Shadowlands (WoW again)

Now I’m going to write things about the new Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft some more, and apologies yet again to the Second Life folks who are still reading here in hopes of someday getting Second Life content again. :)

(I have done some “virtual world creation, albeit not Second Life” stuff that I guess I haven’t mentioned here? Which is odd because it was really pretty cool; enough scripting that I nearly got out a source code control system and a bug tracker, in the service of a really remarkable world build. See Karima Hoisan’s post and teaser video on the subject.)

Anyway, Shadowlands! Somewhat contradictorily:

  • I like it quite a bit (the strange systems, the quirkily-different places like the Maw and the Tower of Torghast, the fact that it doesn’t really take itself very seriously, as usual), and
  • It makes not the tiniest particle of sense.

The latter point is (and I suppose in some sense there are spoilers for the expansion below, but really if you haven’t yet gotten at least as far as I have by now you probably aren’t someone who cares about that kind of thing) due to a number of factors, including:

  • It’s supposed to be set in the Afterlife. This has some amusing side-effects, like encountering the occasional defeated ex-villain from prior expansions sweeping the floor to atone for their sins or whatever, but otherwise it’s pretty unconvincing, since:
  • There’s basically no one there. I mean, it’s supposed to have been the place where everyone who dies on Azeroth and and least a couple of other worlds (and quite likely all worlds because why not) goes after they die. So there should be a really incredible number of NPCs around somewhere. But there is no hint of that; there’s like I dunno a few dozen or hundred or something.
  • There’s no Shadowlands Archaeology, supposedly because the place has no history, but obviously the place does have history; Revendreth in particular is chock-full of ruins that would have any archaeologist drooling. And Bastion has that one hilltop devoted to that one hero from the past, and the entire Locus of Memory.
  • Three of the five areas are full of stuff that gets left behind when one dies, and has no place in the Afterlife: bones and gristle and skulls and skeletons and funerary equipment and like that. That’s just silly; what is all that doing there? What are these the bones and coffins and so on of?
  • Relatedly, since this is WoW, one is constantly killing (“defeating”) things. How exactly does that work, ontology-wise? When things die, do they go to an After-Afterlife? Do they just respawn after awhile? (Of course things just respawn after awhile everywhere else in WoW, so that’s a whole area of confusion to think about.)
    • There are a few references to “the True Death”, but if dying in the Shadowlands means that you cease to exist rather than spending eternity doing… something (more on that below) you’d think people would be really really careful to avoid it, at the very least. And the Shadowlands people are always calling us mortals “mortals”, which would seem to imply that they are not mortal, suggesting that there is no “True Death” in fact. Which is it??
    • Sometimes when you die in Shadowlands, a voice says “It is not yet your time, Child of Azeroth”. Not yet my time for what, exactly, voice?
  • And why are there so many things? Why are there fish and plants and annoyingly-overhanging rock formations in the Afterlife? Are they the souls of fish and plants and annoyingly-overhanding rock formations that died in the mortal world? How would that work? (The fact that the areas of the Afterlife are all islands floating in a cloudy void, and if you fall off you… die, is a whole nother issue.)
  • Before this big power imbalance and war that we’re involved in started, the Afterlife apparently sat around for untold ages not doing that. So what were all the (millions and billions, at least, of) souls doing? Considering this by area, we speculate:
    • In the Maw they were just suffering forever because they were so terrible, which is horrible but it’s basically just Hell so okay.
    • In Revendreth they were coming to terms with and admitting their sins so they could then go to some other area, or to the Maw if they ultimately failed (why this involves vampires I may or may not wonder about again below),
    • In Ardenweald they were taking care of the recharging souls of various Nature Demigods waiting for their Respawn Timers to count down, which is sort of nice, but you wouldn’t think it would require all that many people (they also put on plays, which is cool, although the theatre isn’t nearly big enough for the millions of… okay we’re tired of that complaint).
    • In Bastion they were having all of their memories of their lives removed and archived, being turned into overgrown humanoid Smurfs regardless of what shape or species they were in life (wut), and then trained in battle so they could go out and bring the souls of the dead to the Shadowlands for judgment. Except:
      • They don’t in fact do that; the souls just sort of flow down from the sky in a big river,
      • In the one example we see where they do do that, no battle skills of any kind are required since they’re just magical angels and who would they be fighting?
      • Also in the one example we see where they do do that, they need exercise no judgment whatever, so the excuse we see that they have to forget their past lives so that they can fetch souls “without judgment” makes no sense whatever.
    • In Maldraxxus they were apparently being made into bizarre amalgams of bone and gristle and other corpse-parts for no obvious reason, and then set to fighting each other in an endless round of melee, poisoning, plague, spying, and whatnot, ostensibly to defend the Shadowlands, although it’s not clear against what, and of course it’s eventually against each other, which is obviously perfect for a WoW realm, but otherwise makes not a lot of sense.

In the Bastion storyline, we get the impression that the Shadowlands has in the past been attacked by critters from the Void (just like the rest of the universe has), so maybe that’s what Maldraxxus is training against, but I don’t see a whole lot of evidence for that.

Okay, enough complaining for now. :) As I said, I’m certainly enjoying it, but I wanted to write this stuff down just because it’s fun to write down things that make so sense. As I mentioned, Blizzard themselves don’t take it all that seriously; I don’t know if the line “If this is truly the only way, then I shall find another” is intentionally satirical (I mean, strictly speaking and going by the meaning of “only”, you shall in that case not find another), but when the flavor text for a scroll that you find (when looking for a more important one) in the Locus of Memory is something like “In this weighty tome a Kyrian has recorded every one of the memories of their life. Every. Single. One.” you know that they’re having a good time with their lore and ontology.

(Also, one is constantly being carried around unceremoniously by Kyrians, which is pretty funny.)

Spennatrix is OP

I have been in Second Life a bit more in the last few months doing random things, as well as being in Kitely contributing to Karima Hoisan’s amazing builds (“worlds”, they call them in Kitely). But I’ve also been in World of Warcraft even more (hey, there’s a new expansion out!) so I’m going to talk about that here instead. Who knows, if I get used to writing in weblogs again, maybe it’ll occur to me to write some original words about SL again eventually!

(For instance maybe about how it was kind of fun figuring out Bakes on Mesh and having a full mesh head and body for Girl Dale, but that having done it all there doesn’t really seem to be any point outside of like better-looking joints in swimsuit photos.)

Spennix the Rogue has been max-level (which is 60 again now; shades of Classic!) for a little while now, and it’s been pretty fun. She’s rather squishy, as I’ve resigned myself to rogues being, with of course the somewhat compensating advantage of being very good at sneaking and vanishing and running away and stuff. So, good for exploration. She is in the Night Fae Covenant, mostly because I thought the “running around fast as a glowy animal” thing sounded like fun and more in-character than the other covenants. The damage ability seems to do a little extra damage, but nothing amazing.

For variety, I also leveled Spenax the Affliction Warlock a bit, up to 57 as of this writing. They have this nice mechanic where when your second and subsequent characters arrive at the main part of the expansion, you have a choice between going through all the introductory storylines introducing the covenants one at a time and all, or you can go straight to choosing one and then flitting around all the various areas levelling. I chose the latter for Spenax, and the Venthyr seemed aesthetically appropriate for a Warlock. The Door of Shadows ability is fun, and the damage ability, again, seems to do maybe a little extra damage.

A snappily-dressed female Night Elf Holy PriestThen I decided to focus and to some higher-stress stuff, so I’ve been leveling Spennatrix the Holy Priest, including actually healing instances, which is stressful because if you mess up the party dies, and if the tank messes up the party dies and blames you. (I’m sure tanks say the same thing about healers.) But it sure is quicker than just questing around, and the dungeon-queue wait times are like two minutes tops for a healer. So Spennatrix is 59 going on 60 as of this writing. She joined the Kryian Covenant because of course she did (they’re so pure and earnest that they are going to turn out to be bad guys, right?), and the non-combat “weird little owl guy with a baby voice brings you a potion” ability is amusing. But the combat ability? Well, holy shirtballs!

I mean, I may be pretty bad at party healing (or maybe I’m pretty good, I’m not sure; so much depends on the tank and how bad the DPS are about standing in pools of stuff), but for solo’ing around, a Kyrian Holy Priest is totally OP. (OverPowered, that is, not Original Post{er}.)

Long, long ago, in say Ashenvale, poor Spennatrix would wince at the site of, say, a bear, because they tended to do damage faster than she could heal, if she was going to get in any damage herself and therefore kill the bear before running out of mana.

But now! Need to do damage? We have Smite and Holy Fire. We also have Holy Word; Chastise, which is not only a nice chunk of damage but also a good interrupt and a decent stun, and it comes around so often on the guitar that we can just use it for a little extra damage without worrying about wasting the interrupt part, because it’ll be back soon. We also have miscellany like Holy Nova for an area effect, and that star thingie which does both damage and healing in a line out of front of one, and then again on the way back.

(All priests apparently also have Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death. Spennatrix does not use these. Ever.)

Worried about taking damage? We have Power Word: Shield (which we didn’t for awhile, but now we do again) which makes the first N owches of damage just not count, and we can self-cast it every like 15 seconds. And if we do take damage, we have small fast heal, and big slow heal, and “heal that person and then jump to whoever else needs it the most”, and a Heal Over Time, and a “heal the whole party with pretty graphical effects”, and “heal this person and everyone near them”, and “heal this person an enormous amount if it’s available, and since its cooldown reduces with every small fast heal you cast, it probably is”, and… and… and…

And then there’s the Kyrian thing, Boon of the Ascended, which can be used every three minutes, and basically turns you into this unstoppable damage and healing vortex for ten seconds, with both direct and area damage, all kinds of healing as a side effect, and a big boom at the end that takes care of most of whatever difficulties survived until then.

Spennatrix is no longer worried about bears. Especially the first bear that’s tried to mess with her in the last three minutes.

(And then there are little perks like Levitate, which is an any-time “no worries about falling” thing, as long as you don’t need to steer, and Fade and/or Shadowmeld, which are not as good for sneaking as a rogue’s Stealth, but still very handy.)

None of this helps (enough) in a dungeon with a squishy headlong tank and DPSes that stand in boiling blood, but it’s definitely easier to solo around than I remember!

Update: Ding 60! :)

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.)

Spennix in 3D!

For Christmas (in 2007) I got permission to get a Figure Prints “print” made of my primary World of Warcraft character, the lil gnome rogue Spennix.

This is one of those kewl 3D printing things, where a computer is given a three dimensional shape (in this case from the amazingly extensive online WoW databases, including the Armory), and by various magical processes involving atoms it produces a real-life made-of-atoms version of the shape. Skilled artisans then paint it and otherwise finish it off, and it is shipped off to someone for lots of money. (This has also been done for Second Life AV’s; from the pictures on the site it’s pretty awful; I hope atom-Spennix looks better than that!)

It turns out that not only does this cost the sort of money that one doesn’t spend, but rather is given for Christmas, but also there’s a huge demand and not much supply (the two are probably somehow related). There’s a monthly drawing to select those peoples whose WoW characters FigurePrints will actually take money to produce in atoms, and you just have to enter and cross your fingers. I entered and crossed my fingers, and nine months later (hm), I got a congratulatory note saying that my name had been drawn, and I could fill out the order form.

Being an interactive Web 2.7183 order form, as well as letting me order it also showed me a picture (see?) of (something like roughly) what the final product will look like. I checked the boxes to have Spennix’s guild tabard and current roguish facemask not shown, and her dual daggers out, standing in her typical “stealth” pose (but not half-invisible, ’cause that wasn’t an option).

Isn’t that cool?!?!

Atom-Spennix should apparently arrive at my atom-doorstep in something like a month. oh boy oh boy…