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Monday, September 29, 2008

Ding 40

I want a Ram. For my warrior, naturally. Which is a question of reputation, as Laiskajaakko is a human warrior, and Ram's are Dwarves' mounts.

So I have been playing in the starting zone of the dwarves for the last few days, and I've progressed in Reputation instead of experience. I don't see too much difference in the two, except that the progress in experience seems a bit more tangible because of the new skills coming closer all the time.

But with Reputation the rewards are in the end, not on the road.

Anyhow, I had some real fun plunging through the sub-lv10 quests with the bulldozer, roaming through the same content I had worked so hard with my warlock in training earlier. And because of the lower risk I did take a good explorative look around Loch Modan - an area I have earlier just skipped because I hadn't found any relevant quests in there.

To my surprise the quests and stories were very good, evolving from nothing to some really interesting 'plots'! I don't know how I have missed all the fun in the area: maybe it had just felt like a place in between the adventures and I had just went for the Wetlands.

But now those quests are done. For my warrior at least, and it's time to enter the Wetlands for more reputation. Of course, there is Uldaman waiting just around the corner in Badlands, where I already visited and finally dinged 40. What a feeling to get Plate trained at last, knowing that the real tanking period has started.

Maybe I could solo the Cyclonian finally?

Weekend all busy

What a weekend.

Friday came and went, mostly on preparations for the Saturday. Spent majority of the day on a training course for boy/girlscout leaders about plays and games for the kids. During the training I was -in the games, of course- the following:

- a Princess
- a Monster
- a Stone
- a Bat
- a Snake
- a Pirate (HARRR!)

and I was forced to do the following

- hide
- seek
- slide on the floor
- run
- jump
- draw
- sing

and all that in 5 hours including lunch! Honestly speaking, I was finished when I got back home.

On Sunday our dogs had a Lure Coursing competition. Considering the fact that we have been neglecting the long walks in the woods for some time now, the competition went quite well. Our male was third. The points of the finalists were quite high, so I'm very pleased on his performance. I have to write about LC more sometime, as there are some real peculiarities in there. Well, as far as I have heard, the whole dog-kennel-scene is filled with peculiar aspects of human behaviour...

What is really peculiar about the typical lure-coursing competition is in fact the way people handle their dogs. Considering that the dogs run twice a zig-zagging track about 600-1000 m long, they are generally not prepared for the activity. If you think of a human athlete preparing for 800m track, he will be warming up, stretching and concentrating. The dog athletes are generally taken to the track and let loose.

After a race, a human athlete will cool himself down, use some recovery drinks and foods and stretch and relax. Dog athletes, on the other hand, are walked to the car and stuffed in to wait for the next lap.

For us it's somewhat different. Our main concern is that the dogs are fit, well and willing to compete in full in the next competition, too. This means that in competitions we treat them as top athletes: we do a long walk with increasing intensitiy before the lap, and we cool them down with similar walk -decreasing intensity, naturally- after the lap.

This is repeated for the second lap, the finals.

All in all, the day is all walking and jogging with the dogs. We have once had a pedometer with us and it showed after a competition day that we had walked wbout 9.5 km during the day. No wonder we're as finished as the dogs as we return home!

I've seen during this competition season a few dogs lose their interest in the competing. They have been the dogs who have been taken to the track without proper warming up and have been put into the car after the race, without cooling them down. In the next lap they have been stiff, sore and most probably also in some muscle pain from the earlier strain. The most peculiar thing is the fact that the owners of the dog blame the dog for the poor performance, instead of taking the time to evaluate the situation and checking what was done (and what could be done otherwise).

What does this have to do with MMO's? Not much, except that if there is a wipe, it's not necessarily the healer's or the tank's fault. It's always good to start from yourself and change the way you work before launching on others.

Point taken.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fishing

I like fishing. Both in real life as well as in the MMO's I have played. It's also fascinating to fish for readers: sometimes you kick, but at this early point of this blog's life, you usually miss.

I could try to get some hits from the search engines just by using the current hot searches as the basis for the posts. But that would be cheating. I'd be more cheating myself than anyone else, as the truth is that no-one really cares about the visitor count of a normal blog.

Except the blogger her/himself.

The exception lies in the amounts of some ├╝ber-cool bloggers like Tobold or JoBildo or KillTenRats team, who have established their presence in the blogosphere earlier. There are several, as the bloglist at Ysharros' blog Stylish Corpse can tell. The ones who have been reporting their thoughts and ideas and rants over the net for sometime already. There is the difference of tens, thousands, tens of thousands and millions of siteviews involved.

And that was my futile attempt to fish some credibility. Thank you.

However, in WoW I spent some few minutes last night just fishing and cooking. My warrior is still at a bit low level in both, just passed 150 in them, and I thought that it would be nice to achieve some increase in them. So I finally got Fishing Buddy installed. Only to learn that the double click cast (Easy Cast) doesn't work. Only the outfit switch and the data recording.

Nevertheless, what a trip that was. I just went up and down the river flowing beside Southshore village in Hillsbrad Foothills, fishing and killing both turtles (for Turtle meat) and Grey Bears (for Big Bear meat). Why fishing, you may ask if you have never played in there... which I seriously doubt...

Because of the Sagefish Schools.

The river is full of them. You fish one empty and the next one is just in view a bit up creek. Along the way there are bears and turtles many and plenty, and the drop rates are just nice for an easy stroll in the river.

And the fishing pools have nice drops, too. I got at least 9 watertight containers within 20 minutes along with all the fish and meats, from which I got some greens, some bolts of cloth and other paraphernalia. Total I netted about 2g from the junk I sold alone.

Oh, and I got the skills up, too. Fishing up to 160, cooking just short of Soothing Turtle Bisque, 172.

I think there will be more fishing coming soon. It's all money, you know?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Different kind of war

Feeling a bit down today because of yesterday's shooting incident. 10 innocent lives and 1 culprit. Had I seen this quote a week ago I would have thought it as an advertisement for WAR:

"Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war."

Now it categorises the shooter's personal view of the reality, which is as skewed as the one of the former Finnish shooter. Both were very alike: quiet, withdrawn and alone. Remains to be seen, if it is later revealed that the first shooter was bullied at school as the second one was revealed to have been.

I'm deliberately leaving the names out of this entry, as they are been used for searches about these incidents. And I don't want to give them any more publicity as there has already been.

I'm not giving them what they were looking for.

Post death gratification.

But this whole scherade made me think about one question. Has our western civilisation and culture gone a bit too far in glorifying killing in entertainment (games, movies, music)?

Nothing more for today.

Shoo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WAR again... or then not.

I just spent precious worktime reading through a selection of blogs. All more or less related or connected to WAR.

What really keeps amazing me about the blog entries is well pictured in my former post about the content and it's value to the generic player. The WAR blogs mainly tell about the game mechanics, how PQ's and RvR works and maybe, just maybe, about how the blogger's character survived through the evening.

But where are the detailed descriptions about the lore and background, which is so living, depressing and haunting in the original Warhammer IP? The WHFRP, though based on the miniature game's rules, contained a wealth of background and material from which to create content, and the initial opposition of the humanoids and Chaos Gods was so promising. And the additional material in the form of Tomes and manuals just made the creeping Chaos even more tangible to the player (and GM alike).

Nobody writes about the content. Only the mechanics.

I'm feeling like a complete idiot over here.

Like I earlier stated, in WoW I'm a horde player to the bone. Even to the point that I had really hard time accepting that my son wanted to have an Ally toon. Well, I gave up, but so did he after a while and switched to Horde. But that's another story. However, now that I have been forced to play on the Ally side, I've come across long and wonderfull quest lines that I feel are lacking on the Horde side, and I've found the 'other side' of the Azerothian lore. Or I'm unravelling it to me currently. As I don't have a background on the Warcraft-series, I don't have any previous understanding of the background of the world. I just have to rely on the information I get from the game to make a coherrent picture of the lore.

Sadly, World of Warcraft has done what the WAR bloggers are doing: cast the content aside and put the emphasis on playing the game. Instead of playing the game, by which I mean that this wonderfull role-playing environment is being used not as a place to adventure and grow the character, but to find a way to win the game, which -because of being a fantasy role-playing game- cannot be won.

I doubt that all the Bartle-test Explorers really are explorers. Based on the enormous emphasis of winning the game I'm pretty certain that most of them are achievers and/or the term explorer is somehow misused in the test results. It's not exploring for finding out new things, places and monsters in the game, but to explore the limits of the mechanics and finding a new way to win the game.

I am an explorer first. But I'm digging in the lore and places, finding more delight in new places and acquaintances than in beating the opposition to pulp. But I have to admit that I'm affected by the other players and their ways in the game.

And other bloggers.

I'm off to read a scroll.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I survived the party

Ah... Back in reality. My brother had his batchelor party on friday and the rest of the weekend went in getting fit for the real life. Not because of the party but because of the lack of sleep.

Anyhow, as there was nothing scheduled I made a new alt for myself and my son: a gnome warlock. Something I haven't played yet in both race and class. Race because I'm horde person, I resent the whole alliance cuteness. My immersion in fantasy games starts from selecting the least humanlike, well, humanoid race. Meaning that there is nigh on the ally side.

Warlock. Let's say that I have so far liked the damage dealing capabilities and now as I finally got the Voidwalker, it really shows. But... being just a mage with a personal tank is so boring. I got myself playing it to lv13 and I just had to switch to my warrior. It was too boring hitting the sequence and watching that the Void just kept pounding.

So I switched from one boredom to another: Cyclonian quest chain. The Burning, Thundering and Cresting Charms. Drop rate abysmal. Respawn decent. Travelling involved.

At least it was the last part of the chain, as I had already conquered the Stranglethorn and had done there quests two-three levels above me. During the Cyclonian so far I have gained 6 levels, travelled far and wide and the more I think of it, I have started to believe that this class quest line is grinding and boring because of that only to make certain that the warrior player really knows what is his place later on in the game. Take the pounding and smile.

I'm not smiling yet, as the worst part is coming: downing the Cyclonian itself. I've done that once earlier with my Horde warrior, who is pure protection. Lovely Tauren lady, I just loved to play her as she has the Warstomp racial. Real lifesaver once in a while, which I'm missing with this puny human. But I've scheduled Cyclonian to a time when my personal healer is online: he'll keep me alive and going as the darn Elemental keeps pounding.

It's great to have personal aides around, now isn't it?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When information mounts

There comes a time when information about a certain issue builds up to a point that a lot of previous knowledge is needed to understand a single piece of it. Hmm. That sentence turns my mind into a knot, but let me explain.

My brother, the Rogue, is the least experienced of us three in WoW. He has been soloing his Rogue up and got into the instances with us. Well, not for the first time or anything. But the nice part of this is the fact that almost all that he knows about the game comes from his experience in the game. Not from a guild nor a guild forum. Not from a class site or Thottbot. But from the game.

He was so dumbfounded when he saw the Priest's and the Warrior's gear for the first time. The few blues from DM (at that time) and select few greens from quests. He had gear that was green at the most with few pieces of white in the mix.

He did what any of us would have done. He started looking for more information, sacrificing his precious playing time for the search for the Truth. About Rogues.

We went through DM together, and he got a nice upgrade. From the Stockades another, even though we didn't find the rare mob inside. This was the time I had this small bell ringing at the back of my head. He had found some information, but he took it all for granted. Everything was in the game, all the time, no matter what. If a site X said it was there, it must have been in there.

The next day I got an email: he had found the dagger he wanted. The Widowmaker. Easy world drop from Qiraji Major He'al-ie. At least thats what he read from the Net.

It made me frown. Sure, 3.28% drop rate would be great grinding in Thousand Needles, but how to tell him that the mob was a rare one even when it was alive before the Gates of Ahn-Qiraji were opened?

And that's what I mean about too much information about a subject may cause the one searching for one specific thing to lose the conception of the whole. Especially in constantly evolving MMO's like WoW, where today's big item is tomorrow's trash.

Oh, yes, we settled the issue and will continue our adventures in the Old World next week. We're having his batchelor party tomorrow, so no games this weekend.

If we're lucky.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Do other games change the way you play?

It was the first thought I had when the WAR Closed Beta was over, NDA lifted and people started blogging their experiences about Public Quests (PQ’s), and I logged in to WoW to play my human warrior after almost a half a year hiatus. Before that, you had to hunt for a party, on both horde and ally, in the Old World content, to even enter a dungeon, let alone an instance.

Now the parties came hunting for me. I was just in the neighbourhood and I started to get invites for a quick Deadmines run. First of all, Deadmines is never quick. Second, it slows down the levelling which I was so anxious to do to catch my brothers (some 12-15 levels gap back then). And as always, a PUG is a PUG.

After the first –miserably failed- PUG run I thought that this was just a lucky incident. But as this has been going on ever after, I have started to think over the causes to this change. Of course, currently I cannot verify if this is the situation in the horde side, too, but in ally side it seems to be the norm. I log in and within the first half an hour I get invited or asked to join for an appropriate level instance run.

It cannot be only the fact that I have a warrior, because my brothers have reported similar incidents, though not as often. To me this has changed over something that has changed the thinking of the levelling players.

Could it be, that the evaluations and reports about WAR PQ’s have had an impact on the players of WoW, who are trying to recapture the ‘open party’ mentality?

We are all influenced by what we read and/or hear. Why not to the point that we start to wonder if it was possible to do something differently for a change? Because in the PUGs I’ve joined I have asked people how long they have played, and mostly they have been levelling their xth toon. I’d say that 4 out of 5 have been long time players and 1 out of 5 claims to be a newbie. Which I do not buy myself, knowing how easily I claim to be one, too. But that’s another story.

It’s easy to see how we are influenced by others just by following the blogosphere. One post which gets our eye follows us to our next own post and it seems as if majority of the bloggers are thinking about the same problem. It’s not that, its just the influence of the surroundings, which in case of MMO-blogging are quite few and far.

As I have already noticed. Newbie.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Like a pack of hounds...

Needless to say, I love instances. Who doesn't? Especially when they are ran with a group of people knowing what they are doing –or at least willing to learn how to contribute better to the whole. When the communication works. And when the greed is governed by reason.

An excellent instance group works like a pack of wolves or sighthounds: each knows the common aim, everyone commits to the greater good of the group and all are driven by their own special talents and abilities. In a pack of dogs the roles are cast in silence: as the alpha female gets the impulse, the whole pack moves. They spread into a fan formation, with the leader in the center, and they start chasing the prey. No sound, only efficiency. The chasers and the flankers take care that the prey doesn't flee, and the alpha does the killing. Clean and effective. No fuss.

I have been in a couple of groups which have had this ability to read each others’ intentions. Without /p walls of text, without vent or voice chat. Just by knowing what the group is trying to achieve. They are few and separate during my two years MMO experience, but they exist: the excellent gamers who delight the whole genre. They are the groups from which you try to add people to your friends list only to forget them later on as they level up so much faster than you do.

Majority of the PUG’s, however, come from the other end of the scale. Unorganised, uncivilised and destructive on their own merit. It is impossible to play the game so that everyone in the group enjoys it with these types. And sadly, these come thirteen in a dozen.

And they are not usually the newbies like me, but the ones who have been around from day one and still haven’t learned to play their class nor in the groups. The N00bs.

After the first five such blunder-PUG’s I gave up on understanding the why’s and how’s of these guys. There didn’t seem to be any connecting factors between them. Maybe age or mental age, but that’s all. Maturity isn't dependant on age, it's more a state of mind. That's somewhat so hard to accept, but it's true. And games seem to bring out the best in jerks, too.

Now I’m in a nice situation. I have two brothers whom with we have decided to play a sort of hobby-game of WoW. We have it all at the moment: priest, rogue and warrior. Granted, we could have more dps on the side, but hey, if we go into an instance, we get to take the lucky one with us. I want to show people how things could be run, and with the training we provide to each other I think it’s soon possible. We may not be the most experienced, but guess what: we enjoy the learning process! For us the levelling is the game, end game is just some sort of a pipe dream in the future.

We are the pack of hounds, though without the alpha female.

She’s in the kitchen, generating huge amounts of wife aggro while we enjoy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Questing for... what?

Next entry I will write beforehand and only paste here.

Ok. Everyone is so pepped up with the WAR launch, that it's almost sickening. Blogosphere is full of posts about WAR, about not to write on WAR and about how the launch is feeling somehow anti-climatic. Blame it on the long beta or whatever. I'm not in it, but I'm never the less fed up with the whole ruckus. Admitted, I'm a bit jealous, too.

Instead I played WoW again during the weekend. Soloing again to catch up my brothers, whose toons are around lv40 at the moment. My arms/prot warrior is 'only' at lv 36 at the moment, plunging through the warrior quest Cyclonian for The Axe. And doing a lot of quest along the main Cyclonian-requisite route. I'm quite well versed with Stranglethorn now, almost passed all Nesingwary's questlines in my search of the Troll Tusks for the Cyclonian. Thankfully that is almost filled up and it's time to head to the Arathi Highlands.

Where I'll do the same: hoard the quests from all around and do them alongside the elemental slaughter.

What I noticed, however, is the fact that the questlines seem to be a) longer and b) more rewarding and c) advancing the toon faster in the level range 26-33. The questlines in Duskwood are fabulously rewarding - XP-wise - compared to the ones in Stranglethorn at 32-36. The Duskwallow Marsh seems to continue the long lines and high rewards style better, but the warrior quests do not even touch that area, making it something to worry after the lv40 questline for the warrior.

Which obviously leaves me in a bad levelling position, as I'm closing the Duskwallow level cap. Need to find another place to advance, though the quests will be easier and possibly faster to go through.

Now that I have written that down and read it again, I'm amazed and appalled. Why? Because I, former next-to-fanatic tabletop roleplayer, lover of immersion and stories and adventuring exitement, am talking in terms of power levelling and faster advancement. With this particular toon I have made it my aim to read the quest descriptions as well as possible and I have loved the winding stories contained within the quest structure. However, in Stranglethorn I noticed that I just skipped everything. First time ever I noticed that the 'been there, done that' mentality is setting in. After all, I have done those quests twice with my horde toons in the past two years I have been playing the game. And honestly speaking, Stranglethorn is quite stale as whole.

I can say honestly, that I have read the quest descriptions almost every time, always. I find it insulting to the game developers, writers and creative people to whom I pay my 12€/month that I would abuse the content by just rushing it through. However I understand fully the players who have played from the beginning, that the content gets stale after the third levelling to the cap. For me the question however is, what is the game about?

Is it to rush to the cap and grind the end game instances? Or is it the story of the character growing from zero to hero? Or is it something else?

WoW doesn't have a kind of continuity for a character: the quests are repetitive and they are the same to every toon in the game. What I would like to see in a future game would be the influence of your playing to the quests and affiliations. More role to the playing. EQ2 has something like this, but it's still in it's infancy. WoW has the reputation system, but it's not really worked to the max.

Make me a Call of Cthulhu rpg in which your actions will decide whether you end your days in an asylum or die in a horrible ritual for the Old Ones or are the one to conduct such a ritual. Make a game in which our decisions make the progress of the game different.

That'd be something to quest for.

Friday, September 12, 2008

To WAR or not to WAR?

"That is a serious question". Had to make that quote, just loved the original one when I last played the game.

On to the subject. Being part of the Casualties of War I'm facing the dilemma of either playing overseas or separating from that great bunch of people and staying in the EU servers. Not that the question would be so actual, since I'm more a follower than a trend setter. That means actually that I want my playing experience to be as smooth and bugless as possible.

There is this serious doubt of being alone in the dark if I join the Casualties in their quest in the US servers. Tobold stated the problem very accurately in his earlier post, so I won't delve into it any deeper. I have tried it in WoW and in EQ2, and in both cases I have been very disappointed. Even though there were fellows from the guilds available at my playing time, it wasn't anywhere near the experience I received when playing in the EU server. That would be in WoW, naturally. The population was missing, it was always night and the social contacts diminished to the guild chat stutter. It wasn't the guilds fault in either case, it was the 10 hour time difference that killed the fun.

Not very encouraging, really.

Then again, the guild system of WoW sucks anyhow. There is no incentive to be either active, in a guild or to work for the guild except the immense ego boost one gets from being an officer. And for what? Bigger epeen? Anyhow, this comes from a person who missed the lv60 instances by a few weeks and hasn't been able to get even the first toon to level cap in any game. I'm a gaming noob, doomed to be one forever.

So I'm very much worried over the next few weeks (or months, knowing myself) when I feel I have to make the decision. Till then I will be playing WoW with my two brothers as a team, taking the instances as we go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's going on, really?!

So I decided to give this a try. Blogging I mean. Been reading blogs for sometime now, mainly focused on MMO's and gaming, so I guess there is next to nothing I can say about them that hasn't been said already somewhere.

But then again, has that ever stopped anyone else from commenting the same issues? I mean, people are linking from one blog to another and saying both nice and not-so-nice things about other bloggers opinions. Why wouldn't I?

I'm not going to stick only on the MMO's and gaming. I most probably will be ranting about my two 'loves': MMO's and lure-coursing. Naturally the latter means that I will be crossing the ever sensitive issue of dogs and training, too. Which -sure as sunset- will not gain me any friends or positive comments. But it's my blog and I will cover whatever crosses my mind.

Like just now: I left my car to the garage for some extra maintenance that was scheduled a couple of weeks ago, when the car was in the normal, km-based service. Some parts were not in the shop, so they rescheduled the rest of the jobs for today. Mind you, that was two weeks ago.

Now I received a call from the service: sorry, but the parts haven't arrived yet, and you have to reschedule the maintenance. Come again?! The date was decided on the fact that they would receive the needed parts for today, right?

So what is going on in there? Bad planning, next to not existing customer service and so on?

Oh, yes, the current situation is that the secondary repairs they were making are now open. They couldn't even complete the jobs that were on the list!

Well, thankfully the car is leased, so there is not a dime in it from my side. But it pisses me off because it's me who is suffering from their incompetence.

And just to clarify. BullCopra was the first ever WoW toon I played over lv40. There you go, curious people.