A Few of my Favourite Things: Mr and Mrs WoW’s Community Project

Mr and Mrs WoW have proposed an interesting community project to combat the negativity bouncing around as we slowly drift through the doldrums. They are asking the community at large to inform them what we love doing in Warcraft in these slow days before the expansion is released.

For me it’s a fairly simple list and I hope my little diagram gives a few hints!

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Up there at number one is Archaeology because it gives me the opportunity to wander around Azeroth just as I used to do whilst herbing in the original game. It’s an excuse to relax, look at the scenario and perhaps kill a few mobs or do a spot of fishing as you meander past. On top of that, you also make things which provide the opportunity for either toys or grey items to muse over, perhaps sparking a story or two.

My second choice is exploring old dungeons, the ones I’ve run a thousand times before but never used to stop and take in the scenery. Blackrock Depths is a definite favourite because I like hanging out in the Grim Guzzler picking up Dark Iron Dwarf outfits (my old raid leader really hated these) and the odd pickled egg. The music isn’t too bad either and you can always pick up a few items of clothing to help transform your latest outfit into something even better.

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Third I’ve picked Festivals, those annual excuses to get out of the cities and wander about visiting zones you haven’t seen in ages, dressing up and generally being silly. My favourite of these is Hallows End with it’s broomsticks, headless horseman and candy but really I’m a sucker for all of them, even the weekly Wanderer’s Festival.

My final choice is a bit a cheat really. It’s not so much something I do in WoW but something I do in between playing and that’s catching up on what the rest of the community are doing and saying. Sometimes it takes someone else’s perspective of something like Pet Battling to change your own perception of it (Thanks Navimie and Cymre). I hated archaeology when it was first introduced but I remember reading someone’s almost ode to the wonders of digging in Azeroth’s fertile soil (can’t remember who wrote it) and became hooked. The Godmother helped alter my feelings towards Garrisons and so on. Playing a multi player game is one thing, but diving into the community shows a whole new world out there.

ALT:ernative Chat’s 10 years, 10 questions: Looking Back at the Last 10 Years

Just before I went away for the weekend, the Godmother raised an interesting set of questions on our WoW experiences over the last 10 years and whilst wandering around an art festival and trying not to be sick on people for the last two days, I’ve been mulling over my answers.

 

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

Wandering the aisles of our local supermarket, Mr Harpy picked up WoW from the shelf and suggested we give it a try. We weren’t long back from almost a year of travelling and were looking for some sort of distraction to help us readjust back. He had played all the previous Warcraft games and was a big fan of the franchise. I on the other hand had only played Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne which we had picked up whilst travelling through Canada the previous year. I had no idea what a MMO was and certainly no clue what we were getting ourselves into. At first we just bought one copy to see if we liked it and at first, I quickly bored of the whole thing. In fact it was only by level 10 or so that my interest was sparked again and I think that was by the sheer size of the game, oh and the sea monsters off the coast of Darkshore. In my absence Mr Harpy had managed to join a Guild full of Female Nightelves and imagine my surprise when I discovered that 99 percent of them were played by guys (I may have been slightly more naive at that point) and once I got over the shock of chatting to “real” people through a game, I started to enjoy myself more and more. In the end buying my own copy seemed like the right thing to do and we did, driving an hour to track down another copy.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

The first character I rolled on my own account was a Human Female Warlock. I still have her and by coincidence she was on the realm which was recently joined to my current server so ideally I would like to level her from 62 to the cap at some point.

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She reached Knight-Captain in those early days of the Honor system before being abandoned for a Priest and a  PvP server, thus wears her PvP gear with pride and a certain amount of snark, reminding me that she could have gone all the way had I not left her for bloodier pastures. Her bags do make for an interesting time capsule with their Darkspear Troll Mojo (apparently I really didn’t like Trolls) and her Thrash Blade though. Whilst I did love playing a Warlock, the whole soul shard thing in world pvp was a pain especially given that you had to travel quite a distance to find high enough level mobs from both Hillsbrad and the Barrens plus the summons whispers… grrrr.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

 So whilst Mr Harpy was busy installing our first copy of World of Warcraft, I was flicking through the manual making important decisions like faction, race etc etc. I wanted us to roll a Druid and looking at the pictures, Nightelf catform beat Tauren catform hands down. I know, I know…..  We have since then played both factions and I am rather partial to the Forsaken but we still play Alliance primarily.
4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

After lots of reflection, I think three person healing the end of Anub’arak 25 man Heroic to our first kill has to be the most memorable. Killing C’thun at the time was amazing but we had weeks and weeks of preparation leading up to a sensible kill, clearing Ulduar and getting our Proto-drakes was pretty good as was getting my legendary and of course my Benediction but Anub’arak wins out because it was such a close run thing. Half our healers were dead and people were thinking it’s wipe but somehow, the three of us managed to keep ourselves, the two tanks and enough DPS alive in order for us to get a kill. My hands were shaking so much that around 8 seconds after the giant undead bug keeled over, I died too having too excited to bother healing my debuff any more. Although beating an Arms warrior in vanilla on my Priest for control of the mine in Arathi Basin was pretty sweet too.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

The sheer scale of it. Feel like Healing, join a battleground or dungeon queue. Feel like wandering around by yourself, go for it, there’s plenty of places to go. There was a time when I would have instinctively picked Healing as an answer to this and I do still love it but my anxieties mean that I have increasingly found it hard to partake in this social aspect of the game. I’m hoping that with this new expansion I’ll be able to conquer that, but the truth is, I suspect that I’m just too emotional fragile at the moment.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Duskwood has held a fascination for me since I first set foot across that rickety bridge almost 9 and a half years ago. I hang out in the Scarlet Raven or wander it’s boneyards visiting old friends. I especially love to visit at Hallows End when all the spooky decorations are out.

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On the Horde side, I’d say Silverpine Forest is a clear favourite again especially at Hallows End.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

On my mostly main Snowflower I have 197 days played although I suspect if I logged every alt and added it all up, the total would be far more scary. It hasn’t been continuous as unfortunately I’ve witnessed more than I’d argue my fair share of in-game Drama. What with Guild leaders who hacked their own websites to read private messages, GMs who did a fair impression of Jekyll and Hyde, turning from a good laugh into a psychopath kicking people for nothing more serious than a slight mistake which they apologized for and just other general nastiness. There was a time when Mr Harpy ran a guild and was accused of running a Cult of Personality by the other officers because the rest of the guild didn’t respect them enough. This would have been funny if it wasn’t for the fact that rather than approach him, said officers thought that coming to me accusing him of being unfair made more sense. Sometimes you just need to run away before the madness gets to you. That’s before I even get into the loot drama, the general rows and spending most of vanilla in a top end raiding guild where everyone hated everyone else and healers were on par with Mages in Dragon Age, useful but best locked up somewhere and denied any loot which might encourage them into unholy ways.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Always and much to the annoyance of Mr Harpy who doesn’t care about lore but just wants to know that he can aoe grind and get healed, not die whilst my nose is buried into quest text. To me the game is a bit like a choose your own adventure game and therefore you have to read the quest text otherwise you’re blundering around in the dark killing for fun and gold and fancy clothes not because X is bad and deserves to have their head cut off and carried back to Stormwind.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

There are a few occasions when I should have spoken up sooner and louder. On the whole though, there might be a lot of blood on my hands but I think my Nightelf Priest would be semi proud at least of the way in which I have carried her through Azeroth.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming? 

Very little. My parents, my Mother in particular see gaming as some satanic ritual guaranteed to condemn you into a life of sin so discussing it with family is completely out. I have after all, enough to argue with my Mother about already. Blogging about the game has helped me keep my hand in with writing, something which was always a massive part of my life and I do have a Wind-rider club guarding my monitor.

Home Sweet Home

Last week the Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was:

What in WoW reminds you of your home?

Suggested by Sycro of Sycro Owl.

Unfortunately I was too ill to put words on the page then so I’m sneaking in late.

I’ve been fortunate to call many beautiful places home and so rather than picking one, I’m going to take you on a quick tour of my life via WoW locations.

As a child, we lived in Germany in amongst the mountains and the fairytale castles so Gilneas immediately springs to mind. Their accents might be an approximation of English but those barren crags, dark waters and ornate walled city reminds me more of the Germany of my childhood than it does Britain.

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Then as a teenager, we moved to a far softer landscape surrounded by farm land in Scotland where you could see for miles, fields tapering down the sea. So in WoW terms I couldn’t imagine a better fit for Westfall and the rain in this particular shot is merely art mirroring life.

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There was an interlude traveling to places which didn’t remind me of home at all, following by a stint of living in a city about as far removed from Stormwind as possible and now, I live idyllically less than 200 metres from the sea in a tiny fishing village. The best equivalent I think in WoW would have to be  Sri-la village perched as it is at the base of a cliff. Okay, we don’t have a waterfall or any giant statues but that hidden away feel persists. There is only one road down into the village, passing the sea front and for a moment everyone seems to pause just to look down over the houses scattered below.

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This is the view less than a five minute walk from my front door and it makes me smile every time I see it.

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On boxes for Toys – Thoughts on Toyboxes in Warlords

This is my toybox. It’s traveled across Europe and the UK and is currently housed in our attic. These days it no longer holds toys but it’s one of those pieces of furniture which encapsulates so much about my childhood, I don’t see myself ever managing to throw it out. I’ve hidden inside it, turned it into a massive dolls house and stored my study notes for my degree in it. It currently holds winter clothes and is just waiting for me to finish scrapping off all those stickers.

Therefore it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that one of the things I’m most interested in with the Warlords Alpha is Blizzard’s long promised toy box. So far we have only seen screen caps but just having a fraction of the items currently littering up my bags safely stored elsewhere can only be a massive upgrade for the game. I did a bit of testing across various characters and discovered that I have far too many bag slots taken up by vanity items, with the vast majority of Snowflower’s bank slots being consumed by items like Gnomeregan Pride and Direbrew’s remote. On Dulcamara alone, my Monk made a year ago I have over 16 slots filled with fun but mostly pointless stuff.  Obviously until the game goes live and we get the final list, we can’t be sure how many of these items will vanish from our bags but I’ve reached the point where I’ll be grateful for any returned bag slots.

The other reason I’m looking forward to this feature is a slightly more practical one, there are plenty of these items out there, whether quest rewards or random drops that I might not know about and having a handy list whilst taking that serendipitous feeling out of acquiring things, helps ensure you track down everything you are interested in.

Obviously this is still the Alpha and we are potentially along away off the final toybox, I would like to see quest rewards like Jin Warmkeg’s Brew and the Cooking School Bell make it onto the list. However having a place to store all the Archaeological items and the items from the Timeless Isle will be a massive advantage alone. I’m also glad that items like the Mushroom Chair from Cataclysm and the Rituals of the New Moon from Wrath have also made the box because it would have been too easy just to put in bits and bobs from MoP onwards. The fact that the first engineering transportation trinkets have made the list gives me hope that the rest will follow suit and with any luck between now and launch, we can work with Blizzard to put together a comprehensive list of things which should be tucked away in the toybox.

A complete list of items encluded so far can be found in this thread on MMO-Champion or here on WoWhead.

Anti Doldrums Distractions – Translucence Sword Transmogrifications

Inspired by the outfit I put together for my Monk for May’s version of the ROYGBiV contest, I found myself a new distraction when it comes to WoW. Can I collect and put together outfits for all the translucence  swords in game. To further complicate the issue, I want each outfit to be for a different character and as swords are primarily used by classes I tend not to play this might require a spot of leveling on my part.

In total there are 7 swords which come in the following colours, yellow, purple, green, orange, blue and more jazzy purple.

There are to the best of my knowledge seven classes who can use one handed swords – Mage, Warlock, Monk, Warrior, Rogue, Deathknight and Paladin (I’m discounting Hunters simply because no Hunter would use a sword at the expense of a bow). My Monk has already effectively stolen green which leaves six swords and six classes to choose from.

Renataki’s Soul Slicer – yellow

Drops in Zul’Gurub from Renataki, one of the random bosses in the Edge of Madness event.

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I’m thinking yellow for my rogue, partly because Renataki himself is the ghost of a rogue and also because my little Gnome rogue was fond of putting pink and yellow together.

Continuum Blade – purple with glow

Requires revered with the Keepers of Time.

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This I think has to go to the Paladin and not just because it’s purpley pink.

Blade of the Archmage -purple

Requires exalted with Honor Hold.

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This one for my Gnome tank.

Pilfered Ethereal Blade - more purple, this time though with a slightly different hilt.

This is a quest reward from Declawing Doomclaw in Netherstorm.

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And the Death Knight gets this.

Ethereum Phase Blade – green

This is purchased from Dealer Jadyan, dealer in exotic goods in the Stormspire.

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My Monk already has the phase blade which can be bought at the Stormspire, (it’s possible you might need to switch the options on your buying screen to read all before you can see it) so I guess it’s back to Zul’Farrek for the rest of the outfit for her.

Vibro Sword – orange

This is a quest reward from Cutting your Teeth in Blade’s Edge Mountains.

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Based on my love of the Mage tier 5, I’m thinking Merrily my Mage will be working on the vibro sword.

Phantom Blade – blue

Crafted by Blacksmiths, the recipe which is BoP drops in Stratholme.

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I’m erring towards blue on my Warlock simply because she happens to be wearing an outfit which already complements it. Now she just needs to level high enough to be able to equip a phantom blade.

Hopefully by the time Warlords come rolling around, I’ll have managed to acquire all these weapons and suitable outfits to go along side because it seems only fitting that my characters head through the portal wearing at least something to remind them of the importance of getting it right this time around, a poignant reminder of the fractured world that our Draenor became.

Women in WoW – Why it’s not about preaching but all about teaching

This is yet another post about women in WoW.

I wasn’t going to write this but then whilst reading the news about the tragic events in California, I found myself being redirected to a number of sites where the venom spewed out against women made me feel sick. I learnt that my worth is entirely dependent on the eggs inside me, that as a white, educated women I’m letting the planet down by not reproducing and that my husband is a weak pathetic man for wanting our marriage to be a partnership of equals. I know these are extreme views and that I’ve seen the same sort of rhetoric from the other side of the spectrum in the shape of one of my tutors at University who when drunk once admitted to thinking we should exterminate men having first harvested their sperm but couple that with Blizzard’s attitudes as vocalized by Rob Pardo and I can’t help feeling we have a huge problem. You can read a transcript of some of the interview with Rob Pardo  here as well as an interesting article on the subject. The whole interview can be listened to here.

 

The Comic defense

I read a lot of comics too as a child/in my early teens. My father has always been fond of routine, in fact sometimes growing up I think he forgot I was his daughter, not one of his men and so every Saturday at 2pm, when my mother and I returned from shopping in which ever town we were currently residing, we would head onto the base for coffee (my parents) and cherry coke (for me, the only day of the week I got a fizzy drink until I was 16). Daddy would buy every newspaper he could lay his hands on and I would get one or two comics. Now because my father struggled to tell the difference between a 10 year old girl and a 20 year old squaddie with tattoos and a crew cut, he would pay for what ever comics I put on the counter and my tastes quickly changed from the likes of Mandy to 2000AD, the Eagle and Wildcat. I fell in love with Judge Anderson,  Tyranny Rex and Halo Jones because they gave me hope, I could be a master criminal, a soldier or whatever I wanted to be. Yes, they all have sexualised bodies but then so do the men in these comics. For every women in a skintight jumpsuit, there is a man with his top off showing his six pack to the world but the important bit, at least to me was the characters themselves. Women who are respected in their fields, women who are capable, competent, powerful and treated as equals. If reading comics taught the Blizzard staff to draw women as sexy and sexualised then it should have also taught them to write women as more than just helpmates, mothers and stereotypes or are we just meant to assume they just looked at the pictures?

It’s also a self fulfilling  problem, Rob and the other Blizzard designers use the comics they grew up with as a defense for not trying to portray women as anything other than mothers and wives in skimpy clothing which then leads the next generation of developers to grow up playing WoW and say “oh we grew up playing WoW.. this is how we see women”.

 

It’s all women’s fault

But it’s a struggle for us because the diversity within our workplace is unbalanced. “

I read English Literature at University and in my final year, one of my tutors came into class and handed around a sheet of paper covered in paragraphs from various books. None of them were labelled and most of them were fairly obscure missing out character names. Our task was to try and determine from around 100 words whether each one was written by a man or a woman. Naturally we assumed that we would be able to tell the difference but apart from the ones we could identify because we recognised the text, we failed miserably resorting to guessing. In order to create interesting female characters you do not need a vagina, literature teaches us this over and over again. Shakespeare created a diverse range of female characters, from the villains, to the strong sensible women who saved the day to the simpering milkmaid types. Brecht’s Mother Courage got a German feminist newspaper named after her for a spell and Dickens wrote some fabulous female characters. I particularly loved the calculated cruelty of Miss Havisham and the sheer wickedness of Madame Defarge. Yes, you could argue that both of these are simply portrayals of Mother Nature at her most capricious but you can’t deny their fascination. I could go on with more modern examples but I feel if men could manage it when women didn’t have the vote, then there is no excuse now.

I suppose what angers me is that I feel it’s a gross simplification to assume you can’t write strong female characters because you aren’t female. The ability to make decisions, to be driven by something other than hormones, to be capable and competent, these are not the preserve of men only. Women are not just emotions on legs, we are as diverse as the characters we are asking for. I played with action men just as much as I played with barbie dolls, I had toy guns and toy rolling pins, I loved sharks and dinosaurs more than fluffy toys.

If setting out to make a character female and strong is too hard, then write a strong character you are happy with and make it female. The characteristics of a leader don’t change whether it’s a man or a woman, the only real difference is the physical body. If we look at female politicians versus male, the vast majority of what drives them is the same, ambition, ego, arrogance.

 

Missed Opportunities

When I first saw the teaser video for MoP, I thought of Conan Doyle’s the Lost World. That Victorian “boys trip” into the great unknown with epic mustaches and lots of testosterone. Fast forward to now and it seems we’re doing Victorian Literature yet again for Warlords. Now that would be ok (and I use the word loosely) if this was roughly 1900, when women were still effectively property, disenfranchised and not treated too dissimilarly to children. However it’s not, the rest of the world has mostly marched on. We aren’t going back to our Draenor and so if the timeline has changed in some ways, why can’t there have been some seismic changes in terms of female characters. Couldn’t Griselda Blackhand have taken on her father in a coup d’etat  and won. Why does Yrel need a lover who happens to be both dominant and male? Take Onyxia, she started out wonderfully, lurking in Stormwind Keep clearly plotting to overthrow the kingdom and ended up in a cave in a marsh surrounded by eggs….. I think that’s what is frustrating, Blizzard do try, take it so far and then revert to type. Tyrande cleaved to Malfurion and became a Victorian stereotype with an overdose of emotions thrown in to make Varian look good, having previously managed to lead her people absolutely fine. Jaina, Sylvanas, Mankrik’s wife… the list goes on.

 

End Game

In conclusion, I know all creative endeavors are personal. I know having something you slaved over, shedding blood, swear and tears for criticized is painful but ultimately Blizzard have a massive audience and a percentage of this are young. Just as Blizzard learnt from the comics they read as boys, this next generation will learn from WoW. We all want WoW to be fun, after all, gaming is a release from reality. It’s something we do to unwind and to relax. However “fun” and “We’re not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that” are not mutually exclusive. In fact I’d argue that managing to write half a dozen female characters that women can identify with shouldn’t be classed as “preaching”, merely good storytelling with one eye on the future generations. Once again we return to Adrienne Rich and her poem “Diving into the Wreck“.

a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Gaming is not the preserve of men, any more than sewing is done only by women and the sooner companies realise this, the better for all of us. Going back to my first paragraph, when you have men out there who for whatever reason refuse to see women as anything more than their bodies, having these ideas reinforced by mainstream gaming companies like Blizzard is dangerous. We’re not asking for real world parallels to be drawn, just for Blizzard to accept that their excuses are not good enough and to try and improve their track record when it comes to anything which isn’t male, heterosexual and macho.

I don’t need to see Emmelina Pankhurst, Gnome inventor and Suffragnome chaining herself to railings in Ironforge although to be fair that would be pretty awesome.

Green grow the rushes oh: May’s ROYGBiV entry

The colour for May is green, the colour of envy. We associate it with spring and new shoots sprouting but also with decay as it’s the colour of mould and drowned flesh.

I knew right from the start that I had to use the Jinxed Hoodoo skin because it’s a piece dear to my heart. Two of my Druids are currently sporting it as part of their transmogrifications and I’ve always intended farming it on my Monk. At first I thought about just creating something for my other Druid, the one I plan on getting to 90 and transferring from her old forgotten server before Warlords goes live but then I got side tracked by that sword and realised that my Monk was in danger of ending up envious of the Druids.

Despite my lack of love for yellow, I’ve always preferred these shoulders to the original and so it made sense to  use them to tie together those pale vanilla shades in the kilt and the detailing on the bodice.

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  • Crown of the Forest Lord
  • Mantle of Autumn
  • Jinxed Hoodoo Skin
  • Bracers of Rolling Fields
  • Duskwing Handwraps
  • Moss Cinch
  • Jinxed Hoodoo Kilt
  • Swampwalker Boots
  • Ethereum Phase Blade
  • Councilor’s Sceptor
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