How old are Dales and some gnomes?

So yeah, How Old dot Net is all the rage, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to point it at various digital-realm avatars, but here we go!

Girl Dale and Boy Dale both seem to be mid-20’s, which is plausible:

Boy Dale looks 26?

Girl Dale looks 27?

Even drowed-up for Fantasy Faire (see Michele H’s very nice coverage although given how late I always am it is probably over by when you read this):

Drow Girl Dale, too

On the other hand Spennix is, well…

Spennix, on the other hand...

as is her alternate-realm self, the Arcane Mage Tashalorum (now level 100 also with her own Castle; I think we may have seen her here or on Flickr before, at like level 12; leveling is sooo easy these days):

Tashalorum, too...

The human PNC architect there is handled more plausibly, so probably we just need a different version of How Old dot Net for each of the races of Azeroth. (But what of the half-gnomes??)

Amusingly, the male version of Tashalorum (two words: Transmorphic Tincture) is apparently an even harder problem:

Male Tashalorum ; no face??

Maybe facial hair isn’t supposed to be pink?

That’s all for now. :) All various things have been occurring as always, but I have been lazy and not weblogging them or anything. Which means they didn’t really happen yet at all!!

Bunnies vs Argaloth!

Just to show that WoW isn’t all battles and fighting and stuff, here’s a moment of silliness, where most of the 25-person guild raid waiting for the last two members to show up before taking on Pit Lord Argaloth decided to turn each other into bunnies and get out our Spring Rabbit pets, and hop around for picture-taking.

Bunnies vs Argaloth!

(I really should have turned off all of the floating nametags, ’cause they sort of clutter up the picture…)

I am happy to see that the picture has already been favorited once on flickr. :)

I wasn’t actually planning to be in this raid at all, I just happened to be doing Tol Barad when it was time for my guild‘s weekly “Raid Boot Camp” run, so I got included in the invitation, and I thought “What the heck!”.

The raid was fun (even not counting the bunnies), and the Boot Camp part consisted mostly of following directions (something I am generally pretty good at). And I was rewarded richly, in that as the only rogue there I pretty much by default got the nice rogue PvP legs that dropped, and they were a good upgrade to my PvP set.

(In fact they’re enough better than the legs currently in my PvE set that I’m thinking of swapping them in there also; but wearing PvP for PvE, even when justified by the numbers, is sort of a WoW Fashion Faux Pas…)

So see! What WoW is really about is (a) silliness, and (b) fashion. Now you know! :)

Cataclysm!

So RL has been crazy busy, but we did get ourselves the new WoW expansion, and I’ve been having some fun (during boring conference calls and things heh heh). Mostly with ol’ Spennix, although I’ve also made a Worgen mage (that was interesting while he was in the new Worgen part; now that he’s in the usual lowish-level parts of the game, not so much).

Anyway, Spennix!

Just before Cataclysm came out, there were various one-time events, like the retaking of the above-ground parts of Gnomeregan from the bad guys.

Here is Spennix on her gnomish battlestrider, accompanying the King of the Gnomes just before the attack.

Spennix at the Battle for Gnomeregan

Gnomeregan Shall Rise Again!

One of the funnest new things about Cataclysm is that you can fly in the old classic parts of the world. So much easier getting around major cities now!!

Spennix and the Prince, over Stormwind

That is Spennix up over Stormwind on one of her gryphons (griffins?), with the Prince of Stormwind, questing together for a bit.

(Another thing about Cataclysm is that they’ve ramped up the whole “the player is a world-reknowned hero” aspect; NPCs are forever saying very validating things about how you are the world’s only hope an’ all. And on the other hand, asking you to pick up a dozen apples for them to make pie.)

Here we are standing in the Keep in Stormwind.

Spennix and the Prince

He is clearly far too tall.

However, he has a tiny little horse.

Spennix and the Prince on horseback

Eat your heart out, Prince of tall persons!

Cataclysm has changed lots of the old classic areas of the game (well, not counting Outland, mostly). Here’s Spennix riding the new Caravan in Eastern Plaguelands.

SpennixCaravan

I haven’t actually figured out what, if anything, it’s for, but it was fun to ride.

I finally got Exalted with the Kalu’ak walrus folks, which means I can buy the egg of the adorable Pengu, and also the magic fishing pole that both improves your fishing and lets you breath underwater. While you’re holding it, that is. So not really great for battle. But good for exploring!

Spennix, Pengu, and the magic fishing pole

Just to prove I’ve actually been to the new Cataclysm areas, and not just playing around in old low-level zones, here I am in the subaquatic 80+ area, with a squid on my head, in order to disguise myself as one of the mind-controlled underwater goblins and infiltrate…

Spennix in Squid Disguise

Well, long story. Anyway, squid on the head.

Archeaology is the new profession in Cataclysm. Not only does it give you an excuse to fly all over the world and explore the history and lore without necessarily killing things, but you also get some fun accessories along the way.

Spennix and Fossilized Hatchling

I assembled this guy from a bunch of fossil bones, and poof he woke up an’ started following me around. Woot, eh?

(Oh yeah, and I’m level 85 now. No one’s higher-level than me! :) Also I am an Illustrious Grand Master at all my professions except Archaeology, and I got the “3000 Quests Completed” achievement, unlikely as that sounds, which lets me make it say “Spennix the Seeker” over my head. Yay, me!)

And I have freed the Orgres of Blade’s Edge Mountains from the oppression of, umm, those big giant guys. Anyway, now Spennix is their Queen, and they won’t attack her anymore. Here they are paying her ‘omage:

Spennix, Queen Of The Ogres

(Click through to Flickr to find the actual Spennix.) After this they had a big ogre party, with lots of ogre drinking and the amusing and memorable orge dancing.

And finally, on a more quasi-serious note:

Deathwing

Spennix isn’t actually in this one, ’cause it’s from the cutscene just before the big battle with Deathwing (well, one of ’em).

Cataclysm has tons o’ cutscenes! I’ve been enjoying watching them. In general this expansion is emphasizing the heroic / lore / epic storytelling aspects of the thing, rather than the just flying around randomly killing monsters aspects. Which is fun!

Now excuse me, I hafta go heroically gather some more apples. :)

Play

(Note that this is a really rambling and wordy and possibly pointless piece. I was in that mood. :) )

People play. Critters play.

I like reading about animal play (link to online article thanks to Wikipedia), because it helps focus thinking about people-play (and because it’s interesting in itself).

Play is, sometimes, doing stuff that usually matters, but doing it in a context where it doesn’t, in fact, matter. Two cubs pouncing on each other in the manner of predator and prey, even though neither is going to eat the other. Two small armies struggling to control a patch of land, even though at the end of the game neither one will actually own the football field.

In World of Warcraft, the structure of your typical five-person dungeon party roughly parallels the structure of the traditional family group:

  • The tank, like the traditional father, stands between the party and the monsters, and takes their attacks onto himself,
  • The healer, like the traditional mother, supports the tank (and, when necessary, the rest of the party), healing wounds, curing disease, making sure that everyone is doing well,
  • The DPS, like traditional children, attempt to cause as much damage as possible, using knives, guns, explosives, wild animals, and demons summoned from the netherworld.

All of WoW is play, in general, because it doesn’t matter; no one is really going to die. But DPS matters the least. In a few cases, like when the Lich King is slowly slowly coming after the party in the Halls of Reflection instance, and the walls of ice won’t go down to let you all run away until the DPS have killed all the swarming undead, your DPS had better be good and fast or you’ll wipe. But in general, like in the crypt under the Scarlet Monastery Graveyard, when Bloodmage Thalnos is waving his arms around and not really being paticularly dangerous to anyone at all, the DPS can take their time, as long as the Tank and Healer are doing their jobs; there’s no rush and no pressure. A DPS can go AFK there (PDQ!), and the others will just have to work a little longer to finish the instance.

As a rogue, Spennix is pure DPS; she sneaks in there and stabs things in the back while the tank is shouting and looking shiny in order to hold their attention. Except in, say, Halls of Reflection, it doesn’t really matter how well she does; if she has a bad day and keeps facing the wrong way and not stabbing the monsters much, the other DPS will take care of it, and probably no one will even notice unless someone’s watching a damage-meter add-on.

As a soloing rogue, Spennix is even more just playing; she’s level 80 now, which is the highest possible level (until the next expansion comes out), she has pretty good gear, she has tons of neat mounts, and so really nothing that she does matters much even in game terms. She can play around, say, doing favors for the Sha’tari Skyguard, with an eye on eventually getting one of those cool flying mounts, but if that doesn’t happen today / this month, that’s fine.

Recently I’ve been playing tanks and healers more. It’s interesting! Definitely a different set of skills. I have a human priest, “Holy” specialization, healer, at like level 34 as of this writing (here he is!), and a Draenei paladin, “Protection” spec, tank, slightly lower level (here). Both of them are currently doing Scarlet Monastery Graveyard over and over and over and over (that being just about the only instance available to low-30’s characters).

Healing and tanking are both fun. They are also, in some limited sense, less playful than DPSing; because what you do matters more.

There’s only one tank, and only one healer, and if you’re it and you mess up, the party’s likely to die. If the tank doesn’t hold the attention of the monsters, and they decide to (say) kill the healer, it’s often All Over. And if the healer doesn’t keep the tank healed, and the tank dies, the monsters will then eat up everyone else. Not always, but often. Even usually.

There are lots of bad tanks; the typical bad tank will either not be able to (or not even know they are supposed to) hold aggro, or will rush madly on ahead without making sure that the healer is ready, or both, and get everyone killed. And then, typically, blame everyone else for not keeping up, or for distracting the monsters.

There are fewer bad healers, but there are some. Usually it’s just a matter of not having good judgement about how much to heal the tank and when, either letting the tank die from insufficient healing, or running out of mana from too much healing (followed quickly by the tank dying from a sudden complete lack of healing).

I don’t, of course, want to be either of those! So when I’m tanking or healing, there’s responsibility. What the tank or healer does matters, with respect to the success of the party (although the success of the party does not itself matter, in any particularly significant sense).

So perhaps it’s that DPS is playing even in the context of play, whereas the tank and the healer aren’t playing in that context (although the context itself is play).

How much is Second Life play? What matters, and what doesn’t matter? What is the context?

The questions remind me of a classic Sophrosyne Stenvaag piece about the pricing of virtual goods. If we’re playing, just having a good time, and it doesn’t really matter, than sure charging basically nothing (100 Linden Dollars, for instance, is about US$0.40) for a piece of clothing or a device is perfectly reasonable. But if it does matter, if people want to have virtual businesses that sell virtual goods in a sort of real-life “value for money” way that one could actually live off of, then giving away stuff so cheap is undercutting those people, and maybe that matters,.

People matter. In both WoW and SL, people matter. It’s okay to kill members of the other faction in WoW, because that’s part of the play; but it’s not so okay to promise to show up for a raid at a certain time and then casually not do that, or to tell X what Y said about them, even though you promised Y that you wouldn’t. The fact that X is a Blood-elf Warlock and Y is an Orc Warrior doesn’t negate any of that stuff.

(Some people consider SL to be a place where all sorts of things don’t matter, including some very people-things. More than once Girl Dale has had some total stranger propose random fornication, and on the proposition being refused had the stranger say “why not? it is only a game!”. Boys are weird.)

People need to play, like to play. I, in particular, need to play, want to play, when I get home in the evening, especially if the day has been particularly bruising. I like to play on long weekends, relaxing with maybe some milk and cookies and my laptop, between naps and chores.

Tanking and healing in WoW is fun and interesting, but it’s less playful and less relaxing. Sitting up in my lab in the sky in SL and making random odd things is pretty much pure play; it doesn’t matter at all whether or not it works. Keeping up four or five IMs while having a deep conversation with one or two people in virtual person all at the same time and not wanting to offend any of them by cutting them off, while trying to decide which of three or five party and event and visit invitations to accept, is less relaxing, because those people do matter, and I don’t want any of them to feel bad, and I really do want to talk to them all at once, because they are all fascinating. And I don’t want to miss any of the parties!

At this point some of my SL friends, and You Know Who You Are, are thinking “oh, Dale’s saying that I should leave him alone and stop IMing him all the time”, but that’s not what I’m saying at all! I’m just saying that you matter to me; I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. In fact it’s a very good thing!

Play is good, but having things matter is also good. I like that SL is a place to play, but if it was only a place to play it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting and significant. (It would, in a way, be more like WoW, which is really only a place to play for me, because I’ve never gotten deep into Serious Raiding Guilds or anything, and I don’t know anyone there really well; I just cook and fish and fight monsters.)

When I’m in a pure relaxing-and-playing mood, I’m more likely to play Spennix than Brothersteve or Spaenorus. I may also be more likely, these days, to play WoW than SL; or if I do go into SL, it may be on my secret antisocial building alt. On the other hand, healing and tanking are fun and interesting things to do when I’m feeling a bit more, what, ambitious in my play. And talking to all of the marvelous current and future friends in SL is one of my very favorite things to do, ever.

And that’s exactly because it matters. :)

Spennix acquires objects

Pictures of Spennix, for no really good reason!

My oldest WoW character and still my ‘main’, Spennix has been level 80 for quite awhile, and is now accumulating various of the hard-to-get things in the game. For instance, this cool motorcycle mount (which is -incredibly- expensive, like 50 times as much as mostly anything else in the game), and the special fishing hat she is wearing, that is a rare and random prize in the daily Dalaran fishing quests. (Not only does the hat look cool, but it contains an infinite number of special lures that improve your fishing.)

Spennix on her Mekgineer's Chopper

Next, she’s working on saving up for the materials to get the Mongoose enchant on her weapons. Also pricey, but nothing like the chopper!

You know they’re making things easier in WoW when Spennix, who has never been any good at PvP, has the 50,000 spare Honor Points required to buy a PvP mount:

Spennix on her new Black Battlestrider

But doesn’t it look neat? :)

(Click through to flickr for access to larger sizes of all of these pictures, suitable for framing.)

Oh, and in showing off some of Spennix’s gradual acquisitions, I shouldn’t forget the Crimson Felt Hat!

Spennix's Town Hat

This drops from one of the Stratholme bosses, and Spennix solo’d Strat a time or three while (rather belatedly) getting Exalted with the Argent Dawn in order to get the Argent Champion title.

This is now Spennix’s standard in-town hat. Completely inappropriate for her class combat-wise, but as everyone agrees, it is pimpin’! Which I gather is some modern slang for "elegant"…

(That enormous red thing on her left hand is the Hand of Nerub, which she personally sliced off of some icky boss in Naxxramas sometime back, and now uses as a weapon. Kinda gross, really. :) )

As well as the Mongoose enchant for her weapons, Spennix is also working on reputation with Netherwing (to get a cool riding dragon) and the Wymrest Accord (to get, um, a cool riding dragon) and the Kurenai (to get a cool riding ungulate).

Really, WoW is all about the vehicles… :)

Enterprise Warcraft(tm)

Since covert propaganda lackey investigative reporter Adric Antfarm recently spilled the beans in a weblog comment, I will take this opportunity to confirm the report: the next incursion of Global Megacorporations into the Virtual World space will indeed be into World of Warcraft.

Having sucked dry fully leveraged the potential of the Second Life(tm) World(tm), we at the controls of the heartless behemoth that is world capitalism will shortly announce Enterprise Warcraft(tm), an enterprise productivity enablement platform that combines the sensory immersiveness of a Second Life dance club with the strict warrior discipline of a party of level 80 Orc hunters.

Why base an enterprise virtual space on the World of Warcraft, you ask? As compared to Second Life, the World of Warcraft platform offers several advantages to the corporate purchaser:

  • Easy sharding: since the World of Warcraft server architecture is already based on a number of separate “realms”, there is no need for redesign to obtain an isolated environment: we will simply add a set of “Corporate” regions to the current “Americas”, “Europe” and “Oceanic” regions. Players (known as “employees”) will be able to connect to realms in Corporate regions only if they have a paid-up Enterprise Warcraft (EW) account (these start at a low introductory price of US$5,000 per year.)
  • Built-in hierarchy: unlike the hippy egalitarianism of Second Life, the WoW platform is all about rank and hierarchy. In EW, a character’s level is limited by the player’s rank in the organization. Rank-and-file employees may not advance beyond level 50, nor possess gear beyond Superior. Senior managers are given pre-built level 50 characters with Heirloom gear, and executives begin with level 80 characters in Epic gear (fully gemmed and appropriately enchanted). Lower-level characters will be forbidden from using the “ignore” function on higher-level characters, and from declining their duel challenges.
  • No troublesome creativity: while it has proven infeasible to entirely wipe out user creativity in Second Life, creativity in World of Warcraft is limited primarily to sneaking sexually-suggestive guild names past the censorship filters. By limiting EW players to a set of Enterprise Quests(tm) centered around corporate goals, management can assure that employees are not distracted by independent thoughts. And there is no sex in WoW! (That patch that lets you see Draenei females naked will be restricted to senior executives and authorized system administrators.)
  • Flexible interface: for Enterprise Warcraft, the open-source programmers that became mindless zombie slaves valuable collaborators during the Second Life project will be redirected to writing EW UI add-ons, in support of calendar management, project scheduling, and computing golf handicaps.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, Enterprise Warcraft will include an enhanced dungeon and party structure that more accurately reflects corporate culture and organization. First, the large monsters that are the main target of a run will no longer be called “Bosses”, but will instead be referred to as “Team Goals”. The traditional five-member party of one tank, one healer, and three DPS (damage-dealers) will be replaced by a mininum ten-member party, consisting of:

One tank, whose role is to absorb monster attacks and take the blame for all technical problems that occur during a run.

One healer, who attempts to keep the tank alive long enough to finish the run and achieve the Team Goals.

One DPS, whose role is to actually kill the monsters (this role is de-emphasized in Enterprise Warcraft).

Four Project Managers, who shout contradictory instructions at the tank, healer, and DPS during battles, and call for frequent stops to perform detailed analyses of the battle statistics and try to determine why the run is taking so long, and why the Team Goals have not yet been met.

Two Middle Managers, who run ahead of the tank and aggro any mobs encountered.

One Senior Manager, who has no role during the actual battle, but who determines whether the tank, healer, or DPS will be punished after each wipe, and who allocates all XP and loot after the run. (The Senior Manager automatically receives half of the total party XP gains for each run. If the Team Goals are not met, the Senior Manager designates either the tank, healer, or DPS for a level-based XP penalty.)

While the release date has not yet been officially announced, I am confident that within a year or two, the media will be reporting that the EW hype is now over, and that World of Warcraft is dead…

The Classic Dungeonmaster

Another WoW posting; feel free to complain. :)

In the relatively recent Word of Warcraft achievement system, there’s an achievement called Classic Dungeonmaster, which involves getting nineteen sub-achievements, each of which requires defealting the last boss of (or otherwise completing) some classic (i.e. included in WoW even before the first expansion came out) dungeon.

Spennix has been taking a break recently, since I’ve been having fun leveling lower-level characters like Deminestia, and since Spennix is mostly a soloer and so isn’t all that enthusiastic about the new easier group-forming stuff in the latest patch. But it occurred to me / her / us that it might be fun to go for this achievement, since as a moderate-geared 80 she can probably solo each of these dungeons, it will give me a little experience with them so I will be better prepared when Deminestia or someone gets to them, and if we are going to do it ever it would be good to do it before the older parts of the world are torn apart by Cataclysm.

At the moment we have just a few left to do! Here is Spennix doing a victory dance over the temporarily dead body of evil Archmage Arugal:

Spennix defeats Archmage Arugal

She is modelling a female-gnome-sized copy of his robes, which for some reason he was carrying on him when she defeated him. :)

Here she is during the cleansing of the Scholomance, temporarily turned into a skeleton by some rude bad guy:

Spennix as a skeleton in the Scholomance

And here she is at home in K3, showing off the Bad Mojo Mask that she got from the boss of Zul’Farrak:

Spennix and the Bad Mojo Mask

Pretty silly, eh? :)

The next one on her list is Sunken Temple (actually the Temple of Atal’Hakkar, but no one remembers how to spell that). The final boss of that place is a big phantom dragon, but he’s asleep and you can’t defeat him until he wakes up. He doesn’t wake up until the big High Priest guy is defeated. And you can’t get to the big High Priest guy until you bring down the glowing green barrier, which you do by defeating five or six little sub-priest guys who are scattered around the instance. And the instance is a flippin’ maze and we are always getting lost.

So here is Spennix taking a little nap with the sleeping final boss, getting up the energy to take care of all of that:

Spennix and the Shade of Eranikus

Zzzzzzz…

The main reason I’ll never be a Serious WoW Player is that I like having fun doing silly easy stuff like this at least as much as I like going on Big Serious Raids for Awesome Gear, which is what the Serious Players do.

(Click on each picture for the flickr page for a larger version.)