, mine, pet battle, quest, dungeon, battleground, dig artifacts out of the ground or mix and match your way to 90.

Yes, things are exceedingly fast these days. I think my recent Monk managed about 45 quests to go from 80 to 85 with a few flower picking sessions plus a bunch of battlegrounds thrown in. That’s about 10 per zone. However I don’t see this an issue because even ignoring the fact that I could have stripped off my heirlooms and not bothered buffing up with experience buffs, if I really wanted, there is nothing to stop me doing the same content I would have done whilst leveling at 90. In fact I will still pvp, quest and pick herbs on my Monk when she levels. It’s just that former should get a bit harder, the middle bit easier and the latter remain the same.

Dps might be a tad too high, especially when kitted out in decent gear. As a Mistweaver I probably shouldn’t be kicking monkeys in the face for 70k (half their health). Which brings me onto the bigger issue in my opinion. Difficulty or the lack thereof. The hardest part of AoE grinding is finding enough mobs to pull at once. Dungeons can be two manned and can often be completed without a tank, especially at low levels like Wailing Caverns. Most of the complex dungeons have been neutered, not to mention shortened. My first Blackrock Depths run took five hours and by that point we still hadn’t found the bar. Now whilst I admit this might not have been awesome game decision but it did help you get ready for raiding, even if it was just getting used to the idea of spending five hours in the same place whilst the people around you argued about tactics.

Even with my predisposition for wandering around taking screenshots and not paying attention, there aren’t any real nasties lurking in the undergrowth, no more Stitches patrolling the road or the Crimson Courier riding about looking to make mincemeat out of non-believers. Perhaps I’m looking at the game wrong but I’ve always believed that as you level not only do you learn to play your class correctly but you also figure out new aspects of the game as and when you encounter them. For example I’m far more understanding of a tank who can’t tank in the Deadmines than I would be in a LFR situation. Equally I’m fine explaining how a particular battleground works and that I can’t hand in their flag until our team wakes up and returns ours in a level 20 to 25 WSG than I would be at end-game.

Making things too easy has a dangerous flip side, especially when it comes to certain toxic elements in the community. Convenience is a wonderful thing but so much was learnt through necessity previously (including the whole avoid the roads in certain zones on pain of death and don’t touch the Blood of Heroes).  I learnt to kite on my Hunter between levels 1 and 10 when I was pet-less and you either had to slowly melee things to death or figure out how to jump kite.

I can’t help thinking that a few simple changes would help. For example we now have mobs whose health pool increases depending on how many people are in combat with them. How about taking that and increasing quest mobs in relation to the item level/health of the person engaging them as well as party size. The AI especially for named mobs should be more exotic too. We have kicks, slows and cc for a reason. Things would be far more fun and challenging if just like the Monk quests, we actually had to use them whilst leveling. Or alternatively if all classes had access to dailies like the Monk ones which require you to use certain abilities because no one should get to end-game without understanding all their spells. Dungeons really shouldn’t be doable with two, especially if neither of those are tanks and “elite” mobs should make you think twice about charging in at half health.

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Of course making the game harder would also have the knock on effect of making leveling take longer too so it could be a bit of a win win situation for some people.

In short the game should make you think and should present challenges all the way through. In many ways Cavafy said it best:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Although whilst many people see leveling as a means to end rather than a game within itself, I suspect that we’re going to see the levels before end-game get easier and easier and quicker and quicker.

Haunted Azeroth: Tol Barad

I love watching horror movies from behind sofas and then having nightmares for weeks afterwards. In fact as a child, I often had to sleep with the lights on because the strangest things could pray on my imagination, Sweeney Todd (possibly understandable), a butterfly getting stuck in someone’s ear, a shadow flickering against a wall or a story read under bright lights, casting shadows long into the night. Even playing WoW with headphones on, I’ve found myself jumping in certain areas so I thought I’d start to share with you some of the places which leave me with a distinct sense of unease.

Tol Barad

No wonder the inhabitants of this prison are hostile.

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Cooped up in the dark and the damp, I suspect I wouldn’t be in the best frame of mind either.

On a slightly different topic, Matty raised an interesting question the other day. I’ve never had a character I actively disliked before, even my slightly strange damaged ones have had a side which redeemed them (at least in my eyes). However this left me wondering, could I make a character whose choices in life I found repugnant? The obvious choice to experiment with would be a Death Knight but given my track record …… that’s probably a definite no.

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Vanity thy name is…..

World of Warcraft is known to have a lot of vanity items that you can collect from your adventures and in this expansion Blizzard introduced even more of these silly cosmetic items into the game.

This week’s Shared Topic is, “What is your favorite vanity item in World of Warcraft?”

Suggested by Noahdeer.

I struggled on this one as there is just so much choice out there. Therefore I’m going to cheat slightly and pick the favourite items of a few of my favourite characters.

Up first, appropriately it’s my very first character and Dartol’s rod of Transformation.

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I usually hate not finishing quest chains but in this particular case, I just couldn’t hand it in. Furbolg forever!

For Sprout, her favourite vanity items are all ones which can be put to good use in PvP, in terms of undermining your opponents.

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Nothing says you just lost than a naked Gnome dancing in a clam shell over your corpse.

Other favourites include the Romantic Picnic Basket, perfect for a spot of “camping” in the countryside with a loved one, the giant golden banana (although I’m still disappointed that this doesn’t make people who walk into it, trip up) and the Scarecrow from the Tillers.

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Basically, I love semi useless clutter and have bags full of the stuff.

It’s a beautiful life

In the slackest fashion ever, we’re currently leveling mostly from pet battles. This has meant a fair amount of riding between zones and I’ve been taking a lot of screenshots. Not sure how I failed to notice the Darkshire written in the wrought iron gates before or just how beautiful Westfall on fire is, but that’s what I love about WoW, there is always something new to spot.

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Turn Around

Err so I’m re-subscribed to WoW again, I’ve managed to join a guild and my new main is now level 25 and counting. Not bad given that I only got back from Ireland late Thursday night.

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We were also blessed with truly amazing weather as you can see from the above picture (it’s the ruins of Dunluce Castle).

I’d actually forgotten how much fun leveling is and I’m torn between enjoying the speed and wishing I could go a little slower to soak up all the atmosphere.

Most of all though, I’m enjoying the details.

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For example, I’m pretty sure I’d never noticed this before. Perhaps because this is the first time I’ve ridden around on the bug for any length of time but even so.

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Not sure I’d noticed that the Insane Ghoul in Duskwood carried a bunch of flowers either. Wonder if he was just a hoarder or if before his madness got the better of him, he intended to give them to Blind Mary.

In terms of WoW, the plan is to level the Monks, kill Horde, dispose of Garrosh whilst yelling “Remember Theramore” and generally “faff!” a lot. For the blog, well, I have a few long posts I’ve been writing for far too long and I’ve even got a story to justify why my Monk is a night elf. Sewing wise, well mini Gnoll has made it to pattern form but my eye has been caught by something else so will have to see what ends up being made first. Also Sprout will be getting some love, even if it’s just farming Raiding with Leashes mark 2.

The Games we Play

transport

Currently distracting myself by trying to link up as many towns as possible whilst playing OpenTTD. There is something very therapeutic about building bus routes and watching your mini cities grow.  It’s one of those games you suddenly get the urge to dig out and immerse yourself in and it doesn’t matter if you can spare 5 minutes or five hours. Of course, I start playing, planning my future moves and then Mr Harpy spots what I’m up to and promptly joins and builds a massive rail network across the middle of my map. Railway hogs aside, I do love the multi-player aspect of it especially as you can both play cooperatively  for the same Transport company.

I’ve pretty much given  up on SW:Tor because it’s lacking something for me and Dragon Age: Origins always begins to pall once I hit Ostagar. That said I did drive through a place called Cullen yesterday and found myself secretly smirking. As it happens, it has a rather pretty beach.

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Candy Crush is still stuck on my phone, it’s tremendously annoying but has almost cured me of chocolate completely. I’m beginning to hate the encroaching horrible stuff.

This weekend we’re off to Ireland for a few days and then I suspect on our return, we might be returning to WoW. The plan is to roll two new characters on a new for us server and to see if we can rediscover that feeling of “WoW!!!” as we wander around. Of course my desire for the <HordeBreaker> title has played no part in this decision any more than my need for shiny things such as baby Val’kyr and mini Hydras. I mean I’m not that easily swayed. Honest!

My latest Distraction

starwars

Inspired by a comment left by the Dancing Hare, I thought I’d dabble in SW:TOR and much to my surprise I am actually enjoying the story so far. It’s weird because I hated the gated fixed leveling zones in WoW but yet here I find myself sinking into the story telling rather than focusing on the fact that everyone playing my class experiences the same beginning. The fact that I’m playing solo probably helps, wanting to play say a Worgen and then being stuck for 14 levels when you want to quest with someone who refuses to play a Worgen got frustrating fast. Not sure how long the “ooh” factor will last but then since I really really really want to kill the guy who keeps giving me quests, I suspect I’ll be enthralled at least to the point where I either get to slaughter him or the game designers disappoint me by making him turn out to be okay after all.

I’m also playing through Dragon Age: Origins as a Mage yet again. I could pretty much do my harrowing in my sleep by this stage. Although what normally happens is I burn out by Ostagar and run off and make a new character but this time, I’m determined. I have goals in fact. I will actually finish the damn game, seduce Leliana and make Alistair marry Anora.

On the flip (WoW) side, I’ve found myself missing Sprout to the point of starting to sketch gnome faces, trying to decide whether a plushie would work best with a painted felt face or one built out of embroidery and fabric. Not convinced I actually miss playing the game though.

Not Lost

Merely playing Tomb Raider.

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There have definitely been a few moments I found uncomfortable. On the other hand, getting to blow the heads off bad men almost makes up for those feelings.

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It is a truly beautiful game if a bit repetitive but then choosing to kill everyone with a bow and arrow just because… helps break up the monotony.

Pygmalion Complex – Building the Perfect Woman

The idea of men searching for the perfect mate and then having to resort to building their own is ancient one. As we search through literature, it’s a concept we encounter time and time again and now it’s found it’s way into WoW.

When Pygmalion saw these women spending their lives in criminal pursuits, shocked at the vices which Nature had so plentifully imparted to the female disposition, he lived a single life without a wife, and for a long time was without a partner of his bed. In the meantime, he ingeniously carved a statue of snow-white ivory with wondrous skill; and gave it a beauty with which no woman can be born; and then conceived a passion for his own workmanship. The appearance was that of a real virgin, whom you might suppose to be alive, and if modesty did not hinder her, to be desirous to move; so much did art lie concealed under his skill. Pygmalion admires it; and entertains, within his breast, a flame for this fictitious body.

Ovid (Metamorphoses X)

Sound familiar? Well if you’re been following the discussion on the Thunder King’s most precious possessions, the Twin Consorts, it should.

Players who look closely at the models of these celestial twins will note that they seem quite literally carved out of stone. Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.

To say Blizzard handled this badly would be an understatement. A fairly large and vocal percentage of the community (rightly so) have been protesting about the lack of female models for more than half the races for years and once again, Blizzard fell head first into the trap. However I’m not going to go into that because Nyxrinne, Apple Cider and Navimie have already covered it. What I want to talk about instead is the missed opportunities Blizzard have let saunter past them once again.

Stories don’t exist in a vacuum and with games like WoW, Blizzard have the perfect opportunity to drop hints and clues long in advance. We know from the various quests that MoP launched with that the Thunder King was always going to be brought back so far more preparation could have been done.  We also know that the Mogu themselves came from stone, brought to flesh and blood by the same curse which gave us Gnomes (basically it’s all the Old Gods fault!).

Their ancient research delivered to them methods of turning flesh to stone, and back again. Lifeless rock could be animated, providing a willing (or unwilling) soul could be captured within. These dark rituals created the Stoneborn, soldiers of jade and dark magic forged from the living essence of conquered victims. These creations were powerful… terrible to behold, and above all else, one hundred percent loyal to their mogu masters. (from Wowpedia).

There are a number of potential avenues that they could have utilized, archaeology, the Lorewalkers faction and of course the storylines on the Isle of Thunder itself. Archaeology has a Mogu branch but there is no mention of the Twins in any of the artifacts which given that they are meant to be pride and joy seems strange. Adding twin fans, one of anger and one of solitude which needed uniting to create perhaps a boe blue fist weapon set would have been a nice touch. Even a grey item, perhaps a painting of the sun and the moon with flavour text implying it represented the Thunder King’s greatest treasure would have been a start.

Then when we look at the Lorewalkers, they tell the tale of Lao-Fe:

Even by mogu standards, Emperor Lao-Fe was a monster among beasts. His favored punishment among pandaren slaves was to separate families. Slaves who displeased him would have their children sent to the Serpent’s Spine, to suffer and die as fodder for the mantid swarms.

This was the fate that befell a young pandaren monk named Kang. Kang was so grief-stricken over the loss of his cub that he chose to wear all black. In a moment of clarity, he saw the mogu overlords for what they were: weak.

Re-writing that to suggest the origins of these two female Mogu would have worked. Perhaps Lei Shen surrounded by his wealth and his power with his palaces and his wall was jealous of the relationships between male and female Pandarens. Maybe he watched and listened and finally decided that like the Titans who created his race, that he too could play God. Imagine what sort of punishment for rebellion that would be, forced to watch the essence of your sister or wife forced into silent rock, powerless to save them and then dying at their hands as the Thunder King sits on his throne, his laugh booming through his halls. As one of those little stories told through pictures and the words of Lorewalker Cho it would have worked wonderfully.

Finally though, I came across this:

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What a shame then, that this “famous saga” doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time. Of course, this raises all sorts of questions such as if this was prior to the creation of the Twins, what sort of woman did they allegedly quarrel over? Based on everything we know about the Thunder King, it seems unlikely he would have “consorted” with a woman from what he would deem a “lesser” race (i.e. everything which wasn’t his own). The writers could have had so much fun with this, adding extra dimensions to not only the Twins but Lei Shen too. Investing the player base with their story so that when we’re knocking on his door with murder and loot in mind we actually know why we’re there. Of course, it would be easy to argue that Blizzard tend not to invest time in creating a back story for many if any of the interim bosses in a raid instance so why should these two ladies be any different? I’d like to think they shouldn’t be and that Blizzard should be using every opportunity they can grasp to both answer questions and create new ones in the minds of the player base (at least those amongst us who actually read flavour and quest text). We should know the story behind each and every of the bosses we encounter as we slice and dice our way across the continents. Surely that’s the whole point of grey items, archaeology and lore.

Instead though, Blizzard decided that a few quick lines explaining “everything” would suffice. Of course that’s ignoring the fact that we’re back to the whole “Madonna” and “Whore” thing again, the soft sad serene sister who clearly isn’t happy killing people and her angry twin who appears to glorify in it. The women in WoW don’t seem to come in any other flavours other than victim or mad. What they really need is Carol Anne Duffy writing the lore for them.

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