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.

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.

Joan of Draenor: Thoughts on Yrel (Spoilers for WoD)


Image by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Joane d’Arc was always one of my favourite heroines. Her story once unpicked might be sad but she’s become an iconic figure of her age so I have to admit my curiosity was peaked when Blizzard described a new character as being WoW’s Joan.

Like Petrarch’s Laura, Joan is faceless. Any women and all women which is partly I suspect why she’s been so popular with painters and writers down through the ages as she’s the perfect blank canvas. Was she a great commander? By historical accounts, probably not but sometimes all you need is hope, a beacon to light the way and whether sent by God or not, she helped provide that to the French forces until the tides of war changed. Which brings us to the present day and Blizzard likening a new female NPC to Joan. My issue with that is Joan can represent many things and was called many names, witch, heretic, hero, champion, virgin, whore,  martyr, saint.. each label comes with a different implication. In choosing her, they risk walking a rocky road. So much has become bound up in her image and especially after the spectacular fail which was the female Draenei artwork April Fools “joke”, the spotlight is definitely on Blizzard to get a female character right. Choosing a woman best known for her demise is not the easiest place to begin. Especially when you’re trying to weave her into a narrative already heavy with the twisted corpses of dead women.

Of course Joan stands for much more than a roaring fire in the marketplace at Rouen but it would simple to lose sight of that in the burning brightness of her martyrdom. Yrel could be the perfect vessel to explore the relationship between the Draenei and the Naaru or Blizzard could merely have picked La Pucelle at random to represent a woman wearing armour, fighting to save her people from a brutish Horde. From the tiny snippets we’ve seen of the alpha so far, it’s impossible to judge. From screenshots I’ve seen of the press events Yrel starts young, naive and not particularly useful in a fight which of course would mirror up with Joan’s upbringing in rural France and that’s fine. Even the greatest heros have to start somewhere.


(Image from MMO Champion).

It’s her relationship with Maraad I find a little disappointing. Time and time again Blizzard have been criticized for their female characters and their seeming insistence that they all stand in the shadow of a man whether that’s their father, husband or lover. Modeling on Joan would have been the perfect opportunity to break the mould but yet it seems that  we run the risk of Yrel becoming apart of Maraad’s story rather than an independent character in her own right. Sure we can’t break down Joan’s story without examining her impact on the lives of the men she encountered, her king, her friends who fought along side her and of course her enemies who in the end destroyed her but yet looking back those men whether King or commoner, French or English became defined by their relationship with Joan, not the other way around.

Right from the start (if the data-mined dialogue is to be believed) it seems Maraad is filled with rage.

  • Yrel: I was thinking I might go through the portal with you, my love.
  • Maraad: Yes, Yrel. You will have a home on Azeroth.
  • Maraad: But first, we will make these orcs suffer for what they did to you. Their sins cannot be forgiven.


  • Maraad: And now that these hordes have taken, broken, and defiled my angel Yrel, I intend to unleash my own…
  • Yrel: Maraad, my love. That’s enough.
  • Maraad: Yrel…
  • Yrel: You have been through too much, Maraad. Your thirst for vengeance will only lead to our death.
  • Yrel: Yes, I was taken, but I am not defiled, and I am not broken.
  • Yrel: Rest now. I will lead our attack on the Naval Base.

Reading this, I can’t quite shake the feeling I’ve been here before. We’ve seen other “good” men become twisted by their “thirst for vengeance”, it’s not that long ago for example that Jaina and Arthas could have borrowed a couple of these lines. Of course we don’t know enough yet to correctly represent the whole picture and yet, I feel that faint sense of unease. By describing a character in a computer game as a Joan of Arc you create a bond even if it was just intended to be a just a throw away line,  her victories, her losses, the betrayals she faced when the man whose throne she helped save refused to ransom her, her mockery of trial in which every answer she gave was another step down the labyrinth which lead to her pyre and her death all come as baggage. She might be faceless and voiceless but she deserves to be treated with fairness, not flung into a mould and come out cooing over an aggressive macho man.



“A Little Learning is a dangerous thing”: The Road to Beta

A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

When I was a student I had a crush on Alexander Pope*. The fact that he died in 1744 didn’t matter one iota. I loved his twisted tongue made bitterer still by the ill health which plagued his life and whilst hunting for a book my Mother lent me weeks ago (which I still haven’t found or read), I discovered a slightly battered copy of his complete works hiding on my book shelves. The above and often misquoted lines got me thinking about Warcraft in general but more specifically the upcoming expansion. At the moment we’re being drip fed bits and bobs of information about Draenor but I can’t help wondering if that’s a mistake on Blizzard’s part. It’s human nature to examine every last scrap of data, to pour over it and taking each piece as a separate item, subject it to the kind of criticism which made Pope so “popular” amongst his peers.

I remember when Naxxramas version 1 was about to be released and my then guild had a discussion on whether or not we should learn everything we could about the fights prior to the patch being released. We were the top guild on the server, a position we had held through three tiers of content (with a small hiccup on Razorgore… nerf Shamans!) and we knew that our greatest rivals, a Horde guild were hoping to learn as much as possible before setting foot into the dungeon, including checking out the PTR. In the end our GM prevailed with his policy of “We learn by dying repeatedly” and yes, we got lot more server firsts but looking back, I think it was an excellent policy. We had no preconceptions, we didn’t know that we had to kite Anub’rekhan until it dawned on us that standing still really wasn’t working and maybe that his creepy taunts weren’t just there to scare us but to give handy hints on how to kill him, we just jumped in fresh. Looking back, especially to when I first started playing, it was that constant sense of discovery and exploration which make the game seem so alive and compelling.

All these little details from Blizzard without any real meat wet the appetite sure but is that a negative thing? Take this for example:

Wish they’d stop biting each other and help me kill this thing

Muffinus certainly implying that come the expansion, Hunters will be able to tame Hydras. My first reaction was a squee of glee. I’ve wanted this little fellow as a Hunter pet ever since I got to Netherstorm in the Burning Crusade’s first week.


Those seconds of excitement were then tempered with a slight grumpiness. Why do I have to wait for some as yet unspecified date in the Fall, approximately six months away for that. However my toy throwing from pram moment highlights a bigger issue. Each fragment of information Blizzard “leak” becomes a mirror for the game as it exists right this second. It reflects the lack of content, it reflects the fact that people are barely logging right now and instead are choosing to play other games, whether they’re Blizzard made or Goat Simulators. It reflects the annoyance that change often brings, an irritation where it doesn’t matter how many “dealing with change courses”your employer sends you on, never seems to abate, especially when you aren’t given all the information behind the decision. We’ve had the Flying debacle (my personal jury is still out) and the whole Proving Grounds conversation (talking of the latter, I’ve just watched Mr Harpy get Gold tanking on a brand new warrior and if he ever tanks a heroic for me like that……… ). We’ve seen people threaten to quit over the healing blog even though it doesn’t really go into enough details to illustrate anything other than the fact that there will be changes ahead, just as there have been with every expansion. Would it have made more sense to do Blizzcon, release what they could and then stay silent until there is a Beta ready to be released? Should we learn about the changes purely from playing them or do we as fee playing customers deserve more interaction in the design of the game that we love so dearly? It’s a fine line between feedback and criticism and one that’s even harder to walk when passion plays a role.

As for me, I’m not going to stop analyzing things I think worth discussing even though I only have ten pieces out fifty. Doing Jigsaws properly was never my forte and I was allegedly born opinionated. As for Pope, would he approve? Well given that he also wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

I can  only imagine he’d understand.

*My teenage crush list comprised mostly of dead people. Richard III, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick otherwise known as the King Maker, Lord Byron and Boudicca all featured on it.

Thoughts on Flying

A lonely impulse of delight  
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;  
I balanced all, brought all to mind,

An Irish Airman Forsees his Death – WB Yeats

At the beginning, I was massively critical of the introduction of flying mounts. I thought it would herald the end of world PvP and encourage people to gank alts without fear of reprisal even though it was limited to Outlands at that point. Indeed as the Burning Crusade progressed, we saw a sea change in people’s attitudes. Prior to the introduction of flying, on my server at least, most of the alt slaughtering was done to make you log your main for some world PvP because people correctly assumed that if they killed your level 20, half your guild would turn up. However with TBC, lower level characters in Hellfire would be attacked and when the cavalry arrived, the aggressors would die once (if you managed to sneak up on them) before ressing, mounting and flying off into the sunset.  There was a classic moment in Wrath where myself (Holy Priest) and Mr Harpy (Prot Warrior specced purely for PvE) went to rescue a guild mate’s low level Warlock. A Ret Paladin and a Frost Mage had been beating him up repeatedly all across Hellfire Peninsula. We arrived and without even stopping to look at our specs, Mr Ret Paladin runs off leaving the Mage to our tender mercies. This (sadly) is now a pattern that’s been repeated across expansions. People are used to being able to take to the air to avoid PvP and whilst Blizzard have started to address with it with items like the Hardened Shell, it’s asking a lot of people especially those who play on PvP servers to potentially remove their safety net. I suspect most people are semi okay with the idea of being killed by the opposing faction whilst leveling, gear, spec, which faction has the most people questing in any given area all factor into the equation but it’s a totally different ball game at the level cap.

What started to sell the idea of flight to me was those hidden treasures lurking in the hills. Beautifully detailed scenes that could only be viewed from your very own flying mount, for example Challe’s nursery in the mountains of Nagrand was my first major “ooh” moment of TBC. Exploration in WoW has always been a huge part of the game for me, my Priest made it to the Troll village between Winterspring and Darkshore long before Naxxramas mark 1 was released and mountaineering in Dun Morogh always held a fascination for her. For further discussion on why not being able to fly would effect exploration, I’d strongly suggest reading this as the Wyvern’s Tail goes to the subject in much more detail.


Then as if to cement the use of flying mounts, Blizzard added them to the pet store. I’ve only bought one myself, the Fey Dragon and I won a Heart of the Aspects in a screenshot contest but at a quick count there are seven  mounts available on the battle.net store as we speak and all of them are flying mounts. Yes, a couple of them would work okay I would imagine on the ground, the Swift Windsteed being a prime example of this but purchasing all of them would set me back £125. That’s a lot of money to spend on something which might not be fulfilling it’s true purpose in all current content for the life of the next expansion.  Sure, Caveat Emptor applies to most things in life but with competition out there it could backfire fast.

Unfortunately allowing us to use flying mounts on the ground is not really compensation for the removal of flying itself and in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s got the potential to be annoying. I get sea sick watching the Heart of the Aspects bounce along the ground in battlegrounds and the thought that everyone is now going to be outdoing themselves trying to hide quest givers under the biggest wing spans they can manage whilst leveling is not something I’m particularly looking forward to.


That’s bad enough but couple it with the fact that Blizzard have stated that only our most used mounts will make the stables in our Garrisons and I’m starting to become decidedly grumpy. Yes, I can have Spike my Ironbound Protodrake in my stables but only if I ungainly stomp across terrain crushing small flowers and making bunnies freeze with fright.

Then of course there is the threat that this will become a permanent fixture whether across the whole of Draenor or perhaps in certain areas.

and we will play it by ear from there out.

Keeping everyone on the ground especially post level cap also requires a decent balance between tanks, healers and dpsers. Having to ride everywhere solo becomes painful if healers are only capable of weak dps and mobs hit like trucks. Obviously until we get the beta, we can’t do more than speculate with this but based on some of the things the developers have said already this does make me a little nervous. It also raises some interesting questions for material gathering. All my Druids are herbalists… probably no surprise there and I fully agree that fluttering above the ground pulling up flowers by your teeth is cheating but having to ride through twenty vicious mobs to pick one herb isn’t that appealing either. I found myself wondering if this ties into the Garrison idea. Why would say Herbalists actively pursue collecting their own materials when they could nurture their garrisons and let NPCs do it for them. Making gathering more of a chore could potentially make the Garrison a lot more appealing especially to people with limited time on their hands. That’s before we even touch on archaeology with it’s tendency to space out the digs at the four corners of the map.

Finally we come to the elephant in the room…. Flight form. I quested for it twice, I earned it as much as I earned my Benediction and it’s a part of what I love about my Druids. Without the ability to spiral swiftly into the air and then turning, plummet straight back to earth, falling like a stone, I’m not a proper Druid. Would I ever waddle along in bird form if my wings were clipped? Of course not, that would be adding salt to the wound. In fact it’s because of my Druids more than anything else, I sincerely hope that Blizzard do add flying to Draenor once we’re at the level cap. Exploration can be done on foot, bought pets can be ridden on the ground but take the sky from me… and I’ll never find serenity!

In conclusion, whilst I’m fine with the idea of no flying whilst we’re leveling, I think I would be concerned if we couldn’t ever fly on Draenor. The game and indeed the player base have changed since flying was added and that convenience has become the norm, rightly or wrongly. Perhaps we as players do deserve some tough love and the Proving Grounds before Heroics and no flying is the Blizzard version of no supper and having to write “There is a fine line between having an active imagination and misbehaving. Pretending to be Gretel and locking your teacher in a cupboard because she’s going to eat you is most definitely the latter” 500 times. However these days I’m an adult. The delinquent inside is firmly locked in a cage within my mind and she only escapes when alcohol makes the bars go hazy. Sure, I could play better but it’s the carrot not the stick which Blizzard should be employing here. Make us want to get better don’t grind us down with the sense of our own failure, especially if this entails being repeatedly ganked because there is no escape and chased into pack after pack of mobs (I play on a PvE server, am perfectly capable of holding my own against fair odds and am practiced at disappearing if it’s not so I’m not massively bothered about myself).

Perhaps those pesky flight masters will soon be retiring to Gallywix’s Pleasure Palace made rich by all the toll money.


Personally I do take flights because that’s my blog reading and my making another cup of tea time plus my sense of direction is dubious at best and I’m likely to end up miles away from my actual destination. Not to mention the handy fact that if you take a ride, you can’t end up out over deep water, drowning but still I’d like the choice to fly myself.

Thoughts on Hearthstone

I set out to download the open Beta with one thought in my head, to prove to myself that I didn’t see the point in a digital card game and that I would absolutely hate it and no doubt delete it five minutes after installing. Things didn’t quite work out as planned. I wouldn’t say I’m Hearthstone’s greatest fan, far from it in fact but I did enjoy playing it.


I love the boards to the point where I’m seriously tempted to pick my favourite and paint it onto the top of an old cupboard. I just can’t decide whether I should go Alliance Pride


or celebrate the beauty of Pandaria.


The tutorial was extremely handy for talking you through the basics (which I definitely needed) and I thought starting with the Mage deck and everyone’s favourite mage was a great touch although I would have preferred a few more female decks, Tyrande or Sylvanas for example or perhaps even Alleria since we’re heading back to Draenor soon.


I might not have managed to beat Garrosh in-game but in Hearthstone….. he went down easy.



Why oh why is the Priest deck represented by Anduin? That boy is just bad news, look at what happened to his guardians for example, set on fire by Dragons before being turned into the Lich King and being beaten up by raid groups not only in the original game but also in Wrath and Cataclysm.

I might be doing it completely wrong but sometimes it’s just plain irritating especially when you’re at 10 crystals but keep pulling cards costing 1. The fact that a certain Druid keeps kicking my ass isn’t helping either. Healing for 8 really shouldn’t be allowed although I keep being told Fire Mages can’t beat Feral Druids at the moment any way so maybe I need to take him on with a deck which isn’t Jaina.

Would I pay cold hard cash for Hearthstone? I don’t think so as it’s really not my cup of tea any more than say Diablo turned out to be but I’m glad I tried it and properly wasted a number of hours playing around smashing in faces.